Tag Archives: teaching ideas

Hidden History

34352-1

In the Author’s Note of Ruta Sepetys’ Salt to the Sea she writes,

Every nation has hidden history, countless stories preserved only by those who experienced them. Stories of war are often read and discussed worldwide by readers whose nations stood on opposite sides during battle. History divided us, but through reading we can be united in story, study, and remembrance. Books join us together as a global reading community, but more important, a global human community striving to learn from the past.

What determines how we remember history and which elements are preserved and penetrate the collective consciousness? If historical novels stir your interest, pursue the facts, history, memoirs, and personal testimonies available. There are the shoulders that historical fiction sits upon. When the survivors are gone we must not let the truth disappear with them.

Please give them a voice.

Sepetys’ work of historical fiction is a collection of vignettes told in alternating voices of young adults who are refugees trying to escape their war torn countries during World War II and hoping to board the Wilhelm Gustloff, a ship that will take them to safety. Caught between Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia’s Red Army, many of these young people left their homes and families behind on a quest for freedom and safety.

During World War II the Wilhelm Gustloff was carrying more than 10,000 refugees, five thousand who were children,  when on January 30th, 1945, a Soviet submarine torpedoed the ship, sinking with majority of the passengers on board. That is more than the lives lost on the Titanic and the Lusitania, and yet I did not know any of this until I read Sepetys’ book. In fact, she writes that “in the year 1945 alone, over 25,000 people lost their lives in the Baltic Sea due to ships being bombed and sunk.”

I want to hone in on the idea of “Hidden History.” What is the history that gets told and taught in our schools. This concept sparked two different projects for a history/humanities class.

Hidden History Project –  Students research and uncover a piece of “hidden history.” Students can write about or create a video about some aspect of history that has been lost (like a piece of art or artifact), uncover a mystery, or share the story of a survivor or witness.

For example, National Geographic’s video on the mysterious Amber Room, considered the Eighth Wonder of the World, was lost during WWII when it was looted by the Nazis. The Amber Room, a world-famous chamber decorated in amber panels backed with gold leaf and mirrors, originally constructed in the 18th century in Prussia.

Historical Testimonies – When I taught a middle school drama class I asked students to interview a family member one or two generations older than the students and then turn the interview into a monologue to present to the whole class. This assignment has two parts. First students select a family member to interview and brainstorm a list of questions to ask the person about an important time in their life — See the Great Questions from StoryCorps. The second part of the assignment would be for students to read through and edit the interview responses to create a monologue that tells a memory moment of this particular family member. Students can dress up and bring in an artifact of the person when presenting the monologue.

Tagged , , , ,

5 Professional Books to Strengthen Student Learning

I have spent the past two weeks binge reading professional books published this year. Reading professional books about teaching allows me to reflect on my own teaching practices and look into new ways to support the learners in my classroom. All of the books   inform my thinking about literacy in order to strengthen students’ reading and writing.

9780325061580

Let’s begin by throwing out everything you know and teach about the literary essay in secondary school. The formula for teaching essays in schools is not really an “essay.” Katherine Bomer’s The Journey is Everything: Teaching Essays That Students Want to Write for People Who Want to Read Them (Heinemann, 2016) shares some of the most beautifully crafted essays throughout her book as she calls for the need to revise what we think we already know about teaching and writing essays. Each chapter of her book takes the reader through the “essaying” process from reading closely to crafting powerful essays. Bomer defines essays as “nonfiction prose, whose author unveils a central idea about the world and its occupants and invites – with bold, sometimes lyrical exposition and interesting kaleidoscope of facts, observations, memories, anecdotes, and quotes from others – readers to watch him or her think about that idea for a few pages.” (p.22) She argues the problems with standardized essays forms and supports utilizing the essay for the practice of “writing to think.” Bomer offers strategies to help get ideas down on paper and hones in on the craft moves of great essayists. The book includes powerful essays and essay excerpts from Brian Doyle, LeBron James, Roxane Gay, and dozens more.

