Sunday, February 28, 2010

Activating Strategies for Teaching Context Clues

I came across a document on our schools common drive with tons of activating strategies for different reading skills. Most of you are probably familiar with activating strategies as a part of the Learning Focused model for writing lesson plans. I began really using it this year and I love it.

Activating Strategies are the "hook 'n link" component of the lesson. It should provide a "hook" and a "link" to prior knowledge for the students. The activating strategy must support the skill being taught in the lesson. For example, if the focus of the lesson is "main idea" then the activating strategy should "activate" thinking about main idea. It should align with both the essential question and the comprehension skill.

Today, I am going to focus on activating strategies for vocabulary and using context clues.

Your essential question might be: How can I use context clues to understand unknown words?

1. "What's the word?" - Read a story with omitted words. These omitted words are placed on index cards and given to the students. While the teacher is reading the story, the students focus on the comprehension of the story. When the teacher stops at the blank, the students supply the words that make sense. The students read their words to complete the sentence.

2. Cloze Activity - Choose a story to read to the students and omit some of the words. Write these on index cards and give to each of the students. As the teacher reads the story, stop at the missing words. The students have to listen and think of a word that makes sense and sounds right in the sentence.

3. Guess the Covered Word - Show students a content related paragraph with several important words covered up. As you read the paragraph, see if students can use the context clues to figure out the covered word. Guide students to use word length and clues in the sentence to figure out the words. If they are stumped, show them the onset, or beginning of the word until it is guessed. Once all the words have been guessed, call on a student to read it.

4. "I Have, You Have Synonym Game" - The teacher will write the synonyms on cards. For example, the cards will start with something like, "I need to find some synonyms. Who has a synonym for big?" The next card will read, "I have large. Who has a synonym for small?" Next card, "I have tiny" and the game continues. You can use the same activity for antonyms, pronouns, homophones, etc..

Next week, I will post more activating strategies for other comprehension skills. I can't post everything at once otherwise I wouldn't have anything left to share with you guys!!

What activities do you use when teaching context clues?

Saturday, February 27, 2010

My Donors Choose Project was Approved!!

Here is the link to my site. If you are interested in helping out or if you know anyone who is, please forward this on! My students will be so excited to have these Eggsperts added to our classroom!

We Wanna Be Eggsperts!!!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Who knew it could be so simple!?

After seeing a post on two different educational blogs about the DonorsChoose website, I decided to check it out and man, oh man am I friggin' excited about what I saw!

As teachers, we face many challenges in doing our jobs. (Lack of art supplies, not enough technology, limited copies, just to name a few) This website offers teachers a chance to create a "wishlist" of materials or technology needed for their classrooms and offers the public a chance to give back by purchasing or donating to these teacher created wishlists.

I believe Whitney Houston said it best when she sang, "I believe the children are our future. Teach them well and let them lead the way..." This website is speaks to this lyric. To teach them well, you need the means to do it with. So many teachers are struggling with limited resources and not enough pay to fund their classroom endeavors. I can't tell you how many times I have had to spend my last 10 dollars just so my students could participate in an M&M data and probability lesson or some other engaging lesson that requires funding, however small or large.

I already created my first wishlist, or project, as they refer to it on the Donors Choose site. This is a wonderful opportunity to get the things you need for you classrooms and for non teachers to give to something so worthwhile.

So, go TODAY and create your first project or donate to someone elses project! If you aren't a teacher, go DONATE and make some teacher's day!

Monday, February 22, 2010


Today, I am sharing another awesome study skill taken from this lovely little blog that I finally found by Rebecca Bell. Visit the link for more in depth information about this fantastic review skill. It's much more articulate and humorous than I would be, but to recap, you just split up the kids into two teams and go at it "game show style," asking sample test questions.

Kids love it and they they actually learn a thing or two about studying! Hey-O! The thing I love most about this is that students really are forced to stop and think before just dinging away at the bell, although there will probably be some friends who do that anyway! This is also a great activity for those friends who have like super human amounts of energy. You know who I'm talkin' about...

