Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Mentor Texts for the American Revolution and Letting Your Students Take Ownership

I am a little late, but I thought I would link up Collaboration Cuties' Must Read Mentor Text linky for Social Studies.  I am glad they and Jivey are recommending some books for the American Revolution.  Most of my students are studying the American Revolution right now.

Mentor Texts

A couple texts we are reading the next couple week are:

Colonial Voices: Hear Them Speak

This book describes different points of view of different every day citizens around Boston leading up to the Boston Tea Party.  It is a great text to get students to discuss the events of the Boston Tea Party, but also how it affected different people.  After each person, we discuss if they were a Loyalist or Patriot and how we know from the details the person gave. After reading the book, I would have students write from the point of view a citizen in Boston or even write a skit from a patriot and a loyalist debating the events.

Let It Begin Here: Lexington and Concord

This book describes the events of Paul Revere's midnight ride and the events that got the Revolution started.  It is a great introductory text to the American Revolution.

George vs. George

This is a great book to explain the differences between the American and the British points of view.  This book will give your students an overview of the major concepts surrounding the Revolution.  This would be a good text to photocopy a short portion to do a close read.

A New Approach to Teaching Social Studies

I have been taking a little different approach in Social Studies and some other areas lately.  Instead of just teaching the material to my students or assigning them material to read, I have been giving them more ownership.  I have been creating study guides with essential questions and performance tasks.

This idea came about during a graduate school meeting in December. Every few weeks, some of the students and professors in my graduate program get together to discuss research ideas for gifted students. In our December Saturday morning, my advisor said something so simple and yet profound it jumpstarted a whole new approach to teaching for me. He said, "Students should always work harder than the teacher." They are the ones who should be learning and growing and struggling as part of that process.  He emphasized that in a blended learning environment like the one I work in, where the kids have access to technology, what the kids really need in order to learn are to be given good questions.

By giving them a set of essential questions to research and answer without me really teaching them much of the material they take ownership of their learning and also practice reading with a purpose.  They have to be move from passive learning to very active learning. I have given them access to different resources, and it is their job to research the essential questions and answer them.  Then, they have been completing different performance tasks to demonstrate their understanding.  We just finished studying the Causes of the American Revolution.  My students made dioramas, made posters, and made Power Point presentations to show they understood events like the Boston Massacre and the Boston Tea Party.  Some of the students work on the study guides by themselves and some work with a partner. At the end of the unit, we are discussing it all together. This is part of why we are reading the mentor texts to discuss what they have already researched.  Now though, they are very familiar with the events in the stories as I read them.

Here is an example of the Causes of the American Revolution Study Guide I gave my students.  

It has been fun the last few weeks to watch them.  They actually are very excited to do Social Studies at the end of the day, and they often have been asking to get started on it during Language Arts. How do you encourage student ownership?

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Word Mapping for Vocabulary Instruction

Well, I really do want to get back to blogging more than once a week.  The last week I really got back in the routine of being full-time teacher and part-time doctoral student.  I had a cold this past week as well, so it took all my energy to work and do homework in the evenings. Overall though, I felt I had a very successful week. I was very productive.  I spent at least an hour each night on my own homework and studying.  I am trying to build consistent habits and avoid procrastination. I got my lessons plans done Thursday night and many of my copies done on Friday for next week.  I absolutely love www.planbook.com.  I played around for the first time with actually tagging the standards in my plans. I love it!  They have pre-made drop-down menus of standards for each state, the Common Core Standards, the Next Generation Science Standards, and even the NAGC programming standards.  I really want to get more familiar with the gifted standards since I am getting my PhD in Gifted Education.

I made myself a weekly checklist so I can keep my tasks for the week straight. I really want to be more proactive.  I find it much easier to concentrate on graduate school in the evenings the more prepared and organized I feel at work. You can get a copy here of the Word document if interested.

I have been doing guided reading the last few weeks since coming back from Christmas. We have been focusing on biographies, as a way to discuss what makes people successful.  I felt biographies were a great unit for a new year as you think about goals and reflect on what makes other people successful. Since I hadn't taught guided reading in a couple years, I am always looking for helpful strategies to really guide my students as readers.  In my reading for grad school this week, someone gave me an interesting article to read about vocabulary instruction.  The article mentioned a really interesting way to teach word-mapping.  I am excited to try it out this week.  You can see the example from the article below. I love how they used the vocabulary to make connections about the person they were studying.  I can see so many uses for this strategy.  Often just introducing the words before reading seems very flat to me with older students.  Word-mapping gives the vocabulary more context and utilizes higher-order thinking skills.
How do you teach vocabulary as part of your literacy instruction?  How do you teach vocabulary in a way that is relevant and helps them make connections?

