Sunday, January 31, 2010

Spice Up Your Spelling!

I got to thinking today that we've been doing the same four types of spelling activities ALL year. How boring! I started doing some online research and here are my TOP 10 in random order!

1. Fraction Spelling

2. Make a secret code and use it to write each word

3. Write each spelling word and then write three words within that word. (Ex. Pickle - like, lick, lip)

4. Waterfall or Pyramid words. You write one letter at a time until the whole word has been written.

ex. p
      pi
      pic
      pick

5. Write riddles for each word. Ex. I cry when I am hungry. I wear a diaper. I am cute and cuddly. What am I? Answer - baby

6. Classify your words according to the number of syllabes. I would have them use three or four columns, depending on how many different syllabled words there are.

7. Rainbow words - Write each word in one color. Then, trace over each word with a different color. You can have them do this with however many colors you choose. I usually do three.

8. Mixed Up - Have students fold a piece of paper in three columns. Write the word in the first column. In the second column, mix up the letters. Go back another day with the first column folded back and try to unscramble the words. You can also have partners switch papers and unscramble each others words.

9. Write alliterative sentences. Ex. Joy jumps joyfully. Have them underline the spelling word.

10. Fancy - Write your words in fancy letters.

I found these spelling cards and stole a bunch of ideas from here. I really digthe idea of putting them on cards! You can then punch holes in each card and put them on a ring.
    

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Regrouping with Addition

Sorry, today's post isn't going to be all that wonderful. I just bought the new Super Mario Brothers Wii and I've been addicted to it all day! I can only get to the castle on level 2 before I die and have to start World 2 all over again!

So, uh...regrouping. I made up this fun little song to go along with my lesson on teaching regrouping with addition. I have put the song in a powerpoint, so you will have to pardon my singing voice.

It goes to the tune of, "If You're Happy and You Know It"

When your number's over 9, you regroup. Clap Clap
When your number's over 9, you regroup. Clap Clap
When your number's over 9, you regroup to the next line.
When your number's over 9, you regroup. Clap Clap

You can just click on the powerpoint and pull it up on your Promethean, SMART board, or projector.

If you'll excuse me, I have more Mario to attend to!

Friday, January 29, 2010

Today was the 100th Day of school!

That means, we only have 80 days to go! Wooo hoo.

Okay, first of all, I want to thank KT over at Sneaker Teacher for giving me my first blog award, Happy 101!

Second, my faithful pencil sharpener died this week, and I was given this bad boy.



I am in love. My students can sharpen a pencil in 4 seconds! 4 SECONDS! That is insanely awesome and you should all be jealous, mainly because they cost $50 and I paid zip! Oh, the perks of a Title I school!

Annnnd finally, onto the real reason for this post. Activities for the 100th day of school (Don't act like you're not celebratin' it...)

1. Write about what you would do if you had $100. (Sidenote: my students actually did this today, and apparently they think that cars, mansions, and indoor pools are this affordable along with everything else they had on their lists! I had maybe two friends who said they would help the homeless. God Bless them!

2. Using three jars, have students submit a ballot to, "guess which jar has 100 pieces of candy." The winner takes home the largest and so on...

3. Give students 100 pattern blocks and have them work cooperatively in a group to make a design with their blocks. After they make their designs, snap a picture!

What activities have you heard of or done for the 100th day celebration in your classrooms or school?

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Gold Stars are sooo 1980

It's the middle of the year and student energy is running high but their motivation is going on empty - at least in my classroom!

Here are some things I have done or heard of from other awesome teachers to help motivate students.

1. Gems in a Jar - I have a laminated paper jar that I tape to my white board. When the class pleases me, I add a magnetic gem to our jar. When the jar is full (20-30 gems), the class picks a reward.

2. Popcorn Points - Determine a point amount your class must earn by doing good deeds, keeping clean, doing homework, whatever you wish, and when the class earns enough points, have a popcorn celebration!

3. Tickets - I bought a roll of tickets and I pass them out for anything and everything that I see fit in my class! The kids write their names on them and drop them in a jar. At the end of every week, I draw out a name and they pick a cheapo prize from the trinket trunk. Then, I save all the tickets from each week and do a quarterly drawing to stay after school on a Friday, watch a movie, and have snacks.

These are just of few of my favs. What sort of incentive programs or motivators do you use in your class? Sharing is caring guys!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Rocks, rocks, and more rocks!

