Guest Read Aloud in Jee Young’s Class

In my previous post, I mentioned visiting Jee Young’s classroom in Singapore this past fall.

Not only was I able to observe a science lesson, I also got to read aloud ish by Peter H. Reynolds. During the read aloud, Jee Young prepared questions for me to ask her students based on things they were already discussing as a class.

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Each student sat with a pencil in hand and their Reader’s Notebook opened. Since I am used to working with younger students, I tried my hand at a few jokes, loving it when the students not only got my jokes but responded back… Or even when they didn’t get my jokes because of cultural differences, meh, it happens.

Throughout the reading I paused to ask questions and give the students time to “Stop and Jot” their answers.  It was great hearing their responses and listening to them connect what they wrote to what another classmate said.

This is something I do with my first grade students, only it looks a little different. Instead of them writing I model it for them during our read alouds, stopping to jot my thoughts on sticky notes. During their independent reading time is when they get to “Stop and Jot” on sticky notes which they keep collected in their Reader’s Notebook.  Since they don’t stop and jot during read alouds, I have them do the good ‘ol “Turn and Talk” with their partner. Then, they have to share  with the class what their partner said, to help them listen to each other better.

After my read aloud I took my own mini-tour of Jee Young’s classroom and here are a couple of things I really liked (out of the many!).

Jee Young giving her students book recommendations (thumbs up Jee Young!):

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The baskets she uses to organize her books, I love them!

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When I arrived back in Korea I shared the same book, ish,  with my class, and they loved it. A few other favorite read alouds of mine are:

the dot by Peter H. Reynolds
The Giant Jam Sandwich by John Vernon Lord
Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! by Mo Willems (I mean anything by Mo, you can’t go wrong…)
Press Here by Herve Tullet (Jee Young and I did a project using this book with our classes years back and wrote about it here!)

Read about Jee Young doing a guest read aloud with my class a couple of years ago here.

What are some of your favorite read alouds? I would love to know, leave a comment!

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the art of grand conversation

During the coaching institute, we were in labsites in a NYC public school where we got to teach lessons. One of the lessons we had to plan was a grand conversation. I admit that I haven’t really been doing them in my classroom prior to the institute. It was a great reminder for me to integrate more grand conversations into my lessons. Of course we do have a lot of discussions as a class, but a grand conversation is a bit different. A grand conversation is where the students are leading this conversation around a specific content area. The amazing thing about grand conversations are that the students participate and build off each other. You shouldn’t need to call on the students. They chime in as they wish.

My group led a grand conversation in a fifth grade classroom during the institute. We decided on a nonfiction text about Jackie Robinson. We read the short book on Jackie Robinson and had a few key questions we used to help start the conversation. I was impressed with the engagement and level of depth in the conversation.

A few tips to leading your own grand conversation:

1)  Set clear expectations- It will really be important to be clear that when a person talks, you are listening to them speak and not interrupting them. I have my students sit in a circle so they can see everyone in the class. Grand conversations work great when students are really listening and adding on to each other. A smart idea would be to review with them a sentence starters chart as a scaffold for their conversation. I found a great one on pinterest with conversational sentence starters:

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Here’s a quick chart I came up with to help set expectations:

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2) Make it mandatory for everyone to participate- A great tip that a colleague gave was to give each student 2 index cards. After they speak, they put the index card in front of them. Once they use up both index cards, they have to wait until everyone else shared to speak again. I tried this with my class and it really helped getting everyone to share. I loved seeing my more reluctant sharers really making meaningful contributions.

3) Use open ended questions to get the conversation started- Also, one thing I tried to do was to spice things up by making a few controversial statements (about the characters) that would allow for debate among the students. Here are some questions that you could use to start the discussion.

  • Who was your favorite character and why? Who was your least favorite character?
  • How did the characters change in the story?
  • What was your favorite part of the story and why?
  • What was the author trying to teach you through the story? What were the themes in the story and why?

As the facilitator, depending on the topic and students, if the conversation is not really going well or at a standstill, jump in by changing questions. Also, feel free to share your opinion about the topic.

4) Make sure there’s a lot to talk about- I’ve only done grand conversations in reading workshop, and make sure there’s enough content to talk about. One time, I did a grand conversation after a short picture book I read, and there wasn’t as much for the students to talk about for an extending period of time. Our grand conversation quickly flopped after about 10minutes. After that failure, I held another grand conversation after finishing our long read aloud chapter book, and the students had so much to talk about. My fifth graders were talking for a good 30 minutes.

