This week Beth and I are taking a break from our usual postings. I am taking off because of my upcoming two-week break; however, I will be posting an article review shortly on Scholastic's Primary Sources, which is funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Beth has a better excuse for taking a break with the new addition to her family; she will have a short post here next week about balancing family and school life.
I have tried my best to write new topics this year after posting weekly last year with Scholastic. In the hopes of giving new readers some "new" material from last year, I am including an easy-to-navigate page of links, each with an excerpt and photo, for old and new readers alike. It includes over 30 blog entries with monthly articles and/or unit plans, downloads, videos, and photos. Enjoy!
Angela's archived Scholastic posts — A copy is provided below.
Angela's home page — The site received a recent update after two laptop crashes.
Beth's home page — Great, as always.
Beth's link to archived work for Scholastic from her home page.
Creating a classroom theme can be both fun and motivating, but is it possible to find one that has a true meaning for your students as well as yourself? I wanted something that kept me motivated and focused, yet didn't require me to make over a space we already found inviting. One quiet student helped me find what I was looking for, and the idea has quite literally "grown" from there. Maybe it will grow on you, too.
School has started up in Murfreesboro, and I am most excited about teaching my new set of readers this year. One of my summer goals was to create a multiple intelligence approach to reading instruction, specifically reading strategies, and I am happy to share my findings with you.
Perhaps the hardest thing to hear at the beginning of the year is, "I don't know what to write about!" Every year I am faced with the challenge of creating lifelong readers and writers that can self-select books and writing topics on a daily basis. So when we created a class graph of our favorite subjects and writing received one vote (one vote!), I knew I had my work cut out for me. So where do I begin? Here are some easy methods to get your writers thinking independently.
It is estimated that students learn between 3,000 and 4,000 new words each year, with the typical student knowing some 25,000 words by the end of elementary school (Graves and Watts Taffe, 2002). It is obvious that five pre-selected vocabulary words from a basal textbook doesn't make the grade. Even if a new word is taught each day, in addition to five preselected vocabulary words for the week, that is still fewer than 400 words a year. So, how can we maximize vocabulary acquisition? Here are five ways to support your readers in becoming vocabulary virtuosos.
Would you believe me if I told you that it is easy to create a green screen video for little or no money at all? With some green or blue butcher paper, a free 30 day trial download of ULead Studio 11, and a video camera, you are five steps away from easily making a quality movie with your class.
Last year I opened up my home/backyard for a weekend cookout. It was the second time that I had a get-together at my house with a class, and both occasions were really fun. So fun, in fact, I decided to start the year off with a get-together at my house. This elaborate icebreaker of sorts was not only fun for students, but allowed parents to meet and greet each other in a relaxed setting. Learn how ours came to fruition and why I am making this a teaching tradition from now on. While the weather is still warm, you might consider a get-together with your class as well.
If I had to choose which moments I am most effective in the classroom, I'd have to say that it is when I am on the floor conferring with individual students about their reading and writing. This also happens to be the area of teaching that I have refined the most: I'm always looking for new ways to make use of our conference time together. So much time has been dedicated to this, in fact, that I am declaring myself a reading/writing physician! This week I'd like to share with you how we now blend our reading and writing conferences to create a stronger impact.
Until recently I was jealous of the music resources available to lower grade teachers. It seemed like the market was limited to this age bracket, and it just seemed unfair. However, now the tables have turned! An abundance of resources can be found, purchased, and downloaded for the upper grade crowds. And, to top it off, the music really caters to the tastes of older kids. If you haven't found some of these resources yet, I'd like to share some of my finds with you. Integrating music into lesson plans has never been easier!
Whether you use a reading workshop approach or not, guided reading is a component of literacy that many K–5 teachers use in their classroom. I want our sessions to have a comfortable feeling, encouraging students to ask questions, try new strategies, and work together to become more strategic readers. Setting up this environment takes some work and planning, which is why our class didn't begin meeting until the fourth week of school. I'd like to share some of the fundamentals of getting guided reading off the ground at the beginning of the year.
Why teach latitude and longitude using paper and pencil when technology allows you to do so much more? With a simple GPS device, turn your budding archaeologists into treasure hunters during their recess time. The only requirement are an understanding of latitude and longitude on your students’ parts and one GPS device for your room.
My husband and I often find ourselves reading the same book (or shortly following each other). It is quite amusing to hear us debate the plot, meaning, or symbolism behind it all.
I plea, "But what does that mean? Is there really a tiger on the boat? I'm a little confused."
My husband knows more, but he shares what he wants with me. And so goes a conversation about the book. So often his schema creates a wildly different understanding than mine. And I like that. It makes me a stronger reader. So my goal is, how can I create this real-life reading approach for my students?
