Easy Tips for Teaching Challenging Reading Content Across the Curriculum: PART THREE

This is the third and final in a series of three posts providing tips for successfully teaching challenging reading content to a class of students with mixed reading abilities.

easy tips challenging reading part 3 graphic image

Pairs or Small Group Work:

BUILDING ORAL FLUENCY

Students’ reading comprehension improves with repeated exposure to challenging content.  One way to make time for every student to read aloud is to have them work in small groups or pairs.  By assigning each student a role, the teacher can be sure  that everyone in the pair or group is actively participating.

Schoolgirl Reading Book In Classroom

Students can also take turns reading directions and questions aloud.  Student A reads the first question and Student B answers it.  Student B then reads the second question, and Student A answers it.  This keeps both students on task during each portion of the shared lesson.

WORKING WITHOUT PENS OR PENCILS

Depending on the goal of the lesson, the teacher may want students to mark the location of each answer in the text and/or fill in responses.  Another strategy is to have students work with a partner or group, but without pens or pencils.  At a designated time, students return to their individual seats and do the work independently.  Knowing they will have to complete the written work on their own, students are more likely to pay attention to other group members during the shared work time.

no pencils clear

While working together, students who disagree with an answer should be encouraged to locate details in the text to defend the disputed content. However, each student should take responsibility for answering in the manner he or she believes is correct.  If a student is asked by the teacher why he or she answered a certain way, the child needs to be able to show details from the text to support the answer.  No one should be permitted to respond, “Well, that’s what my partner said.”

Another benefit of having students work together without pens or pencils is that it provides an opportunity for students with emerging skills to ask their peers questions they might otherwise be reluctant to ask in a whole-class situation.

Students in class reading with teacher in background selective focus

SELF-CHECKING WORK

Cooperative grouping is also effective for correcting class work or homework.  Students can take turns reading and answering questions, as described above.  Answers that cannot be agreed upon during paired or small group work sessions can be marked by group members for later discussion.  Once the entire class has come back together, the teacher can ask students if there are any questions. Often, the questions from one group will resolve confusion in several groups.  This focuses whole-class instruction on the most challenging content of the lesson.

Independent Work:

Many students thrive on independent work, while others find it difficult to stay focused and on task.

Schoolboy Studying In Classroom

BUILDING A  FRUSTRATION MUSCLE

Independent workers sometimes miss the mark or rush through their work. After carefully going over the directions with the whole class, the teacher can announce a set time for beginning independent work– usually 5 to 10 minutes– depending on the age of the students and the difficulty of the assignment.  During this time students may not ask for help, get out of their seats, or hand in their work.  This forces students to build their frustration muscle— to make repeated attempts on their own before seeking help.

frustration muscle with brain image free use

After the allotted time, students may raise their hands to get help.  Students who feel confident may hand in their work once it’s completed.  Early finishers’ work can be spot checked as it is handed in.  Messy, incomplete, or incorrectly finished papers can be immediately returned for revision.

LEARNING TO SEEK SUPPORT ONLY WHEN NEEDED

Once students begin independent work, the teacher is better able to find time to walk around the classroom and provide 1:1 help as needed.  After five or ten minutes, the teacher may want to announce, “Who feels they might be happier working on this assignment at the front table with me?”  Usually, students who are doing well will be happy to finish on their own so they can self-select other appropriate activities.   However, students who are struggling will be relieved to have the support of the teacher and their peers during guided instruction.

Little kid studying.

SELF-SELECTED ACTIVITIES

Students who successfully complete their work ahead of other classmates should have clear directions about what self-selected activities are required or permitted.  It helps students make better choices if the teacher puts a list of acceptable activities on the board, or if students have specific anchor activities that are always appropriate, such as completing homework, responding to a writing prompt, or reading silently.

The teacher may want to call upon one or two student volunteers who have completed their work to act as classroom helpers. This peer-assistance approach is especially effective when one or more students who usually struggle are among the first to successfully complete an assignment.  Being given the role of peer-tutor builds confidence and self-esteem.

The Bottom Line

The take home message is this:  Everyone who teaches, teaches reading.

free teacher on pixabay image

We all have our own, personal reading strategies that we use on a regular basis such as rereading or making predictions.  By simply sharing those processes aloud with the class, it’s easy for teachers to model different approaches to challenging text.  Some teachers may feel more comfortable asking questions, requiring students to locate details in the text, or having students read aloud with a peer.  Whatever works.

The key to teaching reading in other content areas is adopting strategies that are a good fit for each individual teacher.  By incorporating a variety of instructional approaches that feel natural and organic, the teacher will best be able to improve student comprehension.

What other tips do YOU have for helping struggling readers in your class?  I’d love to hear from you here in the comments section, or at Lessons4Now@gmail.com.

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Looking for useful tools to help your students write better?  Check out these easy-to-use resources!

