The Hidden Joy of Writing Journals

Every weekend, my students take home a writing journal with a simple writing assignment. Last year I tried to get them to write more about their life, and most pages came back filled with monotonous day-to-day, “First I woke up, then I watched T.V.” type entries.

This year I started to incorporate their writing assignments with things actually happening in the classroom.

Why should we recycle?

Who is your favorite author and why?

What did you learn about the water cycle this week?

During our last writing unit on non-fiction, one of my students was really struggling to pick an “all-about” book topic. One weekend his assignment was to write about his favorite animal. Instead of a simple journal entry, he wrote an all-about book (about tigers, his favorite animal) without even realizing it!

As I mentioned in my last post, we recently started learning about how to write fairy tales. The assignment for the weekend was to pick a fairy tale character you like the best and write about why you would want to be that character. One of my girl’s came back with an entry about how she would be Jasmine, because the thought flying on a magic carpet with the birds would be amazing. Here is a look at the end of her entry:

Reading my students’ journal entries is a highlight of my week! What kind of writing topics do you give your students?

Student Made Props Rocks!

It’s finally showtime for my fifth grade students! Today, we had our performance of Geology Rocks for the whole elementary school and besides a few small technology glitches it went pretty smoothly. I think the teachers had more fun enjoying some of the humor from the lines and songs! Tomorrow, we have the performance for the parents. 🙂

The props for the musical were all made by the students. We had the students make signs that said the name of the part and a picture of it. We worked with the art teacher, Rachel. She had them make the signs and our one big prop (a mountain) for the stage.

The art teacher had them use different mediums for the signs. Some were done with water colors, color pencils or thick crayons. The students then used black paper to cut out the words and glued them on top. Afterwards, I laminated them and hole-punched them on the top and put a string through it. Now, the students could hang them around their necks during the show.

For the rocks (igneous, metamorphic and sedimentary), they cut out signs in the shape of rocks and colored them. They came out really well too!

Thank you Ms. Rachel for all your help! We couldn’t have done it without you. We ❤ art.

“Using Tech to Enable Dreaming”

I discovered TED talks around 2007 or 2008… and I thought they were insanely fantastic. Recently, I have started to watch more and more TED talks. It may replace my “One Tree Hill” addiction.

This past December, Shilo Shiv Suleman gave a TED talk that introduces her new storybook iPad app “Khoya”. Her talk is the title of this post, “Using Tech to Enable Dreaming”. The app she created sounds amazing, it puts you inside the stories you are reading and makes it extremely interactive (there are parts where you have to GO OUTSIDE-a lost art in itself- and take pictures of flowers, or the bark of a tree, or an animal, etc.). In writing workshop I just started my unit on “Fairy Tales”, and my students could not be more excited. This app really works with that unit, the only thing is that it is rated for ages 9+ due to some fantasy violence (have you ever read the original fairy tales? they were dark!). Check out her TED talk here:

Shilo Shiv Suleman’s TED talk

In the spirit of ideas worth spreading, TED has created a program called TEDx. TEDx is a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience. I just learned this today! Anytime you seen an x, it stands for an independent and local group organizing TED talks, which is great. I have come across some really interesting presentations over the past couple days.

What is your favorite TED talk?

Math Stories for Newbies!

Our first guest blogger for two apples a day is Joelle, who is not only fluent in English, but her native tongue is French. She has taught in elementary schools in Canada, before making the plunge to the international scene. She is currently teaching third grade at an international school here in Korea and happens to be our amazing co-worker. 

Let’s make Math Journals come alive…

Yes, math journals are great ways to communicate and see what your students learned during a particular lesson.  I will not argue the importance of math journals. However, what if I offered you an idea that not only got the students writing about math, but got them excited about math?

Turning Math Journals into Math Stories

Often math journals include a math problem where students create or complete a math question. Examples are; Jenny has 8 marbles, she gives Lucas 3 marbles. How many are in total? Another one may be, what is a fraction? There are so many questions we can ask our students to see if they really grasped a concept.

What if math journals were more than just a reflection or an answer to a problem? What if journals came to life?

What are Math Stories?

Math stories are written by the students about a particular concept you are covering in class. I personally use it at the end of my unit as a review of vocabulary and concepts. At the beginning, these stories may take your students 3 or 4 (50 minute periods) to write, however, the more the students do them, the easier it becomes and eventually may only take 2-3 (50 minute periods).  For teachers, the best part of Math stories is that there is absolutely no planning involved, as long as you keep a list of key words or concepts going on Word Wall or Math Wall. This way, students can refer to this “already made list” on the board when writing their stories.

