Elementary Teachers

“Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart.” - William Wordsworth

Be sure to read the lesson adaptation for the Primary Classroom at the end of this blog!

Over the past two years, our district has put an emphasis on helping teachers and students focus on their emotional health in addition to their intellectual growth.  Much time and energy has been spent on helping both educators and students recognize and name their emotions.  At the same time, teachers and students are learning how to successfully manage these emotions.

Many students find writing to be a positive tool for recognizing and acknowledging their emotions. Planning specific lessons which provide students an opportunity to reflect on their emotions is a powerful experience for all.

With this in mind, we began the year with the poem ”Keep a Poem in Your Pocket”  by Beatrice Schenk de Regniers. http://home.nyc.gov/html/misc/html/poem/poem1b.html  This classic poem describes a child keeping a poem and a picture in their pocket to help them when they are feeling lonely at night when they are in bed. After reading the poem, students made an origami pocket and described a significant object they would keep in the pocket.  The writing provided students a safe place to express their feelings and share something personally important to them.  origami.lovetoknow.com/about-origami/how-make-paper-pocket

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As our school year came to a close, we visited the theme of things that have personal importance to us again.  The focus this time was a Special Place.  We began with reading picture books on special places, including All the Places to Love by Patricia MacLachlan www.amazon.com/All-Places-Love-Patricia-MacLachlan/dp/0060210982 , Owl Moon by Jane Yolen www.amazon.com/Owl-Moon-Jane-Yolen/dp/0399214577 , Peek-a-Boo by Allan Ahlberg www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=peek-a-book+book+by+ahlberg&rh=n%3A283155%2Ck%3Apeek-a-book+book+by+ahlberg and Up North At the Cabin by Marsha Wilson Chall www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_i_2_9?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=up+north+at+the+cabin+by+marsha+wilson+chall&sprefix=up+north+%2Cstripbooks%2C186&crid=109CNK231UQDH&rh=n%3A283155%2Ck%3Aup+north+at+the+cabin+by+marsha+wilson+chall

Each of these authors focus on special everyday places, using vivid details and descriptive word choices to help the reader experience the importance the place has for the characters. 

To begin, students brainstormed places which were significant to them.  After a minute of brainstorming, students chose one place from their list.  To better focus their writing, the chosen places needed to be specific.  For example, California is a broad place, but the beach is a more specific place. I encouraged the students to think about an everyday location, although they could make any choice they wanted.

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Next, students brainstormed activities they did in this place. By focusing on what they did at their place, the students’ writing became more than a list of locations.  After brainstorming this list, they chose three activities that would be interesting to the reader. 

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As we had read the mentor texts, we had noted the authors’ uses of figurative language. Students spent time collecting ideas of figurative language they could include in their writing.  In Up North at the Cabin, Marcia Chall uses metaphors as she describes her cabin activities, which the students had especially enjoyed. 

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Feeling confident, the students eagerly began their writing. Their writing was truly a breathing of the heart.  One student wrote about the time she spent at the hospital while her mother received a treatment they hoped would save her life. 

At the hospital, I count the familiar squares in the ceiling. I look around at the room, watching the medicine drip into my mother’s arm, hoping it will be the cure she needs. As the hours stretch on, I wander down the hall to the vending machine, staring through its windows for a treat.

One child had lost her grandmother in the fall and remembered visiting her house.

At grandmother’s house, I am an explorer, discovering new places and finding interesting old objects. As I walk through the familiar rooms, I think back to where these items are from. Looking at the dusty pictures, I travel back in time remembering past vacations with Grandma. As I go outside, I climb up the crumbling rockwall.  I spend a moment not worrying about anything, just being a kid.

Happy times at a grandparent’s house was a familiar theme.

At my grandparents’ house, I am a detective searching for clues of sea life. Putting on my snorkeling gear, I am submerged in the great blue sea.  Slowly moving my arms and flippers, I move through the water, gazing at the ocean floor.  A school of fish suddenly surrounds me like ants on an ant hill.

This writing was a learning experience for both my students and myself.  As students reflected on places that were significant in their lives, their writing helped me learn more about them.  All of us were reminded that writing provides both the author and the reader an opportunity to connect on new levels. As I plan writing engagements for the next school year I will continue to look for ways that my students and I can use writing as a way to connect emotionally, helping us both recognize and manage our emotions.

 Lesson Adaptation for Primary Students

The lesson can be adapted for primary students.  First, ask students what everyday places are special or important to them.  Where are some places they like to go?  Gather their ideas on chart paper. As students share ideas, encourage them to be specific in their places.

