Monday, September 30, 2013

Fifteen Ways to Give Positive ClassDojo Points: Guest Poster, Flapjack Education Resources


ClassDojo is awesome and you probably already know this, but I just wanted to share with you some ways I reward my students with positive DoJo points. If you haven't gotten around to learning about ClassDoJo, just google and you will find umpteen amazing resources.

Thankfully, I have a fantastic class this year, and I rarely have to resort to giving negative points. It seems focusing on the positive points has been more than enough motivation for them up until now. So I'm always looking for more ways to award them the points they want so badly.

Here Are 15 of Those Ways:

  1. Completed Homework (my students get one every day)
  2. Getting All Math Homework Problems Correct - Since we can't grade homework, I still have students put up pencils and self-check with highlighters. On some days I will choose to give Dojos to anyone who had every answer correct. This really motivates them to do their best on these assignments.  
  3. Giving 110% Percent - Students receive A's in my class if they do what I ask. But if a student goes above and beyond on a project or science journal activity, I also award them a positive DoJo.
  4. Awesome Answer in Class - Sometimes a student just says something that is pure genius. This earns them a point. I also give challenge problems in math. Students answer on individual whiteboards. Positive Dojo points are given to correct answers.
  5. Being Quiet in the Line, Fire Drill, Cafeteria, etc. - This could be whole group or individual.
  6. Getting a Hall Compliment from Staff - They earn 1 point as a class for teacher compliments and two points for administrator compliments.
  7. Helping Classmates - If a student finishes early, I often have them help others. If a student didn't listen to my instructions, I ask another student to explain what I said (this also helps my sanity). If a student spills their water or box of school supplies, I observe to see who helps. Then I add DoJo points from my phone or desktop.
  8. Solving a Dispute Amongst Classmates - When students are in groups and I see them solve a dispute without me, they deserve a positive DoJo.
  9. Saying a Kind Word - I'm always on the lookout for kind words, encouraging words, compliments, etc. that can be awarded points.
  10. Picking up Trash
  11. Tidying Up - Students earn points all the time if they tidy up something that was left undone. This happens a lot with my math station materials.
  12. Finding Lost Materials - We play lots of math games, so inevitably materials will go missing. If a student finds a bingo chip or game card that was not put up, they earn a point.
  13. Taking Initiative - There's a wrapper at the lunch table that nobody wants to claim, so Jerry puts it in the trash. Jerry just earned a DoJo point.
  14. Beginning Morning Routine Well - If students are having trouble getting started, just start awarding students who are working with Dojo points. Make sure the volume is turned up on your desktop. You don't have to say a word. When students start hearing the positive DoJo sounds, they will get the message and start preparing for the day.
  15. First One Ready- While transitioning to another activity, I often look for the first CALM student or table of students and give them points for being ready.

I know many of these we obvious, but hopefully a few were helpful! Have a great week with ClassDoJo!


Tabitha Carro

Friday, September 27, 2013

Bring History to Life For Your Students...and Integrate Reading into Social Studies!

If you recognize the first part of the title of this post, you most likely already know about an AMAZING resource called DocTeach. I have been using this resource for some time, and I feel like I have just barely scratched the surface! Like many of you, I have been teaching an integrated curriculum for many, many years. I have always believed that you teach science and social studies concepts at the same time you teach reading skills. You magically find more time in your day! For example (and I will be brief because this isn't the point of my post), my daily schedule my last year in the classroom allowed me to teach small reading groups and centers for an hour and 40 minutes, 75 minutes of math, 50 minutes of grammar and writing, and 50 minutes of science/social studies. Granted I was lucky because my lunch, recess, and specials all backed up to each other so I had minimal wasted transition time. My admin really wanted to lessen the 10-15 minute loss between grade level things such as recess and specials, so every grade level was fortunate enough to have their lunch, recess, and specials during one chunk of time.

