Vocabulary Tableau, Technology, and Movement

3672794277_c1a12f8d3fVocabulary retention is increased when words are used in context. In an English Language Arts classroom that often means using vocabulary words correctly in writing.  Writing assignments vary from sentences to creative writing prompts, to essays. Using physical movement during vocabulary instruction adds a mind-body connection increasing the likelihood of adding these words to one’s personal word bank. Not only does physical movement create a mind-body connection, it also may utilize the creative and innovation outlets the brain craves as these connections add a sense of novelty.  Furthermore, adding technology reinforces contextual learning as well as creativity. Combining physical activity with technology may be overload for some teachers, but there are some simple apps that can enhance the vocabulary tableau activities I have mentioned in previous posts.

 

Simple Videos: Built-In Cameras

One of the easiest ways to add video technology in the classroom is by using the built-in camera on a tablet or smartphone. For this activity, students work in groups of 3-4.  Each group receives a vocabulary word.  The task for the group is to create a 15-second video of a vocabulary tableau. Groups can either choose one formation that they freeze in for the entire length of the video, or they can create two formations in which the move from one frozen pose to the next. These videos are then uploaded to Google Drive with URLs shared with the teacher. The teacher organizes the URLs in a Google Sheet for students or groups to access.  Students can then view the videos to determine the vocabulary words each group was assigned. The activity can end here, or students can be asked to demonstrate the tableau “live” in class when words are encountered in the text.

 

Photos + Narration:  Shaddow Puppet EDU (http://get-puppet.co/)

This activity adds another layer to the built-in camera option. For this activity, students create an audio slideshow of their vocabulary tableau. Students upload a picture of their tableau to the iPad app, Shaddow Puppet EDU. Students can add a narration of the tableau.  This narration may include synonyms/antonyms or other clues to the physical tableau.  Students can also add other photos available on the web to create a larger slideshow mixing media formats. These slideshows can also be uploaded to Google Drive and shared. Adding audio clues with the tableau utilizes higher-level thinking strategies challenging students at all levels.

 

Photos + Narration + Animation: Tellagami (http://tellagami.com)

Another layer of this activity can involve animation. Tellagami is an easy iPad app that allows students to pick characters and settings from a menu of options. Customization is available with the option of adding pictures from the camera roll to the setting. Students can add pictures of their tableau and then add narration to characters. The narration may include a storyline with the vocabulary word in mind, or it may involve clues similar to those in the audio videos. These videos can be uploaded to Google Drive.

 

Each of these tools can enhance vocabulary instruction. Adding movement, technology, and personalization helps students use and retain vocabulary.  Of course, this entire activity progression can be used with the comprehension of fictional and nonfictional texts instead.

Red Card, Black Card, Move

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The utilization of movement varies from grade level to grade level and from teacher to teacher. I was visiting with a teacher recently, and she mentioned how the use of “brain breaks” is different from elementary to middle school.  Middle school teachers were labeling time to get up and pass in papers or sharpen pencils as brain breaks.  Elementary school teachers were incorporating dance moves or stretching as brain breaks.  I think both, depending on how they are used, or the outcomes of the movements could be considered brain breaks.

I also often hear teachers request the use of movement to enhance content, or the use of movement in conjunction with content.  Many of the activities on this site are, or can be, used alongside the delivery of content.  I also hear from teachers the need for the use of movement in their classrooms to be simple and easy to implement.  This activity is both simple and easily adapted to any content.  A colleague of mine was explaining the activity in the following manner:

Each student is given either a red playing card or a black playing card. In the front of the room, one of the unit’s essential questions was written on a red piece of chart paper, and a second essential question was written on a black piece of chart paper.  Each student was also given a sticky note. When directed, students answered the essential question according to the playing card they received. Students then found a partner with the same playing card and discussed their answers (and made any modification) to the essential question they were assigned.  The sticky notes were then placed on the corresponding chart paper.

This is a simple activity that does not require a lot of thought. It can be modified in many ways. Students could pair up with someone with the opposite color of playing cards and have a conversation. Students could have a large group conversation after dividing themselves up into two large groups.  As the unit progresses, students could be asked to answer the other essential question and repeat the activity.  The same can happen at the end of the unit as a check to see if the essential questions were addressed throughout the unit.

