Monday, February 1, 2016

Repurposing Decor for Vocabulary Instruction

I recently popped into Michaels for a few art supplies, and as usual, I found myself wandering down the home decor aisles.  I love everything about this collection, first of all.  The bright colors and vintage vibe fit perfectly with my classroom style.  Beyond that though, there is so much potential for vocabulary instruction here.  Just imagine displaying small vocabulary cards on the bunting board in your writing center or as part of your focus board!  The cork board speech bubble would be perfect to hang outside of your classroom as a password board.  (You could pin a vocabulary word to the cork every day to have students tell the definition or synonym or antonym or use it in a sentence as they enter the classroom.) 


When I saw these speech bubble displays, I thought it would be a perfect way to display a Word of the Day or a Word of the Week.  Maybe you could even display student-generated sentences using vocabulary words.  How fun would that be?!


As you can see, I almost walked out with these little speech bubbles.  You can write on them with chalk, or you can clip an index card to the top to display a word.  I thought this would be a great way to display the words near my word work center since they could be double-sided to display two words each.

I ended up walking out without the extras...and for once...I actually stuck to my shopping list.  However, I plan on going back to pick up a few items when they finally go on sale.  I love using props to hook even my most reluctant students, and I know that these items would definitely be attention-grabbers. How would you use these items?  Do you have any creative ideas?  Share in the comments below!  I'd love to hear from you!

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Abraham Lincoln: A One Week Wonder

Abraham Lincoln is one of our most beloved and most celebrated Presidents, so I couldn't wait to study his life with my kiddos.  This One Week Wonder was centered around the Caldecott winning and very comprehensive book Abraham Lincoln, although it is important to note that it would be easily adaptable with other texts as well.

Abraham Lincoln: A One Week Wonder is part of a series of week-long units with complete lesson plans  ("One Week Wonders") I plan on sharing with all of you over time!  Here's a glimpse into my classroom to see how it all panned out!



We created Abraham Lincoln lap books to record information gained from the book and additional research on the i-Pads.  This little craftivity is fun and functional, and the crafty part of it is quick!  In the intermediate grades, I still believe that cutesy has a place as a hook for students. That said, it has to have a greater purpose,  and it can't monopolize time.  This was a win in that respect. 







We also completed a Read the Room activity to review common and proper nouns once again.  This time, all of the words are in lowercase letters so students have to ready think about the category each word or pair of words belongs in.  This activity is so adaptable, so it is part of my regular lesson rotations.  We review a ton of standards this way, and the great thing is, because we are always switching up the standards and since it gets my students out of their seats, it's always a big hit!


We also did a little STEM-esque project to inspire some procedural texts.  I broke my students up into teams, and they were responsible for creating weight-bearing "cabins" using nine index cards and glue/tape. It was interesting seeing the different designs.  Some were really complex.  Some were incredibly simple.  Some had "logs", some were basically reinforced cubes.  Some used pillars.  Some were open in the middle.  I loved seeing the innovation they brought into the lesson as they worked through various designs and trials.  I also loved listening to their presentations!









The expectation was that each group would create a "cabin" that could support the weight of a full pencil box. All of the groups accomplished this...eventually.  Some had to redesign their cabins, and others barely supported the weight.  Others, however, held an incredible amount of weight.   Check this out!  I was so impressed!


Throughout our biography study, week after week, the research center has been a class favorite, and this week was no exception.  My students LOVED researching presidents and creating a multi-media presentations about their lives.   The slideshows are simple, but they are powerful.  I love that my students can practice research skills on a regular basis, because I fervently believe that strong research skills are imperative, not only to school success, but also in the professional sphere as they become adults.  It's sometimes a stumbling block, but I am already seeing improvements in their research skills, and this was only the third week we've implemented this center.  I can't wait to see the long-term results!




I did employ this Abraham Lincoln meme to remind my kiddos about fact-checking.  I always use the Tree Octopus website to warn of the dangers of misinformation and to encourage cross-referencing.  If you haven't seen it, it's worth a look!



