February 16, 2021

Classroom Management for all Types of Writing

For all types of writing, students finish assignments at different times. They will also need varying degrees of help from the teacher as they work through the writing process.


Students can continue to write while waiting for assistance from the teacher. One way to keep students writing while waiting is to provide choice boards. These choice boards can be printed and stapled into a notebook where all the related writing is kept. 

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  • Start each monthly writing choice board by going over the choices and what your expectations are for each option. 
  • Next have students write in their goal. Differentiate as you see fit. Ask students to number their entries in their notebooks so that you can make a quick check of their work. A star gets colored in as each option is completed. 
  • Explain that students should use the choice boards during writing times if they finish an assignment early or they are waiting for the teacher's help. With this system in place, students can keep writing and you may no longer hear, "I'm done!"

February 3, 2021

Improving Student Writing

Using task analysis may help students improve their writing. Task analysis involves breaking a process up into smaller learning components. If writing is broken down into manageable parts, students may progress to a finished product with greater confidence and success. 

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It may be helpful to model steps 1 - 5 with a class writing sample before students try the process on their own.

1. Brainstorming

Once students are given a topic or writing task, give them an opportunity to brainstorm what they know and thoughts they have about a topic. This can be done on a brainstorming worksheet or even a sticky note. 

2. The Best Ideas

Have students circle the ideas they think are the best.

3. Graphic Organizer

Provide a graphic organizer that has boxes to place each sentence. The sentences will not be in paragraph form yet. If just starting out, have students work on just one paragraph. 

4. Rough Copy aka Sloppy Copy

Students write a paragraph in proper form using their graphic organizer as a guide.  Give students an opportunity to read their paragraph first to themselves and then out loud to a partner. Students are able to find and correct errors when they read out loud. Make a quick check of the sloppy copy before students write a final copy.

5. Final Copy

Students write their paragraph(s) out neatly on colored paper, fun writing paper, or type and print.

6. Craft

Select some writing assignments for display. Have students create a craft after the writing is complete because a hallway or bulletin board is a great place the display the work of these young authors! 


Here are a few writing resources that include graphic organizers to help students build confidence:

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A few years back, I asked students to begin writing, and the class looked at me with that collective blank expresssion. One student asked, "But where's our organizer?" That was all the proof I needed that this tool was helping students become successful writers! 


January 19, 2021

Teaching Long Division

Teaching long division requires patience and practice! The following steps take students from the concrete to the abstract so they have an understanding of what long division actually is.

long-division-worksheets

Step 1

Step one involves manipulatives to remind students that division is actually just making groups. I'm partial to Skittles, but other options could be: fish crackers, mini-pretzels, small crackers, etc.

long-division-worksheets

Step 2

For Step 2, explain to students that it wouldn't be practical to sort items into groups when dealing with larger numbers, but base 10 blocks will help them visualize the division. 

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Step 3

For Step 3, use the same problem that was used in step 2 to introduce the algorithm.

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Step 4

For Step 4, continue working through a few problems together, increasing difficulty based on students' needs.

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Step 5

When students are ready, show them how to check their answer with multiplication. Then, practice, practice, practice! Since some students get overwhelmed by a page filled with problems, consider having students work through one long division problem per day until confidence builds. 

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Here you'll find a set of 15 worksheets where students complete one long division problem per day. It's a great way to get students comfortable with long division!
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January 5, 2021

A Strategy For Leaving School On Time

Leaving school on time and not taking work home at night and on weekends is one of the biggest challenges teachers have. The simple truth is that teachers are often assigned more work than can be completed during prep and whatever time can be salvaged from lunch. Although being organized and systematized certainly optimize efficiency, try thinking beyond the sticky notes and routines in order to eliminate time spent outside of contractual hours.

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One of the best ways to get your time back could be hiding within your grade-level team. Many tasks are assigned to all teachers. Working as a team, these tasks can be divided up, shared, and then adjusted by each teacher. An initial investment of time would include a meeting to discuss the concept and begin dividing up tasks. Consider tasks that could be completed by one teacher and shared with the others: 

Lesson Plans

Hallway Displays

Meeting Notes and Minutes

Copies

Learning Centers

Field Trips

Visitors

Parent Communication

Ceremonies

Class Parties

Focus Walls 

Review Games

Projects

Homework Assignments

Behavior Management

Assessment Creation

Each situation is unique and this is just a guide to get started. Brainstorm your own list and consider dividing up the larger tasks into smaller ones. For example, one teacher may write the math plans and another may write the science plans. Tasks can be taken on for the month or for the entire school year as desired.

Some teachers may struggle with giving up control, but each individual teacher can adjust a final product to their liking. For example, if one teacher creates a hallway display for the month, the basic project is done. An individual teacher can add their own spin to it. 

Letting go of control can be difficult at first, but the reward is great. Once this system is in place, a team can work more efficiently resulting in teachers who have a life outside of school!



November 30, 2020

Benefits of Read Alouds in the Classroom

My only memory of 4th grade is listening to my teacher, Mrs Haker, read the Little House on the Prairie series to us every day after recess. This sacred time provided a feeling of calm following the chaos of recess in the '70s. I remembered wishing that she would just keep on reading all afternoon. Today, the time after lunch and recess is still marked by beloved read alouds in many elementary classrooms. The benefits of read alouds are worth every minute.

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1. Read alouds expose students to many curriculum standards. 

A read aloud can be used to informally discuss genre, author's purpose, literary elements, and text structure, to name a few. Rather than teaching these skills in isolation or in the context of a reading book, students can experience these ideas outside of the literacy block. 

