What I Have Learned

Saturday, January 31, 2015

African Animals Informational Articles

I am so excited to be sharing with you my newest resource for my classroom!  Some of my most popular blog posts have been about how I teach expository writing in my classroom, so I created a product filled with the Informational Writing Tools that I use.

The one thing that I had difficulty finding was good informational articles.  I often chose to research an animal based on the text I could find!  That's not the ideal way I want to teach!  There are a ton of resources available to find texts for students to read, but the text wasn't always the most well-written and for my second graders who are still struggling with multi-syllabic decoding, the words and sentence structure were too hard!  I found a lot of text for first grade and plenty of informational articles for the older kiddos, but nothing that was just right for my second graders.


As a result, I've taken to writing my own text.  I started with African Animals, since most of my littles are enthralled with these BIG animals, although there is a small critter in the set, too!

Each animals has two versions of the article, one version is two pages with a lot of visual support. The other version is one-page with little or no visual support.  There is also a page full of QR codes for additional research and videos as well as a fact sort sheet.  The fact sort sheet compliments the process I use to help students organize their facts when writing informational / expository text.

There are 11 animals in this bundle.  Animals include cheetah, chimpanzee, elephant shrew, elephant, giraffe, grant's gazelle, hippo, jackal, lion, rhinoceros, and zebra.

You could focus on one animal a week for a period of time, or you could have your whole class studying African Animals in partners.  They could also be used for individual research reports.  The possibilities are endless.

I'd like to give away a copy of the African Animals Informational Articles to one lucky reader.  What do you have to do to win?  Simple.  Pin either of the two above images to Pinterest.  Come back and enter the Rafflecopter below, entering the URL of the pin.  Want to enter twice?  Pin both images.  You can enter the Rafflecopter twice per day, once per image.

A third option that I've included on the Rafflecopter is to leave a blog post comment and tell me the topic of another informational article you need for you students.  It could be about animals, science, social studies, or another topic.  What do you need for you classroom?

Good luck!





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Check out my store What I Have Learned for great content for your classroom.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Six Ways to Create Student Buy-In


Do you want to create student buy-in in your classroom?  How about creating a community of learners that support one another?  Below are some of the best things that I have done to  manage my classroom and help students feel that they are a part of the process.


Involved students in the conversation

One of the easiest ways to create student buy-in is to involve them in the conversation.  When you’re setting rules, involve them the rule making.  When they have a bad day, involve them in the debrief of it.  If you have a new thing you want to do, involve them in the decision-making.  This is the foundation to all of the below examples.

After a bad experience with a substitute, I debriefed what happened with the students.  Granted the substitute was probably not the most qualified person, but at the same time, classroom expectations need to be the same with a substitute as they are with me, their teacher.  We talked about what happened and set guidelines for student behavior with a guest teacher.  The students knew what they did wrong and were able to tell what they would do differently next time.

The next time we had a substitute, the day before, I again went over the new expectations, in a new anchor chart.  We discussed the things that will help them have a good way with the sub.  They did an awesome job!

problem solving
Not a anchor chart from the example above, but it's the same idea of involving students in the process.

Empower students to make decisions

Involve students in the decision making in the classroom.  In the younger grades, make it simple.  As students get older, make it more complicated.  I’ve involved students in setting consequences, in classroom layout, how to organize, and problem solving.  The more involved students are in the day-to-day activities, the more buy-in they have in the execution of those practices.  If you’re struggling with an idea, ask students what they think.  Even if you’re not struggling, ask anyway.  Make them feel a part of the process.

We had a few weeks in December and I knew what I wanted to teach, but I posed the question, “What do you want to learn?” to my students.  We had a 20 minute discussion about all the things we could learn.  Some of it was silly, like karate, so I had to refocus that conversation.  But, most of the students’ suggestions were informational topics (polar bears, penguins, etc.) and about half of it I was planning on teaching anyway!  The idea is that they are involved in the decision making.

Create agreements

A couple years ago we got stability balls in the classroom. They sat in a corner for several weeks.  Students were were pining to use them.  I had built up some suspense.  Before I let students use them, however, we talked about the four rules and I had each student agree to use them appropriately.  If they weren’t, I had a zero tolerance policy. They knew the agreements they had made.  There was no reason for them to not follow them.

Stability Ball Agreements

Creating agreements together also allows students to be part of the decision-making process.  If they get to make the rules, students are more inclined to follow them!

Follow through quickly

Usually my rule of thumb is that I give one warning and then, if they behavior continues, a consequence.  If we make agreements ahead of time, that counts as the warning.  Students know the expectations. They have helped make the rules and agreed to them.

