Classroom Solutions > 158 posts categorized "Language Arts"

October Read-Alouds: Literacy Fun With Pumpkins, Leaves, and Bats

Pumpkin patch Depending on where you live, you may have recently noticed a chill in the air, and the leaves may be turning from green to brilliant shades of yellow, orange, and red. While many of your students may be focusing on how much candy they will receive trick-or-treating at the end of month, here are three of my favorite read-aloud books with accompanying activities that won’t require a trip to the dentist.

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The Challenge Based Classroom: Using Curriculum to Serve the Community

HabitatLast year I came to a crossroads in my teaching. During my annual review, I found myself agonizing over my goals for this upcoming school year. I was completely stuck. I browsed through our district's professional development opportunities with a sense of “been there, done that.” It surprised me that so early in my career I would feel this way. My classroom certainly kept me on my toes, but I was missing that spark that ignited my planning each year. An offer to explore curriculum development made me even more confused. Was I really ready to leave the classroom? I needed a teaching makeover!

As if on cue, two amazing things happened that would transform my teaching: the opportunity to be a teacher advisor here and the discovery of Apple’s Challenge Based Learning. The journey outside of my comfort zone had begun.  

 

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Going Paperless in the Classroom

AamcscI am reluctant to guess how much paper waste we create in my classroom alone, but I know it's substantial. So I've set a goal of going paperless in my English class within two years. Read on to learn about why this is important — and why it will benefit my students — and how I intend to do it.

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Helping Students Develop a Lifelong Love of Reading

 

Love 2 read We all know that reading is one of the most important skills you can teach a child. It lays the foundation for a child’s success in school and in everyday life. For this reason, one of the most precious gifts we can give our students is a book. Books stir the senses, inspire imagination, and spark a love of reading that will last a lifetime. But how can a book compete in this new age of instant entertainment — with such things as television and video games? Read on as I share ideas to help your students develop a lifelong love of reading despite these distractions.

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Art and Poetry Through the Year: Notebooks and Keepsakes for Your Students

How Do You Do

Students in 1st grade need to have many experiences in language arts to become independent readers and writers. Shared reading is a great way for students to “play” with language to become fluent readers. Fluency is further developed when children have ample opportunities to read text that is familiar and easy for them. In my class, we love to use poetry to build our fluency. Read on to find out more about our poetry notebooks and our yearlong poetry keepsake project.

 

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Take-Home Reading

Child readingTake-Home Reading is a special program for 1st grade that helps each and every child become a better reader. Learning to read takes a lot of practice, and I expect my students to read at home. In just twenty minutes per day, parents and family members help their 1st graders by listening to them read.

Read on to learn more about Take-Home Reading programs and to find out how to set one up in your classroom. 

 

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Extra, Extra, Read All About It! Current Events in the Classroom

Reading News on the SubwayOne of my personal goals this year is to read the newspaper every single day, regardless of how many student essays I need to read or how crazy my morning commute. I want to be aware of the world around me, and I am committed to living a more news-literate life. I bought a newspaper subscription for my Kindle, and at the very least, I am going to read the news while I take the subway to and from school.

While working on myself, I also consider my students’ current events literacy. I want to help my students to become informed young citizens and lifelong news readers. However, finding time for current events during our jam-packed school day has always posed a challenge. In this post, I'll share some of the solutions I've found. However, my current events curriculum is very much a work in progress, so I would love to hear how you cover world events in your classroom. 

Photo: One of my students reading a newspaper on the subway during a field trip. I need to learn from her!

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Organizing the Classroom Library

BookshelfDo you love children’s literature? I do, and I share this love of books with my students. I display books throughout the entire classroom. Star author books line the chalkboard ledge, weekly read-aloud books are displayed around the easel, and favorite titles and themes are arranged in baskets on the bookshelves. I strive to create a classroom library that is both organized and enticing for my young readers. This week, I will provide a look at the features of our classroom library.

