Monday, April 17, 2017

Help Your Students With Main Ideas With This Quick, Easy Hack

Help your students with main ideas with this quick, easy Morning Meeting hack! by A Word On Third


I've been trying to address the speaking and listening standards in my classroom during Morning Meeting since my class is working on building effective communication skills. I've been checking around for different strategies to help with this, and I found a great way to help kids organize their thoughts and differentiate between the main idea and supporting details while they share. Whether you are building on this concept during literacy instruction, or you are trying to support your students to be more organized, this post is for you!

So, there are 3 main types of sharing in a traditional Morning Meeting:
  • Dialogue sharing: one student shares something with the whole class.
  • Partner sharing: students share with each other in partnerships.
  • Circle sharing: each student shares one short thing with the class.
No matter which type of sharing you do, you can choose to have your kids share about a particular topic or have more of a free-form share.

I call this type of share a main idea and details share. Personally, I find this is best when used during dialogue sharing, when one student shares with the entire class, but if you have enough materials (and patience!) you could use this for partner sharing too. You will need one container and three to five small items to put into the container. I like to use math manipulatives and a cup for this since I always have them ready for use in my classroom.

Model the share for your students.

We know how important it is to model. This is an academic skill, and if you want this to transfer over to reading and writing, I recommend following an interactive modeling format. First, share the main idea of what you are going to be sharing about and put the container in front of you. If you're
end." That's your main idea. Put the empty container in front of you to symbolize your main idea.

Next, add each of the smaller items into the container one by one as you share a relevant detail for each item. The rest of your share about the carnival might sound like this: “I rode on the merry-go-round 3 times with my brother.” (put first item in container) “Next I got my face painted like a tiger.” (put next item in container) “Then we ate ice cream before we went home.” (put last item in container).

You can ask kids what they noticed after you model if you want to bump it up and get really academic with this. Guide them to notice transition words, how each detail supports the main idea, etc. Afterwards, students can say that they are ready for questions.

We've started working on this in Morning Meeting, and I do see that it has helped some of my students who are struggling to grasp main idea. The more academic content we can squeeze into Morning Meeting, the better!!

How do you get your kids to build main idea skills? How do you share in Morning Meeting? Let me know below!

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

How To Get Your Class Excited About Reflecting On Learning

How To Get Your Class Excited About Reflecting On Learning by A Word On Third -- starting a news station to help your students reflect


We all know reflection is a key part of learning. We ask our students to self-assess, often times modeling how to do so, and eventually our students can get really good at it. Some of our students buy into it right away, but for others it's a struggle. How could I get those students interested in reflecting? How could I get them excited to think about what they learned, how they grew, and the strategies they used to grow? I was wondering all of these things to myself in the morning while I was getting ready, as I'm sure so many of us do, when the coolest idea I've had in a while hit me. WE COULD TURN REFLECTING INTO WRITING, FILMING, AND PRODUCING A NEWS SEGMENT EACH WEEK!!

Okay, if you couldn't tell by the capital letters, I was SO pumped about this!! I'm going to walk you through how I do this step by step.

First of all, I connected the reflection piece to the parent communication piece, which I think is important. My class writes a weekly newsletter, which I've discussed in this post:


In short, instead of writing and revising (and revising and revising!) several pages of classroom updates all by myself that only get read by half of my students' families, we write a ONE PAGE newsletter each week TOGETHER as a class. I've walked you how to do it in the above post. It's really easy, but I've also offered you a super cheap template to download so you can start doing it without any extra effort. The whole process takes me 10 minutes maximum each week, and that's being super liberal. Some weeks it takes me less than 5 minutes, and it offers so much to my parents! The section of the newsletter that we brainstorm and write together is the "Ask Me About" section. In this section, students list things their parents should ask them about, and then when parents do, meaningful conversations about school can take place! Students might add something that looks like this:

Ask Me About...
  • The new reading strategy I learned to help me envision.
  • How mathematicians measure for the area of a space by multiplying a space's length times its width.
  • What we noticed and discovered during our water cycle science experiment.
  • The new greeting we learned called Baggage Claim.


Okay, you get the idea! So once the kids have generated their newsletter, we have brainstormed the most important things we did in each subject area. Here's what happens next. During our lunch time, the kids get together and write a short news segment! From start to finish, in 30 minutes this past Friday, my kids wrote and filmed the news. This allowed them to reflect on what they did all week and discuss strategies that helped them to learn. It also let them share this directly with their parents, all while giving them practice with public speaking. I can't believe I didn't think of this sooner, but I love it!!

First, delegate roles.

The way it worked for us was I took 5 students at lunch time, and each student chose a subject to report on and write about. We shared about reading, writing, math, science/social studies, and general classroom updates (which might include spelling, Morning Meeting, special area classes like art and gym, etc.). This let us cover all of the basic things that might happen in a class. I explained that the kids would be responsible for writing all of the things that we needed to reflect upon and share with parents, so they would need to be thorough. That helped them to pick the best subject. 

