October 2015 archive

Making Inferences

I really enjoy teaching inferences. I love how most of the kids start off thinking that making an inference is abstract and difficult, but then later realize it’s something we do everyday. I recently came across Chrissy’s (FREE!) Making Inferences MiniPack – and Wow! What a find! In an attempt to get the kids ready for the Instagram project they will be doing later in the week, I decided to kick off an inference boot camp! We started today with Chrissy’s MiniPack, then later in the week I plan to introduce the mystery Quick Solves. I used the Quick Solves last year during my nonfiction unit, but it works out SO much better now because of Halloween (yay for good timing!).

So, back to the MiniPack. Chrissy suggests handing groups of studens different pictures and asking them where they think they’re going. Each group has a picture that’s relative to camping (sleeping bag, marshmallows, backpack, fishing pole, etc.), but when one pictures stands alone it becomes a bit more vague. The point is to model the idea that the more clues you have, the stronger your inference will be. I loved the idea of this concrete model, but I felt it would be too easy considering the kids and I just got back from a school camping trip. So, instead I put a few pictures on the Smartboard and only spent about three minutes on it.

We then moved on to read a short story about a guy named Frank who saves people in a fire. The story, which I believe Chrissy wrote, is so well thought out – it’s the perfect tool for making inferences. As a reader, you start out being not so sure why Frank is so dirty (Did he get in a fight? Is he poor?), but as the story progresses you pick up more clues and eventually it all fits together. It made for the perfect “Aha!” moment.

For “we do”, I placed the inference task cards around the room and had students, with a partner of their choice, move from card to card at their own pace. Since the cards were laminated, I created a simple answer sheet that prompted students to use the same “I can tell…” format as the cards, though I did add a “because…” to practice citing text evidence. I was originally planning on use the cards for independent practice, but I’m so glad I changed my mind. By having students work in pairs, I was able to hear their discussions as they attempted to solve each card; it was the perfect way to check for understanding as I walked around the room!

To wrap everything up I will be using Chrissy’s independent practice worksheet tomorrow, which asks students to make an inference using their independent reading books. I’m confident the kids will make strong inferences – and it’s only Monday!

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Google Classroom

I’m head of the school newspaper this year (very exciting!), but after the first meeting I felt completely overwhelmed. The kids had a lot of ideas and they couldn’t wait to get the first paper out. I loved their enthusiasm, but I was worried about how I would make it all happen. I knew that with my busy schedule it would be nearly impossible to hold meetings every week and I also knew I didn’t want to be tracking down rough drafts from students in three different grades (I was already doing enough of that in my own class!). So, I began the search for an easier way. My first thought was Google Docs, but then I stumbled upon something even better: Google Classroom.

A relatively new platform, Google Classroom allows me to post announcements, create assignments, set due dates, comment on student work, and keep track of who has been an active participant. It’s everything that’s great about Google in one spot.

So, how does it work?

After you create a class, Google Classroom generates a code which allows students to join using their gmail account. Once it’s all set up, you are able to communicate with students, both publicly and privately (similar to writing on someone’s Facebook Wall versus messaging them), post assignments, and create announcements. For Newspaper club, I created documents using Google Docs for each column (debate, sports, advice, etc.) and then linked them to an assignment in Classroom. From the student point of view, they simply click the link and are taken to the document. At first I felt all this linking was an unnecessary middle step, but now I see the benefits. For instance, there are only about four students working on the debate column, but many others offer input, compliments, and constructive criticism in the comments section of the assignment. This way, the document is solely for the team itself, while the comment section is open to the entire “staff”.

Why do I love it?

As I previously mentioned, I was a bit cautious about Google Classroom, but now I couldn’t be happier. It has been so nice to see students discussing ideas with one another and to monitor their work and give my own feedback – without waiting for a face to face meeting (there’s even a mobile app!). It allows students to work on their own time (with a deadline in mind, of course), to hear from peers, and to connect with me. In a matter of days, Google Classroom was able to create a strong sense of teamwork in my newspaper club – which I don’t believe would have been possible with any other platform.

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