I really enjoyed teaching a unit earlier this year on rocks and minerals. I taught my students the following song, and it really helped them remember the three types of rocks:

Rock Cycle Song (Tune: Row Row Row Your Boat)

Sedimentary rock
has been formed in layers
Often found near water sources
with fossils from decayers.

Then there's igneous rock
here since Earth was born
molten lava, cooled and hardened
that is how it's formed.

These two types of rocks
can also be transformed
with pressure, heat, and chemicals
metamorphic they'll become.

Visit this link for an awesome learning focused unit on rocks. You will have to scroll down a bit to find it. There are other great learning focused units there as well.

As an introduction to our unit, I gave each student a plastic bag and asked them to collect 5-6 small-medium sized rocks. I asked them to try to find and bring in rocks that looked different. On the first day, have students take out their rocks and list all characteristics of their rocks that they observe in their science journals and draw a sketch of them. Have several places around the room labeled with a different characteristic such as, heavy, shiny, dull, etc...and have your students sort them rocks into the most fitting category (some may fit in more than one place).

To end the unit, we made model rocks with sand, gravel, and white glue. Give each student a piece of newspaper and a piece of wax paper to put on top. Give each student a small plastic cup and fill it with a spoon full of sand. Then, give them a little spoon full of gravel. Have your students add a litte water to get their materials to stick together and then add white glue a little by little until the materials clump together. Pour the mixture on wax paper and let it dry for a couple of days! Voila! You have a rock!

Other activities we did:

1) To help students understand what rocks are made of, I give them a chocolate chip cookie. I explained that rocks are made of minerals or smaller pieces. The chocolate chips and nuts (depending on what type of cookie you use) are the minerals that make up the rock.

2) To reinforce each type of rock, we sampled three types of chocolate candy (kit kat-sedimentary rock, Snickers-metamorphic, and Musketeers-Igneous)

3) To demonstrate the rock cycle, give students two pieces of playdough. Have them form the sedimentary rock by making layers and putting them on top of each other. Then, have them press the playdough together with pressure (and heat) to make a metamorphic rock. To help them understand igneous, ask them what happens to play dough if you leave it out over night? This is how igneous rocks are formed. Lava cools off and becomes hard!

4) We observed properties of different types of rocks and minerals and recorded observations, sorted based on properties, and compared how they were alike and different in our science journals.

5) We also learned about different ways to identify minerals by using streak, luster, color, magnetism, and hardness tests. Then, we try to use those tests to identify a "mystery" mineral.

Do any of you study rocks and minerals in your classrooms? What sort of activities have you used?

Monday, January 25, 2010

Review for 100 Alex

I was reading over at History is Elementary today, and it got me thinking about other unit review activities that I thought should be shared. First of all, if you haven't yet, go check out the review activity posted at History is Elementary. Fabbo idea!

Other review ideas:

1) Give students index cards and have them write down all of the most important vocabulary words (people, places, or terms). I wouldn't do more than 15. Have students spread them out on their desks. Call out a clue or a definition for one of the terms. Students hold up the vocabulary card that matches the clue. You can even make it a game and have groups work as teams to discuss and show their answers.

2) I do lots of graphic organizers for Science and Social Studies, so we keep them all in a folder and pull them out at the end of a unit to help us complete our study guides. It's really helpful!

3) Jeopardy! Kids love jeopardy! You can google whatever subject you're doing online and more than likely find a premade jeopardy game without having to create your own. But, if you want to reinvent the wheel, you can just use this template.

4) Write a poem that synthesizes information you learned in a particular subject.

5) "Stump the Class" - Assign teams of 3-4 people per team and give each team 3 index cards. They are to write a review question and answer on each card that would test the class's knowledge of the topics covered so far. They have 10 minutes to review all their training materials and come up with the questions. The trainer collects the cards and tosses a ball randomly to ask a question. The person who catches the ball may answer the question, confer with the team, or toss to ball to someone else. Once the question has been answered correctly, the person who has the ball tosses it to someone else and the process continues until all the questions have been answered.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Magnet Words

Magnet words is a great strategy to use if your content for the lesson focuses on one "big" word or concept. This strategy helps strengthen reading skills like summarizing, and main idea, AND help your students learn the term you want them to know.

Procedure:

1. Give students an index card.
2. Have them write the "magnet" term in the middle of one side. I like to have them put a box around the word.  
3. As students read the text, have them write down key words or phrases, in the space around the magnet word, that define, describe, or help students understand something important about that word.
4. Finally, have them use the magnet words and phrases to help them write a definition on the other side of their index cards.

