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“Find the Similes and Metaphors” Game

3pic_touchup-2Secrets from CurricuLaughs in Language Arts
“Find the Similes and Metaphors” Game

 

A spoonful of sugar not only helps the medicine go down; it makes the medicine more effective—at least that’s what I’ve seen in education and I’m sure you have, as well.

When I once announced to 4th graders that we were going to work on similes and metaphors, they frowned, grumbled, fidgeted, and shut down. That’s why I now announce the lesson this way: “It’s time to play a game!”

All I did was reposition what we would be doing and I get cheers! Okay, it is fair to say that when I tell them that the name of the game is “Find the Similes and Metaphors,” some of the more astute students’ smiles diminish, but it is TOO LATE—they have already moved themselves into “FUN position”.

“…The ironic thing was that they got a lesson like they would get in their classroom but they saw it as pure fun…”
Dr. Dael Angelico-Hart Linden School Principal Malden, Massachusetts

So what is the “Find Similes and Metaphors” game?
It’s a quiz!

It is nothing more than a quiz with a small but important twist: the quiz is done orally by volunteers and the student volunteers become the teachers. I can’t tell you how exciting it is for me to see the flow of illuminating light bulbs (to mix metaphors) in this simple exercise. (The mixed-metaphor game is ANOTHER really fun and effective game for the kids so please feel free to e-mail me for that.)

I project a list of lines taken from poems that I shared with the students during their wild and crazy assembly. In each of the lines is a simile or metaphor. They had seen me dressed as Sherlock Poems, Poetry Detective, reading one of them. They may have seen me juggling or falling on the floor as I shared another. Now, though, they are just seeing the lines with no entertainment, other than the challenge of beating the “game”.

The rules to the game are simple:
1. Tell me which part of the line is the simile or metaphor part
2. Tell me whether it is a simile or metaphor, and
3. Tell me WHY it is one and not the other.

A different student is chosen to do this for the each line. The best thing that can happen in this game is an incorrect answer. At that point, another student helps them to see the presence (or lack) of “as” or “like” in the simile or metaphor part of the line.

It is a very simple but EXTREMELY effective way to get the point across because a) they are being put in the position of having fun, and b) they learn from each other, rather than from me.

Please e-mail me if you would like information on more games or my school visit programs and please come hear me speak at the Reading for the Love of It conference in February.

Thank you for reading and please keep adding fun to your classroom.

jeffnathanJeff Nathan,

2015 Ben Franklin Award Winning Author, Jeff Nathan
                  www.IncredibleAssemblies.com

8 Ways to Improve Your Students’ Writing

Coaching Your Students to Writing Success!

WritingProcessPack_Page_2WritingProcessPack_Page_3

Well, it’s almost September and time for back to school with a whole new bunch of young learners that will teach us as much as we teach them. If you’re like me, one of the toughest challenges we face each year is to find new ways to help our students improve their writing.  It can be a daunting task, but like with anything, if we give our students the right tools for the job, then the path to success is made easier.

What? I can’t just give them a pencil and some writing topics and tell them to write everyday? Okay, Okay, I know you wouldn’t do that anyway, but I do have some tools and tips to share with you that I think will help as you coach young writers.

  1. Plan- Whether writing fiction or non-fiction, good writing starts with a good plan. The author needs to know where they are going with their writing.  What is their purpose? Who is their audience? And what is the mood of their writing?  Each of these could be a quick focus lesson.

Once these decisions are made, it’s time to put a plan on paper. It took me a long time (years, in fact) to come up with a story planner and a non-fiction planner that I really like.  My kiddos find them easy to follow and fill out. Because of this, they actually follow them as they are writing and that makes a huge difference to the creative process. These planners keep them focused.  Yay! ( Don’t worry, I’m going to give you a free copy of these planners with this link and a link at the bottom of the post. Just click  here to get it now.

2.  Content – All good writing starts with a good idea. Teach your students to ask questions about their character or subject. What would they want to know about him/her/it as the reader? What about personality? Quirks? Habits? etc.  Rich details make readers identify with the character and/or subject matter and add to the reading experience. Be careful, though, young authors must be taught to ‘sneak’ the details in context rather than just list them.  Otherwise we end up with the dreaded ‘info dump.’ Not good. Modelling is the best teacher here.  Show your kiddos how to put in the details without explicitly listing them.  Use great examples from authors you love. Kenneth Oppel and Rick Riordan are masters of this.

