Category Archives: Universal Design for Learning (UDL)

Teaching Character Types with Prezi

I’ve always been proud of my strategy for teaching character types, which has been a viewer favorite here at All Access Pass.

I have now taking all this information and these ideas and created my very first Prezi! It’s been something I have been wanting to learn for over a year and after watching Tweedle Dee use it effortlessly for 7th grade Science I finally decided it’s time.

I felt a bit of frustration working on it on my MacBook but I did most of it at work, so it was pretty easy. I worked on this for almost 2 hours, learning the process as I went. I didn’t watch any tutorials or anything. I just experimented.

After a week of exhaustion and lack of focus, it felt good to learn something new and produce something I am proud of.

I present to you my first Prezi: Character Types

I used this in my after school study program a few weeks ago. I had the (un)fortunate honor of running the last study session the night before the last day of school when there was literally NO homework. Two hours, 23 7th graders, and no homework.

This activity was a lifesaver.

After viewing the Prezi, groups picked a DVD from my holiday gift bag, (made a few swaps), and headed to the lab to create their own Prezi presentations. For the group of boys who weren’t familiar with a single DVD I brought in, they did “A Christmas Carol” which they just finished reading in Language Arts.

We didn’t quite finish, but we will do it our first week back in 2013.

I am looking forward to creating more of these presentations. If you haven’t experimented with it, take some time on a snow day and check it out.

Have you made a Prezi? Do you have another program you use instead? Share your ideas with the comment link at the top of this post.

More on Current Events and CNN Student News

After a few weeks of viewing CNN Student News, I have decided to change it up a little. It’s a great activity for many students, but my class is still struggling with the ideas of theme, conflict and topic. They’ve got the setting down and they can do a fact and opinion. But we need more practice and a simpler format.

I created a SMART Notebook file of the following writing prompts. I will have to think on my feet and choose an appropriate prompt to go with the daily news program, but I will keep the list handy and consider my options while we view the news.

My first thought was to make a supply of handouts, but I think I will just have them write their responses in their journal.

As always, if you’d like the SMART Notebook file, let me know.

Current Event Writing Prompts

Character Trading Cards

I found a really neat activity while I was searching for something for my after school study group on Wednesday.  ReadWriteThink had just what I was looking for!

The 7th graders I am working with during this time are reading A Christmas Carol.  Using the Trading Card Creator, students will be in the computer lab making character cards for each of the characters from the book.

The fictional character option covers appearance, appearance, thoughts, feelings, problem, goal, outcome, quotes, action, interaction, and personal connection.

Students can also include an image and save their card as a PDF to be cut, folded, and taped together.

This is going to be a great activity for my Resource Room when we read Stargirl.  For my class, we will probably create these together on the SMARTBoard as part of our reading discussion and then I will have a set made for every student.

There are also options for other topics as well: real person, fictional place, real place, physical object, event, abstract concept, create your own.

I think for this Wednesday I will do use the random word chooser to  assign characters to students.

Or…maybe I’ll put them in groups of 4 and have each group member choose a main character.

Or…maybe I’ll let them work with partners to create one card.

I don’t have the details hashed out yet, but I guess I’ll figure it out by Wednesday.

What would you do? Suggestions are welcome!

Another Graphic Organizer for Summarizing

Each week my Resource Room students have to complete a reading passage and comprehension questions at their specific ability level. This ranges anywhere from Beginning-Low to Intermediate-High. I like to use stories from ReadTheory.

Students are expected to complete these one page readings independently. The last few times we did this activity, I made them circle the text that supported their answer. This forced them to go back, locate the “evidence” and confirm their answer. I’m happy, and not suprised, to say their scores have drastically improved since I starting enforcing this rule.

To get the most out of this leveled reading I created an additional activity which students have been completing in groups. On the first page, students have to identify:

  • title
  • setting
  • character
  • conflict
  • resolution

Short Story Summary

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Identifying the conflict in this story was challenging. My students couldn’t understand why a woman would leave a baby on a bus.

On the second page I decided to throw in some grammar/language and vocabulary. Note the small boxes in the right hand corner of each. This is where I can modify the assignment for each student. I put a number in each box to tell them how many nouns, verbs, and adjectives they need to find. I do the same for the vocabulary words.

Short Story Language and Vocabulary

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This ended up being a great review of parts of speech.

This activity takes them quite awhile and is very challenging for this group of students. I direct them to their journal notes or the Part of Speech bulletin board to figure out what they are looking for. It takes about 20-25 minutes for most groups to complete it. This provides me with some time to circulate and talk to all the students and note what they are having trouble with. It also gives me time to point out things like capitalization of names and cities.

The way I designed this, it can work with any short story. If you think of any ways to improve or to add additional skills let me know.