5) Record it! – If you have an iPad, all you need to do is set it on a table next to where the students are sitting in a circle. Then, press record, and you can easily upload it to your class blog! If it goes well, you can use it as a example to show your students next year. Also, it’ll be a great way to motivate students to be extra focused and pay attention when they know they are being recorded. I have this iPad stand that I used to record:

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Have you tried grand conversations in your classroom? Do you have any other tips to add? I would love to hear them!

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Seeing Scientists at Work in Jee Young’s Classroom

For those of you who follow us, you know that Two Apples A Day consists of two elementary teachers, collaborating on one blog. We started this adventure in the same country, at the same school, with the same vision (haha, okay reeling it back). Since then, Jee Young has left Korea and moved to Singapore. Melody (me!) has stayed in Korea, but worked for several international schools. Jee Young was able to come back to South Korea and visit my classroom a couple of years ago and shared her experience here.

This past fall, I was able to visit Jee  Young’s fifth grade classroom in Singapore during one of my holidays. I observed one of her science lessons and took mental notes of things that I thought were so on point.

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Here are the top 3 ideas I took away from Jee Young’s lesson:

1. Wear a Lab coat. Jee Young instantly turned scientist when she slipped on her white lab coat. Such a simple thing to do that made a big difference. As an additional bonus to this look could be protective goggles, yes?

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2. Call your students “Scientists”. Every time she spoke to them as a whole, or to an individual, Jee Young used the term “scientist(s)” and you could tell it made the students take themselves more seriously… they felt like scientists, they were scientists.

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3. Use lesson/learning time wisely by setting up routines.  In the course of 45 minutes, Jee Young gave the students their task, had the students observe their experiments and discuss their observations with their small groups, create a post on their blog using their iPads (pictures included!), and then had a couple of students share a few posts with the class as a whole. While this was happening she moved around to answer questions, mentally made notes of students’ work, and gave instant feedback. It was amazing. Yes, it takes time to set these routines up at the beginning of the year or at the beginning of a unit. But the effort is well worth it.

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Observing colleagues is a great way to share ideas and grow as a teacher. I know we all get busy, but take the time to do it and you will not regret it.

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Thank you for welcoming me into your classroom Jee Young, I hope I can come back soon.

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Top 3 Things I Learned from the Coaching Institute

This past January, I had an opportunity to go to NY to participate in the Teacher’s College Coaching Institute. Not only did I have this amazing professional opportunity, I got to go back home to NY! After traveling about 24 hours to get from Singapore to NY, I was glad to be greeted by my parents at the airport along with the colder winter weather. One of the best parts about this coaching institute is that we were able to be in the public schools and not only observe, but teach and coach. After 4 days, I came up with three big ideas that I took from the institute.

1) Frequent feedback- I was reminded over and over again about the importance of frequent effective feedback not only for our students, but for teachers as well. In order for students to grow, they need frequent feedback. They continued to reference John Hattie’s work in Visible Teaching for Teachers.John Hattie’s research continues to be huge in the education field right now. One of the top 10 factors that can positively influence student growth is feedback. John Hattie states the importance of powerful feedback that helps students grow and meet their goals. Therefore, it’s important to keep the mini-lesson truly mini. This allows teachers to spend more time conferring and doing small group instruction where students are getting that personalized feedback.

One point that stuck with me about feedback was the idea that as teachers, we need effective feedback as well. One of the staff developers shared that the powerful feedback she receives once a year from her boss, helps her last through the year. As teachers, we don’t necessarily need feedback every week, but when we get good feedback about our teaching, it can not only encourage us, but help us improve as well. How often do you get feedback about your teaching from your admin?

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Taken from John Hattie’s Visible Learning website: http://visible-learning.org/2015/02/infographic-feedback-for-learning/

2) Faster planning- Another huge takeaway from me was the idea of faster planning for our lessons. On the second day of the institute, we were in the public schools. When we arrived, Mary E., the staff developer leading our cohort, gave us the schedule. We would observe her doing a lesson (which was amazing), than we would have about 30minutes to plan out our lessons, then we would be in the classrooms teaching. Even though we did break up parts of the lesson among the groups, I was surprised that we had such little time. Mary emphasized that it was not realistic to spend an hour planning for an hour lesson.

It was pretty great how we were able to plan the lessons so quickly, because we were given such time limits. Even though in reality we would have more time to plan our actual lessons, we did become more efficient and faster with our planning with the time limits given. I don’t think I have an answer to how to plan more quickly, as there are quite a few different factors to take into account, but there needs to more ways to be smarter with our planning without compromising the quality of our lessons. That’s something that’s still lingering in my mind…

3) Feet on the ground– The last big takeaway for me was the importance of getting into each other’s classrooms. I really loved being in the different classrooms and getting to observe and teach with other coaches and teachers from all over. Collaboration offers opportunities to learn from each other that doesn’t happen when we are isolated in our classroom. Some of the ways you can get your feet into each others classroom are walkthroughs, demo-lessons, or team teaching lessons.

