Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Teacher Tips: The Importance of Poetry to Improve Reading

I love poetry and those who follow me know how much I love writing poetry, chants, and plays. It is so easy to incorporate into your classroom reading activities at any grade level and it is a great way to get 100% participation. Over the years of teaching, what I loved about using poetry is that whether your students are good readers, struggling readers, ESL students, and even non-readers everyone can participate.

This past year my grand daughter's pre-kindergarten teacher was doing a thematic unit on apples. I mentioned that I had some Apple Poems and I shared them with her. She loved them and more importantly so did her class. It was so fun to hear Ella recite my poem. I never thought about pre-kinders being able to enjoy them. Here's a sample of one of them.
There are many other benefits of using poetry and plays in your classroom. There are so many ways to use poems for teaching the 5 components of a balance literacy program. When students read aloud they develop expression, phrasing, and most of all fluency. Teachers should always model reading poems first so that students hear the rhythm and expression. Have you ever tried Echo reading? This a great way to get all your students to participate. First you read a line or stanza and then they read it. You can start by having students echo a line and then a stanza. You can Choral read poems by having the whole class read with you. Poems can be added to your literacy centers for repeated readings. Repeated reading help build fluency.

This was another of my Apple Poems. Think of all the possibilities of ELA activities you can teach with this poem. Look at all the questions and verbs in this poem. For many students verbs like peel, and core many be words they don't know. How about bringing in apples and show the students how to peel, core, and slice an apple. Of course they get to eat them too. After learning the poem, students can then add the actions to it. You can read more about these Apple Poems and download some freebies by clicking on the poem below.
Yesterday I was thinking about writing some alphabet poems and I wrote this Letter A Poem, "Ant and Alligator." This would be great for teaching the sounds of letter "a", rhyming words, the vocabulary word, "slipped", and even comprehension. 
There are some wonderful poetry books like the 2 below that I used all the time in my classroom. You can find out more about them by clicking on each picture below.
Last week I decided to bundle up all my poetry units. There are 9 Thematic Poetry Units all together. There are 3 for the Fall months, 3 for the Winter months, and 3 for the Spring months of the year. You can check out this bundle and read all about each poetry unit by clicking on the image below.
Here's a free Poetry Packet to start off your new school year. It's part of my September Poems, Chants, and Activities Unit called "Where's the Teacher?" There are 2 differentiated Punctuation activities for Grades 1 and 2-3. 
You can download your free packet by clicking on the image below.
Thanks for all you do to make a difference for your students. Hope you have a great start to the new school year. 

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Tuesday, July 21, 2015

The Importance of Graphic Organizers as Learning Tools

One of the best teaching and writing learning tools that I used with my struggling writers and ESL students were graphic organizers. This summer I have been tutoring 3 soon to be 5th grade Korean girls and have been working on Compare and Contrasting, Sequencing, and Main Idea and Details. When they started school this past January they were Non-English Speaking and have come such a long way. In the first picture below they are comparing and contrasting two stories.
Here is a sample of a story sequence.
In an article by Dr. Katherine McKnight she states, " Graphic organizers are teaching and learning tools; when they are integrated into classroom experiences, students are better able to understand new material. Creating a strong visual picture, graphic organizers support students by enabling them to literally see connections and relationships between facts, information, and terms."     

Click on the video to listen to Dr. McKnight. You can read more from Dr. McKnight by clicking HERE

For young or beginning writers I liked to use retelling the story with different types of graphic organizers such as the one below: Beginning-Middle -End. Students draw a picture and write a sentence about what happened at the Beginning, Middle and End, of the story.
For students learning to sequence a story I made the graphic organizer below. I put transition words at the left so that students will eventually be able to use this organizer to help them write a paragraph or narrative which is an ELA Common Core Writing Standard.

For young or beginning writers learning to write informative texts I designed this 4 Bubble Web. In the middle students will put the Main Idea and then draw and label 4 different details. For example, if they read a book about Community Helpers that would be the main idea and a policeman, fire fighter, school crossing guard, and teacher might be the 4 details from the book.
These are just 3 of the Writing graphic organizers I have put together in my revised Free Writing Graphic Organizers packet. There are 3 differentiated Sequence Graphic Organizers to meet the needs of all the students in your classroom. 
You can download this freebie by clicking on the picture below. I hope these will help your students improve their writing throughout the school year.
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Thanks for all you do to make a difference for your students. Hope you will find these useful. I would truly appreciate your feedback.

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What kinds of writing graphic organizers do you use in your classroom?

