Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Sharing the Why

Most mornings before I get to school I think about the "why's" I'll share with students prior to each learning experience.  I know if students understand the rationale for what they're learning, they'll do a better job, and invest more time and effort.

So what are the "why's" for today.

1.  Words Their Way Assessment

Good spelling makes good communication.  If you spell wrong, people won't understand what you're saying, and if people don't understand what you're saying you'll have a harder time getting what you want or desire.  So today we're going to test your spelling, then we'll assess the results and figure out the best ways to help you spell well.  So do your best, so we know what you know, and know what you need to learn.

2. "Read like a Writer"

Ralph Fletcher, a famous author and teacher, visited Wayland last year.  He told us that one way to improve your writing is to "read like a writer."  So today as Ms. Angers reads a book, think like the writer and wonder why the writer used the words, pictures, page breaks, phrases, and paragraphs that she chose to use.  Using "mentor texts" like this one is one way to improve your writing, and wonderful writing entertains, informs, and communicates with your reader in convincing, enjoyable, and helpful ways.

3. Writing Workshop Focus Lesson: Facts and Details for Persuasive Text

As you know, we're all working on our persuasive writing.  We want to be able to convince others about matters that are important to us, and perhaps important to our family, community, or world.  In order to do that, we have to be convincing when we write.  Yesterday's assessment showed me that almost everyone has the OREO structure of Opinion, Reasons (3), Examples, and Opinion.  Yet, yesterday's writing also showed that almost everyone lacked enough detail to be convincing.  A rule of thumb is that you have about three good details for every reason, and most people had only one.  I went home and did some homework.  I tried to think of all the ways a fourth grader could add detail and I made up this practice sheet.  Let's work on it together so that we can begin to stretch our thinking in ways that help us write more detail to make our persuasive essays more convincing.  We can do it!

4. Chinese Immigration Story: Landed by Milly Lee

Get cozy because it's time to finish Landed by Milly Lee.  We're reading this book as one of the many activities we're doing to better understand United States immigration which helps us to understand our country and the people in it well.

Who remembers important details from the story? (list the details)

We're also reading this become to build our skills as good readers.  One strategy wonderful readers use is "Asking Questions."  What big and small questions do you have about this story?  I'll write the small questions in this column--those are questions that we can answer quickly, usually with a word or two, and I'll write the big questions in this column, those are questions that take more thought and inferencing.

As I think about today's "why's" and rationale, I realize that setting the objective and purpose in a meaningful way not only builds investment, but it also builds a strong, collaborative learning community.

What are the "why's" for your teaching today?  How will you invite participation, collaboration, and investment into each lesson?  In what ways will you connect the learning experience with important life long learning.  When we do this school becomes much more than a task, instead school becomes a meaningful way of being.