Using movement in the classroom does not have to be flashy.  It can be simple and enhance the normal flow content delivery and classroom discussions; therefore, all teachers should be able to add more movement to their classes on a daily basis.

Writing Connections With K’NEX

Knex-connexions-base

Everyone has experienced some type of writer’s block. For some students, this occurs more frequently than others.  There ar many causes of writer’s block which may include: structure, classroom environment, brainstorming of ideas, topic, class, focus, time, health, boredom, interest, and so on.  This list can be endless.

There are multiple ways to address writer’s block. In order to combat issues related to stress, anxiety, focus, and lack of ideas, physical movement and tactile manipulation can help calm inhibitors and stimulate the mind allowing writing to occur more freely, or naturally.

Struggling students often need structure to give them stability and guide them through the writing steps they need to produce an effective writing piece. The delivery of the structure can vary from class to class (and year to year), but providing students with options and clear connections between a topic and the writing process is often critical to success.

For this activity, K’NEX (http://www.knexeducation.com/) are used to help inspire creativity and to help illustrate connections in the writing process. K’NEX are building toys consisting of colorful rods and connectors.  The various K’NEX building sets range from simple parts and machines to elaborate systems utilizing pulleys and levers. K’NEX are utilized in some schools to accent STEM activities, but they can also be used in a more simplified manner to help teach students the writing process.

One way to utilize K’NEX is through teaching a basic writing structure. For example, a paragraph may consist of a topic sentence, a detail sentence, an explanation of the detail sentence, followed by a second detail and explanation sentence, and ending with a connecting or concluding sentence. Of course, there are many variations of this and the type of writing and age level will influence this structure. This can be stretched to an essay including an introduction paragraph, body paragraphs, and a conclusion paragraph.  The elaboration of the structure varies from text to text. After an introduction to the writing structure, student groups (or teams) are given a pile of K’NEX. As a group, they create a visual representation of a paragraph, essay, or other writing text. Since K’NEX are color-coded and have the ability to connect in multiple ways, as well as bend, these visual representations can be quite powerful. As an alternative, the instructor can assign elements of a paragraph a color, so students may have to figure out how to connect pieces based on their role.  Since the rods are different sizes and shapes, teachers can use this as a formative assessment to determine the understanding of paragraph/essay structure.

A second way to use K’NEX with writing, is to have students use building sets in relation to an assigned topic. Students can work in teams, or individually, to construct a representation of their topic. The physical manipulation, and the creative outlet, helps students move beyond initial writer’s block allowing them to proceed with the writing process.

Adding more movement to the activity could include a gallery walk or a human representation of the K’NEX creations. The hands-on activity, followed by the physical movement, provides needed mind-body connections that further enhance the academic progress with writing.

Reflect, Move, & Shuffle

office-155137_960_720I recently presented a professional development session for high school teachers. Part of the presentation required time to reflect on previous work the teachers had completed.  Knowing there the participants ranged in years of service on the work team and comfort level with the topic, I devised a plan to reflect, move, and shuffle.

For this activity:

  1.  Each participant is given a notecard.  Depending on the number of participants, and depending on the desired size of discussion groups, at least four different colors of notecards are distributed around the room.
  2. Participants are given three minutes to write (or brainstorm a list) about previous work (since the last meeting, the beginning of the year, or some other timeline).
  3. Three areas of the rooms are marked with a number (1, 2, or 3). When the writing time has expired, participants are directed to move to a number. Each number can be prescribed, or participants can be given the direction to separate themselves according to their own, individual, criteria. This is completed without talking.
  4. In their newly formed groups, participants share with a partner, or with their entire group, why they placed themselves in the group and highlights from their notecards.
  5. After 3-5 minutes, participants are told to reorganize themselves according to notecard color. The newly formed pairs or groups discuss their reflection, as well as any other insights. When prompted, the groups discuss further work that needs to be completed.
  6. After another 3-5 minutes, participants are directed to return to their seats and a priority list of future work is developed.