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Using Biographies to Discuss Nonfiction, Achievement, and Martin Luther King (freebie included)

Remember me...I used to blog.  It has been over a month.  That is the longest I have ever gone without blogging.  December was crazy.  I was finishing up finals for my first semester as a doctoral student, along with the normal hustle and bustle of December.  Then, I used the holiday break to unplug.  I avoided my laptop all together.  I used my iPad and read 8 books on my Kindle.  I love Young Adult Fiction!!!  I am going to do some more posts to tell you about the books I read.

I knew I wanted to get my students to think this month about goal-setting and achievement in the month of January.  I decided we would look at biographies this month.  Reading biographies is a great way to practice a lot of those nonfiction Common Core Reading skills. I had researched read alouds to discuss goal-setting months ago and came across  this recommendation somewhere. I purchased the book on Amazon.

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Dare to Dream! is a nonfiction book with twenty-five short biographies about people with great stories.  We are reading one biography each day.  Each chapter is about 3-4 pages, so it is a great length for a nonfiction read aloud.   As we read, we discuss each person's accomplishments and traits to describe that person. We also are keeping an anschor chart where we track "big idea" questions that we can ask about society or history based on the concepts each person stood for.

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At the end, I am going to have each student choose one "big idea" question to do more research on.

I also started finally really doing guided reading this month.  I have wanted to do more small group reading instruction the last year and a half, but sometimes you can only tackle so many things at one time. We have a www.raz-kids.com subscription.  This month, I am assigning biographies for their guided reading texts from Raz-kids.  They listen to the story first on their own.  Then, we meet to discuss.  They read a story a second time on their own, but I have them fill out a graphic organizer while they read the second time.  Some of them chose to read and fill out the organizer with a partner. Then, we meet again to discuss what they wrote down.  At the end of the week, they take the quiz and I give them a writing assignment as a response to the reading. This week, we had a field trip planned and some guest speaskers for Thursday and Friday, making it a short week for instruction time.  So this week, we all read the same text on Raz-kids and discussed as a group since we were short on time. I chose a higher level text, since we were discussing as a group.  We read "Historical Peacemakers" (a level Z text) because it mentioned Martin Luther King.  We discussed what makes someone a peacemaker.

For our quote of the week this week for our journal writing, we used a quote from Martin Luther King from my Activities for Martin Luther King Day packet

Next week, we will listen to his "I Have a Dream" speech, and they will get sections of the speech to rewrite in their own words.  We will do this as part of our guided reading time.

We will discuss what social injustice is, and how people choose causes to fight for.  The idea of social injustice came up when we read about Nellie Bly as well. We are going to look at what social injustice has looked like at different periods in history.  We are studying the Causes of the American Revolution right now, so I want us to discuss social injustice for this time period as well. 

My students are going to be choosing a biography of their own choice to read.  I am going to be handing out this Biography Study Guide this week that outlines what they need to do.  You can get a copy here.

I have been using this study guide format for a lot of our units for the last month to help them take more ownership of their learning in a unit.  I really want to be a facilator of learning and put more of the work back on them.  I will blog more about the study guides in another post.

On a side note, since I have been talking about social injustice I want to ask you to consider reading and signing a petition. I try to not to blog about personal things too much. This petition is about getting the government to review how foster and adoptive parents are treated by state agencies. I am aware of this petition because my mom adopted my younger siblings. Often parents adopt children hoping to finally have their happy ending after experiencing years of infertility.  They want to provide a good home to kids that need one.  They hope that love and a good home will be enough for that child.  However, often it is not.  Children who experience early childhood trauma often end up having attachment disorders, which can result in a lack of empathy and even violence.  As teachers, we have probably had children with attachment disorders in our classrooms. Adoptive parents trying to find the right mental health resources for their children with attachment disorders often end up having no other choice but to put their children back into foster care due to safety concerns.  Some mental health resources are only available to children as wards of the state.   These adoptive parents often end up being treated as abusive parents by state agencies (which only adds to the trauma they have already experienced themselves).  It is a sad and very complicated situation that needs awareness raised, so that ultimately these children who have experienced early childhood trauma can get they help they need and find long-term loving homes where everyone feels loved and safe. Thank you for considering signing. They are trying to raise 1,000 signatures by February 1st.


Have a great weekend!

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