A Common Core Teacher's Toolbox!

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Character Traits Freebie!

    I reviewed character traits with my students this week. I was working to create some differentiated activities for my students to practice finding character traits,and I decided I'd could create a little freebie for my TpT store. Whenever I first teach character traits to my students, I always start with having them think of their best friend. They give me words to describe their best friend, and then I have them give me reasons why they choose that patricluar word to describe their best friend. I use this as a gateway to get them thinking more in depth about the character's they are reading about.

    I created a little poster and graphic organizer that your students can use with any story. (You can get download this freebie here.) It requires them to look at a character's dialogue and actions in a story to determine character traits or to use it as evidence to back up a character trait they are using to describe a character. While on the surface this idea is very simple, I find it really helps the students think more into the character traits they use to describe the characters. It also helps them to move away from finding simple traits, such as the character is "nice" or "mean" .This can also lead to a mini lesson about synonyms and antonyms! We know we have to multitask as often as we can as teachers. : )

   If you are teaching character traits soon and want to differentiate your lesson,  here are a few ways I have done it. One of the easiest ways is having students reading different texts on their own levels and filling out the character traits chart.  This week however, we started our lesson with everyone reading the same story in small groups.  I differentiated by having the chart partially filled in for my lowest group. My average group filled out the character trait chart on their own, while my advanced children compared and contrasted character traits of characters from different stories. The advanced group also choose 3 character traits that they designed their own main character from.

  Speaking of character traits, my super sweet, fun-loving husband has planned a belated Valentine's Day surprise date day for us, so I'm off to prepare for that! Enjoy your weekend, and I hope this little freebie and ideas can help you with your planning!

Friday, February 8, 2013

Nonfiction Reading Strategies That Work!

     I'm sure if you have even glanced at the Common Core Standards, then you know the Reading standards focuses a lot on having the students read non-fiction. I decided I needed to research strategies to help my students become more engaged when reading nonfiction. I had been using the 3-2-1 strategy as a "Ticket Out the Door"/ Quick Assessment tool with my students. I'm not sure if you are familiar with the strategy, but basically the idea is the students write 3 things they have learned, 2 things they found interesting, and 1 question they still have. When looking for strategies to use to increase non-fiction comprehension, it just kind of clicked in my brain to use have the students utilize the 3-2-1 strategy when reading non-fiction.

    After the students read a non-fiction text, they write down 3 very important facts from the text, 2 things they found interesting or want to know more about from the text, and 1 question or 1 thing they are wondering about after they are finished reading.  This has been working out even better than I ever could have imagined with my students. For the most part, my students have used this strategy when working in small groups. I created a form (you can get if for free here) for them to fill out after reading the given nonfiction text. We've used it with library books, reading stories, and their sciece and social studies textbooks so far! I have noticed the students really thinking about what they've read when they look for the 3 important facts. I've overheard several of my "bossier" students saying things to their groups like " Is that really an important fact? I think there are things more important we should write" etc. So, they are really thinking deeply about what are the "really" important facts. We also take the time to discuss the things the students found interesting, as well as research  their questions/wonderings. This gives them a personal connection to the text which really gets them interested and wanting to know more about stuff that a lot of times they would just consider boring reading.

  There are several other strategies I'm trying out while reading non-fiction texts, but this one has been my favorite so far. I love that is a quick and easy strategy that keeps them engaged in the text, while also offering a quick assessment for me. Remember if you'd like the printable form for this strategy to try out with your students just visit my TpT store

Here are my kiddos reading about Volcanoes and working on their 3-2-1 slips!

*Oh and a quick classroom management tip that works great for me.  See those star stickers on that boy's hand? Well when students work in groups they can earn "star power".  This is given to students who are following all our cooperative group directions and working well together. The group with the most stars wins! Sometimes its just praise they receive and the glory for being the best group that day, other times I do actually give them a little treat for winning! Either way, they LOVE getting "star power".