3. Organization – Kids need to be explicitly taught organization. It doesn’t come naturally to most.  Brainstorm ideas about a topic and write them down, then cut them apart and organize them into topics.  You can set this up in centers and have students do the same.  ‘Sticking to the topic’ is an essential skill in both fiction and non-fiction writing. It’s more obvious in non-fiction, but have you ever read a story that rambled with no clear focus?  Teach your students to keep coming back to the plot line /problem so that every detail, every action and every event have something to do with that plot line/problem.  If it has nothing to do with the plot, leave it out.  Teach them to keep the beginning, middle and end related to the central problem.

4.  Sentencing- Ooh this is a big one, grammar is tricky, but start simple by teaching them big ideas concepts like: Good authors never begin two sentences the same way in a paragraph.  Then have them use colored crayons to underline their beginnings and read them back. Soon they will be able to spot repetitions and problem beginnings.

5. Word choice – Teach your kiddos that a thesaurus is a writers best friend!  Show them how to use it, model using it as you write, and let the kids make a journal/lists of interesting words they’d like to use in their writing during their word work time. Because it’s words they want to use, they will be motivated to find WritingProcessPack_Page_5and use those words. Choice is a powerful motivator!

6. Editing – Students need to have a useful rubric for self evaluating and self-editing their work. I always tell my students that ‘They mark it first’ and ‘I mark it second’.  I created this rubric that helps them go through the process. I photocopy several and they take them as they finish up their stories and go through, mark, and fix their story before handing it in. It’s also wonderfully handy when addressing the next two goals.

7. Set goals to improve your skills- A student can’t focus on everything at once,but needs guidance to focus on just one area that s/he can improve their writing. During conferencing, I use the boxes in the above rubric/marking guide to set a goal each student.  We only focus on one boxed skill area for improvement and set a goal to address that with their next writing project. This keeps students from being overwhelmed and helps them see their progress!

8.  Feedback, feedback, feedback. I can’t stress enough how much students need consistent feedback about their writing.  They need you to care, to listen, to appreciate what they tried to do, and finally, to model how they can improve it.  Give them examples of more interesting ways they could ‘say the same thing.’

Writing is a love of mine, so you can see that I get excited about teaching young people to communicate their ideas more clearly with the written word.  I hope these ideas help you in that endeavour, also. Now for your freebie as promised click on the word below:

WritingPlanner

 

Dad’s Daily News Project for Father’s Day

Hey all,

Need a really cool class project idea for Father’s Day? Try this one on for size. I just made this ‘Dad’s Daily News’ template that you can use as a great gift for Dad, while encouraging your students to write a variety of different articles and entries that Dad will absolutely love! How about these ideas?

  • Write a news event that features Dad in it: Dad Catches Biggest Fish Ever, Dad Invents Magic Golf Ball That Never Gets Lost, etc.   Have fun inventing these!
  • Write a how-to article: How to  Make Dad’s Favorite Pancakes, Chocolate Chip Cookies or Desert, How to Build a Tree House, etc.
  • Write a poem for Dad
  • Write a few jokes for Dad.
  • Make a crossword on grid paper and glue it in one of the empty frames with the clues beside.
  • Add a cartoon in the template provided.

These are just a few of the ways that you can use this fun template.  If you find it useful I accept thanks in cold, hard cash. Just kidding. You don’t owe me a thing, but I would appreciate if you would spread the word about Quest Teaching and sign up for futures freebies here : http://questteaching.com/wordpress/go/teacher-treasures-sign/ I’d also love to hear about how you used this in your classroom. Send pictures and add them to the comments below.

Best,

Sharon

www.questteaching.com

Exploring the Treasure Box – Writing with Self- Assessment

Last newsletter, I gave away  a treasure box (drop box) full of my teaching resources for free! If you missed out on that, I’m sorry, but be sure to subscribe to the newsletter so you never miss out on more fabulous freebies.  This week I wanted to take a few moments to explore some of those resources that I spent time putting together for teachers, and how I use them in the classroom.

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Take a closer look!

