Punctuation: Make it a Daily Effort

A Few Minutes a Day....

There are many ways to include punctuation tips and practice into your daily teaching practice. As students come in each day, make sure there is a sentence on the board or chart paper that needs editing. As they come in, they put the sentence into their daily edit books and use the correct punctuation. You can also create a package of punctuation worksheets whereby students complete 1 or 2 a week as you so request.

Another approach I like to use: When you're reading with the class, stop and ask why the author used a colon or a comma etc. This ensures that your students understand the purpose punctuation.

Do you teach phonics?

Phonics Should Be a Part of K-2 ELA

There's nothing wrong with teaching phonics, but, and I mean BUT, it's all in how you teach it. Even the gurus in the publishing world put out some pretty confusing messages. Consider Fountas and Pinnell for instance. There's no denying that much of what they produce is quite good. However, be smart and use your flexible common sense when using their resources. Don't assume they know it all, in fact, you've probably worked with students more often and longer than they have so again, I remind you to use your common sense.

I was scanning one of their phonics resources and under long vowels - specifically U they list the following words as having the long u sound: use, cube, huge, tube, clue, glue. I ask you, does u REALLY say its name in tube, clue and glue? Not at all! Sounds more like an 'ew' sound!

No wonder kids get confused with phonics! All vowels CANNOT be classified under long an short. Let's just look at a for a minute: bad (short a), lake (long a) call (?) car (?) ball (?)

Let's get our students to notice the different sounds the vowels make and learn the patterns and the anomalies. Remember - teaching isn't a science or there would be one best way to do everything. Teaching, is an art and requires your common sense and creativity.

So what do we do? What great teachers have always done! Teach the sounds that vowels make, then teach the sounds that vowel combinations make. Don't get locked into the long and short of it. Do what's best for young learners, which means, don't confuse them.

Here are the free worksheets that address the sounds that vowels make. And well I'm on the topic, I might add that many vowel and vowel combinations sound the same. There's NOTHING wrong when it comes to classifying vowel sounds by the sounds they make and not by the letters, it actually supports better learning. For instance a learner could classify the following words in the same category: blue, flew, too, shoe, do, you.

Have a thought or two? I'd love to hear from you.

A Second Chance to Get it Right? Hardly!

Classroom management is everything! 

Many so called voices of authority throughout the educational jurisdictions will tell you something a little bit different. They'll tell you that great instruction will have your classroom management or discipline issues magically disappear.

I can assure you and I am a bit of a veteran, you need both and if you don't have exceptional classroom management strategies, you can be guaranteed to have problems and eventually you will develop a big dislike for the entire educational profession.

So what advice do I have for you? Well, aside from reading my articles on effective classroom management here it is in a nutshell (and believe me, I'm not trying to make it sound simple, it takes sincere commitment and follow through consistently to get it right).

Here is what I adhere to in my classroom:

1. If you say it, mean it.
2. Don't say it mean.
3. NO power struggles ~ nobody wins.
4. Use an assertive/progressive discipline plan.
5. Always respect your students and they'll respect you.

Teaching is most often about good relationships.

Teaching can be a worthwhile career, especially if you get it right. After all, why do so many of us still like it? And oh, yes, I too have taught in intercity schools!

New Worksheets!

Some Great Science Worksheets for K-3 Grades

If you are a K-3rd grade teacher looking for next generation science worksheets, printables and teaching ideas, be sure to check out the following ideas here.

Well, I said I'd work to add more worksheets this summer and here they are! A new science category for Kindergarten to 2nd grade. Be sure to check out:
Your feedback by way of comments is most appreciated. For those of you who like me are enjoying the summer vacation, the best to you! I'll keep plugging away at worksheets and you can be sure that I'll share them with you.

Summer Learning

It's 2 Steps Backwards and 1 forward or so They Say 

I've been teaching long enough to see how much some students slide over the summer. I have merely one tidbit of advice to all parents. Let your child read to you this summer, read to them and ask good questions that demonstrate comprehension and higher level thinking skills. What does this look like? Well, when you buy books for your children, make sure that they're at their instructional level - not ones they can read with ease or that they struggle on every word with. Books that for the most part, they need some help. As for questions, avoid the yes/no type.

Think about asking questions like:

'Why do you think the author ended the story that way?'
'What advice do you have for the author about this book?'
'What character really made this story and why?'
'What is the problem in the story? How was it resolved? How would you have resolved it?

Help children understand point of view, ask questions that make them think about point of view.

For a few more questioning tips on books, check out these.

Math Rehab!

A Fun Remedial Approach in Math

This week a fellow colleague/teacher shared with me how he remediates in math. He uses some interesting terms to ensure that students get the big idea behind the math concept.

