Thursday, January 26, 2012

Celebrating Martin Luther King, Kr. Mission Accomplished!

Finally!
Today, my kids finally finished our Martin Luther King foldable we started almost two weeks ago!

This is undoubtedly my fault. I can't just do a simple foldable. Oh, no. That would be too easy. We have to...
 read an article
gather information
write a response
revise it, edit it, publish it, use the map to practice map skills, sketch a portrait, identify character traits, create a timeline
and use the timeline to answer questions.

Then we can put together our foldable.

I do this all the time. I get a simple idea of something I think might be useful for the kids to do, and then I think, But wait! I can make this waaaaay better.

Then, six weeks later, we are putting the finishing touches on our
endangered species
black history month
forces in the earth
objects in space
European explorers
Native Americans
fill in blank with other extremely large unit
unit
that should have taken, like, four days.

But really, what do kids remember? Fly-bys? Learning everything there is to know in a couple of days? Or experiencing content in a variety of forms and reading and writing about it?
I hope it's the second one or I'm really wasting my time.

For our unit, we used several sources - an article I found online, a BrainPop Jr about MLK, and this Scholastic News article.


Here are some of our foldables.
Some of them came out sooo cute.
My favorite is the Martin Luther King holding the tiny backwards American flag. Totally unexpected.






 For the front, we used a timeline from Scholastic but I mixed up the events and had kids sequence them on the timeline.


















Then, for the inside of that flap, we used the timeline to answer questions about events in Martin Luther King's life.

On the inside of the one of the other flaps, we glued the map of the new Martin Luther King memorial that we received from Scholastic. The kids answered the questions using the map.

We also did a simple bubble map, or web, describing the traits that made MLK a good citizen.

The response in the middle is to the article in Scholastic about the new MLK memorial. We read (reread, discussed, charted) and then wrote a nonfiction response using the format from this previous post.



We also made these fact cubes based on the articles we read. The kids recorded a fact about Martin Luther King on each side of the cube.


So whew! I'm glad I got this done before Groundhog Day! That's just embarrassing.

If you're interested in the fact cube we made, you can find it in my Celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. Day at TPT! It's got the fact cubes, an article, a fun mobile activity, an adorable banner, and some writing prompts to help kids think about Dr. King and his (and their) impact on the world!

https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Martin-Luther-King-Materials-1642907

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Math Notebooks: Pink?

Pink is my favorite color!

Not really.

That's a song reference -
I realized it might be obscure enough to lose most people.

I like pink, but only sometimes.
I have issues choosing a favorite color, because I'm very moody.
Right now, I think it's green,
but that's probably because I'm Spring Crazy and I can't wait for nicer weather.
I love the first month of every season.
The next two are just superfluous and make me appreciate the next season even more.

Anyway, pink isn't my favorite color. I just use a lot of it during math. I'll tell you why in a minute.

Math Notebooks.
I love them
but when I say math notebooks, I mean something different than my school is wanting.

This is the way my school is making has asked me to use them this year.
On the right side, we have "Input". This is INformation that goes INto the notebook (and hopefully, the student). On the left side, we have "Output". This is where the student (hopefully) demonstrates that he or she has processed the information and uses it to do something.

It's similar to our science notebooks, which also follow the input/output format.

These are a few ways I've used my notebooks this year.

This is an entry about comparing numbers. On the input side, we wrote directions on how to compare numbers and made a simple foldable to help kids remember the symbols.
Why is the foldable pink?
To help kids remember this standard belongs in objective one (Number Concepts), which is also color coded pink.
Why do kids have to remember that objective one is pink?
"So next year, they'll remember that the number concepts in objective one are pink."
Why is this important?

No one knows.

Sorry it's sideways.


This is a sample of our place value entry.
Input: identifying the different components of the place value chart, as well as important place value vocabulary. 


 Output: Using a foldable to write a number on the place value chart, in words, and on the inside... 


 Expanded notation! Also known as one of the most difficult ideas ever. As you can tell by the foldable, this student struggled with naming the number in words. However, he did correct the expanded notation on the inside.

Simple way to assess, huh!

