Tag Archives: teaching tip

April is National Poetry Month – Celebrate!

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“Poetry is everywhere – it just needs editing.”        –James Tate

I have had a heck of a time writing this week’s teaching tip.  I had it planned out in my head (sort of) and had begun to collect resources to support teaching that centered around National Poetry Month.  And then I wrote a first draft – it took me nearly 6 hours to write and reflected my ADD.  And, as Rachel kindly and gently noted, “it was pretty long and maybe we needed to divide it into 3 parts.”  In truth, it was not only long, but it was everywhere.  And it needed a lot of editing.  James Tate’s quote about poetry is making me feel a little bit better about it.

So this week’s teaching tip is #1 in a series about teaching poetry, with a focus on “go to” resources for your classroom (or at home) to plan at least a little bit ahead for a month of poetry everywhere.  And parents?  There are some poetry ideas in here for you as well!

April is the perfect time to celebrate American Poets and Poetry!  It has been a long winter and celebrations are great ways to rejuvenate weary students and teachers.  There are countless ways to celebrate:  Collect and read poetry, respond to poetry in writing or art, write poetry or perform poetry.  You can write to poets.  You can make recordings of kids reading poetry.

Poetry is my favorite genre to teach: it teaches kids about good writing, the crucial importance of language, and how to read and think critically and carefully. Moreover, poetry gives kids the opportunity to reflect on the people they are and the world they inhabit, and to imagine the people they wish to be and the world they hope to create.  Remember: Poetry is a worthwhile genre across the academic spectrum: Language Arts (reading and writing), STEM, Social Science and Performing Arts.  


Click on the underlined links to check out these resources firsthand to create poetry units or to weave into previously planned lessons:

The American Academy of Poetspoets.org

This is the place to go for poems, interdisciplinary lessons (many aligned with the common core standards) to teach poetry, and ideas for celebrating poetry in your school or classroom.  Click on the “For Educators” menu to find tips for teaching poetry, poetry resources for teens, curriculum and lesson plans, great poems to teach, essays on teaching, and a teacher resources center.  Check out The Listening Booth.  Other highlights include:

  • 30 ways to celebrate National Poetry MonthTons of ideas to weave into your classroom or school or at home to celebrate poetry!  Put poetry in an unexpected place!  Write a letter to a poet!
  • A POEM IN YOUR POCKET: Share a poem with everyone you meet on “National Poem in Your Pocket Day” which is Thursday, April 24, 2014.  Select a poem or compose an original work and carry it with you in your pocket all day, sharing the poem and the fun of National Poetry Month wherever you go. The site has poems to download (.pdf format) ready to share in your classroom or school or with your friends and neighbors.
  • The 2014 Poet-to-Poet Project:  This is a special multimedia educational project for students in grades 3-12 to write poems in response to the poems of living poets (classrooms can watch YouTube videos of the poets reading and explaining the creation of their poem) and send them to the American Academy of Poets.  Students have until April 30, 2014 to submit their poems. The American Academy of Poets worked with a curriculum specialist to design a series of standards – based lesson plans, with Science connections, together with activities and resources to support students who participate in this project:
  • The Literature of War (Grades 10-12)Students develop a poetic vocabulary and pursue an examination of the effects of war on those involved in the fighting and those they leave behind, moving chronologically through time.  The unit concludes by looking at the world’s most recent acts of war, the effects and ramifications of the events on and following September 11, through the reading of poems written since that date. As a culminating activity, students are asked to respond with a poem of their own that they illustrate with relevant images found on the web.

Poetry-Foundation-Logo-horizThe Poetry Foundation

This is an awesome website with thousands of poems and short bios of poets.  It is easily searchable for specifics.  It also has a wide variety of resources with ideas for teaching poetry across the spectrum:

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Poetry Out Loud

The National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation partnered with U.S. state arts agencies to support Poetry Out Loud, a contest that encourages the nation’s youth to learn about great poetry through memorization and recitation. This program helps students master public speaking skills, build self-confidence, and learn about their literary heritage.  The site has suggested lessons and class schedules.