Second post providing tips for successfully teaching challenging reading content to a class of students with mixed reading abilities.

Whether you love it or hate it, writing can be difficult to teach. This presentation introduces the basics of writing a paragraph. Students can easily follow this organized, step-by-step approach to writing as they are introduced to key writing vocabulary and important writing concepts with examples.

The 63-slide PowerPoint helps students learn how to: 1) decode prompts, 2) use prewriting activities to generate ideas, 3) create a draft with organized ideas and supporting details, 4) revise writing for clarity and fluency, 5) edit writing for accuracy, and 6) publish writing that is attractive and easy-to-read.Second post providing tips for successfully teaching challenging reading content to a class of students with mixed reading abilities.

This NO PREP activity packet contains eighteen (18) ready-to-use printables. Just copy and go!  The scrambled paragraphs in this unit are similar to those in Scrambled Paragraphs Mini Unit: Early Elementary Edition. The two products can be used together to differentiate instruction.

Scrambled paragraphs have eight (8) sentences that can be put together only one way. Students practice using transitions and inferential clues to assemble these organized, logical paragraphs.

Students love these activities, and teachers love how quickly students begin to write their own well-organized paragraphs!

Easy Tips for Teaching Challenging Reading Content Across the Curriculum: PART TWO

This is the second in a series of three posts providing tips for successfully teaching challenging reading content to a class of students with mixed reading abilities.

easy tips challenging reading image graphic part 2

SUMMARIZING
Summarizing is a great strategy that teachers can use to help students remember important vocabulary and content.  At the beginning of the lesson, the teacher recaps the key ideas from the prior lesson.  For example, the teacher might say, “Yesterday we learned that the President of the United States is not elected by the popular vote of citizens during the general election in November. Raise your hand if you remember who casts the determining vote?”  The teacher can call on individual students or say, “On the count of three tell me the name of the group who elects the president. One, two, three…”  The teacher can then call on one or two students to explain what they remember, and then fill in any missing details before starting the new lesson.

Teacher Standing In Front Of Class Of Pupils

Summarizing can also be used to wrap up each day’s lesson. This can be done by either the teacher or student volunteers.

SKIMMING
Another way to begin a reading lesson is to have students skim the entire selection.  They should be instructed to look for headings, charts, captions, and words that have been written in italics, bold, or highlighted. The list of focus text features can be written on the board to guide students’ independent work.  Next, students should be directed to read the first few words, or sentence, of each paragraph.  After a set amount of time, the teacher can allow students to interact with nearby classmates who will take turns making predictions about the content of the day’s lesson.

TEXT MAPPING
Text mapping is an independent, pre-reading strategy that helps students build their knowledge base before beginning whole-group instruction. Students are directed to underline all proper nouns, box all numbers and number words, and circle any words that are new to them, or words they think their classmates might find challenging.  Text mapping can also be assigned as homework to be completed independently before the next day’s class.Second post providing tips for successfully teaching challenging reading content to a class of students with mixed reading abilities.Whether text mapping is completed at home or during class, it helps if the teacher allows time for students to compare their work with peers seated nearby before beginning direct instruction.  The teacher can encourage students to add marks, if necessary. Before the teacher begins reading the text aloud, he or she may choose to allow a few student volunteers to share some of their marked terms or numbers.

FOCUS ON VOCABULARY
When there’s a vocabulary word in bold, students can be directed to find the definition in the glossary or dictionary.  Or, they can be guided to use context clues to infer the word’s meaning.  The teacher might ask, “Who would like to read the definition aloud to the class?” or “Who thinks they can figure out the meaning of this word by looking for clues in the text?”  After a definition has been agreed upon, the teacher can follow up by asking a second child to tell the class what he or she thinks the new word means using “kid words.”  Finally, a third student is asked to restate the sentence in the text that contains the new word, only this time the student should insert “kid words” that help make the meaning even clearer.

Second post providing tips for successfully teaching challenging reading content to a class of students with mixed reading abilities.

Here’s an example.
     The text sentence is, “Using wire and electricity you can make your own magnet.”
     The teacher asks, “Who can find a definition of the word magnet?”
     A student finds the definition in the chapter, glossary, or dictionary.  He or she reads it aloud, “A magnet is a piece of iron, or an ore, alloy, or other material, that has its component atoms so ordered that the material exhibits properties of magnetism, such as attracting other iron-containing objects or aligning itself in an external magnetic field.”
     The teacher asks, “Can anyone put that in ‘kid words’?”
    A volunteer responds, “A magnet is something that attracts iron and some other metals.”student girl using kid words to define magnet image     The teacher asks, “Who can replace the challenging words with kid words to make the sentence easy to understand?”
     Another student responds, “Using wire and electricity you can make something that attracts certain metals, like iron.”

