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Sunday, October 28, 2012

Jamestown Charters Cloze Activity

My students were having a hard time understanding what the charters that established the colony of Jamestown meant.  We read about them, we discussed them, and... still couldn't explain them in our own words.  Then I remembered an activity I had tried a few years ago. 

The complete document has the three charters written by King James I for the Virginia Company of London.  One set has blanks for students to fill in, and the second set has the answers filled in.  I use the second set not only as an answer key, but also to differentiate for students that are unable to copy notes from the board.  If you teach Virginia Studies or World History, these will really help students remember the details of these historical documents that were the basis for the establishment of Jamestown.

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Do you teach Virginia Studies or World History?  How about the charters?  What do you use for this?

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Teaching Character Education with Read-Alouds

I am continuing my morning meeting time.  This is our chance to start the day off thinking about a positive character trait or by solving problems we've been having as a class. 

I often have students answer a journal prompt related to a good trait I want them to focus on, or have them brainstorm solutions to a problem we're having.  I them read a mentor text aloud that demonstrates the trait or solutions to the problem.  This is great for several reasons:
  1. It gives them time to think critically and encourages problem solving
  2. I can reinforce the writing curriculum by talking about answering prompts correctly and reminding students about proper capitalization, punctuation, and indentation.  Bonus:  I occasionally take this as a writing grade :)
  3. Some students aren't willing to share their problems or solutions as a class, but I can read their responses aloud without anyone knowing who wrote the response.  This validates their point of view and builds confidence.
  4. The mentor texts are a great tie-in to reading
  5. You are never too old to be read to.  This kids love it!

Here are some of my favorite mentor texts I've read so far this year:
I did this early in the year to reinforce the "personal bubble" that everyone needs.  We practice with a piece of newspaper.  We "newspaper dance" and spread our arms to show the right amount of space for classroom activities.
We talk about how upsetting this is and how we can deal with people that act like this.
This is also one I read early.  We make a t-chart with "Tattling" on one side and "Emergency" on the other.  I introduce them to the "Tattling Turtle" after reading the book.  This is a poster where students can write a "tattle" on a sticky note and attach it to the poster.  I can then check the note later when I have time to respond to it and open a dialog with the student about the next steps.
Are there any other good mentor texts you use to teach good character traits? 

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Teaching Algebraic Equations with Concrete Materials

My students had trouble understanding exactly what they were doing when they were solving equations.  Sure they could figure out the value of the missing number, but could they explain WHY? No.  So we did a simple, yet extremely effective, activity that really helped.


Do you use any other concrete materials to help students understand algebra?

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Great Fiction Read-Alouds

Amanda at The Teaching Thief blog has this great feature called Fiction Fridays.  It's a linky that allows teachers to share their favorite fiction books.  The last installment of this was in August, but I have a feeling she'll have another before too long :)

In any case, I have had the chance to do reviews on some neat fiction books lately.  I have read a few books with a journal theme.  Here are a couple of my latest favorites:

As a paleozoologist, Dr. Wiggins traveled the globe looking for the remains of plants and animals that became extinct centuries ago. During his transatlantic journey, Dr. Wiggins discovered some alarming patterns: Each species has a part in their own demise.  What began as a research project ultimately turned into a cautionary tale. For example, the Amazonian Whispering Vince, which perished because it was too busy listening to the sound of its own voice that it didn’t fight off its attackers. There were also the Goldeaters in the Valley of Mexico, whose greed led to their downfall, or the Dreaded Gossip Peacocks of the Bayou. Will humans be the next to wipe themselves out, or will they learn from the doctor’s findings? 
Fans of the “Spiderwick” series will enjoy the similarities between the diagramed pictures of the ancient plants and animals in the journals, which are similar to the images in the “Spiderwick” series. Reluctant readers will rejoice at the frequent maps and pictures that accompany the test every few pages and the footnotes that often define difficult or obscure vocabulary in the text.
In this installment of the “Seven the Series” books, Adam’s grandfather’s will specifies that in order to receive what was left to the family, each of his seven grandsons must go on a separate journey and complete a task. Adam learns that he must go to France to claim his inheritance. After being thought of as the wimp of the family, Adam sees this as his chance to prove himself worthy of having his name on the McLean family tree.
The book is a quick and interesting read, with letters from Adam’s grandfather giving insight into the reasons behind the tasks Adam must undertake. Larger font and short chapters will also appeal to reluctant readers. While the vocabulary is appropriate for elementary-aged children, there is some mild adult language in the book, which may not be appropriate for younger readers.
Have you read any good fiction books with a journal theme?  How about good fiction read-alouds?