Although the official contest is designed for high schoolers, the materials could be adapted for classroom use in younger grades.  Here is a link to a downloadable .pdf of the 2014 Poetry Out Loud Teacher’s Guide.


PBS NewsHour Poetry Page

A compendium of PBS features on contemporary poets and poetry that might be relevant to the previously planned lessons you are teaching in your classroom (a simple way to weave poetry celebration into your current instruction).   

In particular, take a look at the project of the current Poet Laureate, Natasha Tretheway, called “Where Poetry Lives, “which focuses on “issues that matter to Americans through the framework of poetry.”  Some interesting pieces for parents and teachers alike that are certain to generate meaningful discussion.


ReadWriteThink

A comprehensive list of resources and ideas for lesson plans and assessments focused on National Poetry Month.

 

shel silversteinShel Silverstein

This page contains teaching and learning materials using the poetry of the late, but forever beloved children’s poet Shel Silverstein.  Who doesn’t love The Giving Tree? Here is a  link to the downloadable .pdf of Shelebrate National Poetry Month 2012, which is representative of the engaging curriculum found on this website.  Shel’s poems are accessible, meaningful and so much fun.  Parents should  might want to check out Shel’s website to access Shel’s poetry (samples), animations and activities and for a list of his poetry books.


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NY Times Learning Network

Here are thirty, easy, quick and engaging ideas for ways to respond to and appreciate,  create,  and perform poetry, all with connections to the larger world.  With links to specific teaching resources.  Designed with teachers in mind!

 

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The Poetry Archive

I couldn’t leave this site off this list even though it seems to be a UK site.  It contains a wealth of materials about poems, poets and the art of poetry,  with online recordings of poets from around the world reading their own work.  There is a menu of teacher resources with materials for teaching students at all ages starting at age 5, with ideas about how to incorporate listening into a lesson.  It also houses “The Children’s Poetry Archive” which allows a search by “poetic form.”   Here are some Tips for getting the best out of the Archive.


More next week!

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Tweet, Tweet, Tweet…

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This week’s teaching tip focuses on Twitter and its use as a teacher resource.  It’s a great source for professional development and it supports collaboration among teachers within a school, a district, a country, and yes, the world.  It is also a wonderful social medium to practice writing.  Really. 

Twitter tweets rock.  Honestly, I never thought I’d say this – 140 characters?  Are you kidding me? What can anyone say that’s worth reading in 140… but wait.  It takes a lot of writing prowess to write a meaningful and coherent thought in 140 characters.  True sentences, often, are whittled down to the pith (think Ernest Hemingway).

In A Moveable Feast, Hemingway revealed his struggle with writer’s block: “I would stand and look out over the roofs of Paris and think, ‘Do not worry. You have always written before and you will write now. All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.’ So finally I would write one true sentence, and then go on from there. It was easy then because there was always one true sentence that I knew or had seen or had heard someone say.”

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Twitter can be a good place to practice writing — and also search for — that “one true sentence.” It is chock full of sentences (okay, “tweets”) that can lead the reader to knowledge, personal/professional support, and often, the truth (always be on the look out for trolls, political ax grinders and The Onion, among other Twitter accounts, that can lead you astray).  And yes, Twitter is full of digital noise (think about the notes or texts you confiscate during instruction).

In fact, teachers can use the power of Twitter to build a one-of-a-kind, fully-customized, digital network that permits them to quickly share resources, voice concerns about educational policy, and lend or seek support from other teachers. Differentiated teaching & learning? Yes.  Twitter can be utilized as differentiated professional development (who has not yearned for this in the teaching profession?)

If you haven’t created a twitter account, and aren’t sure how it would work, here are some examples of teachers on twitter.  Then, go to twitter.com and create your free account. Remember, it’s public so put up a nice photo of yourself and take some time to set up your profile.   And then, tweet!

