Sunday, December 1, 2019

Books to Teach Honesty

HONESTY. What a timely topic, especially in light of our current times! Once again, picture books to the rescue to teach theme and character traits! (Not character as in a book, but character as in one's true personality)
(This post contains Amazon affiliate links. This means that Amazon sends me a little pocket change, at no cost to you, if you purchase through one of these links. This helps keep my site running and fund giveaways for you!)

Although this looks like a children’s book,  The Lying King  bears an uncanny resemblance to our current adult times. This parable portrays the King as a bully who is so full of himself, he claims to be the “greatest.” He taunts and torments other animals to make himself feel good, but few of those animals are willing to speak out and call the king on his lies. The other animals remain silent, doing nothing to stop the warthog from becoming king. He even turns his loyal subjects against one another until they didn’t know who they could trust. The king insults and calls animals who are honest, “cheaters.”  His lies became so bold and outrageous, that eventually no one believed a word he said. However, this book ends with hope: no one, not even a king can forever keep an ill-gotten crown. In many ways, this tale reminds me of a cross between The Emperor's New  Clothes and The Boy Who Cried Wolf.  Your students will immediately feel the injustice of the king's words and actions.

Honesty is a great topic for morning meeting! Brainstorm as a class and chart:
  • Definition of honesty 
  • Why is honesty important to: society, in friendships, with family, and  teachers?
  • Should one always tell the whole honest truth? (This question alone will prompt MANY real-life examples and enthusiastic discussions!)

Sunday, November 17, 2019

For the Love of Bookmaking

November . . .  the time of year when students are starting to get antsy for Winter Break, yet it's still not close enough. Teachers are tired, parent conference time and report cards are here, the time change has made it darker earlier. . . Bookmaking is the perfect solution for reinvigorating your students' writing in any content area! For some reason, when students know they are making a book, the quality of their writing improves and they are excited and motivated to do their best work.
Former students (and parents!) often return to reminisce about all the books they wrote in fourth grade. While random papers and notebooks often are thrown in the trash after school is out, I've been told that the student-made books are saved in their "school boxes." Here are eight types of books to reenergize your teaching and student writing!

A Poof Book requires only one sheet of paper. For some reason, kids LOVE mini books. Once you have taught them how to make this book, you'll have parents start to comment that their kids are using all their printer paper to make books at home! Read more about how to use poof books HERE.
This "slit book" is one of my favorite books to make with students! It takes 3 sheets of paper (or more, if you want more pages). It is a book made without using staples or tape! After learning how to fold this book, many of my parents begin to send me messages, "I don't know what you're doing in class, but my child is using up all the paper in our house to make books and write!" To get your kids excited to make this book, click HERE.

What's the best way to teach notetaking or paragraph writing? There are so many methods, but one of my favorite is a step book! Learn more HERE.

For this book, all you need is a hole punch, a stick (craft stick or real stick/twig) and a rubberband. Because of the simple binding, it is easy to add in additional pages if necessary. Click HERE to read more.

Here's an oldie but a goodie: the pop-up book. Kids (and adults) never get tired of making these because there are so many options for creativity. Click HERE to read more about using pop-up books with your students.

There are no other words to describe this book, but MAGIC. Your students will gasp in delight when they first peel open the magic or hidden section. Click HERE to learn more ways to use magic books!

I love bringing in my electric drill and watching my students' eyes light up! LOL. Don't let the drill scare you; it's actually easy to use (and I'm not all that handy) and makes for stunning books!  Click HERE to read more about hand-sewing books.

Bringing a sewing machine into the classroom is amazing to kids: it's a machine!! Plus having a hardback book with pages that are sewn makes it valid as a "real book", just like the hardback books in our class library! Read more about sewing books HERE.

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!
Click here to enter

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Bullying. It has become such a buzz word that is often casually thrown around. October is National Bullying Prevention Month and picture books are the perfect way to elicit conversations.
To teach important themes and concepts, my go-to is always a picture book! And as I'm sure many of you know, one of my favorite authors is Patricia Polacco! Always drawing from her own life experiences, Polacco captures the essence of being a child and the struggles they face. In her book, Bully,  the main character, Lyla, moves and starts at a new school. She quickly becomes friends with Jamie; they have so much in common, even though he is a boy. But when Lyla makes the cheerleading squad and the popular (mean) girls invite her to join them, Jamie is left behind. Although initially loving the attention and status, Lyla knows bullying when she sees it and when she sees her new friends tormenting classmates and writing horrible and derogatory comments on Facebook, she realizes that she doesn't want to be friends with such people. She is smart enough to get out and leave the clique. But no one dumps these girls, and now they're out for revenge. This book doesn't have a typical children's book happy ending, all tied up nice and neatly. It ends with a question to the readers: "What would you do?"
This post contains Amazon affiliate links. This means that if you purchase through one of these links (at no cost to you), it helps to support my blog.
The book, Making Thinking Visible by Ron Ritchart is a MUST-HAVE! It is packed full of strategies to elicit critical thinking.  To read more, click HERE to catch up on a book study of Making Thinking Visible.  One of the strategies is called Connect-Extend-Challenge. "The routine helps students make connections between new ideas and prior knowledge. It also encourages them to take stock of ongoing questions, puzzles and difficulties as they reflect on what they are learning" (Visible, Connect, 2011)

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Ghostly STEM Fun!

