Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Child-Centered Reading Conferences

by Carolyn Wilhelm, Guest Blogger
Oh, the joy of a really great novel with just enough suspense that the reader can barely put it down.  Teachers work so hard at getting to know which books will really grab individual children. We learn about their lives, their interests, and their reading habits. We are so happy to match a reader with the just-right and just-perfect book, and observe the silent reading with a smile.  Job well done!

Screech, put on the brakes . . . as soon as our students are happily engaged in reading, we slide a teacher stool up next to the absorbed reader to begin a reading conference. Then we brightly ask, "What reading strategy are you using today? Will you explain how this strategy is helping you be a better reader?" Smiling and hoping to jot some notes on our charts or report card forms, we hope for an insightful and elaborate answer.

The student, wanting to please, stops the marvelous reading experience to try to answer. He pauses to think, "What can I say to get the teacher to leave so I can just get back to reading?  Let's see, she was happy when I said I was inferring the other day, so I can't use that again. What can I say today?"

When seen from a child’s point of view, reading conferences may sometimes appear to be an unwelcome interruption. However, we know that individual reading conferences are critical in order to determine if our students comprehend the text. So how can we confer with them in a child-centered manner that meets their needs rather than focusing on our objectives?

After giving this some thought, I created the Child-Centered Reading Conference chart shown above with some strategies and possible questions to ask without interrupting the reader and ruining the reading experience. Begin the session with a general question such as "What is something you have just been thinking about while reading?"  Then try to follow up that question with one that matches what the child just said with a similar reading strategy. We should not make children fit their thinking into the strategies we are teaching when they are delightfully engrossed in reading. Be as unobtrusive, quiet, and thoughtful as you can when conferring with an engrossed reader . . . and be quick!

Yes, teachers have to gather notes and information about readers, but we also have to be careful not to spoil the reading experiences of our students.  Happy reading!


Carolyn Wilhelm has a Masters in Gifted Education, another Masters in K-12 Curriculum and Instruction, and is a National Board Certified Teacher in the area of Middle Childhood Generalist. She has taught grades 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5, gifted education K-6, and remedial math grades 1-6. Carolyn is the creator of The Wise Owl Factory website and Book-a-Day blog.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Welcome Guest Bloggers!

I'm excited to announce that I've opened Corkboard Connections to guest bloggers! I'll be traveling this week to teach a workshop in western North Carolina and again next week to visit family in California, so I thought it would be fun to open my blog to other teachers. I follow a number of teacher-bloggers who have terrific blogs and amazing ideas, so I know you'll enjoy hearing from them.

Interested in becoming a guest blogger for Corkboard Connections? Please download and read the guest blogger guidelines carefully, and then fill out the Google Docs form using the link you'll find on that page. Right now I do have several bloggers lined up, but I'm hoping to make this a weekly event so there's always room for more! Look for the first guest blog post this Tuesday!




Teaching Resources
http://www.lauracandler.com

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Seasonal Resources for Teachers

Are you looking for great seasonal activities for your classroom? Sometimes it's difficult for upper elementary teachers to find seasonal activities that are fun yet meaningful, so I've created two different collaborative projects to gather seasonal resources all in once place:
  • Seasonal Freebies for Teachers 
    Seasonal Freebies for Teachers is a topic on Scoop It so it looks like an online magazine with links to free teaching resources on the Internet. Seasonal Freebies is updated each month to include new resources for that season and any upcoming holidays. You'll see a badge on the blogs of those who are collaborating on this project; the cool thing is that the badge will change every season thanks to Denise Boehm's artistic talents!
     
  • Seasonal Teaching Resources on Pinterest
    Pinterest is like a huge collection of online bulletin boards, and it's a social networking site as well. With the help of Charity Preston from The Organized Classroom Blog, I created a collaborative Seasonal Teaching Resources board. The teachers involved in this project will be pinning seasonal teaching resources including lessons, games, crafts, and more. Not everything will be free, but even if an item costs money, it will be a worthwhile, time-saving resource!
If you enjoy the resources on these two sites, be sure to follow those pages. When you follow the Seasonal Freebies for Teachers Scoop It, you'll receive an email when new items are added to the page. When you follow Seasonal Teaching Resources on Pinterest, you'll see new pins every time you log on to your account. Enjoy!



Share the Joy of Giving!

One of the things I miss most about not being in the classroom is the opportunity to teach my students about the joy of giving. Every year I would find a needy family in the community (not at our school) and my students would contribute cash and gifts based on that family's needs. I also asked for donations of wrapping paper, boxes, and bows. You can download the project description and a sample letter from the Seasonal page on Teaching Resources or from my TpT Store.

