Tag Archives: Common Core

Show Me the Evidence

I will admit that I stole this idea from Ian’s 5th grade teacher, who stole it from Pinterest. I had Dee snap a picture of it at Open House.

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I think it’s a great idea and it has proven to be effective in my classroom.

As we are answering extended response questions or citing evidence from the text, I direct students to look at the back bulletin board to “Show Me the Evidence” (which I say in a dramatic voice).  It makes me smile every time as they all whip their heads around to look at it. And then the hands start shooting up.

Right now it’s still awkward for many to use these phrases, which do not come naturally.  Some of them are, however, starting to make sense of it.

My hope is that these words will become habit and they will be able to use them naturally on their own.  Modeling goes a long way with intervention students.  It works because they see themselves being successful and they feel “smart” using words and phrases such as these. Students love to read their answers out loud when they sound “professional,” as one boy told me.

The other day our copier was broken and I was unable to copy the questions for their novel. So I quickly selected half of them, took a screen capture on SMART Notebook (one per page) and we talked about how to answer the question 1) by restating the question and 2) using some of the examples from the bulletin board.

Every student got out a sheet of notebook paper. I asked for suggestions from the class and then we selected our favorite.  I modeled it on the SMART board and they had to copy these frames.   I also posted a PDF of the pages on Schoology in case they got confused.

Stave 3 Questions Writing Frames

A Day in the PARCC

Oh my goodness….

You know how it is when you go to an in-service and by the end of the day your brain is fried?

Yeah, that’s me.

Today we had our first Language Arts Department meeting with our new assistant principal.  We learned so much and got so much information and I want to process it all right now.  

We spent the whole day talking about going full-blown, hard-core Common Core this year and PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness of College and Careers).  I can’t even put what I learned into coherent terms right now because it was so much.  The PARCC website has so many examples and resources. (Highlights we looked at include: task prototypes, model content frameworks, and classroom resources.)

I have a bad habit of coming home from in-services and getting totally overwhelmed, frustrated, and flustered.

I almost feel like if I don’t look at my notes right now I will forget things.

I also feel like I can’t possibly comprehend everything at this hour and after I’ve been using my brain all day.

I know I need to sit on this information for a few days, take a dozen deep breaths, and come back to it later this week when I have some alone time.

However…..because I am me, I just sat down and printed some of the things that interested me most.  I can’t help it. I will feel better when it is all neatly organized in a binder, ready for me to process this weekend.

But for now, my time is up.  The kids are ready to watch a little t.v. and have a snack.

Before I go,  I want to share one special thing that I found to be totally awesome-sauce (Shout out to Follower 100 who is probably sitting back reading this thinking how wonderful retirement is!)

Using Quotations from a Novel

The first novel we will read, starting in Week 3, will be When Zachary Beaver Came to Town by Kimberly Willis Holt.

I skimmed the book again this afternoon and decided to make these speech/thought bubbles with quotations from the text.  (It’s hard to tell but they are pretty large – I used 12 x 12 cardstock.) I will hang them up around the room before school starts and not say a whole lot about them. (Kids are so observant.) I am hoping it might spark their interest and act as an anticipatory set.

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I can already see the lightbulbs turning on as we actually read these quotes in the context of the book.

Ideas on how I might use these quotations:

1. Make predictions based on what we have read and one of the selected quotes.

2. Locate the quote in the novel and practice writing responses with citations.

3. Identify the speaker and the situation in which the quotation occurred.

4. Retell and/or explain the portion of the story that each quote is related to.

5.  Write any of the above responses in journals (or interactive notebooks) or using the iPads.

6.  Draw the scene for each quote on drawing paper and post near the quotes.

7.  Act out the scene for each quote.

8.  Attach each quote to a large sheet of bulletin board or chart paper before hanging up around the room.  Students could write any thoughts or ideas as they come to them.

Any other ideas on how you might use quotations from novels?

Share your ideas in the comments!

Guinness World Records Lesson Plans

I spent a day last week creating what I will need for my Guinness World Record unit .

Activity #1 will kick things off and utilize the posters I purchased from Joann’s. This will be their first experience with the Educreations app. My primary focus of Part 1  will be taking photos with the camera, typing a sentence, and recording their voices.    Part 2 will be an individual writing activity where they will have to open and view a lesson in Educreations.

Activity #2 will focus on more academic skills while students summarize brief articles that can be found with QR codes.  Students will get experience with the i-nigma app to access the articles and they will have paper copies of the graphic organizer (shown below).  The PDF at the bottom of this post has the links and QR codes for 6 articles on the Guinness website.  I tried to choose stories that would be of interest to my students since I already know them.  You can create your own QR codes at http://www.kaywa.com
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Activity #3 will be informational text comprehension and I will use the leveled stories from the Guinness website.   Here are links to the selections written for Grades 3-6.  While students work on these independently (reading the article in iBooks) and I will be doing some writing with others.

