Monday, July 30, 2012

Back to School 2012-2013 Social Studies Workshop

Are you getting ready for the 2012-2013 school year? This year, I am embarking on the journey of trying to implement a social studies workshop into my classroom instruction. This summer, I spent a few days in a workshop provided by my district. One of the big ideas was looking at the workshop model across the curriculum and to consider how this might help us meet our common core standards during other parts of the day while also (quite possibly) deepening our instruction in those content areas.

How do you define a workshop model? In its simplest form, a workshop model includes a minilesson (where the "expert" is offering some advice or tip), work time (where students are working independently, in partners, and often times with the teacher), and a debriefing (where you discuss what was learned--whole group or with a partner, questions that still remain, or you highlight the work that was done during work time that might benefit other students).

At our school, most of us teach social studies for 1/2 of the nine weeks and science for the other 1/2. We also integrate social studies and science topics into our reading and writing instruction throughout the year.

As I thought about implementing a social studies workshop, I had a few aha! moments and rationales I had to formulate. 

1. A workshop model fits perfectly with the other routines/ideas I worked on for social studies this summer--Student Timeline Notebooks and the Social Studies Big Idea Bulletin Board. I can use timeline activities to introduce the time period, as one of my stations, and as something students work on if they finish their "work time" station. The Bulletin Board (and student summary sheet) can be one of the ways I debrief and help students tie everything together.

2. A workshop model can be thought about vertically and horizontally as I plan (vertically meaning the 45 minutes I have for social studies that day--minilesson, worktime, debrief). Horizontally, I can move my social studies workshop week through "introduction (Mon), working in stations (Tues-Thurs), and reflection (Fri)"--doesn't this sound a lot like "minilesson, work time, debrief"?

3. Workshop Model does not have to mean stations AND using stations does not mean I have to do so every day. One thing that might hold a teacher back from using the workshop model is not wanting to give up whole group instruction time completely or that there are many things we can do in social studies in whole group and with partners that take more than  the 5-10 minutes you have for minilesson.

It might help explain what I'm thinking by looking at the planning template I designed for our social studies workshop: 
Although I did not list a debrief on Tues, Wed, and Thurs, I will have a debrief on each of those days. It might simply be "Who's a new person you learned about today?" "What's a new event you learned about today and why was it important?" I plan for my minilessons to take 5-7 min, work time to be 30 min, and the debrief to be 5 min.

4. HOLD UP! Why am I going to put myself through doing all of this work? This was one of the questions I had to find a good answer to before I was completely sold on a Social Studies Workshop. Why should I would put the energy into setting up this structure, teaching students the routines, and breaking social studies down to the point where I might actually be planning more for it? With this question, what you really have to consider is the role of the teacher. What will you (I) be doing while students are in "work time?" How will my expertise as the teacher be utilized? Well, this is an opportunity for me to provide more small group instruction. Consider this an extra literacy block. We might be studying fiction during reading, but in social studies workshop small group time, I can teach students how to read nonfiction, find the main idea, use text features, consider the author's perspective, read historical fiction, analyze primary documents, read for fluency, break words apart, determine the meaning of unknown vocabulary, etc. If I am using some form of stations, my big question is WHY? Why do  I want to have students doing different things if they are all going to end up doing the same things in the end? I as the teacher have to have a purpose for why I am doing this. I think being able to increase my small group literacy instruction is the PERFECT reason for structuring a social studies workshop.

5. Another way I answered the "why" question was to think about how whole group instruction in social studies typically goes. Let's say we are going to read and discuss a section of the social studies book (I don't do this a lot, but sometimes it makes perfect sense). Okay, 8-12 of my readers are ready to discuss at the same time, 3-4 of my readers won't be ready until the end of our social studies block leaving no time to discuss, and a few of my students may not really be able to understand the text. What are the students who are finished doing? "Just hold tight...soon everyone will be finished and we'll talk about it. You can look at other parts of the lesson or read farther if you want." They may wait to the point where we have to discuss what we read the following day. Hmmm. not what I planned and one of the reasons why we won't get through all of my plans. (I just want to add a side-note here that of course I am scaffolding my readers and trying to help them with the text during this time).