Our Holiday Giving Project was so exciting and such a special time! I asked my students to bring in their items a few days before we got out for the holidays. We had a gift wrapping party in the afternoon, and I taught them all how to wrap a present with style! You would think that 5th graders would know how to wrap a gift, but I learned the first time I did this project that most had never been taught. So I borrowed a box of crayons for each student from the supply room, and they had to practice wrapping that box until it was perfect before I would let them touch the rolls of wrapping paper. Each student chose a partner and they teamed up to wrap gifts. Then we took a class picture at the end of the day. You can see the joy of giving all over their faces - what a wonderful lesson for students of any age!

Mrs. Candler's Awesome Class of 2010!



Monday, November 21, 2011

Double Dollars at DonorsChoose!

If you follow my blog, you know that I'm a huge fan of DonorsChoose, a nonprofit organization that helps public school teachers find money to fund their classroom projects. Over 5,000,000 students have benefited from their efforts!

Last week I received the DonorsChoose November newsletter and was excited to see that they are offering a special deal from December 5th through the 12th in which they will match donations from friends and family members, dollar for dollar! Teachers will receive a code to give to their donors, and when they use this code, the donation will be matched.

A few weeks ago, I shared that I want to support teachers by donating at least $100 a month to one or more DonorsChoose proposals. I'm so thankful for the blessings that have come my way this year, and I want to give back to the educational community. (Here's the blog post if you missed it.)

But in light of this new development, I have decided that it only makes sense to give even more! So I'm going to donate $100 to each of 5 different teachers during the time this offer is running. If those teachers provide me with their special code, my $100 donation will be matched by another $100 from DonorsChoose!

How will this work? On Thursday, December 1st, I will put out a call for DonorsChoose proposals on my Teaching Resources Facebook page.You'll be able to post your project there and ask family and friends to "like" your post to help me make my decision.I'm going out of town for a week on December 6th, so I'll make my decision on the morning of December 5th so that I can make those donations before I leave.

I also wanted to share that I set up a brand new DonorsChoose page on my website where you can find loads of helpful resources such as the following:
  • A free webinar I hosted in which Francie Kugelman, 5th grade teacher and DonorsChoose superstar, how she obtained over $20,000 in DonorsChoose grants over the last few years - she reveals all her secrets in the webinar!
  • A list of Francie's funded projects so to spark your own thinking about projects you might propose (recently updated and worth over $28,000!)
  • Links to news from DonorsChoose about funding opportunities like the one described above 
Why am I sharing this now? If you don't have a project proposal online, now is a good time to get started. Visit DonorsChoose and sign up, and watch the webinar recording on my DonorsChoose page to learn everything you need to know! Then get ready to post your proposal on my Facebook page on December 1st. Please do not post it prior to that date or it will be removed in fairness to others (because the number of likes will influence my decision).

I'm really excited about this and want to spread the word! Please share this blog post with other teachers so they can get started creating a proposal now! Even if your project is not selected for one of my donations, you'll still be a winner if you get double dollars between December 5th and 12th!






Friday, November 18, 2011

Create Easy Online Classroom Magazines!

"What's the Scoop?" is a graphic organizer you can use for reading or writing. Students can read a selection and record the relevant information, or they can use it when planning their own story or article. You can download it from my Writing page on Teaching Resources.

As I was working on this graphic organizer, I thought of the free website I wrote about earlier this week. Scoop It  allows anyone to create an online "magazine" on a particular topic. You just add articles by linking to various online resources and write a short text explanation. Voila! Online magazine! Take a look at my Seasonal Freebies for Teachers topic to get a feel for how Scoop It works. Don't forget to follow it if you like it!

Wouldn't it be exciting to have your students create an online magazine with Scoop It? Each student could write an article or story and upload it to Google Docs. Or they could create a video or podcast and upload it to a host site. Next, you would create a Scoop It topic with your classroom magazine title - something voted on by your students of course! You would link to their document or video, upload a related image, and include a short "teaser" paragraph to interest the reader. Then email the link to the magazine to your parents or post it on Edmodo or another safe social networking site. An activity like this gives new meaning to the "publishing" stage of the writing process!

I can see this working as a collaborative class magazine on a content area theme, too. You could create Scoop It topics for science and social studies units where students all contribute one article, illustration, podcast, or video.