Grade 3 Grade 4 Grade 5 Grade 6 (These are all taken from the Guinness site)

Other files you may want or need:

Guinness Activity 1
Guinness Activity 2
Guinness Summary Chart

My Top Ten Bookmarks for Language Arts

As the year ended, I was cleaning up my bookmarks and folders on my computer.  I decided to compile my favorite websites and share/store them here.  These are resources I use all the time in my Resource Language Arts class.

I know many of them are worksheet based but I simply use the content to make SMART Notebook files and group activities.  Rarely do I just print a worksheet and pass it out for students to complete.

Here they are in no particular order:

  1. Achievement Strategies On a recent professional development day on curriculum mapping, I discovered a great website.  This is an amazing list of templates, tools, and resources for everything Common Core! This is how I mapped out 2 years worth of units for my Resource Room.
  2. ReadingResource Recommended by our speech-language pathologist for teaching struggling readers (specifically labeled as a “Dyslexia Resource.”)
  3. WorksheetWorks Customizable, printable, and free worksheets for math, English, geography, puzzles and other random resources.
  4. Free Language Stuff  Very unique worksheets that I talked more about here.
  5. ReadTheory More details here on these comprehension selections
  6. English for Everyone – Related to ReadTheory but expanded to cover grammar, writing, and vocabulary as well.
  7. Readworks I still stand by this favorite for non-fiction reading.  The fact that you can search by grade, skill, and keyword is the best!
  8. eReading – Printable, but also on-line interactive quizzes I found late this year and only used a few times, but definitely worth going back to.
  9. ReadWriteThink – My favorite activity is the flip book generator.
  10. Daily Teaching Tools: 180 Journal Writing Prompts  180 random and unique writing prompts at your fingertips.

Are any of these your favorites too?

What is bookmarked on your computer?

Share links to your favorites in the comments!

Connecting a Novel with Non-Fiction Text

During the 3rd nine weeks, my Resource Room Language Arts students read the Jerry Spinelli novel, Stargirl. This fiction selection’s Lexile is 590L. This is a little low for the grade levels I teach (6th-8th) but the text fits the needs of my students.

It takes me a long time to get through a novel – longer than I really want most years. I like to throw in writing activities, games, and projects which lengthens the time I need to get through it.

This year I am working with a block schedule and may find it easier/faster to get through the book.

To keep a good balance between fiction and non-fiction, I am going to incorporate a piece of informational text every few chapters.

I have previously mentioned the huge non-fiction selection at ReadWorks. I decided to use this resource to come up with related non-fiction texts. I used the keyword search to looks for passages including: bullying, high school, fashion, and names

While I haven’t quite decided exactly where each of these selections will fit in the book, this is the list I am working with. I have noted the Lexile and the skills covered for each passage.

Fashion Do or Don’t ; Lexile 980; Fact and Opinion

How to Overcome Shyness; Lexile 860; Multiple Skills

Back Off (Deals with bullies; Lexile 630; Multiple Skills

Stop Bullying; Lexile 740; Genre

Boys Only – Girls Only (Same sex schools); Lexile 690; Multiple Skills

The Billings Middle School Badger News: Are School Uniforms Really That Bad?; Lexile 990; Fact and Opinion

What’s in a Name?; Lexile 860; Theme

You may want to consider this option with your next novel. I think it will break up the daily reading of the novel and provide an opportunity to incorporate more Common Core standards.

Free Non-Fiction Passages

ReadWorks boasts 1,000 free non-fiction passages aligned to the Common Core. Each passage has “researched-based question sets.” Each passage is also assigned a grade level and a Lexile.

Free registration, a keyword search, and a skill/strategy filter….This is like an early Christmas (if you are a teacher-nerd like me!)

School Talk on a Saturday Night

As I have mentioned before, my boyfriend is a 5th grade language arts/social studies teacher. We live about 25 minutes apart and if we are lucky, we see each other twice a week.

We’ve been very busy the last few weeks with four kids (three in fall sports), back-to-school business, our anniversary, a Jason Mraz concert, and my 20th High School Class Reunion.

Last night was supposed to be another event…the Cleveland Indians game and a trip to the new casino with my brother and some other friends. By yesterday morning, everyone had backed out and we had a night with no kids and no plans.

We decided to skip the game. Instead, I brought two dinners from a chicken BBQ near my house and we went out to Target and Kohl’s and then stopped at Yogurt Vi.

