Monday, December 31, 2012

Writing Short Answers - Comprehension Requirements

I realize that students need a constant reminder about the expectations for short answer questions.  At my school, we have all adopted the RAD format (Restate, Answer, Details), but my kids often need specific directions about what that means.  I am also pretty stingy about them not using pronouns in their answers and  I want them to be specific when adding details to support their answer.  I like them to actually drag those details from the text and use page numbers for their citations.  I made this quick slide recently as a reminder.  I throw it up on the screen when I assign their comprehension for the week.
Sometimes I tell them that each requirement will be a point and that each answer will be worth 5 points.  That takes a ton of grading time, so I only do this when they start to take shortcuts and need refreshing.  It is also a good idea for them to have a copy of this to tape into their Reading Response Notebooks.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Westing Game Book Unit

I have already read The Westing Game with one of my reading groups and I am about to start it again with another group.  My students do all of their novel study and reading response work in a composition book.  When the book is done, they have a complete study guide including comprehension, vocabulary, and any graphic organizers.  Each week we work on several chapters and there is a quiz every Friday on those chapters.  When they finish the book, they use all of their accumulated work to study for a final test.  Here is how I attack this complicated book with so many characters to keep track of...

     Character Charts-  We do one of these 4 times throughout the book.  Any new, interesting, or suspicious info goes on these.
Westing Game Character Chart - ch. 24-end
We also have a large character chart on the wall.  It is made out of 16 pieces of black 9x12 construction paper and each character gets their own piece.  We use sticky notes to add information about each character as we go on this interactive wall organizer.

     Comprehension Questions- these are done weekly for each set of chapters.
Westing Game comprehension ch. 19-23
They glue the questions on the top of the page and then answer underneath.  They must restate the question in the answer as well as provide details and/or evidence from the book.

     Vocabulary- this is also done each week in one of these advance organizers.

Westing Game Vocabulary ch. 14-18
Take a look at my post on vocabulary to see exactly what I expect the kids to do.

     Suspicious Characters Chart- students choose 3 characters that seem suspicious to them towards the middle of the book.  This gets them thinking about our big project.

The one big project that I do for this book is a wanted poster.  You can see those in my Westing Game Wanted Posters post.  Prior to that we start with this organizer first.

If you would like to download the whole book unit, I do have it available if you click my link here.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Ancient India - Interactive Notebooks

As I continue grading Social Studies notebooks, I will also continue to share pictures of what we have accomplished this year.  Here are some of the highlights from someone's chapter on Ancient India.
        A map of India...
Map of India
      Notes on Indian Society...
Ancient Indian Society and Caste System
     Notes and graphic organizer on Hinduism...
Hinduism Develops in India
     Pictures and notes for Indian Achievements...
Ancient Indian Achievements in Science
The graphic organizers make things much easier on the kids and myself.  They allow them to be more independent and organizes all of their ideas so that they can find the information for the test.

Story Pyramids - Tuck Everlasting and The Devil's Arithmetic

Two of my reading groups finished their novels just before the break.  The first group finished Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbit and the second group finished The Devil's Arithmetic by Jane Yolen.  After finishing, we do a lesson on story structure.  I use the basic pyramid that you can find all over.
Story Pyramid

I have them take notes in their Reading Notebooks first, then have them create their own story pyramids using their novels.  It is expected that they combine the parts of the story with citations from the book.  I also ask them to use images with each part of their pyramid. I give them a copy of this rubric:
Story Pyramid Rubric

Some of them turn out really wonderful.  Here is one from Tuck Everlasting...
Tuck Everlasting Story Pyramid
 And here are three from The Devil's Arithmetic...
Devil's Arithmetic Story Pyramid 1

Devil's Arithmetic Story Pyramid 2

Devil's Arithmetic Story Pyramid 3

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Ancient Egypt Interactive Notebook