This is our entry about number lines. This should be yellow, because geometry and spatial reasoning is supposed to be yellow.
Why is the sentence strip pink?
Because I only had pink sentence strips.
Input: Identifying what a number line is and does. Also an awesome pull-out-able, expandable number line.
Output: Uses of number lines in everyday life, such as thermometers, rounding, bar graphs, and map scales.

Wooo fancy. 

However, I am still not crazy about this.
The way that I've used them in the past
which totally worked for me
is WAY more open-ended.
We put in information about new concepts
sometimes
but mostly, we write about what we're thinking in math.
Things like
"I am understanding..."
"One way to solve this problem..."
"I am still confused about..."
"I used to think...but now I know..."

It provided an opportunity for students to identify areas of strength, compare different ways of solving a problem, and 
most important to me
write about their thinking.
We learn so much more from explaining our thinking
than we do from doing the thinking in the first place.
If we can teach it,
we know it.
I know that I was no slouch in high school or college
when it came to math.
But I really really really understood the ideas of adding, subtracting, and manipulating fractions
when I had to teach it.
I had to understand it several levels deeper.

Combine this with the complex idea that is writing
working within a grammatical structure
making sure your ideas make sense
sequencing
describing explicitly
explaining
and suddenly, your ideas are taking a form that helps them make sense
even to the most struggling math student.

This kind of self-reflective writing really changed the way my kids thought about math - 
as something to grow in, play with, and understand rather than just know and do.
So I've tried out this input/output business
as it was presented,
but I prefer less structured experiences,
and I'm going to start that again soon.

But, in case one of the samples helps you out 
(there are benefits to this kind of notebook - it's just different than the other kind
and their are components of the two that are similar or overlap)
I wanted to share them.
Sometimes kids just need a place
to record what's what.
But, when I do more of those kinds of responses
which I like better for my purposes,
I will share them, too.

 Question Time!
 (You have to say this in a really excited voice, like you're singing a fun song from the 70s.)

1. What do you do to have students write about math?
2. Do you use input/output notebooks?

Happy Notebooking!


Monday, January 23, 2012

SpongeBob WritingPants *Freebie

I recently reviewed my posts
and I feel pretty guilty.
90% of them are personal, not teaching.
While I consider those two things to be the same,
me sharing about how badly Twilight stinks
while cathartic for me
doesn't help you in the classroom.

So here goes.

Are you ready, kids?!
Aye, aye, captain!
I can't heeear yoooouuu!
Aye, aye, captain!

Ohhhh...
When do we learn about what authors do?
WRITER'S WORKSHOP!
We write compositions and in notebooks too!
WRITER'S WORKSHOP!
If beautiful language is something you like,
WRITER'S WORKSHOP!
Then get out your notebook! Get ready to write!

WRITER'S WORKSHOP!
WRITER'S WORKSHOP!
WRITER'S WORKSHOP!

WRITER'S WORKSHOP!

No, you didn't change the channel.
This is the song I used to start Writer's Workshop with every day.
You could probably modify it to fit your writing model if you needed to.
I haven't used it this year
you know how you do something 
and then you just don't
and you don't even know why?
That's what that is about.


Anyway, I wanted to share a little bit of the writing activities that we've done this year that have really improved the quality of my students' writing.

Good writers start with good readers.
Want to write something good?
Write it like your favorite author -
or try, anyway.
So we spend a lot of time analyzing fiction structure.

This is our number one narrative buddy.
Once kids understand this, they can make far better predictions in reading, retell better, and write with a more coherent and deliberate structure.
(For this one and more fiction graphic organizers and formats, you can check out my Fiction Pack at my TPT store or Teacher's Notebook store.)

And here's a freebie for you too! Click it to grab it from google docs!


I start out the year with an author study of some great children's author
(in fourth grade, we read Patricia Polacco out the yinyang,
in third, we read tons of Tomie dePaola.)
This year, these are some of the titles we read:
(We also read others, but I focus on personal narratives as models for writing).



Then we chart observations and reverse-map the structure on a fiction story map, or Freytag's Pyramid.
This is a pyramid we worked on for Tom. I know some might think this is too difficult for kids, but I think it's essential for an understanding of how text really works. And they master the language. I call it the Fiction Story Map, but we act it out as a roller coaster. Kids love it.


