Sunday, February 26, 2017

Student-Generated Questioning

Here's a strategy that is so easy to implement, yet will yield tremendous results for your students in the area of reading comprehension. I have been using this strategy {with great success} in my small reading groups this school year. You can use it to promote deeper thinking with any fiction reading selection.

Higher-level questioning has been an important focus with my students. We have been "thinking about thinking" so to speak. Our book talks have revolved around questions that require the reader to think beyond the basic text.

Recently, I had an epiphany about reading comprehension questions. Why do the questions always come from the teacher? Who says that it's the teacher's job to assume complete control over the book conversation? Why am I doing all the work, when my students are fully capable of asking intelligent questions about the novels we read? For me, the best ideas come out of desperation, and that is exactly where this idea came from.

Together, my students and I brainstormed a list of "question starters" that would activate thinking. We talked about the difference between low-level and high-level questions. We set a ground rule that if the answer to a question could be found right in the book, it was too basic for our type of book talk. Then, I made this very simple template to use with my students.

I made an editable {FREE} template to share with you here! Just download the PowerPoint file and then you can add your own student names. This template will work for a small group of six (or fewer) students. Make one copy for each student in the group. I like to use a different color paper for each student. Cut up the center line of each template, and then cut out on each line to create six different foldable openings. Then paste this right on top of a piece of white paper. You will need to paste around the edges, without pasting the "shutters" closed. 

Now, here is how I manage it in my classroom. After reading a section of our novel, I give each member of the reading group a folded question paper. I ask them to write one question at the top of the paper, that will challenge the rest of the group (including me) to think deeply about the reading. They refer to the question starters if needed.

Then, in carousel fashion, the students rotate around the table to each question page. Without peeking at the other responses, they lift the flap and answer the question in the space provided under his or her name. I have a special chirping bird signal that I use to manage the rotation. I try to keep it fast-paced, but still allow them enough time to write a complete thought.

Once the students have responded to every question, we complete a final rotation when all of the answers are revealed. They really enjoy this part, especially reading all the answers to their own question. It gets them excited to write another challenging question next time.

I have found that the questions keep getting better and better! My students are highly motivated to write questions for each other. Keeping all the answers under flaps adds to the suspense and requires each student to complete an individual response. The bonus is that I can easily assess comprehension of the reading for each student.

When it comes to reading comprehension in small reading groups, go ahead and tap into your greatest resource. . .the students themselves! I hope that you will find this strategy useful in your own classroom!

Monday, February 6, 2017

Fortune Cookie Quotes For the Classroom

"At the end of the day, people won't remember what you said or did, they will remember how you made them feel." ~Maya Angelou

For me, teaching has always been so much more than just instructing curriculum. If teaching were a hamburger and curriculum were the patty, then this girl's burger would be dressed with crisp lettuce, juicy tomatoes, slabs of melted cheese, the perfect amount of ketchup, and of coarse an oversized bun. That's just the way I roll. Let's face it. Burgers are bland without all the dressings, and learning is made flavorful when lots of special trimmings are added to the meat. I bet you share my passion or you wouldn't be reading this post.

I tried a new condiment on my teaching burger this month, and I'd like to share it with you. If you are searching for a way to spread positivity within your classroom, then fortune cookie quotes will be just what you need. Now let's get down to business.

You will want to head on over to my TPT store to grab yourself a free copy of the quote strips. There are 96 quotes, plus a sign included in this download.

Print the quotes on bright, colorful paper. There are three sheets of quotes. I copied three pages of each sheet on assorted colors, which ended up being nine pages in all, or 288 quotes to fill my container. Cut the quotes into strips. A paper cutter makes this job easier if you have one.

Wrap each of the quotes tightly around a pencil to create a coil. Then drop them into a clear container. This makes for a good T.V. time project. You could also search for family or student helpers.

Place the quote container in an easy-to-access location in your classroom. Print and laminate the "Take One" sign to hang near your display. I placed my display right near the classroom door.

Then, establish some rules for how and when your students may take a quote. For example, perhaps they could take one on their way out the door, on Monday mornings, before journal writing time, before a class meeting, etc. Think about what works best with your own program.

Encourage your students to think about and/or discuss the meaning of the quotes. What personal connection can they make with the quote? How might the quote influence their actions? Did it give them a new perspective or change their outlook on life?  Hopefully it will do all of the above. These quotes are meaningful.

I'm actually beginning to think that these fortune cookie quotes would work well in many settings. Does your faculty room or school office need a little pick-me-up? How about your home? Wouldn't it be fun to grab a quote at the hair salon or dentist office? Go ahead. . .share the idea and spread some cheer! Enjoy!