## Monday, March 23, 2015

### Calendar Isn’t Just for Kindergarten!!!

Daily calendar math is very common in preschool and primary grades.  However, it is often deemed to be a waste of time with older students.  In my experience, it is anything but a waste of time.

Calendar time can help older students:

- understand how a calendar really works.  I know it seems like common sense, but many older students don’t automatically understand that each month doesn’t begin on a Monday.  Tell a student that March will end on a Thursday and ask them what day April will begin on and many will pause for an extended time.  Working with calendars every day and having time to discuss trends in how we use calendar can be very beneficial for students.  For additional learning, try exposing students to the idea that calendars are not the same in every country on Earth.  In my Calendar Lesson for Interactive Math Notebooks, the reference sheet reminds students that calendars start on Sunday in the North America, but on Monday in most other continents.  This is something that can be referenced easily during calendar math as well.

- build vocabulary.  Factors, prime, composite, equation.  These vocabulary words were never a problem in my classroom, because we covered them every single day in our Calendar Math Books.  By completing these books, posting answers on our Calendar Math Posters, and reviewing as a class, my students had those math vocabulary words – and many others – down pat and never missed them on assessments.

- gain mastery of basic skills.  Calendar Math is done every single day.  So if students don’t understand how to find factors of the number of the day at the beginning of the year, by the time they have done it 180 times, they are very likely to have mastered the concept.  Repetition helps us remember.  Calendar Math should cover the concepts that need to be completely mastered.  By repeating these concepts over and over, students build automaticity and confidence with these concepts.

- explore numbers.  Work on the same concepts, use different numbers.  This is how you truly explore how numbers and number properties work.  My students used the number of days they had been in school as their “number of the day” for their Calendar Math Books.  By working sequentially, students could see lots of number patterns, including the odd/even pattern, the growth of factors as numbers get larger and the fact that prime numbers are more common in smaller numbers than larger numbers.  These are all concepts my students explained to me as they completed their Calendar Math Books each morning.How to Use Calendar with Upper Elementary and Middle School Students - Ideas and Resources from Raki's Rad Resources

One of the most important ways to make Calendar Math meaningful is to be sure that students are completely engaged.  For my classroom, this meant that students completed Calendar Math Books before we reviewed the concepts as a class.  Students completed their books during their independent work time (I don’t do centers – to find out why check out this blog post.).  In the beginning of the year, I stood in front of the room and reviewed each concept with my students, using our Calendar Math Posters.  However, by the sixth week of school, I could turn the reviewing process over to one of my students, whose weekly classroom job it was to lead Calendar.  The other students followed along with their Calendar Math Books open, checking their work, and the work of their leader.  Meanwhile, I could float around and spot check Calendar Math Books, taking anecdotal notes of who was struggling with which concepts.  The review process took an average of 15 minutes each day, with review time being longer in the beginning of the year and shortening down to about 10 minutes during the last trimester when everyone had mastered the concepts.  Those 15 minutes are completely worth the learning that happens during Calendar Math time!

## Monday, March 16, 2015

### Kids Need to Read Books They Enjoy!

There are so many amazing books available for kids.  Children should read quality books that interest them every day.  The more students enjoy what they are reading, the more attention they will pay to what they are reading and the better they will comprehend it.  However as teachers we are often worried about how we will know if students have comprehend the books they are reading if we haven’t read them ourselves.  So we give them a specific group of books to choose from and have comprehension questions ready.

Teachers need accountability.  Kids need the freedom to read what they enjoy.  So in my classroom I worked to a compromise.  The kids could read anything that they wanted, as long as it was fairly close to their level, and they completed some sort of accountability measure.  In order to allow my students to reading books that interested them but still be held accountable, I have created resources that could be used with any book students chose.  They check that students are using reading comprehension strategies and force students to think about the book – whatever book they choose.

Here are a few resources that allow students to read any book they choose but still practice reading comprehension strategies:

Student Selected Novel Study

Non-Fiction Book Study for Any Book

Story Elements Bookmarks

Be the Teacher Sheets

Of course it is always helpful to have some great books hanging around for students to choose from.  Check out my post on 10 Authors that Should Be in EVERY Elementary Classroom to find great book suggestions.

## Tuesday, March 10, 2015

### Halfway Done With Our Country Study Projects!

I know that many of the teachers who read this blog are getting close to done with their school year, but we are running a year-round schedule this year, so we are actually just past halfway.  Last week, the kids finished the fifth project in their Year Long Country Study Project.  They created virtual field trips to one of the Ancient Civilizations that existed in their country.  This was the cumulative project from after a month of exploring what life was like in the years before 0 AD.

Each month we have worked on a different type of project – maps, food webs, art projects, virtual museum exhibits.  This month, they created virtual field trips.  They both chose to create their projects by creating recorded Power Point movies.

Here are their projects:

Ancient China - the Han Dynasty (5th Grade)

Ancient Siberia - the Xiongnu Dynasty (2nd Grade)

After finishing their projects, the boys write up a reflection and add their work to their comprehensive Live Binders project.  At the end of the year, each of their tabs will have a reflection and their project.

