Sunday, March 5, 2017

Benefits of Using Graphic Organizers in the Classroom

Graphic organizers are charts, graphs or diagrams which encourage students to see information as a component of systems rather than isolated facts. After many years of using graphic organizers in my classroom, I am a firm believer in their benefits. Graphic organizers can certainly be used as a teaching tool, but I would like to focus on the benefits as a learning tool for reading comprehension.

Here are 3 great reasons why using graphic organizers is a benefit to your students.


Improves Comprehension

The most obvious reason that I use graphic organizers in my reading classes is because of their benefit of improving reading comprehension. Using graphic organizers helps students to visualize and internalize the material they are reading/learning which leads to a better understanding and a deeper understanding of the material. We want our students to "think deeply" about their reading, but how do we help them do that? Graphic organizers is one way. Graphic organizers can help students organize and prioritize what they are comprehending, and through this visual organization, students are actually able to see the relationships and connections to the information they are reading and learning which leads to improved comprehension.



Benefits All Students

Sometimes, finding materials to benefit all of your students with all of their learning abilities can be difficult. No matter the learning ability of each child in your classroom, graphic organizers can benefit them all. Graphic organizers can be easily changed and altered to help with differentiated instruction for RTI or ELL's. Also, they are a perfect tool for ELL students and students with learning disabilities because they provide a hands on approach to learning. They also help all students to connect new material to prior knowledge, draw conclusions, make inferences, identify main ideas and details and to summarize.


Increases Student Engagement

Students love using graphic organizers. Because of their graphic nature in representing information in a pattern, students tend to stay focused. I know my students are highly motivated and excited to use graphic organizers. I enjoy seeing their excitement in learning.


As with any tool of instruction, modeling how to use each graphic organizer is a key component. We cannot simply expect to assign a story and distribute graphic organizers with the instructions of, "Ok. Read this story and complete the graphic organizer." Teacher instruction on how to use the graphic organizer is vital for success of graphic organizers as a learning tool. Modeling each new type of g.o. is very important to the success of your students. This can be done whole group with chart paper or a document camera. Another key component is feedback. Without proper feedback, students will not improve their responses to reading. I like to have partners or tables share, but to ensure that students are seeing and hearing high quality responses, I like to choose 2 or 3 students' responses to share with the class. (I usually place these under my document camera so the student can see the responses as well.) This has proven to be a very effective way of helping all student improve on their writing responses on their graphic organizers.

If you are not using graphic organizers in your reading class, I highly recommend trying them in your classroom. Over the years, I have definitely seen the benefits of this reading comprehension tool, and they have become one of my favorite strategies that I use in my classroom.


If you are looking for some great free graphic organizers to use with your students, I have some in my store.

Also, be sure to check out my best selling graphic organizers. They are one of my favorite sets, and I use them in my own classroom!


Have a blessed day!



Sunday, February 5, 2017

Valentine's Day Activities for Upper Grades

Valentine's Day can be a lot of fun, even for upper elementary students. I know that my fourth graders still love exchanging cards and candy, but here are a few other fun activities that your students will enjoy in addition to cards on or around this fun holiday.


Valentine Cities in U.S.

My students had so much fun with this map activity. Working in groups, students were given 3 or 4 specific states to research and find cities with names associated with Valentine's Day. Then they visited this website to find cities in their assigned states. Next, on heart cutouts they wrote the name of the city and state. They then searched for each city on google maps to find the exact location of the city. Finally, they took each heart label and attached it to our large U.S. map located in our hall. This was an enjoyable activity that gave students a chance to improve their map skills. 


Hershey Kiss Descriptive Writing Activity

I have used this writing activity in my class for several years, and I am uncertain where I originally found this idea. It is great to use around Valentine's Day. Give each child a Hershey's Kiss and instruct the students to not touch and only look and to imagine that he/she has never seen this object before. Students will then "jot notes." On a piece of paper jot details, words, or phrases to describe how this object looks: ex. size, shape, color, etc.

Next, have the students pick up the object and feel, but do not open. Now write descriptive words and phrases that would explain how this object feels. 

Then have students to listen closely as they open up the object. Write words and phrases to explain and describe the sound that is made.

Finally, it is time to taste the object and write how this object not only tastes, but how it feels in their mouths.

On another piece of paper, have students use their jot notes to complete a paragraph or essay to describe this object (Hershey's Kiss). Once finished, let students share their descriptive essays. For a fun twist, give students a variety of flavors of Hershey's Kisses. After sharing the essays, students could guess which flavor of Kiss was being described.

Other Language Arts Activities


You and your students will enjoy these easy to use printables for Valentine's Day. They are perfect for that "little extra" during the month of February and will take very little of your time to plan. Simply copy these printables for your students to use as a whole class, in groups, or at stations. These are perfect to review ABC order, parts of speech, grammar, synonyms, and antonyms in a fun way during the month of February. Students will also enjoy decoding puzzles, writing acrostics, and going on a classroom scavenger hunt. Simply click on the link here or below to purchase. 

