Sunday, July 19, 2015

Short Writing

Writing doesn't have to be long to be of quality. In fact, short writing pieces should be incorporated in every lesson, for every subject. Harvey Silver calls this "provisional writing". There are two types of provisional writing.

The first is writing to learn something. This includes any type of note-taking or annotating. With this writing, students are writing what they are learning in order to retain it. This is important, but NOT NEARLY as powerful as the second type, writing to prove learning.

When students write to prove learning, they are being asked to write what was taught in their own words, usually without assistance of notes or partners. We often see this type of writing as an exit ticket. This type of writing is so powerful because students are forced to synthesize what they learned, and just as importantly, you will know immediately upon reading this short response if your students really "got it." 

Questions or prompts for these types of questions must be direct and purposefully planned. Don't ask, "How do you feel about what you learned?, What's your favorite part of the lesson?"  or "How will this be helpful in your life?" The prompts we are aiming for are, "Tell me what photosynthesis is and where it takes place." We want to know what they know! 

Sometimes, teachers ask for a short summary after a lesson. This will also work, just make sure that you are specific. "Give me a short summary of the chapter," is not nearly as powerful as, "Summarize pages 121-122. Include specific details of how the colonists prepared to fight the British." 

If you are a primary teacher, don't stop reading! This is for you too! If you are teaching the vowel pattern "oa", then have the students end the lesson with a short list of words that have the "oa" pattern. 

Writing what students learned leads to mastery, so make sure your students are ending every lesson, in every subject with a short writing piece. Even if it's only a sentence long, a short list or in a journal. 

Friday, July 10, 2015

Ditching the Textbook

Take a moment and review the table of contents in your science and social studies textbooks. You will quickly notice that more than 75% of the textbook is not even your state standards. Yet, year after year we teach the entire book to our students. 

How do we expect them to retain what's important when we throw the entire book at them and hope that the 25% we really want them to learn sticks. THERE IS A BETTER WAY! 

For intermediate social studies, resources like Paul Revere's Ride, The Boston Massacre, and Native Americans of the Great Plains, give students the chance to study informational text before completing writing prompts, activities, practice pages and a project. These NO PREP resources include answer sheets and rubrics.

For primary science, teachers can use the Non-Fiction Text Packets to close read science topics like plants, insects and matter. I am constantly adding new Non-Fiction Text Packets.

For intermediate math, I have created 19 math units that cover most of the common core standards. These include I CAN Statement Posters, Student Cheat Sheets, Classroom Posters, Worksheets, Post-tests and Pre-tests, answer sheets, task cards and more. Everything you need to teach decimals, fractions and geometry is done for you. All you have to do is print. 

Ditching the textbook is easier than you would ever imagine. TpT accepts purchase orders, so ask your administrator to help you ditch your textbook with a financial contribution. Most administrators are happy to assist teachers who go above and beyond to meet the needs of their students!

Most people do not like the idea of creating their own curriculum, but you don't have to recreate the wheel. Purchasing units from my store, or pinning ideas from Pinterest, will save you many hours and help you give your students a creative and rigorous experience while learning. 

Remember, you don't need the entire year figured out right this minute. Focus on the topics you cover in the first quarter for now. The rest will fall in place as you go. 

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Thank You, Rachel Lynette!!

I am very excited to be a guest blogger on Rachel Lynette's Minds in Bloom. Minds in Bloom gets over 300,000 page views per month!

Thank you, Rachel Lynette!

Check out my post Reversing the Summer Slide