Thursday, December 3, 2015

December Lesson Plan Inspiration

Looking for some inspiration to spice up your December lesson plans?  You are in the correct place!  Pinterest is one of my favorite places to save ideas for later; however, my boards can become overwhelming at times because I have saved so many pins.

Today I am sharing three pins that I hope will engage your students and put a little pep in your lessons (and day).

Even though it doesn't always snow in Arkansas in December, I can't help but think of building snowmen.  Since I probably won't be building snowmen, creating snowmen through art is the next best thing.

The First Grade Parade shared a great idea on using one of my favorite picture books Snowmen at Night.

What I like about her activity is that it incorporates art and literacy and is adaptable across many grade levels.  The writing length and detail required for this activity could be adjusted based on what grade you taught.  If you are in first grade, it could be a couple of sentences.  If you are in fourth grade, it could multiple paragraphs.

Rudy and the Dodo shared a simple Christmas tree craft idea that sparked many ideas on how it could help my students practice what they are learning.

Fifth grade is working on adding and subtracting decimals.  Seeing this Christmas tree, I thought this would be a great opportunity for my students to measure and practice adding/subtracting decimals.  Students would be given a total (example:  42.25) and a minimum (4) number of strips of paper to use to create a Christmas tree image.  Students would record the length of each strip used and show how they counted down to make sure they didn't go over the total given.

Third grade is working on learning their multiplication facts.  I would write multiplication facts on each strip of paper (without the product).  The base of each tree would have a product.  I would give each student a base.  Their job would be to match the multiplication facts with the product on their base.  Then they could arrange the strips of paper any fashion that they liked.

The Applicious Teacher shared a hands-on activity to build students inquiry skills in science through use of mystery bags.

Scientists use observation and inference throughout their careers, so this is a skill that we need to develop in students.  A simple way to introduce this skill is through the mystery bag.  You can theme these bags around any holiday or event.

You could also incorporate mystery bags into literacy.  I just found a great, new Santa book with a ninja theme - Samurai Santa:  A Very Ninja Christmas.  The mystery bags would be a great way to introduce the book.  I would fill the bags with objects that dealt with ninjas and Christmas.  Students would make inferences on what the two had in common.  Then we would read the book.

Looking for more great pins for December?  Check out the links below!

Friday, November 27, 2015

Reading in a Winter Wonderland

Welcome, friends!  Winter is upon us.  In celebration of the season, my reading bloggy friends and I are celebrating with a link up of great books and ideas on how to use those books in the classroom.  Grab a cup of hot chocolate (Starbucks is my favorite) and read away.

I am super excited about the book I am sharing with you today!  I bought it using my Kindle app, but I love it so much I am going to buy the hardback version for my daughter and students.  (I LOVE being able to hold a book in my hand and read it!)

Also, it is perfect for the first ever NATIONAL NINJA DAY STORY TIME on December 5, 2015.
(my ninja name...get your own ninja name in the kit linked below)
There is a great, downloadable kit that includes name tags, a recommended reading list (my book is on the list), poster, and activities.  You can follow the authors that are leading this event on Twitter @NinjasRead.

Samurai Santa: A Very Ninja Christmas by Rubin Pingk (author/illustrator) is different from the normal Santa stories.  I was drawn to this book because I have many students who love ninjas and graphic novels.  The illustrations in this book are very reminiscent of graphic novels.

From Amazon:  A young ninja wants a snowball fight for Christmas, and he just might get his holiday wish in this picture book with graphic novel–inspired illustrations that celebrate the spirit of giving, Samurai style.  It’s snowing on Christmas Eve!  Yukio loves snowball fights, but none of the other ninjas will play with him for fear of landing on Santa’s naughty list.  Can Yukio chase Santa away from Ninja Village or will a Samurai Santa thwart Yukio’s plan?

Watch a short book trailer from the author:

Making predictions is a strategy we teach our students as they learn to comprehend the text that they are reading.  When proficient readers make predictions they are doing more than just guessing about what is going to happen in the story.  They sharing their thoughts on the book using evidence from the the title, pictures (if any), blurb on the back, etc. to focus their reading and make connections with their background knowledge.  It is one of the ways that readers get excited about the story before it has begun.

In Samurai Santa, I ask my students to look at the title, the cover, and the illustrations throughout the book to discuss their thoughts on the book.  As we predict, we create a class chart that we will come back to after we have finished reading the book.

Another way I help my students establish a purpose for reading is to discuss questions that we might have about what is going to happen in the story.  In Samurai Santa, I ask students to think about the following questions:
  • What is Yukio's motivation in chasing Santa away?
  • How does Yukio feel after the snowball fight?  Why does he feel this way?
As we read, we create a chart that helps us track our thinking, so we are better prepared to discuss those questions after we have finished reading the book.