REFOCUSING THE GROUP
After every paragraph or so, it also helps to pose a whole-group question that can be answered by a show of hands or other signal.  Again, this encourages everyone to stay focused and participate.  Questions like, “Has anyone ever gone to the polls with an adult to vote?” or “How many of you think it would have been exciting to sail with Columbus?”

If there’s time, the teacher might call on one or two students to comment.  Or, the teacher could follow up with a targeted question for those students who did not raise their hands, such as, “Tyler, what do you think it was like to sail on one of Columbus’s ships?”  It’s best to avoid questions that can be answered yes or no when asking targeted, follow-up questions.Second post providing tips for successfully teaching challenging reading content to a class of students with mixed reading abilities.

VARYING RESPONSE MODES
Students might also respond with a thumbs up, down, or sideways.  For example, the teacher might ask, “Using your thumb, how many of you think you would be able to use rocks to grind your own corn flour?”  Students who don’t vote can be encouraged to participate by asking, “John, Sateen, and Kris, I missed your vote.  What do you think?”

When working with challenging reading content, students need  to practice summarizing, skimming, text mapping, and making meaning from new vocabulary. With a little help and motivation, students can learn to independently tackle even the most information-dense material!

ALPOASpringFlingBorder2

Looking for useful tools to help your students write better?  Check out these easy-to-use resources!

Second post providing tips for successfully teaching challenging reading content to a class of students with mixed reading abilities.Whether you love it or hate it, writing can be difficult to teach. This presentation introduces the basics of writing a paragraph. Students can easily follow this organized, step-by-step approach to writing as they are introduced to key writing vocabulary and important writing concepts with examples.

The 63-slide PowerPoint helps students learn how to: 1) decode prompts, 2) use prewriting activities to generate ideas, 3) create a draft with organized ideas and supporting details, 4) revise writing for clarity and fluency, 5) edit writing for accuracy, and 6) publish writing that is attractive and easy-to-read. Second post providing tips for successfully teaching challenging reading content to a class of students with mixed reading abilities.This NO PREP activity packet contains eighteen (18) ready-to-use printables. Just copy and go!  The scrambled paragraphs in this unit are similar to those in Scrambled Paragraphs Mini Unit: Early Elementary Edition. The two products can be used together to differentiate instruction.

Scrambled paragraphs have eight (8) sentences that can be put together only one way. Students practice using transitions and inferential clues to assemble these organized, logical paragraphs.

Students love these activities, and teachers love how quickly students begin to write their own well-organized paragraphs!

Easy Tips for Teaching Challenging Reading Content Across the Curriculum: PART ONE

How can content-area teachers successfully teach a class of students with mixed reading abilities?

In areas such as social studies or science, students are often asked to read content written at, or above, grade level.  Even good readers may struggle with the text.  Teachers have less planning time, and there’s even less time to help struggling students.  How can teachers help their students succeed when there’s so much at stake, and so few resources?

Here are some helpful strategies that are easy to try!easy tips challenging reading graphic image part 1READING THE TEXT ALOUD
It’s important for students to independently read the text, but preferably not during whole class instruction. It helps students to hear challenging content read with fluency.  It’s most beneficial to students if the teacher reads the text aloud as the class silently follows along.

INTERMITTENT CHORAL READING
There are many ways to keep students actively engaged in the lesson.  First, as the teacher reads, he or she can occasionally pause to prompt the entire class to read the next word, or words, of the sentence aloud as a group.

The teacher might say, “The process of photosynthesis can be broken down into…” and then pause.  The class would then read the remainder of the sentence aloud, “…two stages.”The teacher can move closer to students who may be having difficulty participating.  This makes it easier to offer visual cues to help students find their place.  Once students are familiar with this procedure, right before the pause, the teacher can call on random students to read the next word or words aloud– by row, by color of clothing, or individually.

TRACKING THE TEXT
Students can also be asked to track the text using a pencil tip, finger, or book mark. By glancing around the classroom while reading aloud, the teacher can easily see who is on track and who needs redirection.

MARKING THE TEXT
It helps if students are allowed to write directly on the text.  If the instructional materials allow for this, as the teacher reads aloud, he or she can model text mapping.  To do this, from time to time the teacher can direct students to underline proper nouns or key phrases, put a box around important dates, or circle words that might be unfamiliar to them.By looking ahead at questions that the students may be asked to independently answer, the teacher can reinforce key portions of the text that students may later need. These marks create a “map” for students to use when completing work on their own.

ON-TASK CHECK-IN
Another easy way to make sure everyone is on track and able to participate, is to ask students to point to a specific word, picture, or section of the text.  Then, using a neutral tone the teacher might say, “If you’re having trouble finding your place please show me a quick hand.”  Students who quickly raise and lower their hands will be spotted by other neighboring children.  Students enjoy being helpful.  The teacher would then ask the class as a whole, “If your neighbors need help, could you please show them where we are in the text?”  Pausing only as long as needed, the teacher would then resume reading aloud.Some students may be hesitant to admit they have lost their place.  It helps if the teacher moves closer and is ready to show them the correct location in the text the next time there is a pause.  A quiet bit of encouragement can help build confidence.  It can be as simple as, “Sometimes it’s hard to follow along, but with practice you’ll get better at it.”