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Twitter is NOISY! Determine which accounts you should follow.

Twitter can feel like being in the middle of Grand Central Station during rush hour and being hard of hearing.  People, ideas, music, videos, are flying around all over the place.  OVERWHELMING.

BUT, the user (that’s you) has total control of the accounts he or she follows (and unfollow).  You decide what you want to read and hear.  So,  begin by following educators you know or have worked with.  Twitter helps you:

  • connect and converse with those other teachers who attended professional development with you last week
  • lend support to one of your colleagues who is struggling with classroom engagement.

It makes sense to follow the established “experts” – these tweets will often have timely information relevant to your teaching practice, and can help you hone your craft.

twitter books

Here are a few of the twitter accounts which provide valuable teaching resources/guidance that Rachel and I both follow:

  1.  @edutopia:  Inspiration and Information for what works in education.  This account and its companion website (www.edutopia.org) have tons of research-based teaching ideas with an eye on the looming common core standards.  Love this.
  2. @DiscoveryEd: This is a global account that focuses on all aspects of classroom teaching and technology.  Companion website: www.discoveryeducation.com.
  3. @pbsteachers: PBS loves teachers!  Free digital resources and loads of great content for your classroom in all subject areas.
  4. @USATeducation: Resources from USA Today to connect student learning to the world around them.
  5. @NCTM: Tweets about Math teaching  from the the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics. (Also take a look at their companion website Illuminations for additional teaching resources).
  6. @Tolerance_org and @Facing History:  A plug for my most favorite teaching resources as a social science, history and literature teacher. Teaching Tolerance provides teachers with phenomenal free teaching materials and Facing History provides meaningful curriculum (and supportive, ongoing, reflective professional development from amazing people) geared toward promoting tolerance and combatting racism across the globe.
  7. @NCTE:  The National Council of Teachers of English tweet information on teaching (resources), common core and educational policy for pre-k to HS educators.  (Also check out www.NCTE.org and www.readwritethink.org for great teaching materials and ideas).
  8. @rethinkschools: Rethinking Schools focuses on teaching for social justice, anti-racist education & equity in public education policy & practice.  Tweets provide information, links to resources and thoughtful education policy discussion.
  9. @NSTA: The account of the National Science Teacher Association with a focus on all things STEM!
  10. @NEA:  The twitter account of the National Education Association which covers happenings and discussions on teaching and educational policy.  Here’s a place to help you stay in touch with what’s happening in terms of common core and teacher evaluation, along with other issues in education, even if you don’t have time to read the paper or watch the news!

twitter dude

Tweet: but don’t forget the #hashtag#

Compose tweets – talk about your teaching, your thoughts about educational policy, what is happening in your classroom, and concerns about assessment, lesson planning, common core or classroom management.  Post links, post multimedia.  Post what has meaning to you – what you wish to have a conversation about.  Tweet once or twice a day.  And respond to the tweets of others. And use:

twitter-hashtags

What’s a hashtag?  It is a word or phrase that is preceded by a # or hashtag.  In the noisy tweeting world of twitter, the hashtag categorizes tweets.   Use hashtags when you tweet and want your message to be part of a larger conversation beyond your followers.

There are standard hashtags (that the tweeter professionals all know and monitor) that will pull your tweet into a larger conversation beyond your immediate followers.  Make sure you use a relevant hashtag and you will reach others who are talking (whoops, tweeting) about the same topic.  Use more than one hashtag if your tweet applies to more than one topic, but choose wisely. If you want that hashtag’s community to value your input, take care to keep that twitter stream relevant and meaningful.  

Here is a long list of the Educational Hashtags which will allow you to place your words (tweet) within the purview of others monitoring those hashtags.  Use this list to monitor other conversations that might be meaningful to you (just type it in the search box on your twitter page).