So, here's the conviction that I came to. I have students who CAN LEARN MORE. I have students who need things BROKEN DOWN MORE. Given 12 events related to the Revolutionary War, I will have students who can learn about 20, I have students who can successfully learn about the 12, and I have some who may only be able to complete 3. It's not fair to hold the students who can learn more back for the sake of moving everyone along at the same pace through my whole group instruction. This is what we do when we consider ourselves the main source of information (I'm guilty of this for sure). A workshop model with independent work time where students can work at their own pace is a perfect solution to this---differentiation at its best. And, since everyone is doing "different things," I can really modify that task for my kids who need it and no one will notice.

Lastly, how do we fill in the holes for students who are moving at a slower pace? Mini-lesson and debrief times are opportunities to pull everything together. Students will hear about different events from one another and will still meet the overall goal of having a working understanding of the time period. The small group/guided reading time for these students will also pull the time period together and allow me to build more background knowledge for them. When reading, they will be able to connect to what they have learned in the stations, minilesosns, and debriefs to the text. Friday, share day, will also provide them the opportunity to learn from what other students have learned.

I hope I have your social studies wheels spinning. What do you think about the workshop model in social studies? (Maybe it sounds so simple, but it was definitely a structural shift in thinking for me).

Most importantly, I don't think it is going to ADD to my planning too much at all. I actually think it is going to simplify my planning, especially with the gorgeous planning template I made that helps me remember the components I need to plan for.

In my next post, I'll walk you through my planning process.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Back to School 2012-2013 Bulletin Boards Tour # 2

I have two more bulletin boards to share with you content area bulletin boards for Social Studies and Science. This summer, I worked on a social studies board that would allow us to represent the time periods in United States History that we study as well as the themes of social studies. Here's what I came up with:

There are many reasons why I love this board, and as I kick off the school year, I'm finding more things to love about it! I have really been reflecting on social studies and trying to figure out what pulls it all together--I think my timeline notebooks and this bulletin board are going to streamline my social studies instruction, make it MEATY-er, and spiral many of the themes in history throughout the year so that my students (young as they are) can start to understand the big ideas and themes that keep popping up in history. 

Later this week, I'm going to tell you about my social studies workshop.  One component of social studies workshop is a 5-7 minute minilesson. I love this board because our minilesson can focus on an aspect that we aren't going to study in too much detail, but I can talk about it enough that we can summarize it on our board and make connections with what we have learned so far. Basically, it can allow me to elicit students ideas and create knowledge about the strands in social studies even if we don't have a ton of time to spend on that aspect. I also love that this board will allow us to make connections between time periods. For example, when we study the Civil War, we can go back to Colonization and the American Revolution to examine how the economies of the Northern and Southern colonies differed and how the fear that the constitution would not be ratified planted the long-term seeds of slavery. 

Another component of social studies workshop is a debrief or reflection. Many of our debriefs will focus on composing a paragraph that summarizes the knowledge we have gained about the different aspects of social studies, for example, the geography of the colonies. We can then post our summary on the bulletin board. 

In very similar fashion, I created the following bulletin board for science. I had to use two of my small bulletin boards to display our science curriculum for the year. Here we will post our key learning from the unit. These are the big ideas that I need students to master and walk away with. I also had in mind to add a section for each goal for key vocabulary, but I didn't have enough space on the board, so I am posting our science vocabulary in another area of the room.

If you would like to download the social studies bulletin board materials, it's a freebie on TPT. 
If you are a 5th grade NC teacher and would like the science bulletin board materials, I have put it in google docs for you. 

Have you made functional bulletin boards for your classroom? What I love about these is anyone (student, teacher, principal, parents) can walk into the room and see what we are going to be learning by looking around.

Social Studies workshop....coming up!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Back to School 2012-2013 Bulletin Boards Tour #1

One of my biggest goals for this year was to create bulletin boards that represent our curriculum, tie everything together, and most importantly that are interactive and serve a purpose. With my goal of creating a Love of Language and dedicating more time to language and vocabulary study this year, I needed bulletin boards that would help me represent our Love of Language as it develops throughout the year. I created this bulletin board where I will post our Figurative Language and Context Clue examples for the week.  This board should be in full action on Friday when I post examples. I will be sure to take another picture to share with you.
I used my messy (now sort of organized) storage cabinet for another component of our Love of Language studies. This is where I will display our Nifty Thrifty Fifty words as they are introduced. (We already have some posted from this week but I forgot to snap a picture of it.) Can you see that brown contact paper in the background? I think I found the perfect use for it and it ties in with my brown/aqua theme nicely.
Under our Love of Language bulletin board, I have created a space for us to classify our read alouds into themes. I think this is so important to get started with right away this year so that we can take our understanding of theme deeper as we reach for the common core standards.