Valentine's Day Language Arts Activities

I am so excited to announce that I am once again blogging along with my friends on Upper Elementary Snapshots. For some more great ideas for Valentine's Day, visit HERE to read my blog post at Upper Elementary Snapshots. 

Have a Blessed Day!





Monday, January 23, 2017

Snowman Bulletin Board and Free Mitten Clipart

This simple bulletin board was very easy and quick to create. I think it turned out cute as a button, and my students loved it! I simply cut a large circle from white bulletin board background paper, an orange triangle shape from large construction paper, small black circles from black construction paper and two eyes. I printed the letters from my computer and finally, pinned cotton balls for snowflakes. Cute, bright, and easy, and such a nice change of pace in my classroom.


If you have no visited my store lately, I have added a lot of fun and new clipart packets to my store and even have a nice freebie just for you! (Your feedback is always greatly appreciated!) Just visit my store by clicking on the link below and download this set for FREE!


Thanks for stopping by, and have a blessed day!

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Snowflake Themed Reading Lesson

A Winter Reading Lesson for Upper Elementary Using Picture Books, a Reading Passage, and a Simple Similes Activity

Here in the South where I live and teach, snow is not a common winter event, so when it does snow, or there is potential for snow, our students get a little excited. I knew that a snowflake themed lesson would be the perfect way to engage my students and create a little excitement over our reading and learning. I used these lessons during our short week back from Christmas break, but they could be incorporated anytime during the winter season.




To introduce our snowflake theme, I began with some wonderful picture books about snow. There are many wonderful choices, but I chose to use Snowflake Bentley by Jacqueline Briggs Martin, and Snow by Cynthia Rylant.



I first read Snowflake Bentley. As I read, I modeled my thinking and we discussed this amazing man and his photographs.

Next, I used the nonfiction article "Cool Prize" from Readworks.org.  (There is also a fabulous lesson for Snowflake Bentley that you may choose to use on this website.) If you don't already have a free membership to Readworks, it is very easy to join, free, and packed with amazing articles, lessons, and passages with question sets. My students "chunked" the text "Cool Prize", which means that we broke down the article as we read it in order to read closely and understand the text. This is a guided whole group lesson that helps students read with purpose. I have included the directions and questions that I gave to my students as we broke this text down, but of course, you can guide your students to search for key information or ask skills related questions that best meet the needs of your students.This is a strategy that my students and I love.



Here is how I chunked this passage:

We numbered the paragraphs. Then students followed the directions below.
1. After reading paragraph 1 silently,  predict what you think this passage will be about, and write your prediction in the margins. (Once students are finished, we stop and discuss.)

2. After reading paragraph 2 silently, circle who this paragraph is about, underline what he is doing (the main idea), and number the steps in the process. (When students are finished, stop and discuss.)

3 and 4. After reading these paragraphs, underline the honor that Libbrecht received and circle the reasons why he received it.

5-9. Before reading the section Winter Wonders, we discussed the text feature of bold faced words. Students found the word artificial. Then they skimmed the text for clues to its meaning and circled these clues. We then discussed their findings. Next, they found the word water vapor, skimmed the text, and circled clues for its meaning. We then discussed. We repeated this for the last two bold faced words. I then had students to partner read this section.

10-15 Snow Days. Students read this section silently and wrote two facts in the margins that they learned. When everyone finished, they turned to their partner and shared their facts.

Frosted Flakes- We discussed this play on words. Then we choral read the paragraph. Next we discussed the text feature, a chart.

I chose to stop my lesson here. Students simply read the rest of the passage with a partner. After reading the remainder of the passage, we then watched a wonderful video clip on Discovery Education called "Snowflake".  This shows Dr. Libbrecht photographing snowflakes. If you don't have Discovery Ed., or if you would like to show another video clip this video clip from youtube is another great choice that goes along with "Cool Prize" that you may wish to show.

Next, in our journals, we compared and contrasted Snowflake Bentley and Libbrecht, the scientist in "Cool Prize." Students simply drew a Venn diagram and wrote similarities and differences.

The following day, I read aloud the book Snow by Cynthia Rylant and discussed figurative language found in this book. This book contains several similes and examples of personification. I then reread the two examples of similes found in Snowflake Bentley. My students then created Snowy Similes posters. We simply took a large sheet of white construction paper, folded it in half 3 times, and opened it back up to create 8 sections. In the first section, students wrote Snowy Similes. In the remaining spaces, students created 7 similes about snow or winter and drew pictures for each. These turned out so cute and look fabulous displayed in the hallway.





Thank you so much for stopping by! Have a blessed day!





Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Four Fabulous Ways to Rejuvenate and Prevent Teaching Burnout

As teachers, we face so many demands. We give it our all each and everyday, day in and day out. If you have been teaching for several years, it is quite possible that you have experienced some type of teacher burnout. Whether you simply had one day to fall apart, and you felt despair; or whether you experienced one of those years that you thought would never end, many of us have experienced some type of burnout. Now that the middle of the school year is here, many of us find ourselves facing possible burnout. Teacher burnout can be overcome, and better yet, it can potentially be avoided. Before we reach that point, let's look at some ways to help us prevent teacher burnout and renew that joy that we have for teaching. (Be sure to keep reading! There is a freebie at the end!)
  
 

 
 
 
 

1. Add some excitement and sparkle back into your lessons. If your routine has become predictable and monotonous, then perhaps it's time to change up the lesson plans just a bit. Complicated lesson plans and activities are not necessary for a little excitement in your lesson. Adding sparkle could be as simple as incorporating an exciting video segment into a lesson, using a fun PowerPoint lesson, or adding some seasonal art or activities into the day. Students can get excited about the simplest activities, and that excitement can certainly be contagious and exciting for us as well.

I have several grammar PowerPoint lessons in my store that are sure to add some sparkle to your lessons. These are a super easy way to incorporate sparkle in your lessons.
https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Verb-Tenses-Progressive-Verb-Tenses-1022109
 
Combining art and grammar is a great way to add sparkle to a lesson, too. My students love my Seasonal Parts of Speech Quilts. These are a fun way to review grammar, provide some fun coloring, and decorate your walls all at the same time! My winter set is perfect for this time of the year!
 
https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Winter-Parts-of-Speech-Quilt-2920262





 
 

2. Do something for yourself that is not related to school. Take a class (art, music, dance, etc.). Try something new and fun, or simply do something relaxing. Get a pedicure, a manicure, or find time to get the hair cut you've been putting off for months. (Am I the only one that can't seem to find time???) Starting a new hobby or craft can certainly be relaxing as well. I personally love crocheting. It is such a relaxing activity, and it can take my mind away from the stresses of work so that I can feel rejuvenated the next day! The point is to do something completely unrelated to school!


 

3. Volunteer. Volunteer at a local charity or church. Doing something for others can help lift one's spirits tremendously.


 

4. Change things up in your classroom, and spend some time reconnecting with your class. One way to reconnect is with some of the get-to-know you activities that are usually considered beginning of the year activities. Sometimes at the middle of the year, our classroom management system might need some minor adjustments. Our students can become complacent to the system that we have in place, so perhaps it is time to change things up just a bit.

If you have not started brag tags, this could be a great time to begin. Brag tags do not have to start at the beginning of the school year. Now would be a great time to begin, and your students are sure to love them! I offer a set of bee themed brag tags in my store that might be perfect to help your students "bee" their best!
https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Brag-Tags-Bee-Themed-2653579
 
This is also a great time to motivate your students and encourage them to do their best the last half of the year. One great way to do this is to use motivational posters. I have several varieties of motivational posters in my store, but these Winter Themed Motivational Posters would be a great addition to any classroom and are an easy way to redecorate your classroom for the winter months.  Classroom management is noted as one of the major causes of burnout. Creating a positive classroom environment will certainly go a long way in helping prevent teacher burnout.
 
https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Winter-Themed-Motivational-Posters-2285179

 
For another fun motivational idea, use these letters to post in the room every time students are caught being good. The fun part comes when the class spells out Fun Friday. We usually celebrate with something fun. It can be something as simple as a game afternoon with partner games like tic tac toe or the connect the dots game, class games such as heads up seven up, puzzles or board games, a short video, popcorn, free time, etc. You can find these free in my store! Just click the image below.

Fun Friday Behavior Motivator

There are many ways to prevent teaching burnout. Although teaching is a stressful job, it is one of the most rewarding careers. Always keep at heart the lives that you are touching each and everyday. You are truly important, and if no one has told you lately, thank you for all that you do! You are truly special!

Have a bless day!

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Christmas in the Classroom

I love the Christmas season, and so do the students in my classroom. After our Thanksgiving break, we have three weeks until Christmas break. While we strive to continue to make the most of each instructional day, students still enjoy fun Christmas activities. I try to sneak in some fun activities to make these weeks enjoyable for the students.These are a few ways that I incorporate Christmas into my classroom.


Christmas Tree

My students were so excited to see the decorated Christmas tree on the first day back from Thanksgiving. A Christmas tree does not have to be very large or elaborately decorated, but my students love seeing a Christmas tree in their classroom. In fact, I used a tree from home that I decided to retire this year from my house decorations. The ornaments were from a theme that I had used in my home as well and decided not to use this year. I have a good teacher friend who has a large classroom closet. She stores her small tree completely decorated, and all she has to do is pull it out each year and set it on a table. How smart is that?



