Tuesday, November 28, 2017

30 Days/30 Posts Tip #2 - Story Time for Big Kids

TIP #2 - If you think story time is just for elementary, then think again! I've been using story time in my middle school classes for years, and it never gets old. If my lesson is feeling a little dry, and I'm even putting myself to sleep, I just call out "Story time!" Everyone breaks into a smile as they move from their seats to the floor. Sometimes they moan a bit about having to sit on the floor, but they secretly love it.

Excerpts from YA books are perfect for this. So are children's books, short stories, magazine articles, and anything else that goes along with what we're learning. I've found that students' attention spans can handle about 5-10 minutes of listening to me read. They can also handle a few minutes of discussion about the reading, but that's about it. Anything past that becomes a discipline challenge.

Today I chose two entries from Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl to go along with our study of WWII and the Holocaust. I projected a slide on the board behind me with pictures of Anne, the yellow star, and the secret annex in Amsterdam. The kids were hanging on every word, and we had longer, more in-depth discussions than usual because they really connected with this topic. I can guarantee they'll remember more from today's story time than from the notes we took yesterday.

Here's what works for me:

  • Introduce the idea as a throw back to the good ol' days in elementary school. I even jokingly refer to it as kindergarten story time and myself as the library story lady. Kids buy into this much better if they know they;re not actually being treated like little kids. It's just something different...and chance to get out of their seats and avoid "real work" for a few minutes. It's just for fun, and they know it (even though an AMAZING amount of learning takes place anyway).
  • Pull up a chair, any chair, and have the kids sit on the floor in front. Some try to stay in their seats...I cajole them into cooperating if there isn't a good reason why they need to sit in a chair.
  • Once everyone is seated, the regular classroom rules for attentive listening apply. I don't let them get away with lying down, braiding hair, whispering to neighbors, etc.
  • Keep the reading material as high-interest as possible. There are so many good books that have lessons to teach about the cultures and historical events we discuss in geography. I'm working on a list for a future post...but there are just SO MANY!
  • GeoMysteries are perfect for story time. They are short stories about a real person, place, or event, and they end with a question. The kids have to guess the answer. I usually have them play 20 questions, and they get pretty good at deductive reasoning.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

30 Days/30 Posts Tip #1 - READ ALL ABOUT IT!

I've been blogging for years, but my posts have always been few and far between. SO, in an effort to change that, I'm committing to 30 days of posting about one teaching tip. I'm not actually sure I have 30 whole entire tips to share but we're about to find out...

Tip #1 - Adding daily, high-interest reading to my social studies classroom is one of the best decisions I've ever made. I usually use ReadWorks passages, but sometimes I write my own just for fun. I choose short, interesting passages that are related to the region we're studying in geography, and I assign 5-10 minutes of silent reading time. Then the kids write 2-3 "smart facts", which we discuss after I've taken attendance and prepared for the beginning of class. So far, the kids really seem to enjoy it...probably because I absolutely love it and tend to be ridiculously enthusiastic about every smart fact they share. Here are some ideas for making this work in your classroom.

1. Choose passages on or below your students' average reading level. ReadWorks gives a level for each passage. Offering differentiated articles to students on higher and lower levels would be ideal if you have time to organize it all.

2. Students can read ReadWorks articles online if they have access to devices in class. You can set up free class accounts and assign individual passages or Article-a-Day sets for kids to read. You can also have them write entries in their own Book of Knowledge (provided on ReadWorks) instead of writing on paper.

3. A class set of articles and notebook paper answer sheets work just as well if you don't have enough devices for everyone. Some days I don't have Chromebooks in my class, and the kids are just as happy to read paper copies of the articles.

4. Look for articles about weird, amazing, or out-of-the-ordinary topics that probably won't be in a textbook. We read the Article-a-Day set about European composers, and it really caught my kids' interest. They wanted to look up YouTube clips of Beethoven, Chopin and Brahms to share every day. It's a good day when a middle school kid can't wait to tell you about the Wagner piece he heard on a movie last night at home!

5. Protect the silence of reading time and walk around the room occasionally to see what the kids are writing for smart facts. The students who are staring off into space, or chatting with a neighbor, will get the message and at least look down to read a few sentences.

