Friday, December 14, 2012

Using Interactive Notebooks for Research Reports

 Our school has a BIG research paper project for 6th, 7th, and 8th graders every year. The 6th grade topic is wild animals. We usually use research folders with pockets folders for note cards and source cards, but I decided to try using the interactive notebooks to organize our information. Overall, it was a huge success but  I learned a few things the hard way that I won't repeat next year. Here's what DID work:

1. Gluing in the research requirements page and outline at the beginning of the Unit 5 Research section. The research requirements page lists all of the due dates and expectations, and parents sign it before we begin the project.
2. Gluing in 3-4 source cards. The kids had to use one encyclopedia, one nonfiction book, and one website from a list of approved websites.
3. Using Post-it notes as note cards. The 3x3 lined notes gave the kids room to write the topic, source number, one fact, and the page number. They could fit 6 notes on one page. We only used the fronts of the pages so they wouldn't get heavy and tear out of the notebook. I had the kids leave 3 pages for each topic (characteristics, behavior, and environment), but 2 would've been plenty.
4. Writing the rough draft after the notes pages. The final draft had to be typed and turned in separately, but everything else was kept in the notebook.

Outline and notes on plagiarism
Source cards. Each student had one encyclopedia, nonfiction book, and website source.
Note cards. The lined Post It notes worked great!
This kid chose more colors.
These note cards were very artistic. I love it when kids put their own spin on an assignment!

Friday, October 5, 2012

Word Wall

I finally have my word wall up and running. It's not as fancy as the ones I've looked at online, but it works. I have the words divided into categories by unit on the bulletin board. The kids have an alphabetical "portable word wall" in their S.T.A.R. notebooks with the same words. They put the page numbers beside each entry so they can find the notes or definition of that word in their notebooks - kind of like an index.

Words are from Marzano's Building Academic Vocabulary
Portable word wall in the back of the S.T.A.R. notebook (from Cheryl Sigmon's website)

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

More STAR Notebook Pages

The writing process foldable and quiz the kids took when we finished the unit

The foldable showing the definition and picture/example of the word
Title Page for Unit 2: Parts of Speech

"Noun Town" to show understanding of the different types of nouns

The Table of Contents (in front of the "Lessons" section)

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Teaching the Writing Process...With Interactive Notebooks

I found a fun Powerpoint presentation on a slide share website called The Writing Process: Five Important Steps. I tweaked it a little to create my own presentation, and we've spent the past several days practicing the writing process in my class. The activity began with a play dough animal that the kids created:
Then we took notes about prewriting on the teacher side of the notebook (right side). The student side response (left side) was to choose any of the prewriting techniques and record ideas for stories about the play dough animal. Students who didn't bring play dough simply drew an animal on the student side - like the girl did in the example below. She chose mapping for her prewriting response:

The second step is drafting. We took notes about that, always beginning with the S.W.B.A.T. (Students Will Be Able To) objective statement at the beginning of the notes. The students then chose one of their story ideas to develop. The result is below:

The third step is revising, which proved to be very difficult for sixth graders. We took revising notes on the same page as the drafting notes. Then I put the students in critique groups to write suggestions for improvement on post-it notes. Their suggestions were often about capitalization, punctuation or spelling mistakes - which are actually editing suggestion rather than revising. We stopped to share ideas for revising their stories to make them more interesting, but I think many of them still don't get it. We'll just have to spend extra time on that step in each of our writing projects this year...maybe it'll sink in eventually.

Editing and publishing notes in class tomorrow...

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Procedures, Procedures, Proceures

I only took one year off from teaching, but it was long enough to forget how tedious it is to teach and practice procedures at the beginning of school. I know everything will fall into place one of these days, and we'll be on a roll by...well...maybe by Christmas.

We set up our Interactive Notebooks this week...not a task for the faint of heart. I don't color my hair, but I'm pretty sure I'll have to pay to cover up the gray by the end of the year. Anyway, here's how I decided to go about it.