9415

Fisher, Frey, and Lapp’s, Text Complexity: Stretching Readers With Texts and Tasks, 2nd Edition (Corwin & ILA, 2016) addresses the quantitative and qualitative measures of text complexity so teachers can make instructional and assessment decisions to support students as readers. The authors discuss all the characteristics of the reader and a text to consider.  For example, when considering the reader teachers cannot ignore background knowledge, fluency, cultural knowledge, and vocabulary knowledge for text selection and teaching. When choosing a text, teachers must analyze the text for levels of meaning or purpose, structure, language and knowledge demands. These considerations allow teachers to “plan appropriate instruction and strategically guide the development of their learners.” (p. 67) The book contains a number of checklists and tables that highlight the strategies and skills needed to build students’ knowledge. Fisher, Fray and Lapp describe teacher led tasks like Think Alouds, Close Reading, Scaffolding, and Collaborative Conversations as examples of strategies to help students read more, read widely, and read deeply, in order to develop life long readers.

whos20doing20the20work

Years ago I read a book by Robyn R. Jackson titled Never Work Harder Than Your Students (ACSD, 2009) which addressed having students do the difficult work of learning to build stamina and knowledge. Jan Burkins and Kim Yaris’ book Who’s Doing the Work? How to Say Less So Readers Can Do More (Stenhouse, 2016) takes a similar vein to Jackson’s work and looks specifically at Read Alouds, Shared Reading, Guided Reading, and Independent Reading in order for teachers to push students towards leading the conversations about books and reading. By asking students, “What could you try?” puts students in the driver seat instead of scaffolding, front loading, or telling students the answers. We want students be in the driver seat rather than autopilot in our classrooms to thinking deeply and construct meaning versus teachers constructing meaning for students. Constructing meaning should be done by our students and Burkins and Yaris offer strategies and prompts that make stronger readers. Looking to maximize our students’ roles, teachers become facilitators so that students can apply what they know and think.
51m5-b0gaxl23193622012_d0384d733f_b

Both Who’s Doing All the Work? and Text Complexity address a growth mindset (Dweck, 2006). As Dweck states in an article for EdWeek, “Students who believed their intelligence could be developed (a growth mindset) outperformed those who believed their intelligence was fixed (a fixed mindset). And when students learned through a structured program that they could “grow their brains” and increase their intellectual abilities, they did better. Finally, we found that having children focus on the process that leads to learning (like hard work or trying new strategies) could foster a growth mindset and its benefits.”

daringgreatly_final525-resized-600   70323_9781506314938

Struggle is natural and learning can be challenging, it’s how students respond to challenge, struggle, and the hard parts is what really matters.  Gravity Goldberg’s Mindsets & Moves: Strategies That Help Readers Take Charge (Corwin, 2016) is an ode to growth mindset in the classroom. Building on the works of Dweck, Angela Duckwork’s Grit and Brene Brown’s Daring Greatly, Goldberg describes the new role of teachers as miners, mirror, models, and mentors to encourage a “stronger appetite for learning” among our students. Teachers must first admire their students, give detailed and effective feedback, show students what we do as readers, and then guide students towards ways of reading that work for them. Goldberg offers a visual tour of effective classrooms through pictures, descriptions, charts, and lessons.

9780325078168

Kate Roberts & Maggie Beattie Robert’s DIY Literacy: Teaching Tools for Differentiation, Rigor, and Independence (Heinemann, 2016) offered four teaching tools to bring into the classroom as scaffolds and supports for student learning. Teaching charts, Bookmarks, Micro Progression Charts, and Demonstration Notebooks are four visual tools that explain ideas, clarify, and illustrate skills and techniques so students can turn around and recall key ideas taught.  As a teacher who already uses charts and demonstration notebooks, the micro progression charts and bookmarks were two artifacts that I plan on bringing back to my classroom and utilizing with my students. The micro-progressions of skills chart articulates criteria for students the different levels of that skill and creates a model for each level. Below is a picture of an example of a micro progression chart.

565312636_295x166

image from https://i.vimeocdn.com/video/565312636_295x166.jpg

We all have our favorite professional texts for teaching reading and writing. The books mentioned here offer great insight and teaching moves to support students as critical thinkers, readers, and writers.

If you have any professional books you recently read and find helpful with teaching literacy, please share in the Comments section on this blog.

 

 

 

Tagged , , , , ,

Adventure Quests: Learning About Current Events & the World

An Adventure Quest is a mission with an objective. A quest is a long and arduous search for something.

Currently, my students are working on an investigative journalism unit, so I created an Adventure Quest based on current events addressed in the news each week.

