Thursday, December 28, 2017

Shades of Meaning

Challenge add a level of  sophistication to primary students' writing. Growing an understanding of shades of meaning is an essential learning in English Language Arts.  A couple of important questions that teachers ask when devoting any length of time to an activity are: Where's the learning? How are standards driving the learning? This lesson knocks the ball out of the park answering those questions.  From beginning to end the lesson is driven by purpose. 

Below is an awesome lesson that my third grade colleague Heather Hale implemented during the spring. Heather pulled ideas from Pinterest and TPT to come up with her own unique spin to teach different hues of meaning for synonyms. You'll find a T.E.A.M. modeled lesson plan that can be accessed for free by clicking on the link in this blog.

Hook: Colorful Challenge!  The challenge is a play on students' prior learning. Students have been developing dictionary & thesaurus skills, as well as an understanding of synonyms.  Using recently created sentences and the thesaurus, students were challenged to make their writing more colorful.


Setting it up! Students worked together with the teacher to model examples and set expectations for the activity with anchor charts. Students participate in Think, Pair, and Share, as the teacher guides and records to create charts.





Students are then turned loose with the thesaurus. Students are encouraged to identify synonyms independently. Students are then encouraged to arrange their words according degrees of certainty and participate in discussions with peers for affirmation or challenges to their opinions. 











Students displayed their lists by creating a colorful classroom centerpiece and revised sentences as journal entries.  




Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Morning Meeting

This is an exciting week as students return to school. Our classroom will have the addition of a student teacher. It's such a blessing to have an extra set of hands and ears to facilitate.

As the discussion began of which tasks the student teacher would be implementing, the first to come to mind was our daily morning meeting.


Morning meeting provides a context for exploration and practice of a wide range of skills.  These skills often cross subject areas.  The safety net of morning meeting is a wonderful way for students to use their voices, assume leadership roles and receive instant feedback.  Additionally, it can be an unobtrusive way for teachers to gather anecdotal formative assessment data.

Morning meeting looks different in each classroom and should with time evolve into a student lead/centered routine.

Here is one example of what you might witness at a second grade morning meeting:

Student leader begins the meeting by filling in the various charts as independently as possible with supports available as needed.  Discussion & opportunities for question & answers are initiated and subsequently guided by the teacher as needed.
1.     Review of calendar and related activities.
2.     Exploration of money & values.
3.     Place value charts, calculating & displaying # of days in school
4.     Hundreds chart exploration
5.     Temperature
6.     Review of Language  posters & poetry
*Note: each week the teacher provides guiding questions to focus the conversations on  areas of need & current subject matter being introduced.  Activities are periodically added to morning meeting to provide opportunities for a transition from basic to complex application of skills.


What does this look like in a classroom?

Let's take a peek into some K-2 classes...






A lesson plan for morning meeting typically looks like a unit plan, because it allows for growth. A sample lesson plan can be downloaded for free via wikispaces.







Special shout out to Mrs. Leonard, Ms. Norman, and Mrs. Coffman. Thank you as always for your willingness to share your classrooms.

Other Resources:

Example of 3-5 Morning Meeting
https://www.teachingchannel.org/videos/classroom-morning-meeting 

Number Sense Routines by Jessica Schumway





Thursday, December 11, 2014

Learning Forward: An "Aha!" Moment

December 6-10 was the annual Learning Forward Conference.  There were many phenomenal speakers throughout the event.  This list included  John Hattie (Visible Learning), Barrington Irving (Flying Classroom), Michael Ungar (Resilience in Action).  Additionally, there were lots of opportunities to collaborate and network at a state and national level. It was amazing.



With that said, each participant of any event has their own personal "Aha!" moments. For me, it was during a break out session with Dr. Tracy Garrett a professor at the Department of Teacher Education at Rider University in New Jersey.  The session title was, "Classroom Management: Dispelling Myths and Mentoring Beginning Teachers." During this session we explored the effects of teacher beliefs on classroom culture and examined the components of classroom management in the format of a sliding scale.   Based on this encounter the following plan for implementing, sharing, and expounding on the ideology of classroom management is now hanging on my wall.

