Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Think About It Thursday-Working with Challenging Children


Welcome to Comprehension Connection!  This is week three of a weekly linky party focused on topics in education that teachers and parents find challenging.  The focus of this week's linky is on how we can reach the most challenging students.  To link up, please write up your blog post sharing your ideas related to the topic.  You may include products related to the topic, but the purpose of the linky is about sharing and exchanging of tips and tricks that may help others.  As part of this linky, comments are encouraged.  Please make an effort to read the other posts that are shared and comment.  Dialogue about the topic helps everyone.  Please comment on the two before you in the list.  If you are the first to link up, please return to comment on those toward the end. Now...on with my post!

Are you ready to face some of the most challenging weeks of the year?  The stress of state testing and changes in our routines weakens children's ability to stay resilient and brings out negative behaviors from even the best behaved children. For children with poor self control, coping skills, and/or other behavioral difficulties, these things can lead to meltdown, especially when teachers are worn out from the pressures of testing, record keeping, and year end clean up.  Let's face it.  Dealing with discipline isn't pleasant for anyone, so perhaps this is a good time to share how we might avoid it.  Here are a few ideas I have, and I know I could use a few tips myself.

 We are all creatures of habit, and when routines are disrupted, none of us like it.  All kids enjoy parties, projects, and fieldtrips, but for the child that really counts on a routine, these fun events can lead them into trouble. Our attention may be pulled by the to-do lists we have, so we may miss the child's warning signs. 
Giving advanced notice of change and posting it may make all the difference. Many teachers do this year round, but if you haven't included this, you might give this a try.  It may be a child specific schedule that is needed.  One idea is to use a small cookie sheet and magnetic self adhesive sheets normally used for business cards to make magnetic event labels.  They can be moved and reused easily.

As routines change, we need to increase our awareness of our students' moods.  We need to be aware of what sets some off, and head off the triggers before they happen.  Cuing students for changes and giving them choices when possible can help them feel more comfortable with the changes.  Yes, this takes time, but I'd venture to guess that more time is spent handling problems that arise when we aren't proactive.

As we know in reading, one size does not fit all with book selection. Children have varying tastes in their interests and read at different levels.  A book that one child loves may be totally wrong for another.  It is the same way with behaviors.  For some children, we can not adopt a one size fits all behavior plan.  As we teach, we keep learning styles in mind, and we need to be aware of children's needs with classroom behavior too.  For the child with unique behavioral needs, a break, a kind word, a snack, a chance to move, or additional space may keep him/her on the learning train. Again, meltdowns take a lot more time then allowing a little wiggle time.  In fact, incorporating movement into the teaching routine helps children improve attention.

I will end with one last thought, and that is to make the challenging child your buddy.  If a challenging child knows that he/she can trust you and that you care, that will increase motivation to please you. A warm good morning, a compliment, an inquiry about the child's activities outside of school, or a comment that you care about them builds security.  Security builds trust and keeps the child positive.

I will close with a reminder that many heads are better than one.  I could really use a few ideas too, and I'm looking forward to reading the other blog posts.  If you don't blog, please share your ideas in the comments.

Have a great testing season, and may the challenging child move through it meltdown free.  Until next time...happy reading!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Book Talk Thursday-Nonfiction Text Structures with Frogs

Since I posted Think About It Thursday on Wednesday in order for it to be ready for blog link-ups, I thought I'd put a new post together and link up with Andrea's Book Talk Thursday. I've been working to gather ideas and materials for the final days before testing. Most kids seem to struggle with nonfiction, so this post is going to focus on ideas for nonfiction texts.  


In order to help students process nonfiction text, teachers can use think aloud to model how we pay attention to key features in nonfiction. Tanny McGregor in Genre Connections recommends launching nonfiction text studies with a concrete object. She used a plant seed package, and the teacher models how we look at the picture of the plant, the name, and the plant requirements lists on the package. As we look at the package, the plant may trigger memories of times we've seen the plant or even eaten the plant's produce. Other concrete objects I thought of was a box of cereal or food, a paint can, or board game.  

One of my favorite nonfiction book comes from National Geographic. They have the BEST nonfiction options for so many topics kids just love. This books has all the nonfiction text features you want kids to see-excellent pictures, captions, sidebars, headings and subheadings, charts, diagrams, and maps. There are so many different types of frogs shown in this book, and the children. I've used this title with have just been amazed by the new information they've learned. Many chose to find other Frog books at the library after too.  :-)  


Just take a look at some of the pictures, and you'll probably agree. My favorite is the picture of the Goliath frog which is the size of a rabbit! Here are a few just to give you an idea how the book is organized and what the pictures look like.


To build excitement prior to reading, teachers might show this Youtube video from National Geographic. I think the pictures are just amazing, and I know my kids would love them.  