With the use of ActivelyLearn.com, Twitter, and Google Forms I created a series of Trivia type questions. Each week one question is posted on my Teacher Website and students submit their answers on a Google Form. Each question is worth 50 XP or Experience Points. Additional GP or Gold Points points could be earned by the die- hard fans by going onto Twitter and searching the hashtag #RMS8RQuest to find more Adventure Quest Questions. The student with the most points at the end of the Adventure Quest, earns an additional 1,500 XP Classcraft Points PLUS a Treasure (a gift card).

Each week students log on to Actively Learn and read an Article of the Week. Both the Article of the Week and this Adventure Quest are optional homework.  I do not give homework in my class but encourage students to read to build their reading skills and knowledge about the world.

Actively Learn is a digital reading platform that contains books, articles, poems, and speeches. Students join a “classroom” created by their teacher to read assigned digital texts and complete assignments within the workspace. Actively Learn offers teacher designed assignments with ready made questions or teachers can design their own questions and prompts.

The articles that students have read read for the Adventure Quest include

Anthony Cuthbertson’s Newsweek Article “APPLE CEO TIM COOK REJECTS ORDER TO UNLOCK SAN BERNARDINO GUNMAN’S IPHONE”

NPR’s RadioLab Podcast on the Galapagos

Mark Jeffries article on Why We Don’t Wipe Mosquitoes Off the Face of the Earth”

To address International Women’s Day Ann A. Simmon’s article “Women Around the World Still Have a Long Way to Go”

The Twitter quests are not based on readings but events happening in the news that specific day, hence they are worth less points. Twitter questions have included Who did President Obama nominate for Supreme Court? and What Lego mini figure was unveiled this week?

Many of my students have been excited and enthusiastic to participate in the Adventure Quest. It is completely optional and has brought about healthy competition among many of my students.  I have a Leaderboard  or score board posted in my classroom for students to see who is on top.

I am going to have to create a really difficult question to break the quadruple tie that is happening right now!

Adventure Quests are fun side activities for motivated or motivating students to learn about a specific topic. The Adventure Quest that I planned fit seamlessly into my classroom since the trivia questions evolved based on what was happening in current events. Students were reading more and paid attention to what was happening in the news and the world around them.

Adventure Quests can be adapted to any content area. Students are in charge of their own learning and it helps them engage with content material in a new way.

Tagged , , , ,

No Tech Game Based Learning Activities

I work with some awesome teachers. One colleague, Kristie Orlando,  is a Spanish teacher who has a fun filled interactive classroom that promotes learning. Her students are actively engaged and enthusiastic being in her class. Today I got to sit in her classroom and see her in action. I got to see two action packed review games that she facilitated to help her students review for an upcoming test . This got me thinking about other “No Tech” games and kinesthetic activities teachers can do in their classrooms to energize classroom learning while at the same time reinforcing skills.  

The game I observed in Kristie’s Spanish classroom was GRUDGE Ball. The following directions are from Kara Wilkins’ blog To Engage Them All. Here is how to play:

1.Students were divided into five teams of four-five students each.

On the SMARTBoard was a slide with each team listed and 10 Xs under each of the teams.

On the back of the classroom door is a basketball hoop.

2.Each group gets a question.  If they get it right they automatically get to erase two X’s from the board.  They can take it from one team or split it.  They can not take X’s from themselves.

3. Before they take off these X’s, though, they have a chance to increase their ability to get the other teams to hate them.  They get to shoot a Nerf basketball into the basketball hoop.  There were two lines with masking tape.  One is a two point line while the other is a three pointer.

4. If the student shoots from the two point line and get it in, they can take four X’s off the board.  If they go from the three point line, and make it in, they can take five off the board.  If they don’t make it they still get to take the original two off the board.

The object of the game is to knock everyone else off and people are going to get upset but that is okay (hence the name GRUDGE ball).

Another game Kristie shared with me was Bazinga which I have adapted for my students using Classcraft points. The directions for the game below are from Simplifying Radicals Blog.

This game can be played with multiple teams. Each team starts with no points and earns one point every time they answer a question correctly.  If the team answers correctly they earn one point and choose a Bazinga card.  If they answer incorrectly, the question then goes to the next team.

Here is the breakdown of the different Bazinga Cards:

Cards about Points:

– (3) Erase one point from all other teams.