Just a few words of caution:
  • The free version of Scoop It does not appear to have a way to publish the content privately, so be sure to check with an administrator first and obtain permission forms from students involved in the project.
  • According to the "Use & Agreement" terms on Scoop It, children under age 13 may not use Scoop It themselves. Therefore you or another adult will have to actually create the Scoop It magazine page. 
  • Some Scoop It content may not be appropriate for children, so share a direct link to your class magazine rather than letting kids search for it.

If you do create a class online magazine with Scoop It, please come back to this article and share what you've done with us!




Teaching Resources ~ http://www.lauracandler.com

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Drum Roll for the Winners Please!

Last week I announced a contest you could enter to win one of three autographed copies of Enemy Pie, one of my favorite kids' books. To enter the contest, folks had to answer one simple question: "What is the grossest thing you have ever eaten?"   

I have to give credit to the author, Derek Munson, for coming up with that one! He told me that he often asks this of the students when he does school visits but he's never asked teachers this question. 

I think we both expected folks to write a few words about their grossest foods, and I had no idea what those foods might be! But holy smokes! We never dreamed that over 150 people would respond with the most amazing tales ever! You guys have eaten some seriously gross stuff and you really know how to tell some great stories!

Congratulations to the three winners below! Two were selected from the messages on Facebook and one was selected from the entries here on this blog. I wanted to you read what they wrote in case you didn't catch their stories earlier. Here they are, in no particular order:
  • Melissa Monroe wrote, "Aspic anyone? On trip to Russia I was served a plate with this clear, gelatinous mound perched atop a piece of lettuce. It had an unappetizing brown hue, and floating inside were pieces of egg, fish, and some other unrecognizable things. Not wanting to offend the host I tasted it. To this day, just thinking about its cold, slimy texture and fishy flavor gives me the heebie-jeebies! I'm shuttering right now as I write this. Apologies to those aspic lovers out there."
  • Kim Wasson Compton wrote, "I accepted a dare while I was a teenage waitress at a summer camp. Trying to impress a table of cute boys, I ate their concoction of food they prepared from "all" the leftovers at their table (peanut butter, mashed potatoes, gravy, bread, coffee grounds, sugar, grape juice, veggies, jello...you get the idea!). Needless to say, I wasn't feeling well for the rest of that day!"
  • Mrs Hopper wrote, "I love this book. I work at a school that is in an impoverished area of California. Fighting is prevalent at our school and students at a very young age are accustomed to seeing fights in their daily life outside of school. I love the underlying message behind this book. We have a lot more in common than we realize. My students always enjoy this book and I always pray they take the lesson away and keep it for a lifetime. I would love to win a copy. The worst thing I ever ate was a fly. It flew into my open mouth during PE while I was doing jumping jacks. I swallowed it before I quite knew what was going on. Actually, in reality all I know for certain was that it was a flying bug. I always assumed it was a fly. I learned to exercise with my mouth closed and breathe through my nose."
Mrs. Hopper, Melissa, and Kim, please contact Derek to let him know where to send your copy of Enemy Pie. You can find his contact information here on his Enemy Pie website.  

Thanks to everyone who shared a story, and thanks to Derek for generously offering to give away three autographed books!







Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Get the Scoop on Multiplication!

I just discovered an awesome website called Scoop It that allows you to create an online "magazine" on any topic. You can write short articles, upload images, and link each article to its source on the internet.

Just for fun, I created a magazine called Multiplication Teaching Resources. I added several resources from my own site as well as a great article from Scholastic, a multiplication game called Gobble Bump from Denise Boehm, and some fun free websites for practicing math facts.Take a look!

I'm also working on several different topics like Reading Workshop Resources and Seasonal Freebies for Teachers. These topics aren't complete yet, but you can follow them as well to get updates as I add new articles.

What I love about Scoop It is that you can sign up to Follow a topic and you'll receive an email update when new resources are added. You can also follow by RSS feed via Google Reader if you click on the tiny green icon near the top. Scoop It has a free version (which I'm using) that has a limited number of topics you can create, and it also has a premium version for businesses.

Classroom Ideas for Scoop It?
The teacher in me is thinking about all the ways this could be used in the classroom. What would you do with Scoop It? What about creating an online classroom newspaper? First you would need to create a class blog where students could post stories and images. Then you would use Scoop It to visit each blog post and grab the story so that all stories could be displayed on one page with links to the full article or story later. Share the link to your class newspaper with your parents and ask them to follow it when your students add articles.

Are you already using Scoop It? If so, please post a link to one of your topics. How might you use Scoop It in your classroom?




Teaching Resources ~ http://www.lauracandler.com

Friday, November 11, 2011

Win an Autographed Copy of Enemy Pie!

