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Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Consider Homogeneous Grouping

I went to a PD this weekend and sat through a session where the presenter was explaining the "right" way to group your students as they work in workstations and you do guided reading. She said that you have to put one high student, with 2 middle level students and one low. Because you can't put just high or low students together in a group. Now, I am not a very bold person by nature and usually would have just sat there quietly wallowing in my own anger. However, I raised my hand and asked why-"why would you HAVE to do it that way"? Her answer-because you have to have a high student to lead the group. Someone has to help the other kids. One teacher said, "I train my kids how to teach the other kids".

This is one of my BIGGEST pet peeves! First of all, I have seen workstation experts like Debbie Diller who have said put low with low and high with high-it's not a novel idea. If you put a high kid in with low kids-you are expecting them to do your job for you. You want them to help the kids learn their high frequency words when they are reading on a 3rd Grade level. What are they learning that's new? When do they get to work on the skills they need to work on.

The other excuse I hear is-you learn things better by teaching them to someone else. Actually, I don't believe that is true. I recently taught a friend to drive a standard stick shift because she really wanted to buy a car, but had never driven a stick before. I have been driving a standard shift car since I learned to drive at 16 years old. I don't drive a standard any better now because I taught her. Why would a fluent reader have to review sight words they already know over and over every day?

I know this is controversial to some people simply because it's not the way they do it. But if you think about it I think you'll realize it's the best way for all kids to be practicing the skills they need to practice. Give the low kids an activity they can accomplish independently (that's what the purpose of workstations is actually) and let the high kids be challenged during their workstation time! Consider grouping them homogeneously!

 


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Sunday, January 25, 2015

The Power of Poetry

I used to be such a good teacher! :) I used to do poetry journals-and keep up with them, not just put them together and let them sit on a shelf. *sigh* The good old days! I have slacked off a bit in that area this year. My kiddos were not ready for it in the beginning (even watching them try to cut out the poem and glue it in the proper place was giving me gray hair). Now that I think they might be ready, I just haven't been able to find the time to get it all together.

I do still use poetry in the classroom. I think it can be a great way to introduce new vocabulary-poets have to be very succint. I also think it's a good way for them to apply their listening skills, to really visualize what the poet is saying. One of my all-time favorite poems is Mother to Son, by Langston Hughes:


One of the first observations they made was that it sounded like an "old-fashioned" way to talk. Which brought up the discussion-why do you think the poet wrote it that way? A word you think is a simple word like "tacks"-they didn't know what tacks were. Every day for a week we read this poem together in our reading warm-up. On Friday, I asked them to illustrate the poem. Here's what they came up with:










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Saturday, January 24, 2015

Reading to Young Kids Above Their Grade Level

I heard on the news the other day that they are doing a study of heart attacks based on stories people's anger level when they read stories on FB and Twitter. Their theory is that people who get mad at what they read and respond to will develop more cardiac problems. I can totally see that! I feel my blood pressure going up some days. Sometimes I wonder why I even read things, because it does make me angry. Especially comments to articles about teaching--grrrrr.

I read a FB exchange about how a teacher uses chapter books as a read-aloud in Kinder and the responses just blew up with vitriol about how wrong that was. Well, I disagree! I think we should be reading to kids about their grade level, just as my mother did with my sister and I when we were little. 

1) It helps introduce them to new vocabulary 
2) It helps with their listening comprehension skills-no pictures to rely on 
3) It makes them think more deeply about characters because you really get to know them 
4) They lend themselves to higher-level activities.

I read different books each year based on the personality and interests of my kiddos. In the past I have read:







I think reading books to them while guiding them through the plotlines and character development is a great model for them to learn how to do that themselves.


Right now, I am reading:



It's definitely a book with big ideas. It lends itself well to activities about ethics, patterns, and changes over time. Edward changes more in this story than I think than any other character in any other book I've ever read.

We are only a little more than halfway through, but since his heart has grown and he is starting to love people-I had the kids write about the change over time he has seen-from the beginning of the story until now. Here's what they came up with:








Regardless of other people's opinion on the topic-I will keep reading to my kids. Selfishly, my number reason is it's the favorite part of my day! I love reading while seeing them really listening and hanging on to every word. I think it's important!




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Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Perspective of Cinderella's Shoe

Multiple perspectives is usually one of the easier concepts to teach the kiddos. I know many people use different characters-if you were this character what would you have done, and we do those activities. But I also like to try to be a little creative with it sometimes.

Today I asked them to consider what life was like as Cinderella's glass slipper. It is very important component in the story-without it, Cinderella may have never become royalty and lived happily ever after. This was how my students saw life as a glass slipper:


I would not like to be broken.


I would fit.


I will be pretty.

when she ran I would stay.


I would smell stinky toes.

I would want to be put on the right foot.


I did not know who Cinderella is and I put it on the sister and her stinky feet-I would be grossed out.



I would be beautiful.

I would be so so so so surprised.

I would be tired because everybody's foot is in me.


I will have a friend.


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Monday, January 19, 2015

Chapter Books ESL Students Can Relate To....

Hey y'all! I don't know about you, but every year I have LEP kiddos in my classes. I always want my students to see themselves in the characters of books they or we are reading. These books are great read-alouds, but particularly because they feature kids struggling with the idea of the English language.


A refugee from Bosnia trying to adapt to life in American schools.


One of my all-time faves! He is a refugee from Africa who lost touch with his mother in a refugee camp. (I have used this as a read-aloud, but skipped over a few violent passages describing the war). He puts the dishes in the washing machine and makes some other mistakes because he does not understand English very well. He is also thrilled to have his own desk and his own classroom. Definitely an opportunity for the kids to see school is not the same everywhere.


This main character actually speaks English-it's her mother that struggles with it and it embarrasses her. A really cute little story about a girl who reminds me a little bit of me (always with a book in her hand) when I was younger!


A family emigrates from Japan and a girl helps her cousin acclimate to American culture. His grandfather, who makes and flies kites competitively with him is very sick and here for medical treatment. A really poignant, beautiful story.




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Saturday, January 17, 2015

Creative Nursing Home Rooms

Well, this has been some week here in Texas! We have had a week of no sunshine, most days some amount of rain and it has been downright cold! (Believe me, I know it doesn't compare to my friends with snow right now-but for us it's cold!). So the kiddos have not only had no recess in over a week, but they can't even play outside when they get home--they have been a little off-the-wall! I definitely counted some new gray hairs. :)

Community service is really important to me. Every year we adopt a nursing home because the one thing kids can do well and will do very willingly is make cute crafts and cards for them. Every holiday I take something over there and the goal (although we've never been able to pull it together logistically) is for them to meet up there one weekend and sing some songs, read to them, etc. Maybe this year!

I asked the kids, after looking at pics from the interiors of nursing homes, to design a new kind of room for the residents at a nursing home. Now, you will see I think they were thinking a little bit more about what kind of room they would want, rather than what their grandparents might want adn some definitely put in more effort than others... but here's what they came up with.



A room of candy!

A garden, TV and play room.

Videogame Room

Haircut Room

Hair Place

Exercise Room

Rockstar Room

Computer Room

Hope everyone is has been seeing more sunshine than we've had here the past week! 


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