  1. Explore, “Effective Classroom Management: The Essentials,” by Tracy Garrett through the lens of mentoring/leadership.  
  2. Share Dr. Garrett’s scale “The Process of Classroom Management” with colleagues.
Goal:  Develop an understanding of the relationship between organizing the physical design of a room, developing rules & routines, establishing relationships, implementing engaging instruction, and addressing discipline.
Guiding Questions:

  1. What are the personal beliefs of individual educators about classroom management? How do these beliefs affect classroom culture?
  2. How do we develop a balance between caring and order in a classroom environment?  What will the impact of this balance be? How will this impact be measured?

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Empowering Little Hands to Write: Informational Text


Whether you are utilizing POW TIDE, Write From the Beginning, Four Square, or a different program to build writing skills, the ultimate goal is to empower little hands to get their thoughts down on paper.


As social beings, we have the ability to fluidly move between conversational topics and everyday niceties.  Speaking and listening are the corner stones of topic development.  Unlike social dialog, classroom conversations are intentionally designed to be learning opportunities.   These experiences are utilized to build stamina.  They  build students' ability to  focus on a topic long enough to get to "the details." For those using POW TIDE this is the "P," pull apart of POW

These conversations need to be quickly snapped up and recorded.  This is where graphic organizers (the "O" organize of POW), Thinking Maps (TM), and other tools come into play.  Students use tools to create landing pads for their ideas. This enables students to develop and manipulate their ideas without loosing their original vision.

Finally, students take that leap of faith and begin to write (the "W" write of POW) down their ideas. With informational text, students have the opportunity to dive into topics that truly interest them.  The signifigance of this transition from personal narrative to relaying information lies in the development of a larger vision. Maturing from a narrow egocentric vision to one where the story line is broader and allows readers and writers to share in common interests.  

 In preparation and participation of a recent TNCore professional development day, there was an opportunity for TN educators to preview student samples and engage in discussion about K-2 student writing.

This first set of student work is from a week long writing project in second grade. Throughout the week, students previewed several informational texts. They chose their favorite as the foundation for their writing task.


After choosing a text, students brainstormed important words that they might need to know or use in their writing. They recorded this information on a Circle Map (TM) .


Students then identified three interesting facts that drew them to this text.

These graphic landing pads were used to help focus and direct their writing.  POW ... It was time to write a rough draft. The focus thus far was on simply getting the words onto paper in a way that cohesively discussed the chosen topic.


After small group conferencing to check for fluidity and focus, students made revisions to the content of their writing.  Grammar conventions were not the initial focus of the project, but were discussed in a final one on one conference; again, corrections were made.


Students built their stamina by staying focused on a chosen topic and in persevering to a finished product. As a reward, students could use "fancy pens" on their final draft. 




In this first grade sample, students read about apples and summarized what they learned using graphic organizers (webs).  Information was then used to create sentences.




Below are kindergarten/first grade samples.

Here students used word wall words to create writing based on informational text. Notice that the word wall words have been highlighted.


Another variation is to "butter" sight words with yellow.



In the following first grade examples, students used pictures as inspiration for their words.




The next set of samples shows the further development of these skills, as second grade students use sight words and pictures to inspire their writing practice.




In conclusion..  "Reading without reflecting is like eating without digesting.” – Edmund Burke
Writing is that liberating bridge that allows students to take ownership of what they have read and internalize all that they have learned.

Special thanks to the following Tennessee teachers for sharing classroom samples: Deborah Holtzclaw, Kerri Surgenor, Kristin Hale, Christy Nelson,  & Nancy Parker.  You are amazing teachers and I am perpetually learning because of your willingness to share!


Friday, September 26, 2014

Student Samples: Patterns to 100

Below are examples of student work from the Patterns to 100: Skip Counting lesson. Throughout the lesson there was about a three way split (25%/25%/50%) among levels of understanding. A little less than 25% were able to see the patterns, but were really struggling with identifying why the patterns were occurring.  The second 25%+ saw the patterns and were able to relate the patterns to the concepts of numeracy and sequence.  Often this subset seemed to lack the ability to put their thoughts into words.  The final 50% were able to take it a step farther and relate the number patterns to place value.