Notice the one thing missing from my schedule? Whole group reading......not that I didn't teach whole group reading, because I did. While I firmly believe in meeting with small reading groups EVERY single day, even in the upper grades (small reading groups shouldn't just be a primary grades kind of thing, and it shouldn't be a "meet with each group once a week" kind of thing, either), I also believe that sometimes you have to meet whole group. I don't want to teach a main idea mini-lesson to each of my groups when I can teach it to the whole class for 15 minutes and be done with it (well, not "done" with it because we do practice that skill in our small groups and that is when I differentiate). But one year, a L.O.N.G. time ago, I realized that many teachers pushed science and social studies to the side because they weren't as "important" as reading, writing, and math. And I do think there are some teachers who still think this, and it is understandable because while science and social studies may be tested on an end of the year state exam, we all know that more emphasis is put on that reading and math score. But I knew, in my heart, that for some children, science and social studies is what they look forward to the most every day. I couldn't take it away from them. Enter integration of reading into the content areas. Something the Common Core encourages teachers to do. Which I love. And I hope more teachers are doing this today than yesterday. If you aren't integrating yet, you aren't sure how to, you are trying but can't quite seem to get it down, or you are but you need some fresh ideas, then keep reading!

I could write forever about how to integrate reading into the content areas, but for this post I will focus on social studies. So, now let's get back to my point of this post. There is this amazing resource called DocTeach. If you haven't checked it out before, I highly suggest you sit down this weekend if you have time, and just browse the site. Like I said earlier, I have been using it for a while, but I feel like there is still so much more I could be doing with it. Using authentic historical documents for teaching social studies isn't a new idea, but it is an idea that can be hard to implement because you have to find those historical documents. And then of course you have to write up the lesson you are going to teach using the authentic document, and then figure out the activity and follow-up.....here is where DocsTeach is such a helpful resource. For starters, this site has thousands of historical documents that are easy to search for using parameters. Second, it has already-made lessons to use with specific documents. Third, you can build your own lessons!

Let's say you are currently teaching about the Civil War and you are also teaching the reading skill of differing point of views. You can use the "Comparing Civil War Recruitment Posters" lesson. This lesson includes 2 posters used during the Civil War to recruit African-Americans into either the Union Army or the Confederate Army. Students can compare and contrast the perspectives regarding the role of African-Americans during the Civil War. You just did double-duty of teaching your reading skill and social studies skill at the same time. Woo-hoo!

I am the type of teacher that likes to make my own lessons. However, the lessons on this site are awesome! For each lesson, you get the author of the historical document, an image of the document you can show on a projector or Smart Board (or if your school is a BYOT school, students can pull it up on their devices), the historical era, the reading skill, the historical thinking skill (for the above activity it is "historical analysis and interpretation"), Bloom's Taxonomy level, a synopsis of the lesson, AND author's notes which usually include higher-level questions to ask before/while/during reading of the historical documents (so for all you Close Reading fans out there, you can do a Close Reading of the historical documents, too!). Even I know that if I were to create a lesson like this, it would take me a LONG time. This is such a time-saver! And the best part is it really is a great activity! I am telling you, when I found this site, it was like hitting a gold mine or winning the lottery. Here is a screen shot of the above activity.
photo credit: www.DocsTeach.org 

And if ALL that weren't enough, if you create a free account, you can actually modify the lesson including blacking out part of the document, to make it fit your needs. So if you like the lesson, but feel like it needs something more, you can tweak it. It will then be saved in your account.