You will need to model how to do this first and then let students try. I would even have them verbalize their definition to a partner and then write it. You can have your students do this with individually, with a partner, or a group.

This is just another great tool for teaching kids how to summarize and pick out supporting details for main idea. As a teacher, you know the importance and impact that these two skills have on student achievement and the more ways you can teach kids how to do them, the better!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Lines, angles, and rays! Oh My!

We have been studying geometry in Math this week. I have been up to my eyeballs in attributes of circles, lines, line segments, rays, angles, parallel, perpendicular, you-name-it! I've really enjoyed teaching these ideas and my students have had fun learning, mainly because I have taught tons of songs and played lots of Simon Says (as an assessment tool of course!)

Here are a few songs:

This song, to the tune of (Miss Suzy Had a Steamboat) Slightly inappropriate lyrics but you know the tune, teaches about lines and angles.

A line has two arrows (arms out pointing in both directions)
It goes on and on.
A segment has two endpoints (arms out with balled fists)
A ray has only one. (one balled fist, one finger pointing)
When I make a muscle (duh, make a muscle!)
It's a right angle, too.
Look at my square corner, (point to elbow)
You can make it too!

Right! Acute! Obtuse! (Make each angle with arms)

The next song, to the tune of "Where is Thumbkin" teaches the three pairs of lines:

Perpendicular, perpendicular.
Parallel, parallel.
Intersecting line, intersecting line.
All is well, all is well.

I have my students make each pair of lines with their arms as we sing.

After we learned about kinds of lines, angles, and pairs of lines, we played Simon Says! I've learned that 3rd graders are really BAD at this game! They can make all the hand motions all right but they can never remember to stay put if I don't say Simon Says first! I can get the whole class out in one full swoop!

Other activities I wanted to do, but didn't have time to do are listed below:

1. Musical Angles: Give each student a piece of string. With music playing, students move to the music. Stop the music and call out a different angle each time. Students must pair up to make the angle. If they don't have a partner or they make the wrong angle, they are out.

2. Line Collage: Give your students pipe cleaners, toothpicks, popsicle sticks, construction paper, crayons, markers, or just whatever else you choose to make a collage with parallel, perpendicular, and intersecting lines and let em' at it!

3. Angle "Tic Tac Toe": Click on this link for an assessment of right, obtuse, and acute angles.

4. United Streaming: If you have access to this site, you can have students watch the Math's Mansion: Learn Your Lines segment or Videomath: Lines.

What other activities, songs, or chants do you use to teach this concept in your classrooms?

Thursday, January 21, 2010

What's on the menu?

Reading! Self selected reading to be exact!

I have long pondered how to get students more into reading during SSR and I've tried and seen many different things that didn't really work. I hated the fact that students wanted to constatnly change books in a 30 minute period. Pick a friggin' book already! And then I realized that they weren't actually reading the books that they chose.

DUN-Dun-dun...

It hit me. I hadn't been giving them a purpose for reading during their silent reading time! Now, not only do they have a purpose for reading every day, but they know they have to be ready to share at the end! It just keeps them accountable for reading, but I'm sure you already knew that.

Thus, the SSR Menu was born. Here is an sample menu that I used the first time I tried this and there is also a list of activities to use in your own menus. This can be adapted to your classroom, your needs, and your students.

I also decided to start using this time to integrate the Social Studies and Science content, especially before we start a new unit. It is a great tool for giving them some background knowledge before beginning something new.

So, with that being said, here is the link to my powerpoint, where you can see how to set up SSR menus and use them in your classrooms. It will save me a lot of typing!

The thing I love most about this idea is that there is so much student choice, even though you have control over what you want them to read. I do let them choose from their group book baskets 1-2 times a week, but the other days are focused on content that I want them to have schema on for our upcoming learning units.

Let me know if you use these and how they work for your classroom. I've had several teachers at my school try it and they all love it!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Integrating Arts into the Classroom--This is a good one!

I am sooooo flippin' excited to share with you what I learned today!! Many of you may already have your own idea of what Arts Integration looks like, but hopefully this will give you a whole new idea on what a variety of things it can mean.

When we started this professional development today, we were asked to think about what our idea of art integration was. I wasn't thinking very broadly and my brain settled on things like collages, painting, and drawing, (Yeah, I know. I wasn't exactly thinking outside of the box. It's been a day, okay!) but it is SO much more than that! Movement, drama, poetry, you name it-are all elements of art integration! I am sure you all already know that, but I think we all need a little reminding sometimes.

