Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Phases of the Moon

For the last few weeks, I've been mentoring a fabulous student teacher. She has been gradually taking over more subject areas, and later this week, she'll be teaching everything. I really enjoy having the opportunity to work with student teachers because they bring a lot of enthusiasm to the classroom, and they often have really creative lessons. My current student teacher is no exception.

Recently, we studied the phases of the moon, and I was blown away by her visual model. Using black foam board, ping pong balls, Sharpies, and hot glue, she was able to create a really great interactive model to reinforce the concept.

To use this model, students would actually put their heads in the cut out part of the middle (and I wish I'd taken pictures of that before she took it home!). From there, they could turn their bodies (or rotate) to see the moon from different angles. When their heads weren't in the middle, however, they were able to recognize that half of the moon was always light -- the half facing the sun, and half of the moon was always dark as it faced away from the sun. It was a great way to see that the only things that are really changing are the location and perspective.

I'm not sure where/how she came up with this idea, but I will definitely be building my own version of this model to use in future years! The kids loved taking turns being the Earth in the middle of it.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Idioms aren't always a piece of cake...

I've developed a bit of a love-hate relationship with the Common Core. I LOVE that most states are using the same standards now because it makes finding high-quality teaching materials that much easier. I also LOVE that the standards are set up in a way that makes it easy to see how a skill is supposed to progress from one grade level to the next. I hate, however, that I feel like I'm constantly second-guessing myself. Is this text rigorous enough? Did this student compare and contrast these texts at the level that the CCSS expects? Have I taught this skill as thoroughly as I need to? The questions go on and on, and I know that time and experience will eventually answer those questions for me.

This last term, my school's pacing guide said that I was supposed to teach L5b. Recognize and explain the meanings of common idioms, adages, and proverbs. When I introduced my lesson, I was surprised by how many idioms my students already knew. Hands were raising left and right to share expressions they'd heard before, and I was thrilled by the amount of background knowledge they had. I thought for sure that this would be an easy topic. I gave them some activities from an idioms book I'd had for a while, including one where the students were supposed to think about what the idiom meant based on the context, and then they would match it to a another idiom that had a similar meaning.

To say that this activity was a disaster would be an understatement.

As I quickly realized, just because a student has heard an idiom used before doesn't mean he or she has the slightest clue what it means. That was mistake #1. And making the connections between idioms with a similar meaning is actually pretty challenging work -- especially if the meaning is unclear. So I quickly scrapped the lesson and went back to the drawing board. (Like how I inserted that idiom there?)

There are 100s of idioms, adages, and proverbs, and I knew I needed something more to not only teach students the meanings of the words but to see how they can also be used in context. When I couldn't find anything else that I really liked, I made something myself.

I wanted an easy weekly routine to teach idioms, adages, and proverbs. So this is what I came up with.

On Mondays, students are introduced to 10 idioms, adages, and proverbs that they'll study for the week. The idioms have a common theme like school and learning or cats so that I could organize the idioms better.

I created a phrase card with a QR code that has the meaning of each idiom we'll be studying, and I display these in the room where students can access them. They also have a page where they're able to write down the meaning and try to use it in a sentence. 

I put QR codes on these pages as well since I have 1:1 iPads in my classroom, but I also made a version of the page that doesn't have the QR codes on it.

Throughout the week, students work on completing the meanings and sentences, and they also try to look for examples of the phrase used in context. In addition, I've created a center activity that students can do to help them learn the meanings of the words. It's a matching game where students match the idiom to its correct meaning.

Finally, on Fridays, students take a quiz on the idioms where they match the idiom to its meaning, and then fill-in the blank in a sentence by choosing the appropriate idiom for the context.

So far, I've put together 6 weeks worth of idiom, adage, and proverb study, and it has been going really well. I feel like my students are learning more of these phrases, and it has definitely helped my English Language Learners who tend to struggle more with understanding idioms. The first 6 week unit is available in my Teachers Pay Teachers store, and I'm planning to add more units to cover an entire year of idiom study. It's been an easy routine to introduce and use with my students, so I'd like to keep it going throughout the year to expose them to more idioms, adages, and proverbs.

If you're interested in set #1, please click the image below to get to my TpT store. It's on sale for 20% off through Saturday.

So while my original idioms lesson was a failure, every cloud has a silver lining. I was able to put together this unit, and it's one that I'm very proud of. With over 60 pages of materials, you'll definitely get a lot of bang for your buck. And before I use any more idioms, I'm going to sign off.

Have a fabulous Wednesday!

Monday, February 11, 2013

February Currently

Hello Blog Friends! I have been MIA for nearly a month now, and I'm so frustrated because one of my goals for the year was to blog more consistently. But much like my weight loss goal, I am not giving up, and I'm getting right back into things. I'll just pretend that the past month didn't really happen. ;-)

So what's been keeping me from blogging lately? Lots. And to make this laundry list of activity more interesting, I've decided to link up with Farley for the February Currently.

I won't explain all of it, but here are some highlights.

Loving my break. Boy, do I need it! These last 6 weeks of school have been really crazy. I've said goodbye to two students who were moving overseas (one to Tanzania and another to Costa Rica), and those students were immediately replaced by new students. I got a student teacher (who is fabulous, btw), and I decided at the last minute to apply to a doctoral program at UGA. Meanwhile, I'm working on three different school committees -- including one about our report cards that I'm chairing -- and I'm preparing a professional learning session for my colleagues as we prepare to roll out 1:1 iPads throughout the building. I'm still working on my math endorsement, and I'm thinking about applying for a new job as a mentor teacher that is opening up in my school. So needless to say, January was eventful!

As for my pet peeve, I really get frustrated when people make all sorts of selfish and disrespectful comments. Case in point: the comment section of an article about Obama visiting Atlanta this Thursday. Apparently he is visiting some schools as a follow-up to the State of the Union speech, and one of those schools is the one that my 18-month-old attends. She goes to a public school in my district that hosts an awesome 0-3 program and a pre-K. Now regardless of your politics, it's a big deal when a sitting president comes to your school. This a huge opportunity for a fantastic school in my district to get the national spotlight, and I'm excited that my daughter gets to be a part of it. And I don't think I will read the comments for news articles anymore. I'll just stick to the comments of my happy place in the teacher blogosphere.

Backing up to the "needing," as I already mentioned, I'm leading a committee about our current report card system as it's something that's been a challenge for us lately. Personally, I have a hard time with the technology that we're using to input grades and produce report cards. It's really inefficient, and it's an example of technology interfering with a process rather than helping it -- and anyone who's ever read this blog knows I'm not a technophobe! We also do standards based report cards every 6 weeks, and the shift toward Common Core has made it a bit more complicated. So here are my questions for you:

How often do you send home report cards?
What information do you report? (e.g., letter grades, percentages, rubric scores)
Has your report card changed due to Common Core? If so, how?

I'd really love to hear what other schools are doing as I gather information for my committee. Any feedback in the comments would be greatly appreciated! And don't forget to link up with Farley on the Currently!

Happy Monday!
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