Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Back to School

By S. Romero 

Hey, teacher friends, it's that time of year again! Back to School!

I hope you had smooth start to the 1st day of school.  Did you get everything done liked you had planned? Are you feeling a little overwhelmed with so much to do?
Well, don’t stress. There is still time to get your room like you want it.

If there is anything I learned throughout my teaching career is that the smaller ‘to dos’ that I leave for last usually take the longest. What ends up happening is I run out of time and never get those small time consuming things done and I find myself tackling them at the last minute of the day I actually need them. Talk about stress and not using my time wisely.  So, here’s an idea! Instead of tackling the big projects, try tackling smaller things first and then you can take your time decorating your classroom with a clear mind and not thinking about all the "little" things that still need to be done. 

Below is a checklist of the small "to do's".

·      Math - Have at least four math tubs set up by concepts and label such as geometry, patterns, number concepts, and math word problems.  In each tub, include manipulatives and games ready to be used. I usually set up several games, enough for a group of four to work in. This will save you lots of time. Instead of scrambling for materials to use for a specific lesson concept, you just pull out a tub that's ready for use and start that engaging lesson! 

Note: Take a look at the manipulatives, math games, etc. that you will need according to your district and grade level curriculum as well as your state standards.

·      Reading - Start sorting out your personal library by genre and put them into individually labeled baskets. For example, put all the poetry books in one basket labeled "poetry" or another "fables." You will be so glad your books are organized, especially when you are teaching a specific genre and all you have to do is reach over to that specific basket and grab a book! Plus, you’re also modeling for your students how to categorize and identify books according to their genre! It's a win, win situation!

·      Miscellaneous:
-       Name tags (field trips)
-       Student desk name plates (pre-laminated) 
-       Container of sharpened pencils
-       Folders/binders (included with calendar, class /grade level expectations, rules/homework information etc) 
-       Restroom Hall pass
-       Small labeled tubs (scissors, glue, rulers, etc.)
-       Teacher tub labeled according to each subject include (teacher basal, copy of state standards for that subject, any manipulatives or materials you might need according to your district curriculum. 
-       Sub tub or basket (include your daily schedule, school map, a generic lesson plan and activities that can be used in case you have an unexpected absence) When you know your going to be out, include all the necessary materials all in one tub to make things easy for your sub to manage your classroom. 

The lists can go on and on, as you know!

What are your most important back to school "to do's" that help made "back to school" a little more smoother?

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Mentor Text "Bucket List" (AKA...book list)

by S. Romero

Hey teacher friends, summer time is here! I know most of you are either hanging by the pool, vacationing or perhaps just doing absolutely nothing at all...blissfulness; a stark contrast from our busy and structured schedules we are so use to having throughout the school year.

What will you do with all this free time? I know! How about starting your own Mentor Text "bucket list." You know...generating a list of books that would be perfect for a particular lesson but you just can't remember the title of the book or what particular trait or academic concept it lends itself to because you forgot to write it down..yea that list! I call it my "bucket list" (aka...book list) because every school year I swore that one day I'd start out the school year with a well thought out list of mentor text to use in my classroom. Well I never seemed to get around to it throughout the school year. Who knew?

So, what better time to start creating your "bucket/book list" than summer time! Stop by your local library and browse around for some engaging mentor text you can add to your list. If you think that's too much work, I agree! Better yet, call your local library or search their website about a particular subject matter or concepts and asks your librarian to pull those titles for you and arrange a time to pick them up! Most librarians I found are eager to help and will be more than happy to assist you!

So, while your lounging around enjoying the summer, as you should be, pull out a couple of those books and take a sticky pad and jot down how you can use it in your classroom...before you know it, you will have generated a well thought out book list ready to use! Think about how much planning time you will save.

