Sunday, October 22, 2017

Teaching The Author's Point Using Video Games (Plus a Giveaway)

As a literacy coach teaching persuasive reading and writing to elementary age students, I recently tried to find a topic that my students connected with and had an author’s point of view in which they might disagree.  Because let’s be honest, the ones on recycling and water are just…old.  I wanted fresh material.   

And any time teachers need fresh material, what do they do?  We steal, borrow, and take good ideas from real-life experiences - and sometimes our friends and colleagues. Well, I happened to have the real-life experience of strongly disagreeing with my teenager step-son on one particular point. (Most of us probably do with our teens)

You see, three years ago, I got a step-son who lives for fast internet and all-night playing of video games.  Since knowing Drew, I have slid in comments here and there about the negative effects of video games.  I assumed my comments would trigger his hormonal, irrational mind into thinking - Wow.  She is so smart.

This didn't happen.

But from conversations with Drew, I did realize that video games was a wonderful topic to engage my students.  And because I wanted to connect and relate to them, I decided to write a "letter" asking the principal to allow video games in school.  (You can find the letter here.)  I know!  You all thought I was going to go against it.  So did my students.

 At first, as I sat down to write my letter request and the reasons they should be in school, I literally thought “Nothing.  Nothing good comes from video games.”  

But I knew this wasn’t true.  Nor was that making an interesting letter.
So I fought to see it from Drew's perspective, and I was shocked with what I learned.  I not only discovered that kids could learn "soft skills" valued in the workplace, but I discovered how I could be a better parent to Drew and be a better teacher.

By putting myself in Drew’s (and my students’) shoes to make the point that video games should be allowed in school, I was pausing to consider what is important to them.  I looked for the things that they love about gaming that would also be considered a benefit to an adult.  

What I Learned
  1. Video games challenge their brains. There is a lot of action going on in those games.  Gamers must think through decisions and problem solve.  They are trying to create, build, and conquer.  This takes problem-solving skills.  There are also other players moving in real time.  As the players are playing, they are being challenged to work as a team.
  2. Video games engage children. Therefore, it cuts down on misbehavior in classrooms (and in homes).  Children & teens want to be engaged!  They want their brains to be focused and challenged.  When they are, they don’t think about snacks, water breaks, or how many students they can make laugh. Ever notice how in the middle of talking, a student will ask to go to the bathroom.  But the minute you hit play on a video, they no longer have to go?  Same thing.  Video games are engaging them because they’re focused on winning. 
  3. Video games teach perseverance. They play.  They lose.  They play again.  The cycle continues as they get better and better and work towards winning.  It’s something we appreciate in athletes and mathletes.  We should appreciate it in gamers too.  This is literally the whole growth-mindset & grit theory that is trending now.  Students feel they are defeated for a millisecond when they lose, and then it’s back to another game to try again. 
How do these things make me a better teacher and/or parent?

The short answer is I realized the value of putting myself in my teen's shoes for a moment.  How often do we all need to pause in our own crusade and consider the perspective of the opposing argument?  This skill alone is something I want to teach all children to make a better world.

Specifically as a teacher, I reflected on the three things video games offer that captivate my students.  They want to be challenged.  They want to be engaged.  They want to persevere, get better, and win.
It’s my job as an educator to help facilitate these three things each day in the classroom. My instructional practices should include these things as much as possible.  Don't I want to be challenged, engaged, and grow myself?  I want to offer that to my students.

Misbehaving students aren’t always a result of my instruction, but when I have misbehaving students, I must stop and reflect.  Are the students engaged?  Are they feeling challenged, but not defeated?  Are they learning to persevere so they can win?

As a teacher and parent, I need to stop and reflect.  It’s so easy to think our kids are acting crazy/disrespectful/fill-in-the-blank and not see the situation from their perspective.

In the end, I wrote a letter "from Drew" with an author's point, reasons, and evidence that would convince a principal to allow video games.  (You can find the differentiated passages here.)  My students loved it so much, I then wrote one "from Mara" (my step-daughter), asking the principal not to allow video games in school!  These can be found here.