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Organizing my Classroom Library: The Never-Ending Story

Library OverviewAs I set up my classroom this year, I was so proud of myself. I had carefully organized when I packed up my room in June, so my room looked “livable” in just a few hours this fall. “Wow, this is smooth sailing,” I thought smugly. Then I approached my classroom library, and I didn’t emerge until 8:30 p.m.! 

The hours disappeared as I labeled book baskets, leveled new books, culled through my collection, and planned new library routines. This was certainly time well spent, but I have to tell you, sometimes my “librarian hat” feels heavier than my “teacher hat.” That said, I feel that much of my success as a reading teacher can be attributed to my classroom library. Join me on a photo tour of my classroom library, as I reflect on my organization systems and what works for me.


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Poetic Beginnings: Four Poetry Lessons to Get to Know Your Students

Amys PoemMany curriculum guides would have us believe that poetry and April are conjoined twins, never to be parted, but we teachers know better. Poetry is powerful stuff, and cramming it into a single month is unfair to our students and to poetry! In my class, we read, write, and publish poetry throughout the year, and I frontload the first two months of school with even more poetry. We gain deep insights about each other while sharing our poetry, we luxuriate in words, and we celebrate creative risks –- important back-to-school practices. Here are four of my back-to-school poetry lessons that I use to get to really know my students.

 

Amy shares one of her published poems.

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Easing the Middle School Transition: "Getting to Know You" Geocaching

225 "Middle School" - Just the words alone can strike fear into the hearts of students and parents alike. Sixth- through eighth-grade teachers will agree these years can be the some of the toughest, and most tumultous, in a child's life. For some, it will mean a chance to advance to a higher-level floor in a familiar building, but for others it might mean acclimating to an entirely different school. While this is a wonderful opportunity to meet new friends, it may mean leaving lifelong friendships behind - which can be one of many scary steps to endure. In addition, there seems to be a laundry list of changes that middle-schoolers can expect, such as:

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Comments: 6

Celebrating Community Heroes: September 11th in the Elementary Classroom

FDNY Let me be honest with you: Teaching my third graders about September 11th makes me a little uncomfortable. My students weren’t even born in 2001, and this historic tragedy just doesn’t seem all that relevant to their lives. On the other hand, September 11th has become a permanent part of our collective consciousness. As New York City gears up for the 10th anniversary of the tragedy, my students are inevitably curious about it. It wouldn’t be fair to my students if I didn’t help them understand 9/11 in a way that honors their intellectual curiosity, yet is appropriate for their age as well. Thank goodness for the picture book Fireboat by Maira Kalman! Here’s how I use this amazing book to discuss the facts about 9/11 and then shift into a lesson about heroes.

 

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Read-Alouds to Launch Reader’s Workshop

Reading_on_Rug During the first few weeks of reader’s workshop, the focus is necessarily on introducing routines, building stamina, and exploring the classroom library. At the same time, I need to immerse my students in the culture of reading by getting lost in good books together. There isn’t a moment to waste in initiating my students into our reading cult! How do I accomplish both goals at the same time? I use picture books that celebrate reading as a springboard into our discussions about reader’s workshop routines and expectations. Read on for my favorite picture books about reading and how I use them to launch our reader’s workshop.


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Back-to-School Read Alouds: Favorite Books and First Week Activities

DSC00282Reading aloud to children is one of my favorite activities of the day and it is a critical part of literacy instruction. In my classroom, I integrate children’s literature across the curriculum and read to the children throughout the day. The read-aloud books I choose for the first week of school help set the tone for the year and help begin to build our classroom community. These books feature characters about the same age as my students and allow us to discuss prior knowledge, build thinking skills, and make connections. Here are some of my favorite books and activities that engage my enthusiastic young readers.

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Memorial Day, One More "High School Uncut," and Farewell!

