Posts from the ‘Strategies’ Category

Genre Wall

This year, I have especially noticed that my students struggle identifying genre related to literature.  They can identify fiction or nonfiction, but they have been unable to identify specific genres within each.  I decided to develop an interactive way for them to begin to explore different types of genre.

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I decided to begin with five main genre types:  realistic fiction, science fiction, mystery, fantasy, and historical fiction.  In addition to the board I created, I also found a descriptive chart that students can read through to find the genre type.  I made sure that I put picture examples of genre under each heading so that students could have a visual image that would help them decide what genre a book fits into.

Whenever a student finishes a book that they rate a 9 or 10, they can fill out the pieces of paper that you see on the board for extra credit (5 points).  This serves as an advertisement for other students and a way for them to figure out genre.  The information that they place on the paper are:  title, author, reviewer (their name), rating, and location (where someone else can find the book).

I have found that students enjoy sharing their favorite books in this way.  They also use the pictures to help them figure out the genre.  

I plan on adding other genres over the course of the year.

I have been incredibly pleased with these results.  My students are really starting to use these tools to help place books into different genres.

 

 

Writing to Publish

I am trying to focus my classroom instruction on authentic student writing this year.  I feel that if students feel that they have a real audience, then they will craft better writing.  I have devised several ways to publish their writing.  

I recently signed my class up for ePals.  This is a program that matches classrooms from around the world.  Your students e-mail other students their age.  They can share their history, experiences, culture, etc.  You can also set this program up so that you and the other classroom work on a project together.  I want my students to not only establish a relationship with their ePal, but to talk about the literature that they are reading.  I am hoping that it will broaden my students’ thinking.  If this is something that you are interested in also pursuing, I would visit their site at http://www.epals.com

I am also going to use amazon.com to publish my students’ book reviews.  They can post the reviews on books they have read under an account that I created.  The website allows them to select under 13 as an option.  When that is selected, the review shows up as “Kid’s Review” so I don’t have to worry about them adding their name or any personal information.  I have just started this project, and will post my classroom experiences soon.  The title of the post will be Amazon Book Reviews.

Another project that I am going to start next month with my students is a Holiday Letter.  Every year, my husband and I seem to get letter after letter from family members telling us about their year.  It really is a “year in review.”  It seems to me that this is just another form of summary writing, which, let’s face it, most students struggle with.  I am going to have my students write their own Holiday Letter and then mail it to family members that they don’t live with.  I then plan to piggy-back this with summaries later on in the year.

I am also looking to incorporate dialog journals into my class.  Another teacher in my district and I have started talking about ways to share our students’ writing with each other.  So far, she sent my students some writing to assess.  I am hoping that this will lead to a dialog journal of some sort.  I haven’t completely worked out the logistics yet, but it is something that I am excited about.  

I really think that all of these authentic writing projects will help my students refine and polish their writing.  At least, that is my hope!

Social Studies Stations

I had the opportunity to team teach a lesson in a 6th grade Social Studies class today.  The teacher and I decided to use stations for the structure.  The material was not new (ancient Egypt) so we didn’t have to worry about presenting new information.  We wanted to give the students the opportunity to “play” with the content and review what they knew.

We developed three different station activities with four actual stations.  One of the activities was longer and needed a little more time to complete.

The activities were a 9 square game, decoding hieroglyphs, and creating a foldable using Egyptian cartoons.  Each group would have about 11 minutes to complete a station based on the amount of time in the class.

9 square answer key and student copy

9 square answer key and student copy

Student attempt at answering 9 square puzzle.

Student attempt at answering 9 square puzzle.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Decoding Hieroglyphs

Decoding Hieroglyphs

Creating foldable for Egyptian cartoons.

Creating foldable for Egyptian cartoons.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When the students came into the classroom, I had four steps written on the board.  The teacher wanted them to copy down the lesson objective and I wanted them to get out a blank sheet of paper.  I learned a couple of new brain based strategies at the NMSA conference this past week.  One of them that struck me was that we can hold about 10 things in our short term memory at a time.  The speaker (Dr. Kagan) suggested that instead of a warm-up we have students write down everything that is going on in their brain when they first come into class (all the things that are bothering them, what they just learned, what they need to do after school, what they need to remember, ect).  Sort of clear out the short term memory.  I explained to the students why we were doing this and how I would not want the paper.  I gave them one minute to write, but had to extend it as they kept making their list for over two minutes.  I was amazed about how serious they took this activity.  When they finished, I began explaining the stations and they seemed more focused.  I will definitely use this activity again.  I am thinking about having my students do this every day before class.

I then began explaining the various stations.  When I am explaining various activities, I explicitly state what they will and will not do.  I show them the actual materials that they will use to complete the activities.  I make sure that I have an example for them to follow at each station.  I then took them out to their table in the pod area.