I truly believe RI 8 (Author's Point, Reasons, & Evidence) and W1 (Opinion writing) are two of the most important standards we can teach.  Persuasive skills, considering other people's point-of-view, and debating are skills they will use in almost every relationship, job, and stage in life.  We need to make sure we are equipping them for these life skills, and not just checking a box.

Teaching this standard made me a better teacher, and I hope it grows you as it grew me.

It also made me a better bonus mom. Truthfully, I may not ever fully get on "Team Video Games".  But I always want Drew to know I am on "Team Drew".

You can find my Author’s Point, Finding Logical Connections, and Differentiated Reading Passages & Activities “Video Games In School” at my TPT page.  The "No Video Games" will be FREE for the first week this is posted as a gift to the readers!

Follow me on TPT (Mrs. Wilson Wonders), Twitter @NatalieWilson43, Instagram @NatalieWilson2012, or at my own blog – Freshly Designed. 

Friday, September 15, 2017

How to Incorporate ELA Skills in the K-1st Science Classroom

If you teach K-2nd, you know that you have a certain amount of minutes dedicated to each subject. Yet the increasing rigor in the standards require kinder teachers to have their class reading by the end of the year. So, we find ways to incorporate ELA skills into content areas while still teaching content area standards. How can we do this successfully?

1. Find grade level text that talks about what you're teaching. Some good resources are reading a to z. While most of their readers don't directly meet the standards, I have had luck finding books there that can be used for certain lessons. This, this, and this science predictable readers meet the Texas kinder TEKS. They include a predictable reader and a video that reads the book aloud to be used for a shared reading. These will soon be a part of a bundle.

Whichever resource you choose, you can have it available after your unit is complete. It can be put in your science center, or in children's book boxes, depending on what their independent reading level is.

2. Follow a 5E lesson plan. (Engage, explore, explain, elaborate, evaluate). If you follow this format for math and science, you will more than likely have to find text to go with the "explain" portion of your lesson. Sometimes you'll be able to fit it in to the "elaborate" portion as well! In the "explain" or"elaborate" portion of your lesson you can also incorporate a written response, which brings me to my next point...

3. Incorporate a written response or reflection at some point in your lesson. If you're doing a science experiment that day, you could have them write their prediction right before you've told them the experiment and they're excited about it. If you've just explored hands on materials for a lesson you're teaching, take the time to have them reflect. First they tell their impressions to a buddy (as a pre-writing activity). Then have them go to their seat and quietly reflect in their science notebook about their findings.

This blog post was written by Teacherof20, TpT seller, blogger, and SAHM to two great kids!

Monday, July 17, 2017

Pop-Up Butterflies and Leaves for Fall

Well, it's getting close to back-to-school time and it always helps to have a fun art activity in your back pocket. Recently my sister Hilary Lewis used one of my classroom art activities in her 3rd grade gifted and talented students and I enjoyed seeing the photos and the video so much I just had to share.
As an art teacher, there is always a balancing act between making quality art materials and making art accessible and easy for classroom teachers to use in their classrooms. We all know how much classroom teachers have on their plates these days, making it easier for them to integrate art into their curricula is important and vital in our schools and for our children. That's why I began developing art activities with classroom teachers in mind, this is one of them.
Here is the process:

It was important to me to have a template version and blank version of the butterfly for teachers to choose from, and to make the pop-up simple enough for students to create on their own. One of my students, Jayda and I worked and figured out this process and it works great.

Here are some of the final butterflies, but make sure to scroll to the bottom for the video. The kids absolutely loved the way the wings moved and the joy is contagious!

And here is the video:

As an art teacher, this video made me cry. Activities may not be as rich as process based art, but they sure make a difference in the lives of classroom teachers and their students.
Here is a link to the activity on TpT as well as a link to a fall leaf pop-up.
Butterfly Pop-Up
Fall Leaf Pop-Up

Hey classroom teachers, have fun creating art with your kids!
A Space to Create

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Why Teachers Make the Best Type of Friends

Teaching is hard.  In fact, it is very hard.  With the daily challenges and pressures that present themselves everyday even before we show up at school, I have found that it is imperative for teachers to find kindred souls in their peers.  Because who else understands more and can better help us find joy and success in the work that we do everyday, but our teacher friends?!