However, it’s important that there is a culture of collaboration in the school, where teachers feel comfortable being in each other’s room, giving feedback, and working together. It is definitely not easy to open up your classroom to other teachers, and it takes a bit of vulnerability, and support from admin is crucial. And remember, it takes time to build that culture of collaboration, but start with small steps! It might just be observing another teacher for 15 minutes, but get yourself in other classrooms. A lot of fantastic learning is taking place and we should take more advantage of the opportunities to learn from our colleagues.

Stay tuned for more on some more practical classroom takeaways from the coaching institute!

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Telling Time in First Grade

Learning how to tell time. We’ve all been there.

Since telling time is something we do throughout the whole day I wanted to integrate it throughout all of my lessons. The way I decided to do this was by having my students create their own clocks and keeping it on their desks. Randomly throughout the day (at the beginning of a lesson, right before or after lunch, etc.) I asked the students to look at our classroom clock and mirror the time on their desk clock. Then they have to tell me the time.

When first creating our clocks I  used our classroom clock as an example  and explained how the numbers are placed in order around the circle, I used a template from this website (which I found on Pinterest!). Some students started glueing the numbers counter-clockwise, which I found interesting and made sure to correct quickly. The clocks were laminated and the hands attached with an envelope pin. Having each student color and decorate their clock gave them a sense of ownership and pride and they absolutely love having them on their desk. I thought it might be a distraction for them, but most of the time they forget they are there. Then they will randomly ask me if we can change our clocks as a class when I haven’t done it in a while. I started to encourage them to do it even when I don’t bring their attention to it.

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Sidenote: I am currently teaching New Zealand’s math curriculum called, The Numeracy Project. If you teach this at your international school I would love to hear from you! It’s completely new to me and I am curious if other school’s outside of New Zealand are using it.

Top *Other Websites I used in 2014

We all know about Teachers Pay Teachers and Pinterest… and we usually have those grade level appropriate blogs bookmarked, blessing the names of those individuals who are insanely good at writing and sharing their ideas—on a consistent basis. (Pointing finger at myself and shaking head.)

I decided to reflect back on 2014 and look at the websites I used that strayed from the go-to ones on my list.

1. Kahoot– This website allows you to create an online quiz, survey , or discussion on anything. I have used it weekly or bi-weekly to create a comprehension quiz on read aloud books. Once the quiz is created students log into kahoot.it (another kahoot website, but different address than the first link) on an iPad/laptop/desktop. My school has a one-to-one iPad program which makes this activity really convenient. It’s free to sign up. Make your own Kahoot today! You can also search kahoots other people have made for public use.

2. Google Images and Pixabay– I know, the first one listed here sounds weird, or like “duh”. But what I have recently discovered on Google images is that you can refine your searches to use pictures and images that are labeled for reuse, and I didn’t know that until a few months ago (oops). Once you search for an image you can click search tools, usage rights, and then labeled for reuse. There is also a site called Pixabay that has a lot of really beautiful and interesting photos, all available for use.

3. Handwriting Worksheets– I am not a huge fan of all the advertisements on this website… but it’s free! I believe that handwriting will never die, but man— do my students need a lot of help in this department. This website allows you to make several different kinds of handwriting worksheets. You can choose Print, D-Nealian, or Cursive for your students to practice. You can create letter, word, or paragraph form worksheets and you can include characters from languages other than English.

4. Sparklebox.co.uk– I am pretty sure I have talked about this website before, but I still think it is a hidden gem for some. I haven’t used this one as much this year as I have in the past, but it has a LOT of resources available.

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If you have some hidden, or not so hidden, websites you use for resources, please share in the comments. 

Back-To-School Door Decorating Ideas!

Most international schools have already started school within the past couple of weeks, or if you’re school is like mine, you are almost a month into the new school year!

I am really excited to work in a Christian school environment again (mainly because I love praying with my students, there is nothing wrong with non-Christian schools, I like them too) and so when I saw this idea for a door on Pinterest, I asked my TA to recreate it. She did an amazing job, right?

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetAnd as I was walking around my school I saw several other doors I admired. (Picture below!)

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Then a friend posted a link on my wall to these 29 Awesome Classroom Doors for Back to School. It’s not too late my teaching friends. Decorating your door is too much fun to pass up!

If you have any more links to door decorating ideas, please share.

Up next, Jee Young and I are going to share how we set up our classrooms for the school year. I love seeing all the different ways people can transform a square or rectangular room. Until then, have a great first (second, eighth, fifteenth) day of school!

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