Saturday, January 24, 2015

Making a Center Board

I wanted to take a minute today to show you how to create this Center Board, a great tool for setting up centers for guided reading or guided math.

This is one of the handiest creations I've made for my classroom. It's the perfect way to use one of my all-time favorite activities: TASK CARDS!

Check out my video on how I made mine!

If you make one of these, I'd love to here about it!! Maybe even see a picture :)

Happy Teaching!

(The Task Cards featured in this video are available here and here.)

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Argument Writing

So.... it's been a while!! For most of December and the first two weeks of January, our house was riddled with germs!! And in a house with four small kiddos, this meant lots of children's Motrin, fever checks, tissues, sleepless nights, and filling humidifiers! It's been exhausting, but I am hoping healthier days are ahead!!

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Lots going on in my classroom!

My students have been working away on our argument unit, and I have to say, they LOVE it! Like, love it so much they want to talk about it the entire walk to specials! It KILLS me to have to "shh" them (I'm a stickler for quietly walking in the halls!) because they are just so spirited about this unit!

The kicker are these debate cards that I'm using. I spent the summer Googling like crazy trying to find some refreshing hot topics for the kids to argue over (I was just so over the school uniform and longer school day debate!!).

I came up with a GREAT list and created a set of task cards. Here's a sneak peak at a few (the full set of task cards are available in my complete argument writer's workshop available here):

Each day, I randomly distribute a few of the topics and give the students five minutes to jot down their gut reactions to the card. I also ask them to brainstorm some potential opposing arguments.

Then, I have them find everyone else in the room with the same card and together they discuss/debate.

I do have them use a "talking stick" (we use the super-fancy highlighter :) to keep the overly-enthusiastic voices from drowning out the students who are on the quieter side. Basically, I give one person in each group the highlighter and they "begin" the discussion (usually they will start by reading the gut reaction they had when they first saw their topic). If someone wants to respond, they can raise their hand for the stick. Otherwise, it just gets passed around the circle so each kid gets a chance to speak.

If a group is struggling, I will go over and raise my hand for the talking stick. Typically, when I throw my two-cents into the mix, it will get them going for at least another few minutes!

After 15-20 minutes of talking, students go back to their desks and draft their argument. Typically, I give them 25 minutes (there is absolutely NO TALKING during this time!), and believe me, their hands are FLYING across their notebook page!! Almost always, every single student finishes their essay in that time! It is absolutely amazing how the "talk time" prior to writing gives even the most reluctant writers plenty to say.

So far, we've completed this activity three times (students get a different prompt each time), therefore, every kid has three great first drafts in their notebook. And we will probably do this activity two or three more times over the next week. Then, students will be able to take the draft they are most excited about, do a little research on the topic, and turn their draft into a full essay.

These debates have just been so much fun. I am eager to see how the final drafts of their essays turn out!

Any tips and tricks for teaching argument writing? I'd love to hear about them!

Happy Teaching!!

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Practicing What You Pin: Textmapping

Have you ever heard of textmapping?

So, a long time ago, I pinned an image that led me to this site. I spent a while exploring all the awesome information here and couldn't wait to try it in my classroom!

Long story, very short - textmapping starts with a scroll. Students take their reading and tape the pages together, creating a scroll that can be rolled out on the floor allowing the reader to view the text in its entirety, rather than flipping through pages. Once students have their scroll, they use different colored markers/highlighters/colored pencils to mark up, or "map," the text in ways that are relevant to their reading purpose.

I spent the next several months with 8-10 intervention students (these are students who do not qualify for special education services, but do demonstrate a significant struggle in ELA and/or math) textmapping like crazy! Overtime, I deviated a bit from the ideas on the textmapping website and modified it to fit my needs, but I was really happy with the results. I watched kids grow in confidence when reading and writing about a complex text and I really came to see value in getting struggling learners to picture the text as a "whole," which the scroll concept behind textmapping clearly encourages.

Well, fast forward three years... textmapping had seemed to fall of my map. For some reason, (you know, little things, like new curriculum, new standards, new grading policies, new evaluation models... THOSE earthshaking little things), textmapping disappeared from my lesson plans.

Anyway, about a month ago, I was talking to the co-teacher who shares one of my ELA blocks with me. We were discussing some of the struggles that a few of our students were having and I suddenly remembered textmapping. After providing a little history, she decided to give it a try with a small group.

The students were reading a great story called "Ghost of the Lagoon" by Armstrong Sperry. The objective was for students to read the story and then evaluate the thinking and actions of the main character and determine if he qualifies as a hero. On their scrolls, students were able to mark up the main character's thinking and actions (thinking in one color; actions in another). Once they did this, they were able to look at their scrolls and see all of their markings. This helps them make their evaluation. Then, it was time for them to put their answer in writing, using the evidence from the text to support their thinking. Their scrolls made this easy because now all they had to do was go back to each of the places they marked and include that information as proof of their argument.

I wasn't in the first day she tried this, but these are the pictures she snapped that show students working with their scrolls. She was so excited with how well the mapping went she actually texted these to me from school!

So, as we all get back to school after the winter break, spend some time on the textmapping website, or search around on Pinterest, and give it a try in your classroom!

Then, leave me a comment to let me know how it worked for you :)

Happy Teaching!!