Twitter in the K 12 Classroom: A Collaborative Tool For Learning ISTE Webinar

As part of the ISTE Professional Learning Series I hosted a webinar on Twitter in the K 12 classroom. Below are the slides to my presentation. Here is a link to the archived webinar. I have compiled additional resources on a Google Doc Some people have requested to see the Parent Permission and Code of Conduct that I sent home for parents and students to sign before beginning the twitter book chats with my middle school students.

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Propaganda & The Language of Persuasion: An Interactive Foldable

We live in a world of persuasion. When we turn on the television, we are bombarded with commercials and infomercials trying to convince us that our lives would be better if we used a certain product, drove a particular car, or followed a specific diet.  The Media Literacy Project identifies 27 techniques used by media makers to inform and persuade consumers. Whether addressing media literacy, public speaking, or literature, persuasion is the ability to convince people to agree with a particular point of view and or to persuade people to take specific action.

But where does persuasion end and propaganda begin? Many of the persuasive techniques identified by the Media Literacy Project are propaganda strategies.

My students are reading Animal Farm by George Orwell, the timeless fable and allegory depicting a society based on blind loyalty and corrupt power of its ruler. In the story, propaganda is used in a variety of ways to manipulate the animals into believing the flawed ideas presented by their corrupt and greedy ruler. I created the interactive foldable below to give my students some background on propaganda techniques so they might better identify these strategies used by Napoleon and Squealer throughout the text.

Propaganda Techniques:

1. Bandwagon – Doing Something that everyone else is doing. It appeals to a person’s need to belong.

2. Fear – Making one afraid that if we don’t do something or buy something, something bad can happen to use, our families and friends, or our country.

3. Scapegoating – Attributing problems to a particular person or group without regard to the truth of the accusation.

4. Unapproved Assertions – Asserting that something is good or the “the best” without using reasons, statistics, examples, or the recommendation of competent authorities to support the assertion.

5. Slogans – Simple, catchy words and phrases that stick in people’s minds but often without giving all the important details of a person or product.

For a copy of the foldable click here.

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Get Your Game On! #ISTELitChat Talks #Gamification with @BeGeeky 3/39/15 8:30 PM EST

#ISTELitChat Talks #Gamification w/@BeGeeky 3/29/15 8:30 PM EST

After attending EdCampSWCT this past March I was enamored by a session led by Matthew Dandola (@BeGeeky) sharing how he turned a tedious Wordly Wise vocabulary practice workbook into an intriguing story driven, role playing game that seems more Game of Thrones meets Dungeons & Dragons for his middle school students English Language Arts. After extensive research, Dandola chose Classcraft as a platform to create a world outside of his classroom where students craft the stories of their characters through weekly journaling and for bonus points adding Worldly Wise vocabulary for robust narratives about how characters are working together, and sometimes against each other, to earn powers win the game — or face consequences.

As described on Classcraft’s website, to play, each student must choose a character from three different character classes: the Healer, the Mage, or the Warrior. Each has unique properties and powers and is designed for different types of students. These are customizable as the game progresses and can be accompanied by pets. Classcraft is played in teams of five or six students for the duration of the year. This encourages students who might not normally socialize to work together to win the game. All team members benefit from cooperative efforts and learn to consider the needs of others before they take actions in the game. Powers and consequences are customized by the teacher. Participation in class activities is a must to survive.

Whether you are big into gamification or not, you need to join the next #ISTELitChat where we will talk all things #gamification. Learn more from Matthew Dandola’s and other #gamification tools for your classroom.

Questions for #ISTELitChat on #Gamification 3/29/15 8:30 PM EST:

Q1: Introduce yourself, where you are from, and your role in education.

Q2: What does #gamification mean to you?

Q3: What does #gamification look like in your classroom?

Q4: What #gamification applications or tools are you utilizing now to support learning in your content area and students interests in gaming?

Q5: What does one have to keep in mind when designing a game for content area learning?

Q6: How do you get all students to buy into the #gamification aspect of classroom learning?

Q7: What are ways that you envision using #gamification with your students?

Q8: What advice do you have for someone just starting out and interested in bringing #gamification into their  class and content area?

