by Renae Marten
While 2020 has proved to be a crazy, unpredictable year, there is one thing that we can all be certain of. Remote learning can be hard, especially for our students in elementary school! With no normal gym classes, no sitting with friends at lunch, and no fun-filled bus rides, our students are missing out on so much this year.
As teachers, we need to make the most of the hand we’ve been dealt. We need to milk every ounce of fun, learning, and growth out of this remote school year as possible. That way, our students can walk away with something positive from this crazy, unpredictable year.
At home, students experience many distractions that make focusing on remote instruction difficult. So, how do we truly engage them and cut out distractions when they aren’t sitting right there in our classrooms? This can be a herculean task. There is, however, one small solution to this problem: student privacy boards.
Student privacy boards allow students to create their own learning space at home. They minimize distractions (woo hoo!) and can help students to better focus on learning. To make some of your own all you need are tri fold poster boards and some creativity. Use that creativity to add some personal touches and educational resources to your students’ privacy boards. This will help your students feel excited and ready to learn in their new learning space.
by Victoria D'Amaro
If your writing instruction consists of giving students a prompt and expecting them to just roll with it, you might find that some students will become easily frustrated or not know how to develop their piece further.
So how can you fix this?
To amp up your writing instruction, you might consider modeling how to use graphic organizers to plan writing. This will provide students with a useful tool and will also help them get kick-started on their writing. Now they will know how to plan their writing.
But what’s next?
Your next step might be to create a writing station with anchor charts, publishing paper, and fancy pens to increase students’ motivation to write. Great! They’re excited to write now.
But something is still missing to help them take their writing to the next level…
Once you have the prompts and writing station, and you’ve modeled how to plan a writing piece with a graphic organizer, you’ll want to pull one more trick from up your sleeve: visual rubrics!
Visual rubrics help students understand writing expectations while providing them with a mentor text (model). These mentor texts show students what their writing should look like: the length, amount of detail, neatness, etc. Visual rubrics also give students a chance to assess their own writing and set goals for themselves. Students can compare their writing to the visual rubric and then look ahead to see how they can better their piece. Visual rubrics help students think like a writer while helping them understand the expectation for their finished product.
by Brianna Ware
Do your students/children struggle with getting their ideas on paper? Do you notice them having a lot to say verbally, but only putting the bare minimum on the page when writing?
If you said yes to either question, let me tell you about a brainstorming strategy called Brain Blast, a brainstorming activity that allows students to get their thoughts on paper without the fear of putting down the wrong answer.
How does Brain Blast work?
The teacher provides a topic, and sets a timer. I recommend starting with two minutes the first time you try this activity. Once the timer is started, students jot down everything they can think of that is related to the topic. Once you feel your students are ready for the next step, have them go back to their brainstorming pages and choose an idea they would like to say more about. Hopefully, their writing will flow more easily when they select topic on their list that interests them.
Completing Brain Blasts frequently helps students become more comfortable with getting their ideas on paper.
It is particularly important to model this strategy for the children before asking them to complete a Brain Blast. While modeling, be sure to make intentional spelling errors, and do not use your neatest handwriting. The key is to show students that getting ideas on paper is the most important part of this activity. Remember to praise the students for their efforts while they are working on a Brain Blast!
Below I have included an example that I created along with some student examples. You will see the topic listed at the top of the page. I hope Brain Blasts help your children/students become better writers!
by Claire George
For the past six years, I have been involved in Buffalo State's Global Book Hour (GBH). Now, as a high school student, I am able to reflect on my experiences. Participating in this program from a young age has taught me many valuable lessons and has given me countless memories.
First and foremost, I have gained a better understanding of culture. By reading books written about countries around the world, I have learned a great deal about the people that live there. These stories have helped me feel more in touch with the world because I have learned that there is more that unites people than divides them. For example, one book that the older participants read together was I Lived on Butterfly Hill, by Marjorie Agosín. I read this book with a group of middle school-aged participants and was so fascinated by its description of Chilean history that I was inspired to read it twice! I was drawn to young Celeste's story of courage in the face of adversity and how she never gave up on her dreams. I felt connected to her and was inspired by her bravery. I enjoyed reading about life in Chile so much that I hope to travel there someday.
Another wonderful part of GBH has been the friendships I've formed. I have met so many amazing people throughout my years of participation. Global Book Hour welcomes a diverse group of participants, yet all share an interest in other cultures and a love of reading. Making new friends has been one of the best parts of going to GBH. One friend I made, Aaliyah, participated in Global Book Hour since it began in 2010. I found myself looking forward to reading the weekly books with her because she always had an interesting story of fact to share. We both had a love for books and talked about what we liked to read in our free time. Some of my favorite memories from GBH involve talking to her about great books and authors.
Finally, a special lesson I have learned from GBH is that it is important to read about things you love. I have been fascinated by science ever since I was little because it helps us understand the world better. Last spring, the selected book for older participants was Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World by Rachel Ignotofsky. It was exciting to be able to read about scientists and share my scientific knowledge. I think one of the best parts of Global Book Hour is that readers can share what they love and teach others about it. We can all teach each other something.