 So, it is finally Winter Break.  In Social Studies we have successfully finished Mesopotamia, Egypt, China, and Greece.  I am grading notebooks over the break and thought I would share some of the highlights.  
Egyptian Society Triangle
Egyptian Work and Daily Life
Gods of Egypt
We also spent some time in the computer lab using The British Museum website.  This is a great slideshow about how mummies are made.  I created this organizer to go along with it.
British Museum - How Mummies are Made
The British Museum also has its Young Explorers pages.  We use those to learn about Ancient Egyptian Artifacts and fill in the graphic organizer for our three favorite artifacts.
Ancient Egyptian Artifacts Organizer

Friday, December 7, 2012

Tuck Everlasting Foldable - Reviewing for tests

So on top of working with visual notetaking, the kids are always preparing for their weekly novel quizzes.  This week was Tuck Everlasting for chapters 19 through the epilogue.  Lots to remember.  We used a standard foldable and some visual note taking to review the main events and some vocabulary.  I just HAD to share this one.
Tuck Everlasting Foldable Organizer
I use these a lot the day before a quiz.  I give them guidelines about the topic of each box and then they use all of their resources from the week to fill each area with as much detail as possible.  Then they get taped into their Reading Response Notebooks as a reference that can be used to study for the final test.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Vocabulary Advance Organizer - Novel Study

I have a few of my book units on TeachersPayTeachers and I have had a few people ask how I have the kids do vocabulary every week for the chapters that they have been assigned.  So here is a quick run down on our weekly vocabulary.  This particular week, one of my reading groups read chapters 11 - 14 of the Devil's Arithmetic.  When I do a book unit, I basically just go through and decide what words I think will be good for each set of chapters.  They use their finished organizers to study for the quizzes each week and their final.

I start with a simple graphic organizer (AKA a table).  I have 4 columns that are labeled context clues, part of speech/definition, new sentence, synonym.  I usually pick about 7 words for each set of chapters.  I type the sentence/s from the book with the word and anything else needed for context.  Those get typed into the first column of the organizer.  The students must circle at least two good context clues in each box before they can try and determine the definitions.  And my policy is NO CONTEXT CLUES, NO CREDIT.  Here is a student example of the first column.
circling context clues

I type all the definitions at the bottom of the organizer for them to pick from.  They are scrambled up, so they need to use the context clues to pick the correct part of speech and definition.  These go in the second column.

The students must then use the word in a new sentence of their own.  They must include at least two context clues in their new sentence as well.  By the time the year is over we have thoroughly covered context clues :)

Then, they come up with a synonym for the word in the last column.  This often just comes from definition, but sometimes there is no definite synonym.  If that happens they are allowed to write a word that is related or helpful to remember the meaning.

When they are done, they get glued or taped into their Reading Response composition books.  By the end of the book they have a complete set of vocabulary to study from.  And here is what it looks like finished (or at least almost finished).
vocabulary advance organizer finished

Visual Notetaking Part Two: Student Check-in

So I decided to grab a few interactive notebooks to see how some of the kids were doing with their visual note taking.  We have started out pretty basic, but some of them have really done a great job putting their own ideas, doodles, and personality into it.  Here are a few examples from our "genre" notes.

I am pretty darn impressed!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Visual Notetaking - 6th grade style

So, we are halfway (or so) through the year and most of my students are pros at notetaking.  They keep 3 notebooks covering 5 subjects and notes can get a little boring for them.  I began introducing Visual Notetaking to the ones who are ready to move on and put their own personality into their notes.  Austin Kleon is awesome at introducing some basics that are do-able for my kids.  Check out his website  and books.  Another great resource is Sunni Brown.  This is a hot trend in business right now, so a google image search will result in a boatload of great pics.

This week we are just covering the basics of fiction and non-fiction genres.  Basic notes and vocabulary so I thought it would be a good week to spice it up.  This is what one group started with yesterday...

Stay tuned for more as the week progresses...

Monday, December 3, 2012

Ancient Egypt - Art Project

We are long since past studying Ancient Egypt in my class, but I wanted to go back and share this SUPER easy art project that all the kids are successful with.  All you need is the following materials to make this happen...

