Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Genre Table

It’s difficult to get elementary students to understand and identify genres. The genre table is a strongly visual and interactive center that helps with this challenge. Students select a book from one of two genres that are labeled with signs defining each.

This is an example of a genre table in a 3-6 classroom.
This is an example of a genre table in a K-2 classroom.

They are also given opportunities to write their own stories to support their understanding. For example, when we displayed informational/nonfiction books, one of my students wrote a nonfiction book about spiders and wanted to put it on the table! The teacher can change the genres monthly or biweekly depending on the learning pace of his or her class.

Throughout the year, revisit genres that students had a difficult time comprehending or genres they particularly enjoyed. It’s also fun to compare and contrast different genres (eg. Display ghost stories and fairy tales for 2 weeks and later display ghost stories and legends).

My students wait excitedly each time the table changes just to see what’s next. They also become experts at identifying genres in our guided reading groups each week.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Easy Back-to-School Pins

Here’s a quick and inexpensive way to create Back-to-School Pins for your students to wear. You will need bar pin backs, stickers (I usually base my sticker choice around our current class theme or class mascot) and plain stencil sheets (sold at Wal-Mart and craft stores).

Adhere the stickers to the stencil sheets and then cut out your now sturdy stickers. Next, use a glue gun to place a pin on the back of each sticker.

Voila! You’ll have a unique “welcome to school” surprise and make quite a fashion statement too (especially if you buy trademark character stickers)! You can produce additional sticker pins during the year to recognize student achievements, stimulate interest in units of study and celebrate student birthdays. 

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Content Word Wall

We all know that a good understanding of vocabulary is essential for student success. One way teachers and administrators love to support vocabulary development is through the use of word walls. But how often are your students reading the words with little knowledge of what they mean?

A content word wall is a great way to help tackle this problem. Some teachers like to put word walls in alphabetical order, but we thought, “Why not separate them by content area?” This led us to group the terms into categories that will help students both read and define the words.

We separated a bulletin board into four sections and created these headings for Language (language arts, reading and writing), Math, Science, and Social Studies. To aid our visual learners, we also color coordinated the different subjects. As new vocabulary was introduced, we added it to our boards.

We also turned the word wall into a center to encourage students to actively use it. We made pointers available at the center and had students read the words to each other. They also discussed what each word meant and/or how to use it in a sentence. Once students were familiar with the whole board, they filled out a card letting us know they were ready to read the word wall. We further enticed them by offering a chance to earn a small prize (a bookmark, extra snack, etc.) if all terms were correctly read and defined/used. Students loved this center and would often be found there after completing their classwork.

Check out our Content Word Wall on Teachers pay Teachers. It’s aligned to the CCSS for K-2 as well as the Virginia First Grade SOLs. It has almost 400 words on it to make creating your word wall much easier.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Miss Stephens Doesn't Live in Room 37

On the first day of school, we already know so much about our students.  Imagine what it’s like for them. They may have heard of us but in most cases they don’t know anything about their new teacher. How discomforting that must be! To help alleviate the anxiety, I present a board about me. It sounds narcissistic but I’m not sharing it with the staff or taking it to a meeting with the superintendent. (Wouldn’t that be funny though?) It simply helps my students get to know me in a short amount of time and clears up the misconception that teachers live at school. (You can read Miss Malarkey Doesn’t Live in Room 10 as a fun way to introduce your board.) Even their parents enjoy looking at the board at Back to School Night!

To make one yourself, use a small bulletin board or a sturdy piece of cardboard or poster board. You could also use a little section of your chalkboard if you need to. Think about activities you do, things you love and interesting facts about your life. Use photographs, clip art, stickers and colored or decorative paper. If you are a traveler like I am, the maps with pins to show where you’ve been are always a big hit. Michaels, A.C. Moore and Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft Store, have a large variety of sticker collections for hobbies, vacations and home activities. The board stays out for a couple of months and when I put it away I always get lots of complaints!  

Ann Marie

Sunday, July 21, 2013

A Photo Welcome

Every year, we enjoy creating original welcome signs for our classrooms. Instead of using a store bought sign or computer print-out, try taking pictures spelling the word “Welcome” in unique ways. You can keep the same sign up all year or make one for each season or holiday. 

Here are some ideas:
*Candy (Peppermints for Christmas, candy corn for Halloween or just Skittles for anytime)
*Fasteners, like nails and screws (try spray painting them a bright color)
*Flat marbles
*Flowers (fake or real)
*Food (small crackers, grapes, pasta…)
*Leaves (especially in fall colors)
*Math counters
*Refrigerator Magnets
*Rocks/pebbles on a dirt background
*Sea glass
*Votive candles (nighttime picture)

Please let us know if you think of something cool to add to our list!

P.S. Print a 5x7 photo and put it in a frame so it will last longer!

**Update- We got the great suggestion to turn these into a postcard to welcome students to class on the first day. Here's what we ended up making. Keep the ideas coming!**

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Fishbowl Writing

Here’s a fresh idea for writing a whole class story. What you will need: a fishbowl (yes, a real fishbowl), small pieces of paper (preferably blue), blue marbles/flat glass pebbles (optional) and fish stickers (optional).

Put the marbles in the bottom of the bowl. Next, write one topic on each piece of paper. Use our list (which you can print onto blue paper) or your own ideas. Fold each paper up and drop on top of the marbles. You can decorate the inside or outside of the bowl with fish stickers or foam fish. It will look something like this.

Gather your class at the SMARTBoard, chalkboard, writing chart or whatever you use for whole class projects. Say that you will be writing a group story. You can pull one blue paper out of the fishbowl OR allow a student to do the honor. Your approach to story writing may have to coincide with specific programs adopted by your school, so cater this project to those guidelines or use our ideas.
Once the topic is chosen and announced, you will need to make decisions as a group. “What kind of story do we want to write?” (you can discuss genres and the relevant descriptors for those - happy, scary, funny…). Next, “What is a good opening line?” Remind students of the importance of a Brilliant/Bold Beginning. Allow students to call out ideas. Latch onto the best ones which are sometimes a combination of a couple of suggestions. Continue with questions that steer the group into writing a succinct and sequential story with questions like “What might happen next?”, “Then what?” or “How can we solve that problem?” Sometimes the group may get stumped (Writer’s Block!) during the process. If this happens, start back at the beginning and reread what you have so far. Most of the time this strategy will trigger new ideas. If not, offer a suggestion of a word or two and someone will surely jump in!

The first time doing Fishbowl Writing can be a challenge, especially if group story writing is a new process for your class. Stick with it! After a few times, the students will have so many ideas that the stories could go on forever. Be sure to help steer them toward the conclusion when it’s time. After the story is complete, go back and change weak words to stronger words. Pull out the thesaurus if you need motivation. Save the title for last. Finally, type up the story and add a picture space. Give a copy to every student to illustrate and take home. They will love it!

Ann Marie