Engage All Students in Writing with a Sound Bite

This past fall I had the privilege of attending a Reading and Writing through Inquiry workshop in Indonesia (love that traveling is a part of my job!). I first mentioned it in this post. One of the ideas our workshop leader presented to us involved sharing sound bites with students and having them write a story based on what they hear. I took so many notes during that weekend that there were a few learning engagements I completely forgot about. I am sure that has never happened to you…

Recently, I was asked to present at a conference my school was holding and I reviewed my notes from that workshop. This sound bite idea jumped out at me as this was a learning engagement I had yet to try.

I decided to give it a go and created sound bites in iMovie, using the sound effects the program offers. One sound bite was a mixture of jungle sounds, monkeys, rain, a waterfall, it ended with an alarm clock. When I played the sounds for my first grade class every single student was engaged. I have a few new students this semester and two of them speak very little English (aka, zero English). They were able to hear the sounds and draw pictures of what they heard. Then I helped them write a sentence or words that matched their pictures.

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Each story was different and showed student’s personalities. We did this engagement a second time and this time I connected it to our current unit. Which is learning about transportation systems. I used sounds of horses running, a helicopter, racing cars, walking, a train, etc (all found on iMovie and exported just with audio). Again, every single student was engaged.

Don’t you just love it when that happens?!

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Progressive Stories are as easy as 1,2,3!

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Last month I asked the lower elementary school if they would be interested in writing a story together in a way that is known to be called a “progressive” story.

Setting it up was simple. My first grade class started the story, we sent it to a second grade class, they sent it to our kindergarten, then it went to the other second grade class and finished with the other first grade classes. For those good with numbers, that is a story with five sections 🙂 Altogether it took us one week to finish with each teacher taking one 45 minute block to write the story, and the using center time, free time, or another language arts block to draw the illustrations.

Each class drew three illustrations to go with their section of the story (next time we do it I may ask for 4 illustrations per section) I shared a few of them at the beginning of this post. The pictures were put together and a few students from each class narrated the story. This video is the final result:

As the classes work on their sections I heard from the teachers how excited their students were about this story. They were able to modify the activity based on each grade’s level and worked in what they were studying in language arts. From bold beginnings to adjectives to mighty middles and excellent endings, it is neat seeing the whole story put together.

Here it is in written form:

In a classic classroom on a cold day, there was a kind teacher named Miss White. Dress in white from head to toe, she also wore a magical pearl necklace. On this cold day it started to snow. At first the snow fell gently and then it fell faster and faster. Miss White looked out the window and saw the snow swirling. The wind began to whistle and blow. Suddenly, a snow monster appeared! (1W)

The massive snow monster looked around and saw Miss. White. He threw dirty snowballs to her class, and covered Miss White’s class window. Miss White’s students were so scared and hid under their desks. Miss White touched her magical pearl necklace and said, “White White Miss White, turn my students into superheroes.” All 20 students turned into strong superheroes. Then the superheroes opened the gigantic window and flew out quickly. (2H)

A good snow monster comes and  punches the bad snow monster! All the jungle animals come to help the kids fight the snow monster. There is a gorilla, a monkey, a giraffe, a T-Rex, a gecko, an alligator, a crocodile, a tiger, and a lion. The super hero kids see little eyes outside in the snow too.  They are angry, bad robbers! It is a trap! Then the snow monster eats all 20 of the superheroes! The jungle animals run and hide behind the mountain.  The bad snow monster kills the good snow monster! The bad snow monster and the robbers try to find the jungle animals. The jungle animals jump out and fight the bad snow monster and the robbers.  Oh no! How will the super kids get out of the bad monster’s tummy? (K)

One animal caught a robber and threw him and hit the snow monster, so it fell over. But the snow monster reappeared because it was indestructible.  The tiger and the lion rebuilt two new snow monsters from the body of the old good snow monster.  Then the two good snow monsters punched and kicked the bad monster and the robbers.  The super heroes punched the snow monster from inside his tummy.  The snow broke and the super heroes flew out.  Miss White had a book that told all the things that her magical necklace could do.  She looked up how to get rid of a snow monster. Miss White found that the only way to get rid of the monster was with fire.  The children said to the bad monster, “Miss White is going to put fire on you.”  The pearls shot fire at the monster, but it didn’t hurt anybody else.  The monster screamed because it was painful.  The fire police came and made a very humongous, humongous (the biggest in the world) campfire. (2F)

Ms. White touched her magical pearl necklace and said, “One of the jungle animals please trip the bad snow monster so he falls into the fire!”. Just then, two of the monkeys tied their tails together and ran in front of the snow monsters feet. They pulled their tails tight. The T-Rex stood near the fire and distracted the snow monster. The snow monster started to run towards the T-Rex. His feet tripped on the monkeys and he fell into the fire. He screamed as he melted away, “AHHHHHHHHHHH!!!”. The fire police caught the robbers and took them to jail. The superheros were turned back to students when Ms. White rubbed her necklace again. They went back to doing their work. The jungle animals came out from the mountain cheering, “GOOD JOB, THANK YOU, YAAAAAAY!”. Before they left to go back to the jungle the animals gave the students a fun ride on their backs. Everyone said thank you to each other for helping.  (1P)

The first question my students asked when the story was complete? “When can we write another one?”

What are learning engagements you do to get your students excited about writing? We would love to hear your ideas, and it just so happens that we have a comment section!

