Tuesday, January 2, 2018

New (School) Year's Resolutions

I'm not one to make a New Year's resolution. I do, however, set a new school year's resolution EVERY year. So, I thought I'd check in to see how well I'm doing with meeting those goals. 
My first goal this school year was to use Reciprocal Teaching during our reading block. I have been a peer-reviewed-reading-journal-addict lately and I am learning so much about best practices and all that good stuff. I wanted to fully implement the strategies used in reciprocal teaching. These strategies are the strategies good readers use without even thinking about it. I had taught the strategies before, but I wanted to start on day 1. I have and the kids love them.

Goal number two has been to implement Socratic Seminar in my classroom. Although I have not done this completely, I am working on it. I have made some new discoveries along the way, and I have found the power of sentence frames using academic language, which you can read about here. Anyhow, I have found that these academic conversation are a foundational skill for Socratic Seminar.
Goal 3 was to teach/use/coach the growth mindset. I was reading a book, but the school year got in the way. While I'm not currently reading the book, I am using strategies, ideas, words that have been associated with growth mindset. My grading chart uses the word yet. I remind my students it is OK to make mistakes, but to try to learn from them. I'm kind of meeting this goal.
The finals goal was to begin using Hyperdocs in my classroom, which you can also read about right here. I have used them. I love them. The kids love them. We all love them. They are amazing. They are wonderful. But. . . I've used them twice. Not because I'm putting them off, but I was using them at the end of each unit. Beginning this month, we will use them weekly. At least that's my new goal.

So, like I said, I'm not one to make resolutions at the beginning of the year. Maybe it's because my brain works in school years. Whatever you choose, goals are great to have. Attainable goals are even better. Set yourself up for success. Know your limits. Whatever you choose, let it be something that makes you and the world around you better.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Academic Conversations in the Primary Classroom

We know that our students need to be able to use and understand academic vocabulary. It's part of the foundation of their success.

Of course we need to figure out our part as teachers.

Years ago, I began using leveled sentence frames, which is a great start. They integrate the academic vocabulary and assist students with forming a grammatically correct sentence. Truth be told, I stopped using them. I don't want to talk about it. But this year, I began using the leveled frames again. This time with more intention. There was more of a purpose. More of an understanding, on my end, of the importance of using them.
This past summer I had the privilege, and I mean the privilege, of attending an English Language Development (ELD) training. I learned so much, but the idea that stuck with me is the academic language component of language development. The presenter had so much passion for the topic that it was impossible not to take the passion and make it my own.

I'm not sure about other states, but in California we are required to have a separate differentiated ELD time block. Students are leveled by their language levels and move to different classrooms to be taught at their levels. The purpose of this time is to teach children academic language and to understand the structure of English. Wow! Big job!

My students use the sentence frames (pictured above) during ELD and ELA time. My ELD class, the expanding level, uses the blue level and challenges themselves with the green level, once they are ready.

So we were happily using our sentence frames when I realized the kids could use more. They needed to move beyond giving a one or two sentence response and begin by conversing with one another.
I made these conversation squares™, which I placed in the center of a group. Each student was responsible for speaking about a selection using the color coded sentence frames and and conversation squares™. I really liked these, the kids were engaged, but I wanted more. More!

So I came up with the idea of Conversation Placemats™. The kids need more than one sentence frame to increase academic language acquisition. They need to have conversations. Conversations make us think. They help us learn from one another.
Each placemat encourages students to speak in complete sentences and to use academic language. There is a before, while, and after reading section, and discussion frames to promote students questioning one another.
These placemats can be differentiated or you can use the same one for each student. Either way, students will be having discussions. And discussions will increase students' abilities to listen, speak, read, and write.

You find this resource here.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Teaching Theme with Elephant and Piggie Books

Who doesn't love Elephant and Piggie books? They are perfect for our young readers. They teach intonation. They are funny. And you can use them to teach theme. Yes, theme (or central message).
central message
If you're like me, you were a little clueless when it came to teaching theme/central message. The Common Core State Standards includes this as a standard beginning in first grade. If you look throughout the grade levels, 1st-3rd grades refer to it as central message, while 4th grade and above, refers to it as theme. Call it what you like. It's the message an author is trying to convey.
central message
So how do we simplify this sophisticated concept for our 1st graders? I've figured it out for all of us! Just read an Elephant and Piggie book and you'll see there's a message.
central message
I've been working on theme in my classroom for years and loving every minute of it. It requires our students to think deeper about the message the author is giving. It gives the kids the opportunity to use evidence from the text to support their answers. And it allows our beginning readers to demonstrate an understanding of the big idea of a text.
central message

I created a unit that includes the resources you'll need to teach theme to your little ones (minus the books).
teaching central message
You probably have the Elephant and Piggie books in your library, but if you don't you can find so many videos on YouTube. Here's one of my favorite channels for Elephant and Piggie books.
Did you watch it? Can you guess the theme?

If you guessed perseverance, you'd be correct. You could make an argument for other themes, but providing evidence will encourage your students to support their answers.
teaching central message
We all love Elephant and Piggie books, and if you haven't read one yet, DO IT! You won't regret it. With all that they have to offer, why not dig a little deeper?
teaching central message
Thanks for stopping by! If you're interested in this resource you can find it here :)

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Easy Fall Trees

Happy fall!

I wanted to post this quick and easy art project I have my students do to brighten up my already bright and colorful room.

