Using Visible Thinking Routines in the Classroom (1/2)

Using Visible Thinking Routines in the Classroom (1/2)

Using Visible thinking RoutinesBefore you read this post, make sure you have read my post I Can Do Better  to know how and where to donate, get informed, support, and follow the Black Lives Matter movement and people from the Black community. Si hablas español, y especialmente si vives en Colombia, lee mi publicación Puedo hacer algo mejor para enterarte cómo puedes apoyar a la Comunidad afrocolombiana. 

Hello and happy Saturday. Today I’m excited because this is a topic I really like to talk about and recommend to other teachers. I’m talking about visible thinking routines, and let me tell you, they are game-changers. I learned about them because I worked at a school that followed the Teaching for Understanding model, which uses thinking routines. I’m going to talk about a few that I’ve tried and I’ll tell you how I’ve used them, but if you want to explore this a bit further, click here.

Visible thinking routines (or VTR’s) are exactly what they sound like; they are ways in which you and your students can visibly represent their understanding or appropriation of a topic. I love them for many reasons. First, they are a way in which students can condense and organize information. Many of these VTR’s use graphic organizers that you’re already familiar with, like T-charts. I also love them because you can structure an entire lesson around them. They are easily adaptable and modifiable to suit the needs and learning strategies of virtually any group of students.

Think, Pair, Share

I’m sure you already do this in class because it’s a really simple way to get students to talk about a topic. First, you prompt them by asking a question and giving them time to think about an answer. When I tell you this VTR works in any context, I mean it. After the students have thought of their answer, they will turn to their “elbow partner” and share it with them. Then, you’ll let students share with the class, but instead of saying their own answer, they will talk about their partner’s answer. They can simply retell it or they can go beyond that and say what they thought was interesting about that answer or whether they agree with it and why. I prefer it as a warm-up activity when I’m introducing a new topic.

KWL

KWL charts are awesome, especially if your students are conducting some type of research or inquiry project. I’ve worked at IB schools and it perfectly aligns with the PYP. Don’t worry, I’ll tell you about working at an IB school some other time. A KWL chart is divided int three columns: What I Know, What I Want to Know, and What I Learned. I start by introducing a topic to the students, one that is broad enough for them to each come up with different questions about it. I give them some time to complete their K column with things they know about the topic. I then allow a few kids to share their ideas. If I have a small class and enough time, I’ll let each kid tell me one thing they wrote. I have my own version of the chart on the board, so I copy their ideas as they share them. You can follow the same steps for the W column, or you can simply have students share their questions and fill that column collaboratively. Then, it’s time for the students to do independent research. If you have a school library or a media center, take them there. If you have iPads or tablets in your classroom, I’m jealous, but use them. Students will write their findings in the L column. And there you have it, a beautiful lesson that revolves around research.

See, Think, Wonder

I’ve used this one with my third graders, and it was sort of chaotic but also sort of awesome. I did this when we were working on daily routines around the world and the conditions in which some people live. For this, I showed them a video. First, we went through the video, once without stopping and then another time pausing after each step of the routine was depicted. The video showed many women and their morning routines. We would all take notes on what the children saw. It was a bit tough for them because they would say things like “I think that…” and of course, this was another step of the routine. I reminded them to focus on what they could see with their eyes without imagining other things. Then, we moved on to “I think,” and here the students had to be more reflective. They would say things like “I think some women have more resources than others.” Finally, for the “I wonder” part, the students asked questions. They then wrote a text in which they answered one of the questions they asked, based on what they had seen and their own reflections.

I’ll bring you part two some other time. Which of these routines do you use or are you interested in using? Let me know in the comments below.

Happy teaching!

Love, Miss Camila

 

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland Character Book

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland Character Book

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland Character BookHello and happy Saturday. It’s been a while since I last shared a TpT product with you, or at least it feels that way. It’s weird because when I’m working I get the most inspiration for new resources to create, but at the same time, that’s when I have the least energy and time. I’m not making excuses, I promise.

Today I bring you a product that I had a lot of fun making because it’s about a world I’ve always been fascinated with. I’m talking about Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll. As much as I loved this universe, I hadn’t read the book until recently, and when I did I decided it would be great material for a resource.

My Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland character book is exactly that, the template for students to fill out information about every character in the story. Students will write the description as well as make a drawing of the characters. They can work on this as an individual project, in groups, or even the entire class, each student focusing on one page.

I hope that you find this product useful for your lessons, and if you do get it, let me know what you thought about it in the comments below.

Happy teaching!

Love, Miss Camila

 

DIY Mandala Box

DIY Mandala Box

 

Hello and happy Saturday. I think you’ll really like today’s post because it’s very simple and you’ll get to solve two issues that at least drove me crazy. For this, you’ll need a box and all the coloring pages you probably have floating around your house.

Let’s start with the box. You can use contact paper, but I was feeling creative, so I covered mine with thick masking tape and then just drew and colored patterns on it with Sharpies.

Now, when the box was ready, I worked on its contents. I had about six coloring books, which I’d started but hadn’t finished and which were driving me crazy. I took page by page out, and as you can see, I even cut along the outline of some. I put the coloring pages in the box and took it to school for my students.

Like I said, this solves two issues. For one, you’re not going to have coloring books or loose pages flying around, and also, you’re going to give your students another option of something to do in their free time. Tell them about the box and set some rules with them on how and when to use it.

Do you have coloring pages in your classroom? How do you work with them? Let me know in the comments.

Happy teaching!

Love, Miss Camila

Playing “Would You Rather?” in Class

Playing “Would You Rather?” in Class

Hello and happy Saturday. You know how teachers sometimes are requested to plan a mini-lesson for job interviews? Well, the idea I’m going to share with you was for one of those situations. It was for a middle school position and the first of many schools that called me, so it’s no surprise that I didn’t end up working there. I did like my lesson plan a lot, so I’m not letting it go to waste.

“Would you rather…?” is a game in which the players are given two choices and they must present sound arguments to support their pick. The cool thing about this game is that you can make it as simple or as complex as you want, and of course, as I always say, you can make the necessary adaptations to fit your class’s needs.

I didn’t know the students I was going to try this with (spoiler alert: when the interview day came, we didn’t even execute the lesson), so I stuck to very generic topics and to focus on having students work on speaking. I googled “would you rather questions for middle school,” I clicked the first link I found and I got my options from there. I needed two things for this lesson: flashcards and markers.  You can even have the options in your phone or computer and either project them on the board or write them down, or you can just read them and have your students listen.

The way I had thought this idea was to give each student a different set of cards, so everyone had a different question. Students get time to think about their choice and the arguments to support it, and here’s where I say you can make it as simple or as complex as you want because if you’re working on debate skills, you can have your students come up with three arguments in favor of their choice and one counterargument. You can have them write their reasoning or simply have them think and then speak.

After that, taking turns, students will present their question, the options, their choice, and the reasons behind it. Again, there can be a space after each intervention for rebuttals. If you’re working with younger kids, you can present the questions yourself and have them raise hands when the option of their choice is mentioned, then you’ll select one student from each “team” to talk. The idea is pretty simple, but that’s what allows you to make changes.

I will always be a fan of activities like this, which take me a few minutes, some paper and a marker to come up with. Are you the same way? What’s your favorite type of activity to do in the classroom? Let me know in the comments below.

Happy teaching!

Love, Miss Camila

Making Signs For My New Classroom

Making Signs For My New Classroom

Hello and happy Saturday. One of my favorite things about being a teacher is actually decorating my classroom, and as I’ve said in previous posts I’m a midpoint between being a DIY queen and buying everything already done or just printing it. Today I’m showing you my process to make cute signs for my classroom. Let’s get started, shall we?

Step one is to print the blank letters. I used a font I found in Word and used the WordArt options to make it look 3D. Then I traced the edges by hand with a black marker. Of course, I’m sure there’s an option to have the letters come out with black edges, but where’s the fun in that?

 

 

You’ll see that I colored and cut each individual letter, so to make the process of setting up the bulletin board easier, and also to ensure that nothing would get lost or misplaced, I got a Ziploc bag and inside I wrote the actual message from the sign. I do that with every piece of decoration in my classroom so that it’s easier for me to store everything.

 

 

 

 

I colored each letter with markers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Laminated the whole thing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And then cut each individual letter.

Do you make your own signs for the classroom or do you buy them made? Let me know in the comments below.

Happy teaching!