P.S. You need to purchase a dinger or a Staples Easy Button before attempting this review game.

What review activities to you guys use in your classrooms that are super fun? Share the wealth people!!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Freeze Tag Tableau and Kinesthetic Geometry

Todays professional development was awesome! Several teachers at our school participate in a program called I.D.E.A. (Intensive Development in Education through the Arts) and they conducted a few short classes teaching the rest of us a few things they do in their classrooms.

The first class I went to was using stretchies to teach geometry. A stretchy is basically just a circular piece of elastic material. Students use the stretchies to make shapes, angles, and other geometric figures using their bodies. They can also use JUST their bodies to make different shapes, lines, and angles. I will try to find the video they showed of our kindergartners using the stretchies. It was awesome!

The second class I attended was called Freeze Tag Tableau. Tableau is just a fancy word for frozen picture with your body! I am attaching the document that explains how to do Freeze Tag Tableaus. These are quick and easy assessments of what your students have learned. They help keep each individual student accountable for sharing what they have learned.

A lot of the IDEA teaching strategies come from the Kennedy Center teaching artists in Washington, D.C. Sean Layne visits our school and comes in to help IDEA teachers implement these arts into their classrooms. If you are interested in having your school participate, you should check out what they have to offer.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Geometry Memory Tricks

We are just finishing up a unit on Geometry and I have some more memory tricks for you from, "Memory Tips for Math," by Donnalyn Yates.

To help students remember what circumference is, have them write the word circumference, with dashes separating syllables, around the outside of the circle. For diameter, have then draw another circle and place the diameter through the middle and trace the semicircle so that it makes a D. This should help them remember diameter.

Here's a little rhyme -

Radius short, d i a m e t e r  long, remember this, and you'll never go wrong!

My students had a hard time remembering what a ray was. The best visual ray is by drawing the sun with rays coming out. Make sure you draw the arrows pointing out. Since they are already familiar with the suns rays (at least they should be) this should help them remember what a ray is.

I also read a really cute way to rememeber what a trapezoid is. Read the following silly story while drawing your picture to go with it.

An "ezoid," an outer space being, arrived in his space ship "The Trapezoid." But as he tried to get out, the door wouldn't open and he realized he was trapped!

Draw a picture of a trapezoid with an alien inside. Have the students draw it as well. Give your alien a talking bubble that says something to the effect of, "Help! I'm trapped in my Trapezoid!"

A similar strategy can be applied to helping students remember rhombus. Help students make the connection between the shape and the name by drawing a rhombus in the shape of a bus called the "RhomBus." Add some wheels and label it!

Here is a song to remember isosceles triangles.

To the Tune of "Oh Christmas Tree"

Oh isosceles, oh isosceles
two angles have
equal degrees

Oh isosceles, oh isosceles
you look just like
a Christmas tree.

Just Remember...

We retain 10 percent of what we read;
20 percents of what we hear;
30 percent of what we see;
50 percent of what we hear and see;
70 percent of what we say;
90 percent of what we say and do!

Getting the picture!???

If you know of any other memory tricks for geometry, please share!!

Monday, February 15, 2010


I am starting a new unit on sound next week and I wrote this unit that I wanted to share. This is based on South Carolina standards, but the activities can still be applied for other state standards. If you have any questions about anything, email me at glauren4556@gmail and let me know!

Thursday, February 11, 2010


A few weeks ago, I stumbled upon a fabulous blog (which I can't remember the name of...oops!) and found a couple of fun games and activities to help students review for tests. Swatters was my favorite one!

Here is the procedure:

Warning: Level of Fun: Extrememly High and may cause hyperactive and overexcited children!

1) Obtain two fly swatters. Caution: Not for swatting flys or students, however tempting it may be!

2) Lay down the law! The swatting of other classmates or poor innocent flies will cause automatic elimination from the game. There is to be no pushing of other classmates or it will also result in automatic elimination.