Don't make this crazier than it has to be, Teachers! I know your tendency to make things perfect, but this doesn't have to be!! You have to make this work for you. If it's a chore, it won't be fun.


Next, get brainstorming and writing!

Now, as I mentioned before, most of your brainstorming should be done if you've reflected with your students when writing the newsletter. You could skip that step, but I like writing the newsletter during Morning Meetings on Fridays, and like I said, it takes us only a few minutes. If you do skip that step, brainstorming will take longer.

Each child should find at least 3 or 4 things they can share about. Once they have figured out what they want to cover in the news, I let them write their script. All I do is give them blank writing paper, and I have them leave a space empty at the top and at the bottom.


Now put it all together.

So once the kids are done with each of their pieces (in third grade this really only took us about 10 to 15 minutes while eating, but it might take longer in different grade levels), we figure out what order we should say things in. 

We started with an opening sequence that each student said one sentence in. I wrote the opening piece on a big cue card/poster board, and each sentence was in a different color. The color-coding made it easier for students to read while being recorded. Our opening sequence was something like: 
"Hello, and welcome to (insert the name of your news program here)! We are going to be sharing all about our class this week. Tune in to hear the latest things we've learned about in each subject. This special news segment is all about the week of (Monday's date) to (Friday's date). Let's hear from (insert first student reporter here) with (subject area student is reporting on)."
All of my students read our news station's name at the same time, but the rest of the time, they took turns. Then, we had students close out each segment and get ready for the next one by saying things at the end of their segment like, "And now let's hear from Bob about what happened in writing this week." I let my students decide exactly what they would say.

We closed out of our news segment pretty quickly. The last student reporter just tacked on "Tune in next week for (insert news program name here)!" Again, all of the students said the name of the news segment at the same time.


Record it!

You could just record it without bells and whistles on my favorite app called Seesaw. I've given super easy, step-by-step directions for how to use that here:


If you record on Seesaw, just know that while you can pause during recording, your recording cannot exceed five minutes. My first news segment was about 4 minutes without worrying about time, so that is definitely do-able. I only had my kids share a paragraph about each subject! 

If you feel like getting a little creative, I recommend trying out iMovie. I am  NOT an iMovie expert by any means whatsoever, but I tried using it for the first time and really enjoyed the impact the few effects I used had on the overall production. There's even a news theme on iMovie that you can use and apply to your video. That's what I did! Here are some free tutorials on how to use iMovie. I did not use them, but they are supposed to be good!

I recommend posting your video of your news segment to Seesaw for parents either way, even if you make an iMovie. What makes me uncomfortable about uploading to Google Docs or Youtube is the lack of privacy. 

After all is said and done, share your video and let your students enjoy the fruits of their labor! I also noticed that when students returned from lunch and recess on Friday, they got to the meeting area super quickly since they wanted so badly to watch our news segment. I even had a student who was absent on Friday who was glued to Seesaw while she was home sick, waiting for the news segment!


How To Get Your Class Excited About Reflecting On Learning by A Word On Third -- starting a news station to help your students reflect
AHHHH! Aren't they cute with their news notes?! I love them!!! I really wish I could share the video with you. They did a phenomenal job.

Additional ideas to make your news segment pop:

  • Add words from your "sponsors" by advertising books or math games. Advertising a book not only recommends great books, but it also can help students to think about story mountains or main ideas when they describe their books!
  • Have students edit with iMovie to make this even more student-created.
  • Try using a green screen app and having special reports about current events in special places. All you need is blue or green butcher paper for this to work.
  • Bring some props on air (books being read, new projects that the students are proud of completing, etc.)
  • Allow students to interview staff and maybe even students during news segments

Let this help you build your classroom community.

I recommend that you introduce this idea to the class as a whole. My class was buzzing around the room all week looking for things to add to the news. Isn't that what we want our writers to do anyway? Explain to your students that engaged learners make the best news reporters because their excitement and knowledge translates through the screen for their viewers.

Let the kids name your news program, decide upon a logo, and generate ideas for the news as well! In the first day of trying this, my students must have come up with 50 amazing ideas, and they were annoyed when we had to stop the conversation and move on. Every single student really bought into this because it's FUN! As a teacher, I happen to feel super lucky that is is also highly educationally valuable. 

Make sure that every student is involved in the news, even if they don't want to be on camera. Students who aren't comfortable being on screen yet can record, write, and do other behind-the-scenes things (like editing!) to help produce the final product. Making this a "have to do" thing rather than a "get to do" thing isn't going to make learning fun for everyone. While this will appeal to most of your learners, you can appreciate what it's like to have stage fright! Perhaps after seeing that this is about learning and having fun and not perfection, students who were a little hesitant will be more ready to take a risk by being on camera.

I also recommend that you TALK THIS UP with families and ask them to watch the news together! Kids get so much more excited for this when their parents are on board too!!



So, have you ever filmed news with your students? How do you get your kids excited about learning? Are you going to try this!? Let me know your thoughts below!!