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Storytelling, Discussion, & Analysis: Twitter As a Classroom Tool for Middle School Students

This past week ISTE’s Literacy Special Interest Journal published its third issue. I contributed an article on using twitter for book chats with my eighth grade students. I have cut and pasted the article below to share. To check out the entire journal with lots of great articles that address different technologies and literacy I have pasted a link at the bottom of this post.

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In 140 characters or less, meaningful conversations can occur. In my four years of using Twitter as a personal professional development tool, I have learned from amazing people on Twitter and collaborated with many educators around the world in order to improve my teaching and strengthen my students’ learning. As result of my experience in utilizing this social media tool for professional growth and learning, I knew that there was an opportunity for me to share this technology with my students to empower them as readers, writers, and global citizens.

Twitter is a powerful online social media tool that allows people to engaged in conversations and discuss topics that are relevant to their lives. Ninety eight percent of my students are already using social media and have personal computers, tablets, and or mobile devices. Twitter was a technology tool that some were using socially, in addition to Instagram, Facebook, and Snapchat. As their teacher, and a person who embraces technology in her classroom, I wanted to show my students how we can utilize Twitter as an educational tool for learning and also promote positive digital citizenship.

It all began when I read a blog post on The Nerdy Book Club blog by young adult author, James Preller in November 2013 on the power of story and how “stories are essential to our lives.”  I was so moved by the blog post, I immediately bought his book Bystander, a fictional story about bullying at a middle school in Long Island.  As a middle school teacher, this topic is pertinent to my teaching and my quest to promote empathy within school culture. As I devoured the book, I realized that I wanted all my students to read Bystander and the power of its story as it relates to our school and culture where bullying is a daily occurrence.  Hence, I assigned Bystander as a required reading for my eighth grade English students for their outside reading requirement.  In addition to reading the book, I wanted to engage my students in authentic discussions about the book and share their responses, connections, and questions about the book.  A huge proponent of Twitter as a professional development tool, I required my students to participate in four Twitter book chats after school hours to address the complex characters and issues raised in the book. Since our lives are so packed with activities, homework and family time, I knew designating a time to a Twitter-based conversation about the book would gain more participants in the outside reading assignment.

My eighth grade students are required to read one outside reading book each quarter and complete an assessment project on the book. My students who are interested in taking Honors classes in High School are required to read two outside reading books each quarter and complete two projects. I offer students a list of recommended titles the beginning of each quarter based on genre (non fiction, graphic novels, memoirs, etc.) or theme (World War II and social injustice texts to align with Social Studies) for students to choose an outside reading book.  Although, bullying is a topic that students are bombarded with in school with special assemblies and Health classes, it was never a topic in our English class readings and discussions. I was so moved by James Preller’s Bystander  and bothered by the covert bullying throughout the school I might see or hear about that I decided that it would be an all grade read for my students. There were a few complaints and groans when I introduced the book as a book about bullying in a middle school. For the most part, the majority of my students enjoyed the book and the Twitter book chat discussions even more.

When I introduced the assignment to my classes I included a reading schedule with set dates for the Twitter chats meetings and a Twitter Permission Letter/ Code of Conduct to be shared with their parents and guardians,  to be signed and returned to me. I organized the Twitter book chats weekly for forty five minutes  for five consecutive weeks to discuss the text, share our thoughts, make connections, and ask questions. I really wanted students to talk with one another about the text, rather than just answer my questions I posted about the book.  The Twitter permission letter to families addressed my intentions and objectives in utilizing Twitter for this assignment. To confirm that parents received and read the letter, I required parents and guardians and my students to sign the letter and return it  to me prior to the first Twitter book chat. Out of ninety-three students, I had over sixty students participating in the Twitter book chats.

The week before our first Twitter book chat I held a meeting after school to introduce Twitter to the students and offer a “how-to” demonstration in setting up a Twitter account and using Twitter. Each student was given a cheat sheet that covered the Dos and Don’ts of Tweeting and explained an anatomy of a Tweet. I recommended students who already had a Twitter account to make a new account specifically for our class project so that I do not have access to their pictures from the weekend parties and other social media sharing they do with their friends. I was clear in reminding students that we were using Twitter for educational purposes and that my own account is for that, I do not share pictures of my family and food or discuss personal matters online.  For me, Twitter is strictly professional and used in a positive manner.

