Wednesday, August 3, 2016

The First Day is Coming---- more on procedures

It is time to make some serious decisions regarding your classroom management plan.  Start the year strong with tips from Michael Linsin.

After seeing this tweet from Brynn Allison @literarymaven, I went back to a great website that I discovered at the beginning of the summer: Smart Classroom Management.  I have spent hours reading Michael Linsin's ideas on this site.  He has very clear ways to help you learn classroom management.

My discipline system for the past couple years has been to give one warning and then to give a consequence.  Yet, through Linsin, I have gotten concrete tips for making that even better.  Here are some key take aways---

1.  Your classroom should be a fun, inviting place where students enjoy learning (and this is by far the most important point!).

2.  Your rules should be clear and to the point.  He suggests--
    I am not yet sure that these are going to be my rules, but this gives you an idea.  Previously my rules were--

In choosing my rules this year, I want to make sure that I can clearly see if the rule has been broken.  With that being said, rule number one may be the one that needs adjusting.  If a student is blatantly not trying their best, that could fall under not respecting themselves.  In many ways, I like Michael's rules better for that reason.  They are very clear.  Where I am not sure I agree is with the "Raise your hand before speaking."  I see my classroom as one where a lot of collaboration occurs, so I don't know that I want to tell them they can't talk.  Of course, the reality is that in teaching procedures to your class, you can teach them when talking is permitted (and even encouraged).  Then at "all other times" they are expected to raise their hands to speak.   

3.  Your consequences should be clear and to the point, too.  He suggests--
His site also goes into detail about how to do each of these steps, including samples.  

4.  You should be following your management plan like a referee refs a game.  No lecturing, no negativity or anger.  You are just delivering the facts.  This may be the hardest one, but it is also a VERY important point.  Students need to be given the space to self-reflect, and it will be harder for them to do that if they are harboring resentment over something that you did or said.  

5. Teach every procedure in a very detailed way.  This is another important one.  Teach your students how to come into your classroom and begin their bell-ringer.  Teach them how to get into groups or get supplies.  Teach them what it will look like when they get a warning or a time-out.  Nothing should be surprising when it comes to how your classroom runs.  Then when you follow your classroom management plan, the students will be thankful that you are consistent and stuck to the procedures that you taught them at the beginning of the year.  

All of this and so much more can be found on Michael Linsin's website.  If you are a new teacher (or any teacher, really), you should also spend hours on his site.  I have only skimmed the surface of what he has to offer.  

Happy Planning!

Monday, August 1, 2016

Writing and Rubrics

Today I want to talk more about how I teach and assess writing.  This past year, I worked on increasing the amount of writing by using a modified writers' workshop and having my students write in a writer's notebook.  Basically, this just meant that we wrote more often and we did a lot more writing activities to prepare for major pieces.  I found a lot of great ideas from this blog post by Jenna at Musings in the Middle-

This is an image from her blog that shows one page of a writer's notebook.  It is also TOTALLY worth it to watch her video, which I inserted below.  Please be clear that both of these resources, the image and video, are Jenna Smith's...not my own.

So, now that you have spent a little time with Jenna, let's get back to my classroom.  This year with my sixth graders, I made a lot of the brainstorming pages for narrative writing, including the one shown above.  This falls into the category of "list making" in the writer's notebook, and it is so helpful for the students.  I then would say something like, "Turn to your heart map and pick one topic to write about today."  We might write three different "quick-writes" from our heart maps, which we could later pull inspiration from for a longer narrative.  In this way, students get practice developing a number of ideas for the different types of writing- narrative, expository, and argumentative.

Once it is time to develop one topic for a full length essay, I have students refer to their quick writes, but I also have them do more traditional planning.  One example of this is to create an outline.  Again, I teach this step by step with an example from my own writing.  I go through the steps and then I have the students go through the steps.  I do.   I model for each step of the writing process.  Just like Jenna recommends, I write in front of the students.  It is worth it to be vulnerable and show them the process.  I also share rubrics with the students throughout the process.  I teach and grade based on the six traits of writing.  I often focus on a few of the traits in the rubric.

One of my favorite essays to teach is the literary analysis.  I do this essay with my 8th graders after their summer reading book, Roll of Thunder, Hear my Cry by Mildred Taylor.  I have them compare literary elements between Roll of Thunder and a supplementary text (like "Sympathy" by Paul Laurence Dunbar or "The Man Who Was Almost a Man" by Richard Wright).  Here is the rubric from that essay-
As you can see, this example of a rubric focuses more on the structure of the essay and lays out exactly what students should have in each paragraph.  

In contrast, here is a rubric for a narrative essay.  This one has three of the six traits highlighted- Ideas, Organization, and Word Choice.  I also almost always grade for conventions.  

I hope that this post helps to clarify how I teach and assess writing.  I'm also continuing to dig into Lucy Calkins's Writing Pathways which I got last year.  The rubrics are very specific and show multiple grade level expectations.  Here is a glimpse of the rubric for a sixth grade information writing assignment from that book.

Keep the conversation going by commenting below.  How do you use rubrics?  What methods do you prefer for teaching writing?  As always, happy planning!