Monday, November 18, 2013

Bundle Up!

It's time to bundle up! Literally and figuratively that is. Last night, the temperatures dropped from 65 to 40 degrees outside, so it is officially hat, mitten, and long coat weather. Meanwhile, I bundled up my three writing units into one easy download and for a big discount. Now, three units including detailed lesson plans and all the materials needed to teach each of the writing text types as addressed by the Common Core--personal narrative, opinion, and explanatory/informative writing--come in one package for a total of 9+ weeks of teaching.

To access this bundle, click here CCSS Aligned Writing Bundle: Personal Narrative, Opinion, and Explanatory Units or on the picture below.

Snow is in the forecast for tonight, so I think it'd also be best to get out my boots!

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Sunday, November 17, 2013

A Peanut Butter, Honey, and Banana Sandwich

My class is currently in the midst of our explanatory writing unit "How to Make My Favorite Sandwich," and this week, we are going to write our final copies. This forced me to sit down this weekend and make the final copy books that my students will need tomorrow. And a few hours later, voila! The whole unit is now complete.

I had so much fun when I first introduced the unit. I brought into school a loaf of bread, peanut butter, jelly, a butter knife, and napkins. I began the lesson by asking the class, "What are directions?" We built a definition together based on our discussion and wrote it on the board. We came up with, "Directions are a list of steps that you follow to learn something new or to complete a task." Next, we talked about "How do we use directions in real life?" We generated a list on the board: A recipe gives directions on how to cook something, a board game gives directions on how to play it, Legos and models give directions on how to build them, teachers give directions in school on how to complete an assignment, parents give directions on how to do a chore, etc. 

Then, it was time for the fun part! I told students that today, they would be giving me oral directions on how to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. I explained to the class that I was a robot and had never made a sandwich before—I could only do what they directed me to do. I got out the bread, peanut butter, jelly, knife, and napkins and had students give me directions one step at a time on how to make the sandwich. I made sure that my students were really SPECIFIC. This is where it got a little entertaining because I only did what students directed me to do. For example, when a student told me to get out the bread, I started to turn the bag over and said that I was going to dump out the whole bag. The student then exclaimed, "No, don't dump out the whole bag! Just get out two slices." I explained that now I knew exactly what to get out and proceeded with pulling only two slices of bread out of the bag. When a student told me to put on the peanut butter without having told me to first open the jar, I tapped the knife against the top of the lid and looked confused. The student quickly clarified that I needed to open the jar by twisting off the top. When a student told me to put the peanut butter on the bread, I put a huge glob right in the center of the slice. Then, I smiled and asked what I needed to do next. The student told me that I had to actually spread the peanut butter; I couldn't just leave it in a big blob. Students of course laughed and found this quite hilarious, but in the end, they were learning how to use specific step-by-step language when giving directions. Of course while students were off into brainstorming and pre-writing, I had to whip up some extra sandwiches to snack on. You can't make a delicious sandwich right in front of a class of 27 seven-year-olds and not let them have a taste!

As we went through the whole pre-writing and then rough draft process, I could see that my little stunt had really paid off. My students were super specific in their language!!

To look at this unit up close, just click here "How to Make My Favorite Sandwich" Common Core Aligned Explanatory Writing Unit or on the picture below!

This unit comes with a detailed 3 week lesson plan, anchor papers to help students see what quality explanatory pieces look like or for the teacher to use as his/her own to model the writing process day-by-day, a "What I Will Need" brainstorming paper, a spelling menu to help students with ideas as well as spelling, several graphic organizers to choose from based on the needs of your students, a rough draft template, a peer revising form, a final copy book template, a "how to" explanatory writing student self-evaluation, a "how to" explanatory writing rubric, and examples of the pre-writing template, graphic organizers, etc. in relationship to the anchor papers to show students as examples or to be used by the teacher as his/her own to model. 

I can't wait to see the finished copies wrap up this week!

