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Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Dino ideas for Dinosaur theme!

I love dinosaurs as a class theme. Kids are always passionate about it (even if not a first) and it can be integrated into all subjects. Today I am going to share some of my best dinosaur lessons.

I like to start off with a KWL. Students discuss what they already KNOW about dinosaurs. I get them to choose one of the facts they are most sure of and write it on a B4 piece of paper and support it with a picture. Repeat this with what they WANT to know. It makes for a great presentation on the wall.

 Another really good wall presentation is silhouette sunsets. Students paint a sunset background on a half piece of A4 using a wash of paint (watered down or water colours). They then cut out silhouettes of dinosaurs and trees. This can be really fiddly but makes great fine motor practice. Ensure you instruct them on cutting tips and making sure they leave no white pieces. Tell them to take care while gluing to ensure each part is glued down and no pieces get ripped. 
The following activities are all available in my Dinosaur Pack.

Dinosaurs are a great topic to practice comprehension skills including learning how to write full sentence answers and finding answers for a range of question types. My pack contains 5 dinosaurs and an article on the pterodactyl and why it is not a dinosaur.

A great way to introduce dinosaur vocabulary is a word search. Discuss what the words mean and then students can complete the word search for fun.

Once students get to know about various dinosaur and their features they can design their own! Discuss how to label diagrams and then students practice their descriptive writing describing their dinosaur.

For a fun design lesson (Technology and Enterprise) students can use recyclable materials to recreate a chosen dinosaur. They must write a procedure for how to do so including a labeled diagram.

Integrate poetry by creating acrostic poems (based on research), a cinquain or haiku in the shape of a dinosaur or a shape poem. 

There are plenty of opportunities to link dinosaurs with writing including persuasive writing and narrative texts. Have students argue why dinosaurs should or shouldn't be alive today!

Saving the best for last is having students become paleontologists! Students create hand fossils as they learn about how fossils are created and then dig them up using tools like those of paleontologists. The procedure for hand fossils is available in the package. A great video to watch first on paleontology is here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SEyl2rRa2YY

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Bonus idea for reading this far! Use chalk and 1m rules on a basketball court to map out the rough shape of a lifesize dinosaur to show their size to students. How many students tall were they? How many students could fit inside the dinosaur?

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Procedure Writing Unit

**This blog post has been so popular I have done an updated version here. **

When we think of the text types we need to teach to our class we first think narratives and persuasive. 
We chuck in some poetry, a letter or two and then maybe think about procedures.

I love teaching procedure writing! 

It is one of the most hands on and engaging text types and definitely a text type they will see and probably need to write later in life.
It can also be a gateway to teach so many other topics, cooking, measuring, verbs, adverbs, oral instructions and so much more!
Today I am going to share with you some fun lessons I like to do and you can find all the resources you need for them and many more exciting lessons all sequences into a complete unit in my Teachers Pay Teachers store.

Teach your students to be specific and thorough when writing procedures by getting them to write a procedure for making toast. Then allow them to make the toast following their instructions down to the letter! Oops, they forgot to push the toaster down? Sorry you'll have to have bread. The instructions says to put toast in the toast? Guess they want burnt toast! 
It can also be fun to get them to read their instructions to you and you follow them. So when they say put the butter on the toast, pick up the container and put it on the toast. Spread jam over the toast? Lather it on really thick or incredible thin.
It can be a great laugh for everyone and a meaningful lesson. 
Warning: The smell of toast cooking in a classroom will make you hungry!

Another lesson I love to do is take 4 different procedures for making paper planes and give one each to different group of students. One is an online video tutorial modelling how to make it, another has written instructions with clear pictures, the next a procedure with only words and last is only a picture of the final product. Groups then spend time making their plane. It doesn't take long for a few groups to become frustrated and the video tutorial group to finish. Discuss with students why some had trouble and others didn't and then get the finished students to help the others make a plane.
Sequencing activities are great introduction into procedures.
Teaching procedure writing also has a great lot to do with giving verbal instructions. I find barrier games a great introduction into instructions. Students partner up and are separated by a barrier. One partner makes a picture and then must describe their picture to their partner. They can not look at each others pictures until the very end. The closer the pictures the better the instructions and listening.