I am honored to write about my experiences as a participant at Global Book Hour. It has been a unique opportunity to learn about other cultures and countries and meet people from different backgrounds. I will treasure these experiences always. GBH has touched so many lives and will continue to inspire more and more people in the future.
by Claire George
A Chair for My Mother is an inspiring story about the importance of positivity during adversity. Young Rosa and her family lost their home in a fire and have to move in with her aunt and uncle. After school, Rosa helps out at the diner where her mother works. Life is not easy for Rosa, her mother, and her grandmother who lives with them. Everyone adds their extra savings to a large jar. Eventually, they move into a nearby apartment. During this difficult time, their neighbors bring food and offer continued support. They even bring pieces of furniture to help Rosa and her family rebuild. Rosa’s family continues to save money in the jar and little by little, it eventually becomes full. They decide to buy a large, comfortable armchair for everyone to enjoy. This chair brings them contentment and a sense of pride because they can call it their own. A Chair for My Mother teaches the important lesson that one can achieve a goal if they persevere. It also reminds us of the importance of community in our lives in order to keep going when times are difficult.
There are many extension activities that go along with A Chair for My Mother. To connect the book with the arts, visit the blog Big World Book Club to learn how to design your perfect chair. You will find a step-by-step tutorial on how to draw the perfect, comfy chair. There are even suggestions for how to open up your own pretend furniture store that displays the chair drawings!
If you are looking for ways to connect the book with mathematics, visit the blog First Grade W.O.W. to teach children about saving money and create their own pretend money jars. It is an easy way to encourage children to set goals and save money from a young age.
For an eloquent tribute to Vera Williams that highlights her work and honors her legacy, visit her obituary in The New York Times. It even highlights her most notable works.
by Charlene Cook
Word hunts are a fun and active way to get your child excited about learning new vocabulary. Word hunts can be used while reading books or as an interactive game around the house. Nothing is needed for word hunts except familiar children’s books, post it notes and a list of new vocabulary words.
A book I have used to introduce this activity in the past is called, “The Word Collector,” by Peter Reynolds. The book talks about a boy who loves to collect words just like others collect stamps. He also loves to share his new words with those around him.
To begin, it may be helpful to create a list of vocabulary that your child already knows. From there, have your child read through books with you. As they read, you can send them on a word hunt to find other words with the same spelling pattern as a word they already know. For example, if they already know the word smart, they can hunt for other words that also have the -ar spelling in them.
Any children’s book can be used for this activity, but a fun one is called, “Here Comes the Garbage Barge!” by Jonah Winter.
by Shannon Albright
Are you looking for a fun and engaging way to teach letter and sight word recognition skills? You should try a multi-sensory approach! Research has proven that young children are more likely to retain information when all of their senses are activated. Therefore, this hands-on approach integrates all of your senses while teaching early literacy skills.
All you need is some sort of a tray or pan, and then you can choose what sensory resource you would like to use. Possible ideas include: rice, beans, sprinkles, slime, salt, shaving cream and more. Feel free to add food coloring to make it colorful, and even Kool-aid packets/cinnamon/etc. to make it smell yummy. After putting the materials in your tray, you are ready to get started.
Your child can begin by writing his or her name, and you can provide visual supports and hand-over-hand cues as needed. If your child is not yet ready to write his/her name, that’s okay. This approach can be differentiated for children who are at different stages in their letter and word recognition abilities. For children who are learning letters, you can provide visuals of letters for them to copy on their writing tray. This can be adapted to whatever your child needs.
Have fun learning letters, words and other print concepts, and don’t be afraid to get messy!
by Christine Garas
Though sometimes effective, practicing vocabulary or sight words with flash cards (one after another in isolation) can often become boring for children. Have you ever wondered how this practice can be taken up a notch? The Word Muncher is a simple and engaging way to accomplish this.
Watch Rachel on the Global Literacy Channel, as she showcases how a desktop garbage can is transformed into a child’s new favorite learning tool. While practicing vocabulary words, a parent or instructor can introduce the “Word Muncher” to a child in a way that would provide the student additional practice in a needed literacy area.
For example, a teacher might use this tool to assist a student rehearsing the definitions of new vocabulary words. The teacher might point to a word, ask the child to define it, and after defining it correctly, the student can “feed” the muncher, or place the card in the slot. With these simple steps, an ordinary vocabulary practice session has instantaneously changed into a fun, effective, worthwhile activity for the child.
by Dan Hammonds
Performing a text or seeing a performance of a text greatly increases the likelihood that students will understand what they have read. Teachers who use theater as a medium to connect to literacy help their students remember the plot points. This strategy also builds empathy by asking students to put themselves in the positions of the characters and try to understand the struggles of the character in question.
Visual representation of literacy can also be an incredibly powerful tool. Children can oftentimes find detail in illustrations of a text that they couldn’t find in the wording of the literal document itself. Asking students to look closely at a book’s illustrations or images helps students to connect to the text in a deeper and more genuine way. Similarly, a teacher might ask students to visualize while reading by imagining the text in their mind or by drawing on paper.
by Dan Hammonds
This strategy is primarily for middle schoolers who struggle with nonfiction texts. Based on the reading level of the students in question, this strategy should help the students to identify the main ideas of what they are reading.
To implement this strategy, teachers should segment the reading and encourage students to ask questions at various stopping points. This will allow the teacher to check for understanding and also help students to understand patterns that develop while they read.
An activity that supports this process is asking students to annotate while they read. Middle schoolers often become overwhelmed with the reading and can’t remember parts of the passage that they have already read. Annotating (which might include writing the questions that arise as students read) will help students engage with the reading and increase their memory and comprehension.