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Sunday, October 30, 2011

Some thoughts on Words their Way

So, I have now been using Words their Way in my classsroom for the last 10 weeks.  It works well with my Daily 5 approach.  Students spend time at school working with their words and with with me learning about their word patterns.

I have developed the plan that the words are current for 2 weeks.  Students complete activities for me and do activities on their own with the same set of words before I assess their ability to spell them.  (Spelling is still a grade, and it still matters to parents, so while I try to encourage the concept of word study, the kids still think of it as spelling.)

 I have four different word groups.  Two groups are at different points in the Within Word stage, one is in the Syllable Juncture stage, and the last group is in the Derivational Constancy stage.  Most of my direct instruction time is with the groups in the Within Words stage.  My time with the other groups is spent making sure that they know the meanings of the words.

Here is what I have found so far:  The students in the Within Word stage are not having great carryover into their every day spelling.  Even though we have student CVCe since the beginning of the year, they still do not put that rule to use on their own.  When prompted, they might know what to do, but they rarely do it independently.  The other two groups are growing in their knowledge of word structure and vocabulary.  They were already good spellers, and their daily writing shows this. 

I am working to put more into my Within Words groups to help them move along.  Do you have any ideas?  Are you seeing progress with your students?  Certainly, I don't believe that these students are being harmed by WtW, but it is also not having the effect that I had hoped for either.  What do you think?  Do you have something that you are finding to be more effective?  I would love to hear your ideas!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Happy Halloween! A Freebie!

As we prepare for a week when our students are all hyped up for the thrill, mystery, and candy of Halloween, I am sharing a freebie.

It is a story board, and I am sharing the SMARTBoard version as well as the handout for the students.  You won't need a SMARTBoard to do it.  Here's how it works:

Each student needs a die and a pencil.  I have taken different story elements and put them atop each column.  Under each story element, there are 6 options.  Students ROLL their story.  They roll the die to determine the setting, the conflict...(They love this part!)  As they roll an element, they circle it on their storyboard.  The SMARTBoard version is so that you can model how it works, or you can use it to write your own!

When they have completed the storyboard, they use the elements rolled to write their story.  I usually need to remind my third graders to add details (like naming the characters...)  It is a fun activity, and I hope your kids like it.  If they do, you can easily set others up more storyboards for other times of the year!

What Awesome Science Videos!

I want to meet Mr. Parr!  Have you seen his science videos on YouTube?  I was searching for something to "jazz up" my ecosystems/biomes unit, and I came across the one below.  And while this is a great one, he has many more!  It gets me excited to teach new units!  Check out the one below, and then get to YouTube and check out the rest.  How fun will this be for the kids (and me).

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

An oldie, but a goodie for Columbus Day

Although we had school off yesterday for Columbus Day, October 12th is the true date of Columbus Day.  If you are looking for something to do, you should consider using this book with your kids.

This book tells the story of Christopher Columbus's landing in San Salvador, but it tells it from the view of Taino child on the island.  The point of view is the key difference in this story from other books about Columbus.  The child is warned in a dream of the arrival of the Europeans, and although he pleads to the adult leaders on his island not to welcome them, his warnings fall on deaf ears.  The afterword tells of how the arrival of the Europeans led to the end of the Taino people and change in its culture.  It is a great book to get kids thinking differently about things that they have always before just accepted.  I hope you can get your hands on a copy of this book to share it with your class before the week is over!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Fun October Writing Assignment

Kids love Halloween.  At the school I am at now, we celebrate Halloween, but that has not been true of all of the schools where I have taught.  For this reason, over the years, I have tried to steer clear of  doing too many Halloween activities.  I do, however, do a couple of different things that go well with the season.  Tonight I am going to share with you a quick little writing assignment that my students will have.

While I do the Daily 5, I do have my students have certain tasks that must  be completed in the week. After they complete the weekly assignment, then they can use their writing workshop time on whatever writing they wish.  While some may not consider this to be true Writers' Workshop, it works well for me, and it gives those students of mine who have a very difficult time writing, some direction and accountability for their time.
This week, my students will be creating a WANTED poster of an imaginary creature of their choosing.  I have used WANTED posters over the years for a number of assignments, but this one is always one of my students' favorites!  It is a simple assignment, so my expectations for spelling, details and sentences are pretty high.

Click on the images to get the WANTED poster description and the WANTED poster template.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Steve Jobs and Thomas Edison...impromptu lesson

After the news of the loss of Steve Jobs on Wednesday night, I decided to do a short lesson on Thursday highlighting the importance he had on the way our world works.  I had read a quote from Steven Spielberg where he stated that Jobs was the Thomas Edison of our day.

So...the kids and I did a quick study on these two men by searching for information on them on the Internet.  Then, we created a venn diagram comparing these two great inventors and picked some quotes by them to discuss.

Finally, we talked about THINKING DIFFERENT.  The kids were given the task of creating something they thought could change the world no matter how crazy it seemed.  Some created inventions, and some dreamed of ways to rid our world of disease.  We recognized that no idea was crazy.  If thest men had believed that, they may not have had the impact they did.


I think it is good for us to step away from what is planned sometimes to be sure that we don't miss what matters. 

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Math Websites

I am getting closer to my 1-1 laptop trial in my classroom.  I can not tell you how excited I am for this opportunity!  I should have the computers by the end of the month.

I am preparing by continually seeking out new sites that I can use in the classroom.  I find them on other people's blogs, but I get most of my great places from people I follow on Twitter.

I have mentioned Sumdog before. (I. love. Sumdog.)  My students used it the other day on the mobile lab, and they were thrilled to be playing against each other.  Once the kids become more adept at things, I plan on assigning Sumdog minutes for homework sometimes.  The site graphs student progress, and it allows students to choose what game they want to play.  Above I was preparing to face off against MarlinL

Another great one I have found and used in the classroom is Thinking Blocks.  It is a great visual tool to support kids when doing story problems.  It goes along well with our Everyday Math series, too.

However, this Everyday Math site is totally aligned with our series (since it is part of Everyday Math).  This is another great resource to use when instructing.  you can set the background and use it as you wish.  The background set here is for addition facts.

I hope that you find a use for one or all of these sites with your kiddos!