Archive for January, 2010

Stenhouse adds math

Over the last few years, we’ve expanded our focus across the school and the content areas to include such topics as school leadership, classroom management, and social studies. This spring marks the debut of our first books for math teachers, beginning with the four-book series, Zeroing In on Number and Operations: Key Ideas and Common Misconceptions. Each of the easy-to-use flipcharts focus on a two-grade span: 1-2, 3-4, 5-6, and 7-8.

While the subject matter may be different, Stenhouse math books will look and feel very much like our other titles. Reading a Stenhouse book is like a one-on-one conversation with a particularly thoughtful and generous colleague. Our authors write about what they’ve learned from their own successes and failures in years of working with students and fellow teachers.

Just as with our literacy books, we began the development of our math line by seeking out the best teachers and teacher educators in the country. We look not simply for expert teachers, but for teachers who can write about their experience and knowledge in a clear and engaging voice. Our new math editor, Toby Gordon, is particularly well-suited to find these teachers. Toby has spent the last 20 years publishing professional books for math teachers, and she’s excited to develop a list of math titles at Stenhouse that complement our literacy titles.

So try out one of our new math books by Lesley University professors Linda Dacey and Anne Collins. And look for more Stenhouse math titles in the coming months.

Add comment January 27th, 2010

Quick Tip Tuesday: Moving students toward meaningful reflection

If you ever had a classroom full of teenagers groan and question the necessity of reading a great piece of literature, then Kelly Gallagher knows how you feel. “The success of our students’ reading experience may hinge on just how effective we are in providing meaningful answers to these questions,” Kelly writes in his book Deeper Reading: Comprehending Challenging Texts, 4-12. In this week’s Quick Tip, Kelly shares some of the reasons he gives his students – and how to move beyond those questions and help students see what role a great book might play in their own lives.

In my earlier book, Reading Reasons: Motivational Mini-Lessons for Middle and High School, I outline a number of answers to the question “Why should I read?” I focus on reasons that demonstrate the benefits students get from reading. Students should read because:
• Reading is rewarding.
• Reading builds a mature vocabulary.
• Reading makes you a better writer.
• Reading is hard, and “hard” is necessary.
• Reading prepares you for the world of work.
• Reading well is financially rewarding.
• Reading opens the door to college and beyond.
• Reading arms you against oppression.
• Reading makes you smarter.
• Reading develops a moral compass.
Once a week I give my students a mini-lesson that delves into one of these ten reading reasons. I have found these mini-lessons useful in motivating my students toward our classroom goal of every student’s reading two million words a year.

Making students aware of all the reasons they should be readers helps them develop recreational reading habits, but a more targeted approach is needed to help them see why they are about to spend a few weeks reading the same novel together. In many ways, “Why should I be a reader?” is an easier question to answer than “Why should I read All Quiet on the Western Front in the next three weeks?” Students readily understand the overall importance of reading in helping them land a good job or get accepted to a university; they have a much more difficult time understanding what specific and immediate benefits they will reap from reading The Scarlet Letter or Things Fall Apart.

When students ask, “Why are we reading this book?” teachers often rely on one of two stock answers, or both. These answers are legitimate; but alone they do not go far enough when it comes to motivating adolescent readers.
Stock Answer 1: “We’re reading this book because it’s a great story.”

Whether it’s fiction or nonfiction, I want my students to appreciate great stories. This probably sounds absurd to people who like to read because they—we—take this for granted; but many of our students have never discovered the pleasure of reading great books. They haven’t found the beauty and power the stories have to offer. They haven’t experienced unforgettable reading moments. I can still remember the exact moments in my reading life when . . .Anne Frank’s hiding place was discovered. Boo Radley appeared out of the shadows to rescue Scout and Jem. Harry Potter defeated Lord Voldermort. Sethe’s daughter was murdered. Sophie made her terrible choice. George killed Lenny. Winston and Julia were discovered in their love nest.

My list of memorable reading moments goes on and on, as undoubtedly does yours. Unfortunately, many of my students look at me oddly when I describe the powerful feelings that can arise from reading memorable books. Some of them have never found themselves in a reading flow—that trance we get into where we become so engrossed with what we are reading that we lose track of time and place. Many have never had the experience of having a book linger in their minds long after they have finished it. They have trouble seeing the greatness of literature.

