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Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Who Would Win Research and Writing Project

After those wonderful and amazing state standardized tests I sat down and did some thinking! The writing was just so different from what my kids had ever seen. Before the test, we pushed writing hard focusing on the writing process, the 7 good traits of writing, conventions, topic sentences and conclusions.  However, it just wasn't enough! The MERIT test here in Arizona had the kiddos read two passages and using that information answer a persuasive writing prompt.  Talk about stepping it up!  And I like stepping it up, so it was turn to up my game.  I started to think about what we could do for the remainder of the year to mimic this process demonstrated on the test and set my kids on the path to success.

And then it came to me: Who Would Win? If you haven't heard of the Who Would Win? book series and you work with early-to-middle-elementary school students drop everything and check them out! (http://www.jerrypallotta.com/WhoWouldWin) These great HIGH INTEREST non-fiction books choose two animals and pit them against each other in a book to see who would win in a fight. Along the way students learn all sorts of great science!  




My kids go nuts over these books in my classroom library.  So I raced home to do some research and write up to two passages about different animals. The idea was to have the students read the passages and use the information they found to write a persuasive essay about Who Would Win?!  But then I thought, why would I do all the research?  Doing research projects is part of the standards and a great way to incorporate technology into the curriculum as well as give the kids some control over the material they/re learning.   So instead, I went to the library and picked any book about vicious/fun looking animals and brought them into the classroom the next day and let my kids go to town.  What a great scene to see kids eagerly searching through NON FICTION books and loving learning!  Here are the basic steps of what followed:


  1. Choose Animals. After looking through the books and getting some ideas, students choose the two animals to pit against each other. Once they have teacher approval...
  2. Pre-Write. Begin research on each animal ranging from scientific names to ways they protect themselves. Library books were the primary source to begin with and then we moved to the internet focusing on googling search skills (my how times have changed!). Once they feel they have sufficient information they teacher looks over it and a) suggests more info they might need or b) gives approval for the...
  3. Draft!  Fold up some pieces of paper hamburger-style, staple the edges and have students use a Who Would Win? book from the classroom library to mimic the format.  As kids began drafting you could have heard a pin drop!  This allowed me time to help the kids who were struggling with completing their research.  Once done partner kids up to...
  4. Peer Revise and Edit.  Once peer editing is completed come see the teacher for further aid in revising and editing and then...
  5. Publish!  I created lined paper on white paper with a space to draw a picture on each page and included a black piece of card stock as a cover.   We folded it up and we had some great looking books! 
  6. Persuasive Essay. This was the goal of the project! When students completed their publish they then wrote a persuasive essay about who would win and why!  
  7. Author's Chair.  We had a session where students could read their Who Would Win? books to the class and field the many adoring questions from the audience!

Kids finished each step at very different times, those who finished early with the whole process (before Author's Chair) were able to chose a research project of their own to create any book they wanted. Some kids did another Who Would Win but some people chose to research people. 

This project had to be the highlight of they year in writing. I was able to reach EVERY student and see measurable growth...and they didn't even know I was trying to help them on standardized testing next year ;)




Happy teaching!!! 


Monday, April 20, 2015

Organizing Lessons and Handouts with CCSS

I'll tell you what I tell my students: organization is not my forte!  Which means I have to put in a little extra effort to stay organized!  Last year I taught at a school with almost NO curriculum.  Talk about late nights scouring TpT, Pinterest, and creating materials. This led to ever-accumulating piles of paper! Over Spring Break I finally decided to tackle the papers strewn in every corner of my classroom...my car...and my home! And this is what I came up with:


I tried to be cute at first with nice, pretty binders.  However, my 2nd grade math exploded into a bigger 3" binder and all I could come up with was black.  To be honest, I might have to split that up into two before the year is out!

The key to this system is that everything is filed by standard!  I will walk you through my math binder to get an idea.  I started by typing up all the standards for quick referencing.  I can't help it, I wanted it to be a little cute :) 



Then I tabbed every individual standard.


After that I invested in plenty of sheet protectors and started filing!


Now this year I had everything I needed for teaching right at my fingertips!  Every time I use something in class...or can't resist downloading the TpT freebie...I throw it in my "To File" pile.



I have it on my weekly to-do list to file every Friday after school. However, it might only happen once every couple of weeks.  Don't judge...I teach two grade levels which means twice the lessons and twice the handouts!  But I know I'll be set for years in the future.  Hopefully you find a filing method that works for you because teaching is hard enough without recreating the wheel every year!  

Happy filing and happy teaching! 

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Behavior Modification

Behavior Modification.  Big words to tackle a big problem!  How can we as teachers change a behavior that has been years in the making? How do we help our students succeed? Obviously we try to implement best practices in our teaching and classroom management. But what about those kids who just can't seem to get it together? The kids who can not manage to do a stitch of homework, who write two sentences in an hour writing lesson, who are bullying or having trouble with their recess behavior, those with ADD or ADHD who don't complete classwork, or kids who talk out of turn? Obviously whole-class classroom management tools aim to help these behaviors.  Perhaps you use a classic clip chart in your classroom.


