September 30, 2015

Reading is thinking!

Good readers know they need to think critically about a text. Authors craft stories very carefully and as readers, it's our job to consider the text on a higher level.  

We do this by differentiating between thick and thin information.  For example, in some cases, it's irrelevant that a character's favourite shirt is red.  In other cases, it can be symbolic. Perhaps the character's late mother gave him that shirt and he hasn't gone a day without wearing it since she passed.  

A professor I had in first year American Lit told us that the character that carries keys in the story is the character that holds the power.  And when you think about it, it's really true. She who holds the keys can literally let you into new places...or not.  That really stuck with me.  Whenever I come upon a character with keys (and I'll be honest here, it doesn't happen that often), I consider the power they hold within the plot.  

This week, I focused my reading instruction on thick information (useful/relevant) and thin information (less useful/relevant).  

I showed the boys and girls the package pictured below. I asked them what they knew about the contents by just looking at it.  Without any information or prior knowledge whatsoever, they didn't know very much. We came up with one or two observations, but they didn't help the boys and girls figure out what was inside.  In other words, we couldn't help it, we came up with thin observations because there was no information provided to really consider. 

Then, we unwrapped the package and there was another layer of wrapping paper, but this time it was polka dot paper. Did this new information help us in understanding what was inside? Let's think critically about this:  no it did not.  

We simply needed more information. So we really, REALLY started to pay attention.   

That's when we noticed that when we shook the box, you could hear a rattle sound. Ahhh! More information. Then the kids concluded that based the way I was holding it, it must be light. Then the questions began!  Is it a toy? No.  Is it alive? No.  What's it made of?  Plastic.  

And then we stopped for the day.  

On Tuesday, more questions emerged.  We were taking our prior knowledge (schema) from the day before and using it to help us generate new questions.  Is it food?  No, but you use it to prepare food.  That's when questions REALLY got thick and the thinking really took off!  More information+paying attention=mystery solved. 

I opened the end of the package so students could see just the end of the box. Not super helpful, but still, with more information, students could think on a higher level about what this mystery item might be.  

Finally, one detective in the class put it all together and guessed! It's an apple-peeler!!! 

The take-away from all this is that good readers must consider all information, sort it carefully and ask themselves, "How does this help me understand and connect to what I'm reading?" 

Reading is thinking, and as readers, we really need to pay full attention to the text because maybe there's more to that quiet, unsuspecting character with the keys.  ;) 

September 28, 2015

LOL! I have the secret!

Wanna get your class to pay attention and have kids tell you you're the best teacher in the world?  Serve them this on a Monday morning!  

As part of Morning Message, we've been doing a cross-country tour of all the Provinces. Right now, we're travelling through New Brunswick. 

The boys and girls have learned that you'll find the world's longest covered bridge in Hartland, NB, along with lots of potato farmers and the Covered Bridge Potato Chip Company.  

Chocolate covered chips are the one of the most popular flavours! I thought perhaps my students might like to try my homemade version to help them remember how important the potato is to our friends out east!  

I asked if anyone would like to try one and every hand shot up! There was enough for two each and before passing out the second one, I asked the kids if they were surprised at first by the combination of chocolate and chips and sure enough, many were!  

It was manners and enthusiastic responses galore, making this an absolute pleasure to do for my students!  

Week 4 has arrived!

We have lots going on this week!  
Our focus for the week is on participation and speaking/writing in full sentences.  We're also going to continue to talk daily about self-regulation, to help make our classroom the best learning environment possible.  More about self-regulation here. 

Have a look and see what else we're up to this week! 

click to enlarge

September 25, 2015

That was so much fun!

So what did you do on Thursday night? I had a ball meeting a group of really nice people at this really nice place!  It felt like a party! 

Thank you so much for coming out last night! It was so much fun to meet you all and watch my students take their loved ones on a tour of the classroom.  It's like a reverse take-your-kid-to-work-day. 

The boys and girls looked so proud escorting their guests around the room, enjoying the photos on the Smartboard and explaining all the different features of our wonderful classroom.  

The room was so full of positive and warm energy and love, it was easy for me to understand why my students are always excited to come to school and ready to learn whatever it is I have on the menu.  Speaking of menus...I have a fun little surprise for the class next week!

