Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Helping students love to read

  I was so excited this week at seeing how excited my students were about reading.  I try my very best to give students the chance to read books that interest them.  I only read about 3 novels a year as a whole class and the other novels they get to choose themselves.  The biggest challenge for me is getting students to start finding books that they enjoy.  So how do I foster a love of reading?

1.  Independent Reading Time

My bell work for both my language arts and social studies class is for my students to simply read.  It is easy for me and they always know what to do.  They come in my room, get their cereal box (which is what they store their interactive notes and novels in,) and then start reading.  They then have 10 minutes to read.  Anytime they finish something early, they know to read.  Having these expectations in place makes it easy for me to see who does not have a book that is just right for them.  Those that are looking around the room during independent reading time, usually need some one on one assistant finding a good book.

2.  Scholastic Reading Club

My students love getting new flyers from Scholastic.  I talk up the books in those flyers like they are the best things ever. I just got an order in this week and the excitement on my students face to see the book box come is priceless.  We ordered enough this time where I was able to give every student a free book coupon.  Every student that ordered also got a stretchy bracelet from Scholastic.  With all the points I have saved up I was able to buy several new books for my classroom library, which leads me to the next point….

3. A revolving classroom library

I don't keep the same books in my book bins all year.  I have a rack for new books that students always want to look at first when selecting a book to read.  I buy books from Scholastic, Goodwill and Salvation Army so that I'm constantly able to give my students new choices.

4.  Book Talks

My students are each required to give a book talk.  I have them stand at the front of the room with the book they want to recommend.  They give a short summary, make a connection to it, tell what kind of person would enjoy the book and then read a favorite part from the book.  I've already had students taking the suggestions of their fellow peers.  If I didn't have the books in my library then they have even gotten excited enough to go out and purchase them.

5.  Myself as a reader

I talk to my students about what I read.  It may be an article from the newspaper that I share with them. I want them to see that reading isn't just for school, it's for fun and something they should be excited about all throughout their lives.  I have a sign on my door that tells my students what book I'm currently reading.  It isn't rare to find a student with the same book I'm reading after I change my sign.

6.  Goodbye reading log

Last year I had a reading log that students had to fill out every night to show how many pages they read.  Then they had to do a short assignment like make a connection or give a sentence about the main character. I found that this just made students not want to read because it was a chore to them.  If students were interested enough in their books, then they would want to read outside of school.  If they weren't then they would just fake the reading log.  My best way of making sure students read at home is  to assign projects to go along with their independent reading, such as book talks or novel in a bag.

Here some of my students are reading their books while waiting in line outside the bathroom.  I have permission to post their pictures online, but I decided to dot out their faces in this so no one knows which were the ones that did or didn't want to bring their books.  I bet next time we go to the bathroom even more students will read while waiting in line.  The power of peer pressure can be a good thing!

How do you motivate students to read?

Sunday, January 26, 2014

A Peek at my Week - {1/26/14}

   I am super excited for this coming week.  Mainly because I have it all planned out and even most of my copies made for the week.  Since I'm planned out, I decided to link up with Mrs. Laffin's Laughings for A Peek at my Week.  Stop by her blog to see what other teachers have planned for this coming week!

    I'm also starting a new unit in social studies which is my favorite, Ancient Greece. For language arts I am finishing up non-fiction with both of my classes.  Here is a look at my lesson plan template.

I made this template to go with exactly what I teach.  I teach language arts and social studies but to two completely different leveled classes so often the lessons are very different.

Language Arts this week

     This week I will be wrapping up my nonfiction unit.  One thing that I'm super excited about is using Newsela. If you haven't visited this site yet, then you should definitely check it out. He has passages available with their Lexile Levels and quizzes to go with them.  I'm having my students pick out an article of their choice to read and respond to.

    I'm also using readworks.org to print passages for my students to go along with what lesson we are discussing.  They have passages to go with topics like point of view, main idea, author's voice, etc.  I have been doing mini-lessons and then putting students in group by reading level to work on practicing that skill.

Social Studies This Week

    I love teaching ancient Greece for many reasons but this year the biggest reason is because I have the unit organized.  I put together a binder of all the resources I have. It has sections for each major topic with the passages or activity behind them.  For example, behind geography there is a map of Greece to color code, a few articles on geography, and a cause and effect activity. Once I had the binder put together it was so much easier to plan for the unit. 