During the first week of this school year, I asked my senior students to share some reflections they had about themselves as readers. Here are some of their responses:
• “I only read when teachers make me.”
• “I never read on my own. It’s boring.”
• “I have never read a single book on my own.”
• “Why should I read when there are so many interesting things to do
instead?”

Their aversion to reading is appalling, and I want to change the way they perceive reading. I want to help them discover the greatness of the books we will read over the course of the school year. Though I am not naïve enough to believe that every one of my students is going to love every book I assign, I start with that as a goal. I know that what I do as a teacher will greatly influence the level of my students’ involvement.

Though not every student will like every book, I want every student to see the value in what they are reading. Have you ever read a great book with your class only to have many of them tell you they found the book boring? When this happens to me, I have to think that maybe it’s not the book that is the problem; maybe it’s me. When my students are having a hard time connecting with a great book, I am forced to reconsider my approach. Have I provided enough framing? Have I addressed my students’ lack of prior knowledge? Have I supported them to make sense of the difficult vocabulary? Have I helped them embrace their confusion? What is getting in the way of their discovering the greatness of this book, and what can I do to remove these obstacles?

As I have emphasized throughout this book, if we want students to fully appreciate great works, we must design lessons that lead students to discover this greatness. If we’re asking our students to read a great book, it’s our job to nudge students past their reluctance and allow the book’s greatness to emerge.
Stock Answer 2: “We’re reading this book because it affords us the opportunity to recognize and appreciate the writer’s craft.”
If my lessons are successful in drawing students into literary works, I then have the opportunity to make the author’s craft visible to the students. Once they understand the story, they can be taught to analyze one or more of the following:
• Characterization: How does the author develop the characters? What is the difference between “flat” and “round” characters? Which minor characters play important roles? How do the characters advance the plot and the conflicts?
• Time and sequence: How does the author develop time and sequence? Is foreshadowing used? Flashbacks? How does the author craft these time shifts? How do these time shifts advance the telling of the story?
• Themes: Which themes emerge from the book? Is there an overriding theme? Do minor themes emerge? How are these themes developed?
• Author’s purpose: Why do you think the author wrote this book? What did he or she really want to say? What was the historical context in which this book was written, and how did this influence the author?
Who is/was the author’s intended audience?
• Diction: How does the author’s choice of words advance the story? Is dialogue used effectively? Does the diction ring true? Does the author effectively use figurative language—metaphor, simile, and allegory?
• Symbolism: How does the author effectively use symbolism to advance the story? How do these symbols enrich the novel?
• Voice: Who is telling the story? Which point of view has the author used? How are the other literary elements revealed through the use of narration, dialogue, dramatic monologue, or soliloquy?
• Setting: Where is the story set? How does this setting affect the story’s development?
• Conflict: What are the central conflicts in the work? How does the author develop these conflicts? Are the conflicts primarily internal or external?
• Irony: How is irony used in the story? What kinds of irony (verbal, situational, dramatic) are used? How does the use of irony advance our understanding of the characters?
• Tone: What is the author’s attitude in this work? How and where is it revealed?
As English teachers,we are already aware of these literary elements, but year in and year out I am surprised by how little my incoming students are acquainted with them. They are accustomed to simply reading books without any awareness of the level of craft employed by the author. Knowing the story is one thing; appreciating the level of craft under the surface of the story is another thing.

Making these techniques visible to students boosts their appreciation of the work. When students examine the time and sequence elements found in Amy Tan’s The Joy Luck Club, for example, they begin to understand the level of craft that went into the writing of that novel. When students are asked to write a sonnet in iambic pentameter, their appreciation of the Shakespeare play they are reading instantly deepens. If there is real craft involved in the writing of the work and this craft can be made visible to the students, their commitment to reading the work intensifies.

Students revel when they discover the craft used in the work. Making the writer’s craft visible has an added benefit: it can help improve our students’ writing. If I want my students to write an effective persuasive essay, it helps immensely to provide them with models of persuasive pieces (the “My Turn” essay featured in Newsweek is one source of excellent models).When my students learn to spot arguments and counterarguments in an essay they read, they are more likely to make use of arguments and counterarguments in their own essays. Students who are taught how to study the techniques, the structure, and the craft of other writers often find these techniques seeping into their own writing. Models help students write better.

Both of these approaches—appreciating the greatness of books and developing an understanding of the literary techniques employed by the authors—are valuable, so much so that they have become foundational in secondary schools. Indeed, I emphasize both of them strongly in my own classroom. But when it comes time for students to find the relevance a book plays in their lives, they must be encouraged to move outside and beyond the text to consider the following questions: What does this book mean to us today? Why did we read it?