For many people growing up, reading focused on "proving" it after a book was finished. Sort of like an afterthought, the question "Did you get it?" was answered through comprehension questions, book reports, or dioramas.
We are now fortunate to have resources, literature, and methodology to support assessing what a child is comprehending while they are reading. Learn how we can now combine the old with the new by addressing before, during, and after reading strategies.
My school holds an annual character book parade on Halloween. The premise, kids dressing up like characters from a book, sounds great, but something smelled fishy to me last year. Noticing that this was still a Halloween parade with a strained tie to some book, I knew we could create a stronger tribute for bibliophiles. Thanks to Debra Frasier, author of Miss Alaineus: A Vocabulary Disaster, we found a solution that is fun, cheap, and involves everyone!
I am always looking for new ideas to teach and support reading strategies to my classroom. I usually have a pile of four professional books that I browse while making my lesson plans during the weekend. Sometimes I wish these resources were all combined into one book, as I use them all frequently. Here are some of the charts and bulletin boards I have used from Debbie Miller, Tanny McGregor, and Stephanie Harvey to teach inferring, questioning, metacognition, and nonfiction text features.
Pop Quiz! You have a substitute for the day. What do you expect for the report when you return?
a) They’re wonderful with a substitute and my students eagerly share their news of excellent behavior with me when I return. This action is then rewarded through some measure or behavior system (e.g., marble jar, stickers, points toward a PJ party).
b) My class is great for me, but they are horrible with a substitute. I dread the note on return and usually have to deduct points of some sort for their actions.
c) My class is rowdy with me and even rowdier with a substitute. I’d rather come in sick!
d) Things run as usual. The substitute leaves a note that the class was very helpful, and the room is clean. There are a few notes from your kids wishing you well (if you were sick), and the usual routines are completed (e.g., tomorrow’s date on the board, pencils sharpened, vacuuming, etc.). There are no “rewards” given to the students when you return, just a gracious and authentic “I can always count on you” during your morning meeting together.
Let’s see what your answer may reveal!
My class takes some time each week to reflect on their reading and growth as a reader. I have thoroughly enjoyed reading these letters each week. Recently, however, the writing quality has started to deteriorate for a few students. I knew it was time to stop, reflect, and model what meaningful reflections look like with my kids. And although I have written about the use of a reader's notebook in our classroom, I thought it might be helpful to share how I got our writing "back on track" with a little modeling and review time.
With fluency being one of the components of reading, it’s no wonder so many products are on the market now. However, it seems some fluency products have made it more complex than it needs to be.
By chance, my government unit blends right into the real-world political scene as we welcome our 44th President, Barack Obama, through the inauguration ceremony on January 20th. Can you think of a better time to stop and talk about the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, the Amendments, and the three branches of government? I can't, and I am happy these concepts fall under our fourth grade teaching standards. I'd like to share the lesson plans and direct resources I'm using to teach this unit.
One of the computer programs I adore is Print Artist Gold 22. It costs less than twenty dollars and is my resource for creating newsletters, posters, and signs. It also has a built in template to design magazine covers for each of your students. I am using these covers to help create portfolios for each student and would like to share how easy it is to do so with your class as well.
Many districts provide hands-on science kits to help teach science through a hands-on, inquiry based approach. While all the kits are a great resource, I particularly enjoy our electricity unit. From creating a filament to testing out conductors and inductors, we record our thoughts and observations through science notebooking. If you are not familiar with these kits, I'd like to share a sample of videos, pictures, and writings from our current electricity kit. I have also included a slide show of a student's science notebook for you to view.
I guess science has been on my mind lately. I believe it's called Science Olympiad, and I'm in charge of it. Anyway, I promise to return to my usual literacy state of mind with the next post, but before I do, let's take a moment to look at some incredible resources for teaching moon phases. From a great music resource that's become my new favorite, come instructions on making a Moon Phase Transporter, fun with Strep cookies, and (I'm not humble) an Oscar worthy performance in our latest class video. I've got your back on lesson plans.
So, this is not a post . . . it's a plea. Our class is currently completing a tour around the United States regions using various Web sites and Google Earth. We'd love to chat with you, should your class choose to be our regional representative via a video conference. Live outside of the Southeast? Have a Skype account? In grades 3–5? You pass the test. There is still a glitch with the comments that is being worked out. Email me if you are interested, and we'll set something up soon. firstname.lastname@example.org
I had a former student make his way to my classroom Friday afternoon. He quietly said, "Mrs. Bunyi, how are you? I am going to the Grand Canyon soon, and I was wondering if you had a book I could borrow before I go." I knew exactly where to go and sent him on his way within a matter of seconds. Honestly, it felt great to be able to place that book in his hands. It also felt wonderful to have a system that made it easy to find the requested book.
