Friday, August 21, 2015

Week 2 is in the Books!

Week 2 is in the books.

My days go by so fast!  I'm trying to fit as much as possible into our two class periods, but sometimes I feel things are disjointed.  My goal is to have smoother transitions next week.

August 17
Nonfiction Text Features - This was our first attempt at our Interactive Notebooks.  I modified this Nonfiction Text Features Book so as to not take up so many pages in our books.  It took longer than I would have liked, but the information and examples are solid and will be a good reference.

I bought a Greek and Latin Root Word book from TPT.  I used parts of it after spring break last year and felt it was quality.  After discussing why we should learn Greek and Latin roots (noctambulist example), we dug into the first lesson.

August 18
Students took the STAR test.  I hope to use this as a baseline for grouping students and also give me a better idea of articles we can read.

Last year, I used a Scholastic Scope article titled Great Penguin Rescue.  I like using it to teach nonfiction text features because it contains many of the features and has engaging information.  Today was also our first attempt at writing GIST statements.

I first told students to imagine telling their parents about the article.  They were given a minute to just think about how they would summarize.  Next they actually told a neighbor what they would say to a person who had not read the article.  Finally students wrote their statements.  The GIST Statements had to be 25 words exactly.  They loved me for that.  HA!

By the time that was completed, our time together was up!

August 19
We start Wednesdays with 7 Word Sentence.  I put a photograph on the Smartboard, and students need to compose sentences that are at least 7 words.  This is one way we are working on descriptive sentences.

In order to finish the GIST activity, students refreshed their memories by rereading their statements.  Next they shared in small group.  The final task was to come to group consensus in order to write a group GIST.  These statements were then written on large posters and hung in the room.  Students completed a gallery walk to read all the statements.

Students reading each group's statement.

Groups then received 2 pieces of a sticky note so they could vote on their two favorite statements.  Here are the winners from each hour.

Tomorrow, as a review, students will vote on the best statement from all three hours.

As a review of nonfiction text features, students labeled the article with features (title, subheading, photo, caption, diagram, bold words, etc).

Our last activity of the day was to annotate our AoW.  This week we read Farmers demand for drones moves up, up, and away from Newsela.  I once again modeled annotating and students just copied what I annotated.  They then responded to the questions on their own.

August 20
We started our day with voting for the best GIST statement.  Number 3 was the clear winner, but my last hour realized they had over the 25 word limit.  I had to do some quick editing to show it could be paired down to 25 words.  They were not happy. There was almost a mutiny.  :-)

Students were able to choose a magazine article to complete the Magazine Analysis (text features again).  Student choice leads to more engagement during this activity.  

During the second hour, we had stations.  Half of the class was working on these Nonfiction Text Features Task Cards (mainly graph/chart reading).  The other half did vocabulary activities.  I had an independent matching activity and a Memory game activity.  Students really seemed to enjoy this.

Students did have homework tonight.  There were 20 scenarios, and they had to identify which text feature was being used.  We will go over this first thing tomorrow and then take a quiz that is identical in format.

I was exhausted at the end of today!

August 21
After correcting the homework, clarifying, and answering questions, students took a quiz over the nonfiction text features.  They also took a quiz over their vocabulary.

In order to practice annotation and GIST statements, we read another article today.  We read Arizona Cardinals new linebacker coach is a woman, again from Newsela.  Using the models from class, students tried their hand at annotating on their own.  We then completed the GIST process again.  It is amazing how much better the statements are during this second time.  When learning a new strategy, I like to repeat it several times in a short period of time in order to cement in the procedures.  

Next week I need to take some time to make sure notebooks are set up correctly.  I noticed that several students have things all crazy already.  I don't want to start the year with bad habits.  Checking in with students on the books they are reading will also be a priority.  I know I said I had voracious readers, but I also apparently have voracious AR Test Takers.  Holy Cow! I need to definitely get that in check next week.

I think I am going to try to reflect each night and the publish the blog entry at the end of the week. 

Until next time!

Sunday, August 16, 2015

First Week BTS

Last March, at EdcampOKC, I attended a blogging session.  We discussed the idea of teachers creating reflective blogs after each week of teaching.  I was able to do this for two weeks.  Then we hit spring break and then testing season.  It is hard to be reflective about standing around watching students take hours of tests.  Therefore I set a goal of starting the new school year blogging.  The following showcases Room 7's activities.

The first days back to school are always a whirlwind of activity.  We started on a Monday, so the end of the week was especially windy!

