What are we doing the last week and a half of school?

June 19, 2007 at 8:46 pm | Posted in education, elementary, inner city, teachers, third grade, Workshop, writing | 2 Comments

Aimlessmiss asked a very funny question. How do you plan to pass the time? – Meaning the last couple of weeks of school given that all major testing is done.

I laughed as I read her post.

Here’s my harried response:

7:30 Getting to school 30 minutes later than planned because I’m tired. First bell is 7:55. Sharpen pencils, lay out morning activities, review plans for the day, meet with teacher to plan for teacher End of Year party, etc.

7:55 Pick up students

8:05 Students working on morning activities, take roll, give tardy students firm look.

8:10 Writing Time – Students finish final draft of family/community story for oral storytelling anthology. Deadline is Wednesday to be sent to Lulu print on demand company in time to receive published copy following week before students graduate third grade.

8:40 Begin Unit 5, Lesson 7 of language arts lesson in preparation of Unit Assessment next Monday. Lessons move at break-neck speed until Workshop time, at which time, students scramble to finish final draft (with illustration), a thank you card for donorschoose donors, and the back cover of their Third Grade Memory Book while teacher meets with small groups of students, some of whom has just a few days to improve their fluency before they get a second chance at their End of Year Fluency Assessment. (Not really the End of Year Fluency Assessment. The EOY Fluency was two weeks ago, but they can replace that score with a higher score if they take the Unit 5 Fluency which is not required of everyone.)

11:00 RECESS – Prepare for math lessons. Give a good “talking to” to students who misbehaved and got more than a verbal warning.

11:20 Math – Small group review problems from recent Math assessment in preparation for retaking the assessment on Friday because students are appalled by their ridiculous low scores (15 out of 31 is highest score) and would like another shot at it. My students can be too motivated sometime. They like teaching their fellow students on the overhead projector though, so it’s fun for them.

12:30 LUNCH – whew! Eat lunch and watch as some students return to work on their writing, some to visit the listening center.

1:10 Workshop Time again! Gotta finish those thank you cards, back covers, and final drafts.

1:30 Enter six students who are dispersed from another class. Begin Science/Art project (Create cut out art on construction paper, leave in sun to fade, remove cut out to see the non-faded shapes and then decorate the faded/non-faded artwork). FUN! Rare chance to do this as this time is usually taken up with English Language Development lessons, but it is the end of the school year, so I think we can relax a little bit here.

2:15 Prepare to go home.

2:20 Teacher prepares class for next school day. Continue packing and cleaning classroom in preparation for moving to a new classroom on June 29. Oh yea, also mentally plan for next school year which starts in 2 and a half weeks.

This was my day today. I look forward to next week because it’s going to be party time on Thursday and Friday! I plan movies and independent art projects so I can clean up, pack up, and move stuff.

Revised Workshop Time

June 15, 2007 at 7:18 pm | Posted in IWT, Open Court, Workshop | 4 Comments

workshoptime_exampleFor those of you who teach the Open Court Reading Program, you are familiar with Independent Workshop Time or Workshop. Workshop is designed to teach students independent learning and give teachers time to individualize instruction. It is a chunk of time when students have assignments that they must do and assignments that they may do once they complete their required assignments. There are many different ways of implementing Workshop, any of which can be done successfully.

Recently, after reading a book, the name of which escapes me at the moment, I’ve reconsidered Workshop time and I think, beginning next school year. I will implement a revised Workshop time. I find that the current Workshop time, with Must Dos and May Dos, all to be done in a single session or day is limiting.

The revised Workshop time is based on a menu system and looks something like this:

Entrees (Complete all) – produces tangible products

Side Dishes (Choose 2 or 3 or however many teacher wants) – produces tangible products

Desserts (Do any) – produces no tangible products

You can change the name entree, side dishes, and desserts to anything you like of course. Right off, Open Court teachers recognize that entrees are the usual Must Dos. Desserts are the usual May Dos. It’s the side dishes that makes things interesting.

Something else notable. These activities are not restricted to one day. Rather, they can be spread out through 3 or 5 days or an entire month, depending on the maturity and capability of the students.

What are the benefits of the revised Workshop?revisedworkshop_example

I can have larger, more intricate projects done during Workshop time for one thing. I can individualize menu, and therefore instruction, drastically. Students have more time to work on the bigger assignments, but have the freedom to choose when and how long they spend on each assignment, so long as they get it all done by the deadline. Some very motivated students may choose to complete their entree assignment first, then spend the rest of the week on side dishes and desserts. Some students might spend their time on desserts for the first few days but, that gives the teacher time to pull students who need help starting the projects into a small group to give them the skill or instruction they need to get started. Contrast this with the old Workshop time where all students must start the big assignments, and when they can’t do them, they do nothing and wait for the teacher to reprimand them or they become anxious or they just waste time and turn in inferior assignments at the end.