3) Have students put the answers to certain memorization questions on flash cards or you can just project them onto your promethean or SMART board. You can use vocabulary words, test questions, or math facts.

4) Have the class line up in two parallel lines, facing the board, about 6-10 feet away. Use masking tape to mark the starting line to avoid arguments about cheating.

5) Teacher calls out a question such as, "What is 2 x 5?" The first two friends in line run to the board and swat the correct answer. Whoever hits the correct flashcard first wins their team a point and those students go to the back of the line.
6) Proceed until you run out of questions or students get bored (which is highly doubtful)!

I haven't actually tried this yet, but I have it in the plans for next week's math test review! I'm excited to try it and I'll let you know how it goes.

I will be posting more review games and activities in the coming weeks. I have some brewing around in my head, but I want to be able to have something to share with you later and not all at once!!

What kinds of fun review games or activities do you do in your classroom?

Wednesday, February 10, 2010


For some reason, my new posts are only visible to my subrscribers and to myself when I search for it in my edit posts. The new posts haven't updated to my page since my Food Math Lessons post.

It is posting on my teacherlingo site, but it isn't posting here. Until I figure out this problem, I'm probably going on another hiatus until I hear back from the "help," if they even exist! Which I'm not so sure they do since I have looked everywhere for the blogger people to help me and not other bloggers. No offense blogger friends!

However, if you have experienced this same issue, please give me your guidance and wisdom!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Sound Writing with Marcia Daft

First off, I want to apologize for the long hiatus. I took a vacation with friends and got away for the weekend, plus two school days! It was much needed and I am very refreshed!

I came back to school today to a half day training by Marcia Daft. I spoke of her in a previous post about the syllabication which you can view here.

Marica has been focusing on reading and writing fluency at our school since we haven't met AYP for a few years now. Today, we talked about Sound Writing and Word Painting, but I am going to share with you some information about the Sound Writing. I will post more on Word Painting later!

Sound Writing focuses on the aesthetic beauty of language. You can arrange words and sounds in patterns so that it is pleasing to the ear. This is why most people really enjoy poetry because it is beautiful and it's nice to listen to!

Some ways to make your poetry more aesthetically pleasing:
  • repitition of important words
  • rhyme (duh) - internal, end, and rhyme scheme
  • alliterations - alliteration, assonance, and consonance
  • rhythm - all language has accents and syllable which form a rhythm
  • form - organizing writing into a predictable pattern (ex. Do you see what I see? story)
Here is the link to several of the poem templates we were given by Mrs. Daft. I think you will find them to be extremely helpful when teaching different types and elements of poetry. There are examples from real classroom students in each template.

Also, I know I still owe some of you an email about the using food in math lessons! I promise I will get those out as soon as I find the time!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Teaching with Tableau's

For some reason, yesterdays post about Rounding numbers isn't showing up. I'll try to repost that later.

Today, in Social Studies, we tried the tableau's for our Social Studies reading passages and it went awesome!! Just in case you don't remember my past post about teaching with the arts, a tableau is a frozen picture with your body that represents an event, an idea, or big concept you teach.

I designated each group a paragraph from the Social Studies text about the beginning of the Civil War and told them to come up with 3-5 frozen pictures that go along with what they read. I really thought they would struggle with it, even after I modeled how to do it, but they did just super!

I read the paragraph out loud for each group and they performed their frozen picture story for the rest of the class. Then, we had a discussion about what each group did.

I asked them to reflect afterwards about how effective it was to help them remember what they read and they all agreed that it was not only more exciting than just reading the text, but that they really remembered and understood what they read because they were bringing it to life.

I also realized that this is a great activity to help teach teamwork. Each group has to work to together to brainstorm ideas for what tableau's they could use for each sentence or two. It helps them listen to each other and contribute their own ideas.

I'll stop bragging now, but just to reiterate, tableau's are GREAT for spicing up boring ole Science and Social Studies textbooks! Not that those subjects are boring because they're not. Just the text.