Christmas Art

Unfortunately art in the classroom often takes a backseat to all of the demands of the required curriculum. Having a daughter who is an artist at heart, I understand the need for art in schools. We, unfortunately, do not have an art teacher at our school, so I do try to include at least a few fun art activities throughout the school year, especially during holidays. Jenny, from Art with Jenny, has some wonderful and fun activities that are perfect for the Christmas season. This year, I chose this simple, but adorable Gingerbread Man Collaboration Door Poster, and I wish you could have heard the oohs and ahs from my students when I revealed the final product. They thought this was the best activity ever,  and they were so proud!

 
I also enjoy an art activity into my reading and language lessons whenever possible, and this Christmas Parts of Speech Quilt packet is a great way to do this! My students love doing these, and they are a fun way to review parts of speech and a great decoration for the holiday season as well.
https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Christmas-Parts-of-Speech-Quilt-2891440
 



Christmas Poster Decorations

I love decorating my classroom for Christmas, but finding the time and energy is sometimes a little challenging. These Christmas themed motivational posters are the perfect solution. All I had to do was print them out and hang them up. I thought they looked perfect around the Christmas tree. They are a simple way to decorate the room.


Christmas Books

One of my favorite ways to incorporate Christmas into the classroom is with the huge variety of picture books available. Even upper elementary students love reading picture books about Christmas. We partner read Christmas picture books, I use them for model lessons and strategies lessons, and we read them for the pure enjoyment. There are so many wonderful choices for Christmas books. My next blog post will feature several of my favorites.

Christmas Graphic Organizers

Christmas themed graphic organizers are not only perfect to use with Christmas books, but they are great to use with any book during the Christmas season. Students love using these, and they are a great way to sneak in a little fun while the students are thinking about and writing about their reading. This set is available in my store.
https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Christmas-Graphic-Organizers-1001742
 
Thanks for stopping by and have a great day!

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

4 Fabulous Thanksgiving Themed Books for Upper Elementary Students

Four Fabulous Thanksgiving books that your upper elementary students will enjoy are also perfect for last minute lesson planning. (I mean, am I the only one who does last minute? Please tell me I'm not!) These books are perfect for read-alouds, partner reading, or small groups.



The Very First Thanksgiving

Although this is a very simply written book, The Very First Thanksgiving is an excellent book for upper elementary to introduce a lesson or a discussion on the first Thanksgiving. Students enjoy the rhyme and rhythm as well as the beautiful illustrations. I personally love sharing the author's note and illustrator's note at the beginning of the book with my students. This is a great choice for a read-aloud.


A Plump and Perky Turkey

This is simply a fun book that even upper elementary students love! The story is enjoyable, the rhyme and rhythm are musical, and the illustrations are adorable in this entertaining picture book. This story always brings a smile to my students' faces and is a perfect read-aloud for those days before Thanksgiving. It is also a great book to use as a before activity to introduce  a fun Thanksgiving art activity or a writing activity.


Milly and the Macy's Parade

This is a great example of historical fiction. This is a sweet fictional story of a little girl who inspired the Macy's Parade. Milly and her story are completely made-up, nevertheless, it is still a sweet read-aloud for your students. Also, Scholastic has some wonderful freebies to use with this book.
 


Molly's Pilgrim

This is probably my favorite Thanksgiving book to use in my classroom. Although the reading level is only 3rd grade, the message of this story makes it a wonderful choice to use with your upper elementary students. So many topics can be discussed, taught, and reviewed with this book: point of view, author's point of view, compare and contrast, character analysis, and inference. Even more important is the message that is prevalent in this story. Students will easily recognize the theme, "It takes all kinds of Pilgrims to make a Thanksgiving."
 


I have uploaded two free graphic organizers to my store just for you! These easy print and go graphic organizers will be a great activity for the last few days before Thanksgiving.  Click here to download your free graphic organizers to use with this book.  Happy Thanksgiving!

https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Mollys-Pilgrim-Graphic-Organizers-2880965


 



Thanksgiving items from my store:

You may also enjoy these quick and easy "Owl" About My Thanksgiving printables from my store. They are the perfect activity to do the last few days before Thanksgiving.
Thanksgiving Activities Poster
 
Your students will also enjoy these Thanksgiving Themed Graphic Organizers. Use them with Thanksgiving themed books or with any book or story to add some Thanksgiving fun to your November reading classroom.
Thanksgiving Graphic Organizers
 
My students are loving these Thanksgiving Parts of Speech Grammar Quilt! This is such a fun way to review grammar while sneaking in a little fun with coloring. They make a great hall or classroom  display.
 
Thanksgiving Parts of Speech Quilt
 
Have a blessed Thanksgiving!