This activity allows multiple voices to be heard. Movement activities help energize the reflection process and allow for purposeful processing time to be planned. Processing time is built in during silent writing, multiple times to share, and reflection time prior to devising a priority list.

Although this activity was used during a professional development session, it could easily be adapted for a classroom.  The activity could focus on prior learning, background knowledge, discussion questions, and so forth. Mixing up groups, guiding students to evaluate their learning based on their own criteria, and utilizing movement helps energize the classroom and build the foundation for deep discussions.

Calming the Speaker With Movement

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Public speaking is a fear many people face.  There have been multiple moments in my teaching career when I have encountered a terrified student sweating about giving a presentation, whether it was a presentation meant to be delivered individually or as a group.  In some cases, the student spoke so softly hardly anyone could hear the presentation.  In other cases, the student claimed to have forgotten what he or she was supposed to talk about, so an awkward silence would fill the room.  There were times where a one-on-one presentation opportunity was given to alleviate the burden of public speaking.  Yet, there were also moments (more often than not), when the presentations went smoothly with little hint of anxiety present.

Using physical movement can help reduce stress and anxiety public speaking tends to build in students.  There are multiple ways to add physical movement before public speaking moments.

  1.  Rubric Gallery:  Before starting the presentations for the day, post the rubric around the room.  Ask students to walk around the room to remind themselves of the expectations. As they do so, inform students to generate a goal they have for their presentations. Their goal should include a plan and an indicator to measure their success.
  2. Main Point Tableau:  Students take notes of the main points a speaker is making during his or her presentation.  At the end of the speaker’s presentation, students should stand.  On the teacher’s signal, the students should freeze in a body position that represents a main point of the presentation. The teacher may ask a couple of students to explain their poses and a brief review of the speech can take place.
  3. Wall to Wall Practice:  Students line up on one side of the classroom.  On the signal, students slowly walk to the other side of the classroom reviewing the main points of their presentation. When they get to the other side, they turn around and return to the other side of the classroom.
  4. Speaking Ball Toss:  In groups of five, students toss a koosh ball around the circle.  When they toss the ball, they say a main point of their presentation.  They can also orally state the main components of their speak outline.  For example, they might state a three-word reminder of the hook of their introduction during their first toss.  On their second toss, they might state a phrase from their thesis, and so on.
  5. Small Group Walk:  Journey outdoors (or into the hallway) and have students complete a walk and talk presentation.  In groups of five, one of the students delivers his or her presentation to the rest of the group (and the teacher). The student can walk during the entire presentation or pause as often as he or she feels the need to do so.

Public speaking is scary for many people, but it doesn’t have to be the beast it is perceived as being. By listening and observing the feelings of students as they prepare for and anticipate presentations, teachers can counter some of the fear and anxiety students are expressing. Adding movement is just one way teachers can begin to address this fear.  Providing students with the appropriate skills they need can help them conquer the fear and feel a bit of success.

Flying Through Reading

 

Flight Air Show Flying Formation Planes Contrail

Working with nonfiction texts can be a challenge for students and teachers.  Many nonfiction texts contain higher lexile levels and higher levels of complexity.  Maintaining a sense of focus for struggling readers may determine the comprehension success of the text.

When I assign a complex nonfiction text, I approach the text using the following steps.

  1.  Setting a purpose.  Since struggling readers sometimes have a difficult time understanding why a certain text is being read in class, it is important to set a purpose for reading.  Setting a purpose helps students focus on the “why” behind the reading.  When students have a clear focus, they can power through obstacles that may get in their way such as unfamiliar words, text structure, and text length.
  2. Chunking the text.  Dividing the text into manageable pieces helps build confidence and endurance. In a two-page article, I divide the text into a minimum of three chunks.  Of course, the number of chunks is dependent on the length of the text and the age of the students. When a text has clear divisions, such as headings and subheading, this is an easier task.  However, it is important to provide students with specific reading strategies to help them understand what to do during a chunk of reading, what to do at the end of a chunk of reading, and how to proceed to the next chunk of reading.
  3. Adding movement. With the struggling reading, as well as any reading engaging in a challenging text, I like to give students the opportunity to move at the end of a chunk of reading.  The type of movement used, and the purpose of the movement, may change based what students are asked to do with the text as well as the type of readers reading the text. For example, I may add movement to help students with comprehension, or I have students participate in a reading activity designed for deeper analysis.