Friday, July 17, 2015

Back to School Free Resources, Books, Activities, and Freebies

Hard to believe that in 4 weeks my grand kids will start school. For some, you will be heading back after Labor Day. It's always nice to get a head start on some great resources no matter when you are heading back. I've put together some great free resources, books for the beginning of school, BTS Activities, and Freebies.

I can't imagine the beginning of school without Share Reading Books. Although many use David Shannon's, "David Goes to School" when talking about school behavior and rules there are many others. I found 2 great lists you can check out by clicking on the images below.
If you are a new teacher you may want to check out these tips by Scholastic. Just click on the image below.
I have also written one called "Creating a Classroom Vision" which may also be helpful to new teachers.

If you are looking for stores offering Teacher Discounts you can read all about them by clicking on the images below.

For those of you who are in states that use the Common Core Standards, I have found some wonderful Parent Guides To Student Success that would be perfect to hand out on Back to School Night. They have both Math and ELA Guides for Grades K-8. Just click on the Image below.
Scholastic has a wealth of free activities and printables for all your Back to School needs to help with Parent- Teacher Communication, Things you need to get started, Bulletin Board Ideas, Activities, and much more. Just click on the image below.

I have added a few new Back to School Packets to my TpT Store you may want to check out. Here is my 1st Bundle which includes my revised "The People and Places at School" Reading and Writing Activities and my "Back to School Literacy Activities." Save more than 20% on this bundle. Just click on the image below to download the preview files.
Here is my newest packet that I just uploaded today: 3 Emergent Readers and Activities. I have also revised my Preview files so you can see sample pages of 2 of the 3 Emergent Readers and Activities. Just click the image below.
I hope you find some great ideas and resources for your Back to School needs. I know that there are many more resources out there but these will definitely give you a head start. Thanks for all you do to make a different for your students. Hope you have a great start to the new school year.

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Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Creating a Caring Classroom with Class Meetings

One of the best ways to not only get to know your students at the beginning of the year but also create a caring community is to have class meetings. As part of the Student Intervention Team at my Title I school in Alaska, I was often amazed at how little some teachers really knew about a student that they had referred. Many of the students being referred were ESL students and often I knew more about these students than their classroom teacher. Usually these teachers also had behavior management issues as well. For me, there was nothing more important than getting to know my students and for my students to get to know each other, especially at the beginning of the school year.

Although I've seen class meetings used very effectively in elementary intermediate grades it is just as effective in the primary grades. For younger children it is a great way to either begin your week or end you week, but it always should be scheduled on the same day and time each week as students like to follow a routine. Your 15 to 20 minutes a week on a class meeting will go a long way in creating a warm and caring class climate for the whole school year.

Here are some good rules for class meetings:
  • Respect for everyone
  • Put ups- (no put-downs)
  • Be a good listener
  • Student's right to pass when it is their turn    
You may also want to use a special signal to keep the meeting under control. One idea is to use "talking chips." I used these colored transparent ones that you can find at Walmart or Amazon.

There are always students in your class who do all the talking and those that don't talk at all. It may take a few times to practice this technique but they catch on really quickly and really think it's fun. Give each student a talking chip. They can only use their chip one time during the meeting. After starting the meeting with a prompt for everyone to share, pick a student to begin. Once they have finished talking, they put their chip in the middle of the circle. Students are not allowed to talk if they don't have a Talking Chip. It is a fun way to teach and practice good listening skills. Here are a few ideas for prompts for the primary grades:

  • Say something nice about someone in our class.
  • One thing I like about our class is.......
  • My favorite activity was.......................
  • Something nice that happened to me was...............
  • Something I am good at is........................
Class meetings are also good for resolving problems that have occurred and teach about problem solving strategies. Many Title I schools had Guidance Counselors that do activities like this once a week but even if you do, I feel that it is such an important part of creating a sense of community in your classroom where students feel valued for their feelings and opinions. It is not only a way for you connect with your students but for your students to connect with each other.

I have some fun Back to School Activity Packets for both K-1 and 2-5 with lots of activities for the 1st weeks of school to help create a caring classroom. Just click on either grade level to see all the activities in each packet. (download the Preview file)
                                          (K-1)                            (2-5)

You can also download this Freebie that includes 2 Fun Chants about Being Respectful. This one is for grades 3-5. Hope you will leave feedback. Thank you.
I just uploaded this Free "Getting Along at School" Poem and Writing Activities Packet which you can download by clicking on the image below. Don't forget to leave feedback. Thank you.

Thanks for all you do to make a difference for your students. Although most of you won't be going back to school for several weeks I hope you have a great start to the new school year.

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Thanks for all you do to make a difference for your students.
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What do you do to create a sense of community in your classroom?