Friday, September 25, 2015

Do kids need recess?

I was in professional development meetings today.  Our students get the day off because of the annual fair in our community.  One of our meetings was in a second grade classroom that looked a lot like this one.  I got to sit on one of the balls for a while, and it was fun, although a colleague couldn't stop bouncing on his, and I found that surprisingly distracting.  I wonder if kids feel that way.

That got me thinking about a conversation that's been taking place at our school this year about recess.  Because of some schedule changes - and several changes in adminstrators - recess for our fifth and sixth graders has been cut by 5-10 minutes.

Last year, 6th graders had 35 minutes for lunch and recess, and 5th graders had 40 minutes.  This year, both grades have half an hour. Teachers have expressed concern, and to their credit, administrators are hearing us.  Unfortunately, they feel they have no chance to change things this year.

That means that, in order to get outside to play, kids have to shovel food down their throats in fifteen minutes, assuming they have food in front of them right as they come in to the cafeteria.  Standing in line takes time.  Kids are required to stay in the cafeteria for at least fifteen minutes, and monitors check to make sure kids are eating.  But even under the best circumstances, until they get to the gym or outside, they only have about ten minutes to play.

And then tonight, I read this article, published in the Washington Post last summer.  And it made me wonder if we have it all wrong.  Click on this link to read the article.
 The right — and surprisingly wrong — ways to get kids to sit still in class
Read it and see what you think.  

How about your students?  How much time do they have for recess?  Do you think it's enough?


Friday, September 18, 2015

Fall into Great Savings Linky

I'm linking up with Melissa Dailey from Mrs. Dailey's Classroom  and Jessica Plemons from Mrs. Plemons' Kindergarten to offer a 20% discount on everything in my TpT store until the 20th!
https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Store/Mentoring-In-The-Middle

Are you looking for an interactive, engaging way to teach Cause and Effect  or Compare and Contrast?




Send them around your classroom or out into the hallways (if you dare!) on a scavenger hunt?  Students learn by doing first, then by working their way into text.














Want a fun way to track what your students are reading?  My students have fun reading with each of the tasks in this Fall Reading Log.



Take a look at these and other products in my store, perfect for students in upper elementary grades!

Monday, September 14, 2015

Using Socratic Seminar for close reading

I'm no expert on using Socratic Seminar, and sometimes I use it in ways it probably wasn't intended.  But I love, love, love the way it gets kids thinking about and discussing text!  What are the benefits?  I'm so glad you asked!

#1 - Kids get to to hear other kids process out loud
The power of kids learning from kids shouldn't be underestimated.  I am stunned at how much students appreciate hearing other kids think aloud.  Hearing someone take a stand, and then watching that person's viewpoint change because of new evidence presented by someone else - that's powerful stuff!  And you see kids nodding their heads in agreement, so you know they're on board with this new information, too.

#2 - Collaboration builds confidence
Many students say they look at text differently after these discussions.  There are nuances they notice now that they didn't before.  They feel less intimidated about answering questions in class because, especially after a Seminar, they see how much they add on to each others' ideas and how safe that collaboration can feel.

#3 - You want them digging into the text, right?
Observe the discussion as one student stops, eyes racing up and down the paper to find the exact text evidence wanted.  Suddenly, everyone is paying closer attention to text, and even marking it as they listen to others' points of view.

#4 - They're the teachers, not you
I always debrief these seminars with my students, and my favorite quote from last year was, "Don't take offense to this.  But you're old and you're the teacher.  I expect you to say things like this.  But when I hear it from a classmate, I pay more attention."  Bingo!


This year I'm going to try something new (for me.)  We'll be using a fishbowl - half the class in an inner circle participating, and the other half in an outer circle, listening to the group, but observing just one partner.  Halfway through, we'll switch.  At the end, each student will evaluate him/herself and each partner will evaluate the person being observed.

Here's a Self/Partner check in Google Docs that you can download and use if you'd like:



Have a great rest of the week!

