Wednesday, October 5, 2011

A Peek in My Planbook: Frayer Model Vocabulary

I'm linking up with Jodi at Clutter-Free Classroom for "A Peek in My Planbook" linky party. This is something that I introduced last week during my Math/ELA enrichment block and I will continue introducing new vocabulary strategies over the next few weeks.

Our math curriculum, Think Math!, has a ton of vocabulary but not so much reading. While I think the math is easier to understand when it's not buried under tons of written explanation, I find that the vocabulary is not supported very well on its own. I really don't like having the kids copy the words and definition in their notebooks but when there are 20+ vocab words each chapter, it's hard to figure out what else to do.  I decided to make math vocabulary a focus this year, starting with my word wall (which has since been updated with a snazzy new border).

Although, three weeks into activating the word wall, I am already looking for more ways to make it more interactive. Stay tuned for what I am working on :)

As part of my new vocabulary focus, I have been using our enrichment block to introduce some of the vocabulary strategies/concepts from a recent workshop I took, such as semantic feature analysis, semantic mapping, scaling, and the frayer model.

The kids were already using something similar to the frayer model in English Language Arts and after discovering how much they are loving it, I've decided to use it in Science, as well.  Here's how our vocabulary lesson went down.

No matter how tedious, I always start the chapter by providing the list of words and having the students create a 3-column chart that contains the word, definition, and a picture/example of the word.  This way the students learn the definition and have a foundation of the words they are working with.  Before the lesson, I always discuss the words that are new the lesson, and I highlight the words in our daily objective on the board and in their binders.

During the lesson, whenever possible, I use a different color marker to show off a vocabulary word, as it is presented, and encourage the kids to do the same, which also fosters good note taking skills. 

This time, after the students became acclimated with the words, which was about 3/4 of the way through the chapter, I split the class into six groups of four and they each came up with a list of the six most challenging words in the chapter. Most kids were choosing the same words and once all of the words were written down, we voted on the top six. Then, each group was responsible for creating a frayer model, together, for their word.  This happened over a couple of days during our 30 minute enrichment block. First, they created their model. Then, they edited with their group. Finally, we edited as a class with their models displayed on the document viewer {love, love, love my Elmo!}.

This is what some of their drafts looked like.

When I tell you that they seriously loved this activity, I'm not kidding. During the next enrichment block when I told them to get out their frayer models, some of the kids actually cheered. I think this is just a more fun way for them to understand the language and they love working in groups. Any excuse to be able to talk and work! :)

Here are their final products..

I'm also loving how they are now an active part of the room.

This week we're working on the Chapter 2 challenge words. I also introduced a vocabulary preview chart that the kids are really enjoying. As part of our Magnetism review, we will also be making semantic maps of our science vocabulary. Come back next week to see how it all turned out! Rich vocabulary is everywhere in grade 5!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Where I'm From

This project is one of my all time favorites. I love writing "Where I'm From" poems in the first month or two of school because it is a great way to learn more about your students but also to challenge them in their writing. This project was inspired by Jen at A Teacher's Life but is originally based on the poem "Where I'm From" by George Ella Lyon. This is her poem.

I am from clothespins,
from Clorox and carbon-tetrachloride.
I am from the dirt under the back porch.
(Black, glistening,
it tasted like beets.)
I am from the forsythia bush
the Dutch elm
whose long-gone limbs I remember
as if they were my own.
I'm from fudge and eyeglasses,
          from Imogene and Alafair.
I'm from the know-it-alls
          and the pass-it-ons,
from Perk up! and Pipe down!
I'm from He restoreth my soul
          with a cottonball lamb
          and ten verses I can say myself.
I'm from Artemus and Billie's Branch,
fried corn and strong coffee.
From the finger my grandfather lost
          to the auger,
the eye my father shut to keep his sight.
Under my bed was a dress box
spilling old pictures,
a sift of lost faces
to drift beneath my dreams.
I am from those moments--
snapped before I budded --
leaf-fall from the family tree

First, I share the audio of the poem by George Ella Lyon that is on her website, as I display the written version with the document viewer. After the kids hear it and read it, I ask them questions about the poem, such as.. What is it about? Who are the people, places, and things, mentioned in the poem?  What is the theme of the poem? Can you make a self-to-text connection? We also discuss the language used and how it enhances the poem.

Then, I share poems that previous students wrote. This brings the poem back to their level since the original is a bit too much for most of my students. The poems lead to rich conversation about poetry, language, writing about personal experiences, and how those personal experiences shape who we are and what we write. Many of my students have such wonderful stories to tell, some heart-breaking and some that make your heart just burst with love. It is through this poem that I really learn the most about my students.

Next, the students brainstorm all of the most important people, places, and things to them in one of two formats. They can either create a list with sublists or they can make a web, using words and pictures. 

Then, I provide students with this template. I'm not where the original came from because I've found the same template floating around the web for a few years now. I go over the template with them, explaining the parts they have trouble understanding and providing examples.  The students then work on filling out the template, using their brainstorms to guide them.

Then, the students move their writing to a piece of paper, adding any additional details that support their writing and they self-edit using a thesaurus.

Finally, the students complete a final draft. We usually type our final drafts, but this year, my computers are still not working. Oh, well! Another opportunity for them to practice their handwriting.

This student is one of my rockstars. This type of writing comes naturally, as you can see from the last line in her poem, "I am from creativity". I encourage them to think of one word that sums up their poem or defines them as a person. I see wonderful endings... I am from love, hope, faith, their country or city of origin, fashion, friendship, an emotion, their favorite subject, and the list goes on.  Here is another example.

If you want to experience great writing, deep poetry, and rich discussion with your students, try this activity. While this activity is geared towards middle and high school students, it can certainly be modified for younger students. I can't wait to hang these up!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

All About Me T-Shirt

How on earth is September already over??? I feel like I haven't even had a chance to catch my breath and now I have to change my calendar?! Good thing I love October. Crisp air, apple picking, pumpkin spice lattes, tall boots, chunky sweaters, Halloween, shall I continue?

Anyways, I wanted to share an activity that I did with my kiddos in the first week of school. I have a hard time finding 'back to school' activities that are cool enough for my middle schoolers. After some blog stalking therapy, I found a project that the kids loved.

Lindsay from My Life as a Fifth Grade Teacher  had a great project on her blog that was just right for my kiddos. It's perfect for those first few days that are super busy but also have too much lag time in between teaching procedures, but you could also do this for a book report or student of the week.

I created a tshirt template by drawing one, or twenty-five, on poster board and gave the kids the template that was not cut out. I figured that they might hack up the tshirt if they weren't careful with the scissors and I am too OCD to let that happen wanted them to look nice when I hung them in the hallway. Each student had to come up with words and pictures that represented them and draw them on their tshirts.  When they were finished, I cut them out and hung them in the hallways, using a clothesline and clothespins. LOVE this!

The only thing I would have done differently, is put up a light blue background, so that it looked like the sky. I already had green up and that's that!