How to teach poetry when your students struggle with reading!

How to teach poetry when students struggle with reading!(1)

How I teach poetry in fifth grade!   Unfortunately, when I teach poetry I can’t get as deep as I want to and do all the fancy projects that I would like.  However, I do have to prepare them for state test which always has some type of poem, so I teach my poetry so that they are able to analyze the poem on a test and to go through and answer the questions to be successful.  First, I start off by introducing our giving background knowledge for whatever poem we are going to use for our lesson.  I used a poem called “The Blacksmith” for my lesson so I show a short YouTube video about what is a blacksmith, so the students can understand some of the imagery used in the poem. I usually teach one poem over several days or do it as a close read.  This means we read the same poem several times for several days.  Depending on the era or the context of the poem, I give them any additional information to ensure they comprehend why the poet is using certain language and imagery.     For example in “The Blacksmith”  we discuss the differences between being a blacksmith today versus back in Colonial Days.  Then, I give them the vocabulary that I feel they may struggle with, we used a paragraph with the vocabulary words and analogies (giving the students an opportunity to see and use the words in context) and any additional information they may not know to help them out for example review the different types of figurative and sensory language.    After I finish with the background and the vocabulary we dig into the elements of a poem.

This is from our second poem

After the first read students had to record the structures they noticed in the poem

 

First, I let them read it by themselves without taking any notes or writing anything on it (annotating). I want them to read without thinking about questions.  Second, I read it with them while asking and  answering text dependent questions as we go. I help them to pick out any figurative language, sensory details, and/or imagery that they notice. We discuss any word or words that they may not know while we’re reading, that were not part of the vocabulary that I gave them in the beginning. During the second reading we go through and do some strategies we look for the rhyme scheme, we look for poem structure like the stanzas, the lines, we also start looking for poetry elements, and the different language that’s being used, after we have picked out all of these things then we go into doing a gist for each stanza.  We talk about the setup of the poem like a poet is the writer of a poem.  If there is any, we start talking about the sensory images and details that may be in the poem and then we go through and mark up each stanza or section of each stanza and writing a gist for each stanza. Just like we would a reading passage. We do the gist for each stanza. 

After we have thoroughly analyzed our poem, we complete comprehension questions. These questions are set up like our state assessment questions.  Students write out what they noticed in their comprehension about different stanzas and the figurative language that is involved.

Using this method has made my kids more successful on their test. For the last four years there has been poetry on the test. Sometimes it is paired with a another text where they have to do a comparison between that text and a poem, a poem and a drama, and a poem and an expository text so being able to analyze and understand the format and meaning of a poem is a very important standard in fifth grade. So,

Poetry Analysis Square cover

my poetry analysis packet available at my TPT store

I have made an analysis packet that I use with my kids so that they can follow along and analyze a poem, I also added extra poems so they can get some practice.  If you would like to get my Poetry Analysis Packet at my TPT store just click here.

I’m very excited about teaching poetry as a close read because for the past couple years my students have been more successful when they take their state test and it has also helped me to understand poetry a little bit better myself ( I hated it in High School) and being able to analyze a little bit better has helped me to not to dread teaching it.  However, later in the year, when we get closer to the state assessment I revisit poetry to ensure they remember the strategies I taught. The students start having aha moments and seem to develop a love of poetry, Because now they are able to figure out what it’s really talking about.   What are some strategies that you use to teach poetry I am always looking for new ideas?

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11 Mistakes New Teachers make with Classroom Management

Avoid these 11 pitfalls to your classroom management

Last year our school worked with Teach across America ( I think that is what it is called, I am so bad with names) where student-teachers worked with seasoned teachers for a year and are now going into their own classrooms.  Well as one of our student teachers was hired and went to another school she asked for advice to get her started.  And everyone gave ideas on what to do and I remember when I was teaching my first year and wishing that someone would have told me some things I probably shouldn’t do.  Here are 11 mistakes that I have seen happen with new teachers and some I have probably done myself.  I hope this is helpful!

 

Save yourself the Headache

  1. Inconsistencies, if something is a rule or procedure stick with it and be consistent with the consequences.

 

  1. Handle problems publicly, first you want to avoid embarrassing a child plus many times when you handle things privately you find out what may be the real issue behind the behavior.

 

  1. Only give verbal instructions, you want to ensure students understand what is expected so having written instructions along with verbal will relieve headaches in the long run.

 

  1. Try to teach or give instructions before everyone is quiet, you are teaching the kids that it is okay to talk while you are trying to teach and at that point no one is learning.

 

  1. Use a lot of negatives i.e. don’t, stop, etc., there are some times that you will of, course say negatives but do not make it a habit. Students will view you as negative plus they are getting your attention which was the goal.  I try to mention what I would like to see.  (i.e. Stop running in the hallway! vs. We walk in the hallway)

 

  1. Make consequences go on forever, sorry it’s just too much of a hassle to remember someone has no recess for a week plus most of the time they will forget why they are being punished that weakens its effect.