Share Time 

I’ve also just recently discovered Share Time and I don’t know why I didn’t think of this sooner.

Share Time is five minutes at the end of Workshop time, old version or revised, where students can share what they’re working on during Workshop. Students have a sign up sheet and consult with the teacher first before signing on or they simply sign on. They can share completed assignments or incomplete assignments or an interesting book or a paragraph they’re struggling with or whatever. Share Time is highly motivating for the students. During the last three weeks I’ve been using Share Time, my kids are not just on task during Workshop, they’re really focused on their work so that they can share quality work with the class.

I’m starting the revised Workshop Time next academic year (starting July 5). I’ll let you know how it turns out. Of course, it’s going to take a month or so to get it implemented, but time well spent I think.

Student Reflection – Ticket Out the Door

May 6, 2007 at 11:32 am | Posted in best practices, elementary, free resources, IWT, Open Court, strategies, Workshop | 7 Comments

Students need to reflect as well as teachers. Reflection allows students to take ownership of their learning and motivate students to work harder at their learning. Reflection also allows students to process information and commit learning to their long term memory.

Ticket Out the Door

One strategy I picked up from Barbara Benson is “Ticket Out the Door”. Students reflect on their learning on a small piece of paper and give it to the teacher on their way out the door.

For third grade and second grade Open Court teachers, I will create tickets for each unit and upload them to the web. (I’ll try to do it in a PDF form as that’s most convenient. I don’t know how to convert files to PDF. The files are available in jpg format in the widget to the right or at my Box.net Public Folder. ) Here’s a sample:


These tickets are for the Storytelling Unit. You can tell because of the picture. 🙂

Use with Open Court Program

To incorporate student reflection into a busy Open Court day, simply have these tickets pre-cut and placed in a convenient place. As part of the student’s Must Do during IWT or Workshop time, have students fill out one card and keep at their desk. In order to leave for recess or lunch, they must hand you their ticket.

After perusing the tickets (as the students walk out the door), I plan on putting the tickets on the Concept/Question board. This is an easy way to fill up the board with genuine learning and help students reflect on their learning at the same time.

As a teacher, I will keep an eye on these tickets for any misconceptions I want to clarify or any learning I want to re-emphasize or any teachable moment, or just anything I want to follow up on, individually or collectively.

Today’s Door Question

Today’s Door Question is how I plan to vary the tickets. The question will be relevant to the day’s activity or learning. It should be open ended, interesting, and quick.

-UPDATE 05/10/2007-

I’ve used tickets for the last two days in the class as a Must Do during Workshop time and wow! Student written reflection really allows me to see what they are thinking and what made an impression on them for the day. Today’s selection vocabulary really stood out for them, even though I felt that it dragged as a lesson. Today’s Door Question was “What is your favorite story?”

This student’s comment that she liked the word defenseless really made me laugh.

This student showed an understanding of the word “furious”.

As you can see, my students are not the best spellers, capital letters are flying everywhere…there’s much for us to work on, but I can clearly see that my students are learning!

Here’s a sample from my special ed student.

Recall that my special ed student hated reading at the beginning of the school year.  Now, he clearly has a favorite story (a folktale since we are studying storytelling) and he’s reading independently!

Storytelling Ideas

May 6, 2007 at 10:23 am | Posted in free resources, IWT, Open Court, performance task, third grade, Workshop | 3 Comments

I’m getting ready to teach Unit 5, Storytelling. I did a quick search using google and found this amazing website with hundreds of storytelling ideas. I will scour the site, but I thought I should share first!

Story Arts Online

Here’s another one that I find useful.

National Storytelling Network

And author Aaron Shepard’s site on storytelling is amazing.


Opencourtresources.com has amazing resources for Open Court teachers.  One that I’m using is “Tell Me a Story” by Emily Fuhr.  I’m using it as part of our unit opener.  I’ve developed a short performance task that uses the poem.  We will work on this performance task throughout the first few weeks of the unit during Workshop time. Take a look at the pdf that I created for the performance task.

The performance task is:

You are a poet getting ready to perform a new poem with feelings.  You must listen to and read the poem.  You must sequence the parts of the poem in order to create a flow map and then perform the poem to the class.

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