Let's say you would rather start from scratch, you can create your own lesson, too. You can choose which historical thinking skill you want and it will narrow down the tools that would be best to use (i.e. sequencing, finding details, compare/contrast). This is a great option for those of you who know a lot about your social studies topics and feel comfortable creating your own integrated lessons from a specific historical document.
photo credit: www.DocsTeach.org 

If you are even more adventurous, you might want to check out the National Archives Digital Vaults. I am fairly new to this site and have yet to use this site to create a lesson, but it is pretty cool how you narrow down what you are searching for. If you feel comfortable with just selecting a historical document and creating your own lesson, this site would be great for you. 
photo credit: www.digitalvault.org

I hope I have given you either some starting points or some fresh ideas for integrating reading into social studies. If you already use one of these sites, I would love to hear how you incorporate them or what you think about them! I also love nothing more than helping teachers figure out how to integrate reading into the content areas, so if you would like help, tips, or suggestions, I would be MORE than happy to help you! I loved (and miss) my time as an instructional coach, so I would LOVE to help out! You can leave a comment below with your email, or you can email me at hleblanc@2brainyapples.com. 

Thanks for letting me share one of my favorites with you all!

Heather
2 Brainy Apples
Twitter- @2brainyapples

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Loss of Mojo... It happens!


So you are roughly 4-6 weeks into the school year and you are hitting some walls with lack of motivation and there are days that you are asking yourself, "When is the next three day weekend?"

Over the Summer we took time to recharge our batteries, get creative and have fun. As a teacher, we need to carve time out of our regular schedule to do just the same so that we can continue to be the best that we can be.

Top 10 Ways to Stay Creative (and save your Sanity)...

10. Read a book about something new

9. Rent a movie, get into your comfy pajamas and relax at home on the couch.

8. Go on a walk.

7. Take a class in your area. There are several companies that have started such as Painting with a Twist where you can go and have a blast. I went to G'Nosh in Richardson, TX earlier this year and blogged about it here.

6. Pick up the phone and call your bestie! Chat about anything and everything! (Keep a notepad handy for random things that come to your mind.)

5. Read "Steal Like an Artist" as recommended by Kimberly Geswein on her blog. (I grabbed this a few weeks back and it has been awesome for me.)

4. Get out of the house and take your work with you. Find a new surrounding (coffee shop, library, etc.) and let the normal distractions that would phase you allow you to get some much needed work done.

3. Take a day off! We all need mental health holidays here and there!

2. Pamper yourself. Taking time to get a mani/pedi, massage, facial, etc. gives you time to reflect and open your mind.

1. Go on a date! Whether it is with your significant other, girlfriend, former mentor, etc. just get out and have some conversation time to where you see each other face to face and bounce ideas off of each other.

I hope this helps some of you and feel free to bookmark it and come back to it as needed!

What can you do to help you boost your creativity and mojo in the down times? Feel free to leave a comment or even jump on over to my Facebook and leave a comment on today's photo (same as above).



Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Integrating Science and Informational Writing Instruction



With Common Core putting more pressure on us than ever to focus on math, reading and writing, it can feel like a constant struggle to "fit in science and social studies" at the elementary level.  In order to MAKE time when there's no time to be found, I work on incorporating writing instruction into science time.  One of the best matches I've found is to marry the idea of teaching the five senses for observations with writing using sensory details.

This mini unit works really well at the beginning of the school year, when the kids are naturally curious about observing their new learning environment.  After a quick review of what the 5 senses are splitting them up into teams to scope out defined areas of the room, and arming them with clipboards, they are ready to record as many observations as they can in 3 minute chunks of time.

Once they have a wide collection, I have them narrow down their list to 3 objects to make sure they described them using 3 senses (inevitably their first list features nothing but sight, in spite of the review).  We play a little guessing game to see how detailed their descriptions are, and then the real vocabulary lesson begins.

From the three students choose a single object to focus on.  For our sense of sight and touch I spend time going over domain specific vocabulary; something emphasized in common core writing.  While most kids focus on the color of objects (something we'll return to later in the year for figurative language) opacity is a new concept.  They tend to forget to mention size as well, so with the explicit instruction this concept can be differentiated.  Some students are ready to go grab a ruler and find a precise length of their object.  Others need to use comparative statements before they are ready to apply what they know about length, width or height find the measurements of their object. 