Have you checked out my Love of Language classroom materials? You can learn more about it here:

Stay tuned! Next, I'll share my content area bulletin boards. 

Friday, July 20, 2012

Back to School 2012-2013 Classroom Tour

Hi Everyone! It seems my week of teacher workdays and our first week of school (last week) knocked me off the bloggy-face-of-the-earth. I have had so many ideas to share that have been spinning around in my head this week, but I must say, after making it through the day, my bed has been my favorite place to be this week. I'm hoping that this weekend I can get ahead enough for next week (and dare I wish to get ahead for the NEXT week?) that I won't be so exhausted during our second week of school. And, I looped this year, so who am I to be tired?!?!

Maybe it's the classroom makeover or all of the new ideas I am planning to implement this year, but I'm super excited to get every thing going.

Here's a few pics of the classroom makeover I worked on over the summer. I wanted to do the aqua and black theme, but finding black bulletin board paper was impossible (or too costly), so I compromised with brown and I LOVE it.

This is my wall where I hold picturebooks that we have read or will be reading for the units we are studying. You can see some of my beginning of the year read alouds in the picture (Fly Eagle, Fly; Riding the Tiger; Hooray for Wodney Wat; Oh, the Places You Will Go).
 Here's a closeup of the nifty inspirational poster I put together to decorate the top of the shelf wall area. I LOVE this quote.
Oh, by the way. Did you notice that FABULOUS wall color? I painted it aqua-fabulous-beachy-blue this summer. It only took four excruciating days (had to get around the smartboard, whiteboard, and some crazy phone lines, wires, and other weird wall thingies to get it all done). But, it was so worth it. I loved seeing the kids faces when they saw the room for the first time.
Remember the Clutter-Free Classroom I started creating at the end of last year? Here are my subject storage containers. My upcoming copy needs for each subject area go in the bins. I have felt a lot more organized so far this year because what I'm looking for is in one of these. I still end up with a messy desk at the end of the day, but I'll try to figure out a way to alleviate that eventually.
Remember that fabulous contact paper I bought? Here's the file cabinet that got a superb makeover. Everyone notices it as soon as they walk in the room and it's so much more handsome than it used to be. I am using the side of this file cabinet for our Morning Meeting notes. Currently, we also have three goals written on note cards that are posted (walking down the hall silently, cleaning up after ourselves in the lunchroom, and making sure everyone feels like they belong). I'll talk more about our morning meetings in another post! :)

I hope you tune in later this week to see more of my classroom makeover, ideas, and back to school happenings! :) 

Sunday, July 8, 2012

For the Love of Language--classroom materials ready!

I have been working on (and tweaking) my love of language materials for about a month now. I finally have the graphic organizers, student notebook covers, and bulletin board materials in a stage that I love and am EXCITED to use in my 2012-2013 classroom (only 1 week until the first day!)

Have I told you why I began thinking about implementing a "Love of Language" in my classroom this year? My "Love of Language" program was inspired by the Common Core State Standards. As I read through and studied the standards this year, I was hit with a strong conviction that the standards require a more strategic focus on word and language learning than my instruction thus far has included. Yes, I have done bits and pieces here and there--poetry units, content area vocabulary, a week on context clue strategies, one year of implementing "A Word a Week" consistently, minilessons on figurative vs literal language, etc. All of that doesn't sound very strategic does it?

It was kind of hit or miss--you know, focusing on interpreting language and how we learn words can be one of those things that constantly gets pushed to the side. Dedicating an entire day a week (I choose FRIDAYS! :) ) to language allows me to strategically set aside the time necessary for engaging my students in language lovin' and word learnin'. This is my way of doing what I feel will truly meet the language and vocabulary acquisition standards in the common core. It will ensure that students are not only exposed to these concepts, but are given multiple opportunities to master word learning strategies. The idea that I can get students to LOVE language is also exciting; through that focus, I will be creating learners who can use the skills they have learned to analyze language, infer word meaning, and teach themselves new things!

Want to Check it Out?
Here are a few samples of the Love of Language graphic organizers:

As I gear up for my NEW SCHOOL YEAR, I will be writing more about my "Love of Language" program plans, including sharing pictures of my "love of language" bulletin boards--they are on my workday "To Do" list for tomorrow :)


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