225505_10150630603755327_599375326_18743702_4923027_nMy father, Sam Petriello, is a World War II veteran and a Marine corporal who fought in the last battle of Okinawa. He also served as a sergeant in the 2nd Infantry Division in the U.S. Army. Sam participated in the first landing in Japan and the surrender of Japanese forces in North China. At the age of 85, my father is the president-elect of the 6th Marine Division Association, and he still meets with his Marine Corps buddies the second Tuesday of every month. My father lost his brother, Louis, in the war, as well as many friends and comrades, so Memorial Day was always a special day when we were growing up. My father instilled in his children and grandchildren the love of God and country, and he taught us the values of loyalty and hard work. My final post is dedicated to him.

Photo: My father at a Fourth of July parade.

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Using Film As a Springboard to Writing in the ELA Classroom

DSC01566As an English teacher, I am always looking for new ways to engage students in the writing process. I am continually trying to find and create interesting writing prompts that engage and challenge my students. Two years ago when I was asked to teach a film elective, I was provided with a wonderful opportunity to develop a course that would encourage students to write in new and exciting ways.

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Literacy in Kindergarten Dramatic Play Centers, Part 4

Kindergarten Weather Station CenterWhen we study weather in science, our dramatic play center becomes a weather station. With self-made instruments, hands-on experiments, and — as always — plenty of literacy, the weather station inspires the children with a sense of wonder and awe for the natural world.

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Celebrate Writing and Young Authors!

DSC00722Every day in my classroom students spend time writing, either by themselves or with partners. Some students illustrate books while others peer edit or meet with me. Every week, we have Writers Workshop in our classroom, and when a student has a completed book, they present it at Author's Chair. I am pleased to share with you a fun Author's Chair video featuring several of my students. Enjoy!

Giveaway winners announced at the end of this post!

 

 

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Summer Reading Books High School Girls Will Love

IMGA0002Ah, summertime! The beach, the sea, the pool. Long days and hot nights. The perfect time for summer reading. James S. Kim and Thomas G. White (2011) note that one of the reasons that low-income students lose ground to middle-income kids in reading is due, in large part, to different rates of learning during the summer months. Even small differences in summer learning accumulate over the years, resulting in an achievement gap that continues to grow from elementary to high school (p. 64). Kim and White also discovered, however, that it is not enough to just provide books for kids for summer reading. The key is to provide books that are individually matched to the students' interests and reading levels (p. 67).

The books on the list below have already been proven to appeal to teens. Although both genders could certainly enjoy them, these five books are tried and true favorites that will please a decidedly female audience. Books that match a teen's interest can help motivate students to read and help teens continue to improve their reading skills.

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Common Core State Standards

MBlow0510_iStock000012975998_tortoisehareThroughout my career, I have done extensive research on world folklore. Aesop, the father of fables, has blessed us with an infamous fable, “The Tortoise and the Hare,” cautioning against hurrying to reach a goal and suggesting that the slow and steady will win the race. I cling to the wisdom of this fable as we begin our journey toward educational reform. 

Photo courtesy of iStockphoto.

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Summer Reading Books High School Boys Will Love

DSC01549Research has shown that summer reading increases literacy and improves academic performance. By reading all summer long, students build their vocabulary and stave off the brain-drain that often occurs during summer months. Although most high schools provide summer reading lists for their students, some kids devour all the books the first week school is out (yes! it happens!) and start looking for more to read. Other kids are just searching for some great reading material. And while most reading is gender inclusive, there are certain books that boys find especially compelling.

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Resources for the Differentiated Classroom

Mult-Sensory Teaching In a previous post, I wrote about how you can differentiate your kindergarten classroom. Here you can read up on some of my favorite resources for multisensory teaching.

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Differentiate Your Kindergarten Classroom

Differentiating in KindergartenIt's a fact: every child is unique, and as teachers we know that more than anyone else. So why do we often find ourselves trying to teach every child the same way?

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Stretch Your Dime and Save Your Time

Miss Bindergarten Saves Money and Time Teachers need all the help they can get, financially and otherwise. Use these tips, shortcuts, and dollar store ideas to save your budget and your sanity.