Add comment January 26th, 2010

Classroom Blogs: Online Book Clubs

We’ve been following the progress of Amanda Villagomez during her first year of using a classroom blog in her middle school language arts classes. In her prior posts, Amanda talked about setting up the blog and her initial experiments with it in the classroom . Now, midway through the year, Amanda continues to be excited about the possibilities created by the blog. In this post, she reports on the successful integration of online book clubs and talks about her plans for the remainder of the year:

Another quarter has flown by, and I am officially half way through my first year of integrating a classroom blog. Throughout the quarter I was able to continue posting Author Tip Tuesdays on the weeks that I was teaching in English (I teach half of the time in Spanish). My students seem to look forward to them. They especially enjoyed a week integrating a YouTube video that Mary Amato created about her revision process , as well as a Q&A with S. Terrell French after a group of 7th graders read her book as a book club.

The most exciting part of the blog this quarter was a successful integration of an on-line book club. I originally thought of it as a new way for my students to interact for their book club discussion. However, before I started the club, I realized that it opened up many more possibilities, including being able to facilitate multi-grade level discussions. Students also enjoyed that other staff members, parents, and relatives left comments of encouragement. I recently blogged about more of my reflections on this first book club.

Next quarter students will participate in more book club discussions via the blog. Collaboration with people outside of the classroom will be an exciting component. One group will be reading Pride and Prejudice, and I requested some suggestions from Kelly Fineman to provide support for my students, as I had appreciated her previous chapter by chapter notes about Northanger Abbey earlier in the summer. Some of my students had mentioned an interest in Austen, but they quickly lost their motivation when they were not able to understand it well enough attempting to read it on their own. Fineman was gracious enough to send me detailed suggestions to guide my students through the reading. Actively blogging on my own has been very beneficial in networking with different authors and bloggers to further engage students. Other future possibilities may include having university students in children’s/YA literature classes comment on discussions, having parent and staff members participate in book clubs, and having book discussions with students in other classrooms.

For third quarter my biggest new blogging venture will be having my 7th graders set up their own blogs. Within the next few steps I will be guiding them through the process. They will begin blogging by creating posts such as book reviews, slice of life stories, and facilitating their own book club disscussions. I would also like to incorporate podcasting eventually, but it may not be until 4th quarter. I am still debating whether or not to have my 6th graders begin their own blogs this year, depending on how smoothly it goes with 7th grade, but they will be able to view 7th graders’ blogs as mentor texts and will be encouraged to leave comments and participate in book clubs that they facilitate. Moving into the second half of the year I am still very enthusiastic and excited about the amazing opportunities that blogging has created in order to enhance my language arts instruction.

1 comment January 21st, 2010

Rick Wormeli joins metaphors discussion on Ning

The Metaphors & Analogies Group on Ning is generating a lot of interesting instructional metaphors along with enlightening exchanges about how to use metaphors effectively in the classroom. Over the weekend, Rick Wormeli added his comments to several of the discussion threads that have been started by members of the group.

The suggestions have been posted to the group cover a range of topics, from reader’s workshop and writing instruction to science and middle school mathematics. And the metaphors range from the mechanical (conveyor belts and elevators; flash lights vs. flood lights ) to the handcrafted (patchwork vs. tapestry) to the athletic (NFL playoff brackets).

If you want to submit a metaphor for the contest, add a comment to the Comment Wall by January 29th. Or, just check out the topics in the Discussion Forum and add your own ideas or start a new thread. Rick will be visiting the group periodically throughout the month to add his thoughts.

Add comment January 19th, 2010

Quick Tip Tuesday: Short bursts to build stamina

Taking a cue from his basketball coach, Max Brand describes how he and his fellow teacher and wife, Gayle Brand, “train” students with short bursts of reading activity to become more fluent readers. This week’s Quick Tip is from their book, Practical Fluency: Classroom Perspectives, Grades K-6.

I can still remember my first experience in organized sports, freshman basketball. We had a wonderful coach, Mr. Orr, who left a lasting impression on my thinking and teaching. Coach Orr had an uncanny ability to motivate us and get the team to overachieve by demonstrating basic skills (shooting, dribbling, and passing).

