Saturday, August 28, 2010

Vocabulary Journal

The teaching of new vocabulary is SO important and can be overwhelming.  SO MANY WORDS, and SO LITTLE TIME!  No doubt you are using a variety of methods when it comes to introducing new vocabulary.  Have you tried a Word-of-the-Day?  I like to post a word each day that my 4th graders will learn and place in their vocabulary journal.  Of course the days of simply writing definitions are gone.  We all know that this is not the most effective way of learning and "owning" new vocabulary.  So in our vocabulary journals I try to give a variety of tasks that will give students more "experience" with each new word.  They write the word and definition and use it in a sentence.  They come up with synonyms and antonyms for the word.  Next, I have them construct a Verbal Visual Map on which they will, again, write the definition, as well as draw a picture to illustrate the meaning. Finally,  they create a quick visual of a personal experience they've had with the word.  Here's an idea of how it might look:

Another thing I like to do is encourage my students to USE their "new" words in their daily conversations.  I keep a poster on which I tally incidences of students using our daily words in everyday conversation.  Then a popcorn party or other reward is chosen after so many tally marks.

What are YOUR vocabulary teaching strategies?  Please share!

It's Saturday.  I'm taking a nap now.

Collaboration is a Gift

Resist the urge to be the "Lone Ranger" at school.  Planning alone, and working in isolation give you limited perspective.  I completely understand the desire to be left alone more than you know.  It takes some effort to get in and share and receive ideas.  In my early teaching years, back when there was not, at least in my experience,  much in the way of collaboration, I used to consider myself sort of a "free-lance" worker.  My thinking was that I used space in a school building and followed basic district regulations in order to practice my craft. I doubt that many think that way these days. There are so many rewards that come from brainstorming with other teachers.  It's rare that I attend a grade-level team meeting or teacher training without picking up SOMETHING that I want to try.  Is that your experience too?

If you haven't read the book, "Comprehension and Collaboration, Inquiry Circles in Action", by Stephanie Harvey and Harvey Daniels, I highly recommend it. In a chapter about the benefits of collaboration they state, "In well-structured groups, we leverage each other's thinking.  We learn more not just because we all bring different pieces of the puzzle, but because, through talk, we can actually make new and better meaning together.  You may have experienced this, or even sought it out.  When a problem arises, we have an instinct to gather a few trusted people and talk things through, hoping to find the best solution or course of action.  Similarly, in school, when kids think together, their understanding can deepen."

So, if you are not already the King or Queen of collaboration, will you try it? And encourage your students to try it as well?  Once this week?

I've got to go find someone to collaborate with online!  See ya later alligator...

Monday, August 23, 2010

Why Puppets?

My dad has always been good at building just about anything.  It occurred to me a couple years ago that I needed to have something built by my dad that would always bring him to mind, especially since he was
in his late 70's (now 80).  So I came up with a simple plan on paper for a puppet stage.  I've always loved
puppets and toys and knew that somehow, I'd figure out a way to make use of it in my classroom.  So one
summer on a visit with my dad in Tennessee,  we shopped at Home Depot for the makings of a puppet stage! And together we built it.  You'll see a picture below.

So now I'll fast-forward to the puppet part.  I had seen songs, raps and poems written to teach reading and other skills.  So I decided to write puppet scripts that would teach reading skills.  Last year was my first year to try to put these into practice.  I was at a heavily bilingual school, so I had a teacher friend who translated my English scripts into Spanish.  So we were able to perform the shows in both Spanish and English.  I held auditions and chose 3rd, 4th and 5th graders to work the puppets and to serve as host and hostesses.  The kids basically ran the show.  We invited the whole school and they came to our show (which was located in a classroom) one and two classes at a time.  There was music playing that related to our topic as they entered.  Our hostesses seated the classes and began the show.  There was a hostess flipping pages on a flip chart during the show so that "audience members" (students) could read along. Students left with bookmarks and magnets to remember the lesson by.

The skills that I have scripts for so far are:  Text Structure, Main Idea, QAR, and "What Does Real Reading Look Like?"  I plan to add several to this list in the coming year.  Classes could present these shows for themselves, or just sit and read the scripts together using puppets in a less formal way.  I will download the scripts on this site at some point and I will try to make the "Text Structure" show available soon by video link, as it was filmed.

Sorry for the abrupt ending.  Sort of.  It's Monday.  I've got LOTS to do! C ya...

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Why I'm here

After 18 years of teaching, there is so much "teacher information" rolling around in my head that frankly, I'm having trouble keeping it all straight!  I thought a blog would be a perfect place to PLACE IT.  This way all I have to do is click on my desk top and, VOILA, it will serve as my "external brain."  The one IN my head is dwindling at an alarming rate! I plan to share my favorite web sites and videos.  I will also be sharing classroom tips, thoughts on educational philosophies, and some things that are just simply FUNNY to me.  I hope other teachers will join in the conversation, make comments and share their ideas as well.  I will continue this later, I'm going to be late for my, "day before school starts pedicure!"


Saturday, August 21, 2010

Well let's try a first post!