I often have my students create hand motions to help them remember abstract concepts in Science and Social Studies since they tend to be so filled with content so I was impressed with myself that I was already doing these things. 

Once we come up with these bodily pictures, it sticks and I know my kids remember what I taught because they have made that mental image of their movements and it's been burned into their mind. Maybe not forever for some...but you just have to review them every now and then and they will remember without a doubt!

Okay, onto the good stuff. The first and most important part of what we did today was called "tableau." Now, call me a moron, but in my frazzled brain today I began thinking Oh, that's a land feature. (Insert remark about common sense here) Wrong! That would be a plateau. Don't worry, my mind isn't always that confused. It's been one of those days, but that's a rant for my other blog which you can visit here. =)

Annnd, back to the topic at hand. So, vocabulary word for the day-tableau-a frozen picture you create with your body to represent a mood, a feeling, or an idea. I realized that I've been doing these with my students all year, I just never knew the proper term for the word!

The activity that we learned today integrates this idea with Writing and major content areas like Science, Social Studies, and Math. We were given a chunk of text from a Social Studies book and broken into 6 groups. Each group was assigned one paragraph from that section and was responsible for creating a tableau or three for their paragraph. You can use more than one tableau for your section because there may be 2-3 big ideas that you want to express with your frozen pictures. 

After you've given adequate time for each group to create their picture stories, the students will perform for the rest of the class. The instructor reads each group's paragraph out loud--at a slow pace--while the group "performs" their tableau's.

Then, you can have a discussion about what your students got out of each performance because some ideas may be hard to see right away.

What a lovely way to teach boring Social Studies and Science texts!? Right?

After this has been accomplished, you have students write in the first person about what role they played in their performance. For example, in our reading today, this was our paragraph:

More than 200 years ago, canals were dug across the land to connect rivers. Canals made it easier for ships to carry good from place to place. The Santee Canal was built to connect the Santee River with the Cooper River. This canal made it possible for cotton to be shipped by boat from Columbia to Charleston. (Sorry, I teach South Carolina History...)

Boring, right?!

So, my group made frozen pictures of digging, rivers, canals, you get the idea. I was the river. Flowy and free and sorry...I promise I'm about to make my point.

Back to the roles each student plays, you have them think about their role and write about what they think, see (colors are important), smell, taste, feel...in that role. You need to give them a fairly short time limit for this part. We were given 5 minutes, but you can adjust according to your class.

As the leader of this activity, you need to preface this by discussing important ideas to include in that writing. Coach students with an example. Ask them questions like "What would you smell if you were a river? What colors would you see? What would you do? Be the river!"

I hope this isn't confusing anyone, so to satisfy my curiosity, here was my example:

Remember--I am the river. Okay, here is me writing about me being a river.

I am a river. (Gotta love that topic sentence) I flow on and on over smooth rocks and pebbles. I smell fresh and sometimes dirty when it rains and stirs my sediments. I am a deep blue on a cloudy day and when the bright sun comes out once again you can sometimes see right through me, except when those rains come again. They turn me into a dirty, murky, mixed-up mess. I feel free and wild like a bird, (How'd ya like that simile!) nothing to stop me from my carved path. I slither into the tiniest places that only the fish and tiniest creatures can find.

And my favorite part about this is the sharing! Call on some of those eager volunteers and let them read their little hearts out, because they WILL want to share. After the first student shares, do a recall. Recall is telling two to three words or phrases that really resonated with you when you heard the student read that. You may have to model a few times, but then have students start recalling words or phrases that really stuck out from what their classmates are sharing. I would do it after each person shares. This is great because it really makes students focus on listening intently to what each person has to say.

As an extension, they suggested having students revisit the tableau performance and have students write their own dialogue to go along with their idea. This is a great way to incorporate the use of languages devices like onomatopeia, simile, and metaphor.

I know some of you primary teachers may be thinking, well that's all well and good, but how does this apply to my students? You can have them create their frozen pictures and discuss what roles they played. Draw out those adjectives and verbs in a class conversation or have them draw a picture. Your tableau's will probably not be as in depth, but they will at least be able to SHOW you what they learned.

After discussing and reflecting on this as a faculty (side note--several of our teachers use tableau's already and have been trained in the SMART arts) one teacher quoted one of her students saying, "I like tableau's because you finally get to do something in school." WOW!