Recently I read the article on 27 Amazing Things Teacher Friends Do For One Another, and it got me to reflect back on the many friendships that I have made and kept throughout the years.  After going through my Facebook Friends, I realized, "Oh my goodness, almost more than half of my friends are teachers!"  And because teachers are so amazing, it's no wonder why teachers are the best type of friends to have!

1. Teachers are so incredibly generous and giving.  Teachers spend out of their pockets and go out of their way all the time for their students and anyone they know.  They are also generous with their time and do things for others that they know they may never be recognized for.

2. Teachers are creative beyond belief! Give a teacher a cold and bare classroom and he/she will give you the most amazing and inviting learning space you will ever see!  Give a teacher a box of recyclables and things that others may consider trash and he/she will give you the most incredible STEM challenge.

3. Teachers are supportive.  Had a bad day or going through something difficult?  Find a teacher friend next door who will listen to you, cry with you, and support you every step of the way.

4. Teachers are multi-talented.  Need someone to teach, coach, fix the copy machine, console a crying child, design a new bulletin board for Open House, cook for Friday's potluck, take on a club, and present at a conference all in one week?  Ask a teacher.  I bet you a teacher somewhere out there has done these and more in a week before.  Teachers are amazing!

5. Teachers are selfless.  Sure, they haven't eaten lunch because they spent most of their lunch replying to emails or talking to a parent on the phone, but that's who they are and what they do on a daily basis.  They are always thinking of others before themselves.

6. Teachers are spontaneous and fun! Need someone to help you spice up the lesson and make it more fun for the kids?!  Your teacher friend got you!  May it be running to the store in the evening to grab a list of things for tomorrow's lesson or dress up and look ridiculous to others outside of teaching, but your teacher friends will help make teaching so much more fun for you and learning even more engaging for your students!

7. Teachers are amazing!  From the little things to the great, BIG things that teachers do everyday, teachers really are amazing and I am so grateful to have taught with and become friends with so many AMAZING teachers!

So if you have teacher friends, hold onto them.  If you're looking for the most awesome friends around, find a teacher and be a good friend to them! :)


Monday, May 1, 2017

10 Simple Gifts for Teacher Appreciation Week

This week is National Teacher Appreciation Week.  What have you done to appreciate the teachers in your life?  If you are an administrator, PTA/PTO officer, parent or fellow teacher, here are 10 simple ideas to show those special teachers how much you appreciate the hard work they do each day. 

These 10 chalkboard tags can be downloaded by clicking on this link: Teacher Appreciation Gift Tags.  These tags can be used with a variety of small gift items that you can pick up at your neighborhood Walmart, Target or grocery store.  

1.   It is so REFRESHING to have you as a TEACHER! 
Soft Drinks, Water, Sparking Water, Juice

2.   Thank You to a TEA-riffic Teacher!
Bottle of Tea, Bottle of Water and Crystal Light Package of Tea, Mug or Teacup with a few Teabags, a Box of Fancy Tea Bags, a Package of Loose Tea and a Tea Ball

3.   You are all that and a bag of CHIPS!
Small or Large Bags of Chips

4.   Thanks for Being such a SWEET Teacher!
Cookies, Cupcakes, Candy Bars, Jars or Container of Candy 

5.   Thank You for the EXTRAordinary Things you do!
Extra Gum

6.   Thank You for Helping our Students BLOOM!
Flowers, Flowering Plants

7.   Let us give you a HAND. You're one of the Best!
Hand Soap, Hand Sanitizer, Hand Lotion

8.   Thanks! You're the Balm
Any type of Lip Balm

9.   An Apple for the TEACHER
Red EOS Lip Balm

10.   Thank You for all that you do! You're the Best!
Any Gift Card

Click below:


Until Next Time...

