Pre-Reading Activities: Introducing Students to Life in the 1960s Through Drama

One of the novels that I absolutely love to teach is The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton.  I have yet to encounter a student that did not love this novel!

Since the story is set in the 1960s, I go through various activities to help my students understand what life was like in the 1960s. We usually begin with a whole class discussion where students share anything that they know about the 1960s and we record contributions on the board.  As more students share their ideas, we begin to build a concept map where we attempt to categorize the contributions and make connections between ideas. When students begin to struggle, I use prompting questions to get them to discuss possible answers (e.g. “Do you think students had calculators in the 1960s?”).  Once we have had a great discussion, we work on two main activities:  group and individual presentations.

The group presentations are pretty straightforward: students work in small groups to create a multi-media presentation on one aspect of the 1960s in greater detail and then present it to the class.  We determine the topics for the presentations from the concept map we created during our discussion.  This year, our topics were: fashion, politics, entertainment, television, sports, music, cars, and technology.

The individual presentations integrate drama into Language Arts.  I had my students research influential people from the 1960s and each student had to choose one person to research more in-depth. To keep things interesting, no two students were allowed to research the same person.  Once they researched and chose an influential person from the 1960s, students were then to “become” this person and be interviewed on a talk show.  Students were given about three weeks to prepare for their interviews and they were to focus on content, costume/props, voice and delivery, gestures, and presentation.  I provided students with a graphic organizer to help them record their research and prepare for their presentations.

We had our talk show on Thursday and it was amazing! I wish I could share pictures to show you all the fantastic and creative costumes by students came up with!  This was such an engaging experience and both my students and I had a wonderful time and learned so much!

In case you are reading a novel with your students that is set in the 1960s, I have included the worksheet here for your use.  Just click on the link!

Computer Coding: An Essential Skill

We all wonder what our students and children will face in the future.  How will they be successful, what kind of work will there be for them, what skills are necessary to be able to be successful?  These questions are at the heart of everything we do!  We know that students need to be creative, able to problem solve and think critically.  Also, we know that our curriculum and our classrooms should be inclusive of technology.  But what about understanding where it all stems from?  What are we doing about that?  We need to realize that computer software coding is an essential skill that will be necessary for success. We need to be able to address this in our classrooms.

Here is a link to a wonderful video, where world class athletes, musicians and great business people, discuss the importance to this very skill.

Well, what does that mean for us? Visit the website www.code.org and find out how students can learn to code in elementary schools, how they can develop their critical thinking skills and problem solving skills. Share with us what you think and what you have tried.  It is never too late for anyone to learn to code!

 

The Tuesday 12: 12 Resources All About Descriptive Feedback!

In this week’s edition of The Tuesday 12, we’ll be looking at resources to help teachers understand and incorporate descriptive feedback on a regular basis.  Just click on the links below to be taken to the resource.

1. “Descriptive Feedback” (video)

If you haven’t yet had the opportunity to view the abundance of resources on the EduGAINS website, then I highly suggest you check it out right away! If you are struggling with assessment for and as learning, then this site has so many resources for your teaching and learning.

2. “Descriptive Feedback Fosters Improved Student Learning” (article)

This short two page article illustrates the importance of feedback by telling the story of one school’s journey to apply meaningful feedback (aside: this school is part of our board!).  Tips are given at the end to help teachers incorporate descriptive feedback in their classes.

3. “Descriptive Feedback at Winona” (blog post)

In this blog post, three different tools are used to provide descriptive feedback: Livescribe Pen, Google Docs, and Snowball Mic.  I like how technology is being used as the vehicle for providing descriptive feedback.

4. “A Focus on Informed Assessment Practices Webcast #3” (slideshow)

If you’re still unsure about assessment for learning, this slideshow takes you through the six areas of assessment for learning and provides examples of effective descriptive feedback.

5. “Feed Back…Feed Forward: Using Assessment to Boost Literacy Learning” (article)

I found this article by Anne Davies effective because it uses an example of a teacher going through the process of providing descriptive feedback with her students and how they together develop a list of “what good readers do” and then they created a recording sheet together.  What a meaningful and engaging way to make students active leaners and contributors!

6. “Descriptive Feedback Examples” (chart)

This chart provides three sample teacher comments for three different Social Studies assignments.  You’ll notice that for each teacher comment, it is directly tied to the specific curriculum expectation.  The comments provide positive aspects of the students work, as well as points of reflection, next steps, and areas to consider.

7. “Teachers Demonstrate Effective Descriptive Feedback” (video)

A great video to display descriptive feedback in action!

8. “Types of Feedback and Their Purposes” (Chapter 2 in the book “How to Give Effective Feedback to Your Students”)

Susan M. Brookhart provides detailed information regarding various dimensions of feedback, including timing, amount, mode, and audience. For each dimension, she provides examples of good and bad feedback with a discussion explaining each set.

9. “Do You Coach or Do You Judge?” (blog post)

A great article about the key differences between assessment for learning (similar to the role of a coach) and assessment of learning (similar to the role of a judge).

10. “Lucy West: Why Feedback?” (video)

You all know by now how much I love Lucy West! The first video on the page is about feedback, but I’d watch all of them if I were you…Lucy West is that great!

11. “Let’s Talk Assessment…” (newsletter)

This is absolutely fantastic! It summarizes everything you need to know about effective feedback!

12. “Teaching and Learning; What works best” (research article)

A very thorough research article that looks at the impact various teaching innovations and methods have on student learning.  It references John Hattie’s research in 1992, which shows that the “most powerful single moderator that enhances achievement is feedback. The most simple prescription for improving education must be ‘dollops of feedback’” (p.4).