Then, we adventurously attempt to draft our own personal narratives. We do a lot of prewriting - quickwrites usually, identifying a relationship we have and a memory associated with it. Using a simple structure, I have students draft a beginning (character, trait, setting, problem), middle (rising action) end (resolution, falling action, heartfelt resolution).

Of course, they're pretty horrible.

That's a lot to take on for a kid.

But here's where the real writing comes in.
This is my writing motto: Writing is hard. Work hard to do it.

So we get to work.
We cut apart their lame drafts
by sentence
(this is the first step for students to see that the first thing they write often stinks. Mine does. Revising is your buddy - if you don't revise, your writing will fall short of your best)

Then we sequence them on a blank story map and glue them on.





















This is where the magic happens. These comments are common, necessary, and magical:

"Oh! I don't have a heartfelt resolution!"
"I only have one event in my rising action!"
"I don't have ANY setting at all."
"My writing is all out of order!"
and the best one ever - 

"THIS DOESN'T MAKE ANY SENSE!"

YES!
Teachable Moment City! 
Ka-Cha!
Kids, today you will LEARN something!

Getting kids to revise is tough.
This is mostly because they don't know what to do.
The reread, change some spelling, add in some missing words and say, 
"I'm done. It's good. Sure."

It's usually not.
It usually still stinks.
Mine does.

So here comes my other good buddy, STAR revising, compliments of Kelly Gallagher
the best writing guru I know.
His book is for adolescent writing,
but there's so much that's useful for all ages,
such as STAR revising.
Here's what it stands for:
Substitute
Take Out
Add In
Rearrange.

That's it! 
That's what writers do!
They Substitute words or ideas or paragraphs!
They Take out words or ideas or paragraphs!
They Add in words or ideas or paragraphs!
They Rearrange words or ideas or paragraphs!

I model each of these in my own writing, and give the kids time to do the same to theirs. This is the way I have it charted in my classroom, after we used the heck out of my messy handwritten chart:

Incidentally, these are for sale in my TPT store.
These drafts have been revised in color. This is the kind of revision I want my kids to get used to making.


These were not the craziest, either. Some kids had a bunch of additional tabs glued to the edges of their paper to Add in some more!

Then, we edit and publish, and they have actually made REAL revisions. 

Better than Twilight, right?
Happy Writing!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

We came back with a comeback

We came back this week.
Boo.
My couch missed me; I could tell.

So this week was one of those, "Uh oh. I thought I had planned slightly better than I did. So now...we're gonna...ummmm...shoot."

I had plenty to do. I just wasn't quite ready to do it.

But it turned out pretty great. One of the things that went the best this week was our nonfiction response. We've read lots and lots of nonfiction and practiced strategies with it every week.

But I hadn't started doing nonfiction responses with the kids yet; at least not in a structure anyway. This was because of one basic reason.

They didn't make any sense. They, being the kids and their reading and writing thoughts.

I have a group of kids this year that really struggles in reading. A few non-readers (I hate reading. I hate school. I hate people who make me read at school.), a group of struggling readers (I love reading. I think I'm better at it than I am. I'm going to pretend to read Harry Potter for ten minutes when I should be reading Clifford.)

This makes me sad. Kids in third grade shouldn't hate reading. It should be their best friend.
I consider this one of my primary jobs. To make kids better at reading, and to make them enjoy it more. It's hard to like something you stink at. I think I might enjoy modeling, but it turns out I don't have the figure.
Or demeanor.
Or walk.
Or butt.

So if kids can get better at reading, they will be more likely to do it, not only when I ask them to, but for fun. (maybe. someday. I can dream.)

I just can't imagine my own life without the benefit of being a reader. I picture myself smacking gum with a 1960s hairdo and answering phones for a series of balding men who smell like curry.

I don't know why.

You know this about me if you've read my (only) post at The Best Endings. I need to get back in the game. More to come.

Sorry for the departure.
This is what we did.

First, we previewed nonfiction features, predicted, read (and discussed, and re-read over a period of three days) a 3rd grade Scholastic News article about endangered species making a comeback.


We have practiced asking different types of questions, reacting with an opinion, visualizing, and using background knowledge, among other strategies. We started charting some of our reactions.