Flying Airplanes

There are multiple uses for this activity.  I mentioned this activity in an earlier post, but I recently used this activity as a during reading activity.  The activity is basic, but it does get students up and moving while they are reading.

At the end of a chunk of reading, students are asked to identify textual evidence that supports the overall purpose for reading the text. Students write a piece of textual evidence on a sheet of paper and then they fold the piece of paper into a paper airplane. The class is then divided in half.  Half of the class lines up on one side of the classroom and half of the class lines up on the other side of the classroom.  The students fly their airplanes to the center of the room, and then they choose an airplane to take back to their desks.  At their desks, they read the piece of textual evidence and discuss it in a pair or in a small group.  The students proceed to read the second chunk of text. At the end of the second chunk of text, they repeat the process.  The activity continues until all three chunks of text have been read.

At the end of the reading, each student will have a piece of paper with three pieces of textual evidence to match the purpose of reading. A class discussion of the evidence may then occur, or students may be assigned a writing prompt.  The activity prepares students to look for evidence and analyze evidence of their peers. When writing, all students, regardless of their reading ability, will have textual evidence to use in responding to a prompt.

This activity can be modified in many ways.  Instead of textual evidence, students could draw pictures summarizing key points.  Students could also answer basic comprehension questions, or they could answer (or develop) higher-order thinking questions.

Providing students with the opportunity to stand during reading, gives them a chance to think about what they have read.  It also gives them an opportunity to refocus on another chunk of reading by breaking up the monotony of a being seated while reading a challenging text for an extended amount of time.  It also helps reduce stress and anxiety a struggling reader is faced with leading to a more positive and successful reading experience.

Image:  http://maxpixel.freegreatpicture.com/static/photo/1x/Flight-Air-Show-Flying-Formation-Planes-Contrail-285568.jpg

SNOW DAY, Snow Forts, and Writing

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We recently had two snow days in our district.  Since snow comes and goes pretty quickly in the Seattle area, I love the time we have to get out and play.  Entire neighborhoods spill into local parks and school playgrounds to g0 sledding, build snowmen, fortify snow forts, and just run around. The smiles, laughter, and overall general feeling of happiness is a welcome sight during the doldrums of gray skies in winter.

My daughter and I worked tirelessly to build a snow fort on the football field of the neighboring school.  We had a great time determining the height, depth, and interior finishes expected by a fourth-grader. It was a moment cemented in my mind, one that will stick for a long time.

The activity sparked my imagination for establishing a writing space in the classroom.  Building, fortifying, and elaborating the writing process is something all young writers need to experience to develop their skills.

For this activity, various components of the writing process are hung around the classroom.  A prompt (or multiple prompts) are given to students to focus on. Working in small groups, one member of the group retrieves a writing component and brings it to the group work on.  Group members complete the task and attach their finished task to a building block (snow cube).  A second group member retrieves another component, the group works on the task, and then add to their snow cubes.  As the group works, they determine the organization of their snow walls.

After a set amount of time, a signal is given and students work on the elaboration of their writing.  Once this task has been completed the snow forts represent a specific mode of writing within a paragraph, poem, essay, etc.  Groups share their responses by walking around and observing the structures.

Several discussion ideas may follow:

  1.  What are similarities between each of the writing samples?
  2. How did groups extend their writing?
  3. What are key organizational concepts we need to remember when writing _____?
  4. What are the foundation pieces of this writing style?

 

The writing tasks may include:

  1.  Sentence starters/types (topic sentence, textual evidence, analysis, concluding sentences)
  2. Essay structure (introduction paragraph, body paragraphs, concluding paragraphs)
  3. Visuals/Charts/Graphics/Pictures
  4. Simple sentences to extend

 

This activity can be modified in beyond the snow fort concept.  It has can be adapted to include the snowball fight activity explained in an earlier post.

 

Image: https://c1.staticflickr.com/5/4039/4379451099_174ce13aae_z.jpg?zz=1