Students used a hashtag to follow the Twitter conversation and be included in the book chat. Google defines a hashtag as “a word or phrase preceded by a hash or pound sign (#) and used to identify messages on a specific topic.” Our hashtag was #RMSBystander and with each new book and Twitter chat we included a hashtag that included the book title and “RMS,” the initials of our middle school.  Every time a student tweeted, he or she included the hashtag in their tweet.

Everyone had a voice on Twitter and no one was able to hide during the discussions. During the Twitter book discussions students shared their own stories, made connections, and critically addressed the issue of bullying in our school and society at large.  I was impressed by their honesty and keen awareness.  I did start off the Twitter chat by asking questions for students to respond to throughout the Twitter chat but that always lead to deeper conversations and comments posted by my students responding to one another. The students weren’t just answering the questions that I posed during the Twitter book chat but were also talking with each other in an online environment, supporting and responding to each other’s ideas. I noticed that students who might not talk to each other in class, face to face, were responding to each other online and offering constructive discussions piggy-backing on each other’s ideas. Students learned that a retweet was like a high five, pointing out an insightful comment and students looked forward to me retweeting their comments or looked for one another to retweet in agreement or support. Positive communication was modeled throughout the Twitter discussions.

Student conversations on Twitter weaved in and out of the text with comments and side conversations about our own school. Students admitted that bullying is a huge problem in many schools across across the United States, and our own school is not immune. Social media sometimes becomes a means in which bullying takes place.  But, by facilitating the Twitter chats, I wanted to promote Twitter as a social media tool in a responsible and educational manner.  I was impressed by my students honesty about bullying in our school and shared the archived chat with my school principal and school social worker to highlight the conversations that one teacher and a her students were having about bullying and one book about bullying. My students were excited about the Twitter book discussions and asked for more book discussions online. As one of my students replied at the end of the chat, “This chat allowed me to think of the reading in new ways.”

After the series of Twitter Chats on Bystander, our second Twitter book chat was with the book The Wave by Todd Strasser. Written in 1981, The Wave is based on a true incident that occurred in a high school history class in Palo Alto, California, in 1969. A high school teacher introduces a new “system” into his classroom to promote learning and success and  illustrates how propaganda and peer pressure help Nazism rise in Germany in the 1930s. Students were studying World War II in their Social Studies class and Strasser’s text helps to extend the conversations about injustice and history outside of the classroom. Currently, my students are reading and tweeting about I Am Malala: How One Girl Stood Up for Education and Changed the World (Young Reader’s Edition) by Malala Yousafzai with Patricia McCormick. With each of the books read and discussed students make connections and judgements across texts, drawing conclusions, and sharing big ideas that surface from reading and conversing about the text. In our Twitter chats the students are engaged and responding to one another. The Twitter book chats help students monitor comprehension, merge their thinking with new ideas, react to, respond to, and often question the information.

Twitter is one digital media tool that can be used effectively for discussing stories and the powerful impact they have on our lives. Twitter also allows space for students to critically discuss topics that are relevant to their lives and share stories,  images, and other links to meaningful texts that address the same topics.  Twitter helps extend classroom discussions outside the classroom and for students to deepen their thinking through tweeting about reading. Through my experiences using Twitter in the classroom, I have been able to capture the “richness” of conversations and the “complexity of experiences” when sharing stories.

 

Twitter Resources for Teachers

Kathy Schrock’s Guide to Everything Twitter

A Teacher’s Guide to Twitter (Edudemic)

50 Ways to Use Twitter in the Classroom via TeachHUB

EDUHACKER’s Teaching with Twitter

To read through the entire ISTE Literacy Special Interest Journal (3rd Issue):

http://literacyspecialinterest.blogspot.com/2015/03/literacyspecialinterest-issue.html

I will be leading a webinar on Twitter in the K12 classroom for ISTE on 3/26 at 4 PM PT.  The webinar is free for ISTE members. To register for the webinar click here.

