Tag Archives: reading

Tips for holding literature circles in the classroom

23 Jan

Today we kicked off literature circles in my classroom. Students are divided based on (sort-of) ability level into groups. The three books we are reading revolve around individuality, conformity and fitting in.

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The Skin I’m In by Sharon Flake, Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli, Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

Well, Fahrenheit 451 is a stretch…..it’s about a future society where no one is allowed free or individual thought, TV takes over the world and firemen burn books instead of put out fires. I wanted something challenging for some of my more advanced students…and it sort of fit the bill with ‘going against the grain’ and ‘individuality’ since the main character tries to break free of this oppressive society. Think Hunger Games. Anyways, here are a few things I’m using to help the literature circles run smoothly. Nothing groundbreaking in my opinion but class went well today!

Students assigning roles

This obviously isn’t a new idea. Each person picks a particular role including connector, discussion director, literary luminary and travel tracer. The roles will switch periodically. My co-teacher made this cool chart so students can keep track of which job is theirs.

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Students establish rules

Today, I had each group make two columns in their notebook- one for behaviors that might make the circles run smoothly, and one for anticipated problems. The students came up with this list.

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Ew my white board is gross

Then, I had them make a list of 5 rules the group had to adhere to. Most came up with rules like being prepared, staying on task and participating in conversation. Some students wanted to make up funny consequences for not doing the reading- like singing a song to the class or wearing a funny hat. They are harsher than I am!

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Distribute a reading calendar or schedule

I gave them a calendar with

1) The activities for that day’s class.

2)The homework due that day.

3) The homework due for NEXT class.

 

I hope that things go smoothly, I am quite nervous about having three different books going on at one time and keeping up with everything. Hopefully students will take responsibility and get the work done so I can just sit back and watch them learn!

Vocabulary Groups: Update!

16 Jan

Awhile ago I posted about the vocabulary word groups that I was doing in my classroom. That was when I first started the strategy. Now we’re about four ‘word groups’ in and I thought I’d give an update. I think so far this strategy is more successful than any other vocabulary strategy I’ve used.

I’m not going to say every single kid knows every single word inside out and upside down, but I am actually seeing them retain some of the words through repetition. Right now, we are doing the ‘important’ words.

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I haven’t left the other word groups (sad, happy and different) behind because the kids really need the repetition of the words in order to retain them. I have thrown the other words on quizzes, done review activities, and recently, the kids made Frayer diagrams using one word of choice.

I made word walls with them and posted the three word groups all over the classroom.

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Words that mean different

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Words that mean sad. Kids like to pick fun at me and my cat, Frank. I didn’t think this particular drawing was very nice.

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I would be very somber if Frank died! How rude!!

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Happy/Good words

Hopefully these word walls will help further reinforce the words as they will be looking at them every day. Just don’t know what I’m going to do when I run out of wall space for all of our word groups….. 

How to deal: when your lesson doesn’t go as planned

4 Dec

MP910220894Yes, it’s been one of those days. Only Tuesday. Eek. Everyone has them- days when the students just aren’t getting what you intended and you become frustrated. This happened today. The students are struggling with the material, and quite honestly I am a planner. I have everything planned out perfectly until after Christmas break and already set and copied. But the problem is everything doesn’t go as planned. Even veteran teachers run into problems and I am no veteran. I had to calmly talk myself down today and reminding myself of these things helped quite a bit:

1) It’s okay to stray from the plan. It’s easy to get caught up in “I have to get this done” and “I need to get through this material” and “This doesn’t go along with the plan”, but when it comes to following a plan, if I have to change something and put what I initially had planned on hold, IT’S FINE! My main goal is for the students to learn, not for me to “get through material”.

2) If you don’t cover the material now, it will cause problems down the road. I’m not a math teacher, but I could only imagine if I ignored the fact students were having problems doing addition, and just pushed ahead because I had to ‘get through things’, there would be an even bigger problem when I tried to teach them how to multiple. Skills build on one another, so slowing down now will be worth it in the end.

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3) The main goal is student learning. Yeah, I might have to push my unit back a week. Yeah, we might have to spent more time writing thesis statements. Who cares? The main thing to remember is that the goal is student learning. If I have to push things like paperwork, planning and extra curricular activities aside, so be it.

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It’s going to be okay!

Whew! I feel better already. After the day I’ve had, I decided to revamp a couple of lessons that I plan on doing in the next few days and slow down the instruction to insure that students are really getting it before moving on. I hope this will help me avoid problems in the future.

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