FRIENDLY COMPETITION
To encourage off-task students to join in, the teacher can offer the whole class a challenge.  After students complete a sentence aloud, the teacher might say, “I noticed that the students by the windows read well with clear voices.  Nice job!  Let’s see what the other side of the room can do, next time!”

MODELING
As the teacher reads aloud, he or she can model reading comprehension strategies such as summarizing, sequencing, inferring, comparing and contrasting, drawing conclusions, self-questioning, problem-solving, and relating background knowledge.This doesn’t require any specific preparation.  In fact, sometimes it’s best done by teachers when they are reading the material aloud for the first time.

For example, when the teacher reads a word or phrase that might be challenging for students, the teacher can pause and ask, “It says that these groups of people were hunters and gatherers.  What do you think that means?” 

Students will offer ideas, and the teacher can respond to each idea with a short comment such as “thank you, interesting, I hadn’t thought of that, or good inference.”  The teacher can then say, “Let’s read more and see if we can find out what it means.”

Students also benefit from hearing the teacher reflect on the content.  To encourage students who might feel overwhelmed by the reading content, a fourth grade teacher might say, “This section looks like something you’d learn in fifth grade.  It may be challenging, but I think we can do it!”  Or, to set a purpose for the whole class, the teacher could say, “Looking at the words in bold on this page, I think we’re going to be learning about the way plants grow. Let’s find out!”

The more teachers pay attention to their own internal dialog during reading, the easier it is model good reading strategies.  

When working with information-dense reading content, students need practice tracking the text, identifying important details, and asking clarifying questions. With a little help and motivation, students can learn to independently tackle even the most information-dense material!

LOOKING FOR MORE IDEAS?
Check out the free supplement included with the resource Election Unit: Electing the President Print-and-Go!

 

A Few of My Favorite Things

In the last few weeks, I’ve seen a passel (fun word of the day!) of great FREE or low-cost ideas and thought to myself, I should do a blog post about that.  Hopefully, you’ll find something new and interesting in the potpourri collection I’ve assembled below!

First up, six art projects that caught my eye.  For example, who ever thought of doing “stained glass” Halloween decorations?  These ideas all have a unique twist that makes them stand out.

Falling back in Space Portraits~ Students trace hands and feet, and then fill in their other features. Great anytime project! Check out this and other fun posts at Oodles of Art!

Falling Back in Space Portraits~ Students trace hands and feet, and then fill in their other features. Great anytime project! Check out this and other fun posts at Oodles of Art!

FREE Paper Chipmunk~ This cute critter is made completely from paper! Canon's Creative Park site offers pattern pages and assembly instructions for dogs, cats, insects, vehicles, toys, a sundial, and a whole lot more. The downside is that you'll be using a lot of printer ink and many of the assembly directions are best suited for older children. However, if your kids have some dexterity and patience, the final products are amazingly realistic!

FREE Paper Chipmunk~ This cute critter is made completely from paper! Canon’s Creative Park site offers pattern pages and assembly instructions for dogs, cats, insects, vehicles, toys, a sundial, and a whole lot more. The downside is that you’ll be using a lot of printer ink and many of the assembly directions are best suited for older children. However, if your kids have some dexterity and patience, the final products are amazingly realistic!

FREE Coloring Pages~ This is my new favorite site for coloring pages. Each one has lots of details that make coloring so fun! Check out the ram, gecko, lion, and ocean scenes. Love these!

FREE Coloring Pages~ This is my new favorite site for coloring pages. Each one has lots of details that make coloring so fun! Check out the ram, gecko, lion, and ocean scenes. Love these!

Halloween Stained Glass Creatures~ Make your own, or buy Pink and Green Mama's art ebook ($10) for easy-to-use templates. Looks like she has a lot of other great ideas, too!

Halloween Stained Glass Creatures~ Make your own, or buy Pink and Green Mama’s art ebook ($10) for easy-to-use templates. Looks like she has a lot of other great ideas, too!

Animal Art Lesson~ Start with a magazine clipping and then let the students expand the picture. I thought about using animals from a particular continent and tying the lesson into a science or geography unit.

Animal Art Lesson~ Start with a magazine clipping and then let the students expand the picture. I thought about using animals from a particular continent and tying the lesson into a science or geography unit.

Snowflake Paper Craft~ Perhaps the coolest thing about this project is that the website it came from is in Finnish (I think!) and I was able to click "translate" on the top "Google translate" bar... and it did. At least well enough that I got the gist of this project. Pretty, not-too-challenging, low-cost craft!