This is another center that I have made a regular part of our rotation each week.  Each card features an important term from the text, and the students are responsible for creating a question that corresponds with that word.  It's like creating a test question that has that particular answer, and it's a great way for my students to refer back to the text, reread, and think critically.  This was challenging at first, but they are really coming along.



This week, I used my "Mystery Hat" from Learning Resources as Abe Lincoln's hat.  We stored lots of documents inside (just like he used to do).  In this case, the documents were cards with verbs from the text.  I had my kiddos pull them out one at a time and use them in a sentence.  If a student used the word correctly, he or she got to keep the card, but if they used it incorrectly or they were not sure about the definition, they looked it up in the dictionary and had to put it back into the hat.  (If students in the group were unsure of whether that student's answer was correct, they consulted the dictionary.)  I had my kids set a timer on this center, and whoever had the most cards at the end of  the game won.  Of course, they had to look out for the WAR cards.  If they drew that, they would have to return all of their cards to the hat.  It was a lot of fun listening to them cheer each other on and even groan on occasion.  This was a great way to work on dictionary skills in a fun and engaging way while growing their vocabulary and verb-knowledge.



The next center was a commonly misspelled/confused word center.  Similarly to the other center, the students had to use the words correctly in a sentence. (A dictionary was also kept nearby to consult, if needed.)  If students got the word right, they could place a craft stick on the background to "build a cabin". The first person to get to 10 craft sticks won!  It was a big hit.  A few of the boys asked, "Is this going to be 2D or 3D?  Because they seemed a little disappointed that it wouldn't be 3D, I dug out some Jenga blocks, and they had a choice between craft sticks or 10 Jenga blocks.  The game was played the same way otherwise, and they LOVED it.








Vocabulary was, once again, a big focus this week.  We explored politics, wit, clerk, emancipate, quarrel, and debt through a variety of different activities, and as always they were displayed on our focus board.




Because my students have been struggling with the difference between character traits and emotions, I decided to make a SCOOT game to practice differentiating between them.  I played songs like "Happy" and "Don't Worry, Be Happy" while they moved around the room filling out their recording sheets.  It kept the mood light and fun while they worked.  The kiddos also worked on a graphic organizer to describe Abe's traits, feelings, and motivations. 




It is important to note one thing about this particular book.  It was written in 1939, and as a result, quite unfortunately, there were a few parts (on two pages) that were politically incorrect.  The book is so comprehensive, so well-written, and so well-done that I didn't want to completely dismiss its merits.  However, I also did not feel that I could read it as it was.  So, I took some white out to it and deleted a derogatory term and the word "black" any time I felt it was unnecessary or redundant.  When I read this aloud to the kids and they noticed the white-out and my purple pen, we just had a quick conversation about Ruby Bridges and the injustice that people that Abe Lincoln, Ruby Bridges, and people like Martin Luther King, Jr. were trying to eradicate.  I just explained that this book was a little insensitive, and because of that, I decided to make a few changes.  That was that, and we moved on, focusing instead on the merits of Abraham Lincoln (the book and the person). 


This blog post doesn't include every single activity, but it includes many of my favorites.  Here's a more comprehensive list of the contents:

What's Included:

Lesson Plans
Cloze Vocabulary Introduction
Vocabulary Book with Frayer Models
Vocabulary Cards for Focus Wall/Pocket Chart
KWL Formative Flap
Abraham Lincoln Discussion Questions Mini-Book
That's What It's All About Main Idea/Key Details Organizer
Common and Proper Nouns: Read the Room Activity
Written Conversation Template
Extra! Extra! Newspaper Summarizing Template
Index Card Log Cabin STEM Activity
Biography Lap Book and Craftivity
Traits, Motivations, & Feelings Organizer
Vocabulary Cards (small)
Emotions vs. Character Traits SCOOT
Timeline Organizer
Primary/Secondary Sources Sort
Biography Poster
Fact and Opinion SMARTboard/Sign Language Activity
Whoa! Tableau! (Create a scene from the text!)
List, Group, Label Vocabulary Activity
Schema Flapbook
Get Informed: Ten Important Facts Writing Prompt
SMARTboard Activity: Complete Sentence, Fragment, or Run-on?
Comprehension Question Cards (for teacher)
Vocabulary Quiz
Comprehension Quiz (with original text & optional extended response)
WAR! Center (verb definitions)
Commonly Confused Words Center (Build a craft stick cabin!)
What is the Question? Center
Mentor Corner: Presidents (Internet Inquiry/Multimedia Presentation)