Another part of this idea is that if you say you’re going to do something, do it.  If you’re not willing to follow-through, don’t say it.  This is one of the biggest mistakes new teachers make.  They threaten and threaten, but don’t follow through on the consequence.  Students need boundaries and they need to know that you mean what you say.  Believe it or not, students will be happier when you are consistent.

How does this relate to buy-in?  Students know your expectations.  You've involved them in the decision-making process.  Students have agreed to the guidelines.  Now, it's about implementation.

Reset expectations

In my second grade classroom, I use a coin system for behavior management that also helps students learn the value of coins.  It serves both behavior and academic purposes.  With a substitute recently, students were going behind my desk and grabbing coins.  I was horrified.  This didn’t happen just once, but at least two or three occasions with a substitute.  I had had enough!

I took the coins away for a week, and then as a class, we had a conversation about whether or not we should even have the coins in class. Some of the questions I asked them included, “Should we have the coins in class?  Why or why not?  What agreements should we have about them?”

This conversation reset the expectations with the coins and created new agreements for their use.  You will find the need to reset expectations throughout the year.  Or, even take things away.  With this year's class, I took away the stability balls a couple months ago.  I'm ready to reintroduce them again, but before I do, I will reset the expectations! 

Praise and reward students for positive behavior

All this talk of negative consequences needs to be balanced out with some positive reinforcement.  Use words of affirmation to praise students when they follow the rules or you see improvement in their behavior.  Tell them that they’re doing a good job, and if the entire class is doing exceptionally well, reward them.  Play a game.  Spend some extra time outside.  Show them that you’re a nice person, even though you have high expectations for them. 

This is one of the hardest things for me to do.  I’m not naturally a praise type of person.  It takes work and effort for me to do it!

My students love Sumdog.  The other afternoon, I let them play it for about 30 minutes after they finished their work.  Students were working well together and having fun.  Although we had other things to do, it was a good way to develop some community and a good reward for the students.  

Celebrations

Classroom management is hard work.  Especially with the little ones.  Each year is different and presents a unique group of students with various needs.  Evaluate what works for your group of students and try to create some sort of student buy-in.


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Check out my store What I Have Learned for great content for your classroom.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Goal Setting in the Moment

I'm keeping it real with this post, people.  You know when things just either come together really well or when they completely fall apart?  This is kinda in between.

My student teacher was supposed to teach a lesson, but she got sick, so I pulled from my "resources" and did some impromptu goal setting.

Goal setting is not new to my students.  We have been goal setting since the beginning of the year, but I haven't been too consistent about it.  We'll go in spurts of it for a few weeks and then something else takes center stage and the goal setting goes away for awhile.  I also haven't been doing a good job of giving students stickers for improvements on our Super Improver Wall.  I have a hard time noticing the small improvements.  I really need to do more of that, it's just so hard to be consistent!  I calculated that to move up 10 colors, students would need to change colors once a month, which means that I'm giving 3-4 stickers per student per week.  That's a lot!  Way more than I'm doing.

Anyway, this lesson started with both needing to fill some time and wanting to reestablish goal setting in our classroom.

Group Brainstorm


We started with a group brainstorm of goals that we can set.  It was easy to come up with behavior goals (the purple ones and a few others).  If I had planned this ahead of time, I might have done a two-column chart and sorted behavior and academic goals.

Once I prompted students to start brainstorming academic goals, they got stuck.  The first four in blue are their first attempt at coming up with academic goals.  You can see how general they are.  This is a great start for second graders, but I don't want them to stop there!  We talked a bit about being specific and adding some more details to our goals.

If this hadn't been so spontaneous, I also might have just focused on one content area and the behavior and academic goals for that content area.

Specific Actions


I then had students choose a goal.  I listed each students' goal that was specific enough and appropriate to work on.  Some students chose the same goal, so it was a shorter list.  Listing the goals also gave students who weren't able to come up with a goal a good list from which to choose one.

After listing the goals, we went back and as a class, gave suggestions to each person on how they could meet their goal.  It was very powerful hearing the whole class give suggestions to one student on how he / she could meet the goal.  I love the camaraderie and teamwork it established.

At the beginning of the year, I gave students a list of behavior goals and asked them to choose one to work on over the week.  I realized that I need to do the same with academic goals.  I need to give students a list of potential goals.  I also need to give them lists of possible actions that they can do to meet their goals.  This list also needs to be written for each content area.

