Scribbles By Maurie
My weekly routine for ELA goes something like this:
Monday - read aloud grade-level text
Tuesday - Shared reading grade-level text
Wednesday - Literacy centers (vocabulary, spelling, morphology)
Thursday - Writing Workshop
Friday - 1:1 Student/Teacher Conferences.
What I like about this schedule is that it forces me to consider how to teach the same text in a variety of ways. Admittedly, vocabulary can be a tricky subject for student engagement. I found this approach to work in a recent literacy center. First, I had the students write the vocabulary words, sounding out the letters/sounds as they wrote. In my classroom, we have a new focus on writing so I've been supporting students with graph paper - more on this later when I share more about the writing workshop on Thursdays. I do use a computer program called Quizlet for a few minutes (8 - 12) when introducing vocabulary but I try to really limit screen time in my resource room.
Next, I do a whole-group exercise where I use my favorite classroom tool - the sticky note! Students were grouped into teams and I would read aloud the definition and teams would take turn in finding the best word to match the read definition. I also wanted students to begin thinking about words as nouns, adjectives, adverbs, etc. and though we haven't done enough of this kind of study, literacy is encouraged when words become familiar. So, when I read the definition I say, "This word is a noun, which is a person, place or thing. .." Then I read the definition provided by grade level text. The team whose turn it is "votes" on their best choice for that definition. Then the correct definition is read.
The exercise can then be used for independent practice as seen in the photo at top. Students can do this in pairs or alone which supports students reading aloud skills.
It's not always easy to connect state education standards with curriculum and student needs, especially when the focus skill is writing. Writing is a difficult subject to grade well, and to assign well. Here's my take on a recent writing assignment that brings in SEL student needs, along with a seasonal twist, and of course - artwork!
NHere is my OAS standard posted with the artwork.
The objective of this center is to involve the students in a one on one conference about descriptive words about themselves. By the end of the exercise, I wanted students to frame the words they use to describe themselves and to begin to develop new ways that they can see themselves.
Over 200 descriptive terms, written on index cards were provided students and they were invited to find words that best described who they are, and who they want to be. Questions such as "What do you like most about yourself?: And, "What would you like to see MORE of in yourself?" NOTE: All words were positive descriptors: likeable, intellegent, fun, excited, etc.
Valentine's Day offers an opportunity to use visual images with words that make the exercise fun.
Students first chose their "hand" color and their arwork background color. They traced around their hands (some students with disabilities need more assistance with this, so small group work is important). Students then chose the color of their "heart". They were provided two cookie cutters that they could chose and trace around ONE. They cut out the heart, placing it behind one of the fingers.
Then, students were provided the word bank and engaged in conversation about how they describe themselves. This was a guided discussion but the choices were all their own to make -- I was careful to not over comment or under comment on their choices because what matters is how a student sees him and herself and I wanted to make sure they had that voice throughout the exercise. In short, this was not an exercise that was used to teach behavior but rather to better understand it.
The session was chunked into two sessions so that time with the word bank was given thoughtful consideration.
,,When I'm lesson planning, I often am asking myself, "How do I get this assignment, task, or skill "off the paper?" What I mean by that is how can I engage students into a process of exploring and asking questions rather than just an exercise of fill in the blank worksheet. Most students with disabilities need this access yet I'm learning that all students can benefit from this kind of teaching strategy.
This week, I created literacy stations that align with my students curriculum using a word sort. This is pictured here using 3 colors (red, green, blue) and following through with that color connection with markers that underline the root word or word segment: arch, graph, and rupt. Students were given one of two sets of cards with words that feature these segments and they were asked to 1) decode the word with the strategy of identifying the segment, and 2) sorting the words according to that segment. A differentiated version was offered to emerging readers with the colors used to assist students in matching and a non-colored/underline version for emerging readers that do not need that support. Once students did this a couple of times with me, they were ready to "beat their best" which was to say the words correctly, and then sort the words. The students did this twice, attempting to beat their best time, not to race with others. This was a lot of fun for me and for the students and it was rewarding to hear the students saying the words to each other, correctly. While a formative assessment was not offered at this stage, one will be offered as a review in a follow up literacy center.
Another example of getting an assignment came from a 6th grade teacher. One of the best benefits of ESS teachers collaborating with other teachers is that everyone learns more - the teachers collectively and the students. She created an anchor chart with possible answers (again, right from the students curriculum) and then the students "voted" by placing a sticky note with their name on the answer (A, B, C, or D) that they think is the best answer.
I modified this strategy by introducing a "question of the day" which is ONE reading comprehension question from the students curriculum. I created an anchor chart with the question, students voted (once they place their sticky note, they cannot change their answer). When students arrive the following day, we review the previous day's question and we share the answer. To do this without stigmitizing students, I decided that I would put EVERYONE'S name/sticky note on the correct answer when we do whole group review. Students inherently know which one they chose and so I don't want them to be called out in class, I do want them to learn the correct answer. Assessments can be more critical, learning together is the objective.