I mean, I don't have to tell you all the ways that using drama and the arts in your classrooms are useful because you are all intelligent human beings. BUT, the one thing I will say about this is that many subjects or concepts that you teach to students are so abstract and packed with content that's it's often difficult to keep it all filed in their memories. When they can make that frozen moment in time, it makes it meaningful and connected to them personally and they will likely not forget, not to mention this is a gold mine for your ESL students who may have a very limited vocabulary. My school currently has a 42% Hispanic population, so you can imagine how useful this is for my little gems.

I know I was long winded today, but this is such an awesome tool for teachers across all grade levels and curriculums and can be adapted and used in SO many different ways.

I would love to know if any of you are already doing things like this in your classrooms and if not, how can you use this in your classroom?

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Two Words

I learned this activity recently at a Social Studies workshop provided by our district and now I use it ALL the time, especially during Self Selected Reading (SSR--for those of you that don't use Four Blocks). I learned lots of other Reading and Writing integration activities, but I thought I would share my favorite from that day.

"Two Words" is an activity you can use after experiencing any for of text. It could be a read aloud, a piece of informational text from Science or Social Studies class, a letter, primary documents...the possibilities are endless! I would tell them before reading what their purpose is for that text. Remind them that they need to be thinking about two words that the book makes them think of. Then, read!

After reading, you have them choose two words that they thought of while reading the or two words that the book made them think of and then explain why they chose those two words in a sentence or two. You can have them do this on a sticky note and add it to a class chart or just have them write it in a notebook.

It's a good way to assess what each of your students got out of the book and see which of your little gems were payin' attention! It is always interesting to me when I do this because the range of words produced are so vast and different. Some are very simple-straight-from-the-book words and some are very thought provoking-deep-major idea words.

In honor of the Martin Luther King holiday, we did this activity in my class with the book, "Martin's Big Words." Indeed the words in this story are very powerful and deep, but students still understand the significance and importance of who he was. An example from one of my students looked like this:

I wrote unfair and courage. I chose those words because Martin had a lot of courage to stand up to the unfair things that happened to him and his family. 

I think this is such a great activity because students are asked to reflect on how they felt after experiencing very some powerful information. Kids and adults alike make connections in so many different ways so I think it's a great tool to get them thinking about how they feel, then thinking about why they feel that way, and finally sharing it with the rest of the class.

Applying this concept to non-fiction works well also. You can have them pick out what they think are the two most important words or ideas from the reading and explain why they chose those.

Personally, my favorite thing about this is the idea of providing a rationale for your thoughts. It makes it hard for students so they don't just scribble down two words they heard from the book. They actually THINK about what they got out of text, instead of just copying down what they heard.

I have only two words to say...

AWESOME STRATEGY!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Reader's Theater - SC Explorers

I taught a Social Studies unit recently on South Carolina explorers. Our social studies contact person, Paula Burgess, posted tons of wonderful resources for third grade South Carolina history curriculum. Among them, I found this little gem. It's a reader's theater talk show.

We spent a day talking about word painting (reading with expression), and how it helps us read fluently. If you want more information on word painting, visit MarciaDaft.com and click on Creative Strategies. 

I assigned parts and we practiced until we were blue in the face! We performed it for a few other classes and staff at our school. THEY loved doing it and they learned a thing or two about the first explorers of South Carolina!

You can watch our video at teachertube!

The Action of Subtraction

I thought that I would have the hardest time teaching my students how to subtract with regrouping this year, but it went surprisingly well. There are a couple of little memory tricks I taught my students to help them remember when to borrow.

First, I used this flipchart when I introduced it to my students and they TOTALLY got it! (Warning: You may need to download the Promethean software to use this.)

You can also use the four B’s: Bigger Bottom, Better Borrow!

I recently saw a mnemonic for subtraction in a flow chart. With regrouping-”More on the floor, Go next door and get 10 more.” Without regrouping-”More on top, no need to stop!” I will probably make a poster with this for next year because I had fifth graders last year who would try to borrow when they didn’t need to. I think that once you teach regrouping, students think they need to do it all the time.


As a result, I began starting out each lesson by showing them a problem and asking them whether or not they needed to regroup. I think this really gets them thinking about it before they do other subtraction problems. Some kids just get lazy and don’t really stop and think about what they need to do. They just assume that since you’ve been learning regrouping, that you just regroup all the time. It’s very frustrating! You teach them a skill and they absolutely get it, but some of them can’t apply it only when it’s necessary.