My barrier games come included in my Complete Procedure Writing Unit but you can Buy my barrier games separately here

A complete 10 week planner with succinct, easy to follow steps for each lesson and following the Gradual Release of Responsibility Framework. All worksheets, printable activities and an assessment rubric have been included. My procedure unit was written for year 3s but is easily adaptable for year 2 and 4.

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Reporting Tips and Tricks

For most of us it's that time of year to start writing reports. Queue the sighs of thousands of teachers. But it really doesn't have to be an inordinately difficult or time consuming task.  
I am that teacher other teacher's hate. I make reporting look like a breeze and am usually one of the first to finish. Today I am sharing my secrets!

Good planning is the key to easy reports! Make sure you are regularly doing tasks that can double as assessments. Monitoring your students progress allows you to develop a feeling about each students grade level. It is also not fair on the students to expect them to do a lot of hardcore assessments all around the same time. Remember in uni when it seemed all your assessments were due at the same time? No one liked that!

2. Choose the Right Major Assessments
You will have to ask your students to do a few large tests right before reports are completed. Pick broad ones that encompass a lot. The results from these should support the grade level your students have been displaying already and be the evidence you place in assessment folders to show parents. My main assessments are an all round maths test (for year 3 semester 1 I use a past NAPLAN test as they complete this anyway for a practice, for semester 2 I use my specifically designed Year 3 ACARA test), PM Benchmark (running record) for reading, a writing sample (usually persuasive in semester 1), an observation sheet for speaking and listening and unit tests for all other subject areas. If linked to the curriculum they also become your comments!

3. Store Your Major Assessments in a File
My students have a portfolio that I store all major assessments in. These files are great to pull out to show students and/or parents how they are progressing and ....great to use to write your reports. Once all the key assessments are in there use these to write your report comments. Your comments need to show what students can and can't do but this does not need to come out of a variety of assessments. Save yourself lugging a hundred exercise/scrap books home or piles of paper.

4. Trust your gut!
No-one knows a students ability better then their teacher. You will know whether a child's performance in the major tests match their typical performance. Check your other assessment results if anything seems unusual or inconsistent. Moderate with other teachers to ensure your expectations of a C grade match others or check online samples for your state.

Yep, planning again! It really is the key! I plan out Term 2 to ensure I break up my reporting load evenly. You DO NOT want to leave it to the last minute. Below is my timeline and reasons why I do it in that order.

Term 2
Week 1- revise work from term 1 to get students brain juices flowing (assessing here would not produce accurate results)
Week 2- Start major assessments (I start PM bench marks first as these take a lot of time to complete)
               Complete Attitude, Behaviour and Efforts (I find starting with the easiest thing gets me into the reporting mind set and starting is always the hardest part)
Week 3 - Maths assessments (I write my maths comments first so it makes sense to do the maths assessment first)
               Begin writing general comments (I go to them next because you don't need assessments to write them. I also find them the hardest and most time consuming. More tips to come soon on making these easier to write)
Week 4 - Writing assessments
                Finish writing general comments (Allowing more then one week to write comments cuts you some slack if you have a busy week or just can't get into the frame of mind)
                Start writing maths comments
Week 5 - Finish writing maths comments
                Start English comments (I leave English to last as I find it is the subject students can change most in within a few weeks so leaving them to last makes them more accurate)
Week 6- Finish English comments
               Enter grades onto reporting system including effort
Week 7- Buffer week for anything not yet finished. Check everything is still accurate.
               Reports due at end of week

6. Stick to your Plan
Of course if you finish anything early bring up your schedule but try not to give yourself excuses to get behind.

I will be posting some specific tips for each subject area comment soon so follow this blog or like my facebook page