For this lesson the students literally walk into the classroom and go to work.
My students are used to making journal entries of one kind or another for morning work. For example one day the students will come in and find a Cognitively Guided Instruction (CGI) problem on the board. For example, “Mrs. Clapp had for red flowers and five yellow flowers. How many flowers did she have in all?” They will need to get their math journal and work towards solving the problem using pictures, numbers and words.
Another day the students will come in and see a directive on the rolling cart. The students are told to look at the rolling cart and see if they can read the instruction there. Once they have decoded the text and successfully figured out what is being asked of them, they will need to get their science journal and begin to discuss with their peers where and how they are going to get the information they need. For my middle low and low reading level students I simply read the morning work direction straight to them. The directive may ask the students to draw and label four things that can be recycled, or animals that live in the Arctic, or even four things in the classroom that are solid, etc.
Today the students come in and find a two sight word sentence prompts by the language arts journals. The student will need to get out their Language Arts journal, copy the prompt and then work to complete it.
I have the prompts set out this way because students trickle in over a fifteen minute period and this is an easy way for students to select the prompt they like without too much input from other students. They can take a moment to decide which season they prefer, take the chosen prompt back to their seat and set about explaining to me why they prefer that season.
The students look at the two sentences and decide which they like better – the season of spring or the season of winter.
The reason they must decide between these two choices is because later on in the morning we will be reading a book about seasonal predictions - Groundhog Day by Gail Gibbons. The students will be introduced to the idea that if a groundhog sees its own shadow it is “afraid” and it will go back down into its burrow. This is taken to be a sign that we can expect six more weeks of winter. If the groundhog does not see its shadow it is not “afraid” and ventures out to begin looking for food. This is taken to be a sign that spring will come early. Groundhog Day makes a nice introduction to our shadow unit.
For now, the students must first decide which prompt they prefer.
Once they have selected their sentence prompt they must complete the sentence by explaining why they prefer that particular season.
After they have completed the writing piece of this assignment, the students must support their sentence with an illustration. The illustration should include details which make it a clear picture clue for any reader.
As soon as the student has checked to make sure they have done everything to the best of their ability, they are to bring their work over to me. First the student will read their explanation to me and then we will go over their work together.
“Good morning. Today your morning work is to select a sentence prompt which shows which season you prefer – spring or winter. Once you have selected your sentence prompt you will need to complete it by giving me a reason why you like spring or winter better. Remember your sentence must start with an uppercase letter, there should be spaces between your words and your sentence will need some kind of punctuation mark to make it complete. After you have finished your writing you will need to draw a detailed illustration which supports your sentence.”
“When you feel you have done everything you have been asked to do, please bring your journal to me and we will go over your work together.”
I allowed the students 20 minutes to work on this activity. Set a visual timer and remind the students to look at the timer so they will use their time wisely.
When the time is up I blow two short blasts on my whistle and use the “Stop, look listen” technique mentioned above. “When I say go, I would like you to clean up your space remembering to take care of our things, push in your chair, and use walking feet to go and take a spot on your dot.”
Students know to put completed work in the finished work bin. Any work that is not completed goes into the under construction bin and can be completed throughout the day whenever the student finds he/she has spare time or it will be completed during free choice center time.
Once the students are seated I tell them their exit slip for today to go and do their morning job is to tell me if they would like more winter or if they are ready for spring to come.
“I am going to use the fair sticks to select student names. When I pull out your name you need to tell me if you would like more winter, or if you are ready for spring to come. Once you have told me your season you will be able to go ahead and do your morning job.”
Once a student has told me his/her season, they are able to go ahead and do his/her classroom morning job.
An exit ticket is a great tool for allowing the teacher to see if the students comprehended the lesson and understood what was expected of them. The students also get a chance to practice the skill they just used in the activity part of the lesson.
For this assignment I check the student’s journal entries, discuss with them the choices they made and what resources they used – a spaceman for spacing between words, the word wall for sight words, books for vocabulary words, etc.
I have the students read their work to me and we will go over whether their sentence makes sense or not. If there are any corrections to be made, I ask the student to go back to their seat, make the corrections and then bring the work back to me for a re-check.
This is perhaps one of the most important parts of the activity because this is where I am able to discuss with the students how if their work does not make sense, if it is not explained well, others will not be able to comprehend what the author is trying to say.
Once the work meets all of the requirements I put a check mark or a smiley face on their journal entry and the student then place’s the journal back in the correct location.
As the students get finished with their work I tell them to go and share their work with a peer. The sharing of work allows the students the opportunity to explain their thinking to a peer in a non-confrontational way. The students can rationalize their thinking process and begin to see others point of view.
A student may not be comfortable in sharing his/her work with others - whether through lack of confidence or just does not feel like on this particular day. If this is the case I have those students go and select a book to read on the topic we have just written about. The books can be found in the book area on the main book stand.