Apr 28, 2013
Apr 27, 2013
I had the honor and pleasure of attending a luncheon with Lola Schaefer a few
months ago. She is an author of several professional books as well as many children’s book. Ms. Schaefer is also a phenomenal speaker and a huge proponent of writing inside and outside the classroom. If you haven't seen any of her work, you should check her out!
The greatest tip I learned from Ms. Schaefer is one that I will use for the remainder of my career. Her advice is simple, yet very effective...
“Wow Bobby! I love how you used conjunctions to combine some of your sentences
to vary your sentence structure. This really helps your piece flow nicely. Looks great! Keep up the good work!”
Then step back and watch the erasers start to fly as kids start to use conjunctions where they may not have originally!
If you think your kids need to use more adjectives, find someone who used adjectives and be very excited about it!
As teachers, we often spot our students' mistakes and want to help them; but this type of help comes across as negative, even if we mean it constructively. Students would much rather us brag on their work. Who wouldn't? Plus, its way more fun for us to be positive and get good results on the first try!
Apr 26, 2013
#2~ My number 2 this week is our close reading chart. My chart is by no means, “how to read closely.” Close reading is most commonly defined as a close purposeful rereading. My students needed some specific directions on how and what to look for when rereading a text, so I came up with this chart to help them dig in. Feel free to grab the chart here if you think it might help your students as well. I want to reiterate that is by no means “how to read closely,” but it did give my students some focus. By the time they had completed all the steps, they had certainly reread the text closely and knew it inside and out! I even gave them a little mnemonic at the bottom of the chart to help them remember the steps in case the poster wasn't visible when they needed it…like maybe during TESTING!
#3~Number 3 this week for me was our plot diagram graphic organizers! When my students write narratives for me, I find it is helpful for them to plan their story on a plot diagram graphic organizer. If they don’t plan it out, they tend to jump right to the climax too early without building up their rising action with excitement and suspense. This visual helps them see that they need more rising action to hook their readers before giving away the climax! They did a fabulous job with their diagrams this week, and in turn their narratives turned out beautifully! :)
#4~Number 4 was a Book Talk Skype session. We shared some of our favorites reads and got some suggestions to add to our library! Lots of fun and highly motivating for my kiddos!
#5~Lastly, my favorite thing this week was a book that was purchased for me at the book fair. I received many books from my sweet kiddos this week (and purchased many myself ;)), but one student in particular really touched my heart. He struggles a bit financially, academically, and behaviorally, but he always works hard in my classroom.
Not only was the purchase a generous one for him, but he put a lot of thought into his selection. Our essential question for our current unit of study is “How do our life experiences shape who and what we become?” I wrote briefly about this autobiographical/biographical unit here if you’d like a little more information on the unit. I used this graphic, which includes Steve Jobs, as an introduction to the unit. We talked in great detail about how life experiences affect us and began by writing seed stories about an event that has affected our own lives. My students then researched other people, or interviewed someone they knew, to gather information for a seed story about someone else, hence a biographical seed story. I have a lot of books from the Who Was ... Series, but I didn't have Steve
Jobs. Since he was such a big part of our opening discussion for our unit, this sweet child thought I might like to add Who Was Steve Jobs? to my collection.
Those are five of my favorite things that happened in our classroom this week. Hop on over to Doodle Bugs and link up to share some of your favorites too! If you haven't linked up to follow yet, today's the day...It's my birthday! ;-)
Apr 24, 2013
always glue it on the left side of the page like the cover of a book. We tab the top so it is easy to find as a reference. I list the topic(s) of study, the project(s) we are working toward, tests, important information, essential questions, etc. and they get their parents to sign it so they are aware of our unit and can talk about the topics at home.
2. Westward Expansion
3. Immigration and Industrialization
4. Becoming a World Power
5. The Great Depression
6. World War II
7. The Cold War
Apr 23, 2013
Step 3 ~ Select Language Preferences
Step 4 and Step 5 ~ Select Proofing and then check the Show Readability statistics box
You are then all set to run a Flesch Kincaid Readability Test!
