‘Tis the season…to rip paper off of gifts! If that happens in your home, be sure to save as many scraps of paper as you can. Cut them into small pieces (about 4x4). Hand them out to students in the New Year and provide them with a writing prompt meant to elicit a brief response. After students have written their response, direct them to fold the paper up as if it was a gift, and exchange it with a peer.
Such a simple way to add some novelty, emphasize that sharing ideas is similar to gift giving, and reuse wrapping paper!
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
On a whirlwind tour of classrooms in Smyrna, Delaware this week, I saw a teacher use a simple strategy for engaging students. The teacher had 10 paper lunch bags, one for each small group to share. Inside the bags she had placed 26 cards, each with one letter of the alphabet. The lesson objective was to identify and discuss the impact of the narrative elements in a story. Students were listening to the teacher read, and reading along in their own books. Every so often, the teacher stopped, directed the students to pull a letter out of their “letter bag,” and then make a connection between the letter and a narrative element. For example, one group pulled an “O” and discussed how the setting of the story was “outdoors.” Another group pulled an “E” and wondered what the “exciting” climax would be.
This is the type of strategy I love for 3 reasons:
1. Highly engaging – it was multi-modality and had an element of unpredictability that students immediately loved
2. Highly applicable – the same strategy could be used to encourage connections to any content discussion, as an activator, or even as a summarizing moment, K-12!
3. Low prep – such a quick thing to put together
Yesterday I had the opportunity to work with students on building skills for writing a cause/effect essay. As a thought activator, I asked students to quickly line up some Legos I provided so that I could demonstrate the domino effect. Students worked in pairs to observe what occurred, talk about it and record the types of transition words they used to describe the cause/effect experience.
Next, I provided them with graphic organizer puzzle pieces. I modeled how one might plan for a cause/effect paper, including key transition words on the bridge shapes. Because we used puzzle pieces, instead of a static piece of paper, students were able to brainstorm first and then move pieces around to cluster their ideas. As a final step, they will put them into a sequence before they write their paper.
If you would like the graphic organizer puzzle shapes, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will happily send them to you!
Recently I had the opportunity to co-teach in a class where students were learning about reading diagrams. Working in teams, they were supposed to assemble a complicated Lego toy by following one of the diagrams that had been provided. (The teacher had distributed diagrams at 3 differing reading levels.) Watching them, I realized that one group was struggling because the students did not have a strategy for effectively scanning the diagram for key information. They had ignored one very important section of the page.
Afterwards, the teacher and I had an opportunity for professional dialogue about the lesson. We discussed the fact that reading tasks are not always linear, or logical, in their directionality. We realized that it isn’t always enough to provide materials at different ability levels. We also need to teach strategic skills. We then developed the solution shown in the photo below. Using plastic report covers, we divided the page into four quadrants and numbered them (similar to a graph.) Students can scan strategically, teachers can talk about items in each quadrant, and students can even annotate. We also realized that these clear report covers could be used to teach students about how to scan web pages (see photo.)
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This week my colleagues asked me to help students with their understanding of parts of speech. What an abstract concept this is! To kick off the lesson, I decided to use boxes of different sizes as a metaphor. I went to my local department store and begged several boxes of varying sizes that would fit within each other. On the top of each box I taped a piece of plastic that I had cut from a page protector. This allowed me to write on the box, and be able to reuse them for another part-whole concept.
- On the biggest box I wrote STORY
- On two boxes inside this I wrote PARAGRAPH
- On three boxes inside each of these I wrote SENTENCE
- Inside these I placed colored unifix cubes to represent words. Unifix cubes, usually used as a math manipulative, are wonderful for building sentences because you can color code the words by part of speech.
- Inside the Unifix cubes I placed tiny alphabet beads that spelled words.
All eyes were on the boxes as we slowly unpacked the concept! The students really grasped the idea that each 'thing' was a part of a bigger thing, and that each whole had smaller parts.
My boxes will be easy to wipe off and use again for another concept in the future.