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Attaining Common Core Reading & Writing Standards with Interactive English Notebooks: LILAC/NRC Conference

The topic for this year’s LILAC/NRC (Long Island Language Arts Council & National Reading Conference is “Literacy Matters For Every Learner.” Key note speakers include Richard Allington and Pam Munoz Ryan. I will also be presenting along with 12 additional teachers and literacy coaches addressing topics related to literacy. My session will addressed specific foldables I created for my students to support reading and argumentative writing. I have embedded my slide show for the presentation below.

The foldables and supporting graphic organizers I have included in my presentation include:

 

Interactive Foldables Anchor Standard
Stop and Notice & Note CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.1

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.4

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.5

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.10

Introductory Paragraphs: BLT Strategy CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.1

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.2

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.4

Writing A Thesis for An Argumentative Essay CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.1

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.4

Ways to Start An Essay CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.1

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.2

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.4

TEXAS Body Paragraphs CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.1

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.2

Writing A Conclusion CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.8.1.E
Transition Words & Phrases CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.8.1.C
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Getting Students to Revise & Reflect on their Writing

What are we asking students to do when we ask them to revise and reflect on their writing?

I am of the philosophy that in order to become a better writer, one needs to write daily and look to examples of great writers as models and mentors. When it comes to writing essays in my English class, I have my students writing one essay each quarter. It is not enough if you ask me, but in this current climate of high stakes tests I continue to find a balance between teaching reading and writing.

I have my students write their essays in class and after I read through them, I allow students to revise and improve their essay for a better grade. After reading through the recent compare and contrast essays students wrote in response to  Melba Patillo Beal’s memoir, Warriors Don’t Cry, and Martin Luther King Jr’s “Letter From Birmingham Jail,” I planned a revision workshop to help students reflect on their writing and pinpoint areas where I found many students needed additional support. Reading through ninety five essays I found three places to “teach back” and help improve student writing: Writing a solid thesis or claim; Choosing the strongest evidence to support one’s claim; and Using better transition words.

I created a Revision Passport to guide students throughout the revision workshop and allow students to move around the classroom visiting different stations to help revise and reflect on their writing with the objective to nudge students to revise their writing and produce a stronger essay. After completing the work at a station I checked their work and gave them a stamp on the passport. Students had to complete four different stations.

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Station 1 – The Exemplars

I pulled out two student essays that I felt were exemplars for the entire grade. I retyped the essays and removed the student’s names from the essay for the rest of the class to read through. Students had to write down two things the writer did well in the essay and then record a “writing move” they wanted to steal or borrow from the exemplar.

Station 2 – The Thesis/Claim

Although I have created interactive foldables and taught lessons on writing a clear and solid thesis, this is still a struggle for many writers. The thesis or claim is the heart of the essay. English teacher Ray Salazar has a great blog post on writing a thesis in three steps which  showed my students. I made a graphic organizer for students plug their thesis into the 3 steps Ray describes and then figure out what is missing or what needs to be added to help write a revised thesis that is specific, debatable, and significant to the essay prompt.

Station 3 – Textual Evidence

Not all evidence weighs the same. Students need help finding the strongest evidence to support their claim. At this station I had students look at the evidence they provided in their essay and rank the evidence from strongest to weakest on a graphic organizer. In addition, students had to explain why the evidence is weak or strong. What makes the strongest evidence and why?

Station 4 – Writing Reflection

Looking back at their essay and the work they did during the revision workshop students completed two reflection tasks. Students had to rewrite, in their own words, the comments I made throughout their essays and what I wanted them to improve on. Then, students were to give an example how they were going to make their writing better based on teacher’s comments and the work they did in the revision workshop.

Below is a copy of the revision passport I created and used with my students.

Revision Passport WDC

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Mean Kids: Stereotype or Truth in YA Literature?

The following blog post stems from a Twitter conversation that ensued between teacher and blogger Brian Wyzlic, best selling author Lauren DeStefano, and myself.

