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Brainy Apples: July 2013
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Beat the Back to School Blues with our ATUE Giveaway!

Going back to school soon? A little sad that summer flew by once again?? We over at All Things Upper Elementary want to help with some of those back to school blues, so we decided to donate some of our products for a giveaway. Guess what?! We ended up donating SO many products, we had enough to make THREE different prize packs! And true to our audience, all of these awesome resources are for grades 3-6. WOO HOO!

So how do you enter to win????? Head on over to our ATUE blog where you will have a chance to enter for each prize pack. The rafflecopter is live until Monday with the winner being chosen on Tuesday so hurry on over. You can enter every day!

Here is a peek at the packs that are up for grabs.

Good luck!

ELA Summer Book Club- Chapter 7: Vocabulary

I am very excited that I got to read Chapter 7. No, seriously, I really am! Why??? you ask. Well, because out of all the ELA standards, vocabulary always seemed to be the most elusive to me. I was NEVER a fan of giving students a set of weekly "vocabulary" words that went with a story of the week to be memorized and then regurgitated or written in blanks on a Friday test. Shoot, I never even liked using basals, period! I always created vocabulary lists to go along with our math, science, or social studies, for example. I also chose meaty words from read-alouds or from the books students read in our leveled reading groups that I felt would enhance my students vocabulary, as well as help them comprehend the books. But I still felt like there was MORE I could be doing.

I am not going to go into all the research the authors included in this chapter to support their suggestions, because I know as a teacher myself, while I want to know there is research behind it (proven research, of course!) sometimes I just want to get right to it :) So, let's just get right to it! Join me, as I lead our Book Study Group's discussion of Chapter 7 from "Teaching with the Common Core Standards for ELA: Grades 3-5" by Morrow, Wixson, and Shanahan.

Why, oh why, must there always be challenges???

There 5 main challenges that we, as educators, face in regards to CCSS instruction in grades 3-5. We must prepare our students to:
1. Read and comprehend narrative text and learn from informational text.
2. Read increasingly complex texts.
3. Use a text's evidence to construct meaning and arguments that can be turned into pieces of writing and presentations.
4. Learn lots of complex academic vocabulary as well as how to determine word meanings of unknown words.
5. Read, analyze, write about, and learn in a cross-curricular manner.

These are 5 meaty challenges, and a common thread is vocabulary.

Where are those vocabulary standards hiding, anyways???

I have been teaching for a L.O.N.G. time. So far the CCSS is my THIRD set of standards that I have to teach. I know some of you who have taught longer have had even more sets of standards to teach. I am not sure how the CCSS differs from other states' previous standards, but the CCSS include vocabulary under the Language domain strand with the header "Vocabulary Acquisition and Use" These include the anchor standards L4, L5, and L6. Kind of hard to miss. 

So that means we're done looking for those vocab standards then, right? Well, no. Because of how the CCSS were designed (reading, writing, speaking and listening are all connected), there are additional vocabulary standards sprinkled throughout the CCSS besides these obvious ones. Thankfully the authors combed through the CCSS for us and have a nice little table 7.1 on page 133 that shows where else these pesky vocab standards are hiding. Those of you without the book, the other hiding places are CCSS anchor standards for:
Reading: RL4, RI4, RF3ab, RF4c
Writing: W2d, W3d
Language: L2f, L3a

Got Milk a vocabulary instruction framework???

Here's the part that I couldn't wait to get to!
The authors include M.F. Graves's four-component vocabulary instruction framework for teachers to help them create a "balanced, comprehensive, multifaceted vocabulary instruction program" (pg.134). I don't know about you all, but when I complete professional readings or sit through trainings, I want something to take away that I can use. It doesn't have to be make-and-take, but one of my biggest pet peeves is sitting through a training and being told what I should teach, but not ANY suggestions on HOW to teach it. I don't want to be spoon-fed, but I do want to be pointed in a direction so that I can decide what would work best for my students. And I would like them to be realistic. I found the 4 components interesting and I also reflected back on my own teaching and realized that these 4 components did have a presence in my classroom.

Again, this is a framework, so very specific and detailed strategies are not given. But, many of us already know of great strategies that would fit under each component or we can collaborate with other teachers to learn new strategies.

Component #1- Provide Rich and Varied Language Experiences (RVL)
This is pretty much what it says: read to children, have children read, have children listen to others read,  encourage children to speak about what they are reading. Seems pretty realistic to me. Bring in books about your science, social studies, or math topics and you are well on your way to implementing this strategy.

Component #2- Teach Individual Words (TIW)
This goes along with giving students specific words to learn. However, not in the weekly definitional sense. Children need multiple exposures to vocabulary words and opportunities for students to deeply process the meaning and nuances of the word. Realistic? Yes, but this component will require thoughtful selection of activities for students to complete. 

Component #3- Teach Word Learning Strategies (WLS)
Teaching students to use context clues and word parts (morphemic analysis) falls under this component. Students need to be explicitly taught how to use context clues AND root words, prefixes, suffixes, and Latin/Greek word roots. By directly teaching these to students, a whole new world of vocabulary opens up for them. Very realistic, but it will take deliberate and selective picking when it comes to specific strategies.