Friday, September 11, 2015

Michael Vey, #5 and my Minion reading bulletin board!

I blogged about creating this minion board for the beginning of school.  Here's a before.  Doesn't he look a little lonely?
And now...



But what's really cool is listening to the kids talk as they're creating them.  Good discussions (and sales pitches!) about books being read.  Isn't that the whole purpose?  

One of my former students emailed me about when the fifth Michael Vey book was coming out.
Now, there are lots of good books out there for middle school students.  There really are.  And I've read a lot of them, and read a lot aloud to my students.  And they've liked almost all of them.  But this series?  I have NEVER seen kids beg to keep reading the way they do when I read the first book in this series.  And then the rest of the series doesn't see the bookshelf again until months later.  Because everyone's passing them around.

If you haven't looked at this series, take a look.  I think I would recommend it for 6th-8th grades, although the first blogger who brought it to my attention years ago had read it to her fifth grade class.

Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Writing for a real audience

"Would you like to read the book I'm writing?" asked a student last year.  And then another one.  And then a third, who wrote a book of poetry.  I love watching their imaginations fly, and I want to give them real audiences to read their work.

Last year, my goal was to provide my students with a forum to publish their work if they wanted to.  At the top of my list was Stone Soup, but because they're a well-known publication, they're fairly competitive.  That won't stop us from trying, though!
 
So I took a look at other choices.  Several of my students submitted writing to a contest sponsored by Amazing Kids magazine.  It was a Wild Jungle Writing Contest, and they needed to start their essay with this:
 " I had no idea why they were standing there..."  

A number of students loved the idea and got to work.  They discovered that good writing is hard work, but still, I submitted about half a dozen essays.


Although none of my students won the contest, one of them did have her essay published on the front page of their magazine!  They haven't yet announced what the topic of their contest for 2015-2016 is.  I'll post something when I hear what the topic is.

Scholastic Magazine is another great resource.  Just this past week, I got an email inviting kids between the ages of 10-14 to become a Scholastic News Kid Reporter.  Perfect!  Already several kids are interested.  Scholastic puts out a number of great magazines - Scope and Action are two of my favorites!  Wouldn't it be cool if a student got to write for one of them?





Saturday, September 5, 2015

It's September 1st - must be time for Currently!

I love that Farley always has her monthly Currently link-up.  Even if it's five days into the month, it's a great way to stay connected to what other teacher-bloggers are thinking and doing right now.
1. Listening.  I love the "sounds of silence."  Anyone old enough to pick up on the 70's music reference?  After a full day of teaching, I'm more than happy to bring the stimulation down just a little.

2. Loving.  I had seen some Pinterest posts about doing all the prep work ahead of time and freezing dinners that would be crockpot ready..  Made five last night and have two more to go.  Looking forward to cooler weather to enjoy them.  I may have a lot of papers to grade, but I'll be doing it on a full stomach!


3.  Thinking about how to incorporate Schoology into my class.  I've had a Moodle page, a Weebly page, and now this.  Harumph.  What's next?  I know it'll be great once I get it going.  It's just another thing to have to do right now.  I'll probably be blogging about how wonderful it is in a few weeks!

4.  Wanting.  I happened upon a recipe for a chai tea that sounded kind of fun, so I made it this morning.  Oh yum!  It's an anti-inflammatory chai - but more than that, it's delicious!  Here's the link:
http://www.rickiheller.com/2014/06/anti-inflammatory-latte/

4.  First a shower leaked, then a ceiling fan/light stopped working.  Then the hose in the refrigerator for the water and ice maker blew out and flooded the kitchen and part of the basement.  Then a car started giving us problems.  Thank you very much.  You can stop now.

5.   I was reminded by one of my very wise daughters that these are all "tough first-world problems you have here, Mom."  Yeah, she's right.  So I remind myself that I need to practice passionate patience and incredible love with my students, because.  Just because.

And of course, now that school has started, it's going to be more challenging to keep blogging.  But I'd like to.

I may be the last person on Farley's linky, but I got there!