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Comments: 14

State Assessments: Multiple-Choice Strategies & Activities

041911iStock_000005780399StndTestFormSometimes I question whether my students are taking a multiple-choice test or a multiple-guess test. By the time the 6th graders get to me, they have had three years of state testing. I worry about the blasé attitudes preteens sometime develop because they have "been there, done that." So how do we motivate our students and prepare them for high-stakes testing? Below are a few reading comprehension strategies and review activities that help our students succeed on the state tests.

Photo copyright Ryan Balderas/iStockphoto.

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The Art of Literary Criticism

DSC01459 A goal of the Advanced Placement Literature and Composition test, which helps to make sure that students are truly college ready, is the careful reading and critical analysis of literature. Literary criticism requires students to study, evaluate, and interpret what they read — a valuable tool for all students, not just those in an AP class. But what is the best way to do help students develop this skill? How can you get high school students to think deeply and critically about literature?

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Adventures With Books: One Tiny Turtle by Nicola Davies

One Tiny Turtle by Nicola Davies
Join my class as we turn the book One Tiny Turtle into a unit of fun and exciting learning experiences. This lyrical and informative look at the elusive and endangered loggerhead turtle is sure to delight young nature lovers.

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Celebrating Eric Carle and The Tiny Seed

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One of my favorite children's book authors and illustrators is Eric Carle. He is one of our classroom favorites as well. A while back, I even had the pleasure of hearing him read The Very Hungry Caterpillar LIVE at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books. Read on to get some fabulous resources for The Tiny Seed, watch a book trailer featuring Eric Carle, and listen to our Tiny Seed podcast!

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Nonfiction: Getting to Know Rachel Carson

Vasicek Carson CoverReading nonfiction is quite different from reading fiction. I find many upper elementary students have a hard time sorting through the facts and information in a nonfiction text. One series of books, Getting to Know the World's Greatest Inventors & Scientists, is becoming a hit with my students. These books are the perfect size for practicing nonfiction reading strategies, and the content is of high interest to the students.

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Chu Ju’s House by Gloria Whelan

BookcoverThis year, I was blessed to receive a class set of Chu Ju's House by Gloria Whelan, which tells the story of Chu Ju, a 14-year-old Chinese girl struggling to survive in a country where males are traditionally valued more than females. When Chu Ju's parents decide to give her baby sister away because of the One-Child Policy, Chu Ju leaves home with her. Teaching literature from other cultures requires a considerable amount of background knowledge. However, it is exciting learning about different cultures, and that excitement spreads through the class.

After reading Chu Ju’s House, students engage in a mini research project, exploring an aspect of Chinese culture alluded to in the novel. This assists the students in developing a thorough understanding of the legal and cultural conflicts presented in the novel. In this post, you'll find a study guide, instructions for a vocabulary wall mobile, and  SMART Notebook activities.

 

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Freak the Mighty by Rodman Philbrick

Freakthemighty_xlg
Freak the Mighty is a highly readable book that addresses many serious issues, including domestic violence, alienation, and bullying. Through the story of the main characters, Max and Kevin, students can learn a great deal about themselves and others.

 

 

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Motivating Middle School Students

IMG_5957It takes a special breed to teach middle school students. Teens and preteens thrive on drama, struggle with hormones, and explode with emotions. As if that isn’t enough, this time of year we also have to contend with a spring fever epidemic. Many students shut down as snow banks thaw and the Canada geese return to the North Country. With ten weeks left in the school year and only one month before state tests, we cannot allow students to check out. So, how do we motivate our middle school students and keep them engaged in learning? Celebrate their achievements and give them choice and voice. This post describes some of the ways teachers celebrate student achievement at my school, and a video illustrates what one student chose to do when given voice and choice.