  • gold wrapping paper (cut into 10"x14" pieces)
  • cardboard or card stock 9"x12"
  • sharpies
  • copies of Egyptian coloring pages
  • paperclips

Have the kids wrap their piece of gold paper around their piece of card stock or cardboard, then glue the back edges down.  Each kid should have 2 paperclips to hold down their coloring page onto the gold paper.  Remind them that the paper CANNOT move once they have started.

Have them trace over the lines of the coloring page with pressure.  This will leave an imprint of the lines on the gold paper.  Once they have completely traced the picture, then they should take off the coloring page.  They will be able to see the lines of the picture in the gold paper.  Have them use a sharpie and trace over those lines in black.  You should end up with something that looks like this (yes, a kid did this!).

King Tut's Mask

Greek Mythology Organizer - Winged Sandals

We have time in the computer lab once a week and I occasionally put together some fun learning activities for our Ancient Civilizations notebooks.  This one is for the website  Before the kids can explore the sight (AKA playing games), they must watch two of the "storytime" stories and fill out this graphic organizer.  It is a great site for learning about Ancient Greek Mythology and the kids really enjoy exploring the sight.  Here is a completed one from one of my student's notebooks...
Winged Sandals Organizer
 Once they complete the organizer, they tape it into their Social Studies notebooks and add it to their table of contents!  Please click here for the blank organizer for free :)

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Reading Notebooks - Persuasive Techniques

Today we are studying for our persuasive techniques quiz tomorrow.  After they have taken notes during the week, I like to have the kids study from their notes by creating a study guide that they can then also study from at home.  They glue these into their notebooks just after their persuasive technique notes.  Here is what it looked like in their Reading Notebooks.

Persuasive techniques study guide
The left side is a flip chart foldable where they can write their notes inside.  We covered bandwagon, testimonial, glittering generalities, overgeneralizations, emotional appeal, expert opinion/statistical evidence, and repetition.  The right side are paragraphs using each type of technique.  They use their notes to analyze each paragraph and determine which technique is being used.  Unfortunately it is not the best picture, but you get the idea.  I have the entire power point presentation and all of the notebook handouts for the persuasive techniques materials here if you are interested in all of the notes and handouts.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Group Discussion Poster

This is my S.H.A.R.E poster describing what I want the kids to do when they discuss.  Whenever the kids get together in groups or pairs for book discussions, review, or to just partner share, I like to remind them about what that looks like.  I use this slide and I have it as a poster on the wall.
Group Discussions:  S.H.A.R.E

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Figurative Language Learning Menu

So, I have been thinking about reintroducing the learning menu to my 6th grade class.  I am trying a small scale menu for figurative language next week based on Bloom's.  The higher the level of activities they choose, the more points they will receive.  I will report back on how it goes...

figurative language learning menu
If you would like to download a free copy of the learning menu, click here and let me know what you think!

Friday, October 5, 2012

Making Inferences

This week we took notes on making inferences in our reading notebooks.  After taking notes, we practiced using an advance organizer that included some short paragraphs and a Far Side comic by Gary Larson.  His stuff is so timeless.
The kids love using these to make inferences.  And it is such a great way to introduce other things like irony. If you want to download the activity worksheet you can get it here for free.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

New Blooms

I was inspired by a blog recently.  Dragonflies in First had these great Blooms posters that I so wanted to use, but they have since revised Blooms so I had to make my own.  Hers are still better in my opinion, but I did my best.

Sticky Notes are a beautiful thing.

I have around 95 kids that I see everyday for Reading.  They have composition books that they do all of their novel study work in.  Each group of 30 or so kids is reading a different book.  My conundrum: How do I correct comprehension questions from 3 different books and 95 kids every week?  Here is my new solution.
Each table of 4 must discuss and agree on all answers which are then transferred to sticky notes that represent each group (this requires 8 colors of sticky notes!).  I then quickly go down the line and score each group's and note which questions they need to reconsider the answer for with red whiteboard marker. A super time saver.  They can then be left up until the quiz and students can read over each other's answers to get more supporting details or better justifications for answers.

I am now inspired to find the many uses for sticky notes in the classroom.