Snowflake Paper Craft~ Perhaps the coolest thing about this project is that the website it came from is in Finnish (I think!) and I was able to click “translate” on the top “Google translate” bar… and it did. At least well enough that I got the gist of this project. A pretty, not-too-challenging, low-cost craft!

Next up, a bunch of cool science resources.  These experiments and activities could be used for class demonstrations, science fair projects, or at home– just for fun!

FREE Cloud Guide~ From time to time, everyone watches the clouds roll by.  Now you can use this quick reference to identify (and pronounce) whatever weather comes your way!

FREE Cloud Guide~ From time to time, everyone watches the clouds roll by. Now you can use this quick reference to identify (and pronounce) whatever weather comes your way!

Do-It-Yourself Sundial~ This simple yet effective sundial was made by placing a pencil in a ball of clay. Every hour a stone was placed to mark time. The sundial in the picture goes from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Check out this fun blog post, and more at Otherwise Educating!

Do-It-Yourself Sundial~ This simple yet effective sundial was made by placing a pencil in a ball of clay. Every hour a stone was placed to mark time. The sundial in the picture goes from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Check out this fun blog post, and more, at Otherwise Educating!

FREE Green Planter Idea~ Use recycled pop bottles to make self- watering planters. You'll also need potting soil, seeds, thick string, a Phillips screwdriver, hammer, and a sharp blade to cut the bottle. These are great science projects, craft sale items, or holiday gifts. Cheap, easy, and fun!

FREE Green Planter Idea~ Use recycled pop bottles to make self-watering planters. You’ll also need potting soil, seeds, thick string, a Phillips screwdriver, hammer, and a sharp blade to cut the bottle. These are great science projects, craft sale items, or holiday gifts. Cheap, easy, and fun!

FREE Video~ Learn how to make your own Seven Layer Density Column. Steve Spangler "stacks" liquids using a 9-oz. measuring cup, a tall, glass cylinder, and a turkey baster. Liquids include: light Karo syrup, water, vegetable oil, Dawn dish soap (blue), rubbing alcohol, lamp oil, honey, and food coloring. The preparation's a little cumbersome, but the "WOW" factor makes it all worthwhile! Limited budget? Watch the video together, and then let kids make their own concoctions at home!

FREE Video~ Learn how to make your own Seven Layer Density Column. Steve Spangler “stacks” liquids using a 9-oz. measuring cup, a tall, glass cylinder, and a turkey baster. Liquids include: light Karo syrup, water, vegetable oil, Dawn dish soap (blue), rubbing alcohol, lamp oil, honey, and food coloring. The preparation’s a little cumbersome, but the “WOW” factor makes it all worthwhile! Limited budget? Watch the video together, and then let kids make their own concoctions at home!

Constellation Keychain~ Even if you don't teach science, find a way to weave this project into your curriculum. It's that cool!

Constellation Keychain~ Even if you don’t teach science, find a way to weave this project into your curriculum. It’s that cool!

FREE Science Videos~ Disney presents short, interesting science demonstrations by Bill Nye. Each clip is 1-2 minutes, loads right from the home page, and is kid-friendly! Great resource for students looking for science project ideas or for introducing new science concepts to a whole class. Sample demos include: raw egg floating in salt water, static electricity, how atmospheric pressure works, and making a periscope. Fun, fast, and free!

FREE Science Videos~ Disney presents short, interesting science demonstrations by Bill Nye. Each clip is 1-2 minutes, loads right from the home page, and is kid-friendly.  Great resource for students looking for science project ideas or for introducing new concepts to the whole class. Demos include: floating a raw egg in salt water, static electricity, how atmospheric pressure works, making a periscope, and more. Fun, fast, and free!

Here are some great resources for character education and teaching children about good making appropriate choices.  Included lesson plans, videos, and a great list of kid-friendly, random acts of kindness.

FREE Online Character Education Resource~ This catchy tune teaches children that being kind is the best way to "Fill Your Bucket." Performed by The Learning Station, the video includes lots of examples and pictures that help make the concept concrete. The BIG IDEA: WE "fill our buckets" as well as those around us when we hold hands, share, and help others. A great lesson for all ages!

AMAZING, FREE Character Education Resource~ Westwood-Bale School provides five years worth of lessons and resources for teaching about trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring, and citizenship. If you’re short on time, this “one-stop-shop” will provide multiple lesson ideas, links, and resources for EACH of these six character traits. Information is well-organized, concise, and diverse!

FREE Online Character Education Resource~ This catchy tune teaches children that being kind is the best way to "Fill Your Bucket." Performed by The Learning Station, the video includes lots of examples and pictures that help make the concept concrete. The BIG IDEA: WE "fill our buckets" as well as those around us when we hold hands, share, and help others. A great lesson for all ages!

FREE Online Character Education Resource~ This catchy tune teaches children that being kind is the best way to “Fill Your Bucket.” Performed by The Learning Station, the video includes lots of examples and pictures that help make the concept concrete. The BIG IDEA: WE “fill our buckets” as well as those around us when we hold hands, share, and help others. A great lesson for all ages!