Here are a couple of songs --

To the tune of "If You're Happy and You Know It"

If it's smaller on the top,
Take a ten.
If it's smaller on the top,
Take a ten,
If it's smaller on the top,
Take a ten and start again.
If it's smaller on the top,
Take a ten.

Subtraction Song powerpoint by yours truly. You'll have to excuse my singing voice. =)

I love rhymes and songs and I wish I had them for everything, but I’m just not that creative. If you know of any other subtraction memory tricks, please share!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Syllabication with claves

Claves
About a month ago, Marcia Daft came to our school to do a training on Reading and Writing fluency. She taught us MANY wonderful things but the one I have used the most is the syllabication activity. If you don't have a set of claves, go to your school's friendly music teacher and borrow some or purchase some from your local music store.


This activity uses music to teach students how to break words into syllables. Instead of having students always clap the syllables they hear, you teach the students to play different syllabled words in different places on their bodies.

To introduce the activity, do this with each students name. Demonstrate with each child's name how it sounds with the claves. If the child's name is one syllable, just tap the clave one time and say the name. John. Just go around the room saying students names and playing them to the claves so they get a sense of how many taps for each name.

Some two syllable words are played differently on the claves. For example, balloon and flower are both two syllable words, but balloon has a stress on the end of the word so it is played almost more quickly than flower. You may want to practice seeing if students can tell the difference as you play them on the claves.

Next, choose about three volunteers with 2 and 3 syllable names. I try to pick two students with two syllable names (one with stress and one without) and a student with a 3 syllable name. Example-Ginger, Colleen, Daniella) Colleen has a stress on the end of the name so it is played differently on the claves. It really takes a strong ear to hear it and not all of your students will get it the first couple of times. After you have chosen your three names, play them on the claves without saying the name and see if students can point to the volunteer you chose. Continue until you think students understand.

The next part of the activity is to have students actually play the names on their bodies. Each word goes in a different place on their body based on how many syllables it has. Students play a one syllable word with two hands in between their legs. John. (Students tap the floor or chair between their legs as they say the name). A two syllable name, Ginger, would be played alternating hands on each thigh. For example, I would play Gin- on my right thigh and -ger on my left thigh. Put it together as you would say the name, Gin-ger.


A three syllable word or name is clapped in front of you. Dan-iell-a. A four syllable word goes on alternating shoulders as they say the name. E-liz-a-beth. Each syllable must be said at the time they play that part of the word. Five syllables, you alternate tapping your hands on your head and 6 syllables are alternated with your hands in the air above your head.

It is essential to make sure that you alternate your hand motions for each new syllable in a word so the students can distinguish between them.

Now, how does this apply to reading!? Well, I started using this activity to introduce words that my kids had trouble reading in the content areas. I choose a couple words for each syllable. I read the word. Igneous. I ask students to play the word where they think it goes. They may make a mistake but they all eventually end up doing the right thing. Sedimentary. They would alternate tapping their head with their hands.

You will notice that some students will draw out the word really slowly as they are trying to figure out how many syllabes, but once they know, they shouldn't do that anymore. You have to have a conversation about how that's now how we talk. We don't say iiiig-neeee-ooouuusss. They have to play the word like they would hear it in conversation or read it out of a book. After you have them play the words where they go, take your claves and play a word without saying the word. See if students can guess which word or words could fit with what you played on the claves. If I want to play pla-teau, I will tap my claves two times on the exact syllables. Vall-ey is a two syllabled word but it sounds different on the claves because there is no stress on the word. See if students can hear the word with their "inner voice."

They love this! They think the inner voice is something majestic and amazing even though they hear it all day every day as they are thinking. Until you bring it to their attention, they never even realize it's there! It is really funny to watch.


With all that being said, this activity has been amazing to introduce new vocabulary words at the beginning of units. At the start of this year, I was finding that we would talk about all these words in class and then when we got to reading them in the book, they didn't know what they were because some of them were such large words. Now, when my students see the word metamorphic or sedimentary, they know what it says. =)

Thank you, Marcia Daft!

If you would like any information on having Marcia come to your school, please visit Marciadaft.com.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

#2 way to increase student achievement

Since I began teaching, I have learned that teaching students how to summarize and take notes was not an easy task! I have found it to be one of the hardest things for students to learn how to do, which caused me even more frustration!

