Slice of Life Tuesday: Time’s Running Out

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Slice of Life Small LogoTime’s Running Out

It’s hard to believe, but the school year is almost over. We have a few precious days left for inspiration, creativity, and learning. How will we use our time?

Of course, we will assess. It’s testing season, and the standardized tests will take up much of our time and energy. I don’t want my focus there. Testing is not inspirational or creative. I pledge to use my time on the following literacy activities:

1) Reading Aloud. I love sharing stories, poems, and articles with others — students and colleagues. I will read aloud each day. Research shows that reading aloud inspires students, encourages thinking, and helps overall achievement.

2) Talking about Reading. When students are allowed to share, students learn more. Plus, students are tired of the teacher talk. I know. I talk too much. They are sick of me! I will offer time for peers to discuss their favorite scenes from books, question each other’s choices, and reflect on their own readings. Talking about reading is a great way to provide students with a voice in the classroom. Each voice counts.

3) Writing and Sharing. Students in my classes love free writing time. No assignment, per se — just write. The most creative, inspirational stories I’ve read are from this laid-back, yet structured time. Once testing is over and assignments are completed, it’s time for students to show what they know. It always amazes me…they know a lot! And don’t forget sharing. Sharing time provides a purpose, a captivated audience, and much-needed fun.

The last days of school are stressful. As teachers, we try to get all the teaching in before time runs out. Reading aloud, talking about reading, and writing for the purpose of sharing are worthwhile ways to spend time with the kids. Time never runs out to grow life-long learners.

 

SOLSC Day 9: Knucklehead

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Slice of Life Small LogoThe March Slice of Life Story Challenge is hosted by http://www.twowritingteachers.wordpress.com.

Being a Knucklehead

My ELA classes are participating in the Slice of Life Story Challenge with me this year. We couldn’t commit to the challenge officially, due to ISTEP testing and the lack of technology in our school/homes, but we have been studying what some slices might look like. One of my favorite mentor books to read aloud during this time of year is Knucklehead, by Jon Scieszka. The accounts of the “tall tales and almost true stories of growing up Scieszka” are hilarious, energetic, and entertaining.

The first chapter, “Beginning,” introduces Jon and his 5 brothers, his mom, and his dad. We totally relate — immediately! My students laugh out loud as I read, and then we go off to our writing places to record our own lives.  Not a day goes by that we don’t get some fabulous idea from Jon and his family. If I had to guess, here on Day 9, I would say that many of my students would label themselves “knuckleheads.” Maybe it’s true, maybe it’s not. But all of them honor this wonderful mentor knucklehead by attempting to write like him. What a way to SLICE!

 

 

Slice of Life Tuesday: Who’s Having More Fun?

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I just opened the front door and found two boxes on the freezing cold front porch. I stepped outside for a few seconds to carry the unexpected, unexpectedly large boxes inside. The boxes were not heavy, but awkward, and I had to turn them both at an angle to get them in the door. Ok…I didn’t have to turn them 45 degrees or anything; the cardboard containers were not that large, about the size of vinyls or big picture books…OOH! It came!

The first box was my daughter’s new vinyl (I called them records when I was young — times have changed). She’s into music right now. But I — I got the book! I was so excited to receive my granddaughter’s birthday gift early — I Don’t Want To Be a Frog by Dev Petty! I wasn’t ready for it; I don’t need it until July, but I ordered it, and it’s here! “Why did you order it so early?” you ask? Here’s the truth: I love picture books, even more than my granddaughter, more than my kids, more than my students!

Last week, I packed my bag for school, carrying Sam and Dave Dig a Hole, Blackout, Blizzard, Snow Day, and Once Upon an Alphabet. My sixth graders buzzed around the room when they saw me unload. “Are you going to read new picture books today?”

“Of course!” I exclaimed. I love to share my new picture books with my “grown-up” sixth graders. They gather in the meeting area, never quietly, always giggling, and I share my new finds. Even though these are the “little kid” books, we read them. We’ve been talking about award-winners in literature, so this was well worth the instructional minutes. (Motivating students to read is always worth the instructional minutes.)

One of my students inquired, “You get really excited about this stuff, don’t you?” Yep. True story.

Who’s Having More Fun?

I’d have to say, “Me!”

 

Curriculum Tip: March 12, 2013

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Reading aloud is one of the best ways to engage your students in reading class! Reading aloud helps students:

* to listen to fluent reading and build comprehension

* to focus on strategies of reading without having to worry about decoding (best for struggling readers)

* to enjoy reading time and bond with a great reader (you!)

Consider reading aloud to your students at least 10 – 15 minutes a day. My favorite read aloud books are picture books that students sometimes overlook because they think they are “baby books.” But look closely — these books are full of figurative language, intriguing words, and wonderful lessons about life and learning. Ask a middle school student to sit on the floor and listen to a good book. They love it!

Best read aloud recommendations: More Than Anything Else (Marie Bradby), Pink and Say (Polacco), The Tiger Rising (novel by Kate DiCamillo), and my holiday favorite, A Season of Gifts (Richard Peck).