Another sidebar, my fourth grader has a battle of the books right now and is required to read eighty books in the next three months so every night we read aloud to each other one of the required books (we have read 16 so far). In January we finished reading Wonder by R.J. Palacio and this week we read Cynthia Lord’s Rules. Both books are about young people with disabilities.  Also, in both books there are situations where young people are mean to these characters blatantly and overtly. In one scene in Rules a neighborhood boy teases and taunts the main character’s brother (who is autistic). My son stopped reading aloud and asked, “Why is this kid so mean to him?” And for the next ten minutes I proceeded to explain that there are mean people in this world and I can’t really explain what makes someone mean.

Thus, these two events within 24 hours of each other had me thinking about all the meanness that is in young adult literature and my own struggles to promote a culture of caring in my middle school classroom as well as instill empathy and caring among my own two children.

Here is a list of books about mean kids that can be used as teaching tools and more:

Elementary School Age Books

Bully by Laura Vaccaro Seeger

This picture book is a play on words with pictures as important as the words.

Bully by Patricia Palacco

Addresses cyberbullying and how bullying happens outside of school.

The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes (Upper elementary)

A poignet tale about a little girl who is teased for wears the same dress to school everyday.

The Juice Box Bully by Bob Sornson and Maria Dismondy

Encourages kids to stand up for others.

Marlene, Marlene, Queen of Mean by Jane Lynch, Lara Embry, & A.E. Mikesell

Marlene is a bully on the playground until someone decides to stand up to her.

My Secret Bully by Trudy Ludwig

Monica and Katie have been friends since they were little but now Katie embarrasses and excludes Monica. Why would a friend do that?

One by Kathryn Otoshi

An amazing author, Otoshi plays on numbers to show that everyone counts.

Recess Queen by Alexis O’neill and Laura Huliska-Beith

Kids are afraid of Mary Jean because she rules the playground but one person turns that around.

You’re Mean Lily Jean! by Frieda Wishinsky

A new girl moves next door. When they play together she makes demands and is bossy. Carly comes up with a plan the next time the girls play together.

Zero by Kathryn Otoshi

Building self confidence an encouraging others to celebrate their strengths and differences.

Middle School & High School Age Books

13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher

This is a favorite among my students that addresses the sometimes cruel behavior among adolescents.

Bystander by James Preller

This was a moving book that I required all my 8th graders to read last year because it addresses all perspectives of bullying and how being a bully or bystander is not static.

Cornered: 14 Stories of Bullying and Defiance by Rhoda Belleza

An anthology from all different young adult authors addressing all different types of bullying.

Cracked by K.M. Walton

Told from the perspectives of the bully and the victim who lands in a psych ward after attempting to take his own life.

Danny’s Mom by Elaine Wolf

A guidance counselor comes back to school after her teenage son is killed in a car crash and now back to work the injustices in the high school she is in is magnified.

Everybody Sees the Ants by A.S. King

I am told that A.S. King is one of the best YA writers of our time. Lucky Linderman is a target of bullying and escapes in his dreams to a place where he is a hero.

Jerk California by Jonathan Friesen

Sam has Tourettes Syndrome, or T.S. and struggles to be accepted by his peers and step father. Sam goes on a quest to find about his father and more about himself.

Rules by Cynthia Lord

Catherine’s brother is autistic and her best friend is in California all summer. A new girl moves next door but will she be understanding of Catherine’s brother and could they be friends?

StarGirl by Jerry Spinelli

One of my all time favorite YA books about being who you are and not following the crowd.

Wonder by R.J. Palacio

August was born with a facial difference and homeschooled up until now. Starting 5th grade at a new school he just wants everyone to treat him like an ordinary kid.

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Igniting #Genius, #Creativity, & #Passion Based Learning In the Classroom

This is my second year that I have incorporated Genius Hour into my middle school English classroom. Every Friday is dedicated to my students’ passion projects. This semester we embark on a Genius Hour project where students must build it, create it, or do something. To spark creativity, build community, and get students excited about genius hour students participate in a variety of STEM based challenges every other month. My students love these challenges and it is always fun to watch their creative thinking and problem solving skills unfold. Here are some of the STEM challenges that my students have completed so far this year.

1. Spaghetti Tower Challenge – Each group gets 20 pieces of raw spaghetti, one yard of tape, one yard of string, and a marshmallow. Students are to build the highest, free standing structure that holds the marshmallow on the top of the tower.