Math Stories for NEWBIES!

Model! Model! Model! Choose a math story and do a read aloud. If you are not sure where to begin, here is an excellent website with book lists for every math strand: http://childrenspicturebooks.info/articles/picture_books_for_math.htm

Afterwards, discuss with your students the various components of the story. What makes a math story? This lesson should look no different than what you do in language arts.

Day 1-2: In groups of 2, have your students start brainstorming and writing out a draft of their math story. Since the focus is on ideas, I usually don’t give them more than a period and a half to finish this portion.

Day 2-4: Using chart paper, have your students start writing and illustrating their story.

Day 5: What you do on this day is completely up to you. What I have done in the past is have students rotate to different groups and read each other’s stories.

Benefits of Math Stories

  • Students are making connections with the concepts taught in class with real life examples
  • Students who don’t like math will often find this activity amusing and not realize they are working or reviewing
  • This activity can be adapted for any grade level
  • Cooperative learning
  • Easy to prepare
  • Assessments can be made both for Math and Language Arts

Summer Technology Opportunity for Teachers

Last summer, I had a chance to go to the ISTE 2011 conference in Philadelphia. This was amazing as I heard great keynote speakers including John Medina, the author of Brain Rules, and Chris Lehman, the principal of Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia. Plus, it was a great opportunity for networking and hearing about the latest trends and updates in technology.

This conference happens every year, and this year it takes place in sunny San Diego from June 24-27th, 2012.

ISTE 2012

Here’s a brief description from it’s website:

“Now in its 33rd year, ISTE’s annual conference and exposition features an amazing array of professional learning and collaborative networking opportunities. As part of your conference registration, you can choose from three inspirational keynotes and more than 700 concurrent sessions including: lecture, panel, Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), model lesson, research paper, poster, student showcase, and Birds of a Feather discussion formats. Also be sure to check out our special focus playgrounds and networking lounges for even more hands-on exploration and one-to-one connecting.”

Even if you are not officially an I.T. teacher, it is beneficial for all. I do wish I could go again this year,  but things are going to be a bit busy for me this summer. Hopefully, I can go in 2013!

Celebrating Read Aloud

I still remember the Korean picture book my mom used to read to me when I was little, 101 Dalmations. I know it sounds so random, but I can still remember some of the pictures from the book and of course the story, everyone is familiar with. I used to love getting books read by my mom, don’t know why she stopped! 🙂

As I started teaching fifth grade here in Korea, I’ve really enjoyed being able to read aloud to my students. I try to spend a good chunk of time everyday reading aloud. Sometimes the read aloud might relate to what we’re learning in science. Other times we are reading through a chapter book that can last over a few weeks. I love reading picture books with great illustrations. Those are my absolute favorite.

Here is a really interesting article about the importance of read aloud by the Donalyn Miller. She’s the author of one of my favorite teacher books, The Book Whisperer.

Make Every Day Read Aloud Day Article by the Book Whisperer

Also, did you know that there’s a world read aloud day?? How cool is that.

World Read Aloud Day on March 7th

There’s also Read Across America every year, and this year it’s based on the book The Lorax by Dr. Seuss, just in time of when the movie comes out. Our school does something similar to this, but we pick our own theme that works. In the past, we’ve done Read Across Asia and Dr. Seuss theme. This year’s theme it’s Kevin Henkes. I’m sure either Melody or I will be post more about that later!

NEA- Read Across America

My friend and co-worker Elaine will be presenting at Korcos at Chadwick International School on March 7th about using read aloud in your classroom. We will be modeling and giving helpful tips! Please make sure to join us if you’re interested.

Some of my favorite read alouds!

What was your favorite book you got read to you?

What books do you like to read aloud to your students?

Google Science Fair

My good friend over at hannahgram.com just posted this link on her facebook page.  It brings me back to my days of being on the Science Olympiad Team (I am not lying, I seriously did it all throughout high school, and I got a couple of first/second prize medals for the mission impossible category, does anyone out there feel me?!) I wish this would have been around back in the day!

Everyone has a question. What’s yours? We are after the most curious brains from the four corners of the globe. Anybody and everybody between 13 and 18 who has a fantastic idea to share can enter the global competition between now and 30 March 2012.