 This is our bookcase of S.T.A.R. Notebooks. I started with the printables and ideas from A Teacher's Treasure. I've had the training to use Interactive Notebooks in science and social studies, and I loved using them in those subjects. But I wasn't sure how to begin with a language arts IN. The Teacher's Treasure blog helped me a TON! I'm using her S.T.A.R. tittle because I love what it stands for - Students Taking Academic Responsibility. That is our goal, after all!
I used the title page printable as a cover. Next time, I'll change "Grade" to "Class Period." I only have one grade level, but six different class periods. This is my Master S.T.A.R. book that kids can use as a reference if they get behind.
I tweaked the rubric to fit my class. The first section is for bell ringer and exit slip activities. I call them Hooks and Sinkers. There is one Hook and Sinker page per day - Hook goes on the top half and Sinker on the bottom.

We just did the main Unit Lessons section yesterday, and I don't have pictures yet. I'll post them next week.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Seating Charts

Before I get to the seating chart saga, here is a picture of the Respect bulletin board that I made from the activity in the last post.

And here's a shot of my completed F.Y.I board at the front of the room. I made the agenda poster with printable weekday labels from Lesson Plan SOS. They were small, so I printed them at 150%. So cute!

Okay, now for the seating chart drama. I never can decide the best way to go about doing seating charts. I've used the old-fashioned paper and pencil, the high-tech automatic chart maker with the kids' pictures, and everything in between. I loved the program we had when I taught in another district, but there is nothing like that here. SO, after much trial and error last night, I finally found a couple of good programs.

The first one is Happy Class. It's very sleek and modern - like the Instagram of seating charts. It even lets you designate which students shouldn't sit together! You can create one class for free, which I did. It was easy to use, and I was JUST about to pay the $15/year to add my other five classes. But then I printed the chart and discovered that the printout doesn't have the cute little desk icons that are on the screen. It just prints the students' names. I can get that for free on...

Instant Classroom from Super Teacher Tools. Sure, they have annoying ads, and the design isn't as alluring as Happy Class...but it's free. I was able to copy and paste the kids' names from the Excel docs I created, so setting up the classes was super easy! Now I can rearrange all six classes to my heart's content AND put the kids into groups with the Group Maker tool. I'm happy.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Week One Activities

The first few days of school are always a little crazy...okay, a LOT crazy...but it's such an exciting time of year! I'm teaching sixth grade English at a middle school this year, which is something I haven't done in a few years. It's kind of like riding a bicycle...or falling off a bicycle. I can't decide which.

Much of my time this week has been devoted to gathering supplies, learning names, and assuring terrified sixth graders that the eight graders don't roam the halls looking for their next victims (usually). Somewhere in all of that, I have managed to get fit in a couple of activities that I want to remember for next year.

All About Me T-Shirts

 This activity is adapted from the TRIBES program. Center: Name with alliterative adjective. Left arm: A hobby, sport, or activity that interests you. Right arm: A person you respect and admire. (This girl represented her aunt with a drawing of an ant...pretty creative!) Left bottom: A place you'd like to visit - real or imagined. Right bottom: Your greatest wish or dream.

I have clothesline and clothespins to hang these in my classroom. I'll post a picture when I finish the project, but don't sit by your computer waiting for that post to appear anytime soon. I can be slow with classroom decoration projects!


I was SUPER tired after school today and didn't have the patience to get a good picture of this. The white board is divided into four sections (or WAS divided into sections before a bunch of little fingers erased the lines) that represent Who/What, When, Where, and Why we show respect at school. The kids got in groups of four and decided what specific examples they could put on their post-it notes. The notes say things like:

Respect for other students.
Not pushing in the hallway.

Respect for school property.
Being careful with the textbooks.

Respect at lunchtime.
Cleaning up our own mess.

Respect in the bathrooms.
Not writing on the walls.

Respect for teachers.
Because they're trying to teach us something.

I took the notes off the board and kept the best ones. I'll put them on a permanent RESPECT bulletin board next week. Picture to be posted when I finish...