FREE Behavior Bracelets~ Check out this great behavior management freebie, or make your own. The download includes a recipe for an easy lick-and-stick recipe that makes earning these bracelets even cooler. Kids wear them home, and Mom and Dad reinforce their good choices!

FREE Behavior Bracelets~ Check out this great behavior management freebie, or make your own. The download includes a recipe for an easy lick-and-stick recipe that makes earning these bracelets even cooler. Kids wear them home, and Mom and Dad reinforce their good choices!

35 Random Acts of Kindness~ For her 35th birthday, this blogger and her two children performed 35 acts of kindness. Each is explained and includes a picture. My favorite-- leaving dollar bills hidden in the toy section of the local dollar store! Creative and inspiring!

35 Random Acts of Kindness~ For her 35th birthday, this blogger and her two children performed 35 acts of kindness. Each is explained and includes a picture. My favorite– leaving dollar bills hidden in the toy section of the local dollar store! Creative and inspiring!

These are the last, few ideas that recently caught my attention.  If you’re a techy, ELA teacher, make sure you check out the final entry of this post!

Tagless Desk Name Tags~ Sharpie Paint pens are the secret to writing student names right on desks. No picking, peeling, or rubbing off. A dry erase marker and tissue easily removes the name at year's end. Check out this and other interesting blog posts at Timeout and Tootsie Rolls!

Tagless Desk Name Tags~ Sharpie Paint pens are the secret to writing student names right on student desks. No picking, peeling, or rubbing off. A dry erase marker and tissue easily remove names at year’s end. Check out this and other interesting blog posts at Timeout and Tootsie Rolls!

Turn a vintage straw dispenser into a pencil dispenser. Neat idea! This one from etsy is already sold, but you get the idea!

Turn a vintage straw dispenser into a pencil dispenser. Clever idea! This one from etsy is already sold, but you get the idea!

FREE List of Authors Who Skype~  Kate Messner offers a long list of authors willing to make a virtual visit to your school.  Connected via Skype with authors of their favorite books will make literature exciting for even the most relucatant reading.  Best of all, these 15-to-20 minute Q&A sessions are free!

FREE List of Authors Who Skype~ Kate Messner offers a long list of authors willing to make a virtual visit to your school. Connected via Skype with authors of their favorite books will make literature exciting for even the most reluctant reader. Best of all, these 15-to-20 minute Q&A sessions are free!

Hopefully you found a few “favorite things” of your own!

3 Fun Summer Projects

Kids restless?  Need a great idea– RIGHT NOW?  Here are three fun and easy activities that everyone will enjoy!

Popsicle Bookmarks~  Print, color, cut out, “take a bite,” glue to a craft stick, and you’re done.  Great reminder to keep reading during the summer!

Popsicle Bookmarks~ Print, color, cut out, “take a bite,” glue to a craft stick, and you’re done. Great reminder to keep reading during the summer!

This idea came from crafty blogger, Lisa Storms.  Want more bookmark ideas?  Check out this bookmark-themed Pinterest board.

Warm Weather “Snow Globe”~  Flowers, glitter, plastic  gems or butterflies make this project beautiful and fun!  Recycle creamer containers or any plastic bottle, add electrical tape grass and sky with a few paper clouds, and your kids have their own indoor garden.

Warm Weather “Snow Globe”~ Use flowers, glitter, and plastic gems or butterflies to create this fun, beautiful project!  Recycle creamer containers or any plastic bottle, add electrical tape grass and sky with a few paper clouds, and your kids have their own indoor garden!

Use all the treasures the kids collect at the beach, hiking, or in their own back yard!  This smart idea came from My Little 3… and Me.  Too rainy to get outdoors?  Grab some eggs, oranges, or potatoes and try out some fun, indoor, science experiments.  Find these, and a bunch of other great ideas at Science Kids!

NO DYE Tie Dye T-Shirts~  Kids use Sharpie markers to create their own colorful designs.  Stretch sections of a 100% cotton t-shirt over the tops of sturdy paper cups.  Secure with  rubber bands.  Color.  Add a bit of rubbing alcohol and let design dry.  Remove bands.   Wash separately on  hot and dry.  Children will enjoy wearing their  custom creations all summer long!

NO DYE Tie-Dye T-Shirts~ Kids use Sharpie markers to create their own colorful designs. Stretch sections of a 100% cotton t-shirt over the tops of sturdy paper cups. Secure with rubber bands. Color. Add a bit of rubbing alcohol and let design dry. Remove bands. Wash separately on hot and dry. Children will enjoy wearing their custom creations all summer long!

Love tie-dye, but don’t like all the mess and preparation?  This idea is great for you, and for the kids.  Using a few items you probably already have around the house, you can make these shirts in about an hour.  Get more details from Sun Scholars.  Learn more about the science behind the process and get a lot more great ideas at Steve Spangler Science.