Here is a list of mentor texts listed by categories to get you started:

Primer día de escuela: 
Que nervios! El primer día de la escuela por Julie Dannenberg
Un beso en mi mano por Audrey Penn
Franklin va a la escuela por Paulette Bourgeois 
El regreso a clases de Roberta por Sylvia Francias 
Compartimos todo por Robert Munch 

La oruga muy hambrienta por Eric Carle 
Si le das una galletita a un raton por Laura Joffe Numeroff 
La casa adormecida por Audrey Woods 
La mariquita malhumorada por Eric Care
El árbol generoso por Shel Silverstein 
Nublado con probabilidades de albóndigas por Judy Barret

Corduroy por Don Freeman 
Kimberley preocupado por Kevin Henkes 
Jumangi (especiales de la orilla del viento) por Chris Van Allsburg
La viejita que no me tenia miedo a nada por Linda Williams 
Noche de humo por Eve Bunting
Si les das un panecillo a un alce por Laura Joffe Numeroff

What would your next category be?
What mentor text can you share to add to these lists?
Share your mentor text in the comments and let's help each other build a great Mentor Text "Bucket List"  

Monday, June 22, 2015

Summer Woos Instead of Boos!

By S. Romero

It's that time of year that we (teachers and students) all have been waiting for since mid May. Summer time!

In the month of June our minds are thinking pool time, BBQs, family time, and of course, sleeping in! The last thing on a teacher's mind is coming up with lesson plan ideas for engaging lessons.

However, summer time is actually the perfect time to take the opportunity to use your "down time" to take note of the cool places and things you come across that you can later use in your classroom. I know at least for me, I get so caught up in my school schedule and daily routines that I don't have the opportunity or time to sit and browse through library websites for new engaging mentor text, children's interactive websites, or perhaps just jot down the cool places I've been to or seen that I might be able to include in one of my lessons sometime in the school year.

Here are some WOOs!:

Zoo Trip
Take pictures of the zoo animals! You can use pictures as a resource for students to refer to for that animal research/classification project (mammals, birds, insects, fish, reptiles, amphibians, vertebrae, invertebrates, etc.).

Beach Trip
Collect sea shells, scoop up a bottle of sand in a container for students to run their fingers through. You will be surprised how many never have been to the beach. Take pictures of the beach, the horizon, sun-setting and rising.

Library Trip
Check out some children books you've never read before and take a sticky note and jot down some comprehension/grammar skills that the text lends itself to such as patterns in the story, predicting, cause and effect, inference, verbs, adjectives, similes, etc. Start keeping a log of mentor text to use throughout the year. This will save you lots of time on planning!

Take advantage of those summer sales! Perhaps, the mini planters you normally buy in the spring for students to decorate for a mother's day gift might be way less than they are normally priced in the spring.

Pinterest Crafts
Tackle those Pinterest "I'm so trying that" craft classroom ideas and generate an put aside as in your "example box" you have generated during the summer. Not only will you have the "know how" you'll also have an example to pull out so your students can refer to.

Your summer woos don't have to be planned. We have enough of that already. Make your summer woos effortless, just as summer should be!

What summer ideas can you think of that might make for a summer woo?

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Modeling the Six Traits of Writing (CONVENTIONS)

by S. Romero

The last piece of the puzzle in the Six Traits of writing…Conventions! Spelling, grammar and usage, punctuation and use of capital letters are all part of the mechanical correctness when it comes to conventions.  This particular trait is one that students will continue to work on throughout their academic years since words will become more advanced and grammar usage more extensive. However, it is important to not overlook even the minor of mistakes made in your student’s writing when it comes to conventions. 

It is vital that you set a time aside to take a closer look at the mistakes your students make in spelling, grammar and punctuation to make sure they understand why they are mistakes. I’ve seen too often that students that are not given the opportunity to correct the errors in their writing tend to create a habit of making those same mistakes all the way through their secondary school years.  I’ve had countless conversations with colleagues that teach high school English and have complained about students with poor grammar and spelling skills.

It is imperative that we model these skills and our students practice them every day. I know there is very little time to spare for one more mini-lesson when you already have so much to teach. I know what you’re thinking…when will I have the opportunity to teach a mini-lesson for each of these skills every day? Well, I might have the answer to that! Not a fancy one just a simple idea that has worked for my hectic schedule and gets the job done! I model all of these skills everyday through a shared writing mini-lesson called Message of the Day! Tada! I told you it wasn’t fancy. It only takes less than 10 minutes and it works!

