Tag Archives: strategies

Anchor Activities for Free Time

5 Sep

I survived the first day of school unscathed! I still have three more of my classes tomorrow but it feels good to have the first day under my belt. I honestly can’t remember being more excited and enthusiastic about beginning the year. I guess it’s because for the first time, this isn’t the first year at a new school for me. This is my sixth year of teaching and every single year but this I’ve had to change schools or districts. It was the most underwhelming beginning of the year I’ve ever had- and it was fabulous.

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Calm before the storm

Our kids are receiving 1:1 I-pads TONIGHT and I’ve been busy googling and pinteresting away at all the amazing things I will be able to do. It’s a lot to think about and I know I will start small, but it sure is exciting.

I have really been trying to reflect and make this year great by thinking about mistakes I made last year and how I can change that. I know that the first days of school are really important in setting a precedent and communicating expectations to students. I feel like I have always struggled a bit with classroom management a bit. I constantly think about how I can change and get better at it. Over the last school year I really noticed that having a well run classroom isn’t about being super strict or enforcing consequences or following a stringent rule plan like I read about my first year of teaching in Harry Wong’s book. It’s more about the atmosphere you create in the classroom. I think because this is the smallest school I’ve ever worked at…it’s really easy to gauge the atmosphere and overall ‘aura’ of the class and if the students are actually even listening to you, engaged and on the same page. I think this year instead of focusing so much on giving detentions and following a strict rule plan I will focus on creating a classroom atmosphere where the students feel motivated to do well because a) they like and respect me and b) they really are engaged in what they are doing so they don’t have time to act out. I think the I-pads will be a great launching pad (no pun intended) for this.

Last school year I was really frustrated about the amount of free time kids were given and them wasting it. My kids have a lot of study halls and fluff classes and it’s difficult to motivate them to do anything when there is no grade attached to it. When they claim to be “done” with their homework they have free time and start to act out. I started getting annoyed with this so I created this Anchor Activities requirement in my classroom. A quick Google search for anchor activities will explain what they are- basically activities that students have to complete when they are “done” with the day’s work to prevent idle down time. They are also great for differentiation when you have some kids who finish first and are just sitting around. This will work well in my inclusion classes where I have a range of abilities. I made up 8-10 activities like making flash cards, spelling lists, creative writing prompts, class journals, free rice and Brain Pop. Each activity is worth a certain number of points and students have to get 50 points a marking period.

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Required is their AR (independent reading) quiz and they have to read at least one book per marking period.

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I’m explaining the program to students next class. I really want it to go well and help fill up time of students who finish activities early and are just sitting around wasting time. Maybe it will even encourage them to try harder and put more effort into things instead of just rushing to get it done.

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Whole Class journals students can write in and respond to others in

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I’m really looking forward to this year and trying to enjoy every minute of this exciting back to school time!!! I’ve really never felt this not busy to be actually excited and looking forward to the year! It’s a great feeling.

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….. 

New Vocabulary Word Group Strategy

30 Nov

Happy Friday! The lost awaited school post. Although I have been blogging about food and fitness for the past couple of weeks since I was on vacation, I did originally start this blog for teaching.

Vocabulary.

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Eeek. I’ve tried many a strategy. We all know that having students look up words in the dictionary is ineffective, but I remember being told to do it. Who uses a dictionary anymore??? If want to know a word, I Google it.

I find that my students don’t know many on level and even below level vocabulary words ( I had many students in 9th grade last year who were unaware of what ‘courage’ meant). But you can’t teach students EVERY word in the entire world that may or may not be on a standardized test.

I’ve always heard that the best way to learn new vocabulary was to read more. Duh. But how should you approach vocabulary in your classroom? I’ve tried things like:

The Frayer Model

(source)

Our American Dream Frayer Models on the articles we read:

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I’ve tried Marzano’s six steps:

 

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Also, teaching root words, suffices and prefixes seems to be popular with the common core today. I used the method two years ago while teaching 7th grade English. It was semi-effective. Just because I tried it once and it didn’t work that well doesn’t mean it definitely doesn’t work, but what I noticed is that even if the student knew the root, it didn’t necessarily mean he would be able to decipher a random word containing that root. Case in point:

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Even if the student knows that BIO means life, they still need to have extensive knowledge of the suffices to understand what the world means. And again, you can’t teach them EVERY prefix, suffix and root in the world.

I’ve even tried having students pick their own words from the books they are reading to look up, study and take quizzes on, and that didn’t seem very effective either.

I decided to try a new strategy this year that revolves around what I call word groups. Students don’ t need to know the full definition of a word (how often do you recite the entire dictionary definition of a word when you hear it?). They just need to understand the basic connotation of the word. I give students a list of words that all mean something similar to study. I have had this poster in my room for a couple of years and it seems to be successful. Students look at the poster when thinking of words to write instead of ‘sad’ or ‘mad’. So this is where the idea of teaching the word groups came from.

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The first word group I did was ‘sad/negative words’:

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I created a sequence of activities for students to complete for ‘bell ringers’ at the beginning of each class surrounding these words. The idea to work with the same set of words for five days came from a co worker of mine, who is doing the same thing but using root word groups instead. I modified her idea to use my ‘connotation word groups’. The sequence goes like this:

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Students aren’t necessarily working with ALL of the words each day, but my goal is for them to just sight recognize them on the quiz so they can tell the difference between that ‘sad’ word and another word that they may or may not know when answering multiple choice vocabulary questions.

I just finished my first round of this and the quiz grades were great! The strategy seems to be successful. We just started our second word group today.

Question: What strategies have you tried for vocabulary that have worked or failed?

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