Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Can We Persuade You...?

Whew!! Today has been a cray-zay kinda day!  But I feel like my quarters got a lot accomplished!  Let's face is soooooo tempting, with 20 days of school just start packing up and call it a year.  And there are so many housekeeping things that need to be done to wrap up the year "administratively" that I can hardly breathe!  But, I've found out over the years, that if quarters think we are not learning new things anymore, they open up a can of Crazy and everyone takes a sip!!!

I have definitely tried to keep things interesting.  It doesn't always work.  We have made a lot of foldables and they have really enjoyed it.  But I have also had to do DRA testing (MOST of my class!!!).  It is so not fun...for me OR them!!

Today, we continued working on our persuasive essay.  We are completing one as a class first.  (Partly because I need to model and partly because, well, I need to keep them busy for the next few days.  So...yes...I'm dragging it out...)  Earlier this week, we decided to write a class persuasive essay about saving animal habitats.  We then brainstormed, using a circle map, of different animals and their habitats. 
After the brainstorm, we chose a habitat that had many of the animals that we named.  My PM class chose "oceans".  I saw an idea very similar to this on a blog or Pinterest or whatever!! Sorry I can't remember! But I adapted it to the skills that my quarters need to learn.  Anyhoo...the following day, we created a "flow chart" for expository/persuasive writing.  What I love about this is that it is EXACTLY what we used for main idea/details!!! (One of those "why didn't I do this sooner" moments!!)  My quarters immediately connected reading to writing!  I might have them create a table when they do their own essays...need to think it out...

With the above, we are just creating a planning/idea kind of page.  I'm sure it could have been done better, but it was an "on the fly" moment, so I just kinda went with it!  The main idea box is used as our introduction.  The detail boxes are used for our "whys" or "explanations".  Since we are doing this as a class, for now, quarters copied the charts into their writing journals.
They did really well, so I can only hope they carry this idea all the way when they write their own essays next week.  Tomorrow we will begin to compose our sloppy copy.

These last few weeks, I have decided to revert back to something I did with my quarters last year.  I ask them questions from the game/book Would You Rather? by Doug Fields.  (I actually found the card game at Target last year...the questions in the game are much more suited for 4th graders than those in the book.)  Here is an example:
I love these questions because they are thought-provoking and the quarters think they are gross, cool, fun, etc.  They HAVE to choose an option and write a paragraph about why they made the choice they did! ( many possibilities!) Then they share with the class, if they wish.

I didn't do this with my current class for most of this year because, quite frankly, I had to focus more on the stages of writing and on grammar than I did last year.  Last year was a "non-ESL" group, so language wasn't necessarily an issue.  My goal was to get my quarters in that group to enjoy writing and to write more.   But my current group is enjoying it so much, that I may have to work it in next year...somehow.  I equate it to journal writing when it comes to time spent.

I'm very excited for next year.  Today, "next year's" 3rd/4th grade LA teams (those currently at my school) met to come up with a common vocabulary plan.  We've focused, mainly, on stem question vocab and TEKS vocab.  It's obvious, to us at least, that many of our students don't hang on to that kind of vocabulary the way they should.  It really hit us this year with the new STAAR test.  So, if we collaborate across grade-levels, maybe we can improve the test taking vocabulary of our students so that they don't get caught up in misunderstanding the questions before they even have a chance to answer!!  (It wasn't suggested last year because no one really knew what to expect with the new test.)

Anyway, we hope it starts a cross-grade level discussion and that the thread that begins with 3rd and 4th can be carried from 3rd to 2nd, from 4th to 5th, etc. until our whole campus is involved.  We just have to be willing to work, listen, and plan with those that aren't part of our own teams.  Once we get a solid set of vocab in place, we should be able to take it to others.  It was a lot of fun talking with 3rd, and hearing the things that they are concerned about, what they teach, and how they teach it, in a relaxed and truly cooperative way.  I  had no idea how much they have to teach in order to get their 3rdies ready for their own test, much less ready for 4th grade!

Well, it's time to watch a little comedy on TV!

These quotes should go on a wall in our teacher's lounge...I'm just sayin'...

"Coming together is a beginning.  Keeping together is progress.  Working together is success."--Henry Ford

"Individually, we are one drop.  Together, we are an ocean."--Ryunosuke Satoro



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