I'm glad you were able to see where your child spends their day. I loved that so many of last night's visitors thought it felt like home in our classroom because that's my goal: I want my students to feel relaxed and comfortable in their learning environment.  

You are welcome to come back and visit us anytime you like. 

You know, I think next year, we'll get a dad workin' the grill and put a student in charge of ice-tea! Then it'll feel even more like a party!  ;)  

Have a great weekend 208!

September 23, 2015

Let's talk about italics!

As part of talking about what good readers do, we have been discussing some of the mechanics authors use to help convey their message. 

One of the tools authors use are italics.  

During Morning Message, we've been looking at the three main reasons we would find italics in a text.  

Each student is expected to read at some point during Morning Message and the boys and girls have enjoyed the different ways I've used italics to convey my message as an author!  

Here are the four most recent slides from our Morning Message italics-talk:  

September 22, 2015

What is Morning Work?

Each morning, as part of our routine, the boys and girls will be assigned something called Morning Work.  

Students are expected to read the Smartboard upon entry and then begin their Morning Work if they can. 

This is an example of a Morning Work activity. 

Morning Work is always a purposeful activity that reviews Math or Literacy skills. Sometimes the activity will provide practice with a concept that we are currently working on and other times, it will be a concept that has been already covered in Grade Three.  

This morning, the boys and girls completed the activity pictured above.  I made a video outlining the instructions for the activity for two reasons: 1) so children could practice listening for information 2) if a child was away today, they could watch the video on the blog and know how to complete the task upon their return.  

Work that is not completed in the designated time will be assigned as homework. 

September 21, 2015

Week three is here!

Here's what we're up to this week in Room 208! 

Don't forget that Curriculum Night is Thursday Night at 6:30 in the Gym!  

September 19, 2015

Our second Fun Friday!

At their core (←see what I did there?!) the kids in Room 208 are super creative.  We had lots of fun on Friday making these super-cute apple guys and gals!  

Just take a look at this fun bunch below. I bet they all jumped off that bulletin board the moment we left on Friday and are having themselves a party as we speak!  

In addition to being really creative, I was so proud to see my early finishers take it upon themselves to tidy up; even walking around the room scooping the scraps off their classmates' desks.  That's teamwork!  

September 15, 2015

All the news you need!

You were probably thinking to yourself, "I wish I had a great news program to listen to." 

Well blog visitors, the kids in Room 208 have the answer for you! 

This week, our focus is all about relating to the text and reading aloud with fluency.  We're talking a lot about how to make our reading sound just like the way people talk when we read.  

So to make this a super-fun, community-building activity, we're going to be bringing you the "Back to School News Report" really soon! 

We're using a news report script I wrote over the summer and pretty soon, each child will receive their part.  This activity is intended to be a real confidence builder, so there are reading parts for every level.  

When we're all practiced and ready to go, we're going to record our news report (just the audio, no video) and post it here for families to listen to!  

We read through the script today, and just as I had hoped, there was lots of connections being made, lots of laughter and plenty of fluent reading!  

We don't know how long it will take us to get to that "ready-to-record" stage, but when we do, we'll be sure to let you know! In the meantime, I'm going to start sending the script home later this week for practicing.  Students do NOT need to memorize their lines as this is a "radio show".  

September 14, 2015

What's ahead for week 2?

Here's what we're up to this week! (click to enlarge)

September 13, 2015

Please be on time

I am respectfully asking parents to please bring your children to school on time each day. 

Persistent lateness effects all members of the classroom, not just the tardy child. The flow of the lesson is disrupted as the teacher stops teaching the class to help the child get organized and settled in. 

The instruction the late child receives is not as thorough as the one received by the rest of the class. It simply can't be. While the teacher is working with the late child, the disruption causes issues for the other students.   

It's also an unsettling way for a child to start their day.  Adults can relate to walking into a business meeting, lecture or workshop late. We feel "off" for a while and we're reluctant to ask questions and participate fully for fear that we're missing key information that was covered before we arrived. And it's important, from a young age, we teach children habits they'll need when they enter the workforce themselves. 

There's a sparkle that's missing when a child comes to school late consistently; even when it's only a few minutes. It takes a while for them to fully settle in for the day and over time, that really takes a toll on an individual.  