Read the book All the Places to Love aloud to the class.  As you read the book, collect the places that were special to the boy and his family.  Point out the phrase “Where else can . . . “ that is repeated after each place.  What is meant by these words?  Why might the author have used this phrase?

Return to the collection of special places.  Students will brainstorm activities they do in each of these places.  What do they enjoy doing at the park or at the library?  List these activities next to the places.

Provide students drawing / writing paper.  Using the chart as a reference, students can choose a favorite place. On the top of the paper, students will draw the place they have chosen. Provide time for students to include details in their drawings.

Students will now write about their favorite place. For example:  One of my favorite places is the arcade.  After they have identified their place, students will complete the sentence stem: Where else can   . . .   For example:   One of my favorite places is the arcade.  Where else can you play games for just a nickel?  Where else can you find games for the whole family?

Students can create a book about their favorite places.

 

 

 

Cause: An Engaging Cause and Effect Lesson Effect: Students Engaged, Learning and No Papers to Grade!

I was recently in a 5th grade classroom where the students were just starting to delve into the concept of cause and effect.  The focus of the lesson was to provide students with strategies to help them correctly identify cause and effect relationships in text.  When asked what they already knew about this skill, students could explain that the two concepts were linked to one another, and that one action led to another.

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To begin the lesson, students created a two-column chart.  The left side of the chart was titled Cause and the right side of the chart was titled Effect.  We then read the 5th graders the picture book If You Give a Cat a Cupcake by Laura Numeroff.  https://www.amazon.com/You-Give-Cat-Cupcake-Books/dp/0060283246  Fifth graders love the opportunity to listen to picture books and they were enthralled with the story.  While reading the book, I slowly moved around the room. As I was walking and reading, these older students were whipping around in their seats, following me with their eyes as they intently listened to the simple story.

We first read the book for the sheer enjoyment of listening to the story. During the second reading, the students and I were looking for cause and effect relationships.  As we found a cause, we would write it on our chart, followed by the effect of this action. The students quickly noticed that the cause must come first, as it is the catalyst for the effect.

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The next step was for students to create an anchor chart to keep in their Reading and Writing Folders. Completed with the students, this chart included the definition of cause and effect, examples, and key words they might find in the text when looking for cause and effect. When students are a part of creating an anchor chart, the information becomes relevant and useful to them.  

Students then browsed other If you Give…books and created a second cause and effect chart independently. Students were engaged in their reading and thrilled to be able to find cause and effect relationships throughout the new books.

 

The classroom teacher and I wanted to complete a quick formative assessment to see who required extra support on this skill. Each student took a quarter sheet of paper and in the corner of one side wrote “Cause.”  In the opposite corner, students wrote “Effect.” Students could choose to either write a Cause or Effect sentence in the appropriate corner. They then exchanged their paper with another student in the class, who wrote the relating sentence. For example: A student wrote: Cause: Tom Brady threw an interception in the last minute of the game. His partner then wrote Effect: Tom’s team lost the game to the Denver Broncos.  Another student wrote:  Effect: The vegetables in the garden were destroyed.  His partner wrote:  Cause:  Grandpa forgot to lock the gate on the sheep pen.

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Student partners shared their sentences.  As they shared, their teacher took notes on only those students she felt needed extra instruction. The following day she planned to meet with those students during a small group instruction time. All students whose name she had not written down received a passing grade on this assignment.  Within a 15 minute assessment period, the teacher had given every student an assessment and knew who needed additional support.  More importantly, the students had personally interacted with the concept of Cause and Effect and solidified their learning through the creation of an anchor chart. The students had mastered a reading and writing concept and the teacher was not taking home a stack of papers to grade! 

A Successful Mistake

Sometimes we all need a different perspective!  We had been working with kindergartners on writing a narrative.  The students had drawn pictures prior to writing, illustrating the setting and 2 events that took place in that setting.  They had written about their time in the library, an event on the playground, and a special time with their families.

We now wanted to expand their writing to include a problem that the characters needed to solve.  Along with a problem to solve, I wanted to provide students an opportunity to add details to their writing.  I brought in sheets of paper cut in 4” by 18” strips for them to draw pictures onto to help plan their writing.  I folded the strips into four rectangles and we were ready to start.  Purely be accident, I taped the paper to the board vertically beside a piece of chart paper. With the paper hung vertically instead of horizontally, the order of the pictures matched the writing we would be doing on the paper.  We decided to try a different perspective on writing.