In order to make learning about frogs lots of fun, here are a few frog themed freebies I liked.

Frog CraftIdeas that would work well with this freebie...
- Pretend you are this frog. What do you like to eat? What do you like to do? Where do you live? Who are your friends and enemies?
- Write about your favorite frog type and what you learned about it.


Frog Life Cycle in EnglishTie in science concepts with these life cycle handouts. Great for interactive notebooks.

Frog Facts Review (FREE)
This freebie would be great to use with the book, Frogs as students read to record their learning.



Thanks for visiting today.  For other book ideas, drop by Andrea's blog, Reading Toward the Stars and check out her archive.  

Happy Thursday!


Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Think About It Thursday-Parents as Partners


Welcome to Comprehension Connection!  This is week two of a weekly linky party focused on topics in education that teachers and parents find challenging.  The focus of this week's linky is on increasing parental involvement.  To link up, please write up your blog post sharing your ideas related to the topic.  You may include products related to the topic, but the purpose of the linky is about sharing and exchanging of tips and tricks that may help others.  As part of this linky, comments are encouraged.  Please make an effort to read the other posts that are shared and comment.  Dialogue about the topic helps everyone.  Please comment on the two before you in the list.  If you are the first to link up, please return to comment on those toward the end.  Now...on with my post!

High parent engagement can be nothing but positive, and Henderson and Berla (1994) reviewed and analyzed eighty-five studies that documented the comprehensive benefits of parent involvement in children's education. Here are the benefits they listed for the children, parents, teachers, and the school.  

Benefits for the Children
  • Children tend to achieve more, regardless of ethnic or racial background, socioeconomic status, or parents' education level. 
  • Children generally achieve better grades, test scores, and attendance
  • Children consistently complete their homework
  • Children have better self-esteem, are more self-disciplined, and show higher aspirations and motivation toward school. 
  • Children's positive attitude about school often results in improved behavior in school and less suspension for disciplinary reasons
Benefits for Parents
  • Parents increase their interaction and discussion with their children and are more responsive and sensitive to their children's social, emotional, and intellectual developmental needs. 
  • Parents have a better understanding of the teacher's job and school curriculum. 
  • When parents are aware of what their children are learning, they are more likely to help when they are requested by teachers to become more involved in their children's learning activities at home. 
  • Parents' perceptions of the school are improved and there are stronger ties and commitment to the school. 
Benefits for Educators
  • When schools have a high percentage of involved parents in and out of schools, teachers and principals are more likely to experience higher morale
  • Teachers and principals often earn greater respect for their profession from the parents. 
  • Consistent parent involvement leads to improved communication and relations between parents, teachers, and administrators. 
  • Teachers and principals acquire a better understanding of families' cultures and diversity, and they form deeper respect for parents' abilities and time
  • Teachers and principals report an increase in job satisfaction. 
Benefits for the School
  • Schools that actively involve parents and the community tend to establish better reputations in the community. 
  • Schools also experience better community support. 
  • School programs that encourage and involve parents usually do better and have higher quality programs than programs that do not involve parents.
So what can we do to get parents on our side?  To help my readers keep a printable list, I put together this poster.  You will need to print it on legal sized paper, and you might even laminate and post it outside your classroom door for parents to read.  It may give them an idea of how they might jump into your classroom routine.


Do you have favorite ways to get your parents involved?  I can't wait to read them.  Please link up with your own blog post below.  If you don't have a blog, please share your thoughts in the comments and visit the other blogs for additional ideas.  Have a great weekend, readers, and until next time happy reading.  

Next week's Think About It Thursday topic will be...Helping the Challenging Child.


Sunday, April 13, 2014

Must Read Mentor Text-The Butterfly House

It's a beautiful morning in Virginia, and today, I'm linking up with Amanda and Stacia at Collaboration Cuties for their Must Read Mentor Text linky.  This week's linky is focused on science texts, and I've chosen to feature The Butterfly House by Eve Bunting.
Here is what Amazon says about it:
With the help of her grandfather, a little girl makes a house for a larva and watches it develop before setting it free. And when the girl grows old, the butterflies come back to return her kindness.
This is a beautiful book about how a caterpillar transforms into a butterfly and about a young girls connection to her grandfather.  The illustrations are well done, and the word choice provides a great model for writing as well.  If the classroom teacher wishes to tie in technology, this Youtube video would be fun for the students.  In fact, creating group presentations such as this would be very interesting to older readers.



Today, I added this unit to my store on Teachers Pay Teachers.  It includes materials for schema building, vocabulary, making predictions, author's craft, summarizing, sequencing, and story elements. The unit is available for a dollar today only.  It will be change to $3.50 tomorrow. Click the preview below to check it out further.


Here's my mentor text memo...

