Friday, December 5, 2014

Teachers are Tired

If you teach (or if you're a parent), you know how tiresome it is to repeat yourself or invent something awesome only to have it flop.  It sucks. That's why I have become addicted to Pinterest and TpT (Teachers Pay Teachers, for those of you who haven't found this miraculous site yet).

I find tons of resources on these two sites... now if only I could find legislation that would allow me to just teach.  Wonder what I could search on Pinterest to find that? ;)

Well, in the spirit of Julie Andrews, Oprah, and Christmas, here are a few of my favorite things.  Feel free to steal for free.

1. I love teaching writing using the 4 Square method.  Yes- it can be paired with 6+1 writing traits.  It's a fantastic way to have third graders generating five paragraph essays by mid year!  I adore it!  (Downside- SC just decided that our writing test will be timed.  Students will have 30 minutes to write a cohesive essay.  That's just stupid.  I wouldn't be done in 30 minutes if I knew it was for a huge test like ACT!)
Anyway- I <3 4 Square.  You should, too. ;)

This is the super basic form of what 4 Square is.  It's a prewrite that includes a topic, 3 reasons, 3 details about each reason, a conclusion sentence, and transition words.  It's pretty thorough.

This lady's wiki gives a good overview and several resources to help you get started.

I've been using 4 Square ever since my student teaching (10 years now) and I think it's the best way to help kids organize their thoughts without having it be too formulaic.

2. Picture writing prompts

Here's what I do.  I'll post something like this gif here or a picture of something cool (I have an entire bag of 60-something magazine pictures that are backed on construction paper and laminated) and have students use this as the prompt for their writing.  Genuine writing doesn't come from a written prompt-- I don't recall having a prompt in front of my face outside of a classroom.  For students to be true writers, they have to be able to respond to things that are around them... what they see.  So- this seems to accomplish that.

If I want to be really mean, I'll wait until they've gotten about halfway through a story and then pass out another picture they have to incorporate into their writing (whether it's a setting change or new character or explosion... ).  They hate it and love it all at the same time.

Here are a couple of pictures I use regularly for writing prompts.  These are by far the most popular of the ones I post on the board!  The most popular ones from my bag are 1. the atomic bomb mushroom cloud  2. the litter ad that has a giant cat taking over a house (like the tail is coming out of the chimney... very Alice in Wonderland)   3. the inside look cross-section photo of a dinosaur egg   and 4. the girl running through the woods (they usually go scary with that one).  Most of those are from my old magazines or Nat Geos.  I don't ever use kid magazines.  Why?  They're used to those.  That's what makes my pictures cool... they're new. :)

3. Book Talks/Previews

I have several book series' that are near and dear to my heart.  I'm linking websites so you can investigate because I have neither the time nor the words to truly express how much I love them!  They're books that were truly life-touching for me and thus I try to find students who need these stories as much as I did.  (No- not because of anything bad... just because my heart loves wrapping up in stories.)

     The Dear America books are for somewhere between grades 3 and 8, depending on student levels.  My America books are more for grades 2-3.  Our America are much harder... upper middle to high school.  The ones listed on this site are just a few of the titles, but there are tons.  They're all diary format and from the point of view of a child (of various ages).  

This is one of my favorite, most helpful titles.  I use this one during our Revolutionary War unit.  It tells of this girl's experiences at the time.  The best part is she's the same age as my students so they get to hear what life was like for someone their age during such a difficult and important time in our country. 
My absolute favorite one is the Royal Diary story about Elizabeth I of England.  This book started my absolute love of British literature.  (I had an amazing Brit Lit teacher in high school, too, so that just fueled my fire.)  This story is from Elizabeth's point of view and it is just so intriguing given all that was going on at that point in England's history.
*Side note- I'm taking students to London this summer and I can't wait to walk where she walked!!!!
The Royal Diaries are fantastic ways to get your princess stories in while showing strong, fearless, and wise female characters.

Here's my TpT store, where you'll find bits of this and that.  No- they're not all cutesy like most people's posts.  They're more content-focused (IMHO).  :)

I'd love to hear back about some of your favorite things!  Whether you're teaching a room full of students or you're teaching a little love bug or two at home, lemme hear your ideas!  

PS - this is so totally me right now with the new writing timed stupidity.  Thanks to RDJ for keeping it real. 

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