Want to involve a little art and writing?  Have students write their own version of a popular winter/holiday story where the main characters are ninjas.  Show your students this video on how to draw a ninja to help them illustrate their stories:

 If you want to take it one step further, make this ninja story time an EVENT by using a little creativity. 
  •  The Crafted Sparrow has a great post on how she created a ninja birthday party for her son.  I loved the backdrop she created with the Kingthings Conundrum font, the lanterns, and the fabric.  To create the same thing in the classroom, I would use red and black butcher/bulletin board paper.  Using the font, I would cut out Ninja Story Time to hang in the middle of the paper.  The black lanterns can be found on Amazon (brings up several different lanterns).  Snap! has an easy to follow tutorial on how to create the red lanterns using poster board.  Students can be sitting in groups with table cloth over their table (desks pushed together like a table) like at a restaurant.  Each student will have a set of chopsticks (found these awesome ninja chopsticks on Amazon) and a take out box with a fortune cookie in it (50 boxes for $14.25 on Amazon).
  • Take the Crafted Sparrow's idea for sushi to the next level by having students compare and contrast real sushi and dessert sushi after showing them how to create it.  Have students write a dessert sushi how-to brochure in groups.  They can brainstorm different types of treats that could be used to create the sushi beside rice crispy cereal.  Then each group can choose from that list what will go in their sushi, create a how-to writing, and illustrate the brochure.  As students are working, they can sample the sushi that you created (if that is allowed at your school).
  • Give each student a fortune cookie.  Have them break open the cookie and read their individual fortune to their group, so they have examples.  Then have students write their own fortune.  Pass the fortunes around the group to let the other help revise and edit.  Then give each student a small piece of paper to write their fortune on.  This would make a great bulletin board!
  • Throw some math in the equation (haha) by printing a Chinese restaurant menu for each student, placing it on the table with the takeout box and chopsticks.  Give students a set amount of money (can even use play money), have them figure out what they would order, how much it would be total (can ask them to include tax or not, depending on the grade level), and determine how much change they would receive back.  This would be a great way to review adding, subtracting, and multiplying with decimals!
AND because I am thankful for each and every reader, I am making my Actively Reading: Samurai Santa packet FREE on Teachers Pay Teachers for the duration of our giveaway.  This packet is aligned with third and fourth grade Common Core literacy standards.  Click the picture below to be taken to TpT.
Before you leave, be sure to enter the giveaway.  We are giving a copy of each book in our link up to one lucky person!!!  All you need to do is collect the mystery words on each person's blog (hint:  they will be in blue font).   Here is a sheet to help you:  Mystery Word Form.  My mystery word is NINJA and I am part of the Upper Elementary Hop (check the linky below for the rest of my crew).  If you want to get in on the Primary Hop, I suggest starting at Literacy Spark.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, November 16, 2015

Connecting the Dots

I love the title of Chapter 7, "Connecting the Dots" because it is a great way to think about inferring, which is difficult for word callers.

Kelly Cartwright categorizes inferences into two types:  text-connecting and gap-filling.  Text-connecting inferences require a reader to connect two ideas from a text to construct an idea that is not explicitly stated in the text.  Gap-filling inferences require a reader to connect their background knowledge to a piece (or multiple pieces) of text information to construct meaning.  Word callers have trouble with inference because they have to connect MULTIPLE bits of information and talk/think about things that are not in the text.  What can we do to help them?  We need to "make students aware that there are hidden meanings in the text that must be discovered. (Cartwright, 2010, p. 98).

Working with students on an individual basis allows the teacher to provide more specific, feedback to that student.  Using the two-story clue hunt, helps students make text-connecting and gap-filling inferences by using clue words in the story to create those inferences.

How it works:
  • Explain to students that you will be solving a puzzle today as they read a story.  To solve the puzzle we are going to look for clue words.
  • Read the first story.  Identify the clue words and explain what the clue words reveal about the story.
  • Read the second story.  The student helps you identify the clue words and explains what they tell about the story.  For any clue words that the student doesn't identify, tell the clue words and work WITH them to develop an explanation.
Because word callers don't recognize reading as a meaning-making process, they need to be nudged in the right direction.

Three-step inference building is an intensive process that spans six to seven small-group lessons that result in students becoming active thinkers.

How it works:

  • Finding Clue Words (lessons 1, 2, & 3) - Students find clue words in sentences and discuss the meanings provided by the clue words.
  • Question Generating (lessons 4, 5, & 6) - Students become the teacher and ask questions using the clue words that will help their fellow students make inferences.
  • Making Predictions (lesson 7) - Use a story that has one sentence covered.  Have students use clues from the rest of the story to determine the meaning of the sentence covered.

Without explicit instruction in how to comprehend texts, we cannot expect word callers to become active readers.  We need to give these students a glimpse into the mind of a proficient reader by "actively engag[ing] students in a running conversation about texts' meanings and their own thoughts about those meaning while reading a text. (Cartwright, 2010, p. 113).  We can do these through a process called Transactional Strategies Instruction where strategies are blended into a meaning-making experience rather than taught and practiced in isolation.

How it works:
Gather a small group (this a conversational type strategy) and pick a common text to read.

  • Good Strategy Users - As you read the text, emphasize that good readers use strategies we can't see, highlight various strategies during the reading and explain the reasoning behind using that strategy
    • MEANING IS ALWAYS THE PRIMARY FOCUS not just using a particular strategy
  • Gradual Release of Responsibility - Provide a specific strategy for students to use.  Before asking them to use it, explain the reasoning behind using the strategy - How does it help a reader make meaning?
  • Collaborative Learning - This is a student-centered approach because the teacher releases responsibility to the students quickly.  Asking questions like "What makes you think that?" and having students explain their thinking to each other.
  • Interpretative Discussion - Teachers guide students' thinking by prompting them with strategy use questions instead of giving evaluative feedback.  Students contributions are valued and supported.

"TSI is about changing the way you teach, not just changing what you teach. (Cartwright, 2010, p. 114).

Questions to Consider (please use the comment section below to share your thoughts!) 

Consider the difference between text-connecting and gap-filling inferences.  Have you noticed that your students find one ore the other more difficult?  Why do you think this is the cause?

How is TSI similar to your current comprehension instruction?  How is it different?


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