Pod area set up for stations

Pod area set up for stations

They immediately began working.  We made sure that we checked in with each station at the beginning of each rotation to make sure that they understood exactly what they needed to do.  The level of engaged conversation was really incredible.  The 9 square game was by far the most difficult activity, but students also had to work hard to find the information from the cartoons and decode the hieroglyphs.  Out of two classes and almost 50 students, I had one student in one class that was not engaged.  It turned out he just didn’t understand exactly what he needed to do and hadn’t asked another group member or a teacher.

Students working in stations.

Students working in stations.

Another view

Another view

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At the end of the class period, I had students return to the classroom and write one thing they learned and one question that they still had on the back of their foldable and turn it in.  This was an exit card and a way for us to assess what they knew and what they were still struggling with.  The foldable can also be used as a review for an assessment.

As an additional exit ticket, I asked each student as they left to tell me one thing they learned.

Overall, we were really pleased with the activity.  The students were engaged in meaningful dialog about the topic and were focused for the entire 45 minutes.  This activity just reminded me how much I like stations.  There is a lot of prep work, but when that is finished, you just facilitate during class periods.  It is a great way to teach.

Newspapers – Day 2

I was very happy with the performance of my students both in finding the text features and working in groups.  I wanted to have them discuss their frequency charts as a follow up to the previous activity.  But first, I wanted to see what new information they had learned about text features.  I decided to have them use the same paper for the first “brain dump” to add any new information that they had learned.  I had them draw a line under their first writing and add any new information that they had learned.  I then had them share their new understandings.

I wanted each student to share an answer, so I borrowed some marbles from another teacher and placed a plastic plate in the middle of each table.

Each student selected three marbles of the same color.  Every time they answered a question, they placed a marble in the plate.  It was an easy way for me to see who has shared.  I discovered, however, that marbles (or anything else that rolls), is not the way to go.  I will be purchasing some colored chips to use in the future.  The marbles struggled to stay in the plate and they rolled across the table too easy.

 

I had my overhead set up in the pod area and I had one complete copy of the newspaper on each table.  I had students move into the area and sit in groups. I displayed one question at a time and had the groups discuss the answer.  After every person had answered, I asked one person to tell me what another group member had said.  I discovered that they struggled with really listening to their group members.  It allowed me to assess their listening and retelling skill levels.

I need to work on group sharing and listening in my future activities.

Newspapers in Classrooms Part 1

I recently stayed at a Double Tree Hotel that provided a copy of the U.S.A. Today every morning to guests.  I had previously read this newspaper, but it had been several years since I had seen a copy.  I couldn’t believe what I had been missing.  I immediately had so many ideas for skills that I could use the newspaper to teach my classes. 

I began on Wednesday.  I got four copies of the same newspaper (back issues) and separated them into the four sections (news, sports, life, and money).  

Newspaper Sections

Newspaper Sections

 

Newspapers setup and ready to be used.

Newspapers setup and ready to be used.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I decided that my students needed basic exposure to the newspaper and the structure used to convey the information.  I decided that a great place to start was text features.  This is such an important concept to help students find information in non-fiction text, and they don’t always get explicit instruction in it, and I know that they need it. 

I decided that I would first start with a “brain dump”.  

Instructions students had to follow for "brain dump."

Instructions students had to follow.

I had them write “text features” at the top of a blank page.  I then asked them to write everything they knew about text features on that page.  I walked around the classroom while students were working.  I noticed that no one had any information written down.  I realized that they probably did know something about text features, but that they weren’t aware of what they were.  I then picked up a text book and visually showed them some of the text features.  As soon as I did that, I got a couple of “Ah’s” from various students.  I then asked them what some of the text features I had shown them were.  They started listing some and explained how they could be used.  After that, I asked them again to write down everything that they knew and the pencils started flying.  

Text Features "brain dump"

Text Features

After a couple of minutes, I asked for them to share additional information that they had written.  I then asked about other places that text features are used, and several students did say a newspaper.  I showed them the newspaper that we were going to use to look for text features.  I knew that my 6th grade students had been studying frequency charts, so I decided that we would create a frequency chart for text features.  I gave each of them a small piece of paper and had them copy down various text features and the four sections of the newspaper.  

Text Features Frequency Chart

Text Features Frequency Chart

After they finished making the chart, they were told which section to begin working on.

Students working on charts.

Students working on charts.

They had approximately seven minutes to find as many of the text features as they could in that section. They used tallies to record their information.  

Searching for text features

Searching for text features

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If they had questions, they could ask other members of their group.  If their group members didn’t know, they could ask me.  It went really well and I was able to explain so many different types of text features and how they were used in real life.

My next activity will be to have them return to their original “brain dump” and write all of the new information that they learned about text features.  They will then analyze the data that they collected- looking for trends, explanations in the numbers, and commonalities that they see across sections.

Classroom Management & Discipline Part 2

Below is the continuation of our Classroom management & discipline series.

Classroom Management & Discipline Part 1

Classroom management and discipline are an essential element of the English language learner classroom. Below is part 1 of 2 Classroom Management & Discipline.