– (3) Double your score.

– (3) Take away two points from one other random team and give them to your team.

– (6) Add two points to your score.

– (3) Erase two points from one other random team.

Action Cards:

– (2) Randomly switch one player from each of the other teams.

– (2) Randomly have a player from the winning team go to the losing team.

– (2) The team with the least points must collectively do 10 pushups.

– (2) The team with the most points must collectively do 10 pushups.

The Bazinga Card:

Take Half of Every Team’s Score.

Particularly in middle school, students need to get up and move around. The next three “No Tech” games are ones that I have organized to help my students review course material, use their kinesthetic abilities, and work cooperatively.

Reviewing for a quiz or a test? Why not make it a Review Relay.  Divide the class into four teams Each team would have two beach pails about 20 or so yards apart or opposite sides of the classroom (just make sure to clear the desks to run from one end of the classroom to the other). Place all the review questions in beach pails on one end of the classroom.  Each team starts at the same time.  They pull out questions one at a time and work together as a team to answer them.  When the question is answered correctly they peel the tape off the back of the question and see if they got it right.  If they got it right they run and put the question into the other pail.  if they got it wrong they keep it with them (outside of the pail).  They can’t try again if they get it wrong because they will already have seen the answer.  This will put the pressure on them to get the right answer the first time and not guess.  When the runner returns the next question can be taken out.  The team who finishes first wins, unless they got questions wrong and another team got more questions correct than them.  

Make a Life Size Scrabble to review vocabulary and spelling words. Using 8 ½ X 11 paper, print enlarged Scrabble letters. The letters should be distributed as follows:

  • 2 blank tiles
  • 1 point: E ×12, A ×9, I ×9, O ×8, N ×6, R ×6, T ×6, L ×4, S ×4, U ×4
  • 2 points: D ×4, G ×3
  • 3 points: B ×2, C ×2, M ×2, P ×2
  • 4 points: F ×2, H ×2, V ×2, W ×2, Y ×2
  • 5 points: K ×1
  • 8 points: J ×1, X ×1
  • 10 points: Q ×1, Z ×1

Give each team the letters and have them spell out the answers to questions.

Lastly, I have had a few teachers share with me how they use Jenga in their classrooms. In my ELA classroom I created Literacy Jenga with questions about reading fictional texts. You can find the instructions to play Jenga on the Milton Bradley website. The questions that I have taped to the Jenga blocks are based on Bloom’s Taxonomy level of complexity. Questions ask about the setting and characters to sharing a different ending to the text. Students are working in small groups playing Jenga and answering the questions on the Jenga blocks to rebuild a tower.

To play, one player pulls out one block anywhere in the tower. Reads the questions out loud and answers the question to the group. That player re-stacks that block on top to create a new row.  Students switch turns repeating the first part of the directions. Players keep playing until the tower falls down.

There are great games to play with students to energize the classroom and keep students moving, boost brain power, and even improve memory.

Tagged , , ,

The Need To Tell: Monologue Writing in English & Social Studies

Diane Arbus Photograph

Look at the person in the photograph.

Who is this person?
What is her/his name?
What is special about her/him?
Where is she/he?
How does she/he feel about being there? Why?
What does this character want, need, or dream about?
What’s stopping her/him from getting it?
What does she/he need to tell?
Who is she/he telling?
Why is this day different from any other day?

Objective:
1. To create an individual character and establish a foundation for characterization.
2. To write a monologue based on a photograph used to create a character.

This activity was first presented to when during a playwriting workshop for teachers presented by Young Playwrights, Inc. This activity can work as a creating writing assignment or role playing in response to a story or specific period in history. For example, I use photographs of Japanese Internment and students choose a person in one of the photographs to write about experiences during internment. Integrating tools of creative drama and theater tools – like pantomime, movement, improvisation, scripted drama, oral interpretation, debating, storytelling, readers theater – creatively communicates ideas to others and requires students to become the people they read about and study.

Procedures:

  1. Post a photograph on the SMARTBoard. This will be used for a whole class brainstorm.

Tell the group that there are no right or wrong answers, as you will all be making this up as you go along. Ask the following questions:

Who is this person? – Get a specific answer. You may have to vote between 2 or 3 names.