This year 6th grade is piloting combining our reading and English classes. Basically we took the positions of the reading teacher and the English teacher and shook it up a bit.  I know the scheduling was difficult, and I am very thankful that our administration took the extra time to try this.
I.LOVE.THIS.  We read.  We write.  We write.  We read.  It just makes sense.

Monday - We started our time together with a challenge.  The Marshmallow Challenge to be exact.  This was an activity I had pinned and wanted to try.  After attending EdcampEOC and listening to Scott Haselwood share his experiences with it, I knew it would become our first #amazeballs activity.

My goal was for the students to discover this class would be one that stretched their thinking, encouraged discussion and collaboration, and, quite simply, would be fun.  I feel this was accomplished.  While not every group was able to meet the challenge, everyone was able to learn.  Our pictures are posted here.  I realize this is more of a STEM activity, but I can make almost anything in to an ELA assignment.  :-)  This first writing from students will help guide my instruction.


Tuesday - Today involved completing the book walk activity that I had wanted to do on Monday, but we ran out of time.  This summer I read Donalyn Miller's The Book Whisperer.  After listening to Jason Stephenson talk about how he implements this in his high school English class, I knew I had to try.  (Have I mentioned how COLLABORATION is SO IMPORTANT for educators?)

First I told students that I was not concerned with AR points (cue the collective sigh of relief). Here were my other points:
  • It is okay to read a book you have read before.  You will probably understand it better/find new ideas the second time around.  Don't we rewatch movies we love?  Why not reread books we love?
  • It is okay to read a book below your AR level.  Reading should be a pleasurable experience.  If it is a good story and entertains me, why does it have to be "at my level"?
  • It is okay to read a book above your level if the subject interests you.  However, you have to make sure you are checking for understanding.
  • It is okay to abandon a book.  I have abandoned many movies  - I can do the same with books.
Each group of desks held four-five books.  As they perused the books and held conversations about them, they were encouraged to write down titles on the paper titled "Books I MIGHT want to read".  After rotating through all the groups, students were able to choose a book to check out.

Maybe it is this particular group of students.  Maybe it was the freedom to read whatever they wanted.  All I know is that students were excited to read and spent the next 20 minutes engrossed in their books.

The other activity on my Tuesday plan was OPTIC.  This is a tried and true activity I do every year.  Students enjoy it.  I like it because it is a non-threatening activity that gets everyone involved.  It also sets the stage for looking closely at images so that we can do our weekly 7 Word Sentences.  I was only able to get to this with my 3rd/4th hour class.  I was able to fit it in on Friday for my other two sections.

Wednesday - We discussed Formal/Informal Language.  I always do this at the beginning of the year so students know my expectations for writing.  I blogged about this last year, and I pretty much followed it again this year.  Writing in text message language is surprising difficult for some 6th graders.  I'm going to look at this like a positive problem during this lesson.  

Thursday - Part of one class period was spent in library orientation.  We spent some of our time together with our first AoW.  We annotated together to give students a model to use during subsequent lessons.  I keep telling students Reading is Thinking.  Some have blank expressions on their faces when I say this.  We will need to spend extra time next week really digging into annotating.  Modeling my own thinking will be an integral part of helping them to understand.

My students were voracious readers this week.  They have finished the books they checked out on Tuesday, and they all want to know the procedure for returning and checking out more.  I don't know if this is because I allowed them to choose "easier" books, if it is because they choose books they enjoy, or because they don't have much homework yet.  I've learned sometimes it is best not to question, so I am going with they are voracious readers.  :-)

I freely admit that I was at a loss for Friday's plans.  Each group of students is vastly different, and I am struggling a bit with pacing.  My last section had ID pictures taken after library orientation, so tomorrow I need to take the other two sections.  After stressing about it all night, I decided it would be okay if each section was different on Friday.  

Friday - We reviewed Formal/Informal language and took a quiz.  We had ID pictures taken.  We had a fire drill.  We prepared our Interactive Notebooks with our Table of Contents and our Reading Log.  Basically we did whatever we had not yet gotten to during the week.  

Saturday - No, we did not have school on Saturday.  I just wanted to document that I spent 4 hours in my classroom on a Saturday to prepare for next week.  Even though I worked all summer on gathering ideas, I find it difficult to actually plan the lessons until I know the students.  And, from the amount of cars in the parking lot, I was not the only one to spend Saturday afternoon in my classroom.

I'm excited to share more with and learn from my students next week.