Word Walls Beyond High Frequency Words

Word walls have always been pretty popular in the educational world, and rightly so!  They were so necessary for my third graders last year.  When I moved up to 6th Grade, I wondered how I could incorporate a word wall without making them feel like "littlies."  I had a parts of speech wall last year where I would put random words up and have the kids identify the part of speech, but it didn't go over too well.  We have some really cool vocabulary words as part of our new Language Arts program through Journeys, but I didn't have the cupboard space to do an A-Z word wall.  So....the two ideas meshed, and we got a parts of speech wall that is updated weekly with the vocabulary words the kids study each week.

We mix spelling and vocab together so that the kids are not just memorizing spelling patterns (many have mastered that), but students are studying words at a deeper level.  They look at the part of speech, connotation, antonym, synonym, some weeks origin, and an example of how to use the word correctly.  After the spelling/vocab test on Friday, we update the word wall so that they have a place to reference those words again AND we actually are seeing those cool vocab words in their writing!  Huzzah!

We also started a weekly vocab jar drawing (in picture below) where kids submit a paper with vocab words that they see in their reading.  I have noticed a huge increase of word recognition since we started the vocab jar.  The kids love it, and they don't even realize that they are practicing. :)

Here are a few pictures for a visual.  I purchased the fun letters at the Dollar Store last summer to label each cupboard.  We have nouns, verbs, pronouns, articles, adverbs, prepositions, conjunctions, adjectives and interjections.  I print each week's words in a different font and laminate them so that I can reuse next year.  I hot glue them to the wall.  The kids look at it frequently.  They notice when we update it, so it is well worth the effort!


Every. Day. In. Math.  Every day!  I have one student who is a fabulous math student, but he loathes showing work.  I've pulled out all of my tricks throughout the year:
Me: "Well, what if you get a math problem wrong?  How will I know how to help you?"
Student: "When was the last time I got one wrong?"
Me: "But what IF you do?"
Student: "My record shows that I don't."

I take off points for not showing work.  I've made deals for showing work with this student.  I've even bribed him with "if you show your work 5 different times, you can do this problem in your head."  Does it change anything?  Nope.  I don't know why students think that we enjoy torturing them with homework and asking them to show their work.  Heck, if I wanted to torture them I'd give them millions of Scantrons where I had no idea what went wrong in their thinking, hoping to ruin their mathematical solving process forever!

I pulled out an extreme, yet cliche trick on Friday.  I began grading the quiz they took on surface area.  We've gone over how showing work means writing the formula, showing each step, and circling the final answer.  The student got 100% on the answer part, but there were no formulas to be found, nor was there a lick of work.  I flipped the paper over and wrote the following note:

"I know you hate showing work.  Let's imagine that someday you are a doctor, and you discover an amazing cure for some disease, but you don't write the steps down meticulously.  Now the cure can never be recreated.  Wouldn't you wish you took the time to show your work for finding this life-changing cure?  (Please show your work.  If for nothing else, do it for my sanity.  -Mrs. G)"

The look on his face tells me I might not be getting work anytime soon.

End of Year Review

It's that time of year again!  Test review time!  There are tons of resources out there on TPT to help review.  I love the task cards.  I print them off, laminate them, cut them up and either put them around the room, or put a ring around them for center/group work.

Here's a few that I've created that my students love.  Each comes with an answer key.

If you don't have a laminator in your room, get one!  I got mine at Costco for $15 at the beginning of the school year (it's not currently on their website, but stop by in August or September).  Walmart also has them, and sometimes Sam's Club has them in stock, too.  Don't be fooled by the fancy-schmanciness of the $50+ ones.  My $15 laminator gets used all of the time, and it seals the edges well.  When you need a refill, purchase laminating pouches.  I get mine at Sam's Club. They come in a 200 pack for about $21.  Just make sure you get a hot laminator, and that the laminating sheets are for "hot lamination."  Sam's Club has the best deal that I've come across.  Even Amazon doesn't have a cheaper option.  If you find one, please pass on the information!!!

Beginning of a New Era

6th. Graders. Rock.  They really do!  They're independent, witty, creative, innovative and curious.  Mine are still in elementary school, so they also still care about their teacher liking them; they love being at the top of the food chain.  I've only been working with 6th graders for one school year, but I am absolutely sold.  Although this is my first year teaching 6th grade, I am the only rollover teacher in the grade next year at our school, so I'll be the leader of the 6th grade pack.  Terrifying?  Yes.  Cool?  Yeah, a little.  Ready? Not a chance.

It's the end-of-year time of year.  We're finishing up nearly every unit, and we're about 4 weeks ahead of schedule on math.  So exciting!  That gives us four solid weeks for review, more review, and, you guessed it, a little more review.  My colleague and I are big fans of cooperative and active learning to get kids learning out of their seats and in a hands on setting.  As more posts show up, you'll see that my classroom is not your traditional class with worksheets, strict silence, a teacher neatly grading at her desk all school day, diligently making note of missing assignments.  In fact, the only time I sit at my desk is to submit attendance and lunch count, or to get the technology ready for the upcoming lesson.  My chair is proudly underused.  It gets to join me during guided reading.  Don't get me wrong, there are days that are absolute disasters where I wonder if we got anything accomplished or if anyone learned a dang thing at school that day.  But I relish in the days that end with a feeling of, "Did that really just go that well?  Did you see how well ___________ did?  Have you read her poem?  THEY ACTUALLY GOT IT!"  Those are the days that make it all worth it.  The days where the light goes on, the emerging kids shine, and the kids reluctantly leave, hoping tomorrow will be just as awesome.  I live for those days no matter how far between they seem.

Here's to 42 more days of hard work in the 2012-2013 school year.