Saturday, March 28, 2015

Close Reading That Sticks

Are you integrating close reading lessons into your ELA instruction?

I began this year very enthusiastic about doing close reading lessons with my students. I attended a summer academy to learn about it, and I did a lot of research to ensure that I was implementing it correctly and effectively. 

The idea of having students write notes while they read a complex text sounds obvious to experienced readers like you and me, but we've had our whole lives to develop that understanding. Kids love writing on sticky notes, so I knew their engagement would be high, but that alone doesn't guarantee success. The Common Core is now expecting eight and nine year olds to analyze a text with expertise. It's not that easy; they aren't sure where to start. 

I had done a few lessons initially but felt like my students had no real direction without my guidance at each step. While that makes sense for early lessons, I didn't feel like they would be able to be independent with reading closely. And that's the whole point of any reading lesson, isn't it?

I had seen some reading strategy bookmarks on Pinterest, and even some great text marking bookmarks. But I felt like these were too extensive for third graders just learning how to "read to learn." Sometimes it's best to start out with the basics, and grow from there. 

That was the inspiration for me to create simple bookmarks with clear visual cues to help my students use sticky notes when they're reading closely. 

I noticed a difference immediately! Before using my bookmarks, my students understood "reading for the gist" the first time, but their second and third reads were not as focused without a game plan. Their bookmarks solve that problem. It gives them a clear and definite guide to what to write using sticky notes, and keeps the process simple. 

Close Reading Bookmarks in Action! 

Focusing on four main areas, and consistently using the same visual cues, my students are better able to analyze a complex text, breaking it down into its most basic ideas. The bookmarks make an abstract concept tangible, and break the process down into more manageable tasks.

I'm excited again about doing close reading lessons with my students. And that's a great feeling, indeed. 

I'd love to know how you've found success doing close reading lessons in your classroom! 

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Have You Ever Done A Book Talk?

Book Talks are an excellent way to engage your students in reading books they otherwise would have no interest in reading. 

It's a perfect "filler" activity for transitions, and will help settle your students down from an energetic activity like recess. 

The process is simple, and takes no more than five minutes of class time, so you can implement it at any point during the day. Once your students know what to expect from a Book Talk, they won't want to miss it! 

Here's how it works: 
I read aloud an interesting or mysterious excerpt from a chapter book that piques my students curiosity and leaves them wanting to read more. I stop reading at the "good" part, without giving away what happens. Anyone who's interested can take the book back to their desk for their next book. 

Let's face it: We all judge books by their covers. It's human nature. But teachers know that a book's cover doesn't always live up to the story inside. We know that, but not all kids know that.

A Book Talk is a great way to get kids past judging a book by its cover! 

Try it! I think you just might get "hooked"! 

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Have You Met Sweet Maggie Moo?

For anyone who follows me on Instagram, you know that I am a fur mama. Since my own two daughters are off to college, my sweet boxer Maggie (often referred to as Maggie Moo) and sweet pug Chloe (lovingly referred to as Poo) are the focus of my attention.
We got Maggie when our girls were nine, which, in theory, is a great age for them to take responsibility for a pet. But, I'm a bit of a stickler for doing things MY way, so I ended up doing all the dog walking. And dog feeding. And dog washing. 
You get the picture.

Needless to say, I bonded pretty strongly with Maggie, and she with me. 

She was the best puppy. She learned to ring the bells hanging on the doorknob to let us know she needed to go outside. She slept quietly in her crate. She was the perfect pet. However, one day, while my attention was on something else, Maggie dug up a tree sapling I had just planted.
I brought this up with my daughters’ school principal (who also owned two boxers), and she recommended a play buddy for Maggie. I wasn't sure I wanted another large dog, so we go a pug instead.
Well, there is a big difference in a boxer and a pug, and it’s not just the size!
I was worried Maggie, having so much energy, would hurt such a tiny puppy (and Chloe was TINY!).

I had nothing to worry about, apparently. Chloe’s sharp puppy teeth protected her from any potential harm, and Maggie’s maternal instincts kicked in immediately. She looked out for her new “baby” in every way.
Now they are truly best buds. Where one is, the other follows. They find trouble together, too. But I’m so grateful they get along so well.

They also follow us around the house. Stop short, and risk having a dog bump into you! I can pretty much guarantee that they’ll hang out with me during my workout.

Maggie is a bit neurotic, and stresses out when we pack for vacation. We have to have a dog-sitter come because one time Maggie refused to eat at the kennel and lost 10 pounds in a week. She also truly hates having her photo taken, and I am forced to trick her into sitting and looking at the camera.
Chloe will sit and model all day (mostly because she’s hoping we’ll give her a treat!).

Maggie is ten now, and Chloe is nine. All the information says that boxers don’t typically live longer than a dozen years. I love my fur girls to the moon and back, and am so grateful for all the time we’ve had together so far!

Now enter the giveaway below for your chance to win an Amazon Gift Card and a gift certificate to Teachers Pay Teachers.

Also, don't forget to hop on over to the other fabulous posts of others who have linked up to see how they use pets or a pet theme in their classrooms! 

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Saturday, March 14, 2015

Pass the Paper!

We played a game on Friday that the kids got a kick out of, and -- BONUS! -- also got a science review in the process. 

I divided my class into three groups and had them line their chairs up, one in front of the other, all facing forward. I designated a leader for each, and gave each team a clipboard with the review sheet for our next unit test. It included both multiple choice questions and fill-in-the-blank statements. 

After displaying the Google timer on the SMART Board and setting it for five minutes, I handed each team leader the clipboard. 

Each member of the team completed one answer of his choice before passing the clipboard to the person behind him. It's then her turn to do the same. 

Play continues until either a team finishes the entire review sheet or the time is up. The game is short to keep students' interest piqued, although the amount of time is determined by you. I tally the results afterward, and the team with the most points is the winner. 

I like this kind of team game because it doesn't put unnecessary pressure on any one student. I make sure the review sheet includes a wide range of questions for each student to answer. Plus, teammates don't know who answered which question. The game is best for content areas, and can be used in all grades!

Winners earned Class Dojo points and Holey-Moley Hole Punches, although a little bit of competition is enough incentive for many kids! 

Duct Tape for the Win!

It's official: my students have used up all their pencils. Not bad, though, making it all the way till March! Rather than just handing out pencils, I'm assigning each student a specific pencil. This way, if I find one on the floor, I know who's not taking responsibility for their own materials, and there will be an end to the arguments of whose pencil is whose. 

I simply cut approximately four inch long pieces of duct tape, then split them in half to create thin strips. I wrapped them around each pencil near the eraser and secured the adhesive sides together. I trimmed the rough edges for a cleaner look, and finished up by writing each student's assigned number on the duct tape. 

My plan is to have them show me their nub of a pencil when they need a new one as evidence that they've taken care of it. It's never too early to learn responsibility for their things!