He provided constant feedback that was specific, so that we could continue to build skills and develop as team players. Coach Orr expected our team to achieve at a high level, and we did. Our successes were celebrated, no matter how small, which brought us together as a team and motivated us to work harder. The most memorable lessons were the drills to build stamina; “killers” we fondly named them. We would begin and end practice with forty-eight ticks on the scoreboard clock. The team had to complete a series of sprints in this amount of time or challenge ourselves again. These sprints were designed to help us build stamina, developing endurance for our ultimate test, game day.

Thinking back now, practice moved at a brisk pace, and most skill building drills were completed in a short period of time. This was done to keep us focused on the skill and use time efficiently so that we could scrimmage and become automatic with the skills while playing basketball.

When I think about planning for fluency instruction, the structure of basketball practice influences my thinking. I work with my students in short bursts of learning, consolidating skills and strategies that lead to fluency and building students’ reading and writing stamina. As teachers, we need to plan for short bursts of learning that enable students to build stamina and become fluent readers and writers.

Gayle and I plan for these short bursts of instruction by first thinking about the skill, then which instructional setting (whole class, small group, or individual) will allow our students to learn and practice this skill. Automaticity with word recognition, spelling, and writing on demand are areas of instruction we target during short, focused lessons. The skills learned during these sessions allow our students to read for extended periods of time during reading workshop and sustain their writing for long stretches during writing workshop.

When planning for fluency instruction, we look for opportunities to foster students’ automaticity with print, increase their reading rate, and read in meaningful phrased units. Richard Allington (2001, p. 75) reminds us that “providing children access with appropriately leveled texts and a noninterruptive reading environment typically produces profound changes in reading fluency and self-monitoring.”

Of course, there isn’t any right time to teach fluency. Instead, you have to look at your daily schedule and consciously plan for fluency while seizing teachable moments to stress the importance of fluency instruction. Brief fluency lessons occur during content studies and reading or writing workshops. Prior to these lessons, Gayle and I have informally assessed our students, found a specific focus for fluency instruction, and then decided which grouping structure would help us effectively and efficiently support our students. We have found that working within the context of our thematic studies or workshops allows students to quickly practice skills and then use them for purposeful reading or writing. Gayle and I adopted this thinking after reading Stanovich’s seminal article (1980), “Toward an Interactive-Compensatory Model of Individual Differences in the Development of Reading Fluency.” We want to build fluency skills so that our students can keep pace with their peers, think about the same content, and use most of the workshop time for personal, purposeful reading and writing.

Gayle’s students scatter about the classroom, using the entire space for personal reading during independent reading time. As the students leave the meeting area, Gayle reminds them to use punctuation to guide their voices, a fluency concept she has demonstrated while reading aloud The Other Side.

Some students have been reading quickly, not fluently. They read through punctuation, sometimes getting confused because one idea runs into the next or the intended meaning was altered. This will be the focus for her individual conferences. The small-group work will continue its thread of reading punctuation but will also extend to a word-solving strategy. Gayle wants her students to use repetitive patterns and the local context of the sentence to predict unknown words. She wants them to cue on the first letter(s) as they anticipate the next word, developing automaticity with print.

Gayle will mask a handful of words in the big book, Oh No! (Cairns 1987) She will mask the word spot, a repetitive word in the text. She will reveal the s and p, covering the rest of the word with a sticky note. She will mask this word on pages 4 and 6, knowing that students will have had an opportunity to read and internalize the pattern of this text. She will mask dress on page 10 and place on page 16, allowing students to use the meaning and structure of the text and picture to predict these words. Ellie, John, Seth, Tommy, and Alya will work together with Gayle in this flexible group.

Gayle will begin this short lesson with the students writing five frequent words on wipe-off boards. She wants to build the students speed in knowing these words that appear on the word wall. Then she prompts the group to write the high frequency word see at the top of their wipe-off board, underline the s, and then write words that begin with s. The group generates high frequency words so, saw, and she, copying from the word wall. They also independently come up with sat, sand, sad, set, sit, Seth, and Stephanie. Gayle brings closure to this segment of her lesson by prompting the kids to write seen and seed. The students easily add the final consonants, laughing that they should have remembered these words. The students read the big book with masked words and after about seven minutes, find their own places in the classroom to read independently.