For other science mentor texts, check out the other links at Collaboration Cuties.  Have a great week!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Think About It Thursday-Homework Hassles


Welcome to Comprehension Connection!  This is week one of a weekly linky party focused on topics in education that teachers and parents find challenging.  The focus of this week's linky is on making homework less of a hassle.  To link up, please write up your blog post sharing your ideas related to the topic.  You may include products related to the topic, but the purpose of the linky is about sharing and exchanging of tips and tricks that may help others.  As part of this linky, comments are encouraged.  Please make an effort to read the other posts that are shared and comment.  Dialogue about the topic helps everyone.  Please comment on the two before you in the list.  If you are the first to link up, please return to comment on those toward the end.  Now...on with my post!

I started off with this topic for two reasons.  First, as a parent, I honestly hate long periods of homework time.  It cuts into our time as a family and often leads to conflict for one of my children. Without going into detail, she truly has a low frustration threshold for lengthy assignments over material that she already knows since it's taking time from things she enjoys, or she gets frustrated figuring out material she doesn't know (and we have had assignments come home over material that has not been taught yet).  From the teacher standpoint, I get frustrated with following up with students who failed to do their homework.  I find I am often spinning my wheels since the same children forget, lose, or just plain don't do the work.  I will share a few tips that have helped both as a parents and as a teacher.  I'll start with tips that have helped us at home...
  • Homework Organization At my daughter's school, they have adopted a great organizational tool, and that is the 7 pocket plastic pouch.  Within the pouch, she keeps a stash of notebook paper, index cards, and her pencils, and each subject has it's own pocket. This comes home with her agenda which teachers check each day.  (as a teacher, I find this part difficult because I do not have the students at the end of the day, so if I don't get a chance to check during our block of time, then it is sometimes forgotten.  We use Edline in our school division which offers parents the option of checking the assignments and grades online.  

7 POCKET LETTER SIZE EXPANDING FILE FOLDER OFFICE SUPPLIES FILING BINDING GREEN
  • Homework Routine Establishing a homework routine is important for everyone.  For my child, a break and snack are needed right after school, and we try to do most of the homework before dinner.  If the load is heavy, then I will normally have my daughter split the assignments and get her up in the morning since she's usually fresher and in the frame of mind to work with more persistence at that time of day.  My daughter works at our kitchen table, but my oldest prefers doing work in his room.  With both, the environment is quiet without a lot of movement going on.  In some homes, this may be difficult to achieve, and yet, most children work better with fewer distractions.  At school, I open my room up to my students before school to allow them the opportunity to work in a quiet place if needed. Most come in and read in my reading nook.  I think they enjoy the peace before things get hectic.
  • Quantity of Homework Most schools agree that the amount of homework should depend on the age and skills of the student. Many suggest that homework for children in kindergarten through second grade is most effective when it does not exceed 30 minutes each day. In third through sixth grade, children typically receive 30-60 minutes of homework per day.  Reading at home is especially important for all students. Reading time is typically not included in the homework routine, so the actual time suggested above may be exceeded when independent reading time is added (and what a great problem that is especially if it means replacing time watching television or playing video games).  From the reading I've done, 20-30 minutes of daily independent reading is crucial to reading development. My students normally have a word study assignment and an ongoing piece of writing that they work on using the writing process.  
  • Types of Homework Assignments There has been a lot of talk about the Flipped Classroom where students watch introductory videos that explain concepts at home, and the practice portion is done under teacher supervision the following day in class. As a teacher, I can certainly see the benefits in this philosophy if the students all have access to the media used for introduction.  It would make it easier to monitor progress, collect materials from the students, and intervene when needed. As one-to-one initiatives are being implemented, that option certainly can be entertained.  For now, many of my students live in households where there is no wifi or computer access, so most of the homework I send is practice or extension/application of our classroom lesson.  I try to make homework assignments routine in that the activities have been done before in the classroom, include a sample question or two to show the expectation, and provide clear instructions.  Rubrics are very helpful for all, including parents. For some students, comprehending the directions and following them are complicated when new routines are introduced, and it can overwhelm parents when they're trying to assist the child and have not been present to hear the instruction.  (Don't we all hear, "That's not the way my teacher did it!") If you have parents looking for homework help, this handout from the Department of Education may offer some helpful tips.  
  • Homework Collection, Grading, and Return With my groups this year, I provide grades for reading, spelling, and writing.  Since I am not a homeroom teacher, it can be complicated to stay on top of homework completion and collection.  When students fail to complete their work, it's up to me to follow up to make sure it's turned in.  Since I teach part time and am not at school over the recess time, I've had to figure out other options to get work in.  I really like this check list from Rebecca Wishart.  It is nice that she shared it and allowed it to be edited.  At my daughter's school, they have a study hall program set up where each teacher is assigned a day to run study hall.  If she fails to turn in work or needs help, the school can assign a study hall to get homework made up or the parent can register the student for study hall to get extra help.  I love this, and I've found it very helpful for her.  
Now, I'm ready to see what homework tips you all have.  I'm especially interested in reading your organizational tips (We all love when we are able to redirect our attention to our lessons versus following up with kids on homework, right?)  If you have suggestions, please share them in the comments or link up with me. 

