Wednesday, February 26, 2014

3 Million Strong Sale!

Thursday and Friday mark the last two days of February, which means 2 great things:

1) It will be March, and something about the sound of the word "March" makes me feel that spring is on it's way. Even if the polar vortex IS striking again this weekend and the below zero windchill currently feels equivalent to living in Siberia, it will just feel warmer when I let "March" roll off my tongue.

2) Teachers Pay Teachers is holding a 2-day sale to celebrate that it is 3 million teachers strong. Woot, woot! I am throwing a 20% off sale on all of my products, and in addition, TPT is offering a discount of its own with the promo code TPT3. I know I have oodles of products on my own constantlty-growing wishlist that I can't wait to pick up tomorrow!

To be taken to my store on TPT and access the sale, click on the button below.

Happy shopping!

 photo Katie120_zps8b8e103b.jpg

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Using a Puzzle to Teach Main Idea and Details

Teaching main idea and details can be a difficult concept for younger students to grasp. Two years ago, I found this great idea of using a puzzle to do so. Basically, you compare the main idea to the "whole picture" of the puzzle and the details to the individual "puzzle pieces." When you put the puzzle pieces (details) together, you create the whole picture (main idea). After using this concrete example of a puzzle to teach main idea and details over the years, I have seen my most struggling students have that "aha!" moment.

Thus, when I started to teach main idea in my classroom in small group two weeks ago, I pulled my 100-piece shark puzzle out of the closet. Sharks are always a huge hit, and my students were eating it up. They were able to tell me that the "whole picture" was of a shark and that the pieces were the details. However, they really, really, REALLY wanted to build the puzzle. Now you know how precious small group time is during reading workshop, so I couldn't very well have my students build the ONE HUNDRED-piece puzzle. But this got me thinking... Why couldn't I create my own puzzle that my students could build and would ultimately reinforce the concept of main idea and details? That got me thinking more... What if I created a graphic organizer to use with teaching main idea and details that was in itself a puzzle?

Probably because the shark puzzle went over so well, I got to work on an "Under the Sea" puzzle where each piece, or detail, would be a different sea creature. A blowfish, an octopus, a sea turtle, a sting ray, a hermit crab... I created a puzzle where there was only one creature per piece. See the finished product below!

I wrote the word "detail" on the back of each puzzle piece. When introducing this concept, I would show students one puzzle piece at a time, asking, "What is this a picture of?" (A starfish, a clam, an octopus...) I would then have students start to use the word "detail" as they were describing what they saw in each puzzle piece. Once students identified every detail, I would have them construct the puzzle and ask, "What is this a whole picture of?" (Creatures under the sea) THIS is the main idea!

Then, it was time to introduce the "Main Idea & Details" graphic organizer. Students used this directly after they built the puzzle. They chose the details (different sea creatures) that they wanted to write down, but they all had that the main idea was creatures under the sea. The beauty is, I can now use this graphic organizer with ANY TEXT, and it reinforces this minilesson!

To download this "Under the Sea" puzzle and "Main Idea & Details" graphic organizer FREEBIE, click on the picture below or HERE.

Also, you can use any puzzle to teach main idea and details, or you can even create your own! Portraits work really well. Simply cut out a picture from a magazine of a person's face and laminate. Then, cut your puzzle pieces out so that one facial feature is present in each piece. An eye, a nose, a mouth, an eyebrow, etc. Have your students identify those facial features as your details, and then once they put the puzzle together, they will see the main idea is of a person's face! You can even have your students design their own puzzle to use to teach a younger student. The possibilities are endless!

 photo Katie120_zps8b8e103b.jpg

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Reading Workshop: Increasing Motivation and Accountability

When it comes to reading workshop, we as teachers want it to run like a well-oiled machine. You, the teacher, are sitting at your back table with a small group of students. Your small group is active in rigorous learning that is differentiated to their specific needs. You and your scholars are really honing in on crucial literacy skills! The rest of your class is working independently around the room individually, in pairs, creating a soft buzzing sound as every single student is engaged in learning. One student sits at a desk using scrabble tiles to spell his spelling words for the week, another practices her high frequency word flashcards, another cozies up against a pillow as he reads to himself, two students follow along in a book with headphones on their ears at the listen to reading station, one student is taking a comprehension quiz on a student laptop, a pair of students point together in a big book as they whisper read together... This is what your workshop looks like EVERY SINGLE DAY, right? I know that for myself, this is what I want. And sometimes, in fact, a lot of the time, this is what I see. However, we all have those days in teaching where our students seem to get "a case of the crazies." Or, we have those specific students who need lots of time, patience, and scaffolding to really build this independence. 