What is her/his name? – Have writers begin to define the age, occupation, and general biographical information based on what they see in the photograph. Make a group decision who this person is.

What is special about her/him? – Have writers think about the way he or she talks, dresses, walks. We are looking for specific character traits.

Where is she/he? – Get writers to be as specific as possible.

How does she/he feel about being there? Why? Happy? Sad? Worried? Angry? What does the expression in the photography tell you?

What does this character want, need, or dream about? – We are moving away from what can be seen to inferring emotions and thoughts based on visual cues.

What’s stopping her/him from getting it?

2. Inform the group they will now have the opportunity to allow her or his 􏰂􏰋􏰆􏰃􏰆􏰂􏰅􏰌􏰃􏰁 􏰅􏰉􏰁character to speak. to begin writing a monologue or speech Instruct writers 􏰎􏰈􏰌􏰆􏰣􏰜􏰁(written in first person) bearing in mind what the character Needs To Tell. Add three new questions writers should answer individually:

What does she or he need to tell?

Who is she or he telling?

􏰖􏰁Why does this need to be told today?

The character doesn’t need to answer these questions in the monologue, but the answers should be what drives her or his words.

3. Expand the Activity – After students share out ideas based on the class character brainstorm, I have them choose their own photograph (I have a class set for students to choose from around seven or eight different photographs based on the theme we are studying) and complete the assignment on their own. It is often fascinating for writers to see how many different and distinct stories and characterizations can emerge from a single photo.

Tagged , , , , , ,

Book Review: Kelly Gallagher’s In The Best Interest of Students

IMG_4160

About eight years ago I had the opportunity to take a one day workshop with educator and author, Kelly Gallagher. It was write after he wrote Deeper Reading and since then, I have devoured every book (Readicide and Write Like Us) he has written. His writing resonates with so many ELA teachers and the classroom practices he offers throughout his texts are trustworthy and build literacy in rich and meaningful ways. Gallagher’s newest book, In the Best Interest of Students: Staying True to What Works in ELA Classrooms (2015, Stenhouse Publishers) is no different. In this book Gallagher takes a closer look at the pros and cons of the Common Core Learning Standards specifically for reading and writing and offers 20-30 literacy building activities to support the readers and writers in our classroom. He reminds teachers, “teaching is not an exercise in checking items off a list of standards . . .good teaching is grounded in practices proven to sharpen our students’ literacy skills.” (Page 7) Here is a list of the good that has come out of the Common Core and where the Common Core learning standards are lacking.

The Good of CCLS:

Students are being asked to “do deeper, closer reading of rigorous, high quality literature and nonfiction.”

Essential reading skills include answering – What does the text say? What does the text do? What does the text mean?

Students must  read like writers – examine techniques used by the writer, the writer’s “moves,” and what makes something an effective piece of writing. Reading and writing is recognized as interconnected.

Recognize audience and purpose to clearly decipher the text’s meaning.

Writing is seen as a process and narrative, informative, and argumentative writing are valued the most. Students need to collect data, research, and see lots of models to write well.

Speaking and Listening are key skills students need to be working on always.

What’s Missing with CCLS:

Connections – Nowhere in the standards does it address making connections – text to self, text to text, or text to world connections. Students need to apply what they are reading to their understanding of the world.

Scaffolding – Students need to wrestle with the text but not at the expense of them losing interest and or getting lost. Students need important background knowledge and essential questions to frame their reading.

Reading for pleasure is nonexistent. There is nothing written about how much a student should read and the breakdown of how much  informational text versus literary text to be read is not equally distributed.

Differentiation is ignored throughout the standards

Argumentative writing is overvalued and narrative writing is undervalued. Students need to be able to write in other formats and go beyond the five paragraph essay.

Gallagher Text

As the state tests loom over so many teacher’s evaluations theses days we need to remember that we are not teaching to a test, but we are teaching young people. Our classroom activities should help students build their reading and writing muscles in order to help them succeed throughout their schooling and life outside of school. Gallagher’s book gives a wealth of ideas to support the good and add the skills needed based on what’s missing within the ELA CCLS. Here are a few of the strategies I will be trying out with my students this month.

17 Word Summaries – Before teachers have students peel back the layers of a text, students must be able to decipher what the text says and clearly articulate their “literal understanding” of the text. Gallagher chooses one student to pick a number between ten and twenty and based on that number, all the students must write a summary using only the number of words the student decides. This requires students to think about writing a lot in a short amount of words for everyone to understand.