Today’s Special: Lesson Planning

I was sorting through some old teacher files in my basement a few weeks ago as part of my “reduce clutter” goal and I put some interesting things aside.

I am just now getting to the pile and one of the things I found was a great Lesson Planning Menu. I don’t know where I originally got this list (and I’m not taking credit for it) but I found it online here: Lesson Planning Menu

Many tried and true activities are included.   Some of my personal favorites are on there too.

But more exciting….there are many activities I am not familiar with, so I’ll have to do some research, or maybe more my speed….make up something  based on the name.

Enjoy the list. Let me know if you find any “must try” activities.

Learning the Six Land Biomes

My 7th grade inclusion science class is studying the six land biomes. As they read with small groups, they completed an outline the teacher had made for them. I used that information to create some review sheets for the quiz this Friday. The notes have simplified wording, diagrams, and photographs.

I was able to quickly make these handouts on my iPad with an app called iDraw. It is $8.99 and worth every penny. You can easily pull in photos from the internet and position them wherever you want (much faster than using Word).

You can save the files as PDFs or images and straight to Dropbox or your photos. This is how I’ve been designing all of my handouts lately and each time I use it I get a little quicker with it. (Actually, Tweedle Dee plays with it from time to time and she has taught me some tricks.) I posted the PDF versions below if you would like to use them.

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Biomes

Tundra

Taiga

Desert and Grassland

Tropical forest

Temperate forest

One of These Words is Not Like the Others

Right now we are working towards increasing vocabulary and improving vocabulary comprehension. These activities are all variations of the same concept using different formats. Students must find similarities and differences between words in a list.

On the SMART Board
There are several tools you can use including:

Word Sort (with headings of Same and Different) This would require one page per set of words, but as a presenter once told me, “Pages are free” so it really doesn’t matter if you use 100 pages.

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The multiple choice activity works also. You can do up to 10 questions per page.

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The easiest? I just make lists/groups of words and cover them with the disappearing box. A student reveals a set and then they all use their dry erase boards to write their answers. I let them work in groups for this so they can have some discussion about the meaning of the words.

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  • “Clickers” – I wrote a grant for Senteo Interactive Response System a few years ago and using these hand-held devices is the closest I can get to BYOT in my Resource Room this year. The students love using clickers and I am collecting ideas on how to use them to share in a future post.

Old School Method

Using index cards, I made a set of cards for each of my round tables. Three cards were similar. One didn’t match up. Students rotated to each table in pairs and had to discuss and write down the words that did not belong. This activity keeps them moving and lets them interact and discuss ideas with classmates.

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One station in the rotation….I said the answer is “rat” because all the others have wings and feathers. Most of them said “eagle” because the others “walk around on the ground.” Who’s correct?

The title of this post made me think of Sesame Street and a popular segment. Who remembers this?

Ideas for Teaching Sequencing and Plot

Teaching plot with the plot diagram and sequencing events are two activities we’ve focused on a lot lately.

I was amazed how the activities surrounding one short story came together. We did these activities over the course of four days as part of our reading instruction for the week.

First we read “The Green Ribbon” in our literature book.

Then we watched the video:

As I was watching the video on my iPad I got the genius idea to do screen shots of different part of story for sequencing purposes. (I am becoming a huge fan of the iPhone/iPad screen shot and have probably a dozen ways it makes my life easier.)

I went into SMART Notebook and used the Hot Spots tool to create two different but related activities surrounding plot.

First, students had to place the labels for a plot diagram in the appropriate place.

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You can customize this tool by drawing your own graphics or pasting an image. I just drew this plot line with the line tool.

Next, students had to place the events of the story in the appropriate place on the plot diagram.

This activity was very effective for teaching exposition, climax, and resolution.

I also used SMART Notebook’s Image Arrange tool and the screen shot images of the video so students could sequence the major events.

You can paste any images into this tool. These are the screen captures from YouTube.

I wasn’t so sure about this last-but-not-least activity, but I am glad I gave it a try. It incorporated sequencing, summarizing, sentence writing, and speaking & listening.

To prepare, I had Tweedle Dee draw 8 different pictures in cells like a comic strip (in random order). I asked her to keep the drawings simple and to reflect the main events of the story. Since she loves to draw and most of my students hate it, this was a win-win situation.

In class, I gave a copy of the mixed-up comic strips to each student. They had to cut, sequence, and paste the cells in order. They then had to retell the story in their own words under each cell.

I encouraged them to use their books for vocabulary and spelling. I thought this might be too juvenile or easy for my students but it was definitely challenging. Everyone’s story was slightly different in terms of wording. In fact, they did a little 4-3-2-1 sharing right before our comprehension quiz.

Here is one of the finished comic strips from my class:

Providing the pictures was a huge relief to many students. If they had asked, I would have let them draw their own. But no one did.