   I am doing a lot of stations with Greece and interactive activities.  This week they will be starting a folder with information they learn about Greece so that they can later use it to write a story about their own character from ancient Greece. 

There was nothing exciting about seeing the binder I'm using but I thought Jack made it more interesting! He has been wore out this week from getting to spend extra time playing with his mommy. 

Monday, January 20, 2014

Random Finds

This weekend I purposefully didn't bring any school work home so that I could give myself a break. I knew I would have the workdays Tuesday and Wednesday of this week to get plenty done.  However, I can never get teaching off of my mind so I ran across some pretty cool things while browsing online.

1)  Oriental Trading = Free shipping

I used the code FSJAN14 to order a few things from Oriental Trading with no minimum purchase.  I just bought some bookmarks and China trading coins for my students.  My total was just under $5.

2) Twitter Chats

Over the Summer I was very involved in Twitter and meeting other professionals to share ideas.  I have been slack on joining weekly chats lately but I found a good schedule that lists some of the top educational chats. Check out 13 Great Twitter Chats for Educators if you are interested. I'm going to join the #tlap chat tonight at 9pm EST.  If you'd like to follow me I am sixthgradetales on Twitter.

3) Awesome Websites for Social Studies 

I am super excited to have came across the site Book Unit Teachers.  It has sites filled with facts, games and activities for many of the social studies units I cover.  They also have language arts resources as well.  

4) Pinterest Boards

I am a moderator for two educational Pinterest boards. One is for Middle School Language Arts and the other is for Middle School Social Studies.  If you pin things for either of these subjects, please let me know. I love adding more pinners to the board so that we always have fresh pins.  

Follow Teachers on Pinterest's board Middle School Social Science on Pinterest.

Follow Teachers on Pinterest's board Middle School English on Pinterest.

I hope you are all having a fabulous Martin Luther King holiday.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Halfway point!

Today marked the halfway point of the school year which is very exciting.  I gave my Ancient China test today and overall my students did fairly well.   Last year my test for China was basic recall of facts because I really just didn't spend that much time teaching it.  This year I did a lot more fun things with them and had a more in depth test.  What I enjoyed best was how I reviewed what we learned.  I set up 8 different stations and had students do an activity at each to review and put answers on their study guide.

We learned about oracle bones and then painted a Chinese message using characters.

In this station we learned the history of chopsticks and how to properly use them.  They then tried to pick up some rice. They realized it is much harder than it looks. 

In one station they made Chinese lanterns.  They decorated them and then wrote a wish they would send up in the sky for the Chinese New Year.

At the end of the day I gave each student a job to do to help clean up.  It is so nice to have a decent looking room after doing arts and crafts all week.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

First lessons of the year

This past week I only taught for two days. Although no one wanted to be back, it was a good transition in from Winter break. I eased in by taking a break from literature in Language Arts and focusing on grammar. We made a one word resolution that they had to figure out what part of speech it was and then write a paragraph about how it would guide them throughout the year.  We also played parts of speech bingo which was really fun. You could tell with more repetition of hearing examples that my students were becoming better at correctly identifying the parts of speech.

In social studies we reviewed what we had learned last year. We then added information onto the dragon we made that is hanging in our hallway.

We learned about the religions and beliefs of ancient China, including Daoism and Confucianism.  It was fun to have deeper conversations this week really connected how these beliefs shaped the Chinese culture.  In college I read The Tao of Pooh, which is a book that uses Winnie the Pooh to illustrate the Taoist principles.  I read some of a chapter to my classes and we tried to infer what the chapter was saying Inner Nature meant. It was a lot of fun because all my students knew the Winnie the Pooh characters to be able to relate to what the chapter was discussing.

Next week we will continue learning more about the different dynasties in China. I have some fun activities planned to keep them interested.  We will be having a debate, learning to say a few Chinese words and possibly trying to use chopsticks if I can find some cheap enough. 

I have added two new books to my books to read list.  For Christmas one of my friends bought me Fires in the Middle School Classroom and The End of Molasses Classes.  These are two books about better understanding middle school students.  I'm not sure when I will have time to read all that I have now but I look forward to it.

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