Gayle scans the room noting where individuals and small groups are reading. She spots Sam sitting at a table by himself reading Henry and Mudge in Puddle Trouble. She makes her way over to the table, pulls up a chair alongside him and without asking, he reads orally from the middle of page 19. The text challenges Sam because he wants to read the line of text as a phrase. Gayle says, “Sam I like how you’re reading the line of words together, listen to how I read the idea.” Gayle reads, “One blue petal fell from his mouth into Henry’s hand,” from the book. “You didn’t stop at the end of the line, Mrs. Brand,” Sam comments. Sam reads to the end of the chapter similar to Gayle’s model. He reflects, “I didn’t have to reread so much, it was easier to follow the text.”

Reading workshop ends with students sharing about how they used punctuation to understand their reading. Ellie, Seth, John, Tommy, and Alya share that while reading Oh No! there are red letters and an exclamation point to tell them how to read the line. They think they should be reading them with voices that convey something is wrong, not just excitement. The students move next to word study. The group will work on making words with magnetic letters from the rime, eat.

I will also nurture fluency development by bringing Matt, T.J., Alyssa, and Alex together as a group. I will use shared reading to reading with them the Time for Kids article, “Saving Our National Parks.” I will demonstrate fluent reading by pausing and thinking about big ideas. I will begin by reading the title and subtitles and reading captions while looking at pictures. I will think out loud about what I think this article will teach me.

My reading begins by stating my purpose for reading. My purpose for reading this article is to find out how we can save our national parks. The reason this is my purpose is because I noticed the subtitle, “What Can Be Done.” I record this on the chart and begin reading. I read the article while the group follows along. Students stop me to reread sections or record important information on the chart. I bring closure to the lesson by asking the kids what they noticed. “I need to spend more time looking at what I’m going to read before reading it,” Matt comments. Alyssa reflects, “You read to the end of the sentence before stopping, not the end of the line. I need to look for periods and question marks.” T.J. reports, “I’m going to write a purpose now when I read. This will help me focus on why I’m reading. I won’t stop so much.”

The students join the rest of their classmates, sharing what they learned about national parks and reading fluently. As a class, we debrief our reading by writing a summary about national parks’ renewable resources. We use shared writing to write this summary. While rereading the summary, we discuss punctuation and fluent reading. The discussion reinforces the day’s fluency thinking.

Gayle’s primary-grade classroom also has collections of texts used for curriculum content work organized in text sets. She may spend more time reading aloud texts from these baskets than I do. Gayle’s text sets include big books that she uses for shared reading. She uses shared reading to introduce key ideas and develop schema and background knowledge that help her students learn vocabulary and ideas needed to read texts from the text set fluently. These primary-age students learn the importance of text features (pictures, captions, titles, and headings) as they read information for a variety of purposes.

Gayle not only uses big books during curriculum content study, but also uses an overhead projector to share texts. She demonstrates fluent reading, reading ideas by pointing or using an index card for reading a line at a time to focus her class on the text. By introducing key curriculum ideas and vocabulary in a shared format, she helps her students to read these ideas fluently. This helps her students internalize vocabulary and nonfiction written language
forms.

Add comment January 19th, 2010

Quick Tip Tuesday: Teacher Talk

All teachers have been in a situation where they are just not quite sure how to respond to a student’s comment, or how to help a student make sense of what they are trying to say. In this week’s Quick Tip, Debbie Miller offers up some ways of responding to children and helping them clarify their own thinking at the same time. These examples are from her recent book, Teaching with Intention: Defining Beliefs, Aligning Practice, Taking Action, K-5.

Let’s say a child says something in response to a statement or question and we’re not sure where they’re headed.

If we smile, nod encouragingly, and say things like the following, we’re letting children know we believe they have something significant to say and we’re going to do everything we can to help them find it:

■ Keep going.

■ What else?

■ Keep talking. I think you are onto something here.

■ Say more about that.

It takes time to help children find words for what they’re trying to convey. It can be  uncomfortable. But when kids understand we’re not going to ask them to do something unless we know they can do it, they most often accept our challenge.

Sometimes, when a child is having difficulty putting his thinking on display, we might say something like, “Is there anybody who can help Josh?” Lots of kids will want to help Josh, but will they really be able to? More than likely it’s an opportunity for them to share their own thinking, and Josh learns that if he hesitates to answer, his teacher and his classmates will come to his rescue. That’s no way to move a child forward. So don’t let Josh off the hook. Stick with him. Nod, smile, and say, “Keep talking, Josh.” And then wait. Let him know you know that thinking takes time. Let him know that you truly believe he has something thoughtful to say. When children know we believe in them, it’s the first step in learning to believe in themselves.