It was a spontaneous lesson on goal setting, but in the moment, I realized two things:

  • I needed to connect my students' goals with concrete actions 
  • I need to give them lots of ideas and then provide them with choices

Do you want to help me generate a list?  What kinds of goals would you like your students to set?  And, what actions can they take to meet their goal?  Comment below and I'll compile a list for us to use!


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Monday, January 12, 2015

Developing Academic Language with Familiar Content



I love working with students around complex academic language.  It is so fun seeing light bulbs go off as I watch students construct new sentences using high level vocabulary and concepts.

Of course, in order to create complex sentences with complex vocabulary, we first need to start creating complex sentences with familiar concepts.  Start with easy concepts and vocabulary that go in complex sentences, then up the ante and give students academic vocabulary to use in their now familiar complex sentences.

Our current science unit is Earth Science.   Last summer a friend and I wrote the unit and included a ton of opportunities to practice academic language.  With every section, students use the complex sentences with familiar content before applying the new sentences to new content.  Students develop academic language using these skills:
  • Compare and Contrast
  • Cause and Effect
  • Sequence of Events
  • Main Idea & Details
This week, we started the first unit with compare and contrast.  Here is what Day 1 looked like:

Day 1: Learn the Sentences with Familiar Content

Sort the Actions

First, we sorted the actions by those that occur slowly and those that occur quickly.  Students already understood the concepts of slowly and quickly and were familiar with all the actions.  It was a quick and easy sort.  That’s good because my focus was giving students practice with the complex sentences.


Fill in the Sentence Frames

After sorting the sentences, I introduced the first sentence frame.  We practiced filling in the blanks with the actions and either quickly or slowly.  The whole class chorally said the sentence after each example.  I did a few examples and then introduced the second sentence frame.  


After a few examples, I had student volunteers come up and build sentences.  


After the volunteer built the sentence, the whole class practiced the sentence.  


Practice with a Partner

To get in as much practice as possible, I handed out small strips of paper that had the sentence frame on it with all the possible combinations.  This is called a sentence construction chart.  There are four different versions, since you can say either the quick or the slow action first.  Students practiced saying the sentence with various partners.  After each partner group was finished, they switched sentences, so that students practiced saying different variations of the compare and contrast sentences.



Individual Practice

Once I felt that students were familiar enough with the concepts and sentence frames, we went back to our seats and completed an individual activity where students sorted the actions and attached “linking” words in the correct spaces.  This acts as another version of the sentence construction chart.


Follow-up Partner Practice

As students finished up, I had them partner up and practice constructing a variety of sentences.  Not all students got to this step, since students finished their activity at varying times.  But, now that students have completed worksheets, we can use them tomorrow as a quick practice!

Language is one of my favorite things to teach!  However, it is also one of the  most difficult subjects to plan.  There’s a ton of mental work that I need to do to plan the vocabulary, the concept development, the sentence frames, let along the actual student practice activities!  

Our school is now doing Integrated ELD (English Language Development).  We’re supposed to be planning and teaching lessons like this daily.  Unfortunately that doesn’t happen.  The kids need it so much!  But, it’s really hard to do effectively.  

What are your experiences with planning and teaching language to students?  Do you have to teach ELD or some sort of language objective with your lessons?  I’ve only experiences schools in California, so I’m curious how other states work with their English learners, especially if you have a large population of them.

If you're interested in this Earth Science Unit, it's available in my TpT Store.


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Saturday, January 10, 2015

Peek at My Week ~ January 12 - 16

I know many of you had a ton of snow days last week!  What a week it must have been!  Living in California, we NEVER have school canceled.  Except for major earthquakes.  We haven't had one of those in a long time!

Review Last Week

Last week, I planned many low-key activities to help students get back into the swing of things.  I'm glad I did. It made for a calm classroom all week.  It also helped having one or two students absent a day!  There seems to be something going around!

What did we do?  We almost completed our New Year's Flap Books.

  

We need to finish those up on Monday.  We wrote a penguin paragraph and did some work with expository writing.



We also started our two-digit subtraction unit by learning the strategy of "count up", specifically using a number line.  I've learned that we have a LONG way to go with our number sense!


We also read Stone Fox, in one week.  We were so enthralled with the novel that we read two chapters a day.  On Thursday we read four!  We just had to find the book.  It is definitely a favorite read aloud in my classroom.

This week

Here is an outline of this week.  As always, click on the photo to be taken to the PDF with clickable links.


Reading Comprehension

Since we finished Stone Fox last week, I decided to start The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane.  I've heard good reviews about it, so I'm excited to read it with the students!

