Monday, March 19, 2012

Word Walls for Upper Students

I stuggled with how to make Word Walls relevant to my upper elementary students. I felt if I needed to have a word wall, I wanted the word to include more than the word itself. I played around with using word study boxes for the words. I used these last year and had a wall for Words from Literature. Students would fill out a word study box for a new word they found in a book they read. I usually copied them on colored card stock to make them stand out. You also could laminate them so they could be reused. You could have students use markers or pens to help the words stand out. There are three different versions of the handout. Check out this downloadable freebie at my TpT store.

Weekly Inspiration

For this week I have decided not to post another set of inspiration since I know many have been on Spring Break. Check out my posts from the last couple weeks on Perseverance and Spring.

Loving this rainy weather. Going to curl up with a book and listen to the rain. Hope y'all had a great Spring break. Best of luck with testing.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Finding balance

I admire the teachers who seem to be really good at balance and do a fairly good job of setting boundaries. I honestly think this is the most difficult struggle of being a teacher. I am a perfectionist, over-ambitious, and over-analytical. This did not help me be a well-balanced teacher. Lack of balance is probably one of the main reasons so many teachers burn out.

This was a big part of why I needed a break from teaching. All teachers usually have a reason they become a teacher, and it isn't for the money. :) Most teachers probably have a role model who made a difference in their own lives that factored into this decision. There are several teachers and mentors who factored into my decision. A clear picture of the kind of teacher I wanted to be existed in my head and my heart. However, stress and lack of balance steered me away from that person.

I had to recognize my own limitations and realize I needed a break to find that person again (or really probably for the first time). Balance, prioritzing, and healthy boundaries needed to become a discipline in my life. How do you stay balanced and make time for family? How do you stay focused on what really matters as a teacher and not get overwhelmed with trivial things? Organization did help me and eating better.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Weekly Inspiration: Spring

We have had crazy weather. It does not know if it wants to be winter or spring. Today is a beautiful day and I am thankful for it. I feel inspired by Spring.
Picture: A Baby Chick
I liked this picture because the chick looks cautious to me. He appears to be pondering his options and deciding if he should venture forth. You could ask your students what he/she might be thinking. Where is the mama or siblings? How would a baby chick see the world? How does this picture inspire you?

Poem: "Spring" by Karla Kuskin
I love the enthusiasm of this poem. The tone is happy, joyful, and full of new beginnings. That, to me, is the essence of Spring. I would ask my students to draw how this poem makes them feel. This would be a wonderful text to discuss tone. Describe what they visualize and how this inspires them. What would their own poem about Spring look like. This poem also has rhyme, but not a definitive rhyme scheme. You could discuss why the lines are broken up where they are. Why does the poet choose those moments to be pauses?

Quote: Self Respect
You can download a copy of the quote for free at my TpT store.

What is the importance of self respect and how do we find it?

Many of you are on Spring Break. I hope it is restful and full of joy and great weather. I would love to hear how many of you inspire your students.


Saturday, March 10, 2012

How to Organize Time in Reading and Writing Workshop?

I found one of the biggest challenges as a teacher was how to utilize time. When I first moved to a school where I was supposed to use Reader's Workshop, Writer's Workshop, Centers/Stations, and Guided Reading, I quickly became overwhelmed with how to plan it all, ensure I was prepared for it all, and how to organize my time. I never discovered a magic solution. How do you organize workshops in your classroom? I taught two fifth grade classes ELA and Social Studies. Some days I had one 45 minute period for ELA and some days I had two periods for ELA.

If you have the opportunities to learn from mentor teachers, I think this is always one of the best learning possibilities. However, we also have to recognize that as teachers we are all different and what worked for one teacher may not work for me or you. I experimented with a lot of methods: one period of Reading and one of writing, alternating days between Reader's and Writer's Workshops, and even alternating weeks.

All of these methods had their own advantages and disadvantages. Doing one period of each helped me feel like I gave reading and writing equal attention. Although, I found it was difficult to get all my reading groups in this way. Ideally, I wanted to try doing reading groups while my students did independent reading and independent writing. Independent reading was always pretty good, but most of my students wanted a lot of help and conferencing while writing so I always found small groups during independent writing difficult to manage. When doing Guided Reading, I found alternating days between Reading and Writing worked fairly well sometimes. I would see several reading groups on Reading days and do a lot of conferencing/helping on writing days. With Literature Circles, I found for the three weeks we read novels I would make our writing related to what we were reading. I found doing a separate genre of writing while keeping up with four novels per two classes (so between 4-8 novels) to be too much. Usually after a round of literature circles, we spent a couple weeks doing a large writing project or several samples of a genre of writing.

I tried a lot of lesson plan/time organizing templates and methods. I found a lot of inspiration on Laura Candler's website. She has some rotation schedule templates for managing center/stations and ideas on literacy menus. I thought I would share some of the lesson plan templates I created in case some people might find them useful.

I hope maybe this was helpful. I would love to hear your ideas on how you divide up time for stations, Guided Reading, Literature Circles, word study, Spelling, Reader's Workshop, and Writer's Workshop. Essentially, how do you balance a Balanced Literacy classroom?

Monday, March 5, 2012

Weekly Inspiration: Perseverance

For this week's inspiration, I was thinking about everyone getting ready for testing. Many kids find testing to be overwhelming and get frustrated quickly. I decided the inspiration for this week should be on perseverance and not giving up.

Poetry: "On Quitting"
For the poem this week, I chose "On Quitting" by Edgar Albert Guest. I would read the poem to my students and have them visualize and think about the poem might mean. I would still use the Poetry Peace Map from Laura Candler's website to do three readings of the poem. After using the graphic organizer a couple times, I would have the students draw it themselves. Discuss vocabulary like grit and pluck. I think this would be a great poem to have the students illustrate. You could even have them write their own poem on showing "grit." Have them think about a time they quit. How did they feel? Did they ever almost quit and keep going? How could they apply these ideas to testing?

Quote: Einstein's Problem Solving.
I chose a quote from Einstein. All student's should have heard of Einstein. If not, you could do a quick introduction on Einstein before introducing the quote.
Have your students consider what can be gained by sticking with something even if it seems confusing, long, or too difficult. You can download the quote at my TpT store.

Picture: Running the Race
Have your students consider what it takes to run a race and finish. What is the goal? What keeps runners motivated?
I hope this provides some writing inspiration or just a little inspiration to persevere and keep up the hard work. :)

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Reading Skills - Setting

So when I first read Laura Candler's new book on Graphic Organizers, I was really impressed. I loved the way she explained how to teach Reading minilessons with the Gradual Release Model. I really struggled with trying to fit in an "I do," "we do," and "you do" all in one 20 minute mini-lesson. My lessons always went too long or we didn't get through it all. Her suggestion is to spread the Gradual Release Model over 3 days of mini-lessons. This seems simple, but I never thought of it. Here is the link to check out her book on graphic organizers. I would absolutely recommend it to any teacher.

So her book inspired me to want to create a set of mini-lessons and activities with this formula of completing the mini-lessons over 3 days instead of trying to do it all one day. I want to create sets of minilessons and activities over the basic reading skills that could be used with any picture book or novel as read aloud.

My first set of minilessons and activities is on my Teachers Pay Teachers store for Free. I started with Setting and Plot Structure because I like to start a new read aloud novel by discussing setting. There are detailed minilessons, journal warmup suggestions, anchor chart suggestions, homework ideas, and a Guided Reading handout.
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