First up?  Let’s talk about a subject I’m passionate about; writing!  For a long time, I’ve wanted a student self-evaluation tool in kid-friendly language to give my students more ownership and focus to improving their writing.  I could never find a commercially made tool that I liked, so I decided to make one myself.  Here it is:

I just run this off on both sides and have my students staple it to their story. Now when they say they are “finished” a piece of writing, I have them go through their story one “box” at a time. By the way, I love the boxes! It makes the evaluation process so flexible, yet target.  Here are just a few ways that I use the boxes:

  • Mini-lessons on each box: e.g., Today we are focusing on Content. Take a look at the content box on your marking guide. What are we looking for? What does that look like in a story? Exemplars are great for this. Now look at your story. Focus only on the Content box.  Does your story have quality content?
  • Have the whole class edit their existing story for one of the boxes one checkbox at a time. Break out your blue crayon for one checkbox, a red for another, and so on.  This works especially well when focused on the conventions box.
  • Conferencing and goal setting with a student.  The boxes really allow you to focus in on one specific area that the student needs to work on to improve his/her writing. I use this along with my writing conference sheets. After reviewing a piece of writing, the student and I will discuss a “next step” goal to improve their writing. I ask them which “box” they think they need to work on most.  The process really helps them take ownership for improving their own writing.
  • You Mark, then I mark.  Finally, I love, love, love, the idea that the students always mark their writing first, before I do. Along with all the checklists, there’s a place for them to assign a mark to their work before I mark it.  This gives them the opportunity to evaluate and improve their writing before they come to me with it. It also gives me the opportunity during conferences to point to the checklist and say can you show me where you found examples of this or that in your story?
  • As an added bonus I included new story planners in the package. I was so tired of students trying to navigate the “rising outline” story planner, so I re-invented it with kids in mind. The result is below.  The kids love it.  They are creating much more detailed plans because the spaces direct and focus their thinking.  Several students have all told me that they like it better. It’s definitely a keeper in my writing program.

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This is just one of the tools I’ll be highlighting  from our treasure box over the next few weeks. Do you have ideas for other teacher resources you’d just love to have?  Subscribe and shoot me an email about it.  It just might become our next fabulous freebie and you’ll get it free!  What could be better than that?

Until next keep teaching and “treasuring” our special young people.

Best,

Sharon

Let Students Tell Their Story with Adobe Voice

Wowza! I was so excited this week to happen across a new tool (new to me, anyway) called Adobe Voice.  Adobe Voice is a free app for the ipad that will make it easy peasy to do any kind of digital storytelling or report presentations with your class. In about 8 – 10 minutes you’ll have a digital story complete with text, music and images. What I like about it most, is that it’s fast and easy to use. Kids  and teachers need that!  Here’s a quick guide on how to use it:

  1. Download the free app onto your ipad.
  2. Hit + Create a New Story. It will prompt you to give a name to your project. Just type it in.
  3. Then it will give you a variety of story structures to choose from: Share an invitation, Promote an Idea, Tell What Happened, Explain Something, Follow a Hero’s Journey, Show and Tell, Teach a Lesson, or Make Up Your Own. Just click on one to get started.
  4. Now you see a screen that lets you add an icon, a photo or text, or any combination ( by clicking on layout at the top you can add more than one). You can choose a photo from your ipad gallery, take a picture, use dropbox, or search for royalty photos on the internet right from the app. Make your choice to add it to the slide.
  5. Then hold down the record button and speak your narration for the picture. There’s a playback button to hear the results. If you don’t like them, just hit record again and try again. It records over your first attempt.  It won’t take long to get it right.
  6. That’s it! That’s all there is to making a slide. The app automatically puts a blank background and background music behind with your slide, but you can easily change all, if you like, by clicking one of the features at the top: Layout, Themes, Music.  All are easily customized with simple clicks.
  7. You are done! Now you can share to Facebook, twitter, etc. or download to the cameral roll to save it to your PC for sharing. It’s just that easy!

Here’s a sample Voice Story that I made in about 10 minutes:

What a powerful tool in teacher’s hands! Now you can have students tell their story in a matter of minutes, use this to create lessons, or modify materials for students. (I can think of so many applications for this app!)

If you’d like to see more tutorial on this, you can find a great one here: How to Tell Your Story with Adobe Voice

Hope this is helpful.

As always, if you have questions, I’m here.

