Sunday, September 21, 2014

Spark Student Motivation: Book "Previews"
For the second week in a row, I'm late to the party, but I'm here nonetheless! I'm once again linking up with the fabulous Joanne at Head Over Heels for Teaching for her Spark Student Motivation Saturday! This week, I'm sharing how we get our students excited about reading in our Character Book Clubs.

A little book club background:

Our book clubs are essentially students reading books by level independently and then getting together on Fridays to discuss them like a real "book club." This offers our students some choice in reading but also allows the teacher to keep track of only 10 - 12 different novels. We are currently starting our character unit. Our class mentor text is Rules. Each day we read aloud part of Rules and model a reading lesson or strategy. Students then have time to read their book club novel and perform the same task with their novels. For our faster readers, once they read two novels they can read their own books or they can continue going through our book club list. This is an additional motivator for students wanting complete freedom in independent reading.

To get our students excited before reading, we start with book previews! Who doesn't love watching the previews before a movie? It's normal to love the previews! To get my students excited, I go online and try to find book trailers or mini-movies from You Tube or Scholastic about the books. We then take the time to go over each book choice. We read the level, blurb, and then watch the trailer. Students then rank each book as a book they'd want to read or a book they'd pass on. My teaching partner and I have found that this method of showing the "previews" really gets our students excited about books and reading!

Here's a few previews from our character unit:


Here's the letter & book "blurbs" we send home with students and parents:

You can get a PDF version here or an editable Word version here.
This is only the first page, book choices go through the letter W.

We passed our book club novels last week and I'm sure come Monday, I'll already have students finished. I've found it's worth the time to "show" students "good books" and authors. This helps motivate even some of our non-readers. Students are also allowed to count all book club novels for their 40 Book Challenge {We are using The Brown Bag Teacher's Reading Log for our challenge} since they are read independently. For many students, this is an additional motivating factor in reading through the list or reading at least two novels.

How do you motivate students to read in your classroom?

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Spark Student Motivation: Class Symphony Poems

Okay, I'm a day late to the party but I was enjoying two friends' wedding on Saturday proper. So, tonight, now that I'm home and laundry is in for tomorrow, I figured I'd link up Joanne at Head Over Hells for Teaching for my first Spark Student Motivation of this school year!

Today, I'm sharing a writing idea to get the creative juices flowing in the classroom! My teaching partner, once again, had a fabulous writing activity from her summer classes with the Ohio Writing Project. One idea was to encourage writing through a class symphony poem.

In class, we're been reading Love that Dog by Sharon Creech. In the novel,  Jack, the main character is very reluctant to write poetry and claims that "only girls do it." Throughout the book, Jack beings lifting lines from famous poets he loves to start to tell his story through various poems. I connected the book to our class poem by having students lift lines they love from favorite songs. We talk about how lines we love can have a deeper meaning to our lives or just make us feel good. Students each took a sentence strip and added their favorite lines to a strip. Then I had a few helpers, help me arrange our lines into a poem. I know a fellow colleague had students working in partners to choose lines that could "fit" together to help write her class poem.

I hung up our entire poem outside our classroom door. We wrapped up Love that Dog last week. I know some of my new poetry lessons helped foster a sense of writing and creativity as one of my most honest students left on Friday telling me, "Now I love poetry. I just want to write it all the time. I even spent some time at recess writing a poem! I'm going to write them all year!"


Here's our final poems:


What are you doing to motivate writing in your class rooms?

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Workshop Wednesday: Organizing it All!
Glad to be back into the blogging swing of things. I'm even more excited to share some of my workshop organization today thanks to Jivey's Workshop Wednesday linky! Such a great place to find Reading, Writing, and Math Workshop ideas.

We are still in our launching phrase of Reading and Writing Workshop. We're using poetry to launch our workshop and interactive notebooks. Last year, we had some issues on our team with students losing or missing supplies... so I knew storing notebooks had to be built into my workshop routine.

First, I used some "pinspiration" to create my interactive notebooks storage area. Here is a peek into one table's organizational set-up.

