Pass the Plate is a quick, engaging way to have students generate lots of ideas about a topic.
1.Put students into groups of 3 or 4 and provide each group with a plastic picnic plate and a transparency marker. (Paper plates work, too.)
2. Tell students that they will be given a word to write in the middle of the plate, and then they will pass the plate around their group, adding ideas, for 2 minutes. They will be given points for every idea on the plate, (I usually give 1000) and bonus points for any idea they have that no other group wrote down (5000.)
3. Rules for Pass the Plate - spelling doesnot count, they may not use resources (other than each other), and they may not skip a turn.
This photo is of a group of teachers playing Pass the Plate at one of my workshops. I provided the word "big" and they had to generate synonyms for the word. Teachers, like students, enjoyed the friendly competition and were very engaged with the activity.
When you are finished sharing ideas, simply hold the plate under the water faucet and it will rinse right off!
On a recent drive on a suburban street in upstate NY this sign caught my attention. I was very confused - should I be looking out for ducks crossing the road? turtles crossing the road? or is this what a turtle looks like?It struck me that students who are learning our language may spend much of their school day confused about what we are telling them. For example, a few weeks ago I heard an Algebra teacher repeatedly saying "it's a piece of cake" as he walked students through their math equations. And I am guilty of often saying things like "aim higher" or "it's time to ratchet it down a notch."
My goal this week is to be explicit in my directions and verbal interactions with students. I hope to:
- add visuals on the board to support my written directions
- catch myself using idioms and teach the meaning of these
- ask co-teachers to help me be explicit
- tell students my goal so that they can point out when my directions are unclear
The Common Core State Standards in math expect students to be able to explain their thinking and discuss mathematical concepts. This is quite a challenge for most students, but especially for those who struggle with language as English Learners or students with disabilities.
Discussion Poker Chips are something I have used successfully for literature circle discussions. Last week we tried them out in an inclusive, co-taught Algebra 1 class for the first time.
Students were placed in groups of 4 and provided with a Math Discussion Board. This is available for download here. (Modify to fit the level of your students.)
Each student was given 3 poker chips of a single color (1 student had green, 1 student had red, 1 student had blue and 1 student had white.)
My co-teacher and I modeled how to use the chips to have a conversation while working together through a set of problems.
We explained that the goal was to use the vocabulary represented on the board. If a student used the word, he could place his chip on that space. Students were encouraged to cover as many of the spaces as they could – just a hint of competition!
While it took a little while for the conversation to get started, we began to see students who never talk participating in the discussion! I credit three aspects of the activity – the symbols on the board serve as cues for students who can’t think of what to say, the poker chips add a tactile component that heightens alertness and the friendly competition between groups provided some motivation.
Last week I had the opportunity to participate in a vocabulary webinar by Maria Elena Arguelles. She proposed a simple scaffolding for introducing new vocabulary to students and I decided to use it this week, while adding a few of my own engagement strategies. (The photo above, taken by Paul Baron, is of flexible bamboo scaffolding - reminding me that flexibility is key in a mixed-ability classroom!)
The word for the day, taken from Sprenger's list of critical common core verbs, was "organize." (See post from 8/29 for more info.) Here are the steps we took:Activator:
I searched through my prop bag looking for something and finally just dumped the contents out so students could see how unorganized it was. This grabbed their attention and helped them make connections.
I liked this structure - it was simple, straightforward and provided the support needed by many of our students. Of course, because vocabulary acquisition is an ongoing process, we will be implementing a variety of other vocabulary activities during the semester to reinforce this instruction.
- I introduced the word, the definition, and some synonyms.
- I used the word correctly in a few sentences, having students respond with thumbs up/down.
- I interspersed sentences that used the word incorrectly, having students respond with thumbs up/down.
- I provided a sentence stem for students to complete with a partner - "I will organize ______________ so that ____________________________. We shared these as a whole group.
- I had students individually complete the sentence stem.
- On the following day, students worked individually with Educreations on the iPad to write a sentence, illustrate and record themselves. My co-teacher and I used their recordings as a formative assessment.
Yesterday, I had the pleasure of meeting Heather Newman, a high school Spanish teacher in Delaware. Heather participated in a workshop I facilitated on co-teaching and differentiated instruction. One of our conversations concerned the need to add tactile and kinesthetic instruction to our lessons, no matter how old our students are. Heather showed this photo to me and explained how she had her Spanish 1 students match vocabulary to pictures using yarn. What a creative idea! She reported that her students loved it, commenting that it was so much better than another worksheet. Thanks for sharing, Heather!
Memory researchers tell us that in order for learners to move information from short term to long term memory, they must recode the information into their own words.
Today, after teaching new math terms, we asked students to develop definitions in their own words. Students then worked together in small groups to share definitions and choose one that they felt was the best.