Let’s say a child actually has quite a bit to say, but we’re not really sure what she’s talking about.

In this instance, we try as best we can to make sense of what she has to say and make meaning for ourselves. We’re showing kids we really do want to understand their words and ideas when we say things like this:

■ So, are you saying . . . ?

■ Is this what you mean?

■ This is what I think I heard you say. Do I have it right?

We try our best to find that golden nugget—to find significance—in what they have to say, and offer it up for the child’s consideration. How do we know what to say after saying something like, “So, is this what you mean?” (Especially when we have no clue?) Take a deep breath, think about the child’s words, the focus of the discussion or conference, and say something that makes sense to you.

We don’t really know if this is what the child is thinking, but we’re having a go at it. It’s important that we frame our understanding in the form of a question. “Is this what you mean?” sends a much different message from, “This is what you mean.” If the child answers with a nod or a yes, I say, “Okay. Now you say it.” We’re giving the child the opportunity to put it in her own words—she owns the thinking now. Sometimes I’m asked, “So how do you know she was really thinking that? How do you know she’s not just saying that’s what she was thinking?”

I don’t. And I don’t think it matters. What does matter is that the child understands that her teacher is working hard to make sense of what she has to say. And if we do end up giving her an out? So be it. Sometimes we forget that when we dismiss a child’s thinking, we also dismiss the child. And conversely, when we embrace her thinking, we’re also embracing her. We cannot underestimate the power of our influence. Other times a child will say, “No, I’m not thinking that. I’m thinking this . . .”

Perfect. Either “Yes! I’m thinking that” or “No, I’m not thinking that, I’m thinking this . . .” helps children clarify their thinking. What we say and how we say it lets them know that it’s safe to put their thinking on display.

Sometimes children say things that seem so bizarre (to us) that we wonder if they have been listening at all.

Instead of asking them that question, or giving them that special look we reserve for occasions just like these, we could decide to not pass judgment. We’re being honest and we’re showing kids that even though we’ve never thought about it quite like that before, we’re willing to now when we say something like this:

■ Wow. I never thought about it like that before! But what if children say things just to get a reaction from everyone? In that case, children know that we’re open to listening to a variety of perspectives and ideas, and that we expect them to substantiate their thinking in thoughtful ways for themselves and others when we say something like this: “So help me out here. What’s the evidence in the text that leads you to draw this conclusion?” Or, “What in your experience makes you think about it in this way?”

Once students find out we’re serious, that we’re going to keep at it in order to find significance in what they have to say, they usually stop responding in less than thoughtful ways.

Sometimes we see that students need to broaden and expand their thinking and to value and make efforts to understand thinking that’s different from their own.

We’re helping children understand the importance of being open-minded, listening carefully, and learning from each other when we say things like this:

■ What might be another way of thinking about this?

■ Who has another point of view?

■ Now let’s look at this a different way. What if . . . ?

■ Turn and talk with a partner about your thinking.

3 comments January 12th, 2010

Share Your Classroom Metaphors with Rick Wormeli

In his new book, Metaphors & Analogies: Power Tools for Teaching Any Subject, Rick Wormeli demonstrates a wide range of classroom uses and benefits for a well-constructed metaphor. A good metaphor can help students make sense of abstract concepts, connect new ideas to background knowledge, and explore relationships between language and image.

Rick provides a wealth of examples of these kinds of metaphors and analogies in his book. Now, he wants to hear from you. How do you use metaphors to teach difficult concepts or reach students who are struggling with a new idea? Send us your favorite classroom metaphors and your thinking about the metaphor. (See the instructions below for joining our Metaphors & Analogies Group on Ning and entering the contest). Rick will comment on several of the submissions and he will also select the 10 most interesting ones for special recognition: the teachers who submit the most interesting metaphors and explanation will receive a free copy of Metaphors & Analogies.

So sharpen up those metaphors and join the conversation.