Math

We are continuing on with our journey into subtraction.  This week, we're going to focus on drawing the base-10 blocks and letting students choose between counting up and drawing.


Above are our math stations.  Again, click on the photo to get the clickable PDF with links.

Writing

We are continuing our journey with nonfiction writing and focusing on Biographies.  We're going to study Martin Luther King, Jr. in depth and write a biography about him.  Once students are familiar with biographies, each one will get their own hero to study and complete a report about that person.

Science

I'm super excited to be starting our Earth Science's unit.  I wrote this unit with a friend this past summer and it is chock full of ways to help student use academic language.  First, we teach students the concept using everyday situation and then apply that language to the complexity of Earth science. This week we're starting with the History of the Earth and the concept of quick and slow changes.

So, what does your week look like so far?  Link up below with Mrs. Willis Kindergarten!




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Friday, January 9, 2015

Anchor Chart Tips


I see so many amazing anchor charts on Pinterest.  Anchor charts are an awesome resource when used well.  Along the years, I've figured out a few things that have made anchor chart creation just a little bit easier.  Here are a few tips:

One: Sketch it out

Before you even get the markers and chart paper, jot down what you want to put on the chart.  Earlier this week, I created this sketch of a subtraction strategy chart.  Do you see that arrow next to "how" pointing to above the "useful tools" label?  That was me realizing that those elements needed to be in a different order.


Sketching out the anchor chart ahead of time helped me go through the mental process of how I would present this to my students and "see" the chart on paper, not just in my head.

Two: Use pencil

When you finally get to the markers and chart paper part, ditch the markers and use pencil for a few elements.  Why?  I use pencil when I want to build a chart with the students.  I want some elements of it to be written ahead of time, like the titles and boxes, but I want to reveal pieces of the chart along the way, too.  Some students will catch onto the fact that there are hints already on the chart, but they're the ones who are paying attention!

I know it's difficult to see in the below example, but the pencil is there.


Another reason to use pencil is to try out the arrangement of the pieces.  I originally put the "equations" part in the middle and then later decided to move it over to the side.  I didn't completely sketch it out, but playing with it in pencil allowed me to see that I wanted to move it.


When you're all done with the chart, simply erase the pencil marks.  Here's the above chart, after I built it with students, before I erased the pencil.


Three: Reuse the good parts

If you have an anchor chart that you LOVE, there's no point in recreating it every year!  Simply cut off the parts that need to be built with the students and reuse the pieces that don't.


This save so much time, year after year!

Four: Reveal a little at a time

When presenting and working with anchor charts, it's great to have students help you build the chart.  Don't give them all the information all at once.  Build the chart with students.  Fold it up, write some of it in pencil, or keep sticky notes on it to remind you of key pieces.


Five: Use color effectively

Color is a great resource.  Sometimes it can be overdone and sometimes it can be underused.   Use color to draw the eye into the chart, to categorize information, and to embellish without distracting.  I love color, but it must be used effectively.


Six: Use sticky notes

I use sticky notes in two ways.  One when I need to write a note to myself about a component on the chart, I write it on a sticky note and attach it to the chart. This helps me remember what I want to write down for that component.

I also use sticky notes for repetitive information on the chart.  The two examples below are ways I've used them during math and goal setting. I wanted students to see the variety of possibilities though the use of sticky notes.

Did you know that they have huge sticky notes?  I've even seen a few people use the really large sticky notes as square spaces on the anchor chart to write information.  Another awesome resource is sticky note glue, which is just like a glue stick, but it's removable.  This is perfect for components you want to reuse over and over again.

Seven: Fix errors with small pieces of chart paper

I don't have a picture of this one, but if you make a mistake, just cut apart another piece of chart paper and tape it over the mistake.  It's {almost} like it never happened!  However, if you sketch your ideas and work in pencil first, you won't make mistakes (yeah right!).

Do you have any tips or tricks for creating and using anchor charts in your classroom?  I'd love to hear more about how you create awesome visuals for your students.



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Saturday, January 3, 2015

January Pinterest Pick 3 Linky

Need some January inspiration?  It's time for our  January Pinterest Pick 3 Linky.



We live in California, in place that doesn't get snow, at least not very often!  This looks like so much fun!  Albeit, a little messy!



This one looks like such a cool art project. We might just have to do it one afternoon next week as we're settling into our routine. Afternoons are so difficult!



This pin is from Scholastic and it's all about re-establishing the routine after a long break. Our class totally needs that after the two-week break!


Do you want to see more Picks from Pinterest? Click on the links below to be taken to other's blogs.