The end result of this data collection process is a multi-paragraph informational piece of writing, which is great for common core, as well an understanding of how to conduct scientific observations in order to explore the world around them.  

What's your favorite way to integrate science into other subjects?

 

Monday, September 23, 2013

Get Comfy in the Classroom!

Students spend a great deal of time in the classroom each day.  They are usually positioned in their seats with a few movement breaks in-between.  This can become a bit monotonous which can lead to boredom with activities and a lack of interest in school in general.  To solve this problem, I use creative seating arrangements!  It adds a bit of fun to an otherwise "plain" day and if the students have great behavior, they may even get to choose where to sit!
 
The following are examples of seating arrangements I have used to allow for differentiated instruction:
 
Partner Group with Laptops
Students are able to talk quietly and to access the same websites or different ones.  This grouping allows for quiet discussion.
 
Triad with Paraeducator 
In this arrangement, the students are guided by an educator while leaving some time for a group-like discussion.  In this case, three boys are comfortably stretched out on the floor reading.  Yes, they can lay down...sometimes!
 
Triad with Moveable White Board 
This group of three girls is having fun!  One is guiding the discussion with Marzano's questioning wheels while the other two record the group's thinking.  All three are reading aloud!
 
 Triad with Large Rolling Whiteboard
These three boys are having a discussion about the text they are reading.  They have gathered around the board and have chosen to silently read first.  After, they will have one writer record their ideas and reasoning.

Independent at Desk
 This student is quite comfortable remaining at her desk.  She has the book on her lap and is turned away from the desk in order to stretch out her legs.  Clearly, she is enjoying reading silently!

Independent with Moveable Whiteboard
This student is reading alone as well.  He has chosen to use the large moveable whiteboard to record his thinking.  As the teacher, I document thinking by taking photographs or notes on a clipboard.  This way, the evidence of his learning is not erased along with the marker!

Partners Within a Table Group
These boys are working as partners within their table group.  The other students (which you cannot see in this picture) are working as partners on the other side of the table.  This allows for quiet discussion within a group.  After the partners complete their assignment, the two will pair up with the other two students to compare/contrast thinking.

Two Small Groups
Finally, this is the small group arrangement.  One small group is seated around a table while the other group is seated around a "table" of desks.  Small whiteboards and notebook paper are being used to record understanding.  Students must take turns listening and responding in this situation.
 
There are so many ways to allow students to be more comfortable in the classroom.  Sometimes, it is by integrating technology while other times, it is simply allowing them to stretch out.  Independent, partner, and group activities allow for variety of learning styles.  In the above pictures, we were doing an experiment to see how boys would work together and how girls would work together.  There were no mixed groups this day.  The students shared more and had more meaningful discussions when they were separated by gender in this case. 
 
Have you used a variety of groupings in your classroom?  Which worked/didn't work?  How do you infuse technology into the learning?  I'd love to have feedback and/or suggestions on how you made your classroom more comfortable!
 
That's it for now and as usual, if you want to chat with me even more, stop over to Leanne Baur's Creative Classroom!  Talk to you soon!
 

Friday, September 20, 2013

Mentor Texts... Are they worth the time?

Mentor texts.
     I have tried, and tried to make them work for me. I have a shelf of picture books. I have several professional texts that explain all about how to use mentor texts. I have an extensive classroom library from which I can pull many popular books from which to use.


     It just wasn't fitting into my day or my lessons. I was unsure of how to make it work. I wanted it to be a part of this year's writing lessons.

     Que the lights! (Yes, those bulbs and candles that burst in to life above our heads...)

     Our school's new writing program! WAHOO! Not only  is this writing program pretty extensive, it has mentor texts embedded into the lessons. It is a dream come true.

     Take for example, my lesson with my 4th grade writing class on Wednesday. I used the book Bobby vs. Girls.

OH.
MY.
WORD!

