Sunday, September 29, 2013

New Territory--Words Their Way

I am beginning to implement Words Their Way. My spelling inventories have been scored, my groups have been formed, my materials are ready...I think! 

I have descriptions of the sorts hanging by my document camera so that I can easily model them for my students. 

I have crates with my students' folders which are color-coded based on which book they scored in for their sorts. The colored folders will give me and my assistant a quick visual of which students we can pull for small group work during word work each day.


On the back of each crate label I placed the grid with my students' names so I can easily reference which sorts they need each week.

The folders contain an envelope for their current sorts and paper for their end of week assessment and other activities as needed.

On the back of the folder is a template for students who require a more detailed sorting environment.

Hook 'Em With a Contest

Last week in Reading Workshop I taught my students what to do when they encounter a tricky word in their reading.
Then they practiced using the strategy while they read during Independent Reading. They wrote jottings when they found tricky words in their books. 

To create some fun in the classroom, I used the Contest Hook from the book Teach Like a Pirate. I challenged the students to find wonderfully amazing words everywhere they go.
I made it a contest by telling my two blocks of students that they were competing against each other to see which group of students could find the most cool words. The first day of the contest was a word frenzy! I even had to make my mid-workshop teaching point a reminder that our purpose for reading was to understand the stories, not just write down words.


Know Your Students, Know Your Books

I scored a tremendous treasure at the used book store, The Last Word. I bought 68 books for my classroom library and paid $100.  I added up the original publisher's price and the books would've cost $478! So I am going to celebrate this incredible deal with you by explaining why I bought these specific books.

Teachers not only match their students to books using reading levels, we match them up by interest. My students love the funny Dan Gutman series, My Weird School.
I found 12 of them for only $1 each!

I was excited to find a book to use for teaching. I am familiar with Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes, but I did not know that the author, Eleanor Coerr, had written a picture version of the story for younger readers. I look forward to developing a lesson incorporating these two books.

I bought this book because it was a lower level historical fiction book. These can be hard to find.

I have a few students in my class who have low self-esteem. They realize their reading levels are low and are sometimes embarrassed by it. I chose this book because it is about a boy who always strikes out in baseball and how he overcomes his embarrassment. I think books are a great way for students to connect with characters who have similar problems or obstacles.

I bought 10 of these books this summer and I was stoked to find they had 6 more in stock!

I have a VERY talkative class this year, so this book was an obvious choice!

This series is written by the same author as The Bailey School Kids. My students like the Goosebumps books in our classroom library, but those books have too high of a level for some of my readers. These ghostly books are a lower level and less scary (in my opinion).

Girls and science...

There are lots of football and baseball books in my classroom library, but the boys said they would like to read more basketball books.

I love this graphic novel series. I mentioned it in class one day and my students never heard of excuse now!

A book about the Titanic AND a dog?! Perfect for my third graders. These two topics were at the top of several interest lists.

I was reorganizing the classroom library this year and I noticed that I was on the weak side of literature with male lead characters. I picked up these 3 books because they looked fun and exciting for boys.

More books for my boys.
Yes, I know there are girls that may enjoy reading them, too. 

More male lead characters. The Hank Zipzer books are written by Henry Winkler.

Dogs, penguins, and sharks are the top animals my students enjoy reading about. They were also yelling Marco Polo on the swings during recess the other day, so that was a bonus interest match.

I can never resist legends from other cultures. I found a Cuban, a Japanese, and two Native American books.

This book is stunning. I have never heard of it before, but now I cannot wait to use it in a lesson. It will be perfect for a genre discussion because students might think it is nonfiction, or realistic fiction, or even poetry. This book will be great to launch a genre discussion. The vocabulary is high level and colorful, so it can also be used in a writing lesson.

My current copy of this book is torn and taped. I HAD to buy a new one.

Who can resist Seymour Simon?

The Usborne Discovery books all contain internet links throughout the text so that students can do further research. I think this book will be a useful addition to our classroom since students can now bring their own technology devices to school. 

Fractured fairy tales are always a hit!

I have never read this historical fiction tale.

I consider this book to fall into the category of complex text due to the author's style of writing and organization. It also has some serious themes in it. I plan on using it for a lesson on point of view.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

New Year, New Jottings

My third graders are on their way to becoming great readers and thinkers. I started them out slowly when creating jottings while they read. We made some jottings together and we used symbols to show our thinking. We did a sorting activity to distinguish weak jottings from wonderful jottings.

Then we moved on to some metacognitive thinking. During the read aloud of Stone Fox, students stopped and made three jottings: I wonder, I think, What if? Then during Independent Reading, students used the same three jotting stems while reading a leveled book of their choice.


I used these jotting stems to conference with students. I noted areas of strength and weakness in their jottings in order to compliment my readers and give them an area of improvement. Side note--yes, I know there are more technological ways I could record my conference notes, but I like my method of recording in writing.


Hooked on Art

I used the Picasso Hook from Teach Like a Pirate to activate my students' creativity during Reading Workshop. When they arrived at my Literacy Block, there were piles of yellow and black paper on their tables. They had glue and scissors in their supply buckets. I simply told them to create a bee. I did not give them patterns or examples. I made one too under the document camera so that my reluctant artists could have a model.

I had the students hang their bees on the cupboards to create a swarm. We talked about what a swarm of bees might sound like and then mimicked the sound. This led into my focus lesson on creating a buzz about books. Students learned how to share their ideas about what makes books so wonderful to read. We discussed how to recommend a book to other readers.