To model the process, I began writing a story about buying some apples in the grocery story. Before writing the story, I told the students we would sketch out the essential events.  The first box was for my setting. I quickly sketched a picture of me standing in front of a display of red, juicy apples.  This was where my story would take place.

The next box was for the problem.  As a group, we discussed the importance of the problem.  Just putting the apples into a bag and putting the bag into my grocery cart did not make a very exciting story.  What problem could I encounter?  In the second box I drew a picture of me placing apples in a plastic bag.  Unfortunately, there was a hole in the bottom of the bag and the apples were dropping out all over the floor.

The third picture was where we would sketch the solution. The very kind grocery store worker had come and helped me gather up all the apples I had spilled. I drew a picture showing this solution. The final box was designated for the conclusion. The story could not just abruptly end, but needed to show how the character reacted to the events.  What happened at the end of the story? How was the character feeling at the end of the story? In the final box of my paper, I sketched a picture of me happily leaving the store with a bag of apples in my hands.

Now that the story was planned, it was time to write.  Leaving the picture strip taped next to the chart paper, we began to write.  How could we start our story?  What is happening in the first box? Together we wrote:

One day I went to the grocery store to buy some apples for my lunch.

 

We folded the first square behind the second square, so our second picture was now on top.  Students could easily see what we were writing about next.

One day I went to the grocery store to buy some apples for my lunch. I opened a plastic bag to carry my apples.  I didn’t know there was a hole in the bottom.  As I put the apples in the bag, they all fell on the floor.

We repeated the process for the third picture, folding the first two pictures back. The third picture was now on top.

One day I went to the grocery store to buy some apples for my lunch. I opened a plastic bag to carry my apples.  I didn’t know there was a hole in the bottom.  As I put the apples in the bag, they all fell on the floor. I was about to cry. A kind man who worked at the store came and helped me collect all my apples.

We are ready to conclude our story. We want to let our readers know how the characters are feeling at the end of the story. 

One day I went to the grocery store to buy some apples for my lunch. I opened a plastic bag to carry my apples.  I didn’t know there was a hole in the bottom.  As I put the apples in the bag, they all fell on the floor. I was about to cry. A kind man who worked at the story came and helped me collect all my apples.  I paid for my apples and left the store feeling happy and ready for a snack.

The students were ready to write on their own, with some support.  To help guide their writing, we all chose the park for our original setting.  Students drew a picture of the park in the first box.  After brainstorming ideas, students drew a possible problem they might have in the park in the second box.  The third box was used for drawing the solution and the final box showed how the characters felts at the end of the story.

Although the students wrote independently, we followed the steps together. I was impressed how easily it was for them to fold the paper and write their story in order.  They were able to write a story with a setting, problem, solution and conclusion.  Accidentally hanging the paper incorrectly had been a successful mistake!

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Let's Write A Story . . . Part 2

In our last blog post, we planned our narratives and discovered different ways to begin a narrative. http://www.writenow-rightnow.com/blog/2017/lets-write-a-story-part-one It was now time to write the introductions to our narratives.  Returning to the original plan about a bear, I decided we would first practice writing an introduction which focused on the setting.  The setting includes items we might see, hear and feel. 

 To begin, I asked students to close their eyes and imagine elements they would see, hear and feel in the forest.  Together we listed these words or phrases on the board.  Examples were:  tall trees, leaves blowing in the wind, blue sky, puffy clouds, birds singing, a trail through the woods, crunching leaves, etc. Using these words, we first wrote a setting introduction together.  The students were then asked to write a Setting Introduction independently.

The next day, we returned to our chart listing ways to begin a narrative. This time, we decided to try beginning our narrative using a Dialogue Introduction.  (This also proved to be the perfect time to teach quotation marks.)  To help students refrain from the “Hi,” said the girl.  “Hi,” said the friend dialogue trap, students went back to their novels to find examples of engaging conversations between characters.   The students and I wrote a dialogue introduction together and then they completed their own introduction independently. 

Students had now written two compelling introductions for their fictional narrative. They were asked to choose the one they felt was the most interesting and put a star next to it.  With the introduction complete, they were now ready to continue writing their narratives.  We had moved beyond a basic introduction and had practiced adding the details necessary to hook our reader from the beginning.

Taking the time to plan their narratives and then write a compelling introduction gave students the confidence they needed to begin their writing.  They understood how to add details and were confident in their abilities to write a story.

 

We would love to hear about your experiences with narratives!

Happy writing,

Darlene and Terry

 

Please visit our website at writenow-rightnow.com to read past blog posts and newsletters.  

