Student Engagement

by C. Elkins, OK Math and Reading Lady

Student engagement is a huge concern among most (if not all) educators. This means students are actively involved in the learning process. Research definitely supports the notion that higher incidents of engagement result in increased achievement (Marzano, etc.).  Attached is my guide to student engagement strategies for reading / ELA lessons.  Many of these strategies also will apply to math, social studies, or science lessons.

Click here to get my guide:  Student Engagement – Whole Class Reading

Back to school books and activities

by C. Elkins, OK Math and Reading Lady

As part of building a classroom community, you likely will have many discussions about diversity, friendship, and showing respect in various ways.  Here are some great resources for literature that might emphasize the point you are trying to make.

Weareteachers.com 14 books with great follow-up ideas.

  • This site is one of the best because it doesn’t just give a summary of the story, but it provides very practical follow up ideas include a get-to-know-you bingo, anchor charts, self-portrait, writing, posters, brainstorming, drawing, etc.
  • For the above book, “Dear Teacher,” she suggests writing a postcard to a friend or family member telling them about the first week of school.
  • For the book, “Name Jar,” the article suggests brainstorming and creating a poster showing different ways to greet a new student.  

5 Back to School Books for 3rd Grade (Pinterest from notsowimpyteacher.com):

  • There might be some new titles here that kids haven’t heard in previous years.

Back to school books for upper elementary (teachingtoinspire.com).

  • This teacher provides some printables to accompany the books she recommends. These deal with more advanced issues such as kindness, diversity, perseverance, homework and writing.
  • One of the books she features is “The Important Book” by Margaret Wise Brown. It’s been around for awhile (for a good reason). A perfect book for getting kids to write details around one topic. This can actually be used any time of year – not just the beginning. For the schools I visit, I have a set of these books you may borrow. Or send me a message and I will send you more information about this book and its link to writing possibilities! Or, of course, I can help you do a lesson using these any time of the year.

Don’t have the books mentioned? Your school library might be able to get it from another library. Or – check youtube.com.  Many books are shared this way!

Enjoy!  And please share some other titles and/or beginning of school activities you love.

Building A Classroom Community

by Cindy Elkins – OK Math and Reading Lady

From Day 1, you have most likely started working on creating a classroom community. The time spent on this will pay off in the long run because there will be a huge emphasis on establishing a climate of mutual respect, collaboration, kindness, a positive atmosphere, and a feeling that each one is a valued member of the class. This is also critical to help you prepare for future partner work and small group collaborative practices for your reading and math instructional program. See the freebie of activities in the last paragraph!

There are many ways to accomplish this, of course. But I will share my favorites. Before Great Expectations came to SW Oklahoma, I became familiar with an organization called Responsive Classroom (click to link to their website). They are similar to GE, but primarily train teachers in the NE part of the U.S.  Like GE, they also focus on a strong link between academic success and social-emotional learning. You can subscribe to their newsletter and order wonderful books via their website. I started with one of their books called “The Morning Meeting Book” (click on title). It promotes ways to create a classroom community by having a daily “Morning Meeting.” We formed a circle every morning and greeted each other by name in fun ways. See some ideas below in the bulleted section.  (You would be surprised to know that often students don’t know their classmates names, even after several weeks of school.) Through this circle, we shared successes and concerns for one another, began discussion topics about how we should behave and respect one another, welcomed new students, made group decisions, and set the tone for the day. Every student was acknowledged and felt valued every day. Students don’t want to disappoint a teacher or classmate they respect, and it almost eliminated the need for time consuming behavior charts.

Name Greetings: Continue reading

Organization Idea

by C. Elkins, OK Math and Reading Lady

I have an organization idea I have been meaning to share. This is a way to collect students’ papers in one place without using a basket for each subject. Pros: You no longer battle the “no name paper” problem. All of the papers are already in alphabetical order. You can glance quickly in a student’s file to see what papers a student has turned in (or not turned in). It provides  a good place to put papers needed for absent students. This process also makes it easier to return papers to the students because all of their papers are together. And – it takes up a lot less room than all of those wire baskets. So, you ask, “What is it??”

Hanging File Tote Basket

1.  Provide a hanging file for each student, with their name on a tab. Here’s a link to Staples for one like the picture: open top file box.  If you are an Amazon shopper, here is the link: open top file boxes

2. Put folders in ABC order (or whatever order you record them in your gradebook).

3. Students turn in their finished (ungraded) paper in their file.

4. Throughout the day, you can spot check to see if a student has turned in their assignment (as opposed to looking through a stack of papers in a basket, some of which may not have names on them).

5. The tote is easy to carry home, if needed. Since papers are already in order, you don’t have to rearrange them first to record your grades.

6. If you like placing all of the math together, and all of the reading together, etc. for more efficient grading, just take them out of each folder and grade – they will still be in abc order.

The only issue I remember having with this method is when all of the students finished at the same time (like a test). I had 2 options:  1) Have students line up and add their paper to their file, or 2) Just collect them all and clip them together to grade like you might normally have done.

Enjoy!  Does anyone have a favorite paper collection tips you would like to share?

Guided Reading and Literacy Learning Stations Part 2: Classroom Community and Procedures

by C. Elkins, OK Math and Reading Lady

Part 1 gave a brief summary of setting up your guided reading and literacy stations program. On this post, I will go into more detail on a couple of the points: 1) building a classroom community, and 2) establishing procedures and practicing activities.

When you release your students to work with partners or in small groups, you need assurance they are going to work together harmoniously, at least most of the time anyway! This is critical to the success of your small group instruction, because you don’t want to be interrupted with disputes while you are working together.

So what can you do? Starting from Day 1, you must work on creating a classroom community; one based on mutual respect, collaboration, kindness, a positive atmosphere, and a feeling that each one is a valued member of the class. There are many ways to accomplish this, of course. But I will share my favorites. Before Great Expectations came to SW Oklahoma, I became familiar with an organization called Responsive Classroom (click to link to their website). They are similar to GE, but primarily train teachers in the NE part of the U.S.  Like GE, they also focus on a strong link between academic success and social-emotional learning. You can subscribe to their newsletter and order wonderful books via their website. I started with one of their books called “The Morning Meeting Book” (click on title). It promotes ways to create a classroom community by having a daily “Morning Meeting.” We formed a circle every morning and greeted each other by name in fun ways. Through this circle, we shared successes and concerns for one another, began discussion topics about how we should behave and respect one another, welcomed new students, made group decisions, and set the tone for the day. Every student was acknowledged and felt valued every day. Students don’t want to disappoint a teacher or classmate they respect, and it almost eliminated the need for time consuming behavior charts. Continue reading