Tuesday, October 22, 2013


As part of our PYP unit in How the World Works, the Thinkers read biographies of inventors.  I'm very specific in that they must be an inventor or innovator, and if I am organized enough (which happens more and more!) I go to the public library ahead of time and pull specific biographies for the kids to pick from.

From there, after the biographies are read, the class writes a report on the inventor/innovator they read about.  If you ask me, it gets kind of dull, so every year, I try to find something to spice it up a bit.  This year?  This year we hit the jackpot!

After the kids finished typing their report, we headed to the computer lab.  Their first task was to find a clear picture of the inventor/innovator they studied.  Once that was done, they headed to the Tagxedo site and converted their report into a picture of their inventor/innovator!  It was way cool and added an element of fun to an otherwise "eh" assignment.  The class was so proud of their work!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Tween Tribune

If you're not familiar with this incredible resource, you need to be.  Like, now.  Go.  Go check it out, then come back.  I'll wait.  TWEEN TRIBUNE

Ok, got that out of your system?  Don't worry, you'll have plenty of time to play with it.

Anyway, I've been using this resource for a few years, but it's only in the past few years that they made it more elementary friendly.  In an effort to introduce current events to my fourth graders, without spending the money on Time for Kids or Scholastic, both of which are fantastic resources (but cost money) we use Tween Tribune Jr (TTK-4) instead.  The Thinkers spend time every few weeks scouring the site for relevant articles that are of interest.  Relevant meaning articles in which their is either a problem to be solved, or multiple perspectives to the story.  We do this in preparation for the PYP Exhibition, and it gets the kids excited about reading the news.

Now, that last part?  Reading the news?  Could be seen as scary.  Especially in this day and age.  With Tween Tribune, there is NO worry!  They scour the country papers looking for age appropriate topics for kids.  They've even split it up into multiple categories, complete with reading levels and comprehension quizzes! Currently, I haven't given my kids user names, so they're not experience the full effect of this incredible site, but yes, you can sign your kids up with user names, so they can take quizzes and respond to posts (all which you approve, first!) and see what others are saying about the same articles.

(Tween Tribune is not paying me or compensating me in any way for this post.)

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Read. Aloud. A lot!

Like many elementary teachers, I read aloud to my class on a daily basis.  Sometimes, if they're persistent enough, and I'm feeling giving, I'll even read a little extra.  This request usually happens when I end the day's chapters on a cliff hanger.

Which I do.  A lot.  Hey, it's fun!

Anyway, one of the things that was a tug-of-war decision for me was using our read aloud as instructional, or using it for pure enjoyment.  I know that there are schools of thought that argue for each side, and both are very valid.  I've found that we do snack time during read aloud, giving the kids a few minutes to chat at the beginning before I start reading.

Once I start reading?  They're usually hooked. X Our Daily 5 CAFE board is right by my read aloud chair, which makes a great place for modeling some of the strategies that are on the board.  This helps with instruction in a very organic, natural way.  Most, if not all of our read alouds happen this way - me reading, using the ever-growing board of strategies, and the kids munching away until a cliff hanger leaves them slack jawed.

Something I started this year, though, is a project or activity AFTER read aloud.  This is a great place to bring in some of the Thinking Routines that we use in the district- my favorite for read aloud being chalk talk.

In this case, prior to our reading unit on character study, we did a mini character study using our read aloud and a chalk talk.  The kids went from poster to poster "talking" with their "chalk."  We did this a few times with the main characters in the story.  Then each group was given a poster to analyze, and they had to create a character sketch of just that character. I think it was kind of fun, and so did the kids!