Best,Sharon

Sharon

Writing A Christmas Circle Story

To get my Class in the Christmas mood, we started writing Christmas circle stories last week! (You know, the kind of story that ends in the same place it started).

First we read The Carpenter’s Gift, by David Rubel. This touching story about the huge Christmas Tree at Rockefeller Center,  is a great way to introduce the circle story plot.

TheCarpenter'sGift

After reading the story, we used a picture prompt to brainstorm ideas for our own circle story.  Then we used this story planner to plan our stories.  The kids are excited to get writing their stories this week and I am excited to show them how they can develop each story event with “showing” using sensory imagery. I can hardly wait to read the stories they create!

Circlestoryplanner

Free this week only. Click on the pic!

If you’d like a copy of this story planner, just click on the pic!   Also included, are bonus story started pictures to get you started!

If you have some students who would like their stories published online, or would like to share with my class, let me know. I love to celebrate student writing.  Message me to see how we can share!

Have fun creating circle stories in your classroom!

Best,

Sharon
720 × 90

3 Ways to Use Technology to Build Relationships with Your Students

4249170516_b7c72a309a_nIf someone were to ask you, what would you say is the number one thing that makes you an effective teacher?

One word makes all the difference. Relationship.

Oh, I know, I need to be tough in the first half of the year so I will have control of my class, right? Wrong! I am not teaching robots. I am teaching children. They do not look the same, act the same, or have the same likes and dislikes. Some like pizza with pineapple, while others spit it out. There’s the class clown, the shy one who will never ask a question, and the one who constantly trips over his own feet. I love them all. It is not my job to control them so they will learn. It’s my job to watch each of them, get to know them and find out what makes them tick. With each, I need to develop the kind of relationship that builds a bridge of trust between us. They need to know I am here for them and I am always on their side. Then, they can take risks in my classroom. Then, they can learn.

“Wait a minute,” you say . “I thought this post was about technology. What does technology have to do with relationship?”
Stay tuned. In today’s world we need to use every available tool to inspire our students. Here are three tech tools that I love because they help me know my students better and communicate with them more effectively even outside to the classroom.

1. Email: even though I teach elementary school, writing emails back and forth with my students, not only teaches them a valuable technology skill. It also allows them to ask me questions they might be afraid to tell me in class. It gives them a voice to tell me about things that are troubling them. Perhaps they are getting bullied or are nervous about their grades. I’ve had students share these kinds of things with me via email and it provides me great insight so I can help them deal with the problem. The one-on-one nature of email lends itself to some privacy in conversation which allows students to feel they can share.

2. Evernote: As you can tell by my previous posts, I’m a bit of an Evernote FREAK! I love the way I can set up student notebooks and collect assessments to build a profile for their learning. In addition to assessment, Evernote also allows me to collect tidbits of information that I think will interest my students. For example, if I know that one of my students is interested in horses, I can easily capture and keep articles, photos, web games, etc. That I think will interest that child. Then I can show them quickly and easily. I can also share the notes by email with the student and their parents. Just another beam supporting the bridge of trust.Evernotestudentinterest

3. Kidblog: I love Kidblog! Kidblog gives kids a reason to write. Beyond class writing assignments, students can research and share their interests, just like real bloggers do! Kidblog allows you, the teacher, to have your kids give and receive feedback in a safe environment. You control who can and cannot comments as well as the privacy of the posts. Best of all, you can access their posts anywhere so you can interact with their posts at home on your laptop. I have learned so much about my students by reading their Kidblog posts. We’ve also had the chance to connect with other classes around the world, which provides even greater reason for Kids to write! I can’t say enough about the benefits of getting your class on Kidblog.kidblogpage

There you have it, three ways to connect with kids on a personal level, beyond the classroom. Of course with each of these tools there is the added benefit of teaching them about safe on-line practices and etiquette.
If you want to know more about any of these, I’m here and I’d love to help! Shoot me a message via Facebook, Twitter, email or in the comments below. Do you have any favourite tech tools that help you build stronger relationships with students? I’d love to hear about them.
Best,
Sharon

If you enjoyed this post and would like to get more great teaching ideas and have access to exclusive free teaching materials each week please subscribe to our newsletter! Just enter your name in the sidebar or the pop-up to connect!  I can’t wait to share with you!

photo credit: A teacher looks at a student’s work via photopin (license)

Easy Steps to a Differentiated Spelling Program

25waysspellingfunEach September I begin by asking my students why we write? I want them to fully understand that the basic purpose of writing is to communicate our ideas. Grasping this concept is a step in the right direction to having them want to improve their skills.  After all, if they work at developing good writing skills, it will be easier for them to get their message across.

