Madly Learning about All Things Teaching: Reading, Writing, Arithmetic and Technology

28/09/2014

Top 10 ten Teaching Tips: Teaching Independent Work skills


Teaching students to work independently is a vital task for all teachers but especially for teachers of split grades. 
Set Clear Expectations
Create an anchor chart with your expectations.  When teaching these to students remember that you must do this in a variety of ways. You must Tell them, teach them, show them, post them, practice them, reinforce them.  In Daily 5 they call this building stamina but it can be used in all subjects.
  1. Tell students that you want them to work independently and that you need them to do this so that you can teach the other group of students. 
  2. Ask them what this should look like in your classroom and write it down.
  3. Have a student demonstrate what this looks like in your classroom.  Have another student demonstrate what this doesn’t look like then have them fix it. 
  4. Practice, Practice, Practice.  Have the whole class practice this and time them.  Start with 2 min and work up to 20min. 
  5. Make a chart to track their progress. 
  6. Be ruthless, and picky.  If any student does not follow the rules stop the time and try again later.  That is all that they can handle.  If you have students that struggle with this due to specific learning needs have special contract with them to build their endurance. 
  7. When it starts to slip or fail again that means it is time to practice again.  Reinforce your expectations
  8. When students are building endurance do not help them.  Walk away, watch from your desk, or corner of the room.  They have to be able to control their own behaviours without your support. 
  9. Once they begin to show some endurance with working independently begin to teach the other group of students.  But hold them accountable for the work you have assigned.  Collect everything (even if you don't always mark it, make them think that you are and monitor the students who are not using their time well and make a independent work contract with them) 
  10. No excuses and no buts.  This does work with 98% of students.  Generally if students are not working independently it is not the student but the teacher’s expectations of what is acceptable that is confusing.  Be critical of yourself and ask yourself are my words and actions consistent.  You may be unknowingly reinforcing your student’s dependence on your control. 

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12/09/2014

Gr 5. Social Studies - Charter of Rights and Freedoms

A full unit is on it's way but I wanted to first post the group of lessons as I am working on it.  This way teachers that are struggling to figure out this new curriculum have somewhere to start.  This lesson covers the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.  

This three lesson series covers the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. This content is necessary for students to understand prior to beginning their studies in inquiry. 

Lessons include

  • Original 3 pg reading about the charter of rights and freedoms
  • At a Glance Handout of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms
  • Discussion Prompts
  • Case Study Task Cards using some actual examples from challenges to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms
  • Answer Sheet
  • Reflection Page
  • Vocabulary
  • Lesson Plans - designed with use in both split classes and straight classes. 


This lesson will correspond with a whole 4/5 unit that will be coming shortly

It also corresponds with my Long Range Plans 

Integrate vocabulary from this unit with my Character Traits Literacy Lesson


Stay Tuned for my Canadian Physical Regions Lessons coming soon and the Complete Unit coming by October



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08/09/2014

30 Days of Place Value

Everyday for Bell Work in my 4/5 class, I use a mastering math sheet to review basic concepts and previously taught skills.  The page is the same every day but the daily number changes.  These also follow the three part lesson plan format that is popular today in classrooms.  The first page of the sheet is great for the Getting started section of a three part lesson plan.  It reviews key concepts and the fundamentals of the unit.  Additionally because it is repeated every day students are able to gain mastery with these familiar questions throughout the unit.  The second page of the math sheets include a word problem and a reflection section.  These are great for the Working on It and Reflection of the morning math sheets.  Students can work on the problem as a class, as a group, or individually.  Many of the questions are open ended and encourage thought and discussion for students. Word problem questions are also repeated so that students can apply skills learned from previous days with larger numbers.

My first unit of the year is Place Value and This first package has 30 different pages including a blank page that you can print and add your own number or questions.
Mastering Math Sheets - 30 Days of Place Value

This package gives you 30 different activities that review concepts of 2 and 3 digit numbers and introduce and build up to 5 digit numbers.  These are not a complete unit however they would provide you with 30 days of practice and  problem based math that is easily differentiated and great for multiple ability classrooms.