Saturday, January 31, 2015

African Animals Informational Articles

I am so excited to be sharing with you my newest resource for my classroom!  Some of my most popular blog posts have been about how I teach expository writing in my classroom, so I created a product filled with the Informational Writing Tools that I use.

The one thing that I had difficulty finding was good informational articles.  I often chose to research an animal based on the text I could find!  That's not the ideal way I want to teach!  There are a ton of resources available to find texts for students to read, but the text wasn't always the most well-written and for my second graders who are still struggling with multi-syllabic decoding, the words and sentence structure were too hard!  I found a lot of text for first grade and plenty of informational articles for the older kiddos, but nothing that was just right for my second graders.


As a result, I've taken to writing my own text.  I started with African Animals, since most of my littles are enthralled with these BIG animals, although there is a small critter in the set, too!

Each animals has two versions of the article, one version is two pages with a lot of visual support. The other version is one-page with little or no visual support.  There is also a page full of QR codes for additional research and videos as well as a fact sort sheet.  The fact sort sheet compliments the process I use to help students organize their facts when writing informational / expository text.

There are 11 animals in this bundle.  Animals include cheetah, chimpanzee, elephant shrew, elephant, giraffe, grant's gazelle, hippo, jackal, lion, rhinoceros, and zebra.

You could focus on one animal a week for a period of time, or you could have your whole class studying African Animals in partners.  They could also be used for individual research reports.  The possibilities are endless.

I'd like to give away a copy of the African Animals Informational Articles to one lucky reader.  What do you have to do to win?  Simple.  Pin either of the two above images to Pinterest.  Come back and enter the Rafflecopter below, entering the URL of the pin.  Want to enter twice?  Pin both images.  You can enter the Rafflecopter twice per day, once per image.

A third option that I've included on the Rafflecopter is to leave a blog post comment and tell me the topic of another informational article you need for you students.  It could be about animals, science, social studies, or another topic.  What do you need for you classroom?

Good luck!





Subscribe to my Newsletter for the best freebies and giveaways. 
Check out my store What I Have Learned for great content for your classroom.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Six Ways to Create Student Buy-In


Do you want to create student buy-in in your classroom?  How about creating a community of learners that support one another?  Below are some of the best things that I have done to  manage my classroom and help students feel that they are a part of the process.


Involved students in the conversation

One of the easiest ways to create student buy-in is to involve them in the conversation.  When you’re setting rules, involve them the rule making.  When they have a bad day, involve them in the debrief of it.  If you have a new thing you want to do, involve them in the decision-making.  This is the foundation to all of the below examples.

After a bad experience with a substitute, I debriefed what happened with the students.  Granted the substitute was probably not the most qualified person, but at the same time, classroom expectations need to be the same with a substitute as they are with me, their teacher.  We talked about what happened and set guidelines for student behavior with a guest teacher.  The students knew what they did wrong and were able to tell what they would do differently next time.

The next time we had a substitute, the day before, I again went over the new expectations, in a new anchor chart.  We discussed the things that will help them have a good way with the sub.  They did an awesome job!

problem solving
Not a anchor chart from the example above, but it's the same idea of involving students in the process.

Empower students to make decisions

Involve students in the decision making in the classroom.  In the younger grades, make it simple.  As students get older, make it more complicated.  I’ve involved students in setting consequences, in classroom layout, how to organize, and problem solving.  The more involved students are in the day-to-day activities, the more buy-in they have in the execution of those practices.  If you’re struggling with an idea, ask students what they think.  Even if you’re not struggling, ask anyway.  Make them feel a part of the process.

We had a few weeks in December and I knew what I wanted to teach, but I posed the question, “What do you want to learn?” to my students.  We had a 20 minute discussion about all the things we could learn.  Some of it was silly, like karate, so I had to refocus that conversation.  But, most of the students’ suggestions were informational topics (polar bears, penguins, etc.) and about half of it I was planning on teaching anyway!  The idea is that they are involved in the decision making.

Create agreements

A couple years ago we got stability balls in the classroom. They sat in a corner for several weeks.  Students were were pining to use them.  I had built up some suspense.  Before I let students use them, however, we talked about the four rules and I had each student agree to use them appropriately.  If they weren’t, I had a zero tolerance policy. They knew the agreements they had made.  There was no reason for them to not follow them.

Stability Ball Agreements

Creating agreements together also allows students to be part of the decision-making process.  If they get to make the rules, students are more inclined to follow them!

Follow through quickly

Usually my rule of thumb is that I give one warning and then, if they behavior continues, a consequence.  If we make agreements ahead of time, that counts as the warning.  Students know the expectations. They have helped make the rules and agreed to them.