Then we created a structure to respond in. I try to keep it simple (usually the best bet when starting out) by using a four-sentence response. This is the chart we made. (My charts are never very lovely- they are usually pretty spontaneous and rarely without errors.
I'm impressed I remembered to use two different colors.

Hey, it's called a teachable moment.

So then I modeled writing a response, one sentence at a time. I believe that the most valuable tool we have to help kids make their thinking about reading, math, science, and social studies into more sophisticated thoughts is writing. They have to write all day. (I'm a bit of a crazy about it, but I believe we don't only write to explain or demonstrate knowledge. We write to find out what we think about things sometimes.)

My favorite part of this process is the last sentence - the Take-Away. It's what we call the idea, new thinking, or revelation that you now have, thanks to reading whatever you read.

These are the kids' responses. They used the sentence stems that I modeled. They're simple, but I'm pretty happy with them. For the first attempt, they really looked great!






As you can see, we need a little work on their, they're, and there, but other than that, we've made some progress! Yay for progress. Every painstaking step.

If you're looking for a way to support and scaffold your students with their reading responses to informational text, you might be interested in my Scaffolded Reading Responses for Informational Text.  35 pages of responses!
https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Scaffolded-Reading-Responses-for-Informational-Text-great-for-notebooks-2067077

and the Writing Process Posters at my TPT store and Teacher's Notebook.
Follow or favorite my stores for updates!
Happy Teaching!

Monday, January 2, 2012

Top Ten of Winter Break *Reader's Theater Freebie!

I am sitting here feeling sad.

Why?

Maybe it's the half-bottle of wine I've already had.

No, not really!

I mean, I really have had a lot of wine. But that doesn't make me sad.

I do have one legitimate reason to feel sad.

Like all of you dedicated educators, I have to go back to work.

Some of you already did, you Xena Warrior Princesses.

You amaze me.

I am more of a slug than a warrior princess.

I have one day left.

One precious day.

I want to spend it being super-productive.

Taking down decorations, cleaning, making my lunches, planning.

I really don't think this will happen. I will probably spend it doing less important things.

Stalking, eating, trying not to eat, listening to weird stuff on Netflix.

In honor of my last day (and maybe yours, too), I have decided to jump on the bandwagon and do my own Top Ten of Winter Break, inspired by Tunstall's Teaching Tidbits.



10.  I don't know what my hands feel like without them being curled around a keyboard. I've posted daily. Daily. And they're looooooong ones, too. And I've updates sooooo many documents.

9. I actually read two books. Seriously, when do you have the time to polish off two books in a week and a half? I can name two times a year: Winter Break and Summer.

8. I have watched entire seasonS of these shows:

Sherlock
ParentHood
Louie
Arrested Development
How I Met Your Mother
The League
The Muppet Show

7. I'm starting to miss my kids. Some of them. What the what? Only every now and then, in very small increments. The occasional burst. Then it passes. It's not been that long. I'd like to see them from afar, but not really up close.

6. I have worn the same pair of jeans every day for two weeks. I don't know if my work pants even fit. I am seriously worried about this, after consuming approximately eight thousand calories a day in cookies, tamales, and assorted candy that start with the word Christmas, such as Christmas cookies, Snickers, Christmas Chocolate Covered Pretzels and Christmas Oreos. If you can start it with Christmas, it's fair game.

5. My mother is really sick of me showing up and saying, "So what's for lunch?" Especially because she's been at work all week.

4. I actually know what it's like to finish a cup of coffee before it turns cold.
I drink coffee to keep me from eating. Therefore, I have had an average of five cups of coffee a day and have yet to fall asleep before 1:30 am.

3. Remember how much coffee I've had? I've also had that much wine. You'd think that would help me sleep.

Nope.

2. I think people from work think I died. They have yet to hear from me. I've burrowed.

1. I'm broke.

For years, I wrote Reader's Theater scripts to use in my classroom. I decided to clean them up a bit and add them to my TPT store!

This is a two-pack of fairy tales that have been modified to integrate geometry content. The first, Goldilocks and the Three Angles integrates vocabulary about the three types of angles.

The second, Parallela and her Wicked Stepsisters, involves parallel, perpendicular, and intersecting lines, as well as the word "Symmetry" and "Reflection." Check them out!

https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Math-Fairy-Tales-Readers-Theatre-2-Pack-188647


Happy Last Day!