M&M Introductions

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Great Icebreaker! Found on Pinterest! Quick & Easy

Happy July Everyone!

So… what does an educator that has been out of the classroom for a year JUMP at the opportunity to do…why, teach SUMMER SCHOOL, of course!  Yes, you heard me right.  I was given the opportunity to teach a summer enrichment program for upcoming 5th graders and I couldn’t say “yes” fast enough.  The gig is a dream!  I thought, not only can I get back into the classroom to do what I LOVE (teach!), but I also get to mentor 2 student teachers.  I thought I can put all of this professional development that I have had the luxury of receiving to the test!  I’m 4 weeks in, and do not regret the decision.

So first things first, I had to go back into my ‘bag of tricks’ to determine what intro activities I would plan for these students.  Now, mind you, it’s not all day.  The program runs from 8-12 and it’s the students’ summer-all very important things to take into consideration when planning.  The other factor when planning has been ‘what is essential for me to demonstrate to these teacher candidates’?  The entire program is only 5 weeks with the goal that by the end of our time together, they can be deemed ‘intern ready’ and begin applying for teaching jobs.  So I was definitely feeling the pressure of creating the perfect balance of fun (for the kids) and meaningful content (for the student teachers).

Because the program was in a completely different district and I no longer have access to what used to be endless supply of materials, I was also limited in that area.  This 5 weeks was definitely going to sharpen my own instructional planning skills and force me to stick to activities that get the job done in the most inexpensive way possible.  Pretty much every teacher’s goal anyway, right?

One activity that made the cut was one I found on Pinterest a couple of years ago.  It’s pinned on my “Beginning of the Year” board, if you need to reference it.  It’s pretty self explanatory.  I purchased my giant bag of M&Ms from Costco, projected the picture above on the doc cam, gave each group one hard copy for reference (for any students with vision issues or simply those that like it in-hand), and distributed each group a cup of candies.

There you have it!  A quick and easy way to get the students talking and, of course, eating –after they shared.  We modeled what quality conversations look like and sound like prior to the start of the activity.  I find this method a better way to model collaborative, productive, and respectful conversations.  Rather than explain to the students how to talk with a long, drawn out syllabus, actually let them speak and then model, praise, and correct things that you see.

M&M success!

 

 

Penny Kittle Says It All

Not much needs to be said here, watch the video.  She says it all.
Not much needs to be said here, watch the video. She says it all.

This is a stand alone post, something that should be viewed and reflected upon at the beginning of the school year.  Thank you, Penny Kittle.

Take 5 minutes to sit and listen.

Thoughts?

 

Donalyn Miller: The Hero that Liberated Me

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A couple of years ago, I was validated and inspired by Ms. Donalyn Miller’s The Book Whisperer.  If you have not yet read this book, it is a must.  Immediately after turning the last page, I went straight to my computer and tried to format and create an effective and explicit way to begin a book challenge.  I cannot express enough how this program has not only liberating me, but also my students.  See you later points, benching students with a book in hand, read only at your level regardless of your interest, ugh.  I’m over all of it.  And Ms. Miller’s book allowed me to feel confident to do what I knew was right all along.

Click Here for formatted documents:  Book Whisperer: 40 Book Challenge

Weekly schedule for Reader's Notebook to hold st. accountable
Weekly schedule for Reader’s Notebook to hold st. accountable

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Let’s teach and treat our students as real life readers, so that there just might be a chance for them to unlock and cherish the joy of reading as we all do.

This post will be a number of pictures to better visualize how this might work in your class, tips and lessons learned over the years.

Doesn't have to be pretty. A blank composition book gets the job done. :) 40 Book Challenge
Doesn’t have to be pretty. A blank composition book gets the job done. 🙂
40 Book Challenge
On display for Open House! Students were so proud of all their hard work. Tchr beaming!
On display for Open House! Students were so proud of all their hard work. Tchr beaming!
We tallied up the total number of books read for each group then the entire class. Fantastic!
We tallied up the total number of books read for each group then the entire class. Fantastic!
Love to celebrate our reading accomplishments as a whole!
Love to celebrate our reading accomplishments as a whole!
At the end of the year, we tally all the books we read as a whole. It's an amazing feeling of accomplishment! Sts are so proud! We sort of make the
At the end of the year, we tally all the books we read as a whole. It’s an amazing feeling of accomplishment! Sts are so proud! We sort of make the “reveal” of the total number an event in our class. All our celebrated for their contribution.

Tips for the 40 Book Challenge:

  1.  Composition Books were assembled and explained in class during the first week of school.  (St. HW was to bring in photos, mag pics of things they loved or were interested in, already cut out in a plastic bag.  We modge podged the covers in class.)
  2. Read Alouds are a must!  Let the students experience the joy the picture book.  (Patricia Polacco, Chris Van Allsburg, Dr. Seuss are some of my favs.)
  3. I made sure to have 15 minutes of silent reading time everyday!  It was sacred-never missed.  (I still feel 15 wasn’t long enough.  Would have liked 20, but we had SSR during intervention block as well.)
  4. Get rid or your “extra” stuff.  You know, the “What can I do when I’m finished?” type work.  Just let them READ if they finish tasks early.
  5. Start reading children’s books now!  You need to be able to recommend and guide students to fit their interests and needs, and you can’t do that unless you have read a great number of your grade level’s books.  This was my favorite part of this endeavor.  I now choose to read young adult or children’s novels because they are sooooo amazingly crafted.  It’s been enlightening and kept me “in-touch” with my students.
  6. Make your first order with Scholastic Books the MAX, meaning over $250.  You’ll get the most points at the BOY and that’s how you build your classroom library. (I’ll post more on that later.)
  7. Allow students to abandon a book.  It’s up to the teacher, but my “rule” was that students could only abandon 2 books a trimester.  They had to write a letter explaining why they wanted to abandon this book, only after they had given it a solid try (i.e. read 50 pgs. or a couple of chapters).
  8. Any book you read aloud to the class whether it’s a picture book or novel counts towards their challenge.
  9. Share what you are currently reading energetically and often.  Let them recommend books to you and actually read them!
  10. Start a book club.  Mine was once a week before school.  (I’ll post details later or see earlier posts.)
  11. Make a book recommendation wall or system.  Because you are requiring reads of certain genres, this will help students select ‘good’ stories.  Seeing what their friends have read is great motivation.
St. samples of Reader's Ntbks in action!
St. samples of Reader’s Ntbks in action!
Rd. Ntbks used throughout the year. I loved the 40 Bk challenge!
Rd. Ntbks used throughout the year. I loved the 40 Bk challenge!
Check out how SHE marked, on HER own, that she needed to change her schedule for the week. This is exactly the goal I wanted for my sts.--to be able to assess if they're schedules worked for them a week at a time. Self-monitoring to become real LIFE Readers!!
Check out how SHE marked, on HER own, that she needed to change her schedule for the week. This is exactly the goal I wanted for my sts.–to be able to assess if they’re schedules worked for them a week at a time. Self-monitoring to become real LIFE Readers!!
I annotate the letters to show I read them and model how that is diff for everyone. I also write a short response to kids each week. Sometimes they are a couple of words or a question, sometimes it's a longer response.
I annotate the letters to show I read them and model how that is diff for everyone. I also write a short response to kids each week. Sometimes they are a couple of words or a question, sometimes it’s a longer response.
Another example of my tch annotations or notes to sts each week. I learned more about my st than I EVER had with this 40 book challenge
Another example of my tch annotations or notes to sts each week. I learned more about my st than I EVER had with this 40 book challenge
Some sts preferred to type their letter (or were asked to due to illegible handwriting). No problem here! Note the tchr-st exchange on the left side. IT was awesome! Sts. loved communicating to me through a letter each week.
Some sts preferred to type their letter (or were asked to due to illegible handwriting). No problem here! Note the tchr-st exchange on the left side. IT was awesome! Sts. loved communicating to me through a letter each week.
Another example of a typed letter then glued into their reader's notebook. Up to tch discretion.
Another example of a typed letter then glued into their reader’s notebook. Up to tch discretion.
An example of simple annotations made by the tchr. You don't have to write a novel to each st every week! That would be impossible. Especially with more than one period.
An example of simple annotations made by the tchr. You don’t have to write a novel to each st every week! That would be impossible. Especially with more than one period.
St. sample--simple notes by me again.
St. sample–simple notes by me again. “Not sure. Let’s explore that.” Short, sweet, and to the point. Sometimes I simply wrote “See me” if my question was too long to write.

Top 5 Teacher Qualities

So I made it!  I just completed my first week back to school (year round).  There are so many activities to post, but I’m short on time so I’ll have to settle for one.  Like many teachers, my first week back to school I plan many team building/partner activities.  I am trying to build a community of learners that feels comfortable not only share their opinions, but also to LISTEN and collaborate with others.

This particular activity went really well.  I call it “What makes a great teacher?”  I propose this question to all my students and distribute the following handout.

Qualities of Good Teacher

The students read over this list silently, while I read it aloud. The lines on the bottom on the handout are there to allow the students to add any other qualities they feel are missing from the list. Next, the students must circle what they believe to be the top 5 qualities a great teacher must have. They are warned to choose carefully because they will have to defend their reasoning for choosing one quality over another.

I then have the students work with one partner. Each person shares their list and their task is to create a new top 5 list on a post-it. It’s awesome to hear the discussions that take place, trying to convince one another to agree on “their” qualities. After this is complete, I then reveal the final, most difficult challenge. They must share with the team (6 students) and agree upon a top 5 list all together. A couple students were already looking nervous because they knew how difficult is was to decide previously and that was working with just ONE student! 🙂 *Tip: It’s helpful to have some sentence frames up guiding the students how to speak in a group i.e. I agree with _________ because _________. In my opinion, _________ is an important quality because of _________.

See the picture below for the discussions taking place.  Exciting!

Great Teacher Activity

After each team wrote their top 5 qualities on some chart paper, they attached all three post-its to the paper.  I like to see the actual work on the final product.  I think it’s neat to see the thinking that goes on along the way.

Check out the lists.  I had one student from each team share out with the class and then picked a couple teams randomly to explain their thoughts in choosing one of the qualities.   For example, many of the students had “does not assign much homework” so they had to defend that.  Also, the team that chose “young” and “good looking” (there’s always one group in the class, isn’t there?), had to defend and/or explain their reasoning.  Although it was funny, they realized they must be serious and if they choose something in this class, they will be required to defend it.

I’ll post pictures of my new classroom set up soon.  I love it!  Was able to put in a couch AND a little reading cave.  It’s already getting some love from the students.

Each team decided on their top 5 qualities and attached their post-its.
Each team decided on their top 5 qualities and attached their post-its.
Note the one chart that list young and good looking...got to have one in every class, I guess.  :)
Note the one chart that list young and good looking…got to have one in every class, I guess. 🙂