 

  1. Not use proximity, there were so many times I have heard teachers who state that they had no idea something is going on in their room. If you are walking around while you are teaching you nip a lot of issues in the bud before they happen.  No one is going to see everything but you do not want that to be a staple in your classroom because kids talk and it will not be long before your class is known as that class!

 

  1. Hold grudges, remember they are kids and don’t think before they act so don’t continue punishing a student for one infraction.

 

  1. Not reward positive behavior, I probably should have put this first but if you do not recognize the students who are following your procedures and rules they will stop following them because they believe that is the best way to get your attention.

 

  1. Be standoffish, I already wrote a post about this but you want to have a relationship with your students and be approachable. It will help your class run smoother because they want to follow your rules and procedures because they like you.

 

  1. Not have a classroom management system in place, YOU HAVE TO HAVE A PLAN!!! See what your school uses but your class is your island and you need to have something in place to ensure things run as smooth as possible.

 

Please share some things new teachers may want to avoid, I look forward to hearing from some veterans.

Why I changed How I do my Vocabulary Instruction in the Classroom

Why I changed my vocabulary instruction

 

Well everyone the struggle is real! What struggle, you say the reading struggle.  I have taught every subject in upper elementary and when a student struggles, no matter what subject, it all comes down to reading comprehension. And after working with classes full of struggling readers, yes whole classes, I was able to understand a little bit better on what was some root causes of their struggle.  VOCABULARY!!!  I noticed the biggest obstacles was that in adequate vocabulary hindered my student’s comprehension.  I found that many students could say the words and may even read fluently (shockingly) however, they had no idea what a lot of the words meant.  That is when I realized that my vocabulary instruction was lacking.  So I made a point to change my instruction.

 

I still did not feel it was adequate and done in the proper order.  In my district they want us to do a balanced literacy structure in our classes which I definitely wanted to start but my students had no background knowledge with word parts or decoding skills.  I began with teaching prefixes, suffixes, and affixes.  Being able to break apart words was so important, when my student started decoding the words by breaking them up they felt so accomplished.  They had those aha moments when reading.  Another major part was that this knowledge helped them with context clues. If you give the students the skills to figure out words as they read, they feel empowered. This also helped when teaching dictionary skills which is quite important because there are so many multiple meaning words in our language that that may have to be another post alone LOL.

 

So the gist is if you want to improve students reading skills improve their vocabulary skills. Many of these ideas are actually part of our curriculum but they are more of a spiraled instruction versus explicit instruction.  However, my point is there has to be explicit instruction if you want to improve vocabulary.

 

Well, how do you explicitly teach vocabulary?  Most curriculum’s give you the vocabulary you need to teach with whatever story, text, and/or content you teach, the thing you have to remember is to explicit teach it versus glossing over it as part of your lesson.   Here is a routine for teaching vocabulary:

Vocabulary Instruction

 

Before Reading Routine:

  1. Have students say the word
    1. Teacher says the word and students repeat it (echo)
    2. Show the word
    3. Teacher says the word and students repeat it (echo)
  2. Provide a definition (kid-friendly)
    1. Teacher provides kid-friendly definition and the students repeat it
    2. Use the word in a sentence
    3. Use a picture (teacher made/found)
  3. Have students discuss what is known about the word
    1. Tell students to think about the word “What do you already know about the word?” Pause
    2. Turn and tell your partner one idea about the word. “Be ready to share with the whole group”
  4. Provide examples and nonexamples of the word. Provide more than one!
    1. Example (thumbs up)
    2. Nonexamples (thumbs down)

 

After Reading Routine:

  1. Engage in deep processing activities by asking questions, using graphic organizers, or having students act out the word.
  • Semantic map
  • Word Web
  • Etc.
  1. Scaffold students to create powerful sentences with the new word
    1. Have students work in partners to create sentences using posted sentence starters

Strategies for Struggling Readers

strategies for struggling readers

 

How to help struggling readers in upper elementary?  By the time students get into the upper elementary grades they are expected to be able to read and comprehend at a certain level.  In most states they are even expected to take and pass a state test. So what do you do when they are not where they are supposed to be?  There is not enough time in the year to go back two to three years and reteach what they should have gotten I second or third grade.  In 3rd-5th grades they should be reading to learn not learning to read.  However, I have learned that that is not always the case.  I have always had to close major gaps when teaching in the upper grades. It can be quite frustrating. Luckily the strategies I have used have helped close gaps and I have experienced growth from most of my students.   Now that is a big part of keeping your sanity as a teacher, you have to realize that you may be able to have growth and not focusing on getting them on grade level, depending on where your students are.   The steps to take to help you’re struggling readers is vocabulary instruction, word study and reading fluency. Your students cannot progress if they do not have those basic skills.  Students cannot comprehend if they cannot read the words.  And I am so surprised at how limited our students vocabulary is even for my on grade level readers.