Analyzing Photographs to recognize Audience and Purpose. Gallagher asks his students to read photographs. First students share what they see (literal understanding) and then he gives some background about this photographer and what was going on in history the time the photo was taken place to then ask, “What was the purpose for sharing this photo?” Lastly, he asks, who did the photographer hope to see his or her photo? (Page 44) Gallagher talks through this activity using Dorothea Lange’s Migrant Mother.

6 Things You Should Know About . . . & Other Writing Activities to practice more informative writing. Modelled from ESPN Magazine’s “Six Things You Should Know About . . .” students write their own.

Blending Story & Argument Together. A personal experience can strengthen an argument and Gallagher models how to weave a narrative into an argument paper through think alouds, LOTS of modeling, and text exemplars. Students collect data and then write their papers blending narrative into the paper to increase the effectiveness of the argument.

Writing Groups to Develop Young Writers. Gallagher has his students meet in writing groups once a week. The  writing groups includes five students of mixed writing abilities. Each week students bring a piece of writing (new draft or old piece that has been significantly revised) to share with their writing group. Each group member gets a copy of the writing piece to read and respond to. The group members have to “bless,” “address,” or “press” the writing marking up the draft that has been shared and write comments to the writer on note cards based on things marked up on the writing. The group members share their thinking aloud with the group while the writer listens.

Tagged , , , ,

Rockin’ Your Content with a little Rock n’Roll

I teach a rock history elective with connections to Language Arts, music, social studies and technology.  The goal of the class to for students to examine specific events in history and their impact on and responses to rock and roll music.  

As educators, we must help to  prepare young people for living in a world of powerful images, words, and sounds.  Young people need the tools to navigate and decode the messages and emotions sent through music.  By teaching rock and roll history my objective is to enable students to engage critically in the study of music and history by bridging music, writing, and understanding of historical events.

If you want to bring a little bit of rock and roll into your classroom, here are some ideas and activities to inspire and ignite students.

Health – Let’s be truthful, the issue of drug use is intertwined with rock and roll music, from the 1960s even up until today.  Use music biographies and lyrics to address songs and artists who have abused drugs. These lessons are pertinent to teach students about drug abuse and negative effects of drugs on the music industry.

Art – Symbols of Rock Music include the guitar, the hair, the clothing, the cars.  Students can create a collage of rock music images.  All these images and symbols help define rock and roll music.  Album covers are also great pieces of art work to examine.  Students can analyze the images of album covers or even create their own.

Business – Corporate Rock Debates.  Music is a multi-billion dollar industry.  Students can examine the economic factors on the music industry and debate about whether music should be free and accessible to all.

Language Arts – Read and Rock Out.  Students can create a music selection and soundtrack for their favorite book.  The music choices can coincide with the themes, moods, character actions, and plot points in the book.

History – Make a Rock n’ Roll Timeline that includes the most important events in the history of rock and roll. Students decide and plot out the major events in rock and roll history along with historical milestones.  Students can include pictures and images along with the timeline for a graphic representation.

Science – Cold Case File Investigations.  There are so many unsolved mysteries throughout rock and roll history.  Take the 2Pac and Biggie Smalls murders in 96 and 97, these two murders have gone cold in the past ten years.  Students can use their detective and forensic research to help solve the case and build a hypothesis regarding this rap tragedy.

For more ideas and projects that my students have completed be sure to check out our class wiki.

Tagged , ,

Beyond the K-W-L: Activities that Activate Schema

One of my most popular posts this past spring was about alternative closure activities beyond the exit slip strategy.  After seeing the K-W-L activity (A brainstorm of what students know, what they want to know, and what students learned) over used often by teachers and pre-service teachers, I felt the need to create a list of alternative activities to kick off inquiry in the classroom.  Here are ideas, in addition to K-W-L charts, to activate prior knowledge and are alternatives to the traditional brainstorm.

