Saturday, December 7, 2013

"Fun" With Note-Taking

Taking notes is a necessary evil in school, but recording facts and ideas doesn't have to be all THAT bad. I tell my students that it can be "fun"...and then I define it as "school fun," which isn't the same as "Disney World fun." Here's how we do our Cornell notes:

Left Side - Record central idea, essential question, etc. Our focus statement is called SWBAT (Students Will Be Able To...). The rest of the space can be used for the thoughts and questions students have as they take notes.

Middle - Bulleted notes from the teacher or information source

Bottom - Summarize main point at the end

Friday, September 6, 2013

Internal and External Conflict

Whole class lesson and group practice:
I drew a stick figure on the whiteboard and started with an explanation of internal conflict. I had the kids meet with a group for 2 minutes to write internal conflicts on Post It notes and put them on the board. I read them out loud and wrote the ones that were correct INSIDE the t-shirt I drew for my stick figure. We repeated the process for external conflict, and I wrote the conflicts OUTSIDE the stick figure with arrows pointing to him. Students took notes on copies of stick figures (with clothes so we could show internal conflict).
There was a boy stick figure, too, but I didn't get a picture.
Independent practice:
We just finished a story about a girl with a several internal and external conflicts. I had the kids draw a stick representation of her and then use the story to record conflicts.

Doodle Splash

I've found that students who say they don't like to read are also the ones who say they don't see the story like a movie in their heads. Good readers can see the events in their minds as they read. This is a great activity to help kids visualize what they're reading.

Doodle Splash:
We listened to a short story, All Summer in a Day, and created doodles IN ORDER to represent events. They were allowed to use a few words for labeling, but most of the story must be told with doodles. I told them that by the end of the activity, they should be able to retell the story to a friend using only the Doodle Splash page. Here are some samples.

Teaching Plot

1.  Whole class lesson:
After reviewing plot elements with a plot mountain diagram from our workbooks, we created a plot mountain for the Goldilocks and the Three Bears story. I retold the story and wrote the elements on the whiteboard with the kids' input.

2. Group practice:
Groups read a children's book out loud.

Then they drew a plot mountain and added events from the story in the correct places.

When they presented, I discussed any misconceptions and had them make corrections.

 3. Independent evaluation:
Students created a plot mountain in their STAR notebooks and recorded elements of a story we had read together from the textbook. After checking the first group, I decided I needed to read the story out loud again and stop to let students make a list of events first. Then they could decide where the climax was and put all of the elements on the mountain. That worked MUCH better!

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Word Pictures for the First Day

I've been meaning to share this activity since the beginning of school LAST year. Ugghh...I'm the slowest blogger ever. Lucky for me, the first day of school tends to roll around again, so I get another chance to post it!

My friend/fellow teacher/mentor/new neighbor, Ms. Jones, has her kids create this "word picture" of themselves on the first few days of school. Not only is it a great way for the kids to introduce themselves (and keep busy on those wild and crazy first days of school), but the pages also serve as bulletin board material...possibly for the rest of the year!

Time: 2-3 hours 
- Notebook paper (for brainstorming)
- White copy paper
- Thin markers
- Colored pencils

1. Have students brainstorm a list of as many words as they can think of that could tell something about themselves. The words can be nouns, adjectives, or long as they tell about the students interests, values, dreams, family, hobbies, talents, etc. (School appropriate words, of course!)

2. Once the kids have a LONG list of words, they are ready to make their pages. Hand out white copy paper and make sure they have access to markers and colored pencils. The markers are bolder, but the colored pencils allow them to be more artistic.

3. Explain the objective - "Today, class, you will create a page that tells me all about YOU." - or something like that. The student's first name on the page should be prominent. The rest of the page should be filled with words from the brainstorming list. Students should use only WORDS and/or WORD ART. There should be as little white space showing as possible once they've finished. Remind them that these will be displayed for everyone to see, so they need to take their time and be creative with the placement of words on the page.

4. Voila! Now you have a stack of student work to display! You can put them all up at once or hang a few at a time throughout the year...depends how many students and how much space you have.

Here are a couple of examples close-up:

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Books, Books, and more Books!

It's still summer...and I'm going to enjoy every fun, lazy, sunny minute of it...but I have to admit I'm getting excited about next fall. I LOVE books...I LOVE reading, writing, and talking about them. So I don't mind giving up a few days of my summer to attend a workshop...Literacy Lab with Ken Stamatis, a man who loves books even more than I do! I'll be posting Lit Lab ideas and activities throughout the year. Here is Ken's "So Many Books, So Little Time" list for 2012-13. Looks like some great summer reads. The Lost Crown, about the Romanov princesses, will be on my Nook before the day is over! I took these crooked pics with my phone. Click HERE for a nice, neat (straight) PDF of the list.


Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Misplaced and Dangling Modifiers

Here are some illustrations my 6th graders made to show the correct and incorrect placement of modifiers. I took the pictures with one of our new classroom iPads...very exciting...more on the iPads later...

I found a ball walking home.
A woman was walking a dog in a blue dress.
Removing each other's fleas, the zookeepers watched the monkeys.

I found a dollar walking home.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Punctuating Dialogue

Punctuating dialogue is hard...even for adults. Most sixth graders still string together quotes, one right after another, in a dialogue choo choo train.

This hands-on activity from Miss Nannini on Teachers Pay Teachers helped my students a TON when we studied quotation marks in our punctuation unit.

I copied and laminated six sets of the sentence strips on different colored set per group.
Then the students (2-3 per group) arrange the quotes, the dialogue tags, and the punctuation marks on the floor.
After awhile, they figured out they could leave the punctuation in place and just plug in different quotes and dialogue tags.
Once they created ten sentences, they copied the sentences into their S.T.A.R. notebooks. I've seen drastic improvement in the dialogue punctuation since we did this lesson. Definitely worth the time!