Research has shown that teaching summarizing and note taking is the #2 way to increase student achievement. We all know how it's ALL about those tests! I have also realized in order for students to be successful summarizing and taking notes, they need to be well versed in main idea! It all goes hand in hand.

There are a lot of tools/strategies out there, like the Telegram - writing a summary in 20 words or less, but they don't actually teach the student HOW to do it. So, over the past two and a half years, I have learned several ways that actually TEACH the student how to write an effective summary. Here are a few of my favorites:

1. Key Word - This strategy is useful for teaching students to summarize informational text. Start by choosing short paragraphs from your students’ science or social studies texts. Guide them in selecting the most important 2-3 word phrases (not including prepositions, articles, or conjunctions) in each sentence and write them so they are visible to the whole class. I have my students write them down on index cards.

This strategy takes A LOT of practice. Students often have trouble picking out the heart of the sentence so constantly modeling and thinking aloud which parts are important is crucial! After you select your words and phrases from each sentence, model taking the key words or phrases and summarizing them out loud. Then, have them turn to a partner and try to summarize orally using those key words and phrases. After they become fluent in orally summarizing their key words, you can have them start writing paragraph summaries with their key words.

I wanted to give up on this after the first couple of times I tried it, but I kept pushing and eventually they started to get it. Do NOT give up! I promise if you keep working at it, they will become experts!

2. Somebody Wanted But So - This strategy is really only useful for fictional text. You can use it with read alouds, chapters in a novel, or short stories.

Example:

Somebody - Cinderella
Wanted - to go to the ball
But - her evil step mother made her do chores
So - her fairy god mother came and saved the day!

You will need to model this several times and practice doing it as a whole class before you have your students try to do it on their own. I have my students use this format on their nightly reading logs if they read fictional text.

I like this strategy because it not only teaches students to summarize, but it helps them understand conflict and resolution.

Here is a SWBS chart to use in your classrooms.

3. Souvenirs - This is one of my favorite tools for summarizing/retelling because you can use it for fictional AND informational text. Having students make sketches or providing them with pictures will help them make connections and remember the important parts of what they read. These sketches/pictures are the souvenirs your students will use to summarize.

For this strategy, you can have them make their own souvenirs or you can provide the souvenirs for them. As you read a story, you can stop after every major event and have them make a quick two minute sketch. At the end of the story, have them use their sketches to summarize.

When reading non-fiction, you can provide pictures or clip art to go along with each event. We have been learning about the Revolutionary War and for each battle, person, and key event, I have a small picture that they keep in a plastic bag. We pull them out at the beginning of each lesson and use them to help us summarize what we have learned. It also helps them remember sequence of events. You can have them mix them up and put them in the correct order and then have them summarize what they learned to a partner.

Social Studies tends to be hard for students because there is so much content, but I have found that using this strategy helps them retain that souvenir in their mind and then they use it to tell what they know about it. I was very impressed with this strategy and I will definitely continue using it in the future!

Friday, January 15, 2010

A novel in an hour??

I haven’t actually tried this one with 3rd graders, but I think it would be really neat and probably even more appropriate for 4th or 5th grade. You assign reading groups a section of a book to read. All chapters/sections must be assigned to pairs or groups of students. Each group reads their assigned section and writes down 4-5 questions they want to know about characters, setting, plot, etc. I would have each student read a page and continue in that fashion until their section is read. If a group has the middle of the book, they obviously didn’t read the beginning and didn’t get any background information for the book, so they may want to know who a character is or why that character is upset/happy/sick etc...Students may need alot of support the first time they do this so just hang in there! I know you'll be surprised at the outcome!

After each group has read their assigned part and written their questions, you hold a question and answer session. In theory, students should get all of their questions answered because another group should have read that part.

We actually did this at a training class this summer and it was really neat. You will be surprised at all of the questioning going on in your classroom! They will be experts by the end of this activity! It’s kind of cool because you can read/learn the whole novel in an hour and know what the book was about without having actually read the whole thing!

I think this will also generate student interest in the novel. Some students won’t be satisfied with just the answers. It’s a great way to get kids reading!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Top 10 Teacher Websites

I use the internet relentlessly when planning units for my classroom. I have found some fabulously wonderful websites for using in the classroom to teach students. In no particular order, they include:

1. Pete's Powerpoint Station This website is freakin' amazing. There are so many powerpoints and teacher resources in EVERY subject area you wouldn't even believe it. I stumbled across this website sometime early last school year and have used it time and time again. It saved me a lot of time that I would have wasted creating powerpoints to use in my class.

