Saturday, April 19, 2014

Get Out of Those Comfy Slippers and Put on Your Dancin' Shoes!

Yep.  Pretty much sums it up.  The hours of planning and instruction mark the slow frazzled decline of the once well put together teacher into something that looks like the dog's disheveled chew toy.  An old pair of comfy sweats, this metamorphosis is actually a sign of good use.

We have another 1 1/2 months of school, and the kids (and teachers) are definitely seeing signs of the upcoming summer months.  The weather is improving.  The last of the school year activities are in full swing.  The seniors are counting down their days and are suffering a full-blown case of Senioritis. We've all been there.  It's the time of year where it'd be really easy to slide into a proverbial pair of house slippers and kick back. We know the kids, and they know us.  We've got the routine down as a group, and the kids know the expectations.  However, in knowing and understanding comes the time for a little preventative medicine...  It's time to chuck those slippers to the side and put on the dancing shoes!  Make your classroom a place kids want to go.  

Keeping kids fully engaged from bell to bell is not easy.  Sometimes, it's downright hard.  But--it's important.  Especially now.  Downtime means boredom, lack of learning, and a time for discipline issues to rear their ugly heads. Edutopia has a superb list here of tips for keeping kids at the top of their game, even at this stage of the year.  

I'm a huge proponent of bell-ringers (or whatever you happen to call them).  Not only are these short bursts of learning a great way to get the mind active and acclimated to the day's lesson, they can serve as activities for early finishers as well.  There should never, in my outspoken opinion, be time where students are wondering what they could or should be doing.  Ever. Attached here is an entire Pinterest board by Jennie Anne Davis FULL of superb activities for such engagement.  Additionally, here is a list by Kristin Bowers more suited for upper level students.

What thrills me even more are the techie twists for activating student thinking.  Start your day with a QR code scavenger hunt tied to a review of the previous day's learning.  Use this site from to quickly make your own.   Use Padlet to make a mock Twitter feed of an event. Make a fictitious SMS exchange between Shakespearean characters (or whomever you're studying).  It can really make the mundane exciting, and it's our job to ensure learning.  Make the most of these last weeks of school.  Bask in the moments of organized excellence and enjoy the dance. (And remember, you can't dance decently in slippers).  

Friday, April 4, 2014

Hauling Out My Inner Robert Frost...

It's April, and other than the fact that I want to kick Mother Nature in the shins for this latest dose of excessive snowfall, Spring is here and so is National Poetry Month!  There are many resources for helping kids understand that poetry is not all just sappy, soupy, sing-songy rhymes.  We are doing a great deal across the grades at Rock Valley Community School to ensure that kids have exposure to a wide variety of poets and poetry types, while getting the chance to pen some of their own.  I am including a few of my favorite resources for you.  So, just in case your inner Robert Frost is in hiding and you need a little ummph, there is no excuse not to give it a go with these tools!

The first is a plethora of awesomeness from ReadWriteThink.  I love this site for so many things, and I often relied on the ideas and interactive products to enhance my plans when I was a middle school language arts teacher.  What they offer for Poetry Month is nothing short of amazing.  There's something for everyone!  I especially like the Theme Poem Generator.  By selecting a theme, the generator guides kids through the process by questioning them about characteristics of the theme.  It really is poetry writing for anyone!

In addition, there are several interactives that can help you make everything from a cinquain to a diamante poem.  Visually appealing and soundly put together, the technology incorporated into these activities really does help the teacher reach the standard (and you know how I am always harping about that!) I'm always impressed with the way ReadWriteThink incorporates full lesson plans with these tools, so even the newbie teacher can fully implement it the way it was intended.

                                                                        Also within the link, you will find access to the Word Mover application.  This allows you to either start from scratch or import your own collection of writing (the "I Have a Dream" speech, for instance) and use the words from it to generate some unique poetry.  Also an iOS app, you can use this tool on classroom iPads, as well.

Scholastic also has some great ideas you can find here.  Scholastic does a terrific job providing many resources for all teachers and age groups.  I love the "Writing with Writers" section at the top where authors such as Maya Angelou and Jack Prelutsky provide inspiration and a glimpse into their world through videos, webcasts, and activities.  That's a pretty sweet deal, and it's worth checking out! Then, at the bottom, a host of poetry printables by grade level.

I do also feel the need to include this site for printable poetry resources for a wide variety of subject areas.  While I am not too big into killing copious numbers of trees, there is something to be said for the printables that are offered here.  Many schools do not have a 1:1 environment or enough devices to go around.  Do not let that deter you from poetry instruction!  As part of the Common Core, that's not an option. Check out what these sites have to offer.  Add something new to your poetry repertoire. Your students and your own inner Robert Frost are waiting.  Take the road less traveled.  It will make all the difference.