Back Story:
We have been working on revising in class, and we read  a section from the book and talked about which of the 6+1 traits could be found in it. (We have been learning that the 5 revision traits are: Ideas, Organization, Voice, Word Choice, and Sentence Fluency.)

Back to the Present:
I read a section from the book and then put a copy of a page under the document camera. The students then called out traits that stood out to them as really great examples. This was a great lesson and I really enjoyed using the mentor text. This is actually the third mentor text I have used this year, but the first one where the students were actually engaged! SCORE!


     Then, in the afternoon, I had my 5th grade writing class. The lesson called for the book Bud, Not Buddy to be the spotlight text! (Can I just tell you that this is an EXCELLENT book!) 

                             

     I read several pages from the book while the students listened for good examples of the five revision traits. I again put a copy of several pages under the document camera and we talked about them as a class. I was amazed at how engaged the students were with the text. In fact, they got mad when I told them we wouldn't be reading the rest of the book. (Two students came to class yesterday with a copy of the book and were very into reading it! A great side-effect of mentor texts.) 

     The program then had the students do a short writing assignment to practice the skills we had been reviewing all week.

     So, what is the point of this posting? 

Mentor texts are TOTALLY worth the time. 
Do it. 
Do it today. 
Take the book you are reading aloud to your class or take a book off the shelf and find a few pages that students can look over and discuss. Authentic text experiences are vital to students building writing skills.

Thanks for stopping by. Have an amazing day... and USE MENTOR TEXTS!
-Mr. Hughes

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Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Interactive Edits: Looking at Grammar and Mechanics the Right Way!

Hello again friends!

This is Jen from Out of This World Literacy.  It feels like forever since I've blogged here and I am excited to share my latest thinking about interactive edits.  In the past, I have used D.O.L. (Daily Oral Language) worksheets in my classroom in the hopes that my students would correct all the mistakes in poorly written sentences.  I hoped, that by knowing how to correct numerous errors in poorly written sentences, they would be able to write correctly themselves. 

My thinking completely shifted when I learned about Jeff Anderson and his idea of showing students well written sentences, rather than putting poorly written sentences in front of them.  If you ever have the opportunity to hear Mr. Anderson speak, TAKE IT!  He is phenomenal...and highly entertaining I might add. 

Check out this amazing 3 minute video of Jeff Anderson as he explains how to invite students to notice great writing. 
 


     Asking students to notice what works well in a sentence, rather than to identify errors, helps students learn good grammar and mechanics.  When we practice finding mistakes, we only focus on mistakes.  When we practice finding what is good, we are focusing on what works well in sentences.  Since we want our students to write sentences full of strong grammar, mechanics, word choice, figurative language, etc., we will look at good quality sentences that model these traits.   

     After all, we don’t teach math by showing students how to find the wrong answers, or all the ways they could solve problems incorrectly.  We teach math by showing students many different ways to find the right answer.  Likewise, we rarely chose a poorly written book as a read-aloud.  And we certainly would not pick a lousy piece of work and use it for mentor text in writing.  We choose well-written work that models good writing.  Let’s do the same through interactive edit by choosing well-written sentences that give students the opportunity to notice what makes a great sentence!
 
    I have been inspired by Mr. Anderson to create resources that will help teachers implement interactive edits in their classrooms.  I currently have one resource available, but am working on monthly themed sentences that students can explore during different parts of the literacy block.  You will soon see these resources posting on my TpT page.
 
    Thank you all so much for reading!  I hope you are able to learn as much from Mr. Anderson as I have!!
 
Best Wishes!
 

 
 
 
 
 

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

DIY Transparent Ruler - Freebie Included!

Hi there, friends! Blair from One Lesson at a Time here. I've recently become obsessed with creating Interactive Notebook activities. Some might say, I've become addicted. And I might say they might be right.

Anywho, when I was creating my 3.MD.4 pack, which reviews measuring to the nearest 1/4 inch and making line plots, I had an idea. Wouldn't it be great if kids could have a transparent ruler that showed whole inches, half inches, and quarter inches? I know that measuring can be a tricky concept for many students, so being able to see the different lines and isolate each of them would be really helpful.