I have a new favorite kids' book, and it's called Enemy Pie. It's not a new book, but somehow it didn't appear on my radar until recently. The story begins when the main character's worst nightmare comes true - a new kid moves onto the block and steals away his best friend. After declaring the new kid enemy #1, the boy learns that his father has a secret recipe for enemy pie that will take care of his problem. The catch is in order for the enemy pie to work, the boy must spend one whole day with the new kid! Need I say more? Adults can guess where this story is going, but kids learn a powerful lesson when the boys become friends after spending a day together.

Enemy Pie is also available on StorylineOnline.net. To hear it read aloud by Camryn Manheim, go to StorylineOnline, click the All Stories - Index link, and find Enemy Pie there. You are in for a treat!

I love Enemy Pie so much that I included it as a recommended read aloud in my book, Laura Candler's Power Reading Workshop: A Step-by-Step Guide. Last month I discovered the official Enemy Pie website and found it to be loaded with great teaching ideas for the book. I emailed the author, Derek Munson, and shared how much I enjoyed his book and the fact that I was planning to use it in an upcoming workshop. One email led to another, and soon we were discussing the idea of giving away a copy of his book on my Facebook page or blog. But Derek's such a generous soul that he offered to give away not one but three autographed copies of Enemy Pie!

Derek's also got a great sense of humor because he came up with a fun question for the giveaway. Enemy Pie sounds like it must taste horrible, right? So the question you'll have to answer is, "What is the grossest thing you have ever eaten?" Okay, you didn't have to eat the whole thing, you just have to have tasted it! The contest starts Saturday morning, November 12th and ends Monday evening, November 14th. I'll post the question on my Facebook Wall when the contest begins and you can respond there or as a comment on this blog. We'll choose 3 winners sometime Tuesday. I can't wait to read your responses!






P.S. If you have never eaten anything gross that you want to share with the world, you can just tell us why you love Enemy Pie or why you would love to win a copy. By the way, the book will be sent free of charge to any winner in the United States or Canada. If someone enters from another location, you can either pay for shipping if you win or choose a free digital item from Teaching Resources instead. I hope you understand!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

No Names on Papers? Problem Solved!

Are you frustrated with students who forget to turn in papers or who forget to put their names on their work? I used to get so annoyed when I took a stack of papers home to grade, only to discover that three students had not turned in their work and three more turned in a paper with no name!

But then I got smart and got organized! I devised a system where students turned in their papers by placing them into "paper drops," laminated brown envelopes with student checklists attached. At the end of the class period, I quickly pulled out the papers and checked off who had turned theirs in so I could solve the mystery of the missing papers before they went home for the day. Then the papers went right back into the envelope so I could keep them together for grading later.

The entire Paper Drop System system is described in this packet and includes the printables you need to make it work for you. You can also download a customizable checklist from the Classroom Management page on Teaching Resources. Paper problem solved!






Visit Teaching Resources ~ http://www.lauracandler.com

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Puzzling Problems for Fall

If you want to implement a daily math problem solving program, you can use one of these Fall Math Puzzlers to get started. I created two versions of this activity page, and they correspond with Levels B and C of the Daily Math Puzzler program. Daily Math Puzzlers are designed for students to solve one problem a day, Monday through Thursday. Friday can be a day for more in-depth problem-solving lessons.

To decide which activity page is right for your class, try solving the problems as if you were one of your students. As adults, we often jump straight into using equations or number sentences because we easily grasp what to do. But your students would probably find it more effective to solve most of these problems by drawing pictures. Thinking about how they might solve each problem will help you choose the right level for your class.

If you want to differentiate instruction, you can use both activity pages, assigning Level B to some students and Level C to those who need a challenge. The problems are worded almost exactly the same on each page but with different numbers, so you wouldn't want to give both pages to the same student.


For more problem-solving strategies and additional Daily Math Puzzler activity pages, visit my Math Problem Solving page on Teaching Resources. Problem solving can be fun when students solve just one problem a day!



Monday, November 7, 2011

Thawing Out Math Brain Freeze!

Problem Solving Tips to Make Math Fun!