Another part of this idea is that if you say you’re going to do something, do it.  If you’re not willing to follow-through, don’t say it.  This is one of the biggest mistakes new teachers make.  They threaten and threaten, but don’t follow through on the consequence.  Students need boundaries and they need to know that you mean what you say.  Believe it or not, students will be happier when you are consistent.

How does this relate to buy-in?  Students know your expectations.  You've involved them in the decision-making process.  Students have agreed to the guidelines.  Now, it's about implementation.

Reset expectations

In my second grade classroom, I use a coin system for behavior management that also helps students learn the value of coins.  It serves both behavior and academic purposes.  With a substitute recently, students were going behind my desk and grabbing coins.  I was horrified.  This didn’t happen just once, but at least two or three occasions with a substitute.  I had had enough!

I took the coins away for a week, and then as a class, we had a conversation about whether or not we should even have the coins in class. Some of the questions I asked them included, “Should we have the coins in class?  Why or why not?  What agreements should we have about them?”

This conversation reset the expectations with the coins and created new agreements for their use.  You will find the need to reset expectations throughout the year.  Or, even take things away.  With this year's class, I took away the stability balls a couple months ago.  I'm ready to reintroduce them again, but before I do, I will reset the expectations! 

Praise and reward students for positive behavior

All this talk of negative consequences needs to be balanced out with some positive reinforcement.  Use words of affirmation to praise students when they follow the rules or you see improvement in their behavior.  Tell them that they’re doing a good job, and if the entire class is doing exceptionally well, reward them.  Play a game.  Spend some extra time outside.  Show them that you’re a nice person, even though you have high expectations for them. 

This is one of the hardest things for me to do.  I’m not naturally a praise type of person.  It takes work and effort for me to do it!

My students love Sumdog.  The other afternoon, I let them play it for about 30 minutes after they finished their work.  Students were working well together and having fun.  Although we had other things to do, it was a good way to develop some community and a good reward for the students.  

Celebrations

Classroom management is hard work.  Especially with the little ones.  Each year is different and presents a unique group of students with various needs.  Evaluate what works for your group of students and try to create some sort of student buy-in.


Subscribe to my Newsletter for the best freebies and giveaways. 
Check out my store What I Have Learned for great content for your classroom.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Goal Setting in the Moment

I'm keeping it real with this post, people.  You know when things just either come together really well or when they completely fall apart?  This is kinda in between.

My student teacher was supposed to teach a lesson, but she got sick, so I pulled from my "resources" and did some impromptu goal setting.

Goal setting is not new to my students.  We have been goal setting since the beginning of the year, but I haven't been too consistent about it.  We'll go in spurts of it for a few weeks and then something else takes center stage and the goal setting goes away for awhile.  I also haven't been doing a good job of giving students stickers for improvements on our Super Improver Wall.  I have a hard time noticing the small improvements.  I really need to do more of that, it's just so hard to be consistent!  I calculated that to move up 10 colors, students would need to change colors once a month, which means that I'm giving 3-4 stickers per student per week.  That's a lot!  Way more than I'm doing.

Anyway, this lesson started with both needing to fill some time and wanting to reestablish goal setting in our classroom.

Group Brainstorm


We started with a group brainstorm of goals that we can set.  It was easy to come up with behavior goals (the purple ones and a few others).  If I had planned this ahead of time, I might have done a two-column chart and sorted behavior and academic goals.

Once I prompted students to start brainstorming academic goals, they got stuck.  The first four in blue are their first attempt at coming up with academic goals.  You can see how general they are.  This is a great start for second graders, but I don't want them to stop there!  We talked a bit about being specific and adding some more details to our goals.

If this hadn't been so spontaneous, I also might have just focused on one content area and the behavior and academic goals for that content area.

Specific Actions


I then had students choose a goal.  I listed each students' goal that was specific enough and appropriate to work on.  Some students chose the same goal, so it was a shorter list.  Listing the goals also gave students who weren't able to come up with a goal a good list from which to choose one.

After listing the goals, we went back and as a class, gave suggestions to each person on how they could meet their goal.  It was very powerful hearing the whole class give suggestions to one student on how he / she could meet the goal.  I love the camaraderie and teamwork it established.

At the beginning of the year, I gave students a list of behavior goals and asked them to choose one to work on over the week.  I realized that I need to do the same with academic goals.  I need to give students a list of potential goals.  I also need to give them lists of possible actions that they can do to meet their goals.  This list also needs to be written for each content area.

