Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The Writing Process

When I was hired at my first school the principal told me she was placing me in 3rd grade because of how I described teaching writing. She explained that 3rd grade is the grade where writing begins to really be monitored. Back then I mostly focused on creative writing. I would tear out magazine pages, have students choose one and list adjectives to describe the picture. They would then write a descriptive piece about their picture. After moving to 2nd grade I began to realize that that I should spend more time focusing on the process of writing. Many of my students could produce a descriptive or narrative piece, but they really had no concept of the steps of writing. The new Reading series that my school is using provides teachers with fabulous resources and suggestions for teaching the writing process. At the beginning of this past school year my students were required to complete a writing assessment for the district. Most of my students did not go through all of the writing steps. Instead they drew a picture and then wrote a "final draft." After viewing the results of the assessments I decided to spend quite a bit of time modeling the process with my students. I found that having a document camera and projector was a real benefit. I started with a narrative piece because I believe that narratives are the easiest genre for students. I started with a list of possible writing topics, moved to an idea web, wrote my rough draft (intentional errors included), edited, revised and then published my piece. I spent one day on each step. Wehn I completed each step my students then worked on that same step. At first it was a huge struggle for them and for me. I would end my writing time feeling like I needed a vacation. Gradually I began to see marked improvement in their writing. As the year progressed most of my students began to enjoy writing. Out of 23 students I had about 6 or 7 who became so proficient at the process that they became student teachers to their classmates who needed help. When my students were required to take the writing assessment again in the Spring I was pleased that almost all of them went through the steps correctly. Next year my goal is to be much more deliberate with the skills we focus on during the revising process. Below I included a link to my Teachs Pay Teachers product: week long lesson plan on writing a personal narrative using the process described above. This product will be free through June 25, 2013 for those of you who would like to download it. I have also included a link to my writing prompts product. It includes 150 writing topics geared towards 2nd and 3rd graders. Prompts have students writing letters, narratives, informational pieces, opinion pieces and persuasive pieces. This product is listed at $2.00. I would appreciate any feedback (positive or negative) on these products.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Teaching Children to Think

I have been thinking about how I teach math. I always use manipulatives and hands on learning with a little bit of worksheet practice. In my centers I try to include hands on activities along with a journal topic and guided math groups. This year I tried hard to incorporate some expemplars. For those of you who are not familiar with exemplars they are word problems that encourage students to solve the problems any way they wish. They are applauded for explaining their thinking, drawing pictures, making charts, and doing calculations. Students are measured on a rubric, which they are familiar with. When I first introduced the exemplars to my students it blew their minds. I have found that students are not used to thinking of math in various ways and explaining their thinking. I think that if we start explaining our thinking about math and having students explaining theirs in Pre-K we will see a progression from year to year of students who are able to express why an answer is correct and why and how they found the answer. I was reading an article in the National Council for Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) magazine recently and was encouraged by one teacher's story of having her students explain their thinking. She stated that they have a "mental math" time at her school. The students are expected to solve problems without counting on their hands or using paper and pencil. The teacher goes on to explain that she gave the students the problem 11 + 9. It was fascinating to read about how her students reasoned their answers. Her class included first and second graders. She explained that many of the first graders did not know how to solve the problem correctly because of their lack of knowledge of place value. After thinking about how much trouble my students have in explaining their mathematical thinking I am convinced that a mental math time each day is a great solution to the problem. If students get used to talking about problems and how to solve them without being able to use manipulatives or pencil and paper it will force them reason their processes. After all, we are not benefiting anyone if we teach children to simply compute problems. Teaching them to think about why things work they way they do and how they can solve problems multiple ways prepares our students for the real world. I encourage all teachers to try a mental math time next school year. I will be updating you all on how this goes in my classroom. Here is a link to site where you can download the above referenced article:

Monday, June 3, 2013

20% off sale!

I'm having a sale!!!!! To celebrate the fabulous invention we call Summer Vacation every item in my store is 20% off today through Thursday. Hurry in to get great items for your classroom. Check back next week to see new items that I will be adding daily. Enjoy your summer and relax, you deserve it!