The New York Times has many lesson plans and other resources for educators that can help with the integration of current events. One portion of the site that you may not know about is the page that offers, “Over 50 Reusable Activity Sheets to Teach any Day’s Times.” With downloadable PDF’s of graphic organizers, games, discussion starters, and other lesson ideas, this page should be bookmarked on the computer of any upper elementary – secondary educator. One of my recent discoveries was the, “Literature Quote Bingo” PDF, (which just happens to include one of my most favorite Harry Potter quotes of all time). The students must match famous quotes to news stories, which is a great way to demonstrate understanding of the quotes and make connections to real world events. This is an open-ended activity that could be used with any selection of quotes. If your students enjoy quotes as much as mine do, then they will find it engaging and you will get some valuable insight into their perspectives.
On Monday, I wrote about Tarr’s Toolbox and one of the resources you can find there, the “Wheel of Life.” My 4th graders have been reading Tuck Everlasting (R.I.P. Natalie Babbitt, who died October, 2016), which uses wheels and circles for symbolism throughout the novel. They have also been discussing the attributes of the main characters, so I thought the “Wheel of Life” would be a fitting activity to try with them.
There are many ways this activity can be done, and Russel Tarr has great suggestions on his blog. Because it was their first time doing this, I gave the students character traits to copy on their wheel, and deliberately asked them to put them in the same spots on their wheels. Then I “secretly” assigned each student a character to plot the points for, and told them to hold off on writing the name of the character at the top. I deliberately assigned the same characters to several students so we could compare their responses later.
When everyone was done, we went around the room and tried to guess the character by how each student’s Wheel of Life looked. It was almost eerie how easy it was – until we got to one student’s graph. After several wrong guesses from her classmates, she finally had to reveal her character’s name.
Jaws dropped and there was immediately the beginning of a debate. However, an unexpected interruption happened before we could discuss the varied opinions, making us table our questions until next week’s class.
The conversation associated with this activity is so deep and rich. I can’t wait to continue it next week. I also see some other extensions that we can do, such as creating graphs for our own personalities to compare and contrast with the characters in the story.
The experience with this lesson reminded me of the great learning that happened last year when we used Hexagonal Learning to examine our literature. If you are looking to integrate higher levels of Bloom’s into your lessons, I highly recommend both of these activities.
When you can give students time to deeply discuss a text, you may be surprised by the connections and conclusions they make on their own. This is the purpose of “Hexagonal Learning.” You can read more about the origins and many uses of Hexagonal Learning in a blog post I wrote 4 years ago on the topic. (I can’t believe it has been that long!!)
When my gifted fourth graders completed Tuck Everlasting, I wanted to facilitate a rich and meaningful discussion about the novel. Ahead of time, I visited Pam Hook’s SOLO Hexagon Generator and created 3 pages of terms from Tuck. One sheet included a character’s name in each hexagon. The 2nd sheet, printed on a different color, had one of the book’s themes in each hexagon, and the 3rd sheet, also printed on a different color, had symbols from the book. I also printed a 4th sheet as a blank, so students could add more words to hexagons.
The task for the students was to connect the hexagons in as many ways as they could. Having learned about tessellations, they already knew how easily several could connect together. I explained that I was looking for “deep” connections, not something like putting two characters together because they were both boys. Then, I split the students into small groups, and gave each group a set of the hexagons and a long piece of paper to slide them around on. Then I “hovered” so I could listen to their conversations.
The first thing I noticed was that they stayed completely on task, and took the discussion very seriously. They got very excited when they were able to put several hexagons around one central word. When I worried that there wasn’t really a meaningful connection, they were quick to explain to me what I had been missing. The groups had completely different conversations, and their final “hives” took on dissimilar shapes.
At the end, the students looked at each other’s collections, and asked questions to clarify. Their faces would change from perplexed or slightly critical to understanding and, sometimes, even admiration for the unique connections.
I feel like this was definitely a better way for the students to make sense of the book we read than if I had lectured them about it. In fact, I may have learned a few things about Tuck Everlasting from listening to them that I’d never considered before! (Click on images to enlarge.)
Larry Ferlazzo recently published a post on his blog about a site called Word Sift. I decided to try it out with a text that I am reading to my 5th grade students, hoping to give it more meaning.
