Thursday, January 28, 2016

Sentence Variation

I was offering a student feedback on her descriptive writing recently and something dawned on me. I always offer a compliment, as well as one comment, with my students, because you don’t want to bombard them with too many critiques. (More often than not…they’ll go back and rewrite the same thing they just submitted.)

I noticed this particular student started several sentences with “The” throughout the written piece.  I complimented her on her use of figurative language and I asked for a little sentence variation. It doesn’t mean she can’t use the word “The” to start her sentences; I just wanted her to see how differently the piece might look if she made any changes.  Maybe you already do this!

I always ask my students to read the passage out loud.  This, alone, will help catch many mistakes.  

I want to point out that this is her first draft with zero revisions or edits. This is exactly how the student wrote the original copy:

The sunrise in the sky

The sunrise in the sky shocked me with beauty. The pink cotton candy clouds floated across the sky.  The horizon was endless with excellent colors.  The big skies turned bright orange and the glittery waterfall reflected a great big rainbow.  Huge shadows came from a gigantic mountain. I froze with delite.  The sun smiled a mile wide and I headed for home.

After Revision:
The sunrise in the sky shocked me with beauty. Pink cotton candy clouds floated across the sky.  The horizon was endless with excellent colors. Big skies turned bright orange and the glittery waterfall reflected a great big rainbow.  Huge shadows came from a gigantic mountain. I froze with delite.  The sun smiled a mile wide and I headed for home.

I know changing the first word isn’t going to make or break a written piece, but I do want my students to think like authors.  In addition, it’s important for students to receive applicable feedback.

Additional Suggestions:
  • Embed transitional or temporal words at the beginning of each sentence
  • Start each sentence with a different letter
  • You can always refer to my newsletter on 17 sentence starters

Monday, January 25, 2016

Foot Surgery

I am resting and taking it easy after my plantar fasciitis surgery last week.  I've had the disability for about three years and it was time to try something new.  Yes, I did physical therapy (3x's/week), orthotics, morning exercises, expensive shoes, rolling a ball under my foot, rest, ice, taped feet, cortisone shots (YIKES) and ultra sound, but nothing seemed to work.  It actually got worse each year.   

I'm hopeful for a full recovery and to be back on my feet, no pun intended, in about five to six weeks.  I already miss the class, but I am in contact with the substitute to answer any and all questions.

I meet with the orthopedic surgeon next week, but all signs are positive right now.  I have orders to stay off my feet and relax on the couch.  This is actually difficult because I am an active person. My wife and son have been extremely accommodating.  

Friday, January 22, 2016

Positive Post-It-Notes

There are several ways to give your students a good start to their day.  Today, I am sharing my post-it-note comments with you.  I will randomly select a few days throughout the school year and leave post-it-notes on students' chairs.  I either write the notes out after school, or I will get to school early and write them.  The notes are small messages unique to each student.  I walk the class and think about what I should write.  What might motivate this student?  What did this student do that made him/her stand out?  Every student receives a note.

I like how you showed perseverance on yesterday's difficult math problem.

You attitude in amazing!

How do you know so much about dinosaurs?

You're an amazing seat partner.

I can't believe how much effort you put into your writing!

Once the class pulls their chairs down, you will notice a change in the room.  Students will look around.  Some smile.  Some look confused.  Some will thank you and others won't say a word.  Trust me... they appreciate the notes!  I never say anything to the class and I go about our morning routine as usual.   Their faces will tell you how you made them feel.  You can do this activity as often as you like.

Don't be too surprised if the students keep them stored away.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Fun Revision Strategy

I had a quick bout of insomnia a few weeks back and I was thinking about how I wish I could fall back to sleep.  Has this ever happened to you?  You stare at the walls and ceiling for what seems like hours on end.  This isn’t common for me, but something positive did come from my reflections that evening. 

I must have heard “Viva Las Vegas” earlier in the day because the word “dice” came to mind.  My next thought faded into writing.  I put one and one together and I came up with an idea. What happens when you put dice and writing together?  Nothing. Usually.  However…you can combine rolling dice with revision and I’m going to show you how. 

I put my plan into action the next day.  I asked my class to do a quick write, from a picture I took, while vacationing in New Hampshire. I gave them about 15 minutes to finish their written piece. I’ll list the steps in this process:

  • Ask students to read their passage out loud to themselves or a seat partner
  • Take out the dice from the math toolkits and place the pair on desks 
  • Roll one (die) or two (dice)
  • Add the dice together and make any necessary corrections/deletions/additions to that sentence
  • Repeat at least two times
  • The class rolled the dice numerous times and the revisions were endless

This lesson went over really well and they were engaged throughout the process. I shared my ROLES revisions with you in a previous post and now you have “Roll of The Dice Revision” as another way to revise.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Classroom Update

How have things been going in your classroom since we came back from winter break?

Prior to the break, we did a lot of hands on science lessons.  I attribute many of the ideas from my Mickelson training this summer.  We did pendulum swings, science and engineering activities, push and pull, catapults, building bridges, wind propelled balloons and magnets. The students were engaged and seemed to understand claims, evidence and reasoning.

Now we are investigating biomes, traits, and animals.  In addition, we are reviewing multiplication, narrative writing and explorers.

Are you doing anything exciting? Please feel free to share.