Students often fear math, especially problem solving, and that feeling of intimidation keeps them from being able to relax and apply their math knowledge to the task at hand. The resulting brain freeze serves to reinforce the idea that mathematics is scary and difficult. With the implementation of Common Core State Standards, students are expected to become even more proficient at solving complex problems which further contributes to the feeling of being overwhelmed in math. Here are a few strategies that will thaw their attitudes and may even motivate them to enjoy not only problem-solving but math in general!
  • Implement a problem-solving program in which students solve just one word problem a day 
  • Mix up the types of problems you present so students have to use a variety of content knowledge and skills over time
  • Keep problem solving sessions short at first - no more than 10 to 15 minutes a day - but as students start to look forward to these sessions, you can include longer problems that require more persistence
  • Refer to word problems as "puzzlers," "brain teasers," or "stumpers," and present them as fun challenges rather than dreaded math problems
  • Alternate cooperative learning strategies with independent work to add an element of fun while ensuring individual accountability
  • Allow students to use calculators during problem-solving sessions
  • Require students to show their work with pictures, symbols, or words, but don't require them to write complete sentence explanations for every problem they solve.
  • After giving students time to solve a problem, reveal the correct answer up front and then spend the remaining time asking students to share strategies. Ask, "How many different ways can we discover to solve this problem?"
I've had great success with these strategies, and when I've shared them with teachers, they have experienced similar results. They've told me that their students now look forward to their daily problem solving sessions! In the same way that an apple a day keeps the doctor away, it seems that a problem a day keeps the brain freeze away!

For specific details on how to implement a daily problem-solving program in your classroom, watch the recording of my webinar, Math Problem Solving - Once a Day, the Easy Way. In this webinar I explained two different daily problem-solving systems as well as strategies for how to teach math problem solving. I also explored how math problem solving relates to the Common Core Math Standards. During the webinar, you'll learn where to download a free zip file of handouts and files related to this topic including my free Problem Solving Assessment ebook. You can view my webinar from the Math Problem Solving page on my Teaching Resources website.

One of the free files you'll receive after watching the webinar is my Problem Solving Assessment pack which can help you evaluate your students' problem-solving abilities. It includes both a pretest and a posttest on 4 different levels. Believe me, you'll learn a lot about how your students solve problems when you score their tests! If you don't have time to watch the webinar, you can download this freebie from my TeachersPayTeachers store right now.





What are some of your favorite strategies and tips for helping kids to thaw out math brain freeze and enjoy solving problems?




Friday, November 4, 2011

Fun Class Game for 11-11-11!

Did you know that next Friday, November 11th, is a special day in more than one way? In addition to it being Veteran's Day, it's also 11-11-11, a date that we'll never see again. Yesterday a Facebook fan asked if anyone had a fun activity for that date, so I put together this little cooperative learning class activity called the 11-11-11 Game.

To play the game, seat your students in teams of four and have them number one dry erase board from 1 to 11. Draw out one Topic Card at a time and challenge your students to work together to name 11 items according to that topic. For example, they might name 11 holidays or 11 healthy habits. The team that lists 11 items first receives the Topic Card, and the first team to get 3 cards is declared the winner.

I wrote complete directions for this activity and also provided blank Topic Cards so you can customize it for your own grade level and/or content area. You can find this free game in the Seasonal File Cabinet on Teaching Resources, or just click on the image of the Topic Cards above to download it from here.  I hope your class enjoys it!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Get Money for Your Classroom Projects!

Do you have a great idea for a classroom project, but no money to buy materials? If you're a U.S. public school teacher, you need to sign up for DonorsChoose, a non-profit organization that helps teachers find donors to fund their projects. When I was a classroom teacher, I received over $1000 in grant funding through this organization, and I know teachers who have received much more!

Last summer, I invited one of those teachers, Francie Kugelman, to do a webinar on how to apply for DonorsChoose grants. She has earned over $20,000 in grant funding through the organization, and she has the whole process down to a fine art. She shared her best tips and tricks during the webinar I hosted called How to Fund Your Classroom Projects, and I have to tell you it was pretty amazing! She explained exactly how to write a grant proposal, what items are likely to be funded, and how to write an effective title. Luckily, the webinar was recorded and you can watch it from my Odds N Ends page where you'll also find several other helpful Donors Choose resources.

Since I'm no longer in the classroom myself, it's my greatest wish to support classroom teachers with their own projects. With this in mind, I've decided to contribute at least $100 each month to DonorsChoose projects. If you would like me to contribute to your project, visit my Facebook page and click the like button to receive updates. Watch for my DonorsChoose announcements, and post your project idea along with a short description and a direct link to your project. Then ask your friends to vote for it by clicking the like button under your description. (Note: They will first have to "like" that page before being able to vote.) I will review the project ideas and the votes before making my decision about which projects to fund, and I'll post my decision in my Candler's Classroom Connections newsletter.

So get your creative brain going! Instead of being discouraged about how to get money for your projects, start imagining what you'll do with the money that's on its way to you right now!



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