Step 6 and Step 7 ~ After your students have typed their documents, they simply need to click the review tab and select the Spelling & Grammar icon. The Readability Statistics box will pop up with the following information.
Apr 21, 2013
Several weeks ago, my school had the honor of a visit from Jerry Pallotta! He got the kids very excited about several different types of books, but one particular series really got their attention!
Each book in his WHO WOULD WIN series sets the stage for a battle between 2 particular animals. He hooked our kiddos by asking, "Who Would Win if _______________ were to battle?" and plugged in the names of some local rival sports teams. :) Believe me...they jumped right into the arms of that conversation! ;)
The books compare and contrast different physical and mental strengths and weaknesses of 2 particular animals. At the end of each book, Mr. Pallotta predicts who would win based on the traits of the animals studied. He spent time explaining the process he goes through to research and find facts for his books. He even shared some drafts of different books that he has written, and talked about the importance of the writing process! I was very impressed with what he shared with our students.
Seeing their excitement, of course I had to buy several of these books, and of course I had to ask for autographs in each! ;) He's a great guy!
I kept them on the ledge of my board for several days and let them beg to read them...to build up their excitement, of course! :) The following week the books showed up in an Informational Text Station where my kiddos had to read the books and do a bit of research on each type of animal in their chosen book to complete a Venn Diagram about the animals. They then used their diagram to write a 4 paragraph essay with an introduction, a paragraph about their similarities, a paragraph about their differences, and a conclusion where they shared the winner of the battle with their readers! They had a ball and when kids (and adults) enjoy their work...THE WORK ALWAYS SHOWS IT! I wish I had some to share with you, but it's Sunday, and I don't have their notebooks on Sunday. ;)
Have a great Sunday!
Apr 20, 2013
If they haven't met my expectations, they will visit a "Wrap it Up" Station to "wrap up" whatever needs to be finished or improved. If they have met all the expectations, then they will visit other stations that you see listed. Some of the activities include but are not limited to: word games on the I pods like Speed Tiles (great game, very scrabble-like but you can play alone and it is FREE), free choice informational texts, library passes, occasional special creative assignments, etc.
One of their favorites is Bananagrams! I have created a special set of instructions to keep the noise level to a minimum for those students who might still be "WRAPPING IT UP." Help yourself to our directions if you like. :) Our deal is very simple for this reward. You read and follow the directions without assistance from me at these stations, simply because I will be helping students to "WRAP THINGS UP" at a small group meeting. This gives me an additional meeting time to really work with the students who needed my help the most during the week.
You should see how determined they are on Thursday to make sure everything has met my expectations! They even come in early on Friday if they can to complete/improve things to make sure they get to choose the fun option of whatever card might appear in their pocket! It is a "WIN-WIN" situation for us! I get stellar work from them completed on time, and they get a fun activity that doesn't feel like work...Little do they know that I strategically choose their activity based on what I think they need to work on; but let's keep that our little secret! ;) SHHHHH!!!!
What kinds of things do you do to encourage and motivate your students? Head over to Joanne's and check out some other fabulous ideas!
Apr 18, 2013
Today I want to talk about the structure of the rest of our time together.
At our WORD WORK STATION you might see:
- practice activities to review prefixes and suffixes
- practice activities to work on parts of speech
- other activities that focus on any type of words
At our INFORMATIONAL TEXT/NONFICTION STATION you might see:
- any activities that involve reading, writing, and researching different types of informational text
Our SPECIAL OCCASION STATION is a free for all! I use this station as a place to add activities that might not fit well into our other categories, but are activities that are valuable none-the- less. In the picture, I have provided post-its and biographies for the kids to research and make notes about a famous person of their choosing. This station typically has activities that relate to our projects we are working on in our unit, but sometimes the activities relate to a seasonal or community topic.
At our WRITING STATION you might see
- writing related to our project for our unit
- free writing about anything they want (If they choose to do a free write, then they will need to make a note of a trait from 6+1 that they used to help them with their writing, or a note explaining how they improved their writing in general.