I then introduced students to an iPad app called MailVU or video mail (FREE). This app is a very simple, intuitive way to take a brief video and email it to someone. We used the app to video students reading the chosen definitions, and then emailed them to the school principal. Students loved chanting,"You just got sent to the principal's office!"
This app has some great features - the sender can choose to be notified when the email has been read, and can choose to have the video self-destruct after a chosen number of viewings. Students especially liked the self-destruct feature.
Here are some other great ideas for using this app in your classroom:
- When a student forgets something again (a signed permission slip, homework, etc.) he could use MailVU to send an video email reminder to his parent.
- If a student accomplishes something special in class, send a video mail to celebrate the accomplishment.
- Capture the student demonstrating an intermittent, inappropriate behavior and email it to the behavior specialist.
T-Charts are a common graphic organizer to assist students in thinking about the differences between two things that are related in some way. At times they are used to show examples and non-examples of one thing. Visually, they typically look like an capital or lowercase t.
For students who struggle with language, whether because they are learning English or a student with a disability, T-charts can be enhanced by using pictures in addition to the traditional words. Here is a photo of a student-generated T-chart to show the differences between narrative writing and expository essay writing. Students worked with a partner. Each pair was given a paper with either a word or a picture. Pairs came up and placed the paper in the correct column and justified their decision.
Research is clear that non-linguistic representations are very powerful. The next time you are using a graphic organizer, whether on chart paper or the computer, consider adding simple drawings, printed pictures, or photos.
Last week I had the wonderful opportunity to meet a dynamic co-teaching pair, Nicole Martin and Jenny Tuttle, at Franklin Middle School in Franklin, NH
. They had previously attended a workshop I gave in which I shared an idea for using plastic picnic plates with transparency markers. They decided to tweak and twist my idea and came up with Instructional Twister
As you can see from the photo they took four different colors of plates and laid them out on the floor, Twister style. Using transparency (water-based) markers, they wrote vocabulary from their recycling/ecology unit. The teacher would call out a definition and the student had to find the correct plate to place a hand or foot. If needed, the teacher would provide a hint by sharing the color.
Jenny and Nicole said their middle school science students loved it! I love it because it is multi-sensory, has a game-like feel for students, and requires very little work on the part of teachers! Thanks for sharing your idea!
Do you have an idea you would be willing to share with teachers around the country? If so, please email me and add a photo if you have one. The more we collaborate, the better our instruction can become!
With the school year coming to a close, this is a great time for students to share their knowledge with next year’s incoming class. One strategy for accomplishing this is “Pay it Forward Post-Its.”
Here’s how we used it this week. I was working with students on
CCS RI.4.5. Describe the overall structure (e.g., chronology, comparison, cause/effect, problem/solution) of events, ideas, concepts, or information in a text or part of a text.
After students had a solid understanding of the different types of informational text, they were each given several sticky notes. At the top of each they were directed to write “Example of _______,” filling in the text type name. Underneath, they drew a visual representation that might aid their comprehension or note taking. For example, underneath “Example of Compare/Contrast” might be a Venn Diagram.
Students were then given time to wander the classroom, looking for informational texts. As they browsed a text, they looked for a page on which they could stick their note, showing a good example of that text type. These sticky notes will be left in the books until next year, when new students will come across them as they explore books. This will expose the new students to the concepts and vocabulary in real contexts.
Pay it Forward Post-Its can be used in a variety of content areas. For example, students in a math class could place sticky notes in their math texts that identify certain types of problem solving (i.e. decomposition.) Students in social studies could place sticky notes that identify specific types of conflict (i.e. territorial.) Next year’s students will have a head start on understanding these concepts by occasionally coming across these notes, and this year's students have an opportunity to reinforce their current understanding before heading off on vacation. A win-win!
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Many teachers use the Frayer Model
(1969) as a vocabulary application activity. The Frayer Model typically involves asking students to fold or divide their paper into four sections. In one quadrant the students write the word and definition, in another they write facts/characteristics, in another quadrant examples, and finally non-examples.
To mix things up a bit, last week I asked a co-teacher to replace her use of the Frayer Model in algebra with a Word Toss activity. We placed students into pairs and provided each pair with a die and a Word Toss worksheet. (See below. I'd be happy to email the worksheet to you!) Students were directed to role the dice and perform the task associated with the number on the face of their die.
The change in routine increased alertness by adding some novelty and tactile interaction to the lesson. Afterward, my co-teacher and I brainstormed alternative tasks that could go on the Word Toss worksheet:
- Act it out
- Develop a metaphor
- Develop an analogy
- Create a multiple choice question
- Perform word surgery (dissect into root, prefix, suffix)
- Transform it (add prefix or suffix)
- Career Track it (think of a job for which you would need this word)
- Create a crossword clue