So, for instance let's say the concept is integers and the 4 operations. There's an exit ticket which is essentially a quick test with the basic questions about the concept. If the student misses the boat, in other words, they can't add/subtract/multiply and divide with positive and negative numbers. They are put into math rehab.

Math rehab provides them with some extra time to learn the concept. Math rehab will occur with additional homework or a few missed recesses. Sure makes the kids pay attention as they want their exit ticket.

Not a great year? Kids getting away on you?

A Great Read for New Teachers

With summer holidays just around the corner, maybe it's time to reflect on this year and start acting and learning from those reflections. Teaching is much harder that it seems. Some teachers just get it and others really have to work at it. One of my colleagues asked what my secret was. I'm not sure I have a secret, I do know that I have high expectations for both learning and behavior. If I say it, I mean it and I don't say it mean. The other piece of advice I often give is to read a good book on classroom management. Harry Wong's is a favorite of mine, why not give it a whirl this summer?

See also, functional behavior assessments and behavior contracts for additional support.

Here are another few staples of mine:

  • Show respect, when you give respect, you will get respect -- most of the time.
  • Encourage the student, boost their confidence, show you care and provide them with the attention they so need for acting appropriately.
  • DON'T in power struggles, DON'T show anger. DON'T retaliate.
    Understand that inappropriate behaviors are a cry for attention.

Stop With the Recounts!

Getting Students Beyond Recounts

Surely by now, you've discovered that kids can write re-counts, even if they can't write anything else!

So why bother with those daily journals?

Where's the learning?

Aren't you a little tired reading:

I went to the mall with my mom. Then I bought a new video game. I played my new video game with my friend Jack. Jack liked it. I liked it too. I hope when I go to the mall again, I can get another new video games. I like playing video games.
The End.

So what do you do? 

You balance your writing program.

Provide opportunities for opinion writing, persuasive writing, procedural writing, and expository writing to name a few. (You'll find everything you need at each of these links to complete your writing program for you 2nd to 4th grade students.

If your jurisdiction doesn't support the timing of when to write the various recounts, set up a calendar of writing genres yourself.  Make sure you select persuasive around Christmas time as it's great to 'persuade Santa as to why he should bring....' 

Another strategy to 'get them writing' is to ask higher level thinking questions and give them a free write. How about, 'If I could make the world a better place' or ' Why uniforms should or shouldn't be allowed to be worn at school' or 'Why every student should have a laptop'.

Have anymore ideas? Post them and share with our fellow educators.

Differentiated Instruction and Assessment

Why I Like Literature Circles for Differentiation

The typical classroom seems to have a spread in grade level ability that varies somewhere between 2 to 6 grades. For instance, in your grade 8 class, the math ability will be anywhere from grade 4 ability to grade 10 ability. And you, as a teacher, must teach to them all and ensure that each of them reaches their potential! How, you ask? Well, like me, you're probably told to differentiate your instruction. You can search anywhere online and see that differentiated instruction is well defined. However, to get started, you need group work, get your class working in groups. When you're working with a specific group, you'll need to figure out what the rest of the class is doing. One of the things that works really well for differentiated instruction is 'Literature Circles'. Check out the worksheets and give it an honest try.

Literature circles is something that can start in the 4th grade and will work well through to high school.

Be sure to check out the Teacher Tube video on how to use literature circles in your classroom.

Reading Recovery - I'm not convinced!

Reading Recovery - Too Expensive for Short Term Gains

I likely should call this my reading recovery program rant. Be warned, this is my opinion and I by no means am trying to offend anyone who is supportive of this program.

Reading Recovery is a reading intervention program (an expensive one too) that few educational, if any, jurisdictions can afford. So, why use Reading Recovery? It gets good results in a 1 to 1 setting. Then again, most teachers would get great success and enhance performance in that setting as well. However, it's not real. Educational jurisdictions need to look at intervention programs that work well in groups, not in a 1 to 1 setting. Oh, and I doubt you'll find any research out there that shows that Reading Recovery helps to improve standardized test scores beyond the primary years. Not much bang for the buck now is it?

Most boards are now dropping the program and all I can say, is that it's about time! So, let's move forward at teach students how to read in evidenced based ways. Phonics will always have its place, word walls/word cards are essential, an effective word study program is essential! But of course, these suggestions are just part of what is needed for a well balanced literacy program.

Share your thoughts, especially your point of views on Reading Recovery.

Teach Reading With Literature Circles

A Simplified Version of Literature Circles

If you're ready to differentiate your teaching and assessment then you'll want to teach with literature circles. Each child has a role and your groups of students rotate through the roles for the week. Be sure to read the overview first. Once you understand the roles, you're ready to start your class with literature circles. Suitable for the 3rd to 7th grades.

If you haven't tried literature circles in your classroom, the resources here make it completely easy for you to implement. Remember, unless you're having students do group based activities, you're not really meeting the individual needs. Group work is the start of differentiating instruction.