Gather students on the rug using a preferred classroom management technique. I like to use my “Stop, look, listen.” The students stop what they are doing, look at me and listen for the direction. I usually preface the direction with, “When I say go…” This reminds the students to listen to the whole direction before moving to follow the directive.
In this case I would say, “When I say go I would like you to clear your space, push in your chair and go take a spot on your dot. Walking feet go.” By saying walking feet I am reminding the students to use walking feet in the classroom to ensure safe movement between areas.
When all of the students are seated on their dot in the rug area I tell the students we are going to learn about yet another Maryland symbol.
“Today we are going to play a game called guess the symbol.”
“I am going to give you clues and you see if you can figure out what it is.”
“Here is the first clue - today’s symbol uses all of the colors of the Maryland flag and that is how it got to be a Maryland state symbol.”
I select several students to respond.
“Those were all good guesses. Here is the next clue – the symbol is a mammal.”
Once again I select several students to respond.
“I think this clue will help you guess because it really gives you a clear picture in your brain. Today’s symbol uses all the colors of the Maryland state flag, it is a mammal, and it loves to catch mice.”
I allow the students to call out the answer, “Cat!”
“That’s right it is a cat, but not just any cat it is the Calico cat. Calico cats have orange, black and white fur coats. Does anyone see how this cat uses all of the colors of the Maryland flag?”
I select a student who is following the correct classroom procedure of raising their hand to respond.
“Well done Gabby, you are exactly right.” I hold up a picture of the Calico cat next to the flag and explain Gabby’s answer.
“Gabby told us the cat uses the black and we can see that here (I point to the black on the flag and on the cat), the white on the cat matches the white on the flag here (once again I point to the two colors), and Gabby told us how the orange on the cat is the red and yellow on the flag mixed together (I point to the orange on the cat as well as the red and yellow on the flag). The Calico cat is like a Maryland state flag on legs!”
“Well did you know that once long ago the Calico cat was considered to be lucky?”
“It’s true. We are going to read a book and see just how lucky the cat used to be.”
I use this guessing activity to peak the students interest in the cat and also to get their thinking skills turned on as they try to figure out the clues to make an accurate guess.
“Today’s book is called If Not for the Calico Cat, written by Mary Blount Christian and illustrated by Sebastia Serra. Looking at the cover what do you think the story is going to be about?”
I select a student who is following the correct classroom protocol of raising their hand to respond.
“Why do you think the book is going to be about a cat on a ship Rachel?”
I allow the student time to respond.
“Those are good reinforcing points: Rachel thinks the book is going to be about a cat on a ship because the cover shows a cat sitting on the deck of a ship.”
“Let’s go ahead and read our focus lesson book to see if Rachel’s prediction is correct.”
During reading we stop and discuss what the author means when she writes, “…calm seas and safe ports.” We refer back to our space unit to discuss the shape of the world when we discuss how people of long ago thought the world was flat.
We discuss the meaning of the words wary, hooded, delicately, strutted, etc. I do not discuss all of the vocabulary words as I do not wish to interrupt the flow of the story and lose my audience’s attention.
When the book is over I set it to the side and ask, “Can anyone give me a brief summary of what the book was about?”
I select a student to respond.
“Good summary Kallee. There was a cat that went on a ship and the cat was not as lucky as they thought, but they did all live.”
“Today at one of the work stations you are going to write about what is lucky to you. For example, I would write about how my pink rubbing stone is lucky because I always seem to find surprises in pockets after I have rubbed the stone.”
“Does anyone else have something that is lucky for them?”
I select a student to respond.
“Good one Shelby. Shelby says a wishing well is lucky because you get to make a wish and then it comes true.”
I select two or three more students to respond.
After their responses I say, “Do not worry if you did not get to tell me what your good luck comes from, because you are going to write about it at one of your work stations. You will find a writing paper that looks like this one (I hold up a sample for the students to see).”
“First you will write your…?”
I allow the students to call out the response, “Name!”
“That’s right. I will be looking for your sentence to begin with a …?”
Again I let the students call out, “Upper case letter!”
“You guys are on a roll. I will need to see what between your words?”
The students call out, “Spaces!”
“You will support your sentence with a …?”
The students call out, “Picture!”
“Nice. I also want your work to be …?”
The students call out, “Neat and tidy!”
“Sounds like you are ready.”
“Does anyone have any questions?”
Once I feel the group has a good grasp of the instructions I send the students over one table group at a time to maintain a safe and orderly classroom. It usually sounds like this;
“Table number one let’s go have some lucky writing fun.
Table number two, you know what to do.
Table number three, hope you were listening to me, and
Table number four, you shouldn’t be here anymore.”
Allow the students 15 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.
WHY WRITING TO INFORM?
Students need to be able to effectively convey their thoughts and ideas to others in a written format. To become proficient at this skill students need practice and guidance from both the teacher and also their peers. When students are able to write informative pieces coherently the audience has a better understanding of the concept the student is trying to convey. Being an effective writer helps the student when they are pursuing a place in a higher education program because college students are expected to be able to write a summary of information from multiple sources, present and defend a point of view in writing, organize information into a coherent written report, and use writing as a tool for learning.
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 that their exit slip for today is to tell me what is lucky to them.
“Today your exit ticket is to tell me what is lucky to you. You do not have to tell me why, because I will see that in your writing, but you do have to tell what is lucky to you.”
I use the fair sticks to determine the order of the students.
Once a student has told me his/her lucky item they are able to use the hand sanitizer and go to get their snack. If a student is unable to give me an answer, they know they can do one of two things.
Using this easy formative assessment tool gives me an opportunity to see if a student can quickly recall the skill they just used to complete the activity. They have just practiced informing the audience through the writing process and now I am asking the student to inform me through the verbal process. This means it should be an easy recall, however if a student does have a hard time coming up with a response I will take note because I need to find out if the student had difficulty because he/she has trouble transferring skill use from one activity to another or perhaps he/she was copying peer work at the table and does not have the skill themselves. Knowing the answer to this question will determine how I handle the situation.
I use the What is Lucky? checklist to go over the student’s work and once it is complete I will place the student’s work in his/her collection portfolio.
Looking at the student’s work with the checklist helps me to stay focused on the objective of the assignment. I am looking to see if a student used correct grammar skills, practiced phonetic spelling and if the writing piece made sense. Did the student support their writing with an illustration and is the work neat and tidy.
The checklist helps me because the work sample provides me with evidence of students learning as to whether the student has met the objectives or not. The checklist helps to convey information to the student’s family as to how well they are doing in class, and finally it helps the student by letting him/her know how he/she did and if there are areas where he/she could improve.