Vocabulary instruction is so important to building and improving your students comprehension.  When tutoring and small group instruction I find my students either guessing or just skipping words, which is hindering their comprehension.  Prefix, suffix, and affix knowledge can open them up to thousands of new words so ensure they become proficient with this concept, as well as teaching multiple meaning words.

Word study is the students practicing these skills.  I wrote a post on effective reading instruction where I stress practice, practice, practice.  Vocabulary words, spelling activities, writing using new words, etc. can all help enhance their word knowledge.

And lastly, reading fluency is very important especially for us that have state test.  Students need to be able to read quickly and fluently in order to be effective on these test.  In our state the test are timed and this can cause anxiety, not possible finishing and most importantly loss of confidence when the students see other finishing before them.  I recommend 6 minute fluency daily or at least 3 times a week, this is where students practice fluency daily for six minutes with a partner.  They time each other do a word count and check for understanding during and after the reading.  You can have questions that students can use to guide them.  Of course, this has to be explicitly taught and practiced often until it is a routine.

 

Below is a list of sites I always go to for help with my reading instruction:

 

http://www.upperelementarysnapshots.com/2017/06/23-effective-vocabulary-activities.html

http://www.teachingwithamountainview.com/

http://teachingtoinspire.com/2016/07/how-i-teach-reading-in-5th-grade.html?utm_source=bloglovin.com&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed:+TeachingToInspire+(Teaching+To+Inspire+with+Jennifer+Findley)

http://crafting-connections.blogspot.com/

https://www.theclassroomkey.com/2015/08/what-every-teacher-should-know-about-teaching-vocabulary.html

 

 

Nine classroom management tips to start your year off right

classroom mgmt

Classroom management is the key to being a great teacher and having a great school year.  If you don’t have great classroom management your year will be horrible.  And you will wonder why you chose this job and why the kids don’t like you…lol, but you have to remember how to start your school year off right. And that is by establishing your classroom management standards from day 1!

 

  1. Set class rules and procedures, the first couple weeks of school you should practice these procedures and helping the students to remember the rules. You need to ensure kids know these rules have them recite them back to you, you can give a test.  There so many activities that you can do to ensure that the kids know the rules and procedures.  Remember this must happen at the beginning of the school year.
  2. You should have no more than four to five rules. You will have a lot more procedures i.e. on how you want your class to run but keep the rule list short. This way you can ensure students can remember.
  3. Establish entry and exit routines. For example, how to enter your room do they get materials and start a warm-up, or enter get your materials and wait for instructions you have to have some type of routine so that the kids know what to do when they come into your room.  As well as exit, do they have to complete an exit ticket, do they just leave when the bell ring, there must be some type of routine or there will be chaos.
  4. Be consistent! We all know that sometimes there are some things that happened that you can’t foresee like fire drills, assemblies, or teachers being absent but always try to at least be as consistent as possible to keep you and your student’s sanity.
  5. Decide what it is a No in your class. There are some rules you will have that are nonnegotiable.   Kids want to negotiate  and there may be a things that can be negotiated based on their behavior but there are some things that you should just not do or allow and they should be aware of what that is, for me it is no name calling.  I never want any student to feel uncomfortable in my class that is nonnegotiable for me. My students know that they will either lose recess or have to call their parents “I consider it bullying”
  6. Build relationships with students talk to them and be open to letting them talk to you. Get to know your students, when you have these relationships they are more apt to follow your rules and procedures.  Most times your students will ensure that your class is running smoothly because they like you and want to please you.  Plus they know what your expectations are.
  7. Let students know consequences of rule breaking don’t let it be a surprise. Always ensure they are aware of the consequences of their actions.  That is not to say you cannot make adjustments to what the consequences are but you always want to stay consistent with students
  8. Reward positive behavior sometimes as teachers we tend to overlook our students who are really trying to follow the rules and who are trying to be good students and citizens. They are often overlooked especially when you have a lot of behavior problems. But we cannot forget the all the positives.  Many times when our students that struggle with behavior, see that a student is getting rewards for being good, a lot of times that helps to change their behavior I like Class Dojo to help me keep track and if they are good I even let my trustworthy students be my dojo monitor. Be careful they have to be trustworthy or all of their friends will have a lot of points
  9. Practice your rules and procedures if you want your students to learn the rules basically practice, practice, practice. Practice makes perfect, don’t assume just because you’re in the third six weeks that your students will know or remember the rules unfortunately they are kids and we have to keep reminding them of the rules, don’t get upset (I mean all the every time) because they will forget and it is just a part of teaching. They will  have it by the end of the year I promise…lol!

 

What are some of the rules that you use in your class or do you have any classroom management tips that you feel helps your class run smoothly, please send a comment and share out, I would love to hear what everybody else does.