As we head into the latter part of the school year, we can all get a bit grumpy. Let's face it, life in a crowded place can wear on us. As I tell my kids, "sometimes it's just too much togetherness." Occasionally, we just need a break and chance to be grumpy for a bit.
Helping students both understand their feelings and find appropriate ways to cope is a big part of effective classroom management. I find picture books to be a great way to do that while teaching content at the same time.
Jim woke up grumpy and got grumpier the more everyone tried to tell him what to do about it. When Norman finally tells Jim, "It's a wonderful day to be grumpy." Jim finally starts to feel a little bit better. There's just something about being understood that's more helpful than the most well-intentioned advice.
Well...you know me. I...
I get asked by teachers for book suggestions, so I decided to periodically offer a few by category. The first set is below. It's a bit longer than I intended. Yes, I got carried away. :D
Here's a list of Mentor Texts for STEM topics. It is by no means a comprehensive list. That would be overwhelming for all of us. Think of it as a place to start.
Not sold on the power of read alouds? Listen to this sound bite on the power of reading aloud from Kate DiCamillo.
Want it as a printable list? I've got you covered! You can grab the full list here.
Books by Andrea Beaty
· Rosie Revere, Engineer
· Ada Twist, Scientist
· Iggy Peck, Architect
Violet the Pilot by Steve Breen
The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires
Papas Mechanical Fish by Fleming
Jack and the Geniuses by Bill Nye
The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by Kamkwamba and Mealer
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...
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.
This starfish keychain hangs on the wall in my office. It reminds me why I choose to be an educator, why I work so hard for teachers and students. I know starfish and students seem quite different. But in this story, you’ll find they are similar. It’s not a new story. In fact, it’s been around for more than 30 years. I took a few liberties with the original tale, but the gist of it is the same.
The day after a storm a young woman was walking along a beach covered in starfish that had washed on shore during the storm. The woman made her way down the beach slowly. With each step, she bent, picked up a starfish and threw it back into the ocean. It was slow going, but she labored on.
With each starfish she threw back into the water, she stopped, gazed into the water and smiled before reaching for another.
An old man was watching her and shaking his head as he too made his way down the beach. When he got close to the woman he commented, “Why are you bothering? You...
Writers’ Notebooks are an essential piece in well-rounded writing programs. But, organizinging and using them appropriately is not intuitive. In fact, unless you use one yourself regularly, then it’s quite a difficult thing to teach.
I believe anyone teaching writing to students, regardless of the grade you teach, should be a writer in their own life in order to teach writing well. That’s a tall order in our busy lives, and for many teachers it may seem unrealistic. I get that. In fact, I’ve been there. But you really do write all the time. You just aren’t collecting it all into a notebook.
My mom has always kept a notebook near the phone. When I was little she told us to write in that every time we answered the phone and needed to take a message. My mom still uses it every time she’s on the phone, needs to make a list, write down a phone number… It was, and is, a chronicle of her days. When she started doing this, she...
I was waiting in a line a few days ago and a young couple was ahead of me with their 7 month old daughter. I asked her age and attempted to wave and say hi to her. Her eyes were glued to a phone screen. They informed me that they always made sure their phone batteries were charged before going out because she needed to watch movies to behave. Seriously?! The only way she wouldn’t scream and cause a fuss that whole time was if they let her watch a movie. Not only that, but they had to be prepared to switch movies whenever her attention waned. Wow!
My middle school daughter was with me and said, “Mom, we didn’t have that. What did you do before mobile phones and the internet?” Am I really that old?!
I had to laugh. I asked her, “Don’t you remember? We played, sang songs, talked, danced around and were silly. I kept a bag packed full of toys, books and other things to entertain children ready to go at all times.”
“Oh yeah,” she...
“My students spend all this time on word work and they still spell everything wrong in their writing! They aren’t transferring their phonemic awareness training and spelling words to their real work.”
Sometimes it seems like we do all this phonemic awareness and word work prep to get it to be memorable for our students, and they STILL struggle with transferring the skills and knowledge. This is not a new dilemma. Teachers have struggled with this issue forever.
As long as we teach spelling and phonics only in isolation, transfer of these skills will continue to be an issue. There are teachers that effectively teach all of their spelling and phonics inside of their writing lessons and conferring. It takes great planning, practice and skill to do so. I would call it the gold standard as it’s the most efficient and effective way to teach these things. But, it’s not the only way.
Here’s the thing. Whether we’re working on a plan toward that...