Successful Language Arts instruction with minimal worksheets is not just possible, it really works! However, I'm not going to lie to you and tell you it's easy. In order to help students be successful, we need to be directed, knowledgeable and able to embed learning into every moment. It's not easy to get started, but it's quite simple to maintain once we get the hang of it. Like anything worth doing, it takes practice and reflection (rinse and repeat).
There are 5 essential steps to setting up successful Language Arts instruction.
You could use a 4 Blocks format as well. I've seen lots of variations of these. What each classroom looks like depends on the teacher. Know this, there's more than one way to success. Whatever you choose, give your program structure and flexibility.
I keep my phonemic awareness separate from my Language Arts block. I start my day with Phonemic Awareness at the end of our morning meeting. We...
If you struggle to get some of your students interested in books, here’s a few fun strategies. They work beautifully with both picture books and chapter books.
Book tasting have become a mini-fad in schools around the country. It’s a brilliant idea! Decorate your classroom like a restaurant, create place settings and a menu of books (with a short synopsis), have a set of books for each table and let students “try out” several books.
It’s fun, creative and very effective. Student LOVE doing this. It makes reading not only fun but desirable. I’d call that a win.
This is another way to get your students to try something new in their reading. I especially love this when a bunch of new books are coming into the classroom library or school library. Books are wrapped up in wrapped up in plain, brown paper. You can get some at Michaels or use butcher paper, if you have it.
Now you have...
Class parties are an important and fun part of school. Why do I say important? Well, they build community, help us connect with each other, give us (hopefully) fun, shared memories and create opportunities to take a short break and celebrate. You and your students work hard. Sometimes we need a bit of a break to reenergize us and give us perspective.
With Valentine’s Day coming up, I thought I’d share a few tips for managing not only the party details, but the parents (and their) expectations that come with class parties. Let’s face it. Running your classroom is one thing, but add a roomful of parents into the mix and it’s a whole other ballgame. An organized, well-run party is not only more fun, but it’s a chance for parents to see and feel confident in your ability to manage the class. Don’t pass up this opportunity to build some good will and to shine.
Now, if you have fabulous room parent planning and running your class parties, this post is ...
I know it’s often easier to just do many of the tasks around your classroom yourself, at least in the short run. In the long run, training students to take on these tasks is a boon not only for you but for your students as well.
Here’s some of what students learn from a well-managed routine for classroom jobs.
responsibility (getting it done without being asked)
follow-through (doing the job “all the way”)
honesty (letting the teacher know if something goes wrong or there’s a problem)
self-mastery (doing the job even on days they don’t “feel” like doing it)
kindness (helping the class as a whole, treating others kindly as they go about the work)
generosity (giving of their time, going the extra mile to do things right, doing extra if needed)
organization (keeping track of the steps or tasks and getting them all accomplished)
teamwork (working with others to accomplish a task, working as a...
At this point in the year, it’s often time to spice up reading and writing. I like to try a bit of Metafiction with kids. If you think that younger students aren’t ready for this, you are so wrong! Not only do they “get it”, they LOVE it.
Let’s start with a definition. Metafiction: fiction in which the author self-consciously alludes to what they are doing in the story. Authors are parodying or departing from writing conventions and traditional narrative techniques.
Metafiction forces readers to be aware they are reading a fictional book. It breaks what the theater calls “the fourth wall”, the divide between what’s happening on the stage and the audience.
The easiest way to teach this is by example and imitation.
Copying other stories while playing around with parody or irony.
Who’s Afraid of...
Sometimes the day to day in the classroom can get frustrating when we feel like we can’t get ahead or are repeating directions constantly. You know me, I’m all about organization and systems. So…here’s 3 tricks to make your teacher life a little bit easier.
Have highlighters (and pencils) next to you turn in bin. Train your students to highlight their name before they put their paper in the bin. this will eliminate 95% of no name papers. Sure a few will get through the cracks, but it will be the rare exception.
Strategy: Allow student 1 free bathroom trip in the morning and one in the afternoon. In addition, students can go at recess and lunch as usual. Emergencies will happen, but there needs to be time made up for more trips unless there is a medical reason.
Tracking: Draw a line down horizontally across the middle of a sheet of paper. Write AM on the top...
Got a crazy schedule? You’re NOT alone! I can count on one hand the years I have had a class schedule that was the same each day of the week.
If your crazy schedule is getting you down, don’t despair. It’s really possible to have a calm, well-run classroom when your schedule is constantly changing.
A couple of years ago I was working with a teacher who was stressed out about her crazy schedule. In an effort to start each subject at the same time each day, she had managed to cut her subject blocks into multiple pieces two days a week. By the time her students got in the groove for Language Arts on those days, they had to pick up and go to to specials. Then, they came back and finished up. It was hard for her to get solid time to teach small groups and difficult to get students back into the flow. Talk about stressed out! Once we made a solid Language Arts block non-negotiable, life got a lot calmer.
Do you have a few students that are on your last nerve? Are you feeling like nothing you do is working to keep your class on task? Are your students having trouble getting along?
If you answered YES, you’re not alone. We’ve all been there at one time or another.
When I first started teaching I had the great grace of team teaching with a master teacher. What a blessing! I was the blind leading the blind after all. Fresh from college, no kids of my own and only my year of student teaching under my belt. HELP! The best advice Jan gave me? Velvet over steel.
Have a backbone of steel and a velvet touch. Know your boundaries and don't compromise while always treating your students with dignity.
Answer these questions as fully as you can.
What are your non-negotiables? What are you not willing to compromise on EVER?
What behaviors or interruptions drive...
As adults, we set personal and professional goals all the time. Sometimes we even have goals set for us by our employers. New Year’s Resolutions are the perfect way to help your students learn how to set and accomplish their own goals.
I know what you’re thinking… most people don’t keep their New Year’s Resolutions. True. I believe a lot of that has to do with how we write our goals. More often than not, New Year’s Resolutions are written more as wishes then goals. A wish is a goal without a plan. That will get you straight into failure territory. In oder to accomplish our goals, we need to know how to write them with the plan embedded in them.
Teach students the difference between a wish and a goal. Give examples of accomplishable goals vs. wishes (goals without a plan).
Have students choose something they want to get...
That’s a big claim, I know. I still stand behind it because I’ve lived it both as a teacher and a student. Think for a minute about the best lecture you ever sat through. The one you remember, the one that made an impact on you to this day. Or, think about the best teacher you ever had in high school or college. What did that teacher do differently? There are two things I believe you’re will saying to your self right now: taught with passion for their subject and incorporated stories that made their subject come alive or feel relatable.
The short answer is engagement. Stories help our students relate and invite them to put themselves into the narrative. Stories help us, as teachers, engage more with what we are teaching as well. That’s powerful stuff to our brains. In fact, our brains are wired for relationships and oral storytelling.