Find more from Queen of the Jungle on:

Saturday, April 22, 2017

End of Year Emoji Day

As the end of the school year approaches, I am always looking for ways to keep my students engaged and learning right until the last day.  This year I decided to create some activities featuring emojis to do just that.  I was inspired by the idea after Scholastic sent me some emoji themed bookmarks with my last book order.  The students loved them and were so excited because they contained those little smiley faces.  So I decided to host an "Emoji Day" to hopefully capture some of their excitement and help with the countdown to summer break.  Who knows, I may even stretch it out over two days!

To build some excitement about the upcoming emoji day, you can ask your students to dress all in yellow and black.  Then decorate your class door to greet them as they arrive in the morning.  During morning meeting show them some of the activities they will be completing during the day.  I also bought some emoji themed props to help set the stage for the day.  I found a kissing emoji at my local dollar store and I was lucky to grab these emoji themed buckets in the 50% off section of Walmart.  They will be great for holding the materials for each center.

I find this time of year it is important to change things up and try adding something different from the usual routine.  I am going to have students collect different emoji collector cards as they finish each activity.  This will work great as a motivator for students to finish their work.  These collector cards can then be kept in the student's wallet to take home at the end of the day.  I may add string to each wallet and students would be able to wear them as a necklace during the day.  I think it is important to let students be creative.  Give them a blank t-shirt or iPhone sheet and let them create what they thing the next emoji should be.

I think it is important to also keep practising math, reading and writing skills right up to the end of the school year.  My students slide back over the summer and I want to make sure I am doing my best to slow down this process.  Having students roll an emoji dice to practise graphing skills and reading all about emojis is a great way to keep students learning.  Did you know that there are 69 new emojis coming soon?  Did you know that there will be a curling stone, T-REX, and gloves?  I had no idea before doing a bit of research.  I also want my students writing everyday and adding some emojis just seems to make reluctant writers want to pick up their pencil and get started.

Finally, this time of year is all about making memories.  Students can make an emoji booklet which highlights some of their favorite things on one side and then collecting the autographs of their classmates on the other side.  What a great keepsake to look back on in the future.  If hosting an "Emoji Day" sounds like something you would like to try, you can find these activities here

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Grab & Go Centers!

Hey everyone!  I'm here to talk about some new center games that I'm so excited about!  I found a need in my classroom to have centers that were skill based and not necessarily theme related.  I was also looking for something that I could use to help differentiate the levels in my groups and provide choices.  
I came up with some fun independent Spill & Shake games that I can use ANY time of the year.  I can put different bags in my word work and math centers and kids can grab the one that they want! LOVE! 
I wanted to keep the format consistent, so I didn't have to explain the directions each week.  Kids come to these centers and they know exactly what to do.  I love that they're 100% engaged!
 I have kids in my class who need a lot more help with CVC words, so these games are perfect for them.  I have other kids who are well above kindergarten reading level.  So, I needed to challenge them more.  I created the same type of games, but with vowel patterns.  This was the perfect way to differentiate!

I have also used these games in my morning tubs.  Instead of having the kids color the pictures, they had to cover the picture with the colored cubes that matched the word.  They were so engaged!
I love that they have to think about the word/picture, and also what color it is.
Of course I had to make some fun games for math too.  These are helping my kids identify numbers on the 100's chart.  The kids love these games because they don't need any help doing it & they're 100% engaged!
  I love centers like this!

While we're on the topic of morning tubs (a new thing in my classroom), I wanted to show you guys a hot new game.  The kids are going crazy for this game!
It's called Build It! Buzz It!

The kids lay all the cards face down in a pile.  Each kid has these colored cubes: red, blue, green, orange, and purple.  They have to match the same color pattern as the card by using their cubes.  First one to do that presses the buzzer and keeps the card!  They were having SO much fun with this game that I just had to buy different buzzers. 

{CLICK HERE} to find them! They can't wait to get to this bucket!  I'm a happy teacher!

Here's what the bucket looks like:

Here's a sneak peak at some of the other games I've made so far:
 (Can you tell I like to make games?!)

Thanks for stopping by!  I hope you found some new ideas to add to your morning routine or centers!