Image result for clip chart





Perhaps you've embraced ClassDojo in your classroom. (See my previous blog on this wonderful resource here.) 


Image result for class dojo



 But when that is not enough, I recommend an individual behavior modification chart. This simple tool has been embraced both in and out of the classroom.  There are many different versions, but the goal is the same: externally motivate a child positively in order to change a certain behavior.  Provide a chart of some sort to track the new positive behavior you are seeking and reward the child when they exhibit that behavior with the promise of a big reward when the chart is complete. This successfully combines both short-tern and long-term motivation factors to keep kids motivated through one lesson, one day, and beyond!

 A special note about rewards:  It is important to let the kids choose what they are working for because they will work harder for something they want and have chosen!  In the classroom it can be having lunch with the teacher, a no homework pass, a prize from the prize bin, extra computer time, a piece of candy, etc.  If coordinating with parents at home, the prizes can be bigger and more varied: dad and daughter 'date' night (great for kids with one or more siblings), dinner out, movie night, a trip to an amusement park, etc. Many teachers still rely heavily on punishment. Punishing bad behavior with detention, time-outs, stern talking, clip downs, etc.  While it is very important that students understand that there are consequences for their actions, including negative consequence, it is important to realize that by giving attention to the negative behavior we are often strengthening that behavior.  Whenever possible I try to focus on positively incentivizing the behaviors I want to see instead of punishing and drawing attention to the behavior I want to abolish.

 One example of how I have used behavior modification charts is to target bullying. I have a student this year who came in and was bullying kids throughout the building.  Obviously this is a very big deal and has been addressed with administrators and parents.  However, the biggest factor in changing this student's behavior, a learned and practiced behavior by 3rd grade, was putting him on a behavior modification chart.  Every time he 'used his words and actions to make people feel good' I had him add to his chart.  When the chart was filled up I allowed him to choose his prize: a piece of candy, extra computer time, be the 1st grade helper, tablet time, prize from the prize bin, etc.

A completed chart from one of my students!


Another common use for behavior modification charts in my class is helping kids complete classwork and do so independently.  (A challenge for many of my ADD and ADHD kiddos!) To target these behaviors I give a student a behavior chart and write in 'complete classwork' or 'complete classwork independently' for their goal. Every time a student achieves that goal, they can fill in their behavior chart.  The progress we have made this year has been astounding using these simple charts!  Often times with ADHD kids, I have to change the behavior chart every week or two so they get bored with them.  For this reason I have created a new set that can be found at my Teachers Pay Teachers store here, or click on the image below.

Behavior Modification / Sticker Chart

 Also take a look at my editable free choice board here, or click on the image below, that I often use in conjunction with behavior modification charts so the kids are working towards different rewards each new chart!

Editable Free Choice Board

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

ClassDojo

I did it!  I finally broke down and signed up for ClassDojo. Yes, in April...with 8 weeks left in school!

First of all, a bit about ClassDojo. ClassDojo is an online classroom management tool to track student behaviors.  It is a great website where you can add your class(es) and customize the positive behaviors you want to reward as well as the behaviors that students need to work on.  Parents sign up for an account and can even download an app on their phone so they have daily feedback on their student's day!  Even the students can create their own account.  Parents, students, and teachers can look at and print out daily, weekly, and monthly reports. (And we all know how teachers are looking for data!)






I had been holding out on signing up for ClassDojo because I didn't think I would have sufficient parent involvement.  However, I recently received feedback from parents on our yearly school questionnaire that they want daily updates on their students' behavior.  So, I decided to give the people what they want!  I sent out the parents invites (all generated by the the ClassDojo website of course!) on Monday and by Wednesday night I have half of my class signed up!  ClassDojo allows the teacher to monitor when parents sign-up and log on as well as messages back and forth.

One of my favorite features is the customizable nature of the of the positive points and the areas that 'need work.'  I am not a fan of negative reinforcement, but I like that the parents and child know the areas that need work and can see their progress from week to week! Here are some of the positives and 'needs work' points I have added to my ClassDojo:

Positives


  • Bellwork
  • Respectful 
  • Responsible
  • Caring
  • Do Your Best
  • Empathy
  • Fairness
  • Self-Control


Needs Work

  • Dress Code Violation
  • Didn't Return Paper Signed
  • No Homework
  • No Homework Folder
  • Inappropriate Play at Recess
  • Poor Computer Lab Behavior
  • Stealing



In the three days since I've implemented ClassDojo in my class it has replaced two of my other incentive programs and has the kids so excited!  Two solid thumbs up from Ms. McNichols' class!

Now go to classdojo.com and check it out for yourself!