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Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Math Journal Using C-E-R

Every day, my students begin math with our “Math Journal.” This makes writing about math and critical thinking a normal part of our day. My school uses the Think Math curriculum, and I use what is called the daily Headline Story from the Think Math lessons for students to write about in their math journal. The Headline Stories are basically open-ended statements rather than prompting questions. This forces students to decide,” What can I ask about this story? What can I say about it?” Also, there is usually not just one right answer. My students have gotten really good at coming up with pictures, number sentences, etc. to go with each story, but I have noticed that there is still some reluctance to actually write fully composed sentences about math.

Thus, I have completely revamped my math journal. Today is day 2 under this new format, and I am LOVING it! To increase rigor while at the same time having a structure to act as scaffolding for my struggling students, I use what is called C-E-R.

C=Claim (What are you saying is true?)

E=Evidence (Provide proof, proof, and more proof!)

R=Reasoning (Tie it together—how does your evidence prove your claim?)

So for example, today our daily Headline Story said, “There are more than 10 chicks in the barn. Some are sleeping, some are awake.” Students first had to make a claim (Ex. 8 of the chicks are asleep and 6 are awake). Then, they had to provide evidence (Ex. 8 + 6 = 14). Last, the tricky part, the reasoning! (Ex. There have to be more than 10 chicks, and 6 have to be awake. 8 plus 6 is 14, and that is more than 10. This works!)

Check out some samples below from my Smarties today!

Check out the that reasoning: "I know this because I counted 8 + 6 = 14, and 14 is more than 10 chicks." Bam! I can't help but smile ear to ear when I see students proving their thinking like that!

Here is yesterday’s example…

As you can see, critical thinking is just oozing from this daily routine of following the C-E-R process in our math journal. And on top of that, my students are EXCITED to write about math because they are so all about proving their claim. Win-win.

In terms of production, I bought folders with fasteners at 25 cents a piece. I printed the C-E-R page front-to-back and put 50 sheets in each folder. I then glued a math journal cover to the front of each folder and used Contact paper to make them more durable. I am sure that you have seen firsthand what a student’s desk can do to something that has not been fortified! Anyway, this ended up totaling about $1.00 per math journal. Not too shabby.

If you want to download my math journal cover and C-E-R form, just click here Math Journal Cover and C-E-R Template or on the picture below.

3 rolls of Contact paper, 5 hours, and 30 journals later, I will not be looking at Contact paper for a long time! :)

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Monday, November 4, 2013

My Worst OUCH!

OUCH! Bumps, cuts, and bruises are not at all pleasant while they are occurring, but they sure can make for a great story. Plus, all students can relate to this topic because EVERYONE has had some type of ouch happen to them.

My class just wrapped up our "My Worst OUCH Story" personal narrative writing unit, and it was a huge success! We went through the entire writing process starting with brainstorming. This lead me to the depressing conclusion that I have many, many ouch stories to share, and too many of them somehow have resulted from my lack of coordination--Mom, do you remember when you told me I would grow out of that back in sixth grade?? :) I fortunately now see this little talent of mine as a positive because my plethora of incidents can now serve as the basis from which I can help spark ideas for my students. Anyway, this 3 week unit walked students through brainstorming, pre-writing using a sequencing graphic organizer, writing a lead that hooks the reader, developing sentence fluency in the rough draft, creating a concluding sentence(s), revising using a word choice menu (to really add strong verbs, interesting adjectives, specific nouns, descriptive language, and overall improve word choice), peer-revising, editing, self-evaluating, and creating a polished final product. I just uploaded this unit in its entirety to my TPT store. Click on the picture below to access it!

Also, if you want to make your students light up with enthusiasm, at the end of this unit, purchase some crazy Band-Aids for them to decorate their OUCH story with. They will LOVE it. On a side note, I had no idea how many choices there are in terms of patterns, colors, design, texture, you name it when it comes to first aid care. I have been missing out for sure. I ended up buying Band-Aids in neon colors, animal print, and super sparkles. At the end of my unit, my students suggested that I keep the extra Band-Aids that were leftover as unused in my desk drawer in case someone in our class actually got hurt. Can you believe that all of the sudden I had about 5 spontaneous paper cuts occur immediately after I accepted this suggestion? :)

One thing's for sure, there is something about a zebra printed Band-Aid that just makes any ouch feel a whole lot better. :)
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