On chart paper, I have a small paragraph written out with errors that need to be corrected. I base the errors on the skill that we are working on that week plus past skills that we need to continue to practice. For example, if the skill that week is to work on proper nouns, spellings with la “h muda/silent h” and a past skill such as punctuation, I include all of those skills in the Message of the Day.  See below.

NOTE: The skill here for spelling is to make sure to include la “h muda” en las palabras que empiezan con la “h.” I see these types of spelling mistakes all the time.  There really isn’t another way to teach students this particular skill but through practice, practice, practice! The other skill here is to recognize and capitalize the proper nouns. The past skill that we will continuing working on is capitalization of the beginning of a sentence and punctuation.

My students and I choral read the paragraph aloud. We then review each line in the paragraph to see which errors need to be corrected. Before we correct, we discuss why we are correcting those errors so that they will have an understanding of that particular skill. I pick a couple of students every day to come up and correct. They love it! Plus, it gives everyone the opportunity demonstrate their knowledge of that skill and gives me the opportunity to see which student still might be struggling with a particular skill.  By doing so, I noticed my students making less and less of the same mistakes in their writing which makes me one happy teacher!

How do your students learn specific Spanish grammar skills? Do you have any ideas you’d like to share?

Monday, June 1, 2015

Modeling the Six Traits of Writing (Fluency)

by S. Romero

What is sentence fluency? Sentence fluency is the way words and phrases sound together.  A
sentence with good fluency should flow smoothly, be free of fragments, have correct punctuation and of course make sense! Writing with good fluency is a process and takes time to master. As your students become more fluent in their speaking and reading skills, you will notice that their writing fluency skills will also improve There are many activities that you can do to ensure that your students practice all three skills (speaking, reading, and writing) to help build good sentence fluency. One of the activities I've found to be most helpful is a shared reading and writing sentence-building activity.

I begin with a shared reading and writing mini-lesson to model sentence fluency building.

On chart paper, I write:

We read the sentence aloud altogether. My students quickly realize that the sentence is incomplete. I ask my students, "Whats wrong with this sentence?" They chime in... "No tiene sentido. Le falta detalles." And finally, the phrase I've been waiting to hear... "¡No tiene fluidez!" It's music to my ears! I ask "¿Por qué no tiene sentido?" "¿Cuáles detalles le falta?" "¿Por qué no tiene fluidez?" My students are eager to answer all my questionns. I then tell my students that we are going to add more to this sentence so that it will ake sense, contain more details, and of course have sentence fluency! I have several students share other things that firefighters do to help our community. We read aloud and continue adding to the sentence while building sentence fluency.

NOTE: Before this min-lesson, my students are aware of what a good sentence looks like and sounds like. We've had several class discussions and mini-lessons on this particular trait.

While the students share their ideas, allow another student to come up and add those ideas to the original sentence. Then read the sentence altogether.

"¿Tiene sentido la oración?" "¿Tiene fluidez la oración?" "¿Le podemos añadir más detalles?"

Once we all agree which sentence makes sense, has more details, and has good fluency, we put a star next to that sentence as a reminder of what a good sentence looks like and sounds like! We practice this activity altogehter with other phrases and continue to build more sentences as we go!

Application: Once my students are familiar with the activity and can work independently, I had them out two paragraphs to revise with a partner in order to create a strong sentence with fluency. We read the first sample paragraph aloud.

My students notice that the paragraph sounds rather choppy and lacks fluency. I tell them that the paragraph includes enough details and makes sense, but it just doesn't flow smoothly. I ask the, "Qué le podemos hacer al párrafo para que tenga más fluidez?" "Cuáles partes de la oración podemos combinar para que no estemos diciendo, El oso, El oso, El oso." We then all agree that we can combine the sentences to create a strong sentence that will flow more smoothly. We then start building the sentences togehter and arrive at.

I then hand them their own paragraphs to revise with a partner. See attachment below.