2. Save Fred Challenge – Fred has been spending his summer boating on the great lakes.  However, he’s not too bright (Fred is a gummy worm).  He’s never learned how to swim, and he never wears his life preserver.  The worst has happened!  His boat has capsized and he’s stuck!  Fortunately, his life preserver is in the boat, but unfortunately he does not know how to reach it without falling off and drowning. Using a plastic cup to represent the boat and a gummy life saver to represent the life preserver, students must save Fred using only 4 paper clips.  Students may not touch Fred, the boat, or the life preserver directly with their hands.

3. Sink or Swim Challenge – Students create a boat using tin foil that will hold as many pennies as possible. The boat should float in the water with the pennies and not sink.

4. House Challenge – Students build a house using nothing but 2 sheets of paper, 2 band aids, two paperclips, and two sticks of gum.

Want to know more about Genius Hour?

Mark Your Calendars for Sunday 2/22 #ISTELitChat talking #geniushour with @joykirr 8:30 PM EST 

The awesome Joy Kirr, teacher and My Own Genius Hour blogger,  will be a guest facilitator discussing all things Genius Hour and Passion Projects. Joy facilitates #genius chats on Twitter and blogs extensively about igniting passion in the classroom. She has a wealth of resources regarding genius hour and we hope that you will join us for this twitter chat.

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Inferring Words Meanings: Teaching Students to be Word Detectives

When students do not understand an author’s vocabulary, they cannot fully understand the text.

Good vocabulary instruction emphasizes useful words (words students see frequently), important words (key words that help students understand the text), and difficult words (words with more than one meaning).

In improving vocabulary instruction teachers can help students by:

  • Activating their prior knowledge
  • Defining words in multiple contexts
  • Helping students see context clues
  • Helping students understand the structure of words (Suffixes, Prefixes, and Roots — SPROOTS)
  • Teaching students how to use the dictionary and showing them the range of information it provides
  • Encouraging deep processing — integrating new words into working vocabularies
  • Giving multiple exposure
  • Focusing on a small number of important words

Janet Allen, author of Words, Words, Words (1999), states, “Children and adults need to see and hear a word in meaningful context multiple times in order to know the word, somewhere between 10 to 15 times.” And with middle school and high school, variety is the key. Teachers cannot teach vocabulary the same way every time.

Reading is perhaps the most important element in vocabulary instruction.

So, how do I teach vocabulary in my English class?

I use interactive foldables with my students and early in the school year I give them a foldable to remind them of effective word detective strategies. These strategies include:

Context Clues – Read before and after words that might help explain the words

Word Parts (SPROOTS) – Look for word parts that are recognizable. Students can decode words by knowing prefixes, suffixes, and root words

Connotation & Tone – Take the word and apply it to the character and what the character is doing in order to understand the passage. Does this word offer a positive or negative tone?

Outside Connections – Have I heard this word in a song, movie, or maybe in foreign language? Connect the word with what you already know.

In addition to the foldable that students have in their notebooks to refer to throughout the school year, I mix up the different ways that I teach vocabulary. Here are additional ideas to teach vocabulary in any content area classroom:

Take a Poll – Using an online polling website like Polleverywhere.com I poll my student about a definition of a word. Students use their mobile devices to select the best definition for a word.

Idea Completions - Instead of the traditional “write a sentence using a new word,” provide students with sentence stems that require them to integrate a word’s meaning into a context in order to explain a situation.

Questions, Reasons, Examples

What is something you could do to impress your teacher (mother, friend)? Why?

What are some things that should be done cautiously? Why?

Which one of these things might be extraordinary? Why or why not?

-A shirt that was comfortable, or a shirt that washed itself?

-A flower that kept blooming all year, or a flower that bloomed for 3 days?

-A person who has a library card, or a person who has read all the books in the library?

Making Choices – Students show their understanding of vocabulary by saying the word when it applies, or remaining silent when it doesn’t. For example: “Say radiant if any of these things would make someone look radiant.”

-Winning a million dollars.

-Earning a gold medal.

-Walking to the post office.

-Cleaning your room.

-Having a picture you painted hung in the school library.