2. Read alouds promote the joy of reading. 

What is more endearing than hearing, "I found the same book you're reading to us!" from a student in the library. Often students will try to find the same book you are reading or books from the same author. During a read aloud, students can simply enjoy a story with no other required tasks. 

3. Listening skills are developed.

Students are listening and visualizing the story which is a skill that can transfer to independent reading. Sometimes, students may enjoy drawing what they visualize as you read. 

4. Read alouds help students form a common bond.

The read aloud is a whole class activity experienced by all students. The class will always have the memory of this time together. 

5. Fluency and expression are modeled.

As students learn to read, they need to hear what smooth, fluent reading sounds like. Fluency is important for comprehension. 

6. Read alouds spark curiousity.

When students listen to a story, they may discover a new interest. In addition, read alouds can be selected to introduce a concept in science, social studies, or other curriculum area. 

7. Students make connections.

Stories enable students to make connections to other books, to themselves, and to the world.

8. Read alouds can be used as a springboard for writing activities.

Craftivities with a theme around the read aloud are motivating to students. There are plenty of ideas worth a look on Pinterest or you could try these time saving resources:


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Need some ideas for read alouds? Of course, it is recommended that you read the books first to make sure that they are appropriate for your students!

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Charlotte's Web by E.B. White

Niagara Falls, or Does It?  by Henry Winkler and the rest of the Hank Zipser series

Stone Fox by John Reynolds Gardiner

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle

Because of Winn Dixie by Kate DiCamillo

Holes by Louis Sachar

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl

Wonder by R. J. Palacio

Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume

The BFG by Roald Dahl


Looking to mix it up during read aloud time? Try:

  • Poems from Where the Sidewalk Ends or Falling Up
  • Joke books for kids
  • Picture books that are just silly and seasonal 
  • Picture books to introduce a new topic 

Why not squeeze in a few minutes after lunch for a quality read aloud? It just may be what your students remember about your class years from now!

*Please note: Fourth Grade Frenzy is not affiliated with any of these books. This post is informational only. 


November 9, 2020

5 Benefits of Craftivities


Crafting can be extended beyond learning the ABC's. When students make a craftivity, they are developing important skills that are in great need of attention.

1. Fine Motor Skills

Ask any middle-grade teacher who has been around for a while. In general, fine motor skills appear to be less developed than in previous years. Of course, there are students still rocking the eye-hand coordination, but many teachers have seen this trend. Craftivities include practice with cutting, positioning, and gluing. 

2. Following Directions

See above for similar trends. Following multi-step directions can be especially challenging for students. Craftivities have many steps that can be grouped into chunks of directions for students to follow. For example, "Cut out the leaf, and glue it on the tree branch." 

3. Chill Time

Many students relax their minds during craftivity time. Don't be surprised if a few even start humming quietly to themselves. Soft music playing in the background is a great option during craftivity time.

4. Motivation To Write

Whether the completed projects will be hung up in the hall or home on the fridge, students are usually asked to complete some sort of writing to go with their project. Students have a purpose for writing and craftivities can be an engaging option for reluctant writers. Motivation increases when students prepare their writing to go along with a display project. 

5. Pride And Acomplishment 

Students love to see their completed projects hung up on a bulletin board or out in the hall!


Click the pictures to view a few customer favorites!









Do you use craftivities with your class? Feel free to leave a comment about your experience! 


October 11, 2020

4 Effective Instructional Strategies That You Can Use This Week

Effective instructional strategies withstand the test of time, and even some learned in my college years remain useful. While I can be quite sure that Dr. Green never imagined how far technology would advance or that students would need to continue learning during a pandemic, her course introduced me to the ways students experience the world and learn. The best of these strategies involve giving students time to manipulate and process new information.

instructional-strategies

1. Graphic Organizers 

Graphic organizers range from Venn diagrams to timelines and can help students make connections and remember information. I once asked my class to complete a rather simple writing assignment. A student asked, "But where is our organizer?" Even though I neglected to provide a writing organizer with this lesson, the students clearly knew that this tool helped them do their best work.


2. Movement

Research shows that kinesthetic activities have many benefits to learning. When it comes to movement activities, we tend to think about preschool and early elementary age students. However, movement activities continue to benefit learners at any level. One way to add movement to a lesson is to incorporate an educational brain break during a lesson. For example, in the middle of a geometry lesson, you could play Simon Says Geometry. Students use their hands and arms to show right angles, acute angles, obtuse angles, parallel lines, intersecting lines, points, lines, line segments, and rays. If you try this game with your kiddos, remember to throw in some sillies and enjoy the laughter! 


3. The Anticipatory Set 

An anticipatory set is a set of prompts that get students ready to learn. The goal is to activate prior knowledge, build background, or make connections. An anticipatory set can be set up as a gallery walk, mystery bags, or simply a series of questions. Considered to be somewhat time-consuming, their importance is sometimes overlooked. Perhaps adding an anticipatory set to one lesson per day or a couple per week to build your library of this effective strategy would prevent overwhelm. 


4. Sorting Activities 


Young children sort physical objects by color, shape, size, etc. School-age students can sort pictures, words, phrases, and sentences into appropriate categories as they process information and build upon prior knowledge.  Sorting activities can be used for individual assignments, partner work, small group activities, or assessments. 



The art of teaching includes the selection of instructional strategies to use in each lesson. Have you incorporated any of these strategies into your lessons recently?