                                                                 Click here to print!

What activities have you used in your classroom that helped your students build good sentence fluency?

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Modeling the Six Traits of Writing (WORD CHOICE)

by S. Romero

As teachers, we know that it is essential that our students build a good vocabulary in order to enhance their speaking and writing skills. Many of us can attest to reviewing our students writing journals and come across what we would consider a “good writing paper” that contains good grammar, organization, ideas, and conventions. However, one thing that is missing that sets the paper apart from a good writing piece to a fantastic, descriptive and interesting one isWORD CHOICE!  Words are powerful! The words we choose to use when communicating, whether through speaking or writing can make a significant difference in how our audience perceives our message. Introducing new words daily in our student’s vocabulary will not only help them become better speakers but amazing writers!   

Modeling the trait “word choice” from the Six Traits of Writing is one of my favorite mini-lessons! I begin by writing a basic sentence describing a monster:

El monstruo es grande y feo.

I read the sentence aloud. My students seem disinterestedjust what I thought they would be.  I explain to them that the words we choose to use when speaking or writing makes a difference on how interesting our message is communicated. Therefore, we are going to turn to this sentence into a more INTERESTING sentence by choosing better words to describe the monster. I create a T-Chart titled on one side “Palabras Aburridas” (Drab Words) and “¡Palabras Fabulosas!” (Fabulous Words) on the other side. 

We then create a list of drab words that we ALWAYS use in our writingthe ones that are so drab. I exaggerate as I say this so that my students understand that the words that they are so accustomed to using might not be the best word choice. I begin by writing words such as the one below. You get the picture!

I discuss with them that we can turn these words from drab to fab by using the synonyms of these words and make them “Fabulous Words!”

NOTE: Discuss with students what the definition of the word synonym means. Write the word on chart paper with the meaning and example of words and its’ synonym.  Add to the chart throughout the year so that your students build their vocabulary. Soon enough, you will notice them using those “frase fabulosa” in both their speaking and writing.  It’s just fabulous! Once we create a list of words, we then are ready to rewrite the sentence using the new “fab words” (synonyms) we learned. 

Application: For practice, I give my students four basic sentences to rewrite and change from drab to fab! I remind my students that they cannot change the original message of the sentence. They are only replacing words for more fabulous words to make the sentence more interesting.

How do you keep your students from using palabras aburridas?  Share your favorite word choice activities that have helped enhance your students’ vocabulary!

Monday, April 27, 2015

Modeling the Six Traits of Writing (VOICE): One of the most challenging traits to teach students is “how to use their “voice” in their writing."

by S. Romero

Most of us teachers are thankful if we can get a few good complete sentences and well organized piece of writing from our students. Getting them to bring their writing to life by using their VOICE is a whole other level.  When modeling a voice mini-lesson, I begin by picking out a good mentor text that helps demonstrate the voice trait as a read aloud. As I am reading, I stop and ask my students questions about the author and the story. I ask “What do you think the story is going to be about?” “Do you think the story is interesting so far?” “What makes it interesting?” “How do you think the author feels about this story?” “What feeling or emotion do you get when you listen to this story?” I then tell my students that a good writer writes with emotion by using their voice and writes what they know which makes their writing more interesting! Then we all say our famous chant “If you write what you know, your writing will flow!”   I tell my students that in their writing the use of their VOICE is very powerful! They can use it to persuade, make their reader happy, sad, scared, or nervous.     

NOTE: It is a good idea to pull out several mentor text that demonstrate the different types of emotions such as a scary book or sad story. That way your students can get a better understanding of how voice is used in many texts.  I also create a “Voice Chart” that includes the definition of voice in writing and pictures of mentor text that demonstrates a particular emotion as a visual for my students to refer to. 

Application: Students think of an interesting topic or story they would like to write about that will demonstrate their use of voice. Before they begin their writing assignment, I have them fill a writing graphic organizer that will help guide them in their writing. I want them to think about their audience and purpose of writing their story.

"Writing Graphic Organizer"
 Writing Graphic Organizer