We just finished reading The Giver together, and Lois Lowry’s Newbery Acceptance speech for the honor received by this book is included in my edition only. It is an amazing speech, and the students always become excited as the revelations are made that connect all of the pieces in the book to Lowry’s life. However, I am regularly seeking ways to add some more interactivity to this oral reading and discussion. This year, the students created mind maps with the book’s recurring themes (which we analyzed using LitCharts) as different nodes. They are adding the relevant examples from Lowry’s speech to the nodes as I read. Word Sift might add another layer to this analysis with its visual representations.
I copied and pasted the text of Lowry’s speech into Word Sift to see the results. Word Sift will not only give you word clouds, which can be modified in several ways, but you can also select words from the cloud to see them in context and images from the web that represent them. There is also a connection to a visual thesaurus.
With the word cloud, you can highlight certain vocabulary, such as Marzano & Pickering words from the 4 core subjects. You can also sort the words alphabetically or by how rare each word is in our language.
This tool would certainly be an asset for ELL’s, but it is a great resource for anyone who would like to examine a text more deeply, and to learn more about the words used to compose it.
As many schools begin to realize the need to integrate more STEM/STEAM into the curriculum, those of us in elementary education who may feel a bit inadequate when it comes to lofty fields like engineering sometimes have a hard time incorporating it into our lessons. Novel Engineering is a project that aims to show how engineering and language arts don’t have to be in separate time slots on your daily schedule.
From what I can tell the Novel Engineering project is open only to a few schools at the moment. However, you can see what it’s all about in the video synapsis on the home page. Basically, certain books seem to pose engineering challenges which are just waiting for a skilled design thinker to solve. You can see several examples of novels that could be used here. For example, Tuck Everlasting offers two potential engineering problems – how to hide the water that gives eternal life, and how to help Mae Tuck escape jail before the town discovers that she is immortal.
Even though it would be nice to have access to additional program materials and examples, I think that teachers can certainly get many ideas from the novels and their corresponding engineering challenges that are shared on the site.
@LearnMooreStuff and I had a history-textbook-worthy Twitter battle yesterday over who would blog first about this amazing resource from @TechChef4U. Laura Moore graciously conceded (although I think she is secretly afraid that my light saber is more powerful than hers).
I love to use Padlet (formerly known as Wallwisher), and I’ve recently started to make my own backgrounds to organize the notes added to the board. Yesterday, Lisa Johnson (@TechChef4U) tweeted out an awesome resource that she is offering for free – 13 Graphic Organizer backgrounds to add as your Padlet wallpaper. That is truly an awesome deal! She even gives instructions on how to insert them.
If you want to make your own Padlet backgrounds, one easy way is to make one in Powerpoint or Keynote and save the slide as a .jpg file. If you check out this post from Cari Young, there is a video from The Organized Classroom that gives a tutorial for using slides to make desktop backgrounds – which could easily apply to making Padlet backgrounds as well.
Recently, I’ve used backgrounds in Padlet for mini-EdCamp type PD. Teachers add notes about what they would like to learn about, and then the notes can be sorted into sessions.
Padlet is such a versatile tool – device neutral and user-friendly. And, there have been two recent upgrades – an option to have a grid layout, as well as a Chrome extension. Now, thanks to Lisa Johnson, it has even more potential!
As a teacher, do you ever have a moment when no one needs your help, and you are standing in the middle of your classroom wondering what you should be doing? In my twenty years of teaching, I think that’s happened twice: when I was student teaching and had no idea what I was supposed to be doing anyway, and today. I showed my students Storybird, which allows you to choose sets of art to illustrate a story that you write. I meant for it to be a station on some computers in my classroom, but the students who started at that station didn’t want to leave. So, I started pulling out laptops until everyone was working on their own stories. For over an hour, there was silence in my room, and every child was engaged in creating his or her own story. We had been studying Figurative Language, and the assignment was to create a story with a winter theme that used at least 4 different types of figurative language.
After lunch, I thought the students might be weary of sitting in front of computer screens. I began saying, “Okay, you have a choice. You can either continue working on your Storybirds or – ” I didn’t even get to finish. They unanimously agreed that they wanted to continue.
Storybird is free. Register as a teacher, and you can add a class of students easily. The students do not need e-mail addresses to register or log in. You can view their work at any time, and they can also view the work of other students in the class by clicking on a tab at the top. They can comment, as can the teacher. It’s online, and easy to share, so they can show friends and family. The teacher can post specific assignments or the students can just create. Collaboration on stories is possible, and reading the stories of others is inspiring. The art work is charming and lovely.
Here is a sample from one of my 4th graders: (I apologize if some of the words are cut off – WordPress does not “play well” with embed codes!)
Vodpod videos no longer available.