Need more great ideas?  Check out these Pinterest boards, Teaching & Having Fun w/ Kids and Cures for Bored Kids.  For even more FREE activity ideas head to Lessons4Now FREE and Lessons4Now facebook page.

No-Prep Activity Ideas

Whether it’s the end of the year or just another Tuesday, all teachers have days when they need a little time to record grades from the last lesson, gather materials, or talk privately to a student.  Here are a few ways to keep students engaged.

jpg_103005-office-suppliesTo alleviate students’ fears about “getting things right,” tell them they’re only required to participate, work cooperatively, and complete the task without teacher support or intervention.

Even though the work is not graded, collecting papers at the end of an activity encourages appropriate behavior and participation.  The “reward” for students is interactive time with peers, a break from structured right/wrong responses, and/or a chance to share with the group at the end of the activity.

1.  Free Write:  Put three words on the board and have students write a story starter that logically includes all the words, or any form of the words.  Remind students not to worry about spelling or handwriting during this creative time.  Before starting the next lesson, allow one or two volunteers to read their story starters.jpg_hldn041  Collect all papers and keep for possible later use.

►Sample word combinations:toy-magic-snow/shark-treasure-hiccups/invisible-kitten-surprise/boy-recipe-boom.

2.  Brain Energizer:  Students silently walk X number of laps around the desks.  Have children enter the line by row and start walking in the same direction.  Define the “rules of the road.”  EX:  No speeding, no passing.  The line leader keeps track of the laps as they pass a certain “landmark.”  As they go past the landmark the final time, students file back into their rows and follow the written directions on the board.

►When they get good at this, you can add marching, walking in the other direction, or having a leader introduce a different arm motion at the beginning of each lap.

3.  Cooperative Puzzles:  Quickly assign pairs or small groups.  Give students X mjpg_0627IDEAinutes to identify as many ways as possible to solve a problem.  Ask one or two students to share the solutions they came up with at the end.  Collect any papers.

►Sample puzzles: list of ten items for a camping trip/three ways to raise $50 for a charity/create a new classroom seating chart/plan a menu for a week of healthy school lunches/use only hands to form all the vowels/make up at least 12 math problems that have 7 as the answer/create a rhyme that could help teach the importance of one of the classroom rules.

4.  Eye Spy:  Set the timer.  Students will have X number of minutes to silently list all the things they can see that begin with a specific letter of the alphabet.  They must remain seated.  Spelling and handwriting don’t count.  You can quickly glance at lists and reward 2-3 students for their work.

►If you have more time, students can read items from their lists aloud.  Students cross off each item they hear someone else say.  Have the winning student collect all papers.jpg_Education-037-color

5.  The Classic:  Students read silently.  They may choose a book from their desks to read for pleasure, or the teacher can assign a specific reading selection.

►Students can be given a task such as locating six examples of figurative language, identifying 12 words with the long a sound, finding twelve, three-syllable nouns, or whatever.  Require students to write out their answers and provide the appropriate page numbers.

6.  Art Activity:  Turn on some classical music and let students express themselves with drawing.

►Sample ideas: draw a machine with 10+ parts that turns on a light switch/draw a desert (or other) animal in its natural habitat/make an advertisement to sell your favorite book.

FREE Online Resource for Mandalas~ This site offers diverse and interesting mandalas for coloring. Download mandalas from 6 themes (animals, countries, dragons, etc.) and three levels (beginner, advanced, and expert). Designs may be printed in black and white for students to color, or they can be colored online and then printed out. Great for connecting activities to a wide variety of topics!

BONUS IDEA~  Color intricate mandalas with diverse and interesting patterns like this one from Australia.  Downloads include 6 themes (animals, countries, dragons, etc.) and three levels (beginner, advanced, and expert). Designs may be printed in black and white for students to color, or they can be colored online and then printed out.  Great for connecting activities to a wide variety of topics!

Check out another great mandala website, as well as many other great FREE resources on this site and Pinterest!

Banish Bullying

We implement a well-known bullying prevention program at our school.  There’s also a plan in place for dealing with all kinds of inappropriate behavior.  Citizenship awards are given out each month.  And, there are even special lunch programs to encourage children to be inclusive.

Even so, this year reports of bullying are on the rise.  More and more students are being verbally “teased” or physically picked on.  Others complain about “drama,” a word children often use when they feel shut out or excluded by someone they once considered a friend.

Whatever name students give these behaviors, it all boils down to the same thing– someone is repeatedly being made to feel inferior or unsafe due to the actions of someone else.

Bully PicAfter searching for ideas that might help bring home the importance of being kind to one another, I stumbled on two blog posts.  The first article, “My Class’s Antibullying Campaign,” was at the blog Nerdy, Nerdy, Nerdy!  The author of that blog cited yet another post by Eric Johnson, “Erasing Meanness.”  Check it out at ‘Your Kids’ Teacher.