1. Anticipation Guides – Before a new unit or a reading develop six or more true/false questions about the topic for students to respond to or agree/disagree with.  For example, prior to reading an excerpt from Ian Stewart’s Letters to a Young Mathematician, I asked my students to respond True or False to the following statements: Math is a bunch of numbers; I use math every day in my life; One should not have to worry about basic math because we have calculators and computers to do that for us; and There is math in everything we see, use, and do.  There were a total of eight statements regarding math on the Anticipation Guide.  After the reading I asked students to go back to the anticipation guide and check for accuracy in terms of the content of the article.  This became a great discussion tool for after the reading as well.

2. Four Corners – A great idea that was suggested by The Learning Network blog and a technique similar to an anticipation guide.  Students are asked to react in some way to a series of controversial statements about a topic they are about to study.  In Four Corners, students move around the room to show their degree of agreement or disagreement with various statements about, for instance, the health risking of tanning or toddler beauty pageants.

3. Gallery Walks – Another suggestion from The Learning Network, and a way to immerse students into a topic at the beginning of a unit is a Gallery Walk.  This is a teacher-created collection of images, articles, maps, quotations, graphs and other written and visual texts that offers students information about a broad subject. Students circulate through the gallery, reading, writing, and talking about what they see.

4. Webquest – Similar to the Gallery Walk, a Webquest is completed online and students are given a specific role to help investigate a topic or subject.  Whether they are a private investigator or a rock historian, their objective is to find clues and evidence that will help them understand a topic.

5. Quick Write and Journaling –  Ask students to write down or respond to a question or statement.  For example, “What would you do it if . . . ?”  Students could then get into small groups or with a partner to discuss their writing.

6. Poll Everywhere – Take your anticipation guide or pre-test online and have students use their mobile devices to answer questions regarding a topic – these questions should be true/false or agree/disagree.  There are many different free polling sites like polleverywhere and polldaddy to easily create an online quiz or survey.

7. Possible Sentences – Give your students a word splash or create a Wordle using a variety of words that will be in the reading or the subject being studied.  Students can work independently or in small groups to create possible sentences or make predictions about the words they will come across.  Later, students can revisit the sentences to check accuracy.

Another idea with the possible sentences is to have students create a “gist statement” using many of the words on the word splash which they predict will summarize the reading or topic.  Finally, they list the things they hope to discover as a result of the words they didn’t understand or questions that inspired the process (This idea comes from Daneils & Zemelman’s Subjects Matter)

8. Dramatic Role Play – Students work in pairs or small groups to act out a situation or event they will come across later in the reading or subject.  For example, in social studies class where the students are going to study the Boston Tea Party, break up the students in small groups and give them role play cards with a brief description about the event (don’t name any names yet). Students brainstorm and then act out what they would do.  Each group can take on a different perspective or give each group a different type of reaction to see different responses to one issue.

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Back to School: Boot Camp

Let’s get back into the school mode. Off that beach chair, it is time to hit the desk. Better finish that summer reading requirement soon. Get your school supplies together and start packing your backpack.

In some states students and teachers are heading back to school in the following weeks. In the state that I live in students will return to school on September 1st and a few others will be returning after Labor Day. What can teachers do differently to kick off a positive school year? Below are some suggestions for activities that I plan to do the first few days of school to get to know my students and get students energized for the new school year. I do not focus on content or classroom rules the first week of school. My objective is to build community and engage in a few team-building activities that engage students.

1. Executive Marbles & Command Performances – Many teachers engage in the classroom scavenger hunt which is always fun but also very common. I found this one scavenger hunt at a leadership conference I took my students to many years ago and have adapted it to use with my students. It is not the “find someone who was born in the same month as you” scavenger hunt. Rather, every students has a number and students have to compete a specific task with another student. Every one of the scavenger hunt question is a preview or pre-assessment what we will cover in class over the course of the semester. For example, “Do a high five with student #5 and tell this person the career you thought you wanted to have when you were six years old” and “On the back of this handout, have students #12 list the top 5 careers s/he would absolutely not do, under any circumstances.”

2. Product in a Box – In October of 2004 I brought a group of female students to attend a conference about economic empowerment for girls sponsored by Independent Means. All the participants were put in small groups of fifteen and were given a box filled with random recycled materials. The girls had fifteen minutes to create a product out of the materials in the box and also complete a business plan about the product they created. This is a great team building activity and it inspires creatively and positive energy the first day of class. Students then present their product and business plan to the whole class. To order your own product in a box you can visit www.independentmeans.com

3.

Tagged , , ,