I hope I am not being too radical and out-of-the box saying this, but I think assessment just gets in the way of teaching sometimes. It just seems like we pull out that seed so much now, wondering why it hasn't grown, don't we? And with all the assessment options in the world, what is an "85%" reader, anyway? Actually, the whole grading system boggles me. Who made up the scale we use in the first place? (e.g., 8 point range for a "B" and 5 point range for a "D," 69 point range for an "F"). So many thoughts come to mind . . . how do you assess that written piece that deals with grandma's death when it is plagued with conventional errors? And that child that is reading on a first grade level in the fourth grade . . . but is making steady gains? How do we assess such an internal process as reading, anyhow? All these questions on a Saturday morning deserve some answers. I'd like to share what seems to work in my classroom.
I think we all know at least one Shiny Smoosher at our school. Do you know what I am talking about? Shiny Smooshers are most prevalent in the educational setting and found most often in female dominated professions. I fear you may be working with some of these individuals now. Take my short quiz to see if you are guilty of association, before I determine how you can deal with the situation.
Photo: University of Bunyi medical students dissect and study a pig heart.
I debated with myself this morning on what to write about. With about ten topics tempting me, I had to go with this one. Dissecting cow eyes, pig hearts, pig kidneys, and sheep brains just can't be ignored. So, put your medical scrubs on and see what happened at the University of Bunyi Medical School last week.
With the beautiful weather around here, I always look forward to days of open windows and doors and natural lighting. During writing and reading workshop, students are free to read/write in or out of the classroom (I station myself at the door to see both areas clearly). I was not surprised to see all of my boys head outdoors. The outdoors, along with other things, can become your venue for reading, writing, and loving boys.
I distinctly remember teaching myself conventions through personal literature as a child. I even remember having trouble grasping a grammar lesson taught during the day, only to have an author teach me, through their writing, later that evening. I still believe the best way to learn grammar conventions is through observation — or what we call author's craft. What better resources do we have than professional authors to learn from? Plus, research clearly does not support using teaching conventions in isolation. Here are a few things we do in the classroom to teach and apply conventions.
Photo: So the four hour drive shows in this photo. Oh, well. I am adding it to my collection.
So my husband calls and informs me to check my email. "O-kay," I hesitantly obey, knowing something is in the works. An email from Heinemann. "You have a gift from Brayan Bunyi." I open it up to discover that my husband has surprised me with a trip to see Lucy Calkins in Memphis. Without saying a word, my husband then says, "I'm the best husband in the world, huh?" He is. Really. I'd like to share the notes I took at her workshop and encourage you to become more familiar with this extremely talented powerhouse. Be warned, though. This one is long.
Photo: This really doesn't have anything to do with the post. Desperate times ask for random photos. I like photos.
As promised, I am back to give my report on Lucy Calkin's recommendations on teaching writers to live and write like essayists. So, jump on to the land of debates. Do we say down with the hamburger model and five sentence paragraphs, or follow the pattern of real-life essays that vaguely resembles the "school way"? Come with me as I meander through my thoughts on writing essays. As an added bonus, I have included the remaining portion of my notes taken during the conference.
A quick Internet check offers a plethora of activities and suggestions for making writing "sizzle," but I can't help but notice how this attempt at "correcting" writing has gone wrong. Call it what you'd like: putting said to bed; million dollar words; sizzle words; worn out words; snazzy synonyms; graveyard words. The list goes on. But the reality is this: replacing "She was sad" with "She was depressed" doesn't push our students to new levels of writing proficiency. It is only a band-aid to a larger goal at hand.
With the end of the year approaching, that dreaded checklist will be in your hands soon. My guess is that the largest job on that list is packing up the room. This usually includes directions to move all of your materials to one side of the room, cover up everything, and take things off the walls, to name a few tasks. I actually look forward to this because it is the perfect time to think about how you would like to set up and decorate your classroom for the following school year. Here are my six recommendations for classroom design and set-up.
During the 2008–2009 school year, I also wrote a few lesson and unit plans, along with some articles.
Here are those links.
April Unit Plan
The Human Body Project (Health unit plan involving organ dissection)
Lesson 1: Learning How the Body Works
Lesson 2: Researching the Human Body Systems
Lesson 3: Human Body Project Residency
November: Unit Plan
Lesson 1: Geometry: Let's Get Moving!
Lesson 2: Teaching Geometry Through Geography
Lesson 3: Geometry: Sport's Edition
September: Unit Plan
Lesson 1: Writing Food Reviews — Food for Thought
Lesson 3: Writing Book Reviews — Online and Beyond
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