These might actually tone it down a bit.
You will need:

  • tree printable
  • q-tips
  • yellow, red, orange, and yellow-green paint
  • paper plates

I began by showing the students a You-Tube video with fall pictures.
We had a discussion about the colors they saw on the fall trees. The colors they mentioned, are the paint colors we used. I then proceeded to play the music throughout the project while they continued to speak in outside voices.

Once we had chosen the fall colors, I modeled how to use one q-tip for each color and how to make dots with on the tree.

I handed out the trees, paint, and q-tips and the rest is history. It was that easy!
You can find the trees here.

Thanks for stopping by!

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Hyperdocs for the Primary Classroom

Have you heard of the new unicorn?

Otherwise known as hyperdocs.

Hyperdocs integrate the 4 C's--collaboration, communication, creativity, and critical thinking. They add variety to your classroom instruction. They keep you, the teacher, focused on a topic. And they are fun!

What are hyperdocs?
Hyperdocs are created using hyperlinks and Google Docs (hyper + Doc=hyperdoc). 1:1 classrooms can benefit most from these since every student can work on their own devices. Hyperdocs are documents with links attached. The links take students to collaborative docs, videos, passages, websites. . . anything you can find online or save in Google Drive.

How do hyperdocs work?
Hyperdocs are shared through Google Classroom. The teacher shares the hyperdoc in Classroom and students have access. The Doc generally has a topic. It could be about butterflies, rocks, presidents, math concepts. . . Whatever you want. Once you become familiar with hyperdocs, the possibilities are endless. Here is a sample of a hyperdoc about sound.

What's inside?
Once your students open the hyperdoc, they will be able to click on the links. Here, you would begin by having your students tell what they know about sound. Each student has his/her own box to type in. All students are able to read the entries of their classmates. 
The next section is called engage with a link to a video. Teachers can assign this component as independent work. It builds background knowledge before reading an article.
 The following is the video students would see once they clicked on the link. 
Explore includes having the students read text. This can be done together or independently. Students can read the text several times. I prefer to use articles from ReadWorks.org. I find an article, download it to my desktop, then upload it to my drive. I copy the link and use that for my hyperdoc. 
The final assignment on the hyperdoc is for students to make a slideshow. This is the application piece. Students can use the information gained from the video and passage. It is available for them to reference while completing their assignment. And it's all in one place. 

If you'd like to see the hyperdoc, click here

Thanks for stopping by!

Monday, July 31, 2017

Teacher Birthday Box

Birthdays! Birthdays! Birthdays!

How do you celebrate birthdays in your classroom?

Need a simple idea for organizing birthday goodies?

The Birthday Box!
birthday box
What's in my Birthday Box, you ask?
I have birthday certificates, no homework passes, gift tags, birthday card from the class, stickers, pencils, Play-Doh, and cookies. I think that's it.
You could also put in sunglasses, bubbles, candy, bookmarks, plastic bracelets, or party favors. 
birthday at school
These colorful gift bags (found at Michael's) with gift tags (attached with Washi tape) are a fun way to celebrate students' birthdays.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Reciprocal Teaching for Beginning Readers

When I first learned of reciprocal teaching, that was the last.

Why? It just seemed too complicated.

That was before I looked into it again and realized it didn't have to be too complicated. Not only is it not too complicated, it can be made E-A-S-Y.

I spent the last school year simplifying reciprocal teaching for teachers, but challenging students. Challenging students to collaborate with others. Challenging students to think about their reading using reading strategies.

According to Reading Rockets, reciprocal teaching is an "instructional strategy in which students become the teacher in small group reading sessions."

Most reciprocal teaching models include summarizing, clarifying, questioning, and predicting. The reciprocal teaching I am most familiar with includes picture walks, predicting, setting the purpose, clarifying, questioning, visualizing, and retelling/summarizing.
visual literacy
Picture walks and visual literacy includes having students look closely at illustrations and understand that illustrations give us clues. You can begin with showing your students a wordless movie and have them discuss what is going on based on the illustrations. The following is a great video to practice.

reciprocal teaching
Good readers make predictions. They make predictions before they begin reading and as they continue to read. The second step of reciprocal teaching in making predictions. Pretty simple, right? So far so good.
reciprocal teaching
Setting the purpose is to state why a person is going to read a certain story. For example, I am going to read the story to find out where the wild things live. This, like the other reading strategies used in reciprocal teaching, just takes practice. But it can be done. And it's another strategies good readers use.
reciprocal teaching
Monitoring and clarifying is a pretty important skill. Reminding our students that we need to pay attention is a skill they must be taught. I love this short video which show students how to do this.

reading strategies
Good readers ask themselves questions as they read. Therefore, students must be explicitly taught this strategy.
reading strategies
Visualization is a strategy that comes naturally to some. It comes naturally while one is reading or completing math problems. For others, visualization does not come as easy. A great way to practice this strategy is to have students draw pictures while the teacher is reading chapter books.
The final step of reciprocal teaching is retelling or summarizing. Retelling requires students to tell about the characters, setting, beginning, middle, end, problem, and solution. In other words, it is LONG. Summarizing is quick. Students in the lower grades might be more comfortable retelling. Eventually, students will be ready to summarize stories.

Do you have to invest time in teaching these strategies? Yes.

Can it be made easy? Yes.

The lessons I wrote for Reciprocal Teaching for Beginning Readers were written to be practiced during read alouds. If you love read alouds like I do, you can easily begin reciprocal teaching in your classroom. Once students have mastered the strategies, you can begin having students working collaboratively using these strategies.

Thanks for stopping by!
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