- POETRY STATION
- READ TO SELF CAMPGROUND (comfy chairs to read BOOK TALK books)
- BOOK TALK
- RESEARCH STATION
- BLOGGING STATION
- SKILLS STATION (I co-teach with a special education teacher during one of my 3 ELA blocks. From time to time, we see a need for some remediation with some of our shared students. This is a station that she manages and works on specific skills with any student that needs it.)
Apr 16, 2013
As an extra way of keeping track of what my students are reading for BOOK TALK, and simply as a motivator, my students get to "update" their FACEBOOK statuses as they finish their novels. They save their "update" cards in an envelope glued into the front of their BOOK TALK notebooks so that they have a running tally of how many novels they have read so far each year! You should see them sneak out their stacks to count their books from time to time. PURE JOY! Added bonus, the FACEBOOK WALL makes a great way to advertise good books! I even have a "LIKE" stamp, ordered from here, that either I or a friend use to "share the love" of each book on every status!
All of this happens over the course of about 20 minutes. I know that this sounds like a lot for 20 minutes, but we have it worked down to a fine art to save precious reading time! When they enter my classroom, they hear quiet reading music, and they immediately report to their seats to begin reading. I tell them as I greet them at the door that I need to see their halos glowing (angle of the head when inside a book) and that their halos glow even more brightly when they have actually crawled deep inside their books are thinking about the text! I have “trained” them that looking around the room during this time, shows that they are not actually on a reading adventure, and at that point I would encourage them to let me help them choose a book that they would want to actually crawl into. It’s amazing how much time is saved when they walk straight to their seats with their WORKSHOP bag, (we’ll talk about that in a minute) and crawl straight into their books without any discussion of what is expected. My students know their assigned conference days and if it is their assigned day, they head straight to my small group table to wait as soon as they enter the room. They of course, read and write while they wait for me, but this saves us a few minutes when they are nearby and ready for the conference as soon as a I wrap it up with the kiddo in front of them.
Another tip that has helped save time for us is our WORKSHOP bags. Gallon sized ziploc bags are perfect to hold 2 composition notebooks, a novel, and a few supplies. (The one pictured has been monogrammed and decorated with DUCT TAPE. :)) Plus, it is always packed and ready to head to any location in our workshop so that they don't have to look for, or get up for materials. Everything is packed and ready for any reading or writing task assigned, no matter where they are working inside my classroom.
If you conserve your time and train your readers well, you can truly develop a routine that makes all this possible in a short amount of time. They of course, have talked their way into adding more BOOK TALK time into our Workshop rotation schedule, which allows them approximately 20 more minutes to read and write about their chosen Book Talk novel. ;) …(I just let them think it was their idea. I had it planned all along but, mind over matter, if they think it is their idea, they will enjoy it more! ;)) I don't start the extra 20 minutes until they have built up some endurance and are actually asking for more reading time. Then it just looks like I am giving in to their requests. :)
I would love some comments on how you do workshops in your classrooms. I find that my workshop is always growing and changing as I learn more and more from others who use similar formats, so please share with us what you have found works well for you. Twitter is an awesome way to connect and learn. Feel free to use any of the connection buttons on the top right to connect further with me so we can talk more about literacy workshops and other literacy related topics. Have a great day!
Apr 14, 2013
Apps, Apps, Apps! How did we ever teach without APPS? Here's a rundown of my TOP 3 Classroom APPS. I tend to babble when I talk about literacy so I decided to limit myself today. :)
STICK PICK after independent reading time EVERYDAY! My kiddos know that they will need to share: the title of the book they are reading in case a classmate in interested, a little bit of details from their novel to prove their comprehension, and a lot of thoughts about what they read because they know that is most important to me! It is so cool to see how excited they get when they know the "can" is coming, and I've been using it everyday all year long, and it's APRIL! Can you think of anything else that would hold their excitement that long? We also use it again to close our Literacy Workshop each day. They know that if they are "picked" they will need to tell me something they learned from one rotation of our workshop, and what reading skills they used to learn that information! I'm telling you, the best $2.99 I have ever spent! Truly, they love it...and I get to hold them accountable for their learning in a fun way! ;) GREAT APP!!