Love, Miss Camila

The Empowered Woman’s Starter Kit

The Empowered Woman’s Starter Kit

 

The Empowered Woman's Starter Kit Cover .jpg

Hello and happy Sunday. I’m very excited to finally be able to share my new TpT product with you because it’d been my baby for over a year and now you can get it and use it.

The Empowered Woman’s Starter Kit was thought as a guide for teachers who want to introduce their students to feminism but don’t know where to start. It includes suggested readings, TED Talks, songs, and poems around different topics related to feminism, but most importantly, it has reflection questions I have designed in order to help young people learn about feminism and become agents of change in our society.

Like all my products, you can use this in the way that you consider it fitter for you and your students. I designed it to look like a handbook so you can print copies and give each one for your students, or you can have one for yourself, and adapt it in a way that best suits you. Due to copyright issues, the original sources are not included, but they are all available online and links to them are provided.

This is just the beginning in a series of works related to feminism that I am going to make available to you. In the meantime, share with me your questions about feminism in the comments.

Happy teaching!

Love, Miss Camila

 

First Day of Kindergarten

First Day of Kindergarten

Hello and happy Monday. I know I haven’t done a “day in the classroom” kind of post in a long time, and that’s due to the fact that I pretty much stopped taking pictures of my lessons altogether. I think I’ve told you that I’ve avoided taking my phone into the classroom, and obviously that means I can’t take any pictures. I will be super honest with you and tell you that, unlike when I used to blog about my lessons, I am not planning the classes, and I think it would not be appropriate for me to share stuff about a class I’m executing but that I didn’t think of myself, if that makes any sense.

That being said, I want to tell you about an idea that was all mine, and it’s the activity I did for the first day of kindergarten. If you want to recreate it, all you’re going to need is stickers. Let’s get started, shall we?

I think that first approach you have with students has to be about getting to know each other. You need to learn your students’ names, and they need to learn yours and feel comfortable with you. They also need to get to know their classmates because there might be some new kids (or, in some cases, all of them are new). This is why, for the first activity of the first day of class, I like to sit on the floor, and if you have a carpet, even better.

Okay, that’s cute and all, but what about the actual activity? I sat my students on the floor in a circle, and I had my bag full of stickers. Look at the thumbnail and think like a kindergartner. What do you see? I’ll tell you what I wanted my students to see: colors and animals. I already had these stickers at home, but you can use any sort of sticker as long as it has a differentiating attribute that students can easily notice and point out.

On each sticker, I wrote the name of each of my students, so what I did was draw a sticker from the bag, ask the whole class what color and animal it was, and then call the student whose name was written on the sticker. Now, this activity will take time because you’re calling each student one by one, but in my opinion, that’s how the first lesson should go.

The year prior to that, I sat my pre-kinder boys in a circle and I had a foam ball, which I throw at them and sing this song that went “Good morning,  _____, good morning, how are you? ______, how are you?”  And they had to say good morning and tell me if they were good (thumbs up), so-so (thumb in the middle), or bad (thumbs down). I already knew most of my kindergartners that year, so we sang the animals song, that goes “hello _____, how are you? With a (they say an animal) we’re going to say hello. And what does the (animal) say?” And then we’d act like the animal.

Am I working on “academic” content in those first lessons? Yes because we’re reviewing vocabulary, but more than that, I’m focusing on introducing myself and my class to the students, and even if I already knew them, I am introducing them to the new school year. Now, in the comments,  I’d like you to share with me some ideas that can be implemented on the first day.

Happy teaching!

Love, Miss Camila

A Family Game Idea

A Family Game Idea

Hello and happy Sunday. I’m going to share with you a game I played with my family a while ago, and that was super easy to put together, and very fun to play. To give you some context, I have always spent Christmas with my mom, my sister, and my maternal grandparents, but for the past couple of years, we’ve replaced the dinner for lunch because my grandparents get too tired at night, especially my grandma who’s the one cooking.

I’m okay with either lunch or dinner, but this change in tradition has been hard on my sister. To make it more animated, then, I decided we should play a game that could be entertaining for people between the ages of 23 and 87. We’d recently gotten a Jenga set for free at a store, so I decided to use it. I numbered each piece and then made a Word document with 48 multiple-choice questions. I obviously didn’t come up with the questions, I just Googled and selected them.

