Sunday, February 17, 2013

A Lazy Sunday Review...

What a beautiful southeast Texas Sunday!  It makes me excited for spring...and Spring Break!!

I wanted to share with you an activity I did with my 5th grade Alternative Learning Time group.  ALT groups, in our district, are used as reteach moments for students who are struggling or enrichment for students who are on the right track.

My lesson for my ALT group students involved reviewing and reteaching how to "infer".  This is just such a difficult concept for students to grasp!  It's also one of the things that we ALL do EVERY DAY...several times a day!!  But when it is put in the context of education, children just don't "get it"!!!

With this group, I'm having to revisit the concrete before we can move on to the abstract, i.e. STAAR test question stems and practice materials.

Of course, I started with an anchor chart...because, well, I love them and it's so totally the way I teach.
Sorry for the "sideways" pic!  I now work out of a small office instead of a regular classroom.  Once I add a table and students, there is no room to maneuver and take a full-frontal anchor chart pic!!  Essentially, we talked about what infer means:  what we already know PLUS what we learn.  In fifth grade, students must infer through generalizing, predicting, and drawing conclusions.  That was our concrete focus.  Oddly enough, my group came up with an acronym for the chart:  Gus Plays Dodgeball! They know I love my funky ways of teaching!!

After much discussion and examples, I had an "on the fly" moment!  Why not have students create a quick foldable with this big stack of extra paper strips I have???  "Why yes", I said to myself, "I think I will!!!"  So, I grabbed an handful of paper strips, and some paper clips, and "Mobiliarbus" (Harry Potter, people!), here is what we created:

The closed strips list how we infer (know+learn), and each type of inference (generalize, predict, draw conclusions).  When students opened each strip, they wrote the definition of the term:

 generalize=we talk about the group
 predict=an educated guess; what we think is going to happen
draw conclusions=come up with a new thought

The whole paper clip thing came up because I couldn't find my ball of twine, or any yarn, and I only have 45 minutes to work with these kiddos.  I did, however, have a massive bag of old paper clips from the last 13 years!!!!!!!  Some of them even had rubber bands melted to them! The kids had so many comments about "paper clip boogers" that I couldn't help but crack up!!

"Do not be too timid and squeamish about your actions.  All life is an experiment."--Ralph Waldo Emerson

My classroom life is nothing but one!!!!  Happy Sunday!


Saturday, February 9, 2013

About Time!

Well, well, well...I imagine most of you thought that I had fallen off of our great, round planet!  It has been so long since I posted that I, myself, wondered if I could still do it!

So much has happened in the last three months...where to begin???  My personal and professional lives have been crazy busy! 

Personally, I have had to watch my daughter graduate from college (with a degree in Elementary Education...yay!) and move off to Ft. Bragg, NC to be with her husband for the first time in their 2 years of marriage.  My son has moved back home to attend college nearby...the nest is adjusting to his return.  I adopted a puppy from the shelter, only to have it die from distemper one month later, on the day before Christmas Eve.  I then decided to foster-to-adopt another puppy from the same shelter.  That puppy ALSO has distemper, but she is flourishing, happy, and healthy.  Of course, she requires lots of meds and nebulizer treatments.  But, hey, she's ok! 

Then, I got a wild hair to go back for my Masters in Teacher Leadership.  Yes...really.  I love learning and I am adjusting to re-entering school as a learner...but I didn't need anything "new" to do.  Right now my course is over Understanding and Analyzing Data. Wow.  But I love that stuff! Haha!

Professionally, I spent my first semester in my new position getting to know the new campus, my colleagues, and the routine.  I had the opportunity to model lessons for teachers. I was lucky enough to create an academic vocabulary plan for our campus!!!  I absolutely loved doing that!  I used our TEKS, Bloom's taxonomy, and question stems to come up with words for 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade.  Our awesome teachers came up with definitions and quizzes on those words for their respective grade levels and off it went!  Since my model was based on something junior high students in our district use, I can't share with others.  But academic vocabulary is important...see what you can do for your campus!

Now, however, I get the chance to work with students again!  I provide a small group setting for selected students.  I am having the time of my life doing that!  I feel like I'm back to what I do best...teaching!  The best part is that I get to work with third, fourth, and fifth graders, instead of just fourth.  I love it!  I get the chance to introduce a skill (3rd graders), build a skill (4th graders), and perfect a skill (5th graders).  Wow!  As educators, seeing a skill from beginning to end, across grade levels, rarely happens.

I am also having to write lesson plans for our Saturday Academy.  Teachers conduct tutoring on selected Saturdays for "bubble" kids.  While they get paid for their time, they still have to volunteer to give up their day off for the good of our kiddos.  It is definitely weird to have to write plans for educated people who know what they are doing.  But I've been encouraged to write "out-of-the-box" plans.  Now THAT is something I can do!!! I loved creating a game, called "SPUNO!", out of parts-of-speech.  It's a combination of the parts-of-speech and the popular game, UNO!  I look forward to hearing about it on Monday.  If plans worked...woohoo!  If not, least I have a starting point.  It can only get better.

One of the things that I seem to address in all three grade levels is context clues.  Students seem to have major difficulty when it comes to finding the meaning of new words and words with multiple meanings.  While teaching one particular group, I realized that they didn't know what "context clues" meant.  So I created an anchor chart for that! (Of course!)  I will post a picture soon, but suffice it to say, we made the connection between context clues and "in text hints".  We connected to the tot show "Blues Clues".  Even with 5th graders, I hit a three-pointer! Can you say "swish"??

I promise to get some anchor chart pics up ASAP.  Thank you for sticking with me, or joining me, even though I was missing in action!

“My blog is a collection of answers people don’t want to hear to questions they didn’t ask.”
Sebastyne Young

 Why, yes...I think that's what mine is!