Thursday, 30 April 2015

Prepping for a Poetry Cafe

Now that April is coming to a close, it's time to celebrate our wonderful poetry writing activities with a poetry cafe.  We have worked on developing wonderful poems for our open house next week.  As a final task, students will be asked to choose their favourite poem to read out loud. My goal is to transform the class into a fun cafe setting.  Here's the plan:

1)  Have students choose the poem they are proudest of.  Place the poem in a folder.

2)  Have students practice reciting their poems.  Some may choose to do this from memory.  Others may decide to use the page that's in the folder.

3)  Talk about voice projection!  I usually have students stand opposite a partner across the room.  They can project their voice.  Then the partner moves to the halfway point of the room. Voices are then projected to the halfway mark.  The partner moves close enough (within an earshot) for the last reading.  Voice projections are important.  I start with a warm up such as "Today is a wonderful day."  We practiced this yesterday.  Students were encouraged to put on their best voices.

4)  So, poetry cafe day arrives.  Then what?  Make sure you have some tealight candles.  These must be the ones that you don't have to use a lighter to light.  I bought mine around Christmas when they were readily available.  They are distributed around the room.  Our desks are transformed into cafe tables.  You may choose to turn off most of the lights.
5) Have an author's stool or special chair for your budding authors.  Students are encouraged to wear author hats and dark clothing.

6) Students will come up and read their poems.  No clapping after that!  We use our snapping fingers.

7)  End with some cafe treats.  I often serve baked goods and juice boxes.
Above is a list of the poetry forms studied.  


    

Sunday, 19 April 2015

Reaching Reluctant Writers - Part 2

The last post offered some ideas for enticing even your most reluctant writers.  With the Write About Books display board, jazzy writing covers for recount notebooks, themed pencils and a sign out system including library cards you will notice an increase in free writing.  Here's another fun way to draw students in:  themed writing paper.  I've always dabbled in my own art work through painting, pen and ink, chalk, pastel and charcoal drawings.  I have recently started creating my own clip art.

Using my own art creations, I have created themed writing paper for students to use.  The first experiment to make sure this was foolproof was my niece.  She loved the specialty papers.  For a free sampling check out my Writing Paper Sampler:


These themed papers have worked for final writing tasks.  They contain letter paper, half lined pages for both emergent and established writers.  


Thursday, 16 April 2015

Reaching Reluctant Writers

We've all heard it!  "I don't know what to write!"  I've finally realized that if I force a writing topic on my students, they won't know what to write.  Writing is based on life experiences.  Not every student has the same experience.  So, I've developed a strategy:  make it all about choice.  Here are a few things that have worked for me:

Recount Writing
Students always have stories to tell.  Over the years I've heard about "ouches", birthdays, movies, etc. I developed these covers to give students the opportunity write about their events.  There is no rubric attached to it.  It's an open journal available to all.  Just grab a dollar store book and paste the cover on.  This is an invitation to write.  I've also included thematic pencils to entice even my most reluctant writer.




 

What to do with all those books?  I needed to house them in a place that students could reach for them during free writing.  So, I created this display using a trifold board.  

I used library pockets and attached sign out cards to them.  I could easily have 10 "Ouch" books because that has definitely been the most popular one.  

Here's a freebie to get you started on recount writing.  It's available with 2 different spellings.  If you click on this link, it will lead you to the word "favorite".










Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Ending Science Units with a Culminating Task

I have started to end each of my science units with a culminating project.  The projects I assign offer a wide range of themes.  So far, I have developed units on Magnetism, Food Chains, Animals, Plants and Forces and Motion.  Each unit is broken down into several components. These includes a project outline, criteria, terminology, evaluation rubric and feedback page. Here's a glimpse into my Food Chain Project:

A sample food chain poster.

A words to know list.
Components of the project:  written information, a diagram and an oral presentation.

I've added covers to showcase what the projects will be about.  Here are some samples.






Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Spring Cleaning!

When the sun begins to shine and the snow melts away, you know it's time for some spring cleaning.  That means classrooms too!  Here are some things you can do to organize your space. Your kids will thank you for it.

My desk:


This is one of my personal favourite creations!  I took an old gift soap holder, painted in black and added some teaching decals and stickers.  A mug and a tin can are inserted to catch all my desk top tools.  This could easily be done with a basket or loaf pan.  


Math manipulatives:


I love these bins.  I bought them for under $2.00.  Each bin has a set of pattern blocks in them. That way when it comes to math work stations, the bins come out easily and are returned to their shelf.

Student's Books:


Students have their own magazine files for their independent reading selections. Our classes only have tables.  That means no storage.  So, I invested in some good quality magazine files at the beginning of the year.  So far, things are nice and neat.

Bulletin Board Letters:


My bulletin board letters (too many to mention) have been stored in envelopes.  The envelopes are then placed in a shoe box.  I used to store them according to themes and patterns.  That became chaotic.  This system is much easier and quicker!