Sunday, July 14, 2013

Comprehension Connections

    This has been such a productive summer for me!  I just finished my third "teacher" book and I am so proud of myself!  I feel like I am ready to tackle the up-coming school year!

     One of the books that I read was Comprehension Connections by Tanny McGregor.  She does a great job of showing the reader how to teach six specific comprehension skills: visualizing, determining importance, questioning, inferring, schema, and metacognition.  What I loved the most about the book is that she included basic ways to teach each comprehension skill.  She also used thinking stems for each skill.  I created Hollywood themed thinking stems which you can download for FREE below.   

     This idea also came from Comprehension Connections.  I simply used paint samples and attached the labels.  Isn't this an EASY way to check students' understanding.?!?! Simply have them point to the level of THEIR understanding.  You can do a quick check and either reteach or move on.  Love it!

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Curious George is Curious About Our Community

     Did you notice Kohl's has Curious George stuffed animals for sale as part of their Kids Caring and Sharing Program?  Need a fun way to incorporate this curious fellow into your classroom?  Well here you go!  Several years ago, I came across a teacher that used Curious George as a means to get her students curious about their community. I thought this was such a great way for students to highlight various places in our community.  This activity is one of the most popular activities in my class.
   At the beginning of the school year, I send home a letter explaining the project and asking parents if they would like to "host" Curious George for a two-night stay at their house.  Once a date is set, I send home this bag with the student.  I ordered this bag from 31 and had it embroidered with the title "Curious About Our Community." 

Inside the bag, I have the following items: for George a (fake) banana, drinking bowl, two of his favorite Curious George books and for the student a binder (with lined and unlined paper), crayons and pencils. 
Students are asked to take Curious George around the community and write back to the class explaining all of the neat places they visited together.  Can you see where all of the learning is taking place??  Students are actively learning about the community and writing a reflection.  When students bring their bag back to school, they share their writing and any illustrations and/or pictures with the class.  I allow time for the class to ask the student any questions about their community experience with Curious George.  After the student shares, I present him/her with a packet of Curious George gummy snacks!  Yes, they actually make them and I love the connection! :)
      Besides students loving this activity, so do parents!  They email me pictures of George in all kinds of places!  Once I went to watch a few of my students play in their basketball game and it just so happened that one of the students was hosting George for the weekend.  Guess who was also at the basketball game??   Yep....Curious George!  The mom took a picture of the boys, Curious George and me.  It really was hilarious! 
      So head on out to Kohl's and grab your Curious George stuffed animal and get your students excited about their community and writing!!!  :)


Tuesday, July 2, 2013

6 + 1 Traits of Good Writing Binder

     Summer is here and that means it is time for me to reflect on the previous school year.  I love sitting in silence (HA!) and thinking about ways I can improve various aspects of my classroom.  Are you like that?!!?  I bet you are!  Otherwise, you would not be spending time reading blogs finding new ideas for your classroom. :)
So... one area that I really wanted to spice up is writing!  In the past, my students had one writing folder where they just tossed everything in.  Most of the time, I would open up folders and there would be stuff from months ago!  I was appalled!  Therefore, I came up with a 6 Traits Writing Binder.  You can download all of the sheets that I have made by clicking on the front cover picture.

      My principal is a huge supporter of 6 Traits.  Last year, she encouraged our staff to implement a trait a month.  She wanted to use a "common language" among all of our students so that as they move from grade to grade it all made sense to them. I typed up the phrases for each trait and mounted it on a piece of scrapbook paper.  I then slid it in the front cover of a 1" binder.  This will serve as the cover page.  Besides being kid-friendly, I think it will be a great resource for students to refer back to throughout the school year.
Instead of buying dividers for all 25+ students, I wanted to find something a bit more meaningful.  I came across quotes from individuals about each trait.  I tried locating link where I found it, but I couldn't locate it!  SORRY!!!!!!  I copied each of these quotes on colored paper so it would be easier for my students to locate that trait in their binder.  I also placed each quote in a protective sleeve (for durability). 
Next, I made a few goodies to have for the start of the school year.  First, I made a hook and wrap-up planning sheet.  My students and I will brainstorm various ways to begin and end our writing.  They will keep these pages in their binder for use throughout the school year.  I did copy both of those sheets on cardstock.  It drives me nuts when papers are ripped and hanging out of binders.  I thought the cardstock would hold up better. :)


I also tweaked an idea I found on Amanda Madden's blog.  I really like having students brainstorm other ways to say overused words.  I made this sheet so we could complete as a class.  I also created one that is blank so that it can meet the needs of individual students.
One other item that I am placing in their binders is a set of mini-labels.  Each label shows a different 6 trait.  I am going to use these during FREE WRITE.  Do you find that your students' free write really has no purpose?  I do!  I am going to have my students select one sticker BEFORE writing in their FREE WRITE journal.  They are going to place it at the top of the entry.  Whatever trait label they select will be what they have to focus on in their writing.  I want my students to be held accountable during this time.  This will also serve as a great informal assessment since they are writing without much guidance from me.

I am placing blank pocket sleeves at the back of the binder so students can keep "special" pieces of writing.  For example, I always read First Day Jitters on the first day of school.  We complete a writing activity after the book.  I keep this piece of writing until the last week of school.  By placing it in their binder, they will see how much they have grown as a writer just by looking at that piece of writing in their binder. 
This is just the beginning of the writing binder!  I am excited!  I like that it is organized, colorful and kid-friendly!