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Deepening Comprehension with 10 Collaborative Activities

Collaboration plays a key role in elevating reading comprehension. Conversing with others helps readers to establish a connections and enables readers to generate new insight in their reading. My English classroom is all about group work. I am not a lecturer. My students work collaboratively daily. I believe that we learn from others and effective collaboration is talked about, practiced, and highlighted in my classroom through a variety of small group activities.

Stephanie Harvey and Harvey Daniels’s book Comprehension and Collaboration (2009) offer six ingredients to group development: (1) Articulate Expectations; (2) Discuss and Decide Norms or Written and Unwritten Rules of the small group; (3) Friendship; (4) Leadership — the most effective groups are leaderless; (5) Open Communication; and (6) Address Conflict and Disagree Agreeably. Throughout the school year students are practicing and developing ways to work and communicate with others.

Here are ten different small group activities that I use in classroom:

1. THINK DOTS or ROLL THE DICE- The teacher creates a numbered list of questions or tasks (6 for 1 die and 12 for 2 dice). In small groups, students take turns rolling the dice and complete the task.

2. JIGSAW – Just as in a jigsaw puzzle, each piece–each student’s part–is essential for the completion and full understanding of the final product. If each student’s part is essential, then each student is essential. The teacher breaks students up into a group and each student in the group has a specific reading or task which they are responsible for reporting back to their group members

3. WRITE AROUND – A trustworthy Harvey Daniels activity that allows students to collaborate on paper and in conversation about a specific topic or subject. Here are clear directions for the write around.

4. LEARNING STATIONS – Also called “Learning Centers,” are situations around the classroom that a teacher sets up for students to work in small groups. Each of these centers has supplies and materials that work well together and give students the tools to complete activities and mini-projects. Teachers can tap into the multiple intelligences to create the center or tasks. 

5. NUMBERED HEADS – Students are placed in groups and each person is given a number (from one to the maximum number in each group). The teacher poses a question and students “put their heads together” to figure out the answer. The teacher calls a specific number to respond as spokesperson for the group. By having students work together in a group, this strategy ensures that each member knows the answer to problems or questions asked by the teacher. Because no one knows which number will be called, all team members must be prepared.

6. MYSTERY ENVELOPES – A mysterious envelope is delivered to the classroom at the start of class and handed to specific students. Students open the envelope and must complete the tasks collaboratively to solve a mystery or answer questions.

7. GROUP TESTS – These are not really tests but I allow students to collaborate on quiz or test like questions. I offer two rounds: the QUICK FIRE round is a challenging task that students have 5 minutes to complete of one complex question and the first students to answer these right I might give them “Smarties” (the candy) or give them a pass on a certain amount of questions on the group test in the second round, the CHALLENGE. Students work collaboratively to complete a 50 or more questions. These can be multiple choice questions or basic comprehension questions. I have also put all the questions on a bingo board and required students to complete the entire bingo board.

8. AMAZING RACE – I did this in my To Kill a Mockingbird Unit, students were organized in teams and had to complete six different tasks I scattered around the school. Students were given clues to lead them to the different tasks. Students worked together to solve the clues and complete the different tasks. I describe the activity more in depth in another blog post that you can link to here.

9. THE FISH BOWL – I do fishbowls often, but I found these clear and simple directions from the blog Got To Teach.  Divide the class in half.  One half will form the center circle, facing inward. The other half of the class will form the outer circle, facing inward as well. The students in the inner circle will discuss a predetermined topic.The outside circle will be listening to the discussion,  making note of interesting, new, or contradictory information.  They are not allowed to say a word at this point. The inner and outer circles can then switch positions and repeat the steps above.

10. FOUR CORNERS – Again, another great collaborative activity from the blog Got To Teach. (I will be using Monday with my students to discuss the central idea of a text.) Choose four aspects of a topic that your class is currently focusing on.  Assign each of these aspects to a corner (or an area) of your room. Present the topic and the four related aspects to the whole group and give the students some “think time.” Students can then choose a corner to discuss the topic. Have specific guiding questions available in the specific areas to help support and guide student discussions. Representatives from each corner can share what their respective groups discussed.

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