Why They Work: Three Reasons for Using Word Walls and Spelling Dictionaries in the Classroom

Posted by Rashawnda Atkinson on Apr 29, 2017 12:19:00 PM

Lots of things are different from the time I began teaching until now, but there are a few things that I clearly stand by, specifically word walls and spelling dictionaries. Word walls are often displays posted in the classroom of common words, content or unit-specific vocabulary, and easily misspelled words. They'll look different depending on the classroom and grade, but they're generally organized in alphabetical order, similarly to the spelling dictionary. Spelling dictionaries are portable word walls, where students have the correct spelling of various words at their seats, with many including blank lines where they can write other words they need to spell (e.g. proper nouns). These can be organized alphabetically or phonetically. What makes these tools so effective? Here are a few reasons why every teacher should continue or develop the regular practice of having students use these tools to strengthen their writing.

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Topics: Classroom Ideas, Personal Experiences, Differentiation, Literacy

7 Ways to Give Students the Tools They Need To Manage Conflict

Posted by Rachel Tapling on Apr 28, 2017 12:00:00 PM

We all know that conflicts are a natural part of communicating and of relationships in general. Still, conflict between students can cause some of the most stressful and frightening experiences for them, and create real barriers to learning. Students need to be given the tools and safe spaces in which to practice using them. 

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Topics: Classroom Ideas, Personal Experiences

Math Journaling

Posted by Stacey Barbeaus on Apr 27, 2017 12:11:00 PM

Math journaling is a great way to get insight into your students’ thoughts and problem solving strategies about math K-12!  Learning how to do math is only one piece of the problem, they also must know how to articulate what they learning. Providing them with as many opportunities to do this as they have to learn the math, the better.  This is where math journaling comes into play. Math journals are not the same as a math worksheet. Journals provide the student’s the ability to organize their thoughts, explain their reasoning and reflect on what they did correctly or what they would change next time. If this is your student’s first experience with math journaling, don’t get bent out of shape if they are not knocking your socks off. Give them time and encouragement, scaffold for them. The benefits of sticking with it will pay off.  Math journaling provides children with:
Differentiation. They are able to work at their own ability level. For the younger children, some may still be at drawing pictures to explain their thinking while others may be writing out their thoughts.
It will allow for broader student learning while also allowing teachers to know what approach kids are taking to solve the problem and intervene if necessary.
Requires more than just remembering a sequence of steps.
Angela Watson of TheCornerstoneForTeachers had some great recommendations for math journal prompting. Here are some great places to begin.
-Prompts That Assess Attitudes: Students write about their personal thoughts and feelings about math. Examples: When it comes to math, I find it difficult to…, I love math because…, People who are good at math…, and When I study for a math test, I….
-Prompts That Assess Learning: Students write about what they’ve learned and reflect on what they know (and don’t know). Examples: The most important thing I learned today is…, I could use today’s skill in my real life when I…, Today I used math when…, At the end of this unit, I want to be able to…, and Some good test questions for this skill are….
-Prompts That Assess Process: Students explain how to solve problems or discuss a particular skill or strategy. Examples: Two ways to solve this problem are…, I knew my answer was right when…, Another strategy I could have used to solve this problem is…, If I missed a step in this problem, I could have…, and The most important part of solving this problem is to remember….Good luck getting started!

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Topics: Classroom Ideas, Personal Experiences, Common Core

Poem in your Pocket Day

Posted by Teresa Marchant on Apr 26, 2017 12:00:00 PM

A New York City celebration is now nationwide! This event coincides with National Poetry month. Many people across American have started celebrating April 27th as "Poem in your Pocket Day". Basically, you have a favorite poem on a slip of paper in your pocket to give away at a moments notice. Here my top ten ideas that require little planning to help you be prepared for this fun day.

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Topics: Classroom Ideas, Personal Experiences, Differentiation, Integration Ideas, Literacy

Methods For Building and Retaining Vocabulary

Posted by Laura Akers on Apr 25, 2017 12:08:00 PM
How often have you heard or discussed with other educators the importance of vocabulary? You have probably heard the terms Tier 1, Tier 2, and Tier 3 vocabulary. Whether you have attended one workshop or many workshops about vocabulary, refreshing your knowledge and absorbing new ideas is beneficial for you and your students.
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Topics: Classroom Ideas, Differentiation, Integration Ideas, Literacy