It was a spontaneous lesson on goal setting, but in the moment, I realized two things:

  • I needed to connect my students' goals with concrete actions 
  • I need to give them lots of ideas and then provide them with choices

Do you want to help me generate a list?  What kinds of goals would you like your students to set?  And, what actions can they take to meet their goal?  Comment below and I'll compile a list for us to use!


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Monday, January 12, 2015

Developing Academic Language with Familiar Content



I love working with students around complex academic language.  It is so fun seeing light bulbs go off as I watch students construct new sentences using high level vocabulary and concepts.

Of course, in order to create complex sentences with complex vocabulary, we first need to start creating complex sentences with familiar concepts.  Start with easy concepts and vocabulary that go in complex sentences, then up the ante and give students academic vocabulary to use in their now familiar complex sentences.

Our current science unit is Earth Science.   Last summer a friend and I wrote the unit and included a ton of opportunities to practice academic language.  With every section, students use the complex sentences with familiar content before applying the new sentences to new content.  Students develop academic language using these skills:
  • Compare and Contrast
  • Cause and Effect
  • Sequence of Events
  • Main Idea & Details
This week, we started the first unit with compare and contrast.  Here is what Day 1 looked like:

Day 1: Learn the Sentences with Familiar Content

Sort the Actions

First, we sorted the actions by those that occur slowly and those that occur quickly.  Students already understood the concepts of slowly and quickly and were familiar with all the actions.  It was a quick and easy sort.  That’s good because my focus was giving students practice with the complex sentences.


Fill in the Sentence Frames

After sorting the sentences, I introduced the first sentence frame.  We practiced filling in the blanks with the actions and either quickly or slowly.  The whole class chorally said the sentence after each example.  I did a few examples and then introduced the second sentence frame.  


After a few examples, I had student volunteers come up and build sentences.  


After the volunteer built the sentence, the whole class practiced the sentence.  


Practice with a Partner

To get in as much practice as possible, I handed out small strips of paper that had the sentence frame on it with all the possible combinations.  This is called a sentence construction chart.  There are four different versions, since you can say either the quick or the slow action first.  Students practiced saying the sentence with various partners.  After each partner group was finished, they switched sentences, so that students practiced saying different variations of the compare and contrast sentences.



Individual Practice

Once I felt that students were familiar enough with the concepts and sentence frames, we went back to our seats and completed an individual activity where students sorted the actions and attached “linking” words in the correct spaces.  This acts as another version of the sentence construction chart.


Follow-up Partner Practice

As students finished up, I had them partner up and practice constructing a variety of sentences.  Not all students got to this step, since students finished their activity at varying times.  But, now that students have completed worksheets, we can use them tomorrow as a quick practice!

Language is one of my favorite things to teach!  However, it is also one of the  most difficult subjects to plan.  There’s a ton of mental work that I need to do to plan the vocabulary, the concept development, the sentence frames, let along the actual student practice activities!  

Our school is now doing Integrated ELD (English Language Development).  We’re supposed to be planning and teaching lessons like this daily.  Unfortunately that doesn’t happen.  The kids need it so much!  But, it’s really hard to do effectively.  

What are your experiences with planning and teaching language to students?  Do you have to teach ELD or some sort of language objective with your lessons?  I’ve only experiences schools in California, so I’m curious how other states work with their English learners, especially if you have a large population of them.

If you're interested in this Earth Science Unit, it's available in my TpT Store.


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Saturday, January 10, 2015

Peek at My Week ~ January 12 - 16

I know many of you had a ton of snow days last week!  What a week it must have been!  Living in California, we NEVER have school canceled.  Except for major earthquakes.  We haven't had one of those in a long time!

Review Last Week

Last week, I planned many low-key activities to help students get back into the swing of things.  I'm glad I did. It made for a calm classroom all week.  It also helped having one or two students absent a day!  There seems to be something going around!

What did we do?  We almost completed our New Year's Flap Books.

  

We need to finish those up on Monday.  We wrote a penguin paragraph and did some work with expository writing.



We also started our two-digit subtraction unit by learning the strategy of "count up", specifically using a number line.  I've learned that we have a LONG way to go with our number sense!


We also read Stone Fox, in one week.  We were so enthralled with the novel that we read two chapters a day.  On Thursday we read four!  We just had to find the book.  It is definitely a favorite read aloud in my classroom.

This week

Here is an outline of this week.  As always, click on the photo to be taken to the PDF with clickable links.


Reading Comprehension

Since we finished Stone Fox last week, I decided to start The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane.  I've heard good reviews about it, so I'm excited to read it with the students!