Next week, the topic is engaging parents.  Please share special ways that you make your parents feel welcome and part of your educational programming.

Until next time, happy reading!

Friday, April 4, 2014

Five for Friday with a Freebie



Boy the weeks keep zooming by.  Seems like I just posted Five for Friday, and we're back to another Friday again.  We have one more week til Spring Break, and finally spring is here!  It was nice getting out to do some yard work, and my poor hands felt it later.

Cartoon Number OneThis week my fifth graders were exploring historical fiction.  It's probably their least favorite genre, but as we know it's important to understand how to comprehend genre types. The selection from Journeys was Mr. Tucket Travels, and they seemed to enjoy Gary Paulsen.  As we worked on visualizing and sequencing events, we also discussed historical fiction features.  {These booksmarks} from Mrs. Tottens Classroom were helpful to use as reference tools.


Cartoon Number TwoFor my fourth grade group, fantasy was the choice genre. They used the bookmarks as well, and {this set} to brainstorm fantasy features. Their story for the week was The World According to Humphrey which was really cute.  We studied theme and recorded text evidence with this organizer.
Theme Organizer Freebie
Cartoon Number ThreeMy students also began a new writing assignment with memoirs.  I shared the book, The Memory String by Eve Bunting.  You can read about the book by visiting this post.  I shared in the post the writing materials that I used for this week.  It was really special hearing about my students special moments. They're writing about first roller coaster rides, receiving special gifts, hitting a home-run in a ballgame, and touching moments too.   We talked about limiting to small moments versus a week long vacation.  I am looking forward to hearing their voices come through the writing.  


Cartoon Number Four
Tonight, we're heading out to watch a game of soccer and hoping that the storms stay clear of Virginia.  Hard to believe this guy is a senior.  We've had so much fun watching soccer, and this tournament is with our rivals.  I hope I get to post that his team won tomorrow!   

Cartoon Number FiveMy number five hasn't happened yet.  Next Thursday, I'm starting a new linky called, Think About It Thursday.  I will announce the topic the week ahead of time to allow other bloggers to plan their posts. The purpose of the linky is for bloggers to discuss topics in education in general that bring on challenges.  This week we'll be focusing on Homework Hassles.  Some posts will be from the classroom perspective, some will be from the parent's perspective, and some will be a mix.  I hope you'll drop by to read and link up with me.  I know I'd love a few ideas to make homework less of a hassle at home, and make it easier on myself in the classroom.  The linky button is embedded in this post, so feel free to start your post when you have the time.  

Enjoy your weekend, and until next time, happy reading!



Book Talk Thursday with a Freebie


What a hectic week it's been!  These five day work weeks really are tough!  ;-)  I thought I'd join Andrea at Reading Toward the Stars for her Book Talk Thursday to feature the book, The Memory String by Eve Bunting, and I truly had this post nearly completed yesterday morning.  I just didn't get back to finishing it last night!  Yesterday, I used this book at the last minute to introduce the memoir writing project I started with my 4th graders.  I had planned to use Memoirs of a Goldfish, but sadly, it wasn't available in our library.  As I made my way down to my room to revamp my lesson, I remembered this one!  I picked it up a few weeks ago, and I knew when I got it it would work well for memoirs, making connections, or theme. We're studying theme this week, so I can actually use this book for two purposes.  Love it!

Here is Amazon's Summary:
Each button on Laura’s memory string represents a piece of her family history. The buttons Laura cherishes the most belonged to her mother—a button from her prom dress, a white one off her wedding dress, and a single small button from the nightgown she was wearing on the day she died. When the string breaks, Laura’s new stepmother, Jane, is there to comfort Laura and search for a missing button, just as Laura’s mother would have done. But it’s not the same—Jane isn’t Mom. In Eve Bunting’s moving story, beautifully illustrated by Ted Rand, Laura discovers that a memory string is not just for remembering the past: it’s also for recording new memories.

If you are introducing more than one Eve Bunting book, this video clip of her may come in handy. Students love to hear where the story ideas originated, and this clip is not too long.  



I truly enjoyed this story, and the children did too.  We stopped during our reading periodically to discuss the book, and all students were anxious to get to the end.  Analyzing memoirs helps students recognize the format that the memoirs flows in.  Here's a freebie you might enjoy using in your classroom.

Have a great weekend, and coming up soon....Five for Friday. 

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