Now, that’s pretty much what we needed for the game: each person had to remove one of the pieces like on regular Jenga, but then to earn the piece, which counted as a point, they had to answer the corresponding question. It was easy to visualize how many points each person had because I just needed to see how many pieces they’d earned. Here’s a pro tip: save  Word documents to your Notes app on your iPad, so that you can access them even if there’s no internet. I’m saying this because I wrote the questions using my computer, then sent them to my email and downloaded them in my iPad, and had them saved in my Notes app. Techie, I know.

I also did medals for the contestants because we all know that when there’s an incentive people get more pumped and excited to play. And that was it, the game we played for Christmas last year. What games do you play with your family? Let me know in the comments below.

Happy teaching!
Love, Miss Camila

How I Use Google Slides in the Classroom

How I Use Google Slides in the Classroom

Hello and happy Saturday. Now that I have a fulfilling and exciting job, I feel that I can be a more productive teacher blogger. Yes, tags and DIY’s are fun, but as a teacher there’s stuff I do in my classroom that can be useful to you. An example of this is Google Slides, which is basically an online version of Power Point that you can use with your Google account.

I will soon have an in-depth post about my planning and organization processes, and in it I will explain to you what goes into my Google Slides, but today I will talk more about the use of this tool in the classroom. Basically, think about this: I make a presentation for each of my classes, and that’s how I pace myself, I ensure that I’m following the agenda and the classroom protocols, and I use resources such as videos.

Now, I teach kindergarten, so I don’t just write information in slides and talk the whole time, but I look for templates, like the one in the picture, that will save me time, maximizing instructional time. The picture shows a K-W-L chart. I took an image, pasted it into my slides, and enlarged it so that it would be projected on the board and then I would fill it on the board with my students’ answers.

A normal presentation for a lesson will begin with the date, so I have a template of a slide that I project every day at the beginning. Now, I project the date but I also write it on the board, as it is part of our class protocol, meaning every kindergarten teacher must begin her class with the date. I also use a slide so that students can see the full date before I write it down because in Math we’re working on numbers, so I can easily point at a number and they’ll read it and say it for me. I have a “title” slide for each of the subjects I teach so that students know what we will be working on. They know that the math slide has numbers and that the science one has scientists.

I then present the agenda to my students, which is a series of four or five images depending on the length of the class. I write the agenda on the board, as well as the big idea, which is often an “I can” statement. Then we move on to the core of the lesson, which is whatever I projected and drew as part of the agenda. I make sure to insert the videos we’re going to work on, as well as the images that we’ll need, and I interact with whatever is projected, usually by adding to it with board markers.

I only started using Google Slides this school year, but I feel it’s a tool that’s helped me a lot to get organized when planning the minute-to-minute for each lesson, and it has given my students visual cues that maximize instruction time, like when they see the light bulb and they know I’m about to tell them the big idea.

Do you use Google Slides in your classroom or any other technological resource that you find useful? Let me know in the comments below.

Happy teaching!

Love, Miss Camila

DIY Treasure Box

DIY Treasure Box

Hello and happy Sunday. Today I bring you an idea that could work both for a classroom or a house where there are children. It’s incredibly simple, but trust me, your kids are going to love it. I’m talking about a “treasure box,” which is a cardboard box I decorated and filled with small toys for my students to play with.

I used a medium-sized cardboard box, and the only alteration I made was that I cut it so that my students could open it just by lifting the top flap.

 

 

You know contact paper is my best friend, and I used this wooden-print one because it was the only one I had around and I also liked the idea of it looking like a wooden box…it helped with the whole “treasure box/ chest” theme.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

These were the toys I started out with. I kept each either in a plastic egg or a small box, and I labeled the outside with the name of the toy and my name. I did this to avoid getting the toys lost, although with kids and such small items there’s really no guarantee.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How cute is my dog’s tail, huh? Okay, to finish up, I just decorated the outside of the box. Keep in mind that even if you secure the stickers with some glue, they might fall off (or be taken off).

And that was it, a very easy way to make something cute and magical for your kids. In my case, I had all the supplies I used already at home, so I didn’t have to buy anything, not even the toys. If you were to do this treasure box, how would you theme it and what would you put inside? Let me know in the comments.

Happy teaching!

Love, Miss Camila