So, I created this page:

Black and White Version

Color Version
The idea is that the entire page would be printed on transparency paper and then cut apart and assembled to create a transparent, manipulative ruler.

I love the idea, but I know that many people just don't have access to transparency paper. My school supplies it, but I don't know that I could get away with using a page per student to create these rulers. And, unless you are teaching in the world's highest paying school, you do NOT want to have to buy that stuff on your own. HOT DIGGITY DOG, have you seen how much it costs?!?!

So anyway, I wanted to figure out another option for people who like the idea, but don't want to buy the transparency paper. So here we go....

I went to Staples and bought these 9 x 12 job ticket holders. They are nice and sturdy and come 10 to a pack for $7.99.

I cut off the edges of the job ticket. This way, each one can be used for 2 students. So one pack can produce 20 rulers. 


I took one of my transparent sheets and laid it on top of the ruler page, which I printed out on regular paper.


 Then, using a ruler and sharpies, I traced the outline of each of the rulers. Then I traced the whole inch, half inch, and quarter inch marks.


I traced the half inches in red and the quarter inches in blue to help them stand out a little more.


Next, I cut out my three ruler strips.


Then, I stacked them on top of one another and stapled them along the narrow side tabs.



Another way to do it is to trace ONLY the half inch and quarter inch ruler strips. You can staple these right on top of the whole inch ruler strip that is printed on white paper. This is great if you DON'T want to staple the ruler into your INB, but instead want to use it on its own.


On the top of this picture, you can see the ruler I made with the white paper background, and on the bottom you can see the ruler with 3 transparent strips. I should have put it on a non-black background so the bottom one didn't look so terrible, but hopefully you get the idea. :)


If you wanted to make a few of these for students to use in centers or small groups, you could easily make them on your own. But I also think that, with specific directions, students could handle the tracing and could each make their own. 

You can download the printable page {HERE} to try it out on your own. I included both the color and black and white versions. The rulers show true inches - so print them out "actual size". 

Thanks for stopping by! Have a great week!

Blog: One Lesson at a Time
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Monday, September 16, 2013

Putting the Puzzle Together!

I know this "team building" activity is an oldie but goodie, but if you are like me, you forget about some of the best ideas unless they are brought up fresh each year!

Every year my class and I work to create a giant class puzzle.  Each child is given a puzzle piece one of those first few days of school and their directions are simple--design the puzzle piece to represent YOU!

We brainstorm ideas about what might be on it . . .

--words
--pictures
--colors
--favorite things
--favorite activities

and more!

Before the students are allowed to CREATE, however, we have a class discussion about work quality.  We talk about using pencil first because it's easy to change.  We talk about work being the 5 "B's"!

BIG!
BRIGHT!
BOLD!
BEAUTIFUL!
BEST WORK!

(note: This becomes an anchor chart in our room that we refer to all year!)

Believe it or not, we review how to color neatly, how to make bubble letters--and all those "tricks" that will help them be more successful in all their other projects this year.

After their masterpieces are finished--it's time to put it all together!  Students are instructed to try to find a match and then come to me for "taping".  After they are a pair, they walk around together to find more pieces to join their section and so on!  We talk about the "ok" and "not ok" ways to do this and give the students sample phrases to use ("Hey!  I think yours might fit with their piece!" is sure nicer than "You don't fit!").  As more pieces join together, I keep the puzzle on the floor upside down for taping so they don't see the whole effect until we raise it up at the end!






When we finish--and before the unveiling-we have a talk about what we learned during the creation of their pieces and the assembly of the puzzle.  It's fun to see what the students come up with . . . they are often more insightful than I am!

So are YOU ready for the unveiling?  Here we go!


Isn't it great?  The puzzle hangs outside our classroom above our lockers until conferences are over, and the students LOVE to show their families!