I begin each morning by greeting my students in the hallway with a handshake and a brief conversation. A late child is not able to participate in this important part of our day.

Kids deserve to get the most out of their school day (and it's a very full one in Room 208).I hope you'll support your child, his/her classmates, and me by arriving to school on time.  

September 11, 2015

Our first Fun-Friday together!

We don't always have a theme on Fun Friday, but we did today: we're oh-fish-ially in grade three!  

It was a really fun afternoon! First, we read Linda Krantz's book called "Only One You" and then we had a quick drawing lesson and learned how to draw a cartoon fish! 

The story is full of great messages about how to take care of ourselves, each other and the planet and it's beautifully illustrated.  

It was verrrrry quiet in the room during our drawing time, let me tell you! Lots of concentrating going on.  

We got started with a great activity that I bought online a few years ago. You can see it pictured below. It gives students a chance to warm up their drawing skills and is especially beneficial for those who need the fine motor practice.  

I promised the boys and girls I would make a video about how to draw the fish so they could practice at home. I'd love for them to work on this over the weekend. 

Directed drawing activities such as this help children develop patience and perseverance; they also help to quiet the mind, which was part of the theme of the story. 

We'll have Fun Friday most Fridays.  I say "most" because from time to time, we may have to work on other tasks, especially when we begin more intense EQAO preparation.

Thank you for all your support in making this such a great week first week of school! 

September 10, 2015

What do good readers do?

I'd like to take a moment to talk about how I structure my reading and writing program for the first few weeks of the school year.  

We're going to spend the first 20 or so days of school discussing what good readers do. This means from now to mid-October, as part of my writing program, students will be writing about their reading. I have found this method of Literacy instruction to be very effective in building strong readers and writers from the start. 

When we talk about what good readers do at the start of the year, we strengthen the foundation for a life-long love of reading AND we teach students that reading is thinking; it's active and not something we just do without, well, thinking about it!  

I didn't come up with this 20 days of good habits idea on my own. It's from a teacher resource called, Guiding Readers and Writers  by Irene C Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell. They're the superstars of literacy and I pretty much follow their chapter called, "Getting Started" to a 'T'.  

Fountas and Pinnell lay out 20 key lessons for the first 20 days of school and although I cover each of them, I haven't quite figured out how to do it in 20 days. It usually takes me around 30 days.  But the time we spend on this is meaningful and oh so worth it.  By focusing so intently on what good readers do now, I get the time spent back later in the year. 

As a result of these 20 lessons, students know how to think critically about what they've read, provide evidence to support their ideas and to form deep connections to texts and even to articulate with confidence why they couldn't. This all helps prepare students not only for writing EQAO but for the demands of upper grades when stating an opinion or idea without supporting evidence just won't cut it. 

The lessons run from "How we take care of books" to "Writing about questions you still have after reading a book".  

A few years ago, I turned my instructional focus to having my students write non-fiction texts, since evidence shows it's the kind of writing students will need to master in upper grades and post-secondary education. It's great to be able to write stories and journals, but the truth is, most of the writing we do as adults is of the non-fiction genre. 

Since good readers are always good writers, I hope you look forward as much as I do to watching my students grow in both areas.  

Please watch the blog for regular updates about the different habits students have learned.  

So far, we've talked about:  

  • how we care for books in the class Library
  • how we read silently each day, without disturbing others 
  • what does "real" reading look like? 

Coming in Week 2: 
  • good readers read a variety of books
  • good readers choose books at their reading level 
  • good readers use a variety of strategies to determine if a book is their level 


September 09, 2015

Day two!

Another fly-by day here in Room 208!  We reviewed the routines, expectations and procedures covered yesterday and then we introduced a few new ones. After that, it was time to get to work!  

Today we talked about: 

  • How to shake hands (we start each day with a handshake at the door) 
  • What to do if we arrive late to school 
  • What are silent interruptions (small things that interrupt everyone's learning)?  
  • Where do we put mail for the teacher? 
  • How do we complete our agendas? 
  • The difference between silliness and fun (can't have fun if there's silliness) 
  • Good readers take care of books
  • What's the routine around Morning Message? 
We also reviewed our Poem of the Week (POTW) and talked about the weekly tests (each Friday).  You can find more information on the weekly POTW tests here.  