If you are looking for other place value activities that you could add to also use to supplement this package including games, task cards, and other activities please check out some of my fellow bloggers items here. These are great to supplement your place value unit and would be a great companion to my Mastering Math Sheets.
Order Numbers to 10000
Math Chat Speech BubblesThemed Place Value Practice
Mastering Math Sheet: Mental Math Addition

Happy Counting :)


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04/09/2014

Character Traits Literacy Series: Teaching Responsibility and Citizenship through Asking Questions, Making Predictions and Personal Recounts

My first language unit is ready.  If you have downloaded my long range plans then this unit is for you.  This unit integrates character traits lessons, with teaching the reading comprehension strategies of Asking Questions, and Making Predictions.  Along with teaching students how to write a personal recount.

My Language block is structured in 100 min blocks.  Students are given three independent work times including one of those times for independent reading.  Mini lessons and time for goal development are included in daily in this schedule.  Guided reading or teacher conferencing based on student needs occurs during these independent times.
 A diagnostic assessment for both the reading and writing tasks is included as an indication as to students level of understanding and skill in these areas.
 Pieces of Me is a great lesson that students record possible writing prompts that are personal for them and that fall under four categories.  Students fill the puzzle pieces with ideas and examples of things or ideas that are important to them.  Students can go back to this work throughout the year for inspirations for creative writing tasks.
 Teaching students how to recognize an Author's Purpose is an important task to do at the beginning of the year and to continue to build on throughout the rest of the year.  This poster is included so that students can reference this throughout the year and also have a copy in their Reader's Notebook.
 This is my weekly schedule sheet that I use with students.  On the left are the weekly tasks for students to check off when completed and on the right is their schedule for what they would like to complete each day during their independent time.
 I feel that it is important for students to have a scaffolded structure to use when they are first learning how to write a specific form of writing.  For some students they will continue to need this to organize their work.  For others they can continue on and write out a recount in a notebook.  This organizer helped my students produce great recounts that they could be proud of.
 In reading it is also important to use organizers at the beginning of the unit to help students focus and collect thier thoughts when reading.  This organizer helps students understand the relationship between text clues, questions and predictions.
 A recount full of facts is boring to the reader so I encourage my students to expand their writing by including thoughts, feelings, ideas and sensory ideas.  The goal is to write so that the reader can picture what the event was like and connect to the experience.  This brings it further then a simple factual retell to an interesting recount of events.
 Also included is an At a Glance success criteria for the weeks.  There is one for reading and writing and they are colour coded to show how the criteria builds from week to week.  Each week the teacher will address these criteria through mini lessons adding more complexity as the unit progresses.  Teachers will gradually release responsibility for learning on to the students as they move from modeled reading and writing to independently writing a recount and expressing their questions and predictions.  
 Track how students are doing each week with a quick formative assessment checklists.  Success criteria is listed and using the symbols at the bottom of the page quickly note how students are progressing.  Target the next weeks guided reading groups based on the formative data you collected on these pages.  There is one for reading and one for writing each week.
 At the end of the unit carefully assess the students work using a rubric that target specific skills such as  knowledge, thinking, communication, and application.  Both the rubrics for reading and writing are included in this package.

If you are interested in this unit please visit my TPT store and download this great unit.  Click the photo below to ling to my store.  

Happy Teaching!!!

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30/08/2014

7 Tips for Teaching a Split Grade Class

I love teaching a split grade class.  I know this may not be a popular opinion in teaching but there it is.  Reality is many of us teach split grade classrooms and although it has it's challenges it also has some amazing benefits.  A Colleague from my school board wrote this last year about lovin the split.   In it she lists these as the amazing benefits of split grade teaching 


  • Built-in differentiated instruction. 
  • A continuum of learning. 
  • Lots of small group instruction. 
  • Two times the teaching team! 
  • Addressing standardized testing even earlier. 
These are amazing benefits but how can it be done?  How do I teach a split? is a question I often read on Facebook forums.  

My Philosophy for Split Grade Teaching:

Teacher as a Guide: I think it is important to understand as a teacher how you will teach.  The old lecture style of teaching where the teacher is the giver of information is not the most effective way to teach today's students.  Perhaps it was before the internet but not today.  Students have access to more information at their fingertips than ever before and that information is instant.  However the information is not always correct or there is so much how does one person really sift though it to find the answer that they are looking for.  As a teacher there are times for direct instruction and there are times for student inquiry.  