Mentor Corner covers Andrew Jackson, George W. Bush, John Quincy Adams, Lyndon B. Johnson, George Bush, Gerald Ford, Herbert Hoover, James Madison, Jimmy Carter, John Adams, Richard Nixon, Ulysses S. Grant, Barack Obama, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Franklin D. Roosevelt, George Washington, Harry Truman, John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, Theodore Roosevelt, Thomas Jefferson, and Woodrow Wilson.

So, there you have it!  I am personally LOVING this approach to teaching literature.  What's next in the biography unit?  The Boy on Fairfield Street!  After that, I will be bundling the four biography units and moving on to Tall Tales. Stay tuned for more One Week Wonders!





Thursday, January 7, 2016

Ruby Bridges: One Week Wonder

This marks week number two of our biography unit, and we have been busy learning with my Ruby Bridges: One Week Wonder study! We read The Story of Ruby Bridges (a biography), and Through My Eyes (an autobiography), and it led to so many A-ha moments and amazing conversations! (You could certainly do 99.9% of this unit with The Story of Ruby Bridges, but I do feel like Through My Eyes adds so much content to the discussions and enhances the unit, for what it's worth.)

I love being able to provide my students with thought-provoking, deep texts that mirror real life and help teach important life lessons.  This fits the bill.  It's definitely one of my favorite text pairings, and you'll see why! It's perfect for a biography study, Black History month, and really anytime you want to teach tolerance and respect through literature.  Here's a little peek at some of the activities we did this week!


I wanted my students to understand the elements of biographies, so we made a Ruby Bridges lap book using large construction paper and interactive notebook templates.  This was so much fun, and I really think it's great preparation for our Biography Wax Museum.  (It's almost that time already!)





I love using eggs to represent diversity because the lesson is so simple and straightforward.  Just draw a few smiley faces, crack them open, and observe how they are the same inside.  This is such a great lesson on symbolism, and it really helps relay the idea that no matter our color, we are all people.  We are all the same on the inside, just like those eggs! This year, I decided to have my kiddos do a writing egg-tivity reflecting on how this demonstration relates back to the text.  It was really powerful, and they made really adorable egg people in the process.  LOVE!  (Just a note... if you have a child with egg allergies, especially severe allergies, you may want to make a video of this process ahead of time. Safety first!)






I always love a good Read the Room activity because it's so versatile and allows my students to get up and move about.  This week, the focus was on writing compound sentences and reviewing coordinating conjunctions like and, or, but, and so.  This was a big success!






I didn't take photos of all of our vocabulary activities, but they were fun, fun, fun!  As you can see, we were focused on integrate, anxious, segregation, irritable, marshals, and mob this week.  We did a cloze activity, a Frayer model book for direct instruction, the colorful vocabulary activity, a vocabulary lanyard activity, and PowerPoint portrayals (where kids use clip art and use each word in a sentence as part of a short slideshow).  Who says learning vocabulary has to be mundane and basic?




The students discussed several predetermined comprehension questions in their mini-booklets this week, and they also generated their own thought-provoking questions.  I really enjoyed seeing how deeply they were thinking about the events that unfolded in New Orleans in 1960.  They were completely engaged and engrossed by  the discussions.



We reviewed nouns, adjectives, verbs, and pronouns using the SMARTboard and clickers.  This could make a great activity with Plickers or as a 4 Corners game though!  Quick, interactive,  and no prep!

We talked about primary and secondary sources, and the kiddos did a game of SCOOT to demonstrate understanding.  (I didn't snap a photo, unfortunately!)  You can see some of this learning reflected in the Comparing Accounts Venn Diagram though.  I love seeing them looking beyond the content at the craft and structure. 


We played a game of Thumbs Up or Down to review subject-verb agreement, and it was simplicity as its best.  The kids really enjoyed this, and it was a piece of cake to implement!


