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Sunday, December 27, 2015

Helping Students LOVE Poetry

I love teaching poetry!  It's my favorite time of the year and one that all students experience success... even the boys who tend to have a less than positive attitude before the unit begins.

Poetry should be fun for students and it's our job as teachers to help students love the sound of written language.  We model our passion through our lessons, memories from our childhood, and our enthusiasm.  I remember my dad reciting Lewis Carroll's "The Walrus and the Carpenter" word for word...the whole thing!  I was amazed and it soon became a poem I could recite and fall in love with as well.  My students were amazed that I, too, could recite much of the poem from memory.

Here are some tips to get you started teaching poetry in your classroom!

Tip #1: Start by reading your own favorite poem to students.  It helps them see that you enjoy poetry, and that they, too, can enjoy poetry.  If you don't have a favorite, Shel Silverstein is great poet to begin with, because 4th graders love the humor and can relate to the poems.  Make sure to read the poem with great intonation and emotion.  It will really hook them.  When you've finished reading the poem,  talk about the mood, the speaker in the poem, the setting and the problem in the poem.  Then you can challenge students to find the figurative language.  Once you've done all of this, re-read the poem so your students can see the poem from a whole new perspective.
Tip #2: Introduce a new poem each day for the first week of poetry unit to get the kids hooked!  Make sure to choose poems that are different in style and by a variety of poets so that kids can find one the speaks to them the most.
Not sure which poems to read? Here is a list of some of my favorite poems:
   "Sick" by Shel Silverstein
   "Sarah Cynthia Silvia Stout" by Shel Silverstein
   "The Giving Tree" by Shel Silverstein
   "Paul Revere's Ride" by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
   "The Walrus and the Carpenter" by Lewis Carroll
   "Sneezles" by A.A. Milne
and don't forget to use nursery rhyme classics to listen to the rhyme scheme and rhythm!
   "The Owl and the Pussycat" by Edward Lear
   "Wynken, Blyken, and Nod" by Eugene Field
   "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" by Jane Taylor

Tip #3: Introduce different forms of poems.  This allows you to teach about the rules of poetry.  For example: Haikus have a very specific 5, 7, 5 syllable rule that must be followed, while other poems simply use rhyming words, while others have no form at all.  Challenge students to find the rule that is followed within each poem.

Tip #4: Introduce the vocabulary of poetry.  This will really help students understand what they are reading and learning about.  Try using an interactive notebook to engage kids even more.  If you are searching for something to get you started, check out this interactive notebook of figurative language. Students also love reference posters that are posted on a word wall for easy reference.  Last but not least, let students play a game to learn the vocabulary of poetry.  Students don''t even realize how much they are learning when they see how fun Cootie Catcher Vocab is!!


Tip #5: Let students try their hand at writing poetry!  I know it sounds crazy, but you will be surprised.  Give students the reins, and let them write about whatever interests them.  I think you will be surprised at how much students take ownership of writing poems, and find their own style, even the boys!  Not sure where to start?  This 6 week poetry unit gives you all that you need to introduce poetry writing, guidelines, templates, poetry outlines, templates, and so much more!
Tip #6: Let students make their very own book of poems!  Take all of the poems they have written, and compile them into their very own poetry book.  Let students design their own book cover, or give them a template to color in.  Challenge students to write an about the author page (who knew you could sneak in a little teaching about autobiographies too).  At the end of the unit, have students share their poetry book with family and friends, and have them write comments in the students poetry book!  The feedback will encourage them that their written thoughts have power and value.  My daughter was in my 4/5 blend class and still has the poetry book she wrote. It's a real keepsake that shows her interests at the time.
Tip #7: Once students have listened to you read poetry aloud, read poetry, and tried their hand at writing poetry, they are armed with the skills necessary to dig even deeper and begin analyzing poetry.  Poetry centers work great for poetry analysis.  At each center, give students task cards to complete to guide and challenge their learning. With structure and teaching the elements of poetry, students will soon enjoy the detective work needed to understand the deeper meanings of some poems.  There are nine poems on the CCSS-ELA Exempla list for 4th and 5th graders, which is a great place to start your poetry analysis.  Remember, part of analyzing poetry is learning about the poet and his/her life and learning about the time period.  If you're not sure where to start, here is a great Task Card Bundle.


Love poetry!

Sunday, November 8, 2015

"Fraction-Of" a Turkey Freebie & Something New!