Continuum of Learning: This is the reason a split works so well.  No one is ever doing the same thing. In any classroom today it is very rare that you have all students working on the same criteria. However in a straight grade this is expected.  The ideas that "I sit in a grade 5 classroom so I do grade 5 things" is not true.  In reality it is rare that every student is in the same place at the same time.  Understanding that the curriculum expectations are the stopping point but that the starting point is unknown is paramount to split grade teaching.  In math for example I teach place value at the beginning of the year to my 4/5 split class.  However I also have students on individual education plans at a grade 3 level.  So that is where I start, grade 3, learning.  I introduce the ones column and the tens column have them do activities with these small numbers.  Students proficient with this build confidence and students at this level continue to build knowledge.  As the unit progresses I increase the skill level and expectations of students. Think of it as a train everyone can get on at the beginning and you drop students off at their proficiency stops along the way.  I don't expect everyone to make the whole journey they can get off the train when they need too.  

Combine: If you look at my long range plans you will notice that I combine the majority of subjects.  Additionally although I do not combine the topics of science and social studies I often find common lessons where the lesson is the same but the work is different for the students.  This frees up time and resources.  

Accommodate for Everyone: this practice comes from my years as an ELL teacher.  Everyone needs accommodations because the one size fits all learners does not work.  Teachers can accommodate the process, product, content, and environment.  If every student is working at their own pace then the grade they sit in does not matter.  Now this does not mean that I make 29 different activities.  I just make activities that can be accessed by the widest variety of students and I have different expectations for different students.  While I may expect one group of students to add specific details to an organizer another group of students may be expected to add some basic details.  The organizer is the same but the process and content are different.  Along the same lines I also ask some students to join me to get assistance in a guided group while I also ask for anyone who needs help to come and get it.  Because I have a classroom where students are not stigmatized for needing or asking for help I often get the kids who don't need it but want it coming to join us.  This serves two purposes.  One these students help the struggling students, and they also confuse the students as to the criteria under which I group them.  The easiest way to start this is to get the 'coolest kid' in the classroom and offer to help him first.  Students are social creatures and understanding the social dynamic is important to set the culture of accommodations and assistance being okay.  

Train for Independence: Ideally you have a situation where you can build your class at the end of the year to ensure that the students that are placed in the split grade class are independent workers. That there is a reduction of students on IEPs, and other factors that respect the fact that you are covering two grades while your colleagues are covering one.  I do not have this luxury.  I teach in a dual track English/French Immersion school where the population in the English stream is low.  Therefore the only class that student have for a junior class is mine.  This means that there is no class building and most of my students enter into my room as a junior student unable to work independently.  Therefore I spend a great deal of time practicing.  I read in the literature that accompanies the Whole Brain Teaching Strategies that if students are not doing what you expect then chances are it is because they do not know what you really expect.  They need practice.  So we practice.  They do it properly or they practice.  This is true for lining up, walking around the room, working at their desks, participating in a group discussion, and most importantly transitioning.  We don't just practice in September but we practice all year long.  We review the expectations orally, we demonstrate how to do it and how not to do it, and we rehearse it repetitively until we really understand it.   

The Confusion of Choice: Kids can be mean and they can also be sensitive.  I try to avoid the 'stupid kid worksheet'  as much as possible. (I hate typing it like that but in reality that is how it feels to a student who is centered out to be different with different work).  If everyone is doing something different then no one really notices that Jamie has a different test than everyone else.  This is so much easier in a split.  My students sit in mixed grades and abilities groups from day one.  For every test I generally have about three to four different versions based on ability.  They all look the same but the questions are different.  I have yet to have someone notice.  Additionally using reader's workshop, and writer's workshop and daily 5 as a core to my language program has aided in the confusion of choice.  Every student is working on their own task on their own schedule.  They rarely notice that during a conference with a student I set different expectations for different students.  With each student working on their individual Stars Goal   groups are constantly changing and everyone is at a different point in the continuum of learning.  

Spread it Out: Ok so not everything can be taught together.  So I spread out the lesson.   I start every science/social Studies period with a reflection.  Tell me something that you know for sure, know a little, wonder about. (it is helpful at this point to also use strategies such as ask three before me, or student helpers to answer quick questions)  At the end of this quick period I share the learning goal of today's lessons and give students a purpose for learning.  I send one group back to work and then keep one group with me.  Then half way through the period I switch.  Since the focus on these topics of study is inquiry students may be engaged in a variety of self directed tasks this makes this time easier. Additionally something I am very curious in trying is flipping the classroom for these subjects and having students work through and listen to videos about these mini lessons and then all of the learning in class can be student focused and less teacher focused.  I will let you know how that goes.  


Do you have tips to add that may help someone to teach a split? Please leave a comment and share your ideas.  

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