A worldwide Twitter conversation known as #edchat takes place every Tuesday at 12 p.m. Eastern time and 7 p.m. Eastern time.  It’s worth monitoring and any educator can join in to discuss and learn about current teaching trends, how to integrate technology, transform their teaching, and connect with inspiring educators worldwide. Click here: #edchat  to learn more.  Discussions here also focus on education policy and education reform.

Try it!

Twitter-leader

Practice and read and learn.  It’s cool.

And, in conclusion, take a look at these wonderful teacher: Painful Hashtags.  Some might look woefully familiar!

Are You Ready for Some Football?!?! Teacher Tips for Super Bowl Monday!

NFL 2014 Playoff Bracket

NFL 2014 Playoff Bracket

Many of our students will watch the Super Bowl on Sunday and all the hype that comes with it: pre-game interviews, post-game interviews and all the stuff in between including carefully crafted commercials, and, yes, there is a football game in there somewhere.

Here are a few fun, engaging, standards-based activities that will incorporate the television most of your students watched over the weekend. For those students who somehow missed the event, these activities still can be utilized and they won’t feel left out of the discussion.

One of my favorite all-time teaching resources in the New York Times “The Learning Network.”  It is chock-full of standards-based teaching ideas on a myriad of topics, including the Super Bowl: www.learning.blogs.nytimes.com.  Some of the ideas are listed below.

PLEASE ADD YOUR OWN SUPER BOWL TEACHING IDEAS FOR YOUR CLASSROOM (BOTH BEFORE AND AFTER THE BIG GAME) IN OUR COMMENTS SECTION BELOW!  

MATH:  Take a look at the activities posted at www.yummymath.com which embrace typical math lessons but focus on features that are part of the Super Bowl.  I like this set of problems for working with and analyzing  data sets of typical Super Bowl scores.  Pick a few problems to focus on in class to start the day – maybe use a problem or two as a math warmup:  Be a Super Bowl Data Whiz Kid

For a quick review of those pesky Roman Numerals which will flash across the screen as part of the Super Bowl logo, here are some ideas:  Pesky Roman Numerals

WRITING:  For writing,  I love the idea of looking at sports writing which “flexes those descriptive writing muscles!”  Bring in copies of a couple of articles from the internet or your favorite sports section to analyze.  Talk about how sports writers reinvent a simple sentence (The __________won the game against the __________) every day.  Then, using the articles, and with dictionaries and thesauruses handy, have your students create a “mad lib” with the following activity (they can work in pairs or better yet, small groups):  Play-by-Play Mad Lib

Reconvene once the mad libs are solved and discuss:  How did changing the words and phrases in the original article change its meaning and tone? What did this activity reveal about the choices that the sportswriters made? Which of the original descriptive words and phrases were particularly striking to you, and why?  Have students choose an event and then complete the following, to work on descriptive writing:  Vivid Writing Exercise

Check out the entire descriptive writing lesson plan here:  Getting in the Game

SOCIAL STUDIES:  So much to choose from…rumor has it that Cheerios, whose commercial about diversity caused such a stir a few months back, will air another ad about diversity (using the same family it did in the first commercial).  It might be interesting to compare the two advertisements and have the class discuss the responses to the first ad.  You should be able to pull these two commercials off of youtube and show them in class.  Topics to consider:  How has the definition of family changed in the last 50 years?  Why do some people view this ad as controversial?  What is the advertiser trying to accomplish with this particular ad?

SCIENCE:  The weather.  It has been a big story for most of us this year and its potential impact on this year’s Superbowl is a news item.  Here is an article from the NY Times on the subject:  “Super Bowl Putting Big Pressure on the Weatherman.”  Some ideas for discussion and research:  How is ever-increasing computing sophistication leading to more accurate forecasts? Why does it matter so much for the Super Bowl? In what other industries is it also important to precisely predict the weather? Have students learn about the field of meteorology and how it is changing, or invite them to think about other cold-weather science questions, like how playing in the bitter cold affects athletes. (And if those aren’t enough resources, here are many more ideas for teaching about the science of cold weather.)