This link highlights just 14 of the SMART Flash Activities in the Activity Toolkit. If you are new to SMART Notebook this is definitely worth checking out.

Using Edmodo to Encourage Editing

Do you ever have ideas that come out of nowhere or get a result that you never expected? Like when a decently planned lesson all of a sudden takes a turn for the best and you are like “Yesssss!! This is why I love my job!””

That was me about three weeks ago when I decided to try to use Edmodo with my Resource Room. My original goal was to get them used to signing into the computer, logging into Edmodo, and typing a reply (hopefully with capitals and punctuation).

Here is what I did:

1. I loaded a picture on Edmodo.

2. I gave these directions: Ask three questions about the picture. Answer two of your classmates’ questions. Use capitals and periods.

3. I set them loose and didn’t fuss about their grammar, punctuation, etc. I was happy to see them responding and interacting and looking at their question words. Almost everyone completed the task in the allotted time.

Class ended and when I returned to my room, my iPhone had 47 notifications from Edmodo!

4. During my prep period, I logged into Edmodo and used the Screen Capture Tool in SMART Notebook and copied their work. All 47 replies.

5. I created some editing icons for punctuation and capitalization and included a smiley face.

Fast-forward to the next day for our Bell Ringer….

6. We edited those sentences and man, were they engaged! My room is a safe place and no one was embarrassed about their mistakes. They gracefully came to the board, made their corrections with my editing icons, or rewarded themselves with a smiley face.

The photo prompt for this Edmodo discussion was a spooky door in the middle of the woods.

During this activity, I had to give a mini-lesson on how to use the shift key for capital letters and question marks by putting a photo of our same keyboard on the SMART Board. I made students come up and practice “holding down” the shift key and then hitting the question mark.

The best part came when we returned to the lab later that week and I provided another photo prompt with the same directions.

And I heard things like,

“Am I allowed to edit my reply?” (Ummm…absolutely!!!!)

“Oh no! How do I fix that sentence?” (Let me show you!!!)

“Can we do more than two replies?” (Not a problem!!)

“We’re gonna blow up your phone today!” (::::::Insert their evil laughs:::::::)

My kids were excited about writing and they were recognizing their mistakes and they were fixing them!

Imagine their delight when on our second day of “Edmodo Editing” we had twice as many smiley faces!

We’ve done a few more photo prompts. On the fourth one, I told them I would be taking a grade on their work. The easiest way for me to do this was to print the post and all the replies. I cut them into strips and put them in piles. I then gave them a percentage on their use of capitals and punctuation. One girl did three sentences and another did 12 so this was the only fair way to do it. (Grading writing is always tricky for me.) I can also use these work samples for their IEP objectives.

Next we will be moving onto prompts related to short stories we read in class. The first one will be from the true account “Forty-Five Seconds Inside a Tornado.” (Explain how you would stay safe during a tornado. Describe what it would be like to be in a tornado. Give two details you remember about the tornado that hit Waco.)

I see this activity evolving into bigger and better writing and editing experiences throughout the year.

And to think it all happened somewhat accidentally….

Novels In the News

I was cleaning up my computer and came across an activity I used last year for The Outsiders.

JUVENILE DELINQUENTS TURN HEROES

I created a cloze activity for students to report on Johnny and Ponyboy’s exploits…from the murder of Bob to saving the children in the church fire.

I provided enough prompting and left the key details up to the students.  I don’t know about your town, but in a small town like mine, the police log in the newspaper is big news.  If there’s one part of the paper you can bet kids know about and/or read…it’s the police logs.

I think there are many short stories and novels that would lend themselves to this type of activity. Right now I’ve got my eye on The Tell-Tale Heart. 

This activity is sparking some ideas for a whole newspaper on The Outsiders.  Students could write:

  • An editorial about if the Curtis boys should stay together
  • Personal ads written by Greasers or Socs
  • Comic strips depicting particular scenes (thinking of Cherry throwing Coke in Dally’s face)
  • Obituaries for Johnny, Dally, and Bob
  • Advertisements reflecting the cost of items back in 1967
  • Informational article on rodeos
  • Current events/trends of that time period (movie reviews, music, fashion)
  • A food/cooking section with recipes for chocolate cake and baloney sandwiches
  • Police log for the various crimes (slashing tires, Pony getting jumped, Dally and the robbery)

While my ideas are a little rough and in the early stages, I do think this could be a great culminating project. It could be assigned to groups, or each person in the class could have a responsibility and you could have one class paper.

You could also make it a weekly writing assignment focusing on different events/skills each week and at the end of the unit you would have all the parts to make a paper.

Skills that could be covered: comprehension, making inferences, summarizing, sequencing, research, expository writing, narrative writing, characterization.

This would also give students an opportunity to use Microsoft Publisher.

Any other thoughts or ideas on how to build this activity?

I would love to hear them!

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