 

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The Read-A-Thon

DSC01434 A few years ago my former mentee, Kelly Andreoni, an English teacher and advisor to our school's book club, came up with a wonderful plan for an event that would not only only encourage students to read, but also raise money in a unique form of community service: a Read-A-Thon. This year, over 150 students took part, raising over $9,200 for a charitable organization called "Raising a Reader MA," which promotes literacy awareness among families in communities across the state, including our own city of Revere. Read on to see how Kelly organizes this fun and worthwhile event.

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State Assessments: Extended Response

SMART_Notebook_ER_picAre you feeling the pressure of state tests? With Race to the Top and looming state testing season, many of us are feeling anxious. At this point in the year, my goal is to help my 6th grade students transfer the skills they learned throughout the year to the state tests. This week's post includes resources and strategies for teaching the extended response, or essay portion, of the assessments. Included is a SMART Notebook lesson for outlining the essay and serving a little TEA to reduce anxiety.

 

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Get Ready for National Poetry Month!

DSC01412 
April is National Poetry Month, the perfect time to help get reluctant readers interested in reading and analyzing poetry. It is often true that high school students struggle with poetry and have difficulty unlocking the meaning of poems. This introductory lesson helps to hook students on poetry by challenging them to solve the riddle that each poem presents. It's a great building block to more difficult and challenging analysis.

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Explore Childhood Themes With a Kevin Henkes Author Study

Kevin Henkes Author StudyTo strengthen my students as readers and writers, I had them take to the Reader's Chair and the Author's Chair to share their responses to a study on Kevin Henkes, who writes and illustrates books about lovable mouse characters who express common childhood feelings, fears, and fantasies. After evaluating his writing style and comparing the characters, settings, and themes of four of his books, my students showed off their own reading, writing, artistic, and critical-thinking skills.

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Darfur: Does History Repeat Itself?

MBlow031511_iStock_4567809_SudanFarmLast week, I wrote about the classroom resources I use in my Holocaust unit, “Children of the Holocaust.” During literature circles for this unit, my students read a historical fiction novel and discuss character development. Adding a nonfiction component to literature circles provides the opportunity for text-to-text and text-to-world connections. The group discussions help them to better understand nonfiction. In this post, I'll take you through the lesson we do in my class connecting the Holocaust to a current event through nonfiction. Included in this post is a classroom video showing how this lesson was integrated into the "Children of the Holocaust" unit.

Photo: Refugee in Sudan collecting garbage. Copyright Claudiad/iStockphoto.

 

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Tyranny and Prometheus Bound

DSC01364Helping students make real world connections to the works they read is an important part of teaching literature. When students comprehend the contemporary and historical links to literature, they have a much greater understanding of what they read. This year my sophomore class and I were fortunate enough to be part of a collaboration between the American Repertory Theater and Amnesty International in the Prometheus Project, a partnership designed to put the theater arts to the service of human rights advocacy.

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Using Lyrics for Beyond Literal Comprehension

Music FilomenaHoward Gardner suggests that intelligence is not merely being able to read or do mathematical calculations. It encompasses several different components, one of which is music. I like to use music in my classroom to manage the day and to tap into the talents of those students who are high on the musical intelligence spectrum. One way to engage these students in reading is to use lyrics to teach the difference between the literal and beyond literal meaning of texts.  

Photo courtesy of Filomena Scalise.

 

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Middle School Literature Circles

IMG_5890Okay, I confess: I thrive on organization and structure in my classroom. My students like routines, and I like to know what progress each student is making on a daily basis. If you are like me, then your first experience with literature circles may just put you over the edge. Relinquishing control of my classroom was not easy. Read how I learned to let go and guide my students through the organized chaos of literature circles. 

 

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Create a Literary Magazine

DSC01402Creating a literary magazine for your school teaches students the fundamentals of good writing and publishing and provides them with a place to see their writing in print. It gives them a sense of audience, which is crucial for young writers, and it can foster a community of young writers and give them status. Read on to see what else a literary magazine can do for your school and learn how to start one.

