Literacy Ideas for primary and elementary teachers

When I first started teaching many moons ago finding resources on the internet was quite a different process to what it is today.

There was a lot less commercialism, things were a great deal more disorganised and so on... I always remembered using a website with my kids called Jenny Eather's writing fun which just had great ideas for teachers and students about teaching different styles of writing.  It was really easy to use, engaging for the kids and just made sense... It was great.

Anyhow, writing fun got bought out by a larger company and became a paid website which greatly reduced it's appeal.

But last week I was introduced to a very similar site to writing fun called literacyideas.com.  It's completely free, broken down into different styles of writing and actually has a a load of great free content to downlaod or share on an interactive screen with your students.

I strongly recommned taking a look at literacyideas.com if you teach writing to primary / elementary students and would love to hear if you know of any other great sites similar to this. 

Free interactive iPad skills poster for teachers and students

Download this in PDF Format below.

Download this in PDF Format below.

This free poster serves two purposes to both inform and educate students and teachers about nine essential iPad skills which enhance teaching and learning through the iPad.

It informs by visually prompting and reinforcing these skills to teachers and students as a simple poster.  More importantly it educates teachers and students about how to perform and use these skills through the use of video clips and other online resources.

To access these resources you will need to download a free QR reader on your iPad and scan the codes on the poster.  One I can recommend is Qrafter but any QR app should do.

The 9 essential skills are.

  • Mastering control center
  • Sharing your screen
  • Splitting your keyboard
  • Using Spotlight search
  • Multitasking and screen splitting
  • How to take great photos
  • Using Cu, Copy and Paste effectively
  • Saving images and screen capture.
  • Connecting to the clouds

I hope you find this resource useful and please share it with others via social media and the web.

You can download this free high resolution poster by clicking here.

Seven simple poetry styles your students will love

Poetry is one of the few styles of writing which openly encourages students to let go of their emotions and share them with others.

This is not an easy thing for students to do and can the process can be made even more difficult if we expect them to write deep and meaningful styles of poetry such as ballads and free verse without developing an appreciation and understanding of poetry through fun and simple structure.

These eight styles of poetry are a great entry point for teachers and students to approach poetry with confidence yet still allow for creativity and emotion to be part of the writing process.

Each style contains a clear structure you can teach your students by following the instructions, alongside diagrams and the highly recommended audio recordings by our resident voice actor Alan Munro.  Just click the audio button for each style.

These poems come from a collection of 19 styles of poetry from Innovative Teaching Ideas which include 44 pages of templates, rubrics and more for all major styles of poetry.

Clerihew

A Clerihew is a light hearted poem consisting of two couplets and a specific rhyming scheme of AABB.

A clerihew usually deals with a person or character within the first line.

Clerihews have frequently been used to mock famous people such as politicians and celebrities.

As a class start with a familiar character such as Harry Potter and compare efforts.

 

The Epitaph

An epitaph is a brief poem inscribed on a tombstone praising a deceased person, usually with rhyming lines.

Epitaph’s are usually written in a light hearted manner but they can be serious if need be.

Epitaphs have a simple rhyming pattern of AABB

Epitaphs can be used to teach us a lesson for example why we shouldn’t eat candy too often.

 

Irish Limerick

A Limerick is a rhyming humorous or nonsense poem of five lines.

It has a rhyming pattern of AABBA

Lines 1, 2 & 5 should contain 7 – 10 syllables

Lines 3 & 4 should have 5 – 7 syllables

Limericks frequently start with “there once was a…”

 

Palindrome

A palindrome or shadow poem reads  identical both forwards or backwards.

You must use the same words in the first half of the poem as the second half

Reverse the order for the second half

Use a well considered word in the middle line as a bridge from the first half to the second half of the poem

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Shape and Concrete Poetry

Poetry takes on many forms.  An artistic expression is for your poem to adopt the shape of its subject.

Shape poems are either an outline or fill the space within an outline.  Poetry within a space is also known as concrete poetry.

Any style of poetry or writing can be applied.

Start with an easy shape and change your text size for best fit.

 

Diamante

A Diamante is a seven-lined contrast poem laid out in a diamond shape.   It is highly structured and simple to understand.

Line 1: Noun or subject

Line 2: Two Adjectives

Line 3: Three -ing words

Line 4: Four words about the subject

Line 5: Three -ing words

Line 6: Two adjectives

Line 7: Synonym/antonym for the subject

 

Monorhyme

Monorhyme is a poem in  which the end of all lines rhyme.

There are no rules as to how long or short a monorhyme should be.  Stanzas are not used in monorhyme poetry.

This is a great starting point for developing rhyming skills.

Words ending in Air, Ate, it, Ing &Oh have many rhyming words.

 

I hope you find these styles of poetry useful with your students and remember to check out the entire collection of 19 styles of poetry here.

 

Dumb things our education systems do. Handwriting

More often than not when I read an article related to education it has a negative connotation  generally fitting into one of the following categories.

  • Our Teachers are failing students.
  • Technology and students are a terrible mix, get rid of it.
  • Back in my day everyone could read write and count. Why cant they now?
  • Why aren't we more like (Insert Country name here.) who does education far better than us.

Occasionally, the odd good news story breaks through, but they are few and far between.

Having worked in education for over a decade I have see some of the most inspiring through to disengaged members of our community which are part of a massive machine we refer to as  the "Education System".  In Australia we account for one of the largest sectors of the workforce.

This year, I am setting out to point out that all too often our 'Education System' like many others around the world quite simply broken by hypocrisy, outdated thinking and stubbornness which fail our teachers and students from ever reaching their full potential.  Most of my points would be 99 percent invisible to the community and very easily rectified.  Whilst some of these items may seem small and trivial they add up quickly and are simply unnecessary.

Today, I am going to highlight the Australian handwriting debacle which is a cut and dried example of commerce winning over common sense.  Whilst I am specifically addressing Australia here this is repeated in other education systems around the world.

So here we go...  I am going to hit you with the simple facts first...

  • Australia is constructed of states and territories which had exclusive control of their own curriculum until recently when the Australian Curriculum was conceived back in 2008.  It is still being rolled out to bring consistency across the nation for teachers and students.
  • Somehow, Somewhere, Someone decided each state should have it's own style of handwriting students should be using purely based upon where they live.
  • These handwriting styles are almost identical which is demonstrated in the image below courtesy of kidzcopy.com.au  

Stick with me here because this is where it gets Dumb!! If not a little unethical

  • Any educator or contractor wishing to make a resource such as an Alphabet poster or a handwriting book in Australian schools has to create five versions of the exact same thing to ensure  it can be used from Broome to Bondi.  Making it time consuming and expensive even though our curriculum is now national.
  • Most of these fonts are commercially licensed (and expensive as seen in the table below.)  So if a teacher, and even a mum, dad or student wish to make a resource they have to pay to do so.  

So here are my questions regarding