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Sunday, February 2, 2014

4 Weather Days = Curriculum Crunch Time... AND a Reminder That Teaching Is About More Than Just Curriculum

"TEACH ON, WARRIORS. You are the first responders, the front line, the disconnection detectives, and the best and ONLY hope we’ve got for a better world. What you do in those classrooms when no one is watching-  it’s our best hope."  -Glennon Doyle Melton,
If our weather experiences this week in metro Atlanta have reminded us of anything, it's that as teachers, we are more than just deliverers of curriculum. On Tuesday afternoon in metro Atlanta, teachers calmed students' nerves as it slowly began to sink into even the youngest that things weren't all right.  Buses weren't being called, the snow was accumulating, and the computer games and bonus movies were no longer interesting. When the intercom would buzz a room for a student to leave, you could see the relief on that child's face, and then heard the sobs of those still waiting.  What transpired over the next few hours was unimaginable...students and teachers sleeping at the school, parents walking miles in the snow to pick up children, and students stranded on buses for hours without food, water or bathrooms.  

What is not a surprise, though, are the heroics of teachers. When it comes down to it, we teach because we are on a mission to change lives. We teach because we want to strengthen the weak, motivate the disconnected, enrich the imagination of all, and believe in each child so that they may believe in themselves.  Most days that means we focus on delivering a curriculum that builds the collaborative, problem solvers of the future. But some days, it simply means being present with the kids with reassuring pats on the back, whispered messages that it will be OK, and being a safe presence in the midst of uncertainty. To all of my colleagues at Hillside ES that spend every day balancing curriculum and presence, thank you for being such dedicated teaching warriors!

Curriculum Crunch: 5 Literacy Stations to Tackle Multiple Standards Quickly

When we return on Monday, we’ll be faced with a bit of a curriculum crunch.  So, in keeping with my belief that teachers need to share good teaching ideas, below you’ll find the tweaks I’m making to my reading and writing workshop to tackle standards through integrating science, social studies and language skills into our workshop model.  Special thanks to Meagan Eastman (4th Grade Hillside teacher) and Kelly Moynihan (Hillside ES CST) for several of these ideas, as well as Jen Jones with Hello Literacy for the Shades of Meaning Vocabulary center.

I use a weekly reading contract to communicate with my students about the academic expectations for the week.  Students keep the weekly contract in their Reader's Notebook.  They are free to decide in which order to complete the activities, and with whom to partner. Several of the activities are leveled, and all produce a product of work.  For the next few weeks, I have decided to combine my reading and writing workshop into one large block of time.  Students will be working on informational research and writing through a biography project, and conventions work connected with "reading as a writer" stations.

*More pictures and document resources will be posted of each station throughout this week.

Reading for Information Station:
EQ: What strategies do strong readers use?
Standards: Close Reading of a Leveled, Complex Text
Task:  Students "read with a pencil" using our 3-2-1 Think Marks strategy. Each Think Mark is summarized in the margin.  Students then answer the text dependent questions, highlighting evidence in the text using colored markers.
                                      3* IMPORTANT DETAILS
                                  2! SURPRISING STATEMENTS
                        1? QUESTION YOU HAVE ABOUT THE TOPIC

Research Station
EQ: How do I integrate information from several texts to write about the topic?
Standards: Georgia Social Studies 3rd Grade American Heroes, Comparing Multiple Text, Reading complex text, informational writing
Task:  Students will create a biography-based Trading Card for each American Hero in the 3rd grade curriculum, including Paul Revere, Frederick Douglass, Eleanor and Franklin Roosevelt, Susan B. Anthony, and others. Students will use books placed in the research center and informational websites linked through Edmodo to read multiple sources on the lives of these Americans.  Students will then create a Trading Card detailing important contributions of each person. (Thanks to Meagan Eastman for this fantastic activity!)

*Note: This station is one of the major changes I'm implementing.  With the loss of instructional time, this allows me to continue teaching science, while pre-teaching and reviewing our Social Studies standards.

Word Work Station
EQ: How can I use reference materials to determine the meaning of unknown words?
Standards: applying known strategies to unknown words, affixes,  context clues, reference materials, antonyms, synonyms, speaking and listening, shades of meanings of words
Task: This activity is from Jen Jones' Hello Literacy, and it's called Shades of Meaning. You can purchase it on this link.  Working with a group, students sort and rank 8 similar words in order.  For example, they are give 8 words that describe the affix -"able." Words include clever, powerful, capable, talented, etc.  Students must  justify the order the words are placed in between "most able" and "able."  If the group does not agree, continue to discuss reasons and opinions until a decision is made.  For example, a group of students in my room were debating whether clever or powerful should be ranked higher.  One boy used the example  that "a president is powerful.  He's able to do whatever he wants.  But, it doesn't mean he's clever. So, powerful should come first." I loved listening to this debate! Students use classroom dictionaries and the tablet to look up word meanings, as well as their own schema for examples.

Reading as a Writer Station
EQ: How does understanding punctuation influence reading fluently? How did the writer organize the text?
Standards: text structure (description, cause/effect & compare/contrast)fluency, impact of punctuation on a written piece
Task: In the Big Book Center, with a partner, students read the informational text aloud.  Students practice reading the words smoothly, pausing after punctuation, and adding expression in the right places. Next, the partners will work together to deconstruct the text structure organization and complete a main idea/detail graphic organizer, based on the text structure.

Work on Writing
EQ: How does a writer uses punctuation for effect? How do text features in a magazine article help me understand the author's message?
Standards: punctuation for effect, informational writing, author's purpose, text features
Task: Students Buddy Read a non-fiction article from our collection of Scholastic magazines.  Students use a Think Dots task card to respond to text dependent questions on the author's use of punctuation and use of text features. Students then complete a graphic organizer on punctuation used in the article.
*I'm working hard to integrate more "reading as a writer" into both our reading and writing workshops.  Students have to explore modeled text before they can truly generate quality written work of their own.

Students will also work in guided reading groups throughout the week.  More posts on guided reading groups and our Poem of The Week task coming soon. It's almost Super Bowl time, though, so I'm signing off for a while.

I hope everyone has a wonderful week of teaching!

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