 

 

 

Let's Write A Story . . . Part One!

Today we are going to begin to write a story!  Although many students love to write stories, showing off their creativity, it is a difficult genre for student to master.  All too often we are asked to read pages and pages of student writing that contains the phrase “and then . . . . and then . . .  and then . . . .”  As we began to author narratives, I wanted to provide students with a structure that would help them focus their ideas to show off their creativity!

We discussed that the interest in a story comes from the problem the character needs to solve.  The plot of a story consists of the character’s attempts to solve his/her problem.  It often takes multiple attempts before the character is successful! We began with an empty plan.  Laying a piece of paper horizontally, we divided the sheet into four columns. The first column was labeled Characters, Setting and Problem.  The second column was titled First Attempt, with the word but . . . .  in the center of the column.  The third column was titled Second Attempt, with the word but in the center, and the fourth column was divided into Solution and Story Ending. 

Choosing a favorite picture book, we set off to discover if this format was really evident in books we read.  The first book we read was The Little Mouse, The Red Ripe Strawberry and The Big Hungry Bear by Don and Audrey Wood.  The book matched our story plan.  The students easily located the story elements within the text. We repeated the same process using the book Big Al by Andrew Clements.  (This time we listened to a video of the book read!)  Although Al had more than two attempts to solve his problem, the story again followed the same format. The students felt confident that this organization would help them become narrative writers.

 

After completing narrative plans for books that were already written, we moved to planning our own story.  I provided the students the characters (my family and me) and the setting (camping in the woods.)  As the characters returned to their tent from a hike, they discovered a bear sitting in front of their tent.  What is the problem in the story?

The students immediately stated the problem was the bear. At this point, however, the bear was a part of the setting.  What did we need to do to make the bear into the story’s problem?  What would we all want to do if we discovered a bear in front of our tent?  After some think time, the students realized the characters needed an action to form the problem.  The problem was written:  How can we get the bear to leave our tent?

It was time to think of ways the characters could attempt to get the bear to leave.  Working together, students brainstormed ideas and chose the attempts they found most compelling.  These attempts (and why they didn’t work) were added to their narrative plans. The most interesting solution was chosen for the story ending.

One of the most difficult paragraphs for students to write is the opening paragraph of a fictional narrative.  I wanted the students to discover ways that authors grab their readers’ attention at the beginning of a narrative.  To achieve this purpose, students were asked to read the opening two – three sentences of a fictional book they were reading.  I placed a chart labeled Dialogue, Setting, Character and Problem.  Students shared the opening sentences they had found and determined if the author was using dialogue, setting, character or setting to begin his/her novel.  Each narrative’s opening lines were placed in the correct column. We had identified common ways authors grabbed their readers’ attention.

 

 

The time we had spent on this activity paid off when students began to write their own narratives.  In a future blog, Let’s Write A Story . . . Part 2!, we will share what happened next!

 

Happy writing,

Darlene and Terry

 

Please visit our website at writenow-rightnow.com to read past blog posts and newsletters.  

A Very Messy Thanksgiving – Improving Sentence Fluency

Since the beginning of the school year, we have been focusing on organizing and writing complete paragraphs.  Students can now organize a plan, write a variety of topic sentences, and compose a complete paragraph.  It is now time to make our writing better – we are going to revise!

For years, we told our students to “add more details” or “make your writing more interesting.”  Looking back, I’m sure they were all thinking, “It is already interesting.  I don’t know what she’s talking about.  I know – I’ll write my final copy in cursive.”  Adding details and variety to sentence structure takes deliberate instruction and practice.

In mid-November we began a writing engagement which links both sentence fluency and preparation for the holidays – “The Messy Thanksgiving Table.”  Imagining a Thanksgiving table which has been visited by some rather rambunctious guests, we wrote a basic sentence in the middle of our paper: 

The turkey sat on the plate.

Prior to writing, everyone sketched how they imagined the turkey looking on the plate. As a group, we added a phrase to the beginning of our sentence, along with inserting adjectives and a where to our sentence. 

Sitting on the silver platter, the leftover turkey is laying in a forgotten puddle of gravy.

After sharing our expanded sentences, we repeated the process with the sentence:

The mashed potatoes dripped.

It was soon transformed into:

Dripping down the side of the bowl like an avalanche, the mashed potatoes settled on the tablecloth and hardened into rocks.