Hi friends! I wanted to share a fun freebie I made just in time for Thanksgiving. Students count and color the fraction of the turkey's circles. Simple and fun!  Grab it in my TpT store HERE.
While I'm logged in to my blog, I can't resist telling you about a neat interactive math window flap math vocabulary product I uploaded just uploaded now.  It's for 4th grade and includes 280 vocabulary words all organized and color coded (of course!).  I included the word, the definition and space for students to draw and write an example that shows they know the word meaning.  It's designed to be fast to cut and glue into student notebooks. Take a peek at one of the pages and see what you think.  For more capable students, you can choose not to use the pre-printed definitions and have students write their own definitions.  Personally, I want students to know the exact meaning.  I'm most interested in how they can show understanding of the word by writing or drawing an example.  Click HERE to see the Flap Book in my TpT store.

Enjoy teaching the language of math!

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

My November Pinterest Pick 3 ~ A FUN Linky

Hi friends!  I'm linking up with Lisa at Pawsitively Teaching or this fun Pinterest Linky sharing my favorite November Top 3 Pinterest picks.  For this linky, I focused my pins on fun ideas to use with students in grades 3 - 6.
I love giving students a break from the rigor of academics with some art.  This is a fun still life Indian corn drawing project that would make a beautiful wall display.  It goes without saying that I'd integrate some writing into to go with it.  :)

My #2 pick for November is a free Reader's Theater for grades 4-6.  It offers nine parts.  I love Reader's Theater!  It gives students a chance to read orally and develop confidence with public speaking at the same time.

The next Thanksgiving pin is from my blogger buddy, Layla from Fancy Free in Fourth.  Layla's creation is a persuasive writing (and possibly speaking) where students take the point of view of the turkey and persuade the farmer not to shoot him.  How fun is that?  This is a one-latte priced item in Layla's TpT store.

What ideas to you have for making Thanksgiving month fun and engaging?


Saturday, October 3, 2015

My October​ Pinterest Pick 3 ~ A Fun Linky!

Hi friends!  I'm linking up with Inspired Owl's Corner for this fun Pinterest Linky sharing my favorite October Top 3 Pinterest picks.  For this linky, I focused my pins on fun ideas to use with students in grades 3 and 4.
I love this art idea!  It's just plain fun!  I love using black construction paper and bright chalks and so do students.  You can teach students how to draw whimsical roofs and swirly trees.  Add more Halloween details to the picture.  Then of course you'll have to do some writing about what's happening in the scene.  ;)  

This is another fun Halloween themed art project that uses a child's cursive handwriting as the skeleton's body.  Then of COURSE you'll need to weave some more writing and skeleton bones lessons.  These would make a great wall display, and for added fun, have students name their skeleton.  I'd name this skeleton "Bad to the Bone."  ;)

This blog uses the cursive skeleton idea but with a different twist!

This looks like a fun reading activity for upper grades! 

Check out other great Halloween pins here!


Thursday, October 1, 2015

Mastery Club is Now Updated and BETTER Than Ever!

It's finally finished!  I'm SOOOO excited to announce that the newly updated Mastery Club just got uploaded to TpT and I love the new look.  Previous purchasers can go to their "My Purchases" area and download the new materials free.

If you've never heard of Mastery Club, you're missing out!  I developed this program when I began my teaching career to challenge my 4th, 5th, and 6th graders to learn something new.  I never wanted to hear, "I'm bored," so I developed Mastery Club.  I also taught blended classes, which gave an even greater challenge, trying to find independent activities that allowed me to work on grade level content.  If you've taught a blend, you know what I'm talking about!

Students self-direct their learning, choosing which challenges they'd like to master.  When they're ready, they get the recording worksheet and take the challenge test and if they earn 100%, they become a "1-Star Member." When a student has earned 16 challenges, he or she becomes a member of the Mastery Club Hall of Fame.  At the end of the year, I add the new names to the Hall of Fame wall.  I've had students come back to visit and check out the Hall of Fame poster to see where they rank now!  Love it!
This program is super simple to set up and it runs all year.  Mastery Club is one of the best things I have created and teachers, students and parents love it!   You can see Mastery Club on my classroom website.
Here's a link to my TpT Mastery Club page where you can see visuals and more details about this great challenge program.

Here's a few photos of the updates!  Lots of new materials added to make this program even better.
Teachers who use Mastery Club are allowed to change the name to fit their needs and thousands of teachers are making a difference with their students with Mastery Club. 

Here's a link to check out the FREE Mastery Club questions!  Enjoy!

Friday, September 25, 2015

Coming Soon! A Major Update to Mastery Club!