I carefully read both articles and then decided to give Mr. Johnson’s program a try.  The plan requires about 20 minutes a day, four days in a row.  It’s free, requires no special skills, and can be implemented in most any classroom that has online access to show videos.  Interested?  Start with the two blog posts listed above.

Here’s how the plan was used in our classroom.

Day 1 

DSCF4733Remove everything from the board, clean it really well, and then use big letters to write “mean” in the middle of the board.

Show the video “Anti-Bullying PSA: The Price of Silence.”

Ask students:

1)  What was the video about?
2)  What was  ___ (character) thinking?
3)  Why did  ___ (character) act the way s/he did in the video?

***

My students identified several roles in the video:  bully, victim, passive onlooker, and active onlooker.  They recognized that fear, powerlessness, ignorance, and a need for acceptance, as well as many other emotions, might have been in play.

Day 2

DSCF4736Before school starts, fill the board with synonyms for mean, hate, and bullying.  As Mr. Johnson suggests, I used only “black and blue” markers.  Some words were repeated.  I also enlisted the help of several K-3 teachers to speed things along.  The alphabetized list of words below will help you get started.

Picture listShow the video “Stand Up, Stand Out: No Checking, No Capping, No Bullying.”

Some speakers in this video have a slight Southern accent and/or use slang that may be unfamiliar to students.  This is a good opportunity to remind students about cultural differences and emphasize the lessons to be learned when listeners keep an open mind about the speaker(s).

Ask students:

1)  How do you feel about teasing others and being teased?
2)  Is “teasing” joking and kidding around, or is it bullying?
3)  Why do people “check” or tease others?

***

Day 3

DSCF4747

Before school write “How do you want to be remembered?” on the board.  First, I “drew” the words using the edge of an eraser.  Then, I wrote in the letters using a thick, red line.  Empty areas were filled in with extra words.

Show and discuss the videos: “Being a Friend” and “Stop Bullying PSA.”

I love the third suggested video, “Don’t Laugh at Me” by Mark Wills.  Due to community standards where I teach, I reluctantly decided against using it at my grade level.

Ask students:

1)  Besides standing up to a bully, what else can you do– if you’re being bullied or if you want to help a victim?
2)  How can you make others feel wanted and important?
3)  Do you think it makes a difference when someone walks up to a victim after they’ve been bullied?  Why?

***

Encourage students to think about how they would want to be remembered by their peers if they suddenly had to move to another school.

Day 4

The teacher doesn’t need to make any changes to the board, today.

Show the video “Perfect” by Ahmir.

This video captured my students attention more than any of the others shown earlier in the week.  That said, it’s important to preview all materials used in the classroom to ensure that they are appropriate for your grade level and community.  This video mentions “drinking a nice cold beer.”  It’s the only such reference, and the performers are of drinking age.

Ask students:

1)  What happened in the video?
2)  Do you think this could really happen?
3)  Why do you think this particular song was used in the video?

***

Tell the students that the idea for these lessons originally came from an online article with the title, “Erasing Meanness.”   Ask them, “What do you think the author meant when he selected that title?”

Announce that today they can literally erase meanness by replacing unkind words with happier words of their own.  Allow students to use brightly colored markers to replace the words they choose to erase.

Meanness eraseWhen students comment that there are still lots of “black and blue” words, ask them, “What would happen if another group of students were also able to erase words?”  This should help them understand that  they can’t “erase” all meanness and bullying by themselves, but their efforts can make a BIG difference.

Show one final video, “Antibullying- You are Perfect.”  This video was made by students and can also be found on the blog, Nerdy, Nerdy, Nerdy! mentioned at the beginning of this post.

The situations in this final video resonated with my students and left them feeling empowered.  It was a great way to wrap up this week-long experience!

Final Thoughts

My grade-level teaching partner and I both taught these lessons on the same days.  At week’s end, two children who argue so much that they can’t even be in the same homeroom,  began playing together at recess.  Several “hands-on” students started doing a better job maintaining their own personal space.  The entire class behaved in a more thoughtful manner and there was an increase in daily acts of kindness.

Did it last?  For awhile.  I believe that some parts of some lessons stuck with some children– permanently.  There’s no test for mastery of this “skill.”  Teaching children how to erase meanness is an ongoing process that requires consistent modeling and reinforcement.

If you try this plan, when you’re done I hope you’ll do what I did… pass it on!

Additional anti-bullying resource links:

http://www.greatschools.org/parenting/bullying/7265-best-viral-antibullying-videos.gs
http://www.stopbullying.gov/
http://www.bostonpublicschools.org/antibullying
http://www.cnn.com/2010/US/studentnews/09/30/antibullying.resource/index.html
http://www.ellentv.com/2010/10/06/resources-to-help-stop-bullying/

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Click here for a FREE download of the lesson and resources described above.

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