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Creating Landmarks out of Marshmallows

During our previous unit of inquiry my first graders discovered the world of maps. As part of their studies we learned about landforms and landmarks. In order to create a more hands on experience for them I decided to bring in marshmallows and toothpicks. I got this idea because it was the 100th day of school and my PYP coordinator told me that once she gave students 100 marshmallows and 100 toothpicks to create something… and I thought, why not landmarks?

Did I give them 100 marshmallows and 100 toothpicks? Uhh… no. But the fact that Korea now has affordable marshmallows available at Diaso (kind of like and up-scale dollar store), is incredible. Good job, Korea!

The students worked in pairs to create a landmark. They attempted to recreate the Eiffel Tower, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, the Great Wall of China, as well as make their own bridges, towers, and statues.

They loved every second of this learning engagement, even though I didn’t let them eat any of the marshmallows. (I am not a monster though, I let them eat some during snack.)

What are some of your favorite hands on learning engagements?

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“What can I do for my child at home?”

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The title of this post is the most frequent question I get from parents during parent/teacher conferences. It is the question I hear from almost every single parent who has a child learning English as their second, third, or fourth language.

For the past six years, my answer to that question has remained the same.

Read.

Read to your child, have your child read to you, have a baby-sitter read to your child, have your child read to a baby-sitter (or a sibling!), have your child read on their own. Read. Read. Read.

I have never done an official study on this, but I can tell you what I have seen happen in my classroom. This is my sixth year teaching in an international school setting and every year I have at least one or two students who start the year with no knowledge of the English language (this year I had four!). I also have students who speak very little English, or speak English as their second language. Most of my students fall into those three categories: No English, Some English, Multiple Languages. The beauty of international schools.

I have never had a child in my class who has not been able to learn to communicate in English by the end of the year through speaking, reading, and writing. But I have noticed that the students who grow the most in these skills, are students who read (and are read to) the most.

Reading builds vocabulary and permeates into every other subject.

Because I am in Korea and we lack a plethora of English books, especially at the beginner reader’s level, I introduce my students and their parents to http://www.kidsa-z.com. (I am grateful that this is a supplemental program my school invests in.)

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On the side… it is also important to note that being able to read doesn’t just mean you have the skills to sound out letters and blend them into a word. Reading is also about comprehension. It is essential to talk about what you read, and ask questions, and answer questions and all that jazz. When my students achieve a level of fluency where they have the skills of reading simple words and stories I  ask them what the book is about and encourage parents to get their child to talk about what they are reading at home.

If you have resources, such as websites, that work really well in your classroom or for your child at home, please share in the comments! We LOVE comments.

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*images courtesy http://www.pixabay.com

The Inquiry Cycle on Display

My new first grade teaching partner this year is going to teach me a lot of fun new things, I can already tell.

Here is a picture I took of her inquiry cycle board after our first six-week unit:

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Pretty amazing right? The students were able to see a visual fill up week by week as they journeyed through the inquiry cycle that is tuning in, finding out, sorting out, going further, making conclusions (reflection), and taking action.

I obviously had to create a board like this in my own room. Here is what it looks like after we  had our tuning in learning engagements for the first week of our Sharing the Planet unit with the central idea: Mini beasts play a role in our lives.

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While this is on the back wall of my room, my lines of inquiry, key concepts, etc. are displayed in front of the room:

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You’ll notice that under my central idea I have it translated into Korean, Chinese, and Japanese. I have students in my classroom who speak very little English, during this unit I had them guess what words they thought would be in our central idea, many of them said “mini beasts” and were very excited to hear what the central idea was, then when students heard it in their mother tongue they got even more excited.

The questions on post it notes are questions my students wrote when they came into our changed classroom atmosphere the first day of our unit. I love giving time for my students to ask questions!

How do you display your inquiry cycle in your PYP classroom? How do you have students ask and answer wondering questions?

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*Here is what my board looked like at the end of the unit!

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How To Take Your Read Alouds Further

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I was at an amazing IB Workshop this past weekend called “Reading and Writing Through Inquiry” and I have many, many things to share. My workshop leader, Rachel, was fantastic and all of the workshop participants (myself included!) were excited to collaborate and really wanted to be there. Which makes a difference with professional development, you know?

One of the learning engagements Rachel led us through was a way add more language to your read alouds, or writing and reading workshop time, or ELA lessons, you get the picture.

She read the book “The Island” by Armin Greder, an incredible though slightly controversial picture book. I had never heard of this book before. After Rachel read the book she had eleven different writing prompts, differentiated for upper and lower level grades, as well as English Language Learners. She read the choices and let us choose which one we wanted to do.

Here were our options:

Theme- What is the theme of the book? Write about it!

Write a review of book 

Supporting character- choose a character you liked or didn’t like and write about why

Perspective- pretend you are a character from your book “the best life for me would be” from the viewpoint of character

Resolution- rewrite the ending of the story

Poem- compose poem

Plotline- draw plot line 

Setting- draw a picture or map of the setting and describe it

Emotional response- draw a picture of the funniest, most exciting or saddest part of the story write paragraph describing scene

Make a T-Chart- comparing physical and character traits through main characters eyes and in the eyes of others

Climax- write the climax of the story

Author- find four facts about the author and find titles of other books written by the author

I created a simple google doc with the prompts. The more language friendly ones are translated into Korean, Chinese, and Japanese for the ELL students in my class.

Printable Version of Prompts 

What are ways that you extend your read alouds in class? 

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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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