Watch Rick’s video welcome to the Metaphors & Analogies website and contest

Browse the book Metaphors & Analogies online

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How to Submit

1) Go to the Stenhouse Publishers network on Ning

2) Click Sign Up at the top of the page (or Sign In if you have already joined one of our Ning groups in the past)

3) Once you’ve signed up, click the Metaphors & Analogies Group and then click to Join the Group in the top right corner

4) Click on “add a comment” to submit your classroom metaphor and explanation by January 29, 2010 (limit of three submissions per teacher). In your submission:

a) Describe a metaphor or analogy that you’ve used or plan to use during this school year.  Explain your choice. The transparency of your thinking is what we’re after because your insights will stimulate our own.

b) Share at least one limitation of the metaphor you chose.  A limitation is anything that could result in a misunderstanding if accepted without full analysis.  For example, is cutting up a pizza the best metaphor to use when teaching fractions?  What potential misapplication or misunderstanding could occur when using this comparison?

c) Tell us how you might improve your chosen metaphor to make it more appropriate for the students you serve or to prevent misunderstanding or misapplications from occurring.  For some ideas about improving a metaphor, refer to the Metaphor Quality Scale.

1 comment January 8th, 2010

It’s a Boy!

Like clockwork every week, Zsofia McMullin has been delivering timely posts to the Stenhouse blog—from Quick Tip Tuesdays to Poetry Fridays. Last week, Zsofia delivered again right on schedule: Samuel Benjamin Varadi McMullin arrived a week early and just in time to earn a full year’s tax deduction for the proud parents. Everyone at Stenhouse is thrilled for Zsofi and her husband Drew.

9 comments January 6th, 2010

Quick Tip Tuesday: Word walls

“As most teachers know, crafting writing sometimes has a different meaning at the primary level,” writes Liz Hale in her book, Crafting Writers, K-6. “Students not only are crafting meaning but also are crafting letters, words, and sentences.” In this week’s Quick Tip Liz shares some of her successful strategies for using word walls in the primary writing classroom.

Word Walls
One of the balancing acts in teaching primary writing is supporting students’ use of inventive spelling while also creating a sense of accountability for learning the correct spelling of grade-level words. Many teachers use a word wall to assist students with correct spelling by publicly displaying high-frequency words or words that have been taught in lessons. As most primary teachers know, the more students interact with word walls, the more they will actually use them independently. As a result, teachers sometimes do activities such as bingo or word searches with word wall words in addition to using the word wall as an instructional tool during shared reading or interactive writing.

Although frequent exposure to these words in any way is beneficial, it is helpful to have activities that isolate as much as possible the skill you actually want students to use during independent writing time. We certainly don’t want students to look up at the word wall every single time they write a word. We want students to be immersed in remembering their stories so they can draw and write about their stories to the best of their ability. The ideal word wall scenario would look something like this: Kalil is writing about the birthday party he had last month, with all that blank space ahead of him. After writing “I saw my . . . ,” he is about to write the word friend when something in his mind reminds him that the word friend is on the word wall. He glances up from his seat, where he can easily read the words on the word wall, writes f-r-i-e-n-d, and then continues on with his sentence.

Perhaps some teachers might notice there is one skill in that scenario that is the least likely to occur on its own. Most students write sentences, and most students can look at a board and copy words. The skill that is not as much of a given is when Kalil, without being reminded about using the word wall and without having it in his immediate line of vision, realizes that the word he is about to write is on the word wall. Kalil is so familiar with which words are on the word wall that the words themselves act as a trigger to look up and use this spelling resource. One way to support the use of the word wall during independent writing time is not through direct instruction but through consistent practice of this very small skill in almost a game-like way.

Word-Wall Game
This quick game begins with giving a pointer to a student and asking him or her to find a certain word on the word wall:

Where is the word . . . when?

After that student points to the word when, he or she chooses the next person to get the pointer for the next word-find challenge. After modeling the game a few times, students can take over the role of telling the other student which word to find. The game can then be run independently, with the teacher as
facilitator. Other students can be involved by either whispering to each other if they know where the given word is or by giving a thumbs-up when the correct word is found.

Word-Wall Quiz
Another way to reinforce students’ memory of the word wall is simply to quiz students:
Teacher: Is friend on the word wall?
Students: Yes!
Teacher: Is . . . cousin on the word wall?
Students: No!
At first some students scan the board to come to an answer. Some students may just pick up on what other students are saying. But that’s okay, because it’s the repetition and reinforcement of what is there and what isn’t there that is important.

Both activities may seem quite simple—and they are—but their simplicity is due to the fact that attention is given to such an isolated skill. The best part about these kinds of activities is that they can be done in a matter of minutes whenever there is a small amount of time—after a morning meeting, before lunch, or during those last few minutes before buses are called. They can also be done as a transition, especially before writing workshop, when students ideally are putting this skill to use the most.

1 comment January 5th, 2010


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