Thursday, June 26, 2014

Teaching Students about Close Reading

Even though I've been tempted to work on other projects, I started this a little while ago and am determined to stick with started projects until they are finished.

The Smart Start has two lessons on Close Reading.  ACT (Accessing Complex Text) is something that McGraw Hill Wonders uses for mini-lessons on Close Reading throughout the series.  Even though most of the information on this seems to be for the teachers, I felt that it is important to also explain these ideas to students, and then give them reference materials to use throughout the year.  A while ago when TpT was having a site-wide sale, I purchased several cute clip art sets from Scrappin' Doodles, including these detective monsters.  Since I paid for this clip art, I did set a price for this item that I added to my store, but my next Wonders project will be a freebie.

Teaching students about Close Reading of complex text.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Day of Collaboration

Yesterday I spent A LOT of time with the other teacher at my level who teaches ELA.  It's great to have people you work with that enjoy collaborating and planning together.  After spending quite a bit of time getting to know many parts of Wonders, I needed someone to bounce some ideas off of.

We got a lot accomplished, and I now have a long list of items to complete - which is good!  So I'll take it one at a time.  I had already started on a Weekly Page that I wanted to give to students each week with spelling words, vocab, etc.  I showed Kelley what I had so far, and as usual, she did a great job of giving productive suggestions for changing a few items.  Once I have a plan, I like to get it knocked out.  I tend to want to bounce all over between ideas and projects, but my new goal is to work on one item at a time until it's COMPLETE!  So here it is: Unit 1, Weeks 1-5.  For each week there are 3 versions, the only difference being the leveled spelling lists.

 The front has the spelling list (with phonics focus), vocab list, and Unit and Weekly theme questions.  I added either a famous quote or proverb for each week that lends itself to the theme.  I love using quotes!

I also added an "Investigate" section.  This is something that they have the week to think about and take notes, so that they can share in a small group at the end of the week.  Besides trying to make a personal connection to the weekly theme, this helps tie in speaking and listening goals.  The "Optional Challenge" is meant for differentiation, and will bring in some component of Internet research for those who attempt this.

Finally, a place for tracking reading.  We use AR, but I'm hoping that this will help students keep up with weekly goals.

The back has a spelling sort.  I had to scramble the lists so that they aren't grouped by pattern, like on the front.  This is similar to Words Their Way.  There are many ways to do this.  My plan is to have students complete this, and the rest of the back, on their own either at home or school.  On Friday we will share in small groups.  I will rotate through groups/partners to spot check.

I've done a similar activity with vocab in the past.  This definitely improves over time.  Sharing a few great examples each week helps give motivation to "up their game."

The bottom boxes are obviously space for the matching sections on the front.  I like sometimes not giving them lines, and letting them figure out how to "plan for their space."

I've added these to my TpT store.  There are 30 pages in all for $2.  I'm hoping that those who purchase come to my blog.  My goal is to make this a place where we can have a discussion with other teachers using Wonders to talk about what works and what doesn't.  If you purchase these Weekly Sheets, and start using them, leave comments and suggestions.  I plan to continue making these for Units 2-6, but want to see what changes if any  to make.  I'd love any thoughts, suggestions, ideas from other users before I dive in to the next set.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Wondering about Wonders....

Okay, here's my first blog post (for my personal site, and I'm not counting the "About Me" page).  Anyways, to quickly repeat what's in my About Me page, I'm preparing to focus entirely on 4th grade ELA for next year, and using our newly adopted series, McGraw Hill Wonders.  Last year I moved back to 4th grade (looping with my amazing 3rd grade class).  I had taught 4th grade from 2000-2007, but last year was starting all over again with the switch to CCSS.  And this year it's starting all over again with a new series.  I'm not really complaining because I like change.  I try not complain in general, and I feel bad that my first blog post will highlight complaining, but here it goes...

This new series has me "Wondering about Wonders".  Our last day of school was a professional development day that was devoted almost entirely to learning about this new series.  Unfortunately, my day of "learning" wasn't quite informative.  Eager for the day, with notebook in hand, my notes did not even come close to filling up the first page (and it was a mini notebook!).

I'm more of a self-learning type anyways, so I took the materials and have been diving in since.  Here are my frustrations so far:

1.  Too many random pieces everywhere!  I love the fact that every resource they have is available digitally, but there is SO much it's overwhelming.  I'm a whole-to-part learner, and I feel like I've been given a 1,000 piece puzzle to put together, but they didn't give me the box so I know what it's supposed to look like.

2.  Common Core aligned????  Well, not really.  The weekly selection tests and weekly assessments (30 of each) only cover 7 of the 19 RL and RI standards, and only the L4 and L5 language standards.  For some reason, they do include some of the 3rd grade CCSS??? 

3.  The grammar portion of it follows the "old school" scope and sequence.  Units on sentences, nouns, verbs, adverbs, etc.  I don't have a problem reviewing, and spending SOME time going over good old fashioned adverbs.  But our standards only have relative adverbs, and this isn't even mentioned in the grammar handbook in the back of the students' text.  And this is just one example of poor alignment.  I did find a small reference on one page in the teacher manual about relative adverbs and pronouns, but nothing in the student text, and so far no materials in the plethora of online resources.

Now, to end on a positive note, I think I do like the themes, and literature I've seen so far.  So, I've got some work to do, but I'm up for the challenge.