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.

 

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:



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!


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.

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? 

October 3, 2020

5 Virtual Field Trips Worth Checking Out

My first virtual field trip with my class was with a geologist at the University of Maine. Virtual field trips were just beginning to emerge, and as part of my district's technology grant, I was lucky enough to be a pioneer on the virtual playground. This early experience took an IT tech to set up on the school's best TV located in our media room. Even in this low tech set up, the kids and I were amazed that we could connect and interact live with someone in another part of the country and become "certified" rock hounds. 

With amazing tech advances, standards with greater rigor, and increasing opportunities, finding just the right virtual experiences for students can be overwhelming. Unlike those earlier days when there were only a few hundred virtual field trips floating around, now teachers can choose experiences that match standards in any content area. 

If you are looking to add virtual field trips or experiences to your lessons, the sites listed below may be worth a look. To save you time, the links should take you directly to the virtual experience page of each site. As always, make sure to preview the tours and webinars to ensure that they are appropriate for your students!


1. Yellowstone National Park

Topics include animals, winter adaptations, ecology, geysers, volcanoes, and the night sky to name a few.

https://www.nps.gov/yell/learn/photosmultimedia/education-videos.htm


2. The National Zoo

Live virtual events are free and require advanced sign-up. Topics include habitats, life cycles, and a zoo walk. 

https://nationalzoo.si.edu/education/virtual-programs-calendar

Check out the live animal cams! Why is that panda always sleeping and where is the elephant hiding?

https://nationalzoo.si.edu/webcams


3. Ellis Island

This virtual experience is run by Scholastic and is prerecorded. Park rangers explain the history of Ellis Island and take questions from classrooms. The virtual tour may help you meet the immigration standards in your curriculum.

https://www.nps.gov/elis/learn/education/classrooms/virtual-learning.htm


4. Museum of the American Revolution

Allow plenty of time for this one! Rather than simply viewing old stuff, this museum's virtual (and in-person) experience revolves around 4 questions that will encourage you and your students to ponder The American Revolution on a deeper level.

https://museumvirtualtour.org/


5. Access Mars

Don't skip the intro!

https://accessmars.withgoogle.com/


Please note that 4th Grade Frenzy is not affiliated with any of the websites or companies listed above. They are noted for informational and educational purposes to be used at your discretion. 


What virtual experiences have you tried in your classroom? Feel free to share your best recommendations in the comments below! 




September 16, 2020

A Simple Tool To Improve Learning

Timelines are graphic organizers that show information in chronological order. They are useful for displaying key ideas and can help students organize the information that they read. Although social studies topics come to mind first, timelines can be useful in other subjects as well. Timelines can be used to sequence a story, list procedures in a science experiment, or steps in solving a math problem. 

Here are some benefits of using timelines in lessons: 

1. Timelines enable students to break down larger amounts of information into smaller, easier to comprehend bits of information. Breaking down information can promote a greater understanding of a topic. 

2. Timeline graphic organizers provide a visual representation of content. They can be particularly helpful to visual learners, English language learners, and special needs students.

3. Timelines are useful for teaching research skills and notetaking. Elementary grade students who are just beginning to learn how to research and take notes can use a timeline to display the most important parts of their findings. Timelines help students focus on key ideas to include when presenting research. 

How to introduce timelines to your students:

1. Show students examples. 

The examples can be timelines that you find online, draw on the board, or even one made on poster board.

2. Create a timeline together. 

You may want to begin by creating a timeline of a typical school day. Draw a timeline format on the board and label "arrival" at the beginning of the timeline. Students can write activities and subject areas in chronological order along with corresponding times.

3. Assign independent or partner timeline research and creation. 

Be sure to assign or suggest topics that spark interest! Students can create a timeline of fun topics on bulletin board paper, poster board, or printables such as this resource:


Timelines make learning so much easier! 

August 29, 2020

Examples of Specific Feedback for Students

General comments such as "Great Job" are nice words that may make students feel good, but specific feedback can help students advance their learning. Imagine that you are just learning to drive. After driving all over town, the instructor or your parent says, "That was pretty good, but there are some things you still need to work on," and walks away. It may be kind of important to know what exactly was good and what needs work! Students need the guidance of teachers to provide information about what is going well, and what next steps to take to move along. This guidance can be provided in the form of specific feedback. Feedback can be provided informally while walking around the room as students work or more formally with a student and teacher conference. Either way, your students will likely benefit from specific feedback. 