Atherton J S (2011) Teaching and Learning; What works best [On-line: UK] retrieved 4 March 2013 from http://www.learningandteaching.info/teaching/what_works.htm
Read more: What works best http://www.learningandteaching.info/teaching/what_works.htm#ixzz2MdWsMCXP
Under Creative Commons License: Attribution Non-Commercial No Derivatives

Song Lyrics as Poetry: Integrating Language Arts, Music, and Visual Arts

Like Lisa, I absolutely love scouring Pinterest for inspirational ideas. One of the images that I found was for “Draw Me a Song”, a beautiful website full of illustrated posters of song lyrics. I really want to order one, but I‘m having trouble deciding between “Imagine” and “Over the Rainbow.”

I thought it would be fun to let my students choose a song and illustrate it in this manner. We started off our lesson by looking at songs as poetry (so I could include some of my favourites) and then we discussed how and why songwriters express their feelings and experiences. Students were asked to choose a song that they found inspirational and illustrate it using various fonts (we looked at FontSpace for ideas) and then used some graphic design elements to illustrate their chosen section of lyrics. Once the illustrations were completed, students worked on a written response where they reflected on their song choice, the meaning of the lyrics, and why they found those lyrics inspirational. Since we are working on making connections for our TLCP cycle, I also had my students connect the song lyrics to one of their previous experiences.

My students did a phenomenal job and they all looked beautiful together:

bulletin board

Here’s a close up of a few of them:

closeups lyrics

Note: My apologies if this post showed up in your reader numerous times! I have no idea what happened and why it posted at least five times…but hopefully all issues have been fixed!

 

 

The Tuesday 12: 12 Inspirational Dr. Seuss Quotes!

12 dr seuss quotes

In this week’s edition of the Tuesday 12, we’ll look at 12 inspirational Dr. Seuss quotes.  For each one, I have linked you to a graphic that displays the quote.  Just click each quote to see the graphic!

1. “Today you are you, that is true than true.  There is no one alive that is youer that you”

2. “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”

3. “Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting so…get on your way!”

4. “Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple.”

5. “Think left and think right and think low and think high.  Oh, the thinks you can think up if only you try!”

6. “Young cat, if you keep your eyes open enough, the stuff you will learn! The most wonderful stuff!”

7. “Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple.”

8. “You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose.”

9. “Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.”

10. “A person’s a person no matter how small!”

11. “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”

12. “From there to here, and her to there, funny things are everywhere.”

Want more words of wisdom from Dr. Seuss?  Here’s a great graphic that lists so many more!

Don’t forget to check back next week for another edition of the Tuesday 12!

Helping Students Make Meaningful Connections Using Kelly Gallagher’s Article of the Week Strategy

“Part of the reason my students have such a hard time reading is because they bring little prior knowledge and background to the written page. They can decode the words, but the words remain meaningless without a foundation of knowledge” (Kelly Gallagher)

In one of my previous posts, I explained how I use Kelly Gallagher‘s excellent resource, “Teaching Adolescent Writers” (2006), in order to help my students learn how to write effectively.  In our school, we run TLCP (Teaching-Learning Critical Pathways) cycles focusing on a particular reading strategy throughout the year.  Currently, we are focusing on making connections, where students are to read a text and then respond to it by either making a text-to-self, text-to-text, or text-to-world connection. I often find that students will only skim the surface when making connections and I really want them to work on making a deeper and more meaningful connection to the text. Students have a difficult time making meaningful connections to texts because they lack sufficient experience and background knowledge.

Kelly Gallagher has developed an excellent strategy to assist with this dilemma: the Article of the Week.  The premise may be simple, but the effect is profound. Each Monday, students are given an article to read.  At the top of each article, Gallagher provides the following strategy:  “1. Mark your confusion.  2. Show evidence of a close reading. Mark up the text with questions and/or comments.  3. Write a one-page reflection on your own sheet of paper” (from kellygallagher.org/resources/articles.html).  At the end of each article, Gallagher provides possible written response topics.  A new article is provided each week with the same framework.

In my opinion, this strategy is perfect in every way:

  1. Students are provided with an article on a high interest topic that will capture their attention and motivate them to read (hopefully!)
  2. Topics can change each week and can reflect current events, student interest, or connect to other curriculum topics
  3. The reading strategy is consistent with each article (the three steps provided at the top of each article)
  4. Students are provided with a consistent task, where they apply their skills on a regular basis
  5. Students and teachers can easily monitor student progress by reviewing weekly responses over a certain time period
  6. Students will be building their knowledge base and be provided with the background to make meaningful connections when reading other texts
  7. This activity can easily be scaffolded with teachers slowly removing direct support when students become much more sufficient in breaking down the text and responding to it
  8. Differentiated instruction is easily attainable, as students can receive different articles on the same topic but at different reading levels or teachers can continue to provide more support to struggling students, while other students are able to work more independently
  9. Assessment for and as learning are addressed on a regular basis, as teachers can keep track of student comprehension, learning, and skill development, while students can use self-assessment to determine how well they are applying their reading comprehension strategies over time.

Kelly Gallagher has provided years worth of archives for the Article of the Week. The Articles of the Week are further subdivided according to the grade level Gallagher taught when that article was used. Since Gallagher teaches high school English, many of the articles are a bit too difficult for my grade 7 and 8 students.  Not a problem, as I have been scouring various sources for interesting articles that I can use in my own classroom.  Even if you do not teach high school English, this approach will work with your students, as the framework is extremely effective and focused on improving student reading comprehension in a regular and methodical manner.