Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Help Your Students Become "Word Nerds"


 Wouldn't we want all of our students to not only build their vocabulary but LOVE to do so?  An awesome book I saw recommended by 4thGradeFrolics and LookingfromThirdtoFourth is called Word Nerds , and it is teeming with ideas to accomplish this very thing.  I've enjoyed gleaning ideas from the book!

  • 4thGradeFrolics showcases how her students use the "vocabulary lanyards" activity to practice learning new words and definitions, discovering antonyms and synonyms, etc.  The book has several activities for small groups and the whole class to practice using their words in order to commit them to memory.  What I love is that most of the activities are engaging and require the students to think and talk to one another, making connections about what they're learning.
  • Check out AllensTeachingFiles for a list of several small and whole group activities found within the book, everything from charades to board games to illustrations.
  • This is an excellent Word Nerd classroom display that helps students keep track of the new words they've come across in their reading.
  • Of course, there are tons of ideas in the book itself, like throwing a Pirate Party, A game of Deal or No Deal, creating vocabulary links, crystal ball words and much more.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Morning Meeting


Hi, all!

I wanted to share what I've encountered recently, which I think is a FANTASTIC idea.  It's called "morning meeting."

Some of you are probably familiar, especially if you teach PreK-2.  I certainly led a lot of morning meetings when I subbed those grades.  For some reason, it never dawned on me that, with a few modifications, a "morning meeting" routine would also be a great addition for upper-grade classrooms.

Perusing The Morning Meeting Book and looking at some teachers discuss morning meeting have convinced me to look into adding the routine to my own classroom.

What is morning meeting?  Good question.  Responsive Classroom has a good description that explains morning meetings are daily (although some teachers, especially in middle grades, opt for less frequent meetings) gatherings in one section of the classroom where teachers lead students in an assortment of activities.  The activities can range from team-building exercises, sharing, fun wordplay, brainteasers, journaling and curriculum review or preview.  Another usual component at the beginning is a greeting exercise, which helps with social skills.

Why do I like it?  As Edutopia explains, the morning meeting is designed to provide students with meaningful interactions to "set the tone for respectful learning, establish a climate of trust... and support social, emotional and academic learning."  Isn't that awesome?

Teachers of all grade levels use morning meeting and swear by it.  Everyone I've heard who uses morning meeting says their class loves it, considers it an essential part of their procedures, and believes it fosters good will in the classroom.  It promotes respect and builds a real sense of community, which I admire greatly.  I checked out a lot of reviews of this routine on various blogs and message boards, and so many teachers talk about how it improved the atmosphere of the classroom so much that it's worth spending the few minutes of the day, no matter how the rest of the days' teaching has to be adjusted.

One of the best testimonies about the efficacy of this routine is my own.  I remember subbing for a fifth grade classroom years ago, and I remember how they knew to sit on a carpet.  They performed a greeting, then went around and shared before we played a game of Buzz (the first time I saw it done!) to practice common multiples.  The thing I remember most was that the atmosphere in the class felt... insulated.  The students seemed close and very committed to the idea of their fellow students as teammates and the classroom itself as a culture on its own.  It's hard to explain but it's apparent when you're an outsider visiting a class like this.  I was struck by it and thought, "Wow, this teacher must be doing something special to have her class behave this way!" 

It turns out this must have been my first experience with morning meeting in the upper-grades.  That must have been the thing that made the classroom function in a way that impressed me.  I remember one other teacher I subbed for over a few years also is one I could point to for having that "insulated" feeling in her classes and she, too, used morning meeting.  Neither of the classes called the routine morning meeting, but I can identify it now by its practices.  Just knowning that this is something I can use for my own students is really encouraging for me so that I can create a classroom culture of respect and community.