We then came home and on a Saturday night…sat at the kitchen table and did school work while we listened to music and had some refreshments. The irony of this? We said earlier in the day that we’d talk about school for 10 minutes max. We are such nerds.

We each did our own work, shared some ideas, and just talked.

Getting crazy on a Saturday night.

I showed him WorksheetWorks.

I try not to use too many worksheets. However, this site generates worksheets on all subjects for free. The worksheets are customizable in terms of types of question and layout. They are neat and clean and just what I was looking for.

Each time you hit “Create Worksheet” you get different questions. They must have a very large question bank because I did not see repeats. I enlarged the worksheets to 150% and used the capture tool to put 4-5 questions on a SMARTBoard page. I quickly built a SMART file for the whole week.

I am going to use these pages with the dry erase boards some days. Other days I will just call students to the board. The hard copies will be used for assessments.

He showed me The New Differentiator.

This tool is an awesome way to get you thinking about how to differentiate your lessons to meet the needs of students. You easily create objectives by choosing from a menu for five categories: Thinking Skill, Content, Resources, Products, and Groups.

While I was checking this out, I explored a little more on Byrdseed. This blog looks like a great resource for TAG students or higher-level learners.

The other thing we discussed for awhile was the whole “teaching to the test.” We were talking about putting the Common Core Standards in our lesson plans and he made a comment about how he likes having the standards as a guide because he likes teaching to the test and he likes knowing exactly what he needs to cover.

Teaching to the test??” I stopped him right there. I asked him to explain what he meant again and I had this weird Aha! moment.

I have heard teachers say, “We have to teach to the test.”

“We are limited on what we can do because we have to teach to the test.”

The test stifles my creativity.”

“There’s so many things we can’t cover because we have to teach to the test.”

At the risk of offending anyone, I think these statements could be excuses or cop-outs….a way to just plow through material with minimal prep work. Is it these teachers who are bored and frustrated with their job?

What if teachers viewed the standards like he does? As a guide and not as limits?

Yes, he has to cover certain things. He still words his assessments with test-like lingo. He assigns 2-pt. and 4-pt. questions for daily journal writing.

How he chooses to teach the standards on a daily basis is completely up to him. His creativity is not stifled.

He is one of the most creative people I know.

Share a Random Moment

This reproduction is hanging above his fire place. He painted it himself.

Keeping “Classics” vs. The Common Core

For the past three years I have taught Language Arts 8 in a Resource Room setting. Working with students with decoding and reading comprehension skills below grade-level, I am forced to modify the materials and curriculum used by the other Language Arts teachers. Choosing reading material isn’t always easy – it must be high interest and low readability. I feel like I have a pretty good choice of novels and selections from the text book that cover everything I need to cover.

The four novels I read during the school year are

*With the exception of Stargirl, the general education teachers at my grade level use these exact same novels.

However, with the adoption of the Common Core, I am faced with a decision. All because of increased lexile bands.

According to the Common Core State Standards Initiative, the lexile levels will increase for each grade level band. 6th-8th graders who were previously reading in the 860L–1010L range but will now be expected to read in the 955L–1155L range.

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Taken from the Common Core, Appendix A

While the jump is not earth shattering for high ability readers, it is significant for students with reading disabilities.

Look again at the novels I use with my students with disabilities:

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According to the lexile levels, only one of these books falls into the new range for 8th graders. In fact, three of these books are apparently in the range for 2nd and 3rd graders! If you haven’t read The Outsiders or The Giver, there are definitely some scenes that are not appropriate for 7-8 year olds. (I do understand the the Common Core is not recommending students at that grade level read these particular books, but you must get what I am saying.)

So does that mean that we ditch the books that have been middle school “classics” for years? The content is appropriate and the literary elements are there. I’ve seen these books make non-readers read because of the story lines. I’ve seen non-readers take these books home or ask if they can keep a copy because they love them. I’ve had students say that their parents are now reading these books because they’ve raved about them so much. In my mind, these books are keepers!

My frustration is in the fact that some people think that these novels, because of their lexile levels, must be thrown out. How can I justify not using three of the four books I have built my curriculum around? Especially when these novels are perfect for the students I work with.

At this point, I plan to use these novels and supplement with increasingly more difficult text as my students are able to handle it. Supposedly, we will be getting some software that will allow us to determine a student’s reading range. This should be helpful in writing the IEP and planning instruction, but will I be allowed to use these novels with 8th graders? That answer will hopefully come when we receive additional training in the Common Core later this summer.

How do you feel about the new lexiles and the Common Core?
Would you discard a classic novel that is grade appropriate because of its lexile?
How will you select your novels as your district adopts the Common Core?

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