Student Examples:






After looking at the samples, there was a clear need to have some time for learning dialog. We took a break and came back to the over arching idea of 100 patterns at a later time.  Students viewed a quick Brain Pop Jr. video about patterns to 100 & then shared in think pair & share conversations about what patterns they personally observed on the 100 chart (rug). 


This was followed up with an independent task and small group discussions that utilized Mathematical Practice # 3 Construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others.  This was a great opportunity to solidify understanding and address misconceptions.  Discussions included a large amount of peer feedback and accountable talk.  There were quite a few Ah-ha moments as students built schema and participated in bridging dialog.  

Instead of using the text book quick check, this mini lesson utilized a revised quick check/exit slip. Notice that the question is contrived to illicit a more explicit response from students. This was intentional to gain a more definitive overview of their conceptual understanding (2.NBT.A.2 & 2.NBT.A.1).

Quick Check Prompt:  Madison counts 22, 24, 26. Zane says 28, 30, 32.  Which three numbers come next in the pattern?  How do you know?


Student Examples:








Thursday, September 18, 2014

Patterns to 100: Skip Counting

Many elementary teachers like to save that all about one hundred book for the 100th day of school. I challenge you to grab your favorite book about one hundred and use it earlier.  This is the perfect "hook" to up the game in your classroom.   Use this resource to spark learning dialog about patterns and place value!

There are so many great books about one hundred it's hard to choose and you could substitute any of them for the following lesson plan...

This lesson will begin with 100th Day Worries by Margary Cuyler.
This lesson was approached with the mind set of universal planning.  For those unfamiliar with this phrase, it's basically planning with the end goal in mind.  

This lesson's goals & Objectives all stemmed from Tennessee State Standards &  NCTM focal points.

CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.2.NBT.A.2Count within 1000; skip-count by 5s, 10s, and 100s.
CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.2.NBT.B.8
Mentally add 10 or 100 to a given number 100-900, and mentally subtract 10 or 100 from a given number 100-900.
NCTM Focal Points: Use number patters to extend the knowledge of properties of numbers and operations.

What are the desired outcomes of this lesson?  
Two goals were identify .  The goals are both measurable and attainable.  Goal 1 is a foundational skill that provides insight into student understanding. Goal 2 taps into essential understanding. It attempts to build schema between foundational skills and the larger concept of place value. 

1.  Counting and place-value patterns can be seen on a hundred chart.
2.  Digits and place value are relational; this relationship determines the value of any given digit based on the magnitude of the place value.

Brainstorming assessing and advancing questions was the next step.  This was important because it ensured a foot hold on where this particular lesson falls in the trajectory of learning for students.  It allowed for planning of differentiated moves and contributed to the artful movement of facilitation.

Advancing and Assessing Questions:
What are some patterns that you have seen at school, outside, or at home?
·      Explain patterns that you have identified.
·      What is the value of digits in the ones/tens/hundreds place?
·      How does the position of a number affect its value?
·      What number patterns can be identified on the hundreds chart/number line?
·       How can you create number patterns using skip counting/rote counting/hundreds charts?
·      Can you predict how this number pattern will continue?
·      Looking at the number pattern and using the hundreds chart, how can we predict what will come next?
·      How can the pattern be extended?
·      What do the number patterns look like on the hundreds chart (describe)? Why?

Finally I wanted to ensure that I kept my students' interest. I did this by incorporating an iPad app and a book/board game that reinforced the targeted skill. 

Hundred Chart App:
Book/Board Game adapted from Envision resources:


Downloaded this lesson plan and/or the accompanying smart notebook document via Mrs. Dowell's Teaching Resources Wiki or the second grade shared resources wiki.  Grab your favorite all about one hundred book and dive in. Feel free to take this lesson plan and make it your own.