That's where having a specific tracking system for reading workshop that increases motivation and promotes accountability comes into play. Ultimately, I want my students to be intrinsically motivated. I want THEM to WANT to read and write because they DESIRE to do it. I want them to have to struggle to tear themselves away from that page-turner of a book like I do when reading at night. However, I have to meet my students where they are at. And not all of our students come to us at school with this intrinsic motivation in place. Thus, we have to help build a bridge for these students using extrinsic motivators. Through extrinsic motivation, we can move them step by step towards intrinsic motivation coming from one's self.

I spent a lot of time thinking about what I could use to keep my students motivated during reading workshop time now that the novelty of the newness of it all has worn off. I put myself into the mind of second grader, and tried to remember, "What motivated me as an elementary student?" That's when I thought of Girl Scouts. I have great memories not only of the cookies (can we say thin mint craving happening right now!?) but of the experiences. Art work, the great outdoors, community service, there were so many different activities I participated in, and at the end of each experience, something very special was earning that badge or pin to add to my sash as a tangible symbol of my growth and learning. I treasured my badges and actually still have them in a box in my basement, which I will pull out from time to time to reminisce. These badges are what sparked my idea of how to keep my kiddos motivated during reader's workshop in the classroom.

First, I created a tracking chart for my students to use to keep themselves accountable for the work they are completing each day. I use the Daily 5 (read to self, read to someone, listen to reading, work on writing, and word work) structure to organize my reading workshop. To download my tracking chart for free, click on the photo below or HERE.

So that students aren't victims of the desk monster eating their tracking charts, I staple all of them to our reading workshop bulletin board. Then, students get to use paint pens to mark the choices they are completing each day. Who doesn't love a paint pen!?

Once I had my tracking system in place to increase accountability, it was time to develop the reward system to build motivation. I wanted to get that feel of badges as I experienced with Girl Scouts, so I came up with a set of 25 unique "badges of honor" all connected to literacy for students to earn, one each week.

Then came the task of how to display these "badges of honor." How about necklaces? I went to the store and bought a big spool of lanyard, lanyard snaps, and beads. I made the necklaces and then brought in the beads to have my students actually string them. My students loved choosing their own colors and really took pride in and ownership of their workshop necklaces. Now, we were ready to start earning badges! 

To earn a badge, students need to have at least one stamp in each of the Daily 5 categories (read to self, read to someone, listen to reading, work on writing, and word work) on their tracking chart. This really helps my students to do ALL of the stations vs. just their favorites (aka the student who just wants to use stamps each day for word work or the student who always wants to read to self). Also, I made it very clear that quality work needed to be done at these stations, and we have had ample discussions about what "quality work" does and does not look like. Since my workshop is an hour long, students complete two different activities a day. This means that if students are doing what they are supposed to be doing independently when they are not with me in small group, they should have one stamp in each Daily 5 category with room to pick some of their faves over again and get a second stamp.

So far, with this new tracking and rewards system, I have noticed some great results. I had 2 students initially that would try to sneak in doing the same exact station each day, and now, they are hitting all of the Daily 5 categories. Also, my students as a whole class are excited to get their badges on their necklaces, and they wear them with pride during workshop.

To get your very own "badges of honor" pack to increase motivation and accountability during your reading workshop time, click the picture below or HERE.

My hope is that my students at the end of the year have a necklace full of badges. They can then take this home to keep as a memento of all the great learning they for reading in second grade. And who knows, maybe someday they will store it in a box in their basement too.

 photo Katie120_zps8b8e103b.jpg