Thanks for stopping by and hope your school year is going beautifully!







Thursday, September 12, 2013

Creating Classroom Rules


Every year I start out by talking to my fourth graders about rules.  But by fourth grade, they already know, on paper, what classroom rules should be.  So I've always asked them what they think the rules should be instead of telling them "these are my rules." 

And yet until last year, I would alter those rules, combine with other ideas, throw out "obvious" rules, until lo and behold, their rules were the same as I happened to have on my poster that I'd secretly kept from the previous years.

I don't do that anymore!

Of course, when my students list rules, some are too general, some are more motivational phrases than actionable rules, and a couple are rules that I feel are actually unnecessary.  They also used to be an overabundance of "Don'ts," however once this went out of fashion a few years ago, it seems that by the time they get to my class nowadays they've had enough models of rules phrased as a positive ("stay quiet" instead of "don't talk") that I don't even have to "fix" those (I allow some, I just keep them in the minority).  So of course I still need to "tweak" their rules, but I do NOT put up the same poster every year.

The trouble we DO run into is that we can end up with nearly 50 rules.  So I tell them, "obviously we are never going to be able to remember every single rule on its own.  So it's going to be very hard to follow them!  Are there any we can throw out?"  Once we realize that they are in fact all important, I promise them, "tomorrow I'll teach you a way that we can group these rules to make them easier."

This is when our discussion about rules turns into a reading/writing/executive functioning lesson: sorting details from main ideas.  This is usually SO difficult for kids to grasp, and I used to think it was so hard to teach (since I used to be bad at it when I was their age).  So I model it in the easiest way I know; so simple that many preschoolers would have some success: relate it to animals. 



I start sticking these cards on the board, and at the end I write the sentence in blue.  They're all yelling out the answer before I can even finish the question.  


Next I tell them to think about ways they're alike, and tell me what groups to put them into.  I draw 3 columns as a hint, and listen in as they "turn and talk with a partner."  When they answer, they will usually say, "These 3 are all birds," I'll ask, "How do you know?"  This is because we'll be talking about "finding evidence" a LOT this year.  And finally we name the groups.

Next I ask if there is any other way we can sort these words.  I move "eagle" over into the middle column and ask if the animals are all related in some way.  Kids might see that they are all wild animals.  I ask if robins and blue jays are different; are they not wild animals?  We start to find that there is more than one way to name the groups; sometimes it results in the cards being in different columns, and there is no one right answer.

Next, I gave each group a set of sentence strips.  Last year I "fixed" the strips so that each group would come to a single main idea.  I even threw a main idea strip into the mix to see if they could find it and check if the rules below it "fit inside it." 

This year I mostly fixed the strip distribution it so that each group would have 2 sets of details, and they had to figure out the main idea on their own.  They still have plenty to learn when it comes to compromise and hearing all voices, but I was able to point out some positive behaviors for others to watch and learn from.


In the end, we were able to come up with 5 topics.  Some groups realized their main ideas were synonymous so we needed to combine their piles into one.  Some strips needed resorting the next day, and another lesson was needed to change the topics into main idea sentences (the model I gave them was "Learn as much as you can.") 

There are some rules that I think fit better on a different poster, and the "talking rules" makes me cringe because it's not a fantastic main idea sentence, however the class feels a sense of ownership over these rules.  When we had a fire drill today they pointed out that we needed to add to the safety rules.  Having 5 main ideas to focus on, especially when they were all their own ideas is very manageable.  And yet for those "black or white" thinkers, having the sub-rules that help clarify and define the general rules is helpful.  

We still have more work to do such as talking about how it feels when others break the rules that the rest of us are following (using role playing) as well as talking about their rights as students in our class (which will lead into our unit on government and the Constitution).  But for the most part, after a week and a half our rules are finally finished!  

How do you get kids to "buy into" rules in your class? 



Shut the Door and Teach (This week I talk about Character Education). 
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