Digital Literacy In Action, 21st Century Skills

Posted by Reine L. on Apr 24, 2017 11:29:00 AM

Attending primary school in “my generation of learners” included the seventies and finishing both middle and high school in the eighties, literacy and numeracy discussions were summarized as The Three R’s: Reading, (w)Riting, and (a)Rithmetic; however as an educator in the 21st century literacy includes education in media literacy, and having digital literacy skills is essential for learners to participate in a classroom. The education system has completely changed throughout the world, thus literacy has evolved with discussions necessary to make sure that all learners acquire the digital competencies needed to survive in a world evermore connected to this phenomena, not to mention changes required for workplace competency.
Digital literacy is the set of competencies required for full participation in a knowledge society. It includes knowledge, skills, and behaviors involving the effective use of digital devices such as smartphones, tablets, laptops, and desktop personal computers for purposes of communication, expression, collaboration and advocacy.

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Topics: Classroom Ideas, Integration Ideas, Technology

Being Bilingual: More than Just Head Knowledge

Posted by Rashawnda Atkinson on Apr 22, 2017 11:53:00 AM

When I was younger, I was obsessed with learning Spanish and sign language. The former was because I loved the way it sounded in music and wanted to understand the words. The latter was because it was easy for me to understand and I loved being able to communicate with people with hearing difficulties. While I don't remember as much as I did at the time, what I was doing--unbeknownst to me--was giving myself an advantage that would benefit me for many years to come. Below I share my experience as well as benefits to promoting this in the classroom and beyond.

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Topics: Classroom Ideas, Personal Experiences, Differentiation

4 Essential Steps for Building an Inclusive Classroom

Posted by Rachel Tapling on Apr 21, 2017 12:04:00 PM

Within the next 30 years, there will be no ethnic majority in the U.S. Also, 1/3 of Americans will be the children of immigrants or will be foreign-born themselves.

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Topics: Classroom Ideas, Personal Experiences, Differentiation

Learn, Reduce, Reuse and Recycle on Earth Day.

Posted by Teresa Marchant on Apr 20, 2017 12:00:00 PM

What are your plans for Earth Day? There are many ways to celebrate Earth Day. Whether you choose to engage in these types of activities before or after the actual earth day, your students will enjoy learning about Mother Earth.

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Topics: Classroom Ideas, Personal Experiences, Integration Ideas

Organizing Your Classroom Library

Posted by Stacey Barbeaus on Apr 19, 2017 12:06:00 PM

A must in every elementary classroom is a library! I have spent years building mine and I continue to scour garage sales, retired teacher sales, donation piles and of course purchasing books for my library. The one thing I dread about my library is the organization of it. I have tried genre, reading level and author. I just can’t seem to win. I believe I have done an awesome job of explaining it to my first grade students; I show them, I model how to put books back, I have even used bookmarks like in the school’s library to mark where they took their book from. All for nothing.  The first couple weeks are great and it’s a downhill slide from there. I currently have books on my shelf in no particular order and it is driving me crazy!  So, I searched and came up with some ways that teachers can organize their classroom library and keep it organized. I am determined to find one that works for me as well!

One idea that I really like was placing the books in baskets. On the front of the basket is a tag, ex. Animals and it is marked with a picture. Then, each of the books in that basket have a label on the cover that says “animals” and they have the corresponding picture. This makes it so quick and easy for the books to be identified as to where they belong with no confusion on which basket they came from! Even the kids could organize them if given the task! I love it!

An idea very similar to the one above, is to again use baskets and place a number on the outside. Then all of the books in that basket would be marked with the number 5. This would allow for organizing by level, genre, author, A.R. level. Again, this is easy for children to find the box that corresponds to the number on the book.

Another idea that really struck me was using cloth bins to place books into. The child would have a clip with their name on it. Every time they took a book from the bin, they would clip their name to the cloth handle so they could remember where to put their book back. This is a fun and unique way to organize the books and help kids keep them that way! You could take photos of each of the kids, laminate them and use those for their book clips. It would be easy to come up with other variations of this idea.

A couple other ideas that caught my attention was a bin with the teacher’s name on it filled with their favorite books. Another was a “Book Hospital”. I can’t even begin to count how many times my reading group has been interrupted over a damaged book that a child found (even though they know better than to interrupt reading groups for that)! Now they can place them in the hospital bin and you can get to those books when you have time. Overtime, these books will be well "loved" and no longer available.  Eventually, my classroom will be all digital. Until then, I hope my students enjoy reading regardless of the format.

I’m excited to get my library organized and would love to hear any suggestions that you have! Happy reading!

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Topics: Classroom Ideas, Personal Experiences

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