Although I didn't include any specific plans for anchor charts in the lesson plans in this file, I did want to share how I made a very simple chart for lingering questions.  I like being able to glance back throughout the week to tackle those tough questions.  This is great for student buy-in and ownership as well.

I asked each student to create a special award for Ruby Bridges, and I wanted them to write an opinion-based text about why she was deserving of this award.  This is a snapshot of the organizer they used to plan their texts before writing.  I loved seeing how creative their awards were, but I loved seeing the evidence from the text SO much more!


I think I mentioned this in my Snowflake Bentley post, but I really wanted to create centers that I could use on a weekly basis that fit into my weekly themes.  This week the Mentor Corner focused on Black History, and students could pick a famous African-American to research.  They played MOB, a twist to the game Bang to review irregular past-tense verbs, they completed "What is the Question?" to work on asking and answering questions, they did a synonym match-up with emotions, and they also sorted pronouns into 1st person or 3rd person pockets.  It was a blast!






This blog post doesn't include every single activity, but it includes many of my favorites.  Here's a more comprehensive list of the contents:

What's Included:

Lesson Plans
Cloze Vocabulary Introduction
Vocabulary Book with Frayer Models
Vocabulary Cards for Focus Wall/Pocket Chart
Ruby Bridges Discussion Questions Mini-Book
That's What It's All About Main Idea/Key Details Organizer
Point of View T-Chart
Compound Sentences Read the Room Activity
Opinion-Based Text: Create an Award and Tell Why She Deserves It
Extra, Extra! Newspaper Template (Summarizing)
Biography Lap Book Interactive Templates
Ruby Bridges Traits, Motivations, and Feelings Organizer
Vocabulary Lanyard Vocabulary Cards
Primary and Secondary Sources SCOOT
Connections to Ruby and Reaction to Books T-Chart
Event Timeline Organizer
Example of Vocabulary PowerPoint Portrayals
Biographies and Autobiographies Posters
Comparing Accounts Venn (Through My Eyes too)
Drawing Information From Photos and Illustrations T-Chart
Subject-Verb Agreement: Thumbs Up or Down?
We're All Alike on the Inside Writing and Egg-Tivity
Colorful Vocabulary Templates
Determining Importance Flap Book for Interactive Notebooks
Summarizing Flap Book for Interactive Notebooks
Book Review "Jot Spot" Writing Prompt for Interactive Notebooks
Parts of Speech 4 Corners/Clicker Activity
Shaping Up Formative Assessment
Vocabulary Quiz
Comprehension Quiz (with paired text and writing prompt)
MOB: Irregular Past-Tense Verbs Center (A Twist on BANG!)
Emotional Synonyms Center (Emotions Match-Up)
What's the Question? Center
Point of View Pronouns Center
Mentor Corner: Black History

Mentor Corner covers Jackie Robinson, Jesse Owens, Thurgood Marshall, Sarah E. Goode, Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, Booker T. Washington, Frederick Douglas, Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks, Ruby Bridges, and Coretta Scott King.

Note: There are several references to prayer in "The Story of Ruby Bridges". I read it matter-of-factly. (Even though I do definitely think faith is important, I never want to push it on anyone).  In this text, it is a reflection of her culture, her upbringing, and it's what helped her draw inner-strength.

Another note:  When reading "Through My Eyes", you may want to pick and choose what you read aloud due to time constraints and a few details included in the text that may be a bit heavy for your students, depending on your population. I use Post-Its to mark my spots, and I'd say I read 90% of it.  I skipped parts about the KKK and threatening to poison Ruby, for example, but honestly those parts are so few and far between, and it is a truly fabulous book with so many details that help students empathize with Ruby and understand her experience so much better. You don't want to skip this.  You just want to know what you want to read ahead of time.  I am, in general, a big fan of reading excerpts to teach in Reader's Workshop.  You can get a lot of bang for your buck that way!

So, there you have it!  I am personally LOVING this approach to teaching literature.  What's next in the biography unit?  Abraham Lincoln and The Boy on Fairfield Street!  Stay tuned for more One Week Wonders!