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Comments: 4

Literacy in Kindergarten Dramatic Play Centers, Part 3

Kindergarten Literacy CentersCome visit our kindergarten post office center, Terrific Tiger Post Office. It is located in our classroom at 12 ABC Street in Terrific Tiger Town, SE (Squires Elementary).

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Children of the Holocaust

IMG_5864 I recently received my February 28, 2011, issue of Time magazine. On the cover was a picture of youths from around the world with the subtitle, “The Generation Changing the World.” In my classroom, we are transitioning from the protests in the Middle East to the Holocaust. After introducing the literature circle books for the unit, I held up the Time issue and Yellow Star by Jennifer Roy and posed the question, “Why would Hitler fear the youth?” The question set my students on fire. The biggest problem of the day was tracking all the books that started flying out of my room. The resources below will help you create an English language arts and social studies integrated unit on the Holocaust.

 

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The Good Old Book Report

DSC01391 Book reports seem part of the realm of middle school and elementary school. You don't often hear of students doing book reports in high school, but I feel much can be learned by doing such an assignment in the higher grades. A book report can challenge the student to use higher order thinking skills in order to understand and interpret literature.

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Comments: 6

Easy Writing Ideas for Early Writers

Writing in PreK and Kindergarten“Easy writing ideas?” you ask. “But my students don’t even know how to write!” You’re in luck. These ideas are suitable for children with limited word and print knowledge, in the beginning stages of reading and writing. Each can be adapted for any ability level, from prewriter to fluent writer. By providing options for students at different stages in their literacy journey, you help them build confidence and set every child up for success in writing.

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Analyzing Characters with WALTeR

Lead_photo_walter
One day, I was driving to school, pondering my frustration over the impending state test dates that were approaching, yet my students were still struggling with identifying specific details to support a character trait. It was apparent they needed another approach. They needed a mnemonic device to help them remember the type of details that would help them succeed, so I created WALTeR, a guide for identifying text-based relevant details that BEST support their claim. Walter needed to be memorable, someone they could visualize and remember. (Clip art created with ToonDoo.com by Mary Blow)

 

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Books That Inspire Teens

DSC01294 I recently attended the College Board New England Regional Forum and had the pleasure of introducing the guest speaker, Wes Moore, author of the book, The Other Wes Moore:  One Name, Two Fates. I had not read Wes' book yet, but I was certainly impressed with the author's background and his ability to ignite a room of about four hundred educators (no small task, as we all know). Through preparing my introduction, I learned that Wes Moore is a youth advocate, an Army combat veteran, a businessman, and a non-profit leader, as well as an author.

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Comments: 6

I Love to Read! Surefire Ways to Create Lifelong Book Lovers

I Love to Read Month February is “I Love to Read Month,” the perfect time to assess if your students do, in fact, love to read. Are they captivated by good stories? Does reading fill them with excitement and enthusiasm? Do they play with the sounds of language in a literature-rich environment that promotes active learning through highly engaging activities? If the answer to any of these questions is no (and even if it’s yes!), it may be time to arm yourself with a repertoire of techniques guaranteed to get every child in your class saying “I love to read!”

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Comments: 10

Compound Sentences

Fanboys_posterEach year, I make it a goal to focus on grammar. Last year, I became determined to find a solution to the problem of run-on sentences. Each time after reading student writing, I found myself repeating the age-old question, “What is a sentence?” My students could explain the components of a sentence: subject, predicate, capital letters at the beginning, and ending punctuation. With some prompting they could conclude that a sentence must have a complete thought. So, how was it that they could identify a sentence and explain what one is, and still write paragraph-long, never-ending sentences? How could I change this?

Read on to discover my solution. Included here is a SMART Board activity and a free FANBOYS poster.

 

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Comments: 12

Character Education in PreK & Kindergarten

Character Education in PreK and KindergartenWhat children learn about character in the early childhood classroom can shape their character for the rest of their lives. So how do you teach it?

 

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The opinions expressed in Classroom Solutions are strictly those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Scholastic Inc.