Like other effective instructional practices, providing specific feedback may take a bit of practice. You may want to try focusing on one subject area to start. Then you can add other subject areas as specific feedback becomes a habit. Here are examples of specific feedback in 5 subject areas to get you started:


1. Writing

You remembered to indent each paragraph. The next step is to use transition phrases such as "The following day..." when you begin a new paragraph. 


2. Math

You chose the right operation to begin that story problem and solved it correctly. It's a 2 part story problem so let's keep reading to decide what to do next.


3. Science

Your graph is an accurate display of your results. What conclusions can you draw based on this data?


4. Social Studies

You were able to use North, East, South, and West correctly when answering questions about the map. Now you are ready to work with the intermediate directions.


5. Reading

You were able to answer all the factual questions from the passage correctly. Rereading may help you answer those trickier open-ended questions so that your answers are supported by text evidence.


When you provide specific feedback, you are recognizing small steps toward a goal. Notice the reaction from the student when you give specific feedback. Confidence grows when students know exactly what to do next. 


Have you tried giving specific feedback? Feel free to share what has worked for you in the comments below! 


I've been reading a lot about the importance of habits. You too? Read about making math a habit HERE!

August 12, 2020

5 Whole Group Games That Work With Kids At Their Seats

Kids staying at their seats may not be the ideal situation. Nevertheless, adapting temporarily can give students the opportunity to play whole group games. Of course, make sure that you are able to follow all health and safety guidelines before playing these games. 


1. Bingo

Bingo can be played to reinforce many topics from vocabulary words to math facts. Consider using printed disposable bingo boards. Students can have their own set of chips that can be stored in individual Ziploc type bags or inexpensive plastic containers. Here is a FREE blank printable bingo board that students can fill in with vocabulary words that you write on the board.


2. Twenty Objects

Display 20 pictures on the board for 1 minute. For younger students, you can start with fewer objects. The pictures can be content-related. For example, if you are studying electricity, you could have 20 pictures of items that run on electricity. To play during a math lesson, you could display 20 math-related items. After 1 minute, close the display. Students then try to write down as many items as they can remember. 


3. Unpacking Grandmother's Trunk

Students pretend to be up in Grandmother's attic unpacking an imaginary trunk. One by one, students name imaginary items that are found in the trunk. Each student must list the previous students' items before adding their own. Some like to play this game using the alphabet. A game could go like this:

Student 1: I unpacked my Grandmother's trunk and found an accordion.

Student 2: I unpacked my Grandmother's trunk and found an accordion and a bike.

Student 3: I unpacked Grandmother's trunk and found an accordion, a bike, and a cake.

Let the kids be silly and see how far they can go. If you have fewer than 26 students, they can have more than one turn. If you have more than 26 students, you can have recorders who write down what is said. Another starter for playing this game is "I am packing a suitcase for vacation and I am packing..."


4. Categories

This game is played like Scattegories. Make a list of 5 to 10 categories such as animals, plants, games, names, places, books, food, etc. Choose a random letter. Students then try to write one example from each category that begins with the selected letter. For the letter "D" a student could write:

Animal - dog

Plant - dandelion

Game - dominoes

Name - Dustin

Place - Dave and Busters

Book - The Doorbell Rang

Food - donut

Categories can be related to curriculum content once the students know how to play. For example, the solar system, rocks and minerals, music, art and design, and colonial times, could be categories. Make the categories more specific for advanced play. 


5. I Have Who Has Games

I Have Who Has is a fun game for students to play while practicing various skills. The game starts with a set of cards that are NOT numbered. All of the cards in the set are distributed even if students need to get more than one card. One student will have a card that says "I have the first card. Who has..." If students are practicing math vocabulary, the first card may read "I have the first card. Who has 2 lines on the same plane that are equal distance apart and never meet?" The student who goes next would have the card that says "I have parallel lines. Who has a part of a line that stops at given endpoints?" The game continues with students listening for clues to the card that comes next. The game ends when a student has the card that reads, "I have the last card." Students like to repeat these games while being timed to see if they can beat their previous time. During times when students cannot share materials, these games can be printed on paper and disposed of after each use. Once students can share materials, the game cards can be printed and laminated for repeated use. 


Here are a few inexpensive suggestions to get started with I Have Who Has Games:

Multiplication Game 2's and 3's

Multiplication Game 3's and 4's

Multiplication Game 4's and 5's

Multiplication Game 5's and 6's


Dreaming of getting back to the future with all the things? Here are some not-so-socially-distanced games to keep in mind for later on:

Whole Group Games


What are your favorite classroom games? Feel free to leave a comment below!


With faith and friendship,