Ok.  A few ideas to get you started!  Please share yours!

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Bringing the Joy Factor: New Energizers in Your Classroom (Or At Home)

It’s January, the polar vortex has taken over our lives, testing is coming to a head, and in spite of our extra days off of school, we’re exhausted and our students are, too. It’s time for a Tuesday Teaching Tip.

One of my favorite things to do in my classroom is an energizer. Energizers are brief breaks between lessons that have structured play. Once the expectations are set for how to do energizers (or how not to), it’s easy to introduce new energizers on a weekly basis until you have created a base to choose from.

My students have their favorites, but even a devoted energizer enthusiast can run short on ideas. Nothing is worse than standing up to energize your students and having them all groan when you call out what you’re going to do.

Here is a list of brand new energizers sure to excite your students.

1. Zombie Tag

zombie

In Zombie Tag, the students start out by walking slowly around the classroom. The teacher calls out one student who has become a zombie. They must start walking with hands out, slowly. Anyone they bump into then also becomes a zombie. If zombies are slow to be made, then the teacher can call out more students who turn into zombies. Anyone who walks too quickly becomes a zombie. The game is over when the whole class is zombified.

2. Psychic Faces

fortuneteller

In Psychic Faces, students pair up and stand back to back with one another. Students each put their hands on their partner’s head to “mind read” what action they will choose to act out. On the count of three, both partners turn around and display an action. The goal is to choose the same action.

The actions can vary. This video shows “Bear” (two hands up in claws, make a roar noise), “Samson” (hands in muscle position with a “huh” noise), and “Delilah” (hands to the side like a skirt). However, I might change those to be three different animals, or some other familiar actions.

3. Dinosaur Stomp

dinosaur

This is my students’ favorite energizer. Although you can probably sing this one, it really helps to have a projector and speakers and have the students follow along with the youtube video.

The basic song is:
Pick up your feet and stomp it, stomp it (3xs) Now let’s do it again
Open up your claws and chomp it, chomp it (3xs) Straight to the end

I cannot recommend this more highly. The classes that walk by our door when we do this energizer inevitably stop and stare, most likely wishing they, too, could act like dinosaurs.

4. Popcorn’s In the Popper

popcorn

This is another favorite. We usually play this during our morning meeting, but it can be modified to an energizer by having students make a circle around the room. Three students crouch down in the middle of the circle.

The teacher leads out with this call and response song:

First you poor in the oil (pour in the oil)
Sprinkle in the popcorn (sprinkle in the popcorn)
Cover up the pan (cover up the pan)
Turn up the heat (turn up the heat)

(Together, while rubbing hands together):
Sizzle, sizzle, sizzle, sizzle,
Sizzle, sizzle, sizzle, sizzle,
Sizzle, sizzle, sizzle, sizzle, POP!

(Students in the middle who were crouching stand up and start jumping around the circle while everyone else sings):
The popcorn’s in the popper, let it pop pop pop
The popcorn’s in the popper, let it pop pop pop (repeat)
Pop, pop, pop, pop,
Now it’s time to STOP (everyone freezes)

You would be surprised how much fun this is, and how much older kids enjoy playing it, too.

One last thing: Clicking on the links will bring you to the youtube page of each of these videos, but you can obviously watch the embedded video instead. However, each video is from a different organization, and they each have a lot more videos with other ideas to check out. If you do find another good energizer, leave us a comment and let us know!

261755_10150290602379874_2436766_n-Rachel

The Power of a Post It

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We’re pretty obsessed with the Post-It note. The colorful ones, the ones made on recycled paper, the sheet sized ones, the tiny ones, and even the ones shaped like mittens. Post-it notes may be the solution to world peace. If you, like us, get panicky when you don’t have a stack near by, then you may already be using all of our tips. But scroll on through to see some ways we integrate post it notes into our classroom. (And make it to the end for directions on how to enter our first FREE GIVEAWAY!)