This leads us to the spelling issue. In this day and age of spellcheckers and technology, do we really need to focus on spelling in school?  The answer is yes. Poor spelling leads to miscommunication, so I use an example of poor spelling to get my point across.  After seeing the difference that spelling makes to the clarity of a message, students are eager to improve their skills, but the traditional spelling list does little to actually help them achieve their goals. The trick is tailoring the spelling instruction to individual needs of students.  This is a summary of how I differentiate to meet the spelling instruction needs of my students. I hope it will help you meet the needs of your students, too.

  At the end of these lessons, you will be able to:

*identify and share the different purposes for writing

*identify improving spelling as a way to better communicate in writing

*identify and apply common spelling generalizations in own writing

Write this message to your students on the board or pop this picture up on your smart board.  Turn and talk with an elbow partner:spellingexemplar

Why was it difficult to read the message?

In a whole-group discussion, share the problems with the message: spelling, punctuation, printing.

What would you do to improve the message?

Give students a copy of the message and see if they can work with a partner to make it better.

Hand out new notebooks that the students will use to improve their spelling of the words they don’t know. Label the book with “My Spelling Words to Study”.

Explain to the students that we all have different spelling skills, just like we all wear different shoe sizes. That’s why we all need to work at learning to spell different words, but first we need to know which words we need to work on.

Follow up with a test of the top 300-500 (depending on grade level) high-frequency words. It may take several sessions to complete this diagnostic assessment. I usually give about 50 words at a time. Higher grades may want to use words  500+. I recommend using Rebecca Sitton’s Spelling Sourcebook

After each test, mark the student’s work and circle each misspelled word and write the correct spelling word beside the misspelled word.

Following the tests, have students transfer the first ten of the correct spelling of the words they need to know to their “Words to Study” list included in this package. We will repeat this each week from the 300 words. After that, I will give a new test of the next 100 high-frequency words and/or use the “problem words from their writing”. Students now have an individualized list of words that they need to work from during the year. Each week they will work on these words during their word work time using a variety of generic spelling games and study activities which have been taught.

For home practice,  I give students a recording sheet to make their lists each week.  This is how I set mine up:

Each week the students will refer to their “Words to Study” list to make their spelling list to study for that week. If you are teaching specific spelling patterns each week, you may have them choose five words from the list and five words from the spelling pattern you are currently studying. They make two copies of the list.  One that goes home to study and one that stays at school for the peer test that students give each other later in the week. If students do not spell every word on their  “Word Work/Spelling List Record Sheet” correctly, they must transfer the words they got incorrect, to next week’s list  and continue to do so until they have mastered them. Each week that they master their list, they get a coin for their “Master Spellers” certificate. At the beginning of the year,  I also send home the “25 Ideas” in two page protectors. Students can post these on their fridge for fun ways to practice their words at home.easyspelling25ways

Vital to student success and growth in spelling will be the provision of many goal-setting conferences to identify successes in improved spelling in their writing.  The connection between good spelling skills and clarity of written messages needs to be continually reinforced during these teacher-student conversations.  These conferences should go a long way towards helping students see that their efforts are resulting in progress toward their better spelling and communication goals.

On in my TPT store, I put together a complete package for you to help get you started. In it,  I tried to include everything you’ll need for your word work program this year. Included in this package you’ll find:

easystepsmultisheet* My Word to Study Listwordstostudypic

*Student Spelling List Record Sheets

* Student Spelling test sheets

* Word Work Activity Ideas

* “Master Speller” coin collector student sheet

I hope this is a valuable resource for you in providing a differentiated spelling program for the students in your classroom. The whole package is on sale this week to give you a chance to get it, and try it, for an introductory low price.  Check it out here:

EASY STEPS DIFFERENTIATED SPELLINGcoins

Questions? I’d love to hear from you. What do you do in your classroom to differentiate instruction for students?

Best,

Sharon