This project has been perfect for my homeschool family, but I really wish I had created it last year when I was in the classroom.  The boys are not only learning about their own country, they also talk to each other, so they have learned a lot about the other child’s country as well.  Imagine a class of 20 each with different countries!  Plus, in addition to learning a wide range of Social Studies and Science skills, the boys work on research, reading comprehension and written expression.  Talk about covering a lot of skills! We’ve even incorporated some math into our history lessons as we figure out how many years happened between certain events and dynasties.  If you would like to use this Year Long Country Study Project with your classroom or homeschool family, feel free to download it at my Teachers Pay Teacher store.

## Friday, March 6, 2015

### Novel Study Made Easier on the Kindle

My oldest son is doing a novel study of The Hunger Games for his reading curriculum this trimester.  He is using my Student Selected Novel Study Packet, which works with pretty much any novel out there, which is perfect for homeschooling although I actually designed it to make differentiation easier when I was teaching in a classroom with many levels.  My son is reading the book 2 chapters at a time. After each set of two chapters, he has 4 pages of work to do.

On the vocabulary page, he finds 5 words, uses context clues to guess the meanings and then looks up the definition in the dictionary.  Since he is reading on the novel on his Kindle Fire, he has developed a system of highlighting the words and the context clues in two different colors while he is reading.  This enables him to find the words easily when it comes time to do his vocabulary page.  Since his Kindle Fire also has a built in dictionary, that step is much faster too!

Next, he does a summary of what happened in these two chapters by completing a story map.  While he is reading, in yet another color, he highlights key events that he wants to remember for his story map.  He can even type in his own notes to go with highlighting.  No more lost post-it notes, but lots of good thinking while reading going on!

The third page he works on is creating three quiz questions based on the chapters he has read.  He sometimes uses highlighting for this as well, since he likes to pick out minute details for his quiz questions.  We are working on including at least one big idea or inferencing question, forcing him to think further outside the box.

Finally, he completes a reading response page where he writes about the chapters while responding to a prompt.  This has been a great way to see what he has taken from the chapters.  He likes that there is a rubric on the bottom of the page so he knows exactly what he needs to include in his writing.  In fact, he told me he wishes every page he ever did has a rubric so that he isn’t left wondering if what he’s doing is going to be what we’re looking for.

If you’re interested in having your students work on a Self-Selected Novel Study, you can find the entire packet including the pages shown for up to 30 chapters and pages for before and after reading the novel.  A Kindle Fire is NOT needed to complete the packet, but it definitely makes the note taking processes easier!!

## Wednesday, March 4, 2015

### Publishing Student Work on the Internet

Everyone – adult and child alike – creates better work and is more dedicated to their work when they are presenting to a real audience.  Teachers have known this for a long time.  This is the reason we have students write for class newsletters, present at parents nights, perform plays and have poetry readings.  As teachers we are always trying to give our students a ‘real audience’.

With our new technologies, we now have the opportunity to give our students a real audience - without the air quotes.  Technology allows us to have students write and create for an audience of the world.  By publishing work on the internet, students are able to share their work and receive feedback from real people all around the world.  They will receive real, unbiased feedback and learn how to react appropriately to that feedback.  All of these are life skills that are becoming more and more important in our 21st century world.

Parents and teachers are often wary of sharing student projects on the internet for security and safety reasons.  I share the wariness of sharing too much information on the internet, but I also see kids who already share tons and tons of information and would highly benefit from learning how to share information responsibly.  We need to start by teaching students how to be safe on the internet.  I use this Internet Safety Power Point to introduce these concepts to my students.

Next, I introduce my students to creating content.  They build project presentations, tutorial videos and online book reports.  We share this content in safe settings like Edmodo and allow classmates to comment on the work.  Once students have experience with giving and receiving feedback, we then share the work to a more general public, posting work on a YouTube page, a blog or by asking another class to take a look at it.  Students are also encouraged to share their work with their parents and to ask their parents to share their work using social media sites.  We ask parents to leave feedback, not only on the work of their own children but also on the work of other classmates.

By building this community of sharing, students learn:

1.) to understand that everything on the internet was created by a human who is not necessarily an expert.  This allows them to begin thinking critically about the information that they find on the internet.

2.) how to share information responsibly.  Unless we teach students this skill, they will always share too much information and in this day and age it may come back to bite them.

3.)  how to give and receive feedback appropriately.  The internet gives use the idea of anonymity and makes people say things that they wouldn’t say in person.  We need to start training students young to give appropriate feedback and how to respond to feedback, both positive and negative.

4.)  the importance of putting your best work out there.  Students want others to look on their work with approval.  Knowing that others are actually looking at their work will encourage students to push themselves.

5.)  technology skills that will help them succeed in the real world.  Creating tri-fold boards and hand drawn posters are not skills needed by people presenting information today.  However, creating videos, podcasts, and presentations are definitely skills that can be used in pretty much any field students go into in the future.