The Post-It for Charting: (The big Post-it)
ImageTo make thinking visible we use charts. Nothing new here. However, if your students are like mine, every single piece of my mini-lesson has to be scripted without pause. Therefore, it can be tricky to make my students wait for me to chart out my thinking. Also, by the time I’m charting I often have forgotten the exact wording I wanted. By this time Shila is pinching Lily and Evelin is braiding Emma’s hair.

I find it helpful to write my thinking on a large post it note, and put it on the page where I will stop. Then, I can pull that Post-It off and put it up while I am saying my thinking–no pause, and the added advantage of helping my visual learners in real time.

During the students’ time to turn and talk to each other, I circulate, and find one example to chart on post it notes while I listen. In the debrief, I put the Post-It note with their thinking up, crediting the thinker, while explaining what they said. This picks up the pace of the lesson dramatically, and makes sure that what the student share out is pertinent and helping to move the lesson forward. (We hate to say that students sharing out is dead space, but in a ten minute mini-lesson, I find that calling on hands willy-nilly can lead to a long side trail of hearing about Jamar’s trip to Red Lobster the night before. This is obviously something I need to explicitly teach my students not to do, but the mini-lesson is not the place I choose to do that teaching.)

The students love to see their ideas on the board, and sometimes I allow them to sign their Post-It at the bottom before returning to their seat for independent reading time.

(A special shout out to the Chicago Literacy Group for introducing me to this use of post it notes. Check them out here)

The Post It for Arranging Seats: (The mini Post-It)
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This trick was taught to me by my teaching coach my first year of teaching. Using small post-it notes, write a student’s name on each one. Then, code each note with any special considerations. For me, I do a 1, 2, 3 ranking based on their behavioral concerns or their ability to work with others in groups. I might also add a note for glasses, proximity to teacher, etc, to remind me to give preferential seating.

After that, I can rearrange the post it notes over and over until I have just the right combination of students.

The Post It for Note Taking: (The standard sized Post-It)
Here’s a picture walk. First, I put Post-It notes on whatever note-taking sheet I have been given to use. (This works for reading, math, or any subject)
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(Obviously the Post-It notes are not perfectly aligned to the sheet. This doesn’t bother me, but if it’s annoying to you, I suggest you look at the step by step tutorial for printing on Post-It notes on this blog here.)

After taking the notes, simply transfer each note to that student’s page:

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(I made this one blank to protect the anonymity of my students) Voila! Easy.

The Post-It Compliment: (Any Post-It, but shaped Post-Its work well here)

IMG_1606I like to use the shaped Post-It notes to give immediate positive feedback to my students. This can be as simple as “You did your homework” and as detailed as “You remembered not to kick Tony”. (Or maybe that just happens in my class.) Given my background and belief in Responsive Classroom, I do try to make sure all my comments are quantified and specific, and leave out value judgements (ex. You walked through the hallway silently vs. I like how you did a good job walking through the hallway). But you’ll have to make your own decisions about what to write :-).

I know one teacher who writes the post it notes ahead of time, using some common praises, and hands them out when she sees it happening in action.

GIVE AWAY!!

In honor of our first Tuesday Tip, we are giving away a Post It Prize Pack!
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We believe in Post-It notes, and we want you to have your own supply! Since Post-Its are expensive, it can be tempting to want to buy the knock off brands like stickies or stick ums. We recommend against this, as the notes tend to fall off of charts, out of notebooks, and end up all over the floor.

In order to start you off, we want you to win this prize pack for your home, classroom, or office! There are several ways to enter to win: (You can enter each way to get THREE entries)

1.) Comment below with your favorite use for Post-It Notes
2.) Like our page on facebook: http://www.facebook.com/teacherreadermom
3.) Share this page on your facebook page and tag us in it!

(Unfortunately we are only able to ship to a United States address.)

Thanks for reading, and good luck! (Drawing will take place on January 21st, just in time for next week’s tip!)

261755_10150290602379874_2436766_n-Rachel