Your students will love you forever and have so much fun!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Rounding Round Up

I realized recently that my students have forgotten how to round since the beginning of the school year. Yay! Something else I get to go back and reteach!

I found a book called, Memory Tips for Math, by Donnalyn Yates. There is a plethora of information in here to help teach students to remember math concepts taught in class.

One idea to help students remember how to round is to draw the following picture:

A waved line resembling mountains on the board or a long piece of paper. Put 0, 10, 20, 30, etc in the valley depressions and 5, 15, 25, etc at the top of each peak. Write the numbers 1-4 up the left side of the mountain and 6-9 on the right. Use a magnet or interactive white board picture to simulate going on a trip over the mountain. Pick a number between 1-9. If the nubmer ends in 1-4, drive the car to that number, get out to look at the view and forget to put on the brake. Ask students what will happen to the car? Discuss whether it will roll up the hill to the next number or back down to the lower number. Talk about the fact that a car won't roll up a hill.

If the number ends in 6-9, repeat the process with the car and continue the discussion. This is so useful with your visual learners!

I used the Rounding Round Up song/chant to help me students remember when to round.

Another useful method for students who respond well to procedural methods is as follows:

What is 27 rounded to the nearest 10?

Underline the place value you need to round to. Circle the number to the right and ask is it larger or smaller than 5? If it's larger, round up the underlined number up one. If smaller, it stays the same and you replace the number in the ones with a 0.

You can use this method with the Rounding Round Up chant or the Rounding the Mountain picture.

Other chants and memory tricks I've seen:

1. 1 through 4, stay on the floor. 5-9 climb the vine!

2. Four or less, give it a rest. Five or above, give it a shove.

3. You tell a story about a criminal (the number to be rounded), a judge (the number that determines the rounding) andthe jury (the rest of the numbers. In order to find out whether or not the crimimal has to stay in jail he must go to the judge and ask. If the judge is a strict one (a number of 5-9)then he must stay in jail one more year. He goes up one number. Then the judge and the jury go to lunch and are replaced by zeros. If the judge is a weak one (number from 0-4) he or she says ahhh you can go and i won't make you change. Then he goes to lunch with the jury and the numbers are replaced with zeros. So in the number 457 - where 4 is the criminal, 5 is the judge and 7 is the jury. 5 is a strict judge and makes the 4 stay in jail one more year. The 4 becomes a 5 (because the judge is strict and makes hime change). Then the judge goes to lunch with the jury (the 7) and they are replaced by zeros. The number becomes 500.

4. Rounding Rap

Find that place value, circle that digit.
Number to the right, underline, get it.
Four and under, circle stays the same.
Five and up, add one is the game.
Now flex your muscles like a hero,
Digits to the right turn to zero.
All other digits stay the same,
Wow, you're a winner in the rounding game.

5. CUBA method
C- Circle the number you are rounding
U- Underline the number to the right
B- Baby or Bully? Baby (0-4) stays the same Bully (5-9) round up
A- Add zeros to all the places behind the circled number

Hope these ideas are helpful. Anyone have something else they use to teach rounding that you found helpful for your students?

Monday, February 1, 2010

Using food to teach Math

Last year, one of my awesome colleagues gave me these two phenomenal books full of lessons to use for Math, by Chris Triola. They help you teach geometry and measurement with candy and other foods, so you can imagine my excitement when I was given these two sacred/awesome/AMAZING/you get the idea books!

I have scoured the internet and can only find one availabe copy of "GeomeTreats: Math With Munchies," on Amazon but I am going to share a short version of a few of the lessons. I was unable to find the other book, "MeasureMints." Email me at if you would like a sample! These books are like $50 a piece so please do yourself a favor and drop me a line.

Warning: I have been trying to teach myself to link to word documents so thank you for your patience when clicking on previous links. I had to link everything to my Wiki but this is better, but not perfect yet!