I think this hook was a success because the students worked efficiently and successfully. The most overheard comment was, "I can't believe we get to do art and it's not even Art class." This did make me sad. I know that I am so focused on the standards I need to cover and the student growth I need to show by May that I do need to remember they are only 8 years old and need to have fun. Teach Like a Pirate has helped me put fun back into my teaching!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Pirate on Safari

My professional development plan this year includes a personal goal to utilize what I learned from reading the book Teach Like a Pirate by Dave Burgess. While reading the book, I wrote note cards for each of the teaching hooks. I posted these cards above my desk for easy reference. I highlight the hooks that I use and my goal is to try each hook at least once this year.

The Safari Hook has been my most successful one so far--based on the students' excitement. I began the Reading Workshop focus lesson by telling my students we would be going on a safari to hunt two amazing creatures. I explained that when you are on  safari you must remain calm and quiet because you do not want to scare away the creatures. I told them that a safari was a time to look at amazing creatures, not to touch them. I explained that creatures you see on a safari are usually larger than life and often  very colorful. I used my hands in front of my face and showed students how I might want to take a mental picture of what I saw when I found the creatures.

I started playing a safari video I found on You Tube complete with authentic music.
I gave students their task: to hunt the classroom for two amazing creatures--the weak jotting and the wonderful jotting. I spoke in a hushed, suspenseful voice so that they were hanging on my every word. I told them that the weak jotting was short and small and dangerous. I further explained that the weak jotting did not show much thinking and it lacked text evidence. I became more animated as I described the wonderful jotting as a creature that was so beautiful you couldn't help but feel smarter when you read it!
I sent the students off on their classroom safari searching and hunting for large and colorful, weak and wonderful jottings!

Students hunted around the room for large green or blue jumbo sticky notes. The blue ones has weak jottings on them that I wrote regarding our current read aloud, Stone Fox.

A weak jotting was spotted! This student is taking a picture of it!
When the safari music ended, the students ended their safari at the meeting area. I began my focus lesson about using jottings to show our thinking while we read. Then students took the safari seriously and were definitely engaged during the rest of Reading Workshop.

Teach With an Accent!

I have been documenting my use of teaching hooks after reading the book Teach Like a Pirate. I added my own twist to the Drama Hook by using a strange sort of British-sounding scholarly accent when I introduce new vocabulary. These are not content words, just words that I as a teacher use in my lesson. After I use the words in my lessons, I add them to a small pocket chart with a reminder of how I used the word in a lesson.
Third graders love new words that they have never heard before and for some reason they really like to hear these words said with a strange sort of Julia Child and Sherlock Holmes blended accent. Now that I have used it a couple of times, the students know to expect that I am using a new word when I start to talk in the accent. I am not really sure where it came from, but they like it so I will keep using it!

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Teach Like a Yogi

My goal this year is to teach like a pirate...yes, just like the book by Dave Burgess. If you have not read the inspiring book, Teach Like a Pirate, please devour it like I did and you will be invigorated and ready to head to work with new ideas. This will be my 17th year of teaching so not all of the ideas were new to me, but they were presented in a way that made me re-open my teacher toolbox that was stuck waaaaaay back in the dark corners of my brain.

Mozart Hook
Each morning when my students enter the room I have music playing. This sets a relaxed mood and helps wake up their brains. I also use it as a management piece because their voices should not be louder than the music. My music player of choice is Pandora. I have it set on a channel titled Classical Music Medley Radio which plays current music in a classical style. There are no lyrics so you don't have to worry about censoring anything inappropriate. The children sometimes recognize a song and will hum along with it. The other day there was a Michael Jackson song and some of the boys told me that it was Michael Jackson's birthday. They thought it was cool that I was playing his music {it's always great to score cool points with boys}.
Kinesthetic Hook
I used yoga to introduce my students to stamina during Reading Workshop.

Students gathered in the meeting area and I shared with my Block 1 students that I have been taking a class at the gym to learn yoga. I explained to them that I was not very good at first but I won't give up. I told them that I am getting better at holding the tough poses each time I go to the class.
I shared with my Block 2 students that I am doing a program on the treadmill that is training me to run a 5K race. I told them that I am not very good at running, but I am not giving up even though it is really tough for me. Each time I get on treadmill I run a little bit longer and a little bit faster.

Next I had the students each find a colored floor tile to stand on in the room. They had to have both of their feet on the tile. Their hands were at their sides. Most of them were commenting how easy it was to stand like this.
Then I had them cross one of their legs over the other. Then they crossed their arms. I heard some mumbles that this felt weird and I saw some off-balance stumbles.
Finally, I challenged them to take a foot off the floor and raise it in the air. They put their arms out in front of them. Arms and legs were flailing around as students tried to balance themselves.

We returned to the carpet and I told them all how proud I was that they did not give up trying to balance their bodies on 1 foot. I told them that as they keep practicing this move they would be able to stand for longer amounts of time and become stronger. I then moved in to my mini lesson about stamina.
My teaching point was that successful readers need to develop stamina so they can read longer and stronger. We decided to use the pose of arms high in the air to mean longer and a leg stretched out behind to mean stronger. If someone asks my students what stamina means, they are supposed to raise their arms above their heads and stretch their leg out behind. Then they will explain that stamina means doing something longer and stronger without giving up. 
Fellow MIE teachers who are reading this, please ask my students what stamina means if you see them in hall...hopefully they will show you!