Friday, September 9, 2016

Understanding Ourselves Through Figurative Language

I am a map...
Of the many techniques writers use, figurative language is one of the most prolific and creative. Similes, metaphors, and personification allow authors to add depth and interest to meaning. Your children encounter examples of figurative language in their reading all of the time. As an opening activity this year, students wrote their own personal metaphors by comparing themselves to an object or idea that they felt best represented an aspect of their personalities.

I am a Range Rover Sport...
I love this activity because it forces the kids to think beyond the obvious, it provides an opportunity to teach figurative language, and it gives them a chance to get to know one another a little better. Plus, the comparisons are fantastic. From sloths to ice cream sundaes, the students never cease to amaze me with their self-awareness.

I am a peacock...
Click here for more great examples!

Saturday, August 20, 2016

The Days are Long, but...

It's been a while since I've posted last to this blog, but a new year also brings new starts (and restarts), and I'm excited to pick up where I left off.

This time of the year is always a little bittersweet for me. The warm, lazy days of summer are coming to a close, and it's time to shift gears. As a kid, summers seemed to stretch out endlessly. Now, it amazes me how quickly they come and go, and every August I lament the speed of life.

It's no different during the school year. Right now, next June seems eons away, but in a blink of an eye, I will be packing my milk crates and bags heading off for warm respite. If all goes as usual, come May, I will questioning where the time went.

It seems that, these days, life is moving at the speed of light. Is it technology? Instant gratification? Constant connectedness? It's time to focus on living in the moment. It's time to actively notice new things. I know that my students will have practice doing just that this year as they learn mindfulness. Maybe they'll be able to teach me a thing or two.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Greek Mythology and Nerdvana

Click for gallery

Last week, we began our final projects for the Greek Mythology unit. It all began with determining groups. This time, I decided to try new tactic. It wouldn't be random, nor would it be kids picking their friends. Instead, I gathered data based on individual strengths, challenges, and perceptions. Using the Four Corners approach (where each corner of my room has a different label: Strongly Agree, Agree, Disagree, Strongly Disagree), I had students use their feet to respond to a series of statements. They included:

  • I consider myself a strong writer.
  • People would say that I have a flair for the dramatic.
  • Often, I am complimented on my drawing or artistic skills.
  • I enjoy working with my hands.
  • I never give up easily, even when it’s something I don’t want to do.
  • I could teach a class on how to use iMovie.
  • I’m not afraid to read stories out loud and voice different characters.
  • I’m flexible and open-minded when others have ideas.
  • In school, people look to me to make decisions.

Students met in the corner that most corresponded to their current disposition and discussed why they were there. Then, they recorded their choice on a Google Form for me to use later. It was a great opportunity for me to get to know them a little better, and it really helped to determine which kids would benefit from one another in each group.

After they were grouped, students were charged with the task of recreating a myth not studied in class using either ThingLink, stop motion, a vintage radio show, or a Common Craft video. They spent two class periods in my classroom planning, storyboarding, scripting, and creating props for one of the following stories: Theseus and the Minotaur, Daedalus and Icarus, Sisyphus, Phaethon, and Tantalus. Starting today, they headed down to Nerdvana to bring their tales to life. The engagement and excitement has been unmatched! Not only that, but I've been impressed with the way the groups have effectively and efficiently worked together. 

The whole experience has reinforced the importance of this special space in our school. Students have an amazing opportunity to roll up their sleeves, work with their hands and brains, and get creative. In many ways, it reminds me of the shop classes I took in high school. I have many positive memories of auto mechanics (we had two lifts in our school!), wood shop, and even home economics. Experiences like I had and those that our students have in Nerdvana not only make us more well-rounded, but help us to find our passions. I look forward to the future of USM's Makerspace as it grows and evolves to meet our students' needs.

By Monday, all groups should be finished with the work in the Makerspace. Stay tuned for links to their work!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Writing That's Relevant

This week, we kicked off one of my favorite activities – writing circles. For those of you familiar with book clubs or literature circles, writing circles follow the same premise: A small group gathering to discuss self-chosen text. With writing circles, students will be regularly meeting to share and offer feedback on writing. I love the feel of writing circles. First of all, they’re intimate. Because each group consists of only three to four students, individual voices are heard and validated. This is quite different from a whole-class discussion, where the more timid voices may be overpowered in the shuffle. Not only that, as the group members feel more comfortable with one another, they will be more willing to take risks with their writing. Secondly, writing circles are student-led. Each small group decides on its own writing topic, and each individual chooses his or her own genre. Additionally, after learning numerous types of positive response, writers will be able to select the type of feedback that best meets their needs. Finally, writing circles help students to become better writers. Kids are no longer writing for the teacher or the grade, but for an all-important audience of peers. Suddenly, they have a sense of purpose and commitment that transcends typical assignments.

Writing circles will meet approximately once a week, and will follow a specific format. To begin, each student will share the piece that he or she had been working on since the last meeting. After the piece has been shared, the other members of the group will take turns giving useful, positive feedback to the writer. Once this process has been completed for all members, the group will choose a new topic for the upcoming week. Students will write throughout the week and repeat the steps at their next meeting. After four or five meetings, writing circles will become publishing circles. At this point, students will select one of the pieces they have been working on for publication. After participating in revision, editing, and illustration conferences, the pieces will be ready to share with readers outside of the classroom.

The purpose of writing circles is to help students become better writers. It’s my hope that by putting kids in charge of their writing decisions, they will feel a stronger commitment to their work. Usually, relevancy results in higher quality writing. If nothing else, perhaps writing circles will help convince students that writing can be rewarding and fun!

photo credit: pigstubs via photopin cc