We also did some more work on our "Sailing into Third Grade" booklet. Today we wrote about our families and things we enjoy doing at home and at school.

Mr. M and I are a family of two and we enjoy interesting adventures 
where he claims we're not lost.   

I would say today was a more typical "Room 208" kind of day.  We're settling in nicely and we are well on our way to that kind of classroom motors along on its own while the teacher gets to focus on great lessons and exciting learning activities. In my opinion, that's the best kind of classroom there is! 

A few reminders for parents: 
  • please send your child to school with indoor shoes that can remain in their locker for the year
  • please send a set of markers or good quality pencil crayons 
  • please sign the agenda each night (students earn valuable table points when it's signed!) 
  • please bring your child to school on time  

Preparing for the Weekly Poem of the Week tests

Each week (usually Fridays, but sometimes Thursdays) we have our Poem of the Week test. The red duotang that comes home each night is what we call our "POTW book".  It contains all 40 of the poems we'll cover this week.  

The document found in the link below will assist parents in preparing their child for the weekly tests.  

This week, we'll write the test altogether. This gives us an opportunity to set expectations for tests and helps the boys and girls transition confidently into this new routine in our classroom.  

It's important to note that we review the poem every day as part of Morning Message. We  discuss the unique features of the poem daily, so come test day, students should be able to anticipate the questions that will appear on the test. 

This helps the boys and girls to improve their listening comprehension and study skills as they see the link between what is focused on in class and questions that appear on the test.  

POTW Test Study Guide

September 08, 2015

Happy New Year!

Today was the first day of school and it was a great one! The first day is such a special one. The entire school buzzes with excitement! And it's really something, because as the day goes on, we end up feeling like old friends by the time 3:20 rolls around!  

Our day began down in the Gym where we all found each other. At that point in the day, I was wondering if the kids were as nervous as I was! They all looked so shiny and happy with their new clothes, supplies and haircuts! 

Once I had my crew, it was time to head on up to 208 and get the day started.  We got unpacked and organized and began working on an "All About Me" booklet.  We took breaks from work all morning to talk about classroom expectations, routines and procedures.  Working on the booklet was a nice way to break things up. 

This afternoon we read a hilarious book called, "How I Spent My Summer Vacation" by Mark Teague.  We discussed how good readers notice when their thinking changes in a story. We believed the main character in this text up until page 3 or 4 and then his story became both funny and ridiculous! 
I don't want to spoil anything, but the book really was a great way to kick off our discussion about what good readers do.  

Since the book is all about cowboys, I thought it would be fun to teach the kids my counting by sixes song. It's a country western tune designed to bring out your inner cowboy while helping you count those half-dozens.  

The kids can practice it at home by clicking on "Math Songs" at the top of the blog home page.  

Tomorrow, we'll have some fun brainstorming things that would be funny to be captured by. The kid in the story is captured by cowboys (not exactly doing a great job here keeping the spoilers a secret am I??). 

I honestly don't know where the rest of the day went.  Even though I planned to do less, we still didn't fit everything in! I mean, we actually did Morning Message in the afternoon! 

As I mentioned, we talked a lot about routines and procedures today. Routines and procedures are the key to a successful learning environment for all students. They teach kids how to think for themselves, develop confidence and problem-solving skills and they free up teachers to make the most of our time with our students.  We still have a bunch to cover and it's okay to take it slow with this. 

Some of the key routines and procedures we reviewed today were: 
  • the importance of using our manners 
  • the respect we show when we use someone's name when speaking 
  • the importance of tucking in our chairs 
  • our first recess snack is always our healthiest
  • the role of the Student of the Day
  • Mrs. M appreciates eye-contact and full-sentence responses 
  • how do table points work? 
  • what's the deal with all those stuffed animals? 
  • what's the "Teacher Zone" and what's that lady hiding back there?
  • what's DEAR time? 
I hope today will be the first of many great days together. If your little one is like me, they are both pooped and full of enthusiasm all at once!  

I would love for all students to have their indoor shoes, refillable water bottle and set of coloring utensils as soon as possible. 

Here's a quick look at what we're working on this week. I usually post this week at a glance on Sunday night or Monday morning.  It's not written in stone, as I tend to be an over-planner, but it gives you an idea as to what's happening this week.  


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...