Teacher Talk with Kelly and Randi

Kelly Harmon & Associates

August 2018 Newsletter

Dear Educator,

Welcome back! We hope you've had an awesome summer with lots of exploration, rest, and rejuvenation! We are excited to be starting our 28th and 9th year as educators. Over the years, we've seen a lot of changes and challenges. It's never been more important to stay up-to-date and optimistic about the future of our learners. In some cases, we are all they've got.

This year we have planned lots of timely ideas for the monthly newsletters, as well as many virtual and face-to-face seminars. Our goal is to be your "behind-the-scenes" resource helping you with the awesome task of teaching and loving each of your students.

We would be so honored for you to share our newsletter with your colleagues, especially the new ones! Also, please join us on social media to share ideas and resources. We appreciate being part of your personal learning network!

Cheers to a great year!

Happy teaching,

Kelly and Randi

Book Talks Matter

Books talks are a great tool to get kids excited about reading this school year! Start the year off with some of your favorite titles that they won't be able to resist.

Beginning on the first week of school, start off with 3 of your favorite titles. This is a great opportunity to model how readers share great reads with each other.

Boom Talk Essentials:

1. Title & Author

2. Why did you choose the book?

3. What were you thinking as you read?

4. How did your thinking change as a result of reading the book?

(Don't give the ending or exciting parts away)

One of my current favorite books is Who Would Win? by Jerry Pallotta. I chose this book because my four year old son cannot put it down! (Exciting, right?) As I read this book for the first time, I was thinking how great this expository text would be for encouraging young readers to make inferences. In addition, it is interesting and has great illustrations! After reading this book, I made an inference about who would win the battle between an orca and great white shark using the new knowledge that I added to my schema. Who do you think I picked?

Getting to Know and Love You

The beginning of the school year is all about getting to know students and students getting know you and each other. Building relationships is key to having a successful year.

Spending one-on-one time with each of your students can sound like an extravagant task

because of the demands on our time. However, scheduling a one to five minute sit down with each student will prove to be worth every second! The best time to make this happen is during independent reading or writing time, math centers, lunch time, or even recess. During this time chat with each student about their family, interests, or simply what they are reading or writing about. The goal is to discover something about the student that will help you connect them to the community around them and identify the academic strategies and skills they will need to move forward.

Start by brainstorming a list of questions that will help you find things you and others in the community have in common with each student.

What is the student interested in? What or who does the student love? Who or what do they loathe? What do they do when they aren't in school? What are their goals for this school year? How do they learn best? What keeps them from learning? What are their goals for the future?

When you spend one-on-one time with students, it lets them see that you care about them and value them as a person. This creates a culture of trust and community that lays the foundation for connecting with students' hearts and heads.

Use our FREE Alphaboxes Interview to have students list important words about themselves. Get to know students by asking them about specific words on their alphaboxes chart and having them explain or a tell a story that goes with that word. Next, have students partner up with classmates to review each other's chart and find out what they have in common. The time it takes to build relationships first will pay off tenfold throughout the entire year!

New Tools for Quick Writes

Quick writes are a great way to kick off a writer’s workshop, or any class really. Give students a short prompt and ask them to write as much as they can, as well as they can, as quick as they can. Set a timer for one, three or even five minutes and let students write or "drite" (drawing + writing) about the prompt.

There are lots of ways to present prompts for quick writes.

Think about using:

  • Questions
  • Comparisons "Would you rather...?"
  • Pictures
  • Commercials
  • Short Poems
  • Comics
  • Advertisements

Find pictures, comics, or media that relate to your units of study.

Quick writes are a great way to get students engaged in writing immediately. This type of writing is nonthreatening because the focus isn't specifically on the quality or content (at first). Initially, just getting something on the page forms a starting block that can be expanded on later in the class, unit, or year. After the quick write, follow up with a short discussion to share and see other's point of view. After the writing focus lesson, revisit the writing to revise or edit using the critical content from the lesson. This keeps the writing practice authentic and cognitively engaging.

Get our list of 25 Quick Write ideas for the First 25 Days here!

Ideas For Picture Quick Writes

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Making Math Time Work

A balanced math program includes time to develop and practice conceptual and procedural knowledge to proficient levels. Fitting it all in is a challenge, especially when you have a limited amount of time.

One way to think of it would be dividing your math minutes in half.

Designate half of the time you have for Math each day to whole class teaching of standards-based lessons and providing guided practice in heterogeneous groups. You can start off with a five to ten minute math talk so that students can warm up their math brains with a little computation practice. Next, launch into the teaching points, the guided practice related to the learning target(s), and the success criteria for the day. End this part of the block with a quick formative assessment to determine who has hit the daily target and who needs more coaching.

With the remaining half of the time, allow students to work in small teams or independently in math stations (also called centers). These should keep them practicing the skills and strategies for which they already have conceptual knowledge, but need more practice in order to become 100% fluent.

For example, four core stations might be 1) problem solving, 2) computation, 3) writing in math, and 4) vocabulary. As the year progresses, add stations that engage students in cumulative practice of the skills and strategies from the units they’ve experienced (i.e. measurement, geometry, etc.).

Take time at the beginning of the year to thoroughly teach and practice working at a station. Students need clear expectations of what to do and how to do it.

Allowing students to work in small groups before they can stay engaged for ten to fifteen minutes in a station alone is likely to become chaotic.

I love how Mrs. Buchanan, a 4th grade teacher in Tyler, Texas has organized standards-based practice stations using ice cube buckets (see pictures below). Each bucket contains several activities that will provide practice related to the learning targets. She has used the activities during focus lessons, guided practice, and in small groups before placing them in the buckets.

While students are practicing for proficiency, meet with students to confer individually or allow them to work in small groups for close monitoring and coaching. Conferring sessions generally take about five minutes per student. You can confer with more than one student at a time. This is a great time to gather data by having students explain their thinking as they work through a short problem.

Small group instruction should take about ten minutes per group. It helps to set a timer so that groups don’t get carried away. Pacing is critical. The goal of the small group is to provide additional guided practice in problem solving and computation. This is a great time to differentiate based on readiness level.

For more information on maximizing your math instruction time, join me at one of my Guided Math seminars or during a virtual session.

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2018-2019 Seminars

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