What are your thoughts on getting kids to read in the social studies classroom? Please share in the comments section below!

Friday, October 27, 2017

Red Ribbon Week - You're the Key to the Future

I have amazingly creative hallmates who came up with the best idea for our Red Ribbon Week hall decorating contest. The paper door opens to reveal career options, and the keys reveal career goals the kids want to pursue...instead of wasting time on drugs, of course. Way to go Ms. Kapura and Ms. Hendren! And our kids did a great job with their keys, too!!

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Going Places

I may or may not have used this bulletin board theme last year (and maybe the year before). BUT, in my defense, I really love it! Even my Pinterest search didn't result in any ideas I liked better...at least not enough to spend more time cutting letters. So here it is...again!

And my bookshelf is full of books that will help me bring geography alive in my classroom! Don't get me started on the importance of using literature in the social studies classroom. That's a whole other set of blog posts for another day.

Then there's this little gem hanging over my desk. I tore out full-page maps from an old atlas, printed and glued giant, grey letters to spell EXPLORE, punched holes in the corners, and hung them on rick rack. VOILA! Super cheap, easy craft - my kind of classroom d├ęcor.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Find a Geographer - AWESOME "Getting to Know You" Activity

I don't know about you, but I can't believe August got here so quickly! And not just the beginning of August - the MIDDLE of AUGUST. School starts in four days, and I just opened my classroom door today to dust of the tables and dig out all the things I threw in a closet the last day of school. I told myself all year long that I would take the whole summer for myself and my family...and I DID!

So, summer was amazingly fantastic, but I have to admit I had a moment of minor panic when I got to school today and remembered all the things I needed to do to get ready. And there are also professional development meetings to consider. SO I'm officially in last minute hurrying mode, which is (I hope) when I do my best work.

Luckily, I've been creating items for my brand new Teachers Pay Teachers store:

So I do have a few things ready to go for the first week. One of my favorites - and the one I plan to use the first day - is a people hunt called Find a Geographer Who... 

It's FREE on my TpT store! Follow this link and download it for FREE today. I would be ever so grateful if you could also leave four stars and a vote. I'm a TpT newbie and need all the stars and votes I can get! Follow my store if you'd like to see my new products as I add them throughout the year.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Social Studies the Write Way

I started teaching 7th Grade World Geography two years ago, and I absolutely love it! After several years of ELA, teaching social studies has been a refreshing change. I haven't completely abandoned my roots, though. Social studies is best taught through books and stories, so I'm on a mission to effectively combine the two for the good of my students.

This summer I'm working on opening a Teachers Pay Teachers store called Social Studies the Write Way. There's a lot to learn about how to prepare my products and put them in the store...and I mean a LOT to learn! It's an empty store at the moment, but I think I'll be ready of offer my first few products tomorrow. It's been an adventure so far, and I can't wait to see where this leads in the future. Hopefully it'll lead to more consistent blogging...but we'll see how that goes once school starts again!

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Word Web

This is the first year I've felt like my class has really learned to use Greek and Latin roots and affixes...thanks to the Word Web idea that I stole from a colleague.

My students add a new entry in their Morphology Dictionaries (can be purchased on TPT from Ladybug Teacher Files) every day. Then we choose one or two words from the examples list to put on the web. My Word Web is a long dry-erase board with words written on construction paper and held up by homemade magnets (Dollar Tree adhesive photo magnet sheets covered with colorful card stock - cut into squares on a cutting board).

The kids got really excited about choosing words to add and drawing the connections with other words on the web, so I let them pretty much take over the operation. It wasn't until a class visitor took a picture of the web and put it on Twitter that I realized it had become more of a word jungle. I fixed the connections and added labels to some of them.

Each word is connected with a colored line according to the key in the corner of the board.

The best thing about this wall is the discussions the kids end up having about words. They see words in their self-selected books and come up to ask me if the word fits with the root we studied. One girl asked me the other day why we have this wall. Before I could answer, three of her friends jumped in and explained it perfectly. "If you know these word pieces," one friend said, "then you can figure out what big words mean and use them in your writing."