“All sorts of things can happen when you’re open to new ideas and 
playing around with things.” — Stephanie Kwolek, chemist who invented Kevlar

There's no better way to play around with things and develop a growth mindset than with STEM challenges! STEM helps to encourage problem solving skills, teamwork, and builds perseverance. October is the perfect time to incorporate some ghostly fun!
Students were told that although ghosts usually fly on their own, our ghosts needed a little extra help. Their task was to design a carrier to transport their ghost safely down a zipline. They first worked independently to plan, sketch, label, then build their carrier.  We used whatever happened to be in our STEAM box and recycling bin: straws, cardboard, pipe cleaners, masking tape, cups, used posterboard, and coins (used as weights). Each student received one marshmallow (think S'mores size). They drew on it with a Sharpie to personalize their "ghost".

Sunday, September 15, 2019

3 Tried & True Games to Teach Place Value & Rounding

Beginning of the year. . . I used to be so tempted to skip teaching place value because it seemed too simplistic, assuming kids knew how to read larger numbers. Plus I wanted to get on with the "real math": multiplication and long division. WRONG! Developing number sense and place value are critical to understanding ALL math! To read more about developing number sense, click HERE.  
Games and hands-on activities make teaching place value less of a drudge and more fun, as well as reinforcing those numbers sense and rounding skills.
With a partner, students pick a "secret" 3-digit number. Each time someone guesses, the other person tells how many digits in the guess are correct and how many of those digits are in the right place. (But they do NOT tell which digits are correct.) This becomes a process of elimination, using previous clues. It is crucial to MODEL your thinking aloud, especially so students understand the concept that they are not just guessing willy nilly, but logically choosing their digits. Kids will LOVE playing against the teacher!
The best part was eavesdropping in on their conversations. (I always encourage kids to think aloud!)  I overheard snippets like, "Well, I'm going to try the 3 again, since one of the digits was correct and in the right place." After guessing 239, he was excited because two of his numbers were correct and in the right place." On the next guess, he kept the 39, but tried 439. "Oh no, now I only have one digit in the right place again so it must be the 3 in the tens' place." And so on. . . (Now of course this is not to say that other students were not just wildly guessing any combinations of numbers! LOL)
Grab your copy of Digit Mind directions HERE

Thursday, September 12, 2019

3 Tried and True Tips for Developing Number Sense

Have you ever paid the bill at a store or restaurant, then realized at the last minute you have change? But when you try to be helpful and give the cashier the change, which would help to not get so many coins back, they either give you a blank look or just state, "But I already punched in $20." Then when you try to tell them how much to give back to you,  they become confused or anxious because it's not what the register says. . . Those scenarios are just as disturbing to a teacher, as when you ask your class to estimate how many objects are in a jar and they blurt out, "1,000!" or some other nonsense number (when there are clearly less than 50 in the jar). Number sense. How to help our students develop number sense?
Number Sense is the ability to appreciate the size and scale of numbers in the context of the question at hand. The three major elements that fall under number sense are counting, wholes and parts, and proportional thinking.
 Warm ups and number talks build number intuition and fluency, while giving you (the teacher) insight into how your students think. They support the idea that math makes sense, and you can explain what you see to help it make sense to other students. Engage students with expressions and equations as a means to:
  • develop relational thinking
  • look for patterns in number
  • develop place value understanding and/or
  • build number fluency
The difference is that the students aren’t just looking for the answer: they’re trying to find as many different ways to solve the problem as they can. The key elements to number talks are less emphasis on speed and right answers and and more of an emphasis on their thinking process and communication.
Choral counting is a warm up that teachers can use to help students identify patterns, strengthen number sense, develop concepts of place value, and increase number fluency. Ask: How are you deciding what number comes next? What patterns do you see? It's often quite surprising what students notice (that was unintentional on the teacher's part!)

Monday, September 9, 2019

Books to Teach Perseverance

"This is too hard!" "I don't get it!" What makes certain people easily give up when encountering a challenge, while others persevere, determined to solve problem and succeed? Years ago, the buzzword in education was GRIT.
So what is grit? Grit means having the dedication and courage; strength of character to work hard toward a goal, no matter what challenges are encountered on the way. And as always, picture books provide the perfect model for this trait.

This post contains Amazon affiliate links. This means that if you purchase through one of these links (at no cost to you), it helps to support my blog.
Most people have heard of Louis Braille, but many do not not realize that he was not born blind. Six Dots by Jen Bryant is a beautiful picture book about the story of young Louis Braille.
Louis was just five years old when he lost his sight in an accident with an awl. However, he was determined to live like everyone else, and what he wanted more than anything was to be able to read. Even at the school for the blind in Paris, there were no books for him. So Louis invented his own alphabet—a whole new system for writing that could be read by touch. It is a system so ingenious yet practical that it is still used by the blind community today.