Component #4- Foster Word Consciousness (WC)
This is pretty much having the students acknowledge, "Yep,  I understood that word(s) and the sentence/paragraph/chapter/book made perfect sense" or "Nope, I have no clue what word I just read was, and I couldn't tell you what the sentence/paragraph/chapter/book was about." Oh, and it also includes students gaining an appreciation of figurative language, AND they actually use these new words often AND correctly in their own writing. Realistic? Ehhhhhh....I think this one is the most difficult for me, and, quite possibly for most teachers. Sometimes I don't know what goes on in their little old heads, and I do wish I could take a ride inside so I could say, "Stop! You have to figure out what that word means before you continue reading or you will be lost!" But, until I can make this my super power (and even if I could make it my super power, I don't know if I would be willing to give up my teleportation), alas, I must try to find activities that encourage my students to do this. 

So where do we go from here???

The rest of the chapter gave a few activities that teachers can use underneath some of these components which is always helpful. But you will certainly have to scour the web and collaborate with other educators to find strategies/create activities that will help your students become vocab masters. The authors also gave an example of how to address the vocabulary standards throughout the day, which can be easily achieved by centering your vocabulary words around your science, social studies, or math content. 

Overall I did enjoy reading this chapter. It did give me a few things to contemplate such as: Am I making sure I am helping my students meet the 5 challenges listed above? Am I immersing my students in language? Am I explicitly teaching my students how to infer the meaning of new/uknown words? Am I teaching them specific strategies on how to break a word apart to determine the meaning? Am I choosing relevant vocab words that are meaningful across many disciplines to which students can relate or connect? Am I teaching students how to appreciate language and to have the metacognition required to be mindful readers? Whew! My brain has a lot to think about tonight!

I do wish there would have been more strategies/activities/lessons given, though. 

What about you? What did you like most/least from this chapter? We would love to hear from ya!  

What's that? Goodies you want???

I apologize for sounding like Yoda above, but, love that little green guy, I do ;) 
I am going to try my HARDEST this week to post some freebies here that go along with this chapter. Right now my daughter is sick, and I have heard that this little virus likes to stick around for a few days. Those of you with multiple children knows this means MANY MANY days of sick kids. I have 3, so hopefully there aren't going to be 9 days of sickness, not including myself. Bleh! I will try to create some useful freebies that you can hopefully utilize in your classrooms this year as you tackle teaching vocab.

And in case you missed the previous chapters, here they are:
Chapter 6

And next Monday, July 29, be sure to visit Mindy at Little Red Schoolhouse as she discusses Chapter 8: Technology. 

As always, thanks for listening!
**Please excuse any typos as I don't have the super power of being perfect :)
Follow on Bloglovin

I'm Goin' on a Blog Hunt! Wanna Join Me????

As sad as I was when Google Reader left, I quickly realized when I began using Bloglovin', there was no reason to be sad anymore! As much as I enjoyed Google Reader, I am able to sort the blogs I love into categories with Bloglovin'....perfect for the obsessive organizer in me! I hate just a string of posts. But with Bloglovin' I can sort those posts into categories, so when I just want to read about technology integration, I can quickly jump to those blogs that focus on this. Sure, it took a little bit of exploring to get a handle on it as it does with anything "new", but after a couple of days, I feel like Bloglovin' will be a great replacement for Google Reader.

I have also heard about Feedly, which has an app for your smart phone or tablet. Basically it takes all the RSS feeds from your favorite blogs (or news sources, magazines, etc.) and the story opens up right in the app, so you don't have multiple applications running. For those of you using Pulse, it is similar. But the blogs you follow would have to use an RSS feed subscription option so you would get the stories delivered through your app, and not all the blogs I follow have this. I did follow the blogs I love using Feedly, and I do love how I can open the app and all the blogs are there, just like Pulse, where I can easily open the ones I want to read. I am just sad that not all my fav blogs have a "Subscribe using RSS" sign-up. One cool feature is that you can mark a post as "Save for Later" if you want to read it but don't have the time, and you know that it will get bumped down by new posts from that site.

Curious to see if Bloglovin' had an app, I checked my Play Store (I have an android-based phone) and it sure does. The nice thing about this app for me is that since I imported my Google Reader into Bloglovin', all my blogs are there. With Feedly I would have to hand enter all of them :( I think if I had imported my Google Reader into Feedly, I wouldn't have this issue. Oops!

I will most likely use Bloglovin' since I imported my Google Reader blogs before it went bye-bye. But, honestly, I like they layout of Feedly much better on my phone. Which one are you going to use?

If you forgot (or didn't realize you had to) import your blogs into one of the above, and you are left with nothing, don't fret, we are linking up with Laura Candler over at Corkboard Connections for a Goin' on a Blog Hunt linky! Yay! LOTS of your fav blogs are linked up, and there plenty of new ones to discover and follow.

Check out the party going on below and start huntin'!

What is THIS blog about???
If you have stumbled across my blog during your hunt, I am focusing on all things education drawing on my experience as a classroom teacher for 13 years, grades K-5. You will find helpful tips, strategies, activities for teaching content, organization, and more. My favorite assignment I had during my teaching years was when I was an Instructional Coach because I was able to work with teachers on improving and fine-tuning their classroom instruction and assessment, and I was able to work with children, too. I love curriculum, instruction, and assessment, and that is what this blog is about....with a little of my own personal life thrown in (3 kids, a football coach husband, baking, traveling, DIY projects that sometimes go get the picture). I do hope you will follow using the Bloglovin' button on the right sidebar and join my journey!