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Sunday, September 29, 2013

Spelling City for Differentiation?

This year, our school is both Title I and a focus school.  So that means that we need to keep flawless records of differentiation methods that cover all the state standards and meet the needs of all students in math and reading.  Then I came across an email reminder that Spelling City links state standards to their activities, making it easier to find differentiation activities. 

I played around with the free activities they offer and found several that link up nicely with Virginia's Language Arts standards.  You can access the activities that match your state's standards by clicking here.  Below is an example of what the screen will look like.  The blue words take you to the activities when you click on them.

I have played around with Spelling City before, but not for a couple of years, and I've never purchased the premium membership.  I've also never put in spelling or vocabulary lists.  I'm wondering if it's worth the extra money.

Have you used Spelling City before?  If so, have you purchased the membership or just used the free services?  Do you think the paid membership is worth it? 

I'm looking for new ways to use this site for differentiation.  I'd love some advice!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Compare and Contrast Genres Organizer

I mentioned in an earlier post that I like to start my year talking about genres, particularly realistic fiction.  Andrew Clements is my personal choice for an author that makes realistic fiction fun.  Frindle is quite possibly my favorite book of his, but it's such a tough choice!

After talking about genres and reading a bit of Frindle, we're ready to start applying our knowledge to our nightly reading choices.  I assign this organizer on Tuesday and Thursday nights.

I fill out this part of the organizer as an example and we discuss as a class and during small reading groups with our various reading choices.

The next part is what they complete on their own at home on Tuesday and Thursday nights.

You can pick up a free copy by clicking here.

Do you have any graphic organizers you like to use for genre study?

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Author Study/Genre of the Month: Sharon Draper

In the past couple of years, I have started to do a "genre of the month" during reading class.  This is loosely based off of The Book Whisperer.  By the way, it is a fantastic and quick read that you won't regret buying.  I highly recommend it!

October's author is Sharon DraperI met this author at a children's book conference a few years ago.  She is funny and she's a former teacher, so she knows how to write high-interest books!

As with the other months, I put out a bunch of his books to be displayed for the entire month and I choose one to read aloud.  For Sharon Draper, I like to read aloud any of her "Ziggy and the Black Dinosaurs" series books.  I think it was later renamed "The Clubhouse Mysteries" series.  This series is about a group of friends that solve mysteries together.  Since October is sort of a mysterious month, this genre seems perfect!  All the books are good for reading aloud, but The Buried Bones Mystery is a pretty good start.

Draper also has a "Sassy" series that may appeal more to female students.  The first book is below.
I also have websites available for students to research Sharon Draper  and find more books that they want to add to their "To Read" lists.  Harper Collins Publishers has this website called the Author Tracker and Reading Rockets has many more authors on this site.
Do you have a genre of the month or an author study?  I'd love to hear what you do with yours!

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Keeping Track of How Students Get Home

One of the toughest things from day ONE for me is making sure students know how they are getting home and then making sure it happens.

A couple of years ago, I came up with this chart.

I print it and put it in clear page protectors.  You could also laminate it, but I find that several changes happen with bus numbers and student information that first week of school. 

As students come in the first day, I find out their bus numbers and group students that way on this chart.  Just write in the bus numbers and student names underneath.

I then use a dry-erase marker to mark off which busses and students have already been called and dismissed.

You can pick up a free copy by clicking here.

Do you have any methods for keeping this time of day going smoothly?  I'd love to hear them!

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Social Studies Review and Practice Stations

A visitor to my blog recently asked if I had any methods for memorization of facts in Social Studies.  Even though I do, it got me thinking about how I can make it better. 

First, I want to share some websites that have everything from foldables to practice websites.  I want to point out that many of these sites are Virginia specific, but many of the activities will work with any state's standards.  I like to have the entire class complete the review activities on our computer lab day.  I also have two desktop computers on which students can practice.

The first site actually has ALL subjects available.  It. Is. AWESOME!  The main site can be accessed here.  The Virginia Studies site can be accessed here.

Another way I review and extend key concepts is through my Word of the Day.  Social Studies is full of higher-level vocabulary that students need to understand before they can get the big picture.  You can read more about it in my "Polka Dot Word of the Day" post.  For example, I used to think that the word "economic" was fairly simple because we used it to death in class, but it's not simple for students.  So, we might take a few days and complete the activities listed under Word of the Day.

At the end of each unit, we take the major events of that time period and create a timeline.  Our textbook does a fantastic job of listing the major events at the end of each chapter (see below).  I assign pairs of students different dates on the timeline.  They have to write the date and description as it's listed on the timeline and then draw their own picture of what it means.  After everyone is finished, we stand up as a class in order of date and explain what's happening in each of the pictures.

ReadWriteThink has a great timeline app that allows students to fill in labels of an online timeline.  This is great for an extension or review of this information later on.

Do you have any go-to review activities for Social Studies?  I'm always looking for more, so please share!