2. VoiceThread Fran Mauney, our school's Title I Technology facilitator, introduced me to this really neat website you can use in your classroom to show slideshows. You can also have your students create their own slideshows with whatever you are doing in your classrooms!

3. RubiStar I think I came upon this website during my college field experience days but regardless of when, this site has been really helpful in making rubrics to use in my class for all different types of assessements. I don't know any teacher that doesn't like using quick and easy self made rubrics tailored to what you are doing in your class.

4. Curriculum Based Readers Theaters I have always shied away from Readers Theaters until this year. Crazy, I know! Anyhow, this website it packed full of Readers Theaters that you can use in your own classrooms.

5. Promethean Planet The great thing about promethean planet is that you don't actually have to have a promethean board. You can use this software on SMART boards as well as projectors. There is an abundance of premade flipcharts that you can use for almost every topic that you could even think to teach!

6. Busy Teacher's Cafe This is a really good resource for elementary teachers. You can find printables, themed activities, and lessons. There is also information on classroom management!

7. Internet4classrooms I love this website! You can find resources in every subject, for every grade level, and it's all FREE! It's like music to my ears.

8. Kidsknowit If you love music, you will dig this website. I have become huge on using music to teach and this site offers a bunch of free songs, videos, and other free goodies! Enjoy!

9. Teacher Tube This is truly one of my favorite websites. If you are looking for videos for your class, ideas on teaching new strategies, slideshows, etc. You can find that all here! LOVE IT!

10. Virtual Manipulatives If you have a Promethean or SMART board in your classroom, you will love using this website. Those days of trying to show your students how to use those manipulatives you gave them without a board are gone! Whew.

What websites do you use religiously to plan or to teach? Sharing is caring friends!

What better way to start than with a song!

First of all, I absolutely love music, but I especially love teaching music to my students! I'm sure you all have already figured this out, but use your colleagues as resources! I have discovered so many wonderful teaching tools, songs, and activities just by asking co-workers. FYI--Always ask before you borrow someone else's teacher made materials and lesson resources. Some people get all persnickety about it.

We have a fabulous 2nd grade teacher at our school who taught 3rd grade last year so she has lots of goodies for me to steal. This song about Energy, to the tune of the song Father Abraham, is just adorable!

Energy

We know ENERGY
It causes change
Thermal energy moves the atoms
It moves from hot to cold
And that’s called heat
With electricity, rubbing, and burning.

Here is a lesson to go along with your new song!

Essential Question: What are some sources of heat and examples of how to produce heat?

Standard: 3-4.4 (This a South Carolina standard)
Activating Strategy: Read, “All About Heat,” by Lisa Trumbauer.
Teaching Strategy: Teach the “Energy” song. Ask students what are some things that produce heat? Guide students in a discussion on some ways to produce heat. Have students rub their hands together. This is friction which produces heat. Explain how fire and light also produce heat. Students fill in a lotus diagram with picture examples of sources of heat.
Summarizing Strategy: Ticket Out the Door – Students make a list of all sources of heat they learned on an index card.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Gimme the goods!!

I recently took a technology class required for me to earn points to go towards certificate renewal -- you teachers know those classes I'm talkin' about. Anyway, the class focuses on incorporating blogs and wikis into the classroom. This got me thinking that maybe it would be more useful for me to create a blog that other teachers, like myself, could benefit from. I often find myself discovering upon first glance what I think are these awesome blogs and then they just don't deliver the goods.

So folks, here are the goods. I will be posting strategies, lessons, memory tricks, vocabulary activities, songs, and anything else I feel like sharing from my classroom, my colleagues, and my learning experiences. Why? Because I know what it's like to spend too much of your personal time planning lessons and thinking up new activities to engage your students AND because I like to share what works and what doesn't work in my world of learning and teaching.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Contact

If you need anything, please don't hesitate to ask! Just email me at gingersnapstreats@gmail.com!!

Thank you for stopping by!!!

About

I am a third grade teacher in Greenville, South Carolina. I have always dreamed of being a teacher! I used to get worksheets and old textbooks from my teachers growing up and it sparked a fire in me that couldn't be satisfied until I aquired my own classroom! I love being able to share the things I discover and the things I come up with to help teach my students and other teachers who might not have the time to make everything from scratch! THIS is my journey and I love sharing it with you!