I'm super excited to announce that my popular Mastery Club program is being updated with a fresh new look and feel that you and your students are going to love!  

Mastery Club challenges ALL learners to learn something new.  It's student-directed and motivating for students and families love it.  It's EASY for the teacher to manage and runs in the background of your class all year.  Click here to read a previous blog post about the great program!  (But remember, the program is being updated as you read this!)



Be looking next week for the update and if you've purchased Mastery Club in the past, be sure to go to your TpT My Purchases" area and download the newly updated set!

Saturday, September 12, 2015

How to Teach Character Education the Easy Way

In my 33+ years teaching middle grades and middle school math, I've learned a thing or two about how to focus on teaching and not spend time dealing with poor behaviors.  Yes! It can be done!  You have to devote time early in the year connecting and getting to know each and every student.  Take the time to teach students how to treat each other, how to treat you, and the classroom materials.  If you don't do this right, you will likely struggle all year managing poor behaviors and that is not good for students or you!  If you teach them what good character looks and sounds like, your students will show mutual respect for you and each other.  Sound good?  It can be done.
One thing I do is post the key vocabulary words that help me teach good character where it's in student's view.  I usually focus on 18-20 traits for my wall display.  Note:  I post the posters alphabetically so I can do some indirect teaching of alphabetizing, too.    This is a really old photo that shows my first rendition of character trait posters.  Here is another old photo.

My new set of character traits posters is 100% better!  The new set of character trait posters that I just posted today to TpT has 66 traits and 11 bulletin board titles. The set is in PowerPoint format so you can move the slides into the order you want and use it the way you want.  It's also in PDF format for easy printing.  Here's what a few of the posters look like.  Do you remember that my new products are 50% off for the first 24 hours?   :)
Some years our school chose to use a monthly character education focus.  No problem, I can do that but I'm also going to focus on it daily without directly teaching!   When students are showing good character, I point to the poster displayed on the wall and make simple comment about the trait.  Sometimes I'd say this quietly to the child and sometimes I'd say it out loud, depending on if it was something the class was working on.
I also run a Special Student of the Week program where each child gets to the be "Star" for the week.  My motivation is simple with this amazing program.   You can read more about in on this blog post.
#1:  That way I don't have to change a job chart every week!  I have the special person do EVERYTHING that needs doing all week long.  It's awesome!
#2:  On the last school day, the special person gets interviewed by classmates.  Then, classmates focus on character traits and write (at least) two compliment sentences.  Students scan the wall looking for words that describe the person and give examples of how the student shows that trait.
#3:  Everyone likes to be recognized and noticed as important.  The combination of focusing on great character and strengths of the student make it a win-win.

Another program I use and can't do without is the Wise Owl Student of the Month program.  I created this program to also focus on character traits.  The Wise Owl program was my dad's idea.  He's got great ideas!  (See his Scottish Heritage website here).  In Scotland as a young boy, my dad was recognized in school as the Wise Owl Student of the Month and it made a big difference for him. He bought a beautiful wooden owl hand carved in Mexico and brought it home and it became my first owl.  You can see a photo of the Wise Owl on my classroom website.   The wise owl award I gave out focused on 12 character traits.  This program changed behavior like no other I've used.  Students wanted to earn this award and worked so hard to have the recognition.   I'll do a more detailed blog post later on.
What do you do that helps build good character?  Leave a comment to share what works with other teachers.  Thank you!

Monday, September 7, 2015

Empower Students to Take Charge of their Learning

Having students take charge of their learning is the goal of every teacher.  Encouraging students is important.  Everyone needs that encourager in his or her life.

Encourage students to set goals.  It only takes a moment to recognize students when they achieve their goals but it's important to do.  Ultimately, we want students to be intrinsically motivated. Young learners want to know that you notice them.  It means the world to students when you notice the and the hard work they've put forth.  It's the little things!  Just whisper kind and encouraging words for the effort being put forth.

Put students in charge of tracking their progress towards their learning.  Give them the tools and assist them with data tracking.  Use graph paper and a few colored pencils.  It's easy to see growth using two different colors graphed side by side.  If you have students keep their own data notebooks, these graphs are easy and ready to use.   Notice the pride when students figure out how much they've learned.  If students need to re-learn a concept, just graph the new score on top of the old bar graph column (see column 3.OA.D.8 PostTest score).  You can have students draw a horizontal line on the mastery level.


Learning is hard work!  Celebrate success and improvement with your students.

There's nothing better than to have students lead their own conferences.  It's powerful to hear students tell their family members what they're good at and what they need to get better at.  More on that another time.  :)
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