Math

We are continuing on with our journey into subtraction.  This week, we're going to focus on drawing the base-10 blocks and letting students choose between counting up and drawing.


Above are our math stations.  Again, click on the photo to get the clickable PDF with links.

Writing

We are continuing our journey with nonfiction writing and focusing on Biographies.  We're going to study Martin Luther King, Jr. in depth and write a biography about him.  Once students are familiar with biographies, each one will get their own hero to study and complete a report about that person.

Science

I'm super excited to be starting our Earth Science's unit.  I wrote this unit with a friend this past summer and it is chock full of ways to help student use academic language.  First, we teach students the concept using everyday situation and then apply that language to the complexity of Earth science. This week we're starting with the History of the Earth and the concept of quick and slow changes.

So, what does your week look like so far?  Link up below with Mrs. Willis Kindergarten!




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Friday, January 9, 2015

Anchor Chart Tips


I see so many amazing anchor charts on Pinterest.  Anchor charts are an awesome resource when used well.  Along the years, I've figured out a few things that have made anchor chart creation just a little bit easier.  Here are a few tips:

One: Sketch it out

Before you even get the markers and chart paper, jot down what you want to put on the chart.  Earlier this week, I created this sketch of a subtraction strategy chart.  Do you see that arrow next to "how" pointing to above the "useful tools" label?  That was me realizing that those elements needed to be in a different order.


Sketching out the anchor chart ahead of time helped me go through the mental process of how I would present this to my students and "see" the chart on paper, not just in my head.

Two: Use pencil

When you finally get to the markers and chart paper part, ditch the markers and use pencil for a few elements.  Why?  I use pencil when I want to build a chart with the students.  I want some elements of it to be written ahead of time, like the titles and boxes, but I want to reveal pieces of the chart along the way, too.  Some students will catch onto the fact that there are hints already on the chart, but they're the ones who are paying attention!

I know it's difficult to see in the below example, but the pencil is there.


Another reason to use pencil is to try out the arrangement of the pieces.  I originally put the "equations" part in the middle and then later decided to move it over to the side.  I didn't completely sketch it out, but playing with it in pencil allowed me to see that I wanted to move it.


When you're all done with the chart, simply erase the pencil marks.  Here's the above chart, after I built it with students, before I erased the pencil.


Three: Reuse the good parts

If you have an anchor chart that you LOVE, there's no point in recreating it every year!  Simply cut off the parts that need to be built with the students and reuse the pieces that don't.


This save so much time, year after year!

Four: Reveal a little at a time

When presenting and working with anchor charts, it's great to have students help you build the chart.  Don't give them all the information all at once.  Build the chart with students.  Fold it up, write some of it in pencil, or keep sticky notes on it to remind you of key pieces.


Five: Use color effectively

Color is a great resource.  Sometimes it can be overdone and sometimes it can be underused.   Use color to draw the eye into the chart, to categorize information, and to embellish without distracting.  I love color, but it must be used effectively.


Six: Use sticky notes

I use sticky notes in two ways.  One when I need to write a note to myself about a component on the chart, I write it on a sticky note and attach it to the chart. This helps me remember what I want to write down for that component.

I also use sticky notes for repetitive information on the chart.  The two examples below are ways I've used them during math and goal setting. I wanted students to see the variety of possibilities though the use of sticky notes.

Did you know that they have huge sticky notes?  I've even seen a few people use the really large sticky notes as square spaces on the anchor chart to write information.  Another awesome resource is sticky note glue, which is just like a glue stick, but it's removable.  This is perfect for components you want to reuse over and over again.

Seven: Fix errors with small pieces of chart paper

I don't have a picture of this one, but if you make a mistake, just cut apart another piece of chart paper and tape it over the mistake.  It's {almost} like it never happened!  However, if you sketch your ideas and work in pencil first, you won't make mistakes (yeah right!).

Do you have any tips or tricks for creating and using anchor charts in your classroom?  I'd love to hear more about how you create awesome visuals for your students.



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Saturday, January 3, 2015

January Pinterest Pick 3 Linky

Need some January inspiration?  It's time for our  January Pinterest Pick 3 Linky.



We live in California, in place that doesn't get snow, at least not very often!  This looks like so much fun!  Albeit, a little messy!



This one looks like such a cool art project. We might just have to do it one afternoon next week as we're settling into our routine. Afternoons are so difficult!



This pin is from Scholastic and it's all about re-establishing the routine after a long break. Our class totally needs that after the two-week break!


Do you want to see more Picks from Pinterest? Click on the links below to be taken to other's blogs.