Apostrophes in Clay

3rd graders use clay to focus on spelling word with apostrophes.

3rd graders use clay to focus on spelling word with apostrophes.

Third graders are just getting writing details down.  The basal text asked for students to spell words with apostrophes, and it wasn’t going well!  Ms. Council and Ms. Rodriguez cleverly used the clay from Visual 4 to have students create the words in clay.  By slowing down the process, and focusing on each letter, children who are struggling with the concept have time to internalize how words with apostrophes work.  It’s a lesson learned for a lifetime.  Kudos to Ms. Council and Ms. Rodriguez.  What are your students struggling with that you could enhance by using clay, or another visual tool?

Show Me the Learning: Displays


Ms. Wasik's hallway display, March 2014
         2014-03-12 22.49.262014-03-12 22.49.00
Ms. Wasik’s hallway display, March 2014

Some lessons put display materials right in your hands!  Visual Lesson 3 is perfect.  If you have a camera to take a picture of pairs with their 3-D constructions, display the photos next to the 2-D representations.  Add student writing and a description of the learning objectives.  Tell the viewer what to look for.  Put the student work around the related art print.  Voila!  A fabulous display that is informative, and makes students and teachers proud!

You can upload your great displays here, or in Sharing What Works!



Getting Ready for Project-Based Learning

Students learning collaborative skills  Grade 2 studio cover   2014-02-19 01.06.26   
Students learning collaborative skills

ASCD had an article in their March 14 newletter about what keeps students motivated.  Hands-on, interdisciplinary, project –based learning is the answer.  Through Total Learning Digital, we prepare children, from Kindergarten, with the skills, experiences and scaffolded support that will allow them to fully participate when they get to middle and high school.  We build the skills intentionally and step-by-step.  Questions that comes to mind:  “What happens to our children if the upper level instruction is not as rich as Total Learning?  Will they continue to use the collaborative skills and multi-modal perspective?  Will they remember what they’ve learned?”   Our anecdotal experiences with 7th graders who were in Total Learning classrooms in the early grades tell us that they indeed remember, and can use the skills and knowledge they gained.

The ASCD article:  http://blogs.kqed.org/mindshift/2014/03/what-keeps-students-them-motivated-to-learn/

Climbing to Achieve Our Goals

Watch the video of Grade 4, Synthesis lesson in the Video Chat Room!

Watch the video of Grade 4, Synthesis lesson in the Video Chat Room!

As we begin getting ready for spring testing, we also are teaching the final model lessons. Lessons 4 and 5 are really meaty, and classrooms interactions are strong. With management in place, teachers can redirect students with a gentle word or humor. And our smart teachers are beginning to imagine many ways to use each strategy. This is a step in teacher independence!

Yesterday I taught a lesson for and with Ann Gano, 4th grade teacher at Pine Elementary School in Michigan City, IN. Julie Schmidt, arts-integration specialist was also ‘in the room.’ My goal was to demonstrate how several strategies could target language development and a broader theme of “Setting Goals and Climbing to Achieve Them.”

The lesson plan is attached, and you can see the first 20 minutes of the lesson in the Video Chat Room: View Previous Chats: Grade 4 Synthesis Lesson. It’s really fun, and clear. We’re getting better at these video lessons! The second part of the lesson was not recorded – sorry. But you can see that we move from 2D to 3D, all the time talking about goals, and making the journey concrete.

If you’d like to schedule a video lesson for your classroom, or a video chat with a trainer, you can sign up in the Video Chat Room. We’ll set a goal together!
Ann Gano Lesson Plan for March 11, 2014

Look Who’s Talking Now!

Look who's talking!

Look who’s talking!

During this year, we’ve made a big deal about developing student verbal fluency. If students are going to become articulate communicators of ideas, we need to give them lots of chances to talk. If teachers talk, then teachers learn. If students talk, then students learn. It’s our job to create situations in which students are compelled and excited to talk about the work at hand.
At last week’s paraprofessional meeting, there were consistent reports of students talking more! Kids are running the studios with less and less help. Even when adult help is needed, if the adult asks questions the students who don’t talk much are talking more – “it brings them out.” Non-speakers are challenged to give it a try. Paraprofessionals are ‘playing dumb,’ so students feel compelled to explain how the studio works, and what to do!
In the first grade, students have learned how to choose a leader. During the mock Olympics in the gym two weeks ago, their teacher was amazed that when a group needed to choose a goalie they huddled, got ideas, checked with each individual for agreement, and then the chosen goalie took her place! Awesome!
Students are talking – and learning – and getting along better –
We’re building a pathway to success, one voice at a time!

Clay Makes the Day!

Kindergarteners make clay sight words

Kindergarteners make clay sight words

I needed photos for the Kindergarten Visual 4 Studio – working with clay to explore the shape of letters and play with sight words. One of the children who came to the center was someone you will recognize – not by name, but because he is a ‘very kid’ – very smart, very verbal, very little impulse control, very easily bored, very active, very often in trouble when he can’t work at his own pace and interests.
We softened the clay cubes in our hands, then rolled ‘snakes.’ His motor control was great. He helped his neighbors, created sight words, put his sight words together with those of others in the group – awesome!
He talked: “What is this stuff?” “Can I do this?” “See, you need to bend it this way.” “Hey, we could put my word and his word together – Find this!” “I could do this ALL DAY!”
It’s not clay OR literacy – it’s clay FOR literacy! We make the choice every day to use our imaginations, and deliver the curriculum through Total Learning strategies. The research continues to provide evidence that we’re doing the right thing for kids.

Smart Use of Video Chats! Dearborn Book Talks

Video chat with Dearborn Teachers

Video chat with Dearborn teachers

The Dearborn teachers are taking advantage of video chats in a workshop-kind-of way. We’ve spent the last two early Wednesday morning meetings reviewing the Total Learning trade books – exploring the content and potential of each book for delivering curriculum content – in music and movement, and across the elementary curriculum.
Attached are the raw notes from our conversations (thanks to Lisa Meyer). Hope they’re helpful, and that everyone will share other ways that you’ve used the Total Learning books. Put a response here, on the Discussion Page, or in Sharing What Works!
Dearborn – TL Trade Books – Teaching Tips

Mean Soup – Punctuation with Unpitched Instruments

Focus on punctuation; highlight each punctuation mark with a different unpitched instrument.

Focus on punctuation; highlight each punctuation mark with a different unpitched instrument.

Rebecca Ventura from Dearborn is the first teacher to post a file in Sharing What Works! It is in the Grade 1 Classroom Management Module, and is a PowerPoint version of the book Mean Soup.
She found that students had a hard time looking at the book and playing their designated instruments for the various punctuation symbols, especially if there’s only one book available for a class of 25. The kids have a much easier time when the text is projected up on the White Board.
So when you get to Auditory 3, and you’ve introduced the unpitched instruments, give Mean Soup a try. It’s a favorite activity for students and teachers – and the kids will remember punctuation symbols and rules fondly.
Remember to take it the next step, and have students write their own stories with punctuation, then use the unpitched instruments again!
And one more ‘remember’: Mean Soup is a great book because the story is worth the telling, and the message is important – AND the illustrations have as much wit as the text!