 

 

The students were ready to take off on their own.  As they chose their Thanksgiving treats, we discussed different ways to vary the sentences.  Students considered when, where, and why as they revised their basic sentences describing the messy Thanksgiving table. 

In order to transform these descriptive sentences into a piece of writing, we needed both an introduction and conclusion.  As we discussed appropriate ways to begin and end this piece of writing, the students naturally realized that the sentences would flow into a compare and contrast piece of writing.  All they needed to do was write a description of the table prior to the meal, with their newly revised sentences describing how the table looked after dinner!  Excited about the writing, they eagerly went to work, brainstorming words which would be used to paint a picture of a dinner table waiting for Thanksgiving guests.  Some student samples:

 

Before the Thanksgiving dinner, the turkey was warm and the table was shinier than a knight in shining armor.  After dinner, the table looked completely different.  

 

Before the Thanksgiving meal, the silverware was shining and the tablecloth was clean.  The lights were shining like crystals on a sunny day and the food was in pretty bowls. 

 

Before Thanksgiving dinner begins, all the food is steaming, mouths are watering, the tablecloth had no stains, all the napkins were clean, the silverware was sparkling and everyone was dressed nicely.  Thanksgiving dinner was perfect, until dinner was over.

 

 

It was simple to add their stretched and revised sentences describing the Thanksgiving calamity to their introduction.  A simple conclusion completed the writing!

It took us hours to clean up the mess.  We are never inviting those people to dinner again!

As students shared their writing with peers, they were eager to repeat this process with another topic.  Their suggestions were to describe the aftermath of Christmas, a birthday party, a sleepover or the classroom on the first and last day of school. 

As we continue writing in class, whether it be in response to text, curricular areas, or prompts, we will reflect back on our Thanksgiving writing as an example of sentence fluency!  The activity had achieved my best hope for my writers – they were engaged writers who were successful in improving their sentence fluency.

 

A Great Teacher . . .

Friday was the last day for our student teacher to be with our class.  It had been an eventful semester, with lots of learning and laughter.  As a good-bye gift for her, we decided to create a book as a memento.  Each page of the books was a student’s response to the prompt, “A great teacher . . .

We were curious to read their responses.  We had just completed three weeks of standardized testing, which included tests in math, English language arts, and social studies.  Would the students reflect no this experience in their writing?  Would their responses include: 

“A great teacher prepares me for standardized testing.” 

“A great teacher helps me find text evidence to support my answer.”

“A great teacher explains how to eliminate incorrect answers so I fill in the right bubble.”

“A great teacher teaches me how to explain my math thinking using pictures, numbers and words.”

We all know that every item on the above list is important for our students to know.  As teachers, we are fundamentally responsible for teaching our students concepts, ideas and standards. Teaching students to be able to comprehend what they read, clearly communicate their ideas in writing, and solve real-world math problems is essential.  However, is that what they will most remember as they decided what makes a teacher great?

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Their responses were enlightening.  Not a single child mentioned a specific academic area.  Rather, their responses were:

“A great teacher knows everyone’s name the first day of school.”

“A great teacher takes the time to explain things so that everyone understands.”

“A great teacher says good morning to every student.”

“A great teacher knows when you’re feeling sad.”

Like so much of my time in the classroom, we learned more from this activity than our students.  The end of the school year, and all of the assessments it brings, can often be discouraging for teachers.  We have all worked so hard – both teachers and students – and at times the tests may not indicate that hard work.  Reading students’ responses was a good reminder to me of what is important to the children with whom we spend our days.  Of course academics are important, and naturally we want our students to show growth.  However, creating this book was a reminder to us of what students find most important in a teacher. 

Happy Writing!

Time is the most valuable thing a man can spend. - Theophrastus

As elementary educators, we need each other. Although we go to PLC's, collaborate with teammates, and chat at lunch, the majority of our time is spent in our classrooms with just our students.  Time for reflection and exploring ways to improve our practice is often swallowed up by the urgent day-to-day running of our classroom - how to rearrange the "chatty" table, where to keep the upcoming field trip permission slips, and when to run off that math assessment.  When do we get time to really talk with one another?

Last week we were honored to attend the CCIRA Conference in Denver (Colorado Council International Reading Association). It was a delightful two days spent with colleagues from across the continent.  In addition to attending the conference, we felt very privileged to present a primary and intermediate writing in-service. 

Now, presenting writing lessons to children is our strength.  I am completely comfortable in presenting new ideas to 30 wiggly kindergarteners.  Presenting ideas to 30 well-behaved colleagues is a totally different experience.  As we planned our presentations, we began with the same questions we pose to our students prior to their writing - What do you want your listener / reader to know?  How are you going to present your information?  It was a valuable learning experience for us both. After hours of thinking, writing, revising, rethinking, and re-revising, we were ready.  The audiences were extremely responsive and appreciative.  It was wonderful! Thank-you to all who attended.

Another exciting portion of the conference for us was the time we spent talking with other teachers.  No matter the grade level or the school location, we are all faced with the same challenges.  How do I squeeze all these standards into our learning day?  What are the essential lessons or concepts I want my students to grasp?  How do I engage the apathetic student while challenging the child who already knows the content?  What can I add to my teaching that will help my students improve as writers?

We encourage all of us to occasionally take a break from our routine and attend a reputable conference.  The time with friends and colleagues and the learning that takes place are essential for our professional and emotional growth as teachers. 

Do what you love – Love what you do — Life Is Good Motto

Do what you love – Love what you do — Life Is Good Motto

While waiting for a flight last weekend, I spent time in the airport Life is Good store.  I must confess – I really love their merchandise.  The shelves were packed with t-shirts, sweatshirts and coffee mugs depicting icons of recreational activities and the phrase “Life is Good.”  I was tempted to purchase the sweatshirt depicting a travel trailer, a bicycle and a kayak, three of my favorite things.

Flying home, I was remembering this store.  Every t-shirt graphic displayed a picture of some type of hobby – from fishing to enjoying a cup of coffee.  Not a single picture had anything to do with work.  There were no graphics of computer screens, classrooms, meeting rooms, or spreadsheets.  While I understand the purpose of the company, it has made me think about the atmosphere of our classrooms.  Do we approach learning with a “Do what you love – love what you do” attitude?

Not all who wander are lost . . . J. R. Tolkien

Not all who wander are lost . . . J. R. Tolkien

But some of us are!  A sense of direction has never been a personal strength.  Living in Colorado certainly helps – directions can be towards the mountains or away from the mountains.  Yet, when it comes time to locate a new place, I use all the tools at my disposal.  Car destinations are plotted on mapquest, using both the map and the step by step directions.  When hiking, I stop at every posted sign, carefully following the arrows to complete the next turn! When using an old-fashioned paper map, I have to turn the map the direction I am facing to understand where I am and where I need to go.

Meeting Our Students' Needs

Meeting Our Students' Needs

Our students come in all shapes, sizes and abilities.  As teachers, we are constantly searching for ways to meet each of their educational needs. Sometimes we have a well thought out plan, while at other times meeting our students’ needs happens spontaneously. The latter happened in one of the classes that I spend time co-teaching reading and writing skills to 4th graders. We had been teaching our students how to find evidence in text to help support their answers. We first spent time just learning how to find evidence in the text before we had our students start answering questions. We then modeled and practiced writing a “Shining Star Answer” using the proof from the text. One of our struggling students needed additional work on putting these two skills together. 

The Unplanned Teachable Moments

The Unplanned Teachable Moments

Many of us are asked to use curriculum maps to help us plan our instruction. While these maps are useful and at times essential, we must also remember to watch for those teachable moments which bring learning alive to our students.

During the first weeks of school, we were reading aloud the novel Fish In A Tree,  by Linda Mulhally Hunt. Ally, the main character, is told she is “crossing the line,” and realizes her teacher is not discussing the finish line of a race. As we talked about this idiom, one student commented that his mom tells him he is “on thin ice” when he is in trouble. Another girl piped up that her parents tell her she is “in hot water.” A lively debate started over the use of water in both idioms – one water freezing and the other heated!

Data Information and Heart Knowledge

Data Information and Heart Knowledge

“Is it worth the time it takes?” 

My teammates and I have vowed to start each planning meeting asking that question. As we look at all the standards we have to teach, the assessments we’re asked to give, and the learning engagements we want to share, we quickly run out of hours in the school day. The question was central in our discussion on whether or not to give a writing assessment to our fourth graders the first week of school.

After much thought, I chose to ask my students to write to the prompt,

In your opinion, what would be the best job to have as an adult? Explain the reasons for your choice of career.

Starting the Year – “Well begun is half done.”

Starting the Year – “Well begun is half done.”

Last spring, our school district decided to do away with parents and students purchasing the necessary school supplies. Instead, the district would charge parents a supply fee and the supplies would be ordered by and delivered to the school. Three days before our annual “Meet the Teacher” night, my classroom was filled with boxes of paper, notebooks, crayons, pencils, and miscellaneous supplies needed to start the year.