Each table has one double-decker crate. The crates are stackable milkcrates. Inside are magazine holders from the Target One Spot last spring. 

First "floor" is my morning class's Readers' and Writers' notebooks. Each magazine holder has a label so that students can easily grab and pass out the notebooks that are needed.

All supplies students need for Reading or Writing Workshop are also at the table in each caddy.

To organize book club choices and keep students moving through books in Reader's Workshop, I've labeled small stacking baskets from Target for book club novels. I'm hoping that having three baskets and sorting books by level will encourage "Just Right" choices.

 These hot pink baskets were a cartwheel and very sturdy for around $2.99! 

 For Writing Workshop, I stuck with one central writing area for my students. Students have access to colored pens, a pencil sharpener, editing wheels, self-revision guides (editing and revision posters shrunk down to create mini-books), grammar handouts, and whole class journals! This area is perfect for students who finish early or need to move to the next step in workshop!

This is the "Writing Depot"
Writing posters on the next cabinet for studnets that need "Fix-Up" Strategies.
  These include my ARMS and CUPS posters.

I don't have a lot of station supplies. All my extra "stuff" for Workshop is housed under the counter in some three drawer carts from Target. Those are for teachers only, however.

What organizational strategies do you use to keep your students on track?

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Tried it Tuesday: This I Believe

I'm so happy that Tried it Tuesday is back up and running weekly! I love this linky and the wonderful Holly over at Fourth Grade Flipper. I get so many great ideas each Tuesday. 

For this week's Tried it Tuesday, I can't take credit for the fabulous idea and lesson but I just have to share because it turned out so well! My teaching partner Mrs.Wirtz over at Endeavors of Innovative Teaching took a poetry class this summer from the Ohio Writing Project. The ideas she has shared have been amazing. For this Tried it Tuesday, I'm sharing her idea for students to write a "This I Believe" poem.

The concept is simple. Students write a poem (or it could be an essay type piece) of things they believe. The idea is inspired by NPR's "This I Believe" segment. Before writing, I shared a short broadcast from NPR's "This I Believe" with my students. The segment I played featured kindergartener, Tarak McLain, sharing some of his beliefs. Tarak wrote 100 beliefs for his 100th day of school and shares 30 of his favorites on air. You can listen to the broadcast and view photos of Tarak here. My students were blown away by the ideas of a 6 year old! I then shared my version seen below and my teaching partner's version you can view here.

This I Believe 

I believe that we should tell the ones we love we care about them.
I believe that pets are a part of the family.
I believe that we should hold the door for others.
I believe that "please" and "thank you" are two of the most important words.
I believe that words are powerful.
I believe that my students can soar above my expectations.
I believe that mistakes lead to great discoveries.
I believe that you can never use too many exclamation points!!!
I believe that everyone has a special talent deep inside.
I believe that you should take pride in all that you do.
I believe that you should always put your best foot forward.
I believe that you can teach an old dog new tricks.
I believe that you never stop learning. 
I believe that fair is not always equal.
I believe in hard work and loving what you do! 

Then I challenged my students to create their own list of beliefs to turn into a poem. We wrote continuously for 10 - 15 minutes and then stopped to create our class poem. It gave me chills to hear some of the powerful things my 5th graders put into their poems. Everyone just read a single line as we went around the room without stopping. We had a few "silly" lines to laugh about but overall my students really did some deep thinking about themselves and what they believe.

Here are a few of my favorite lines from my students:

I believe one little act can change the world.

I believe everyone has some good inside.

I believe in Karma.

I believe that life isn't always fair.

I believe that we should respect and help others.

I believe we should be thankful for what we have.

I believe we can always make new friends.

I believe that friends come and go - and that's okay.

I believe in myself.

This activity took less than 20 minutes and was an easy nonthreatening way to launch poetry, writing, and a sense of community within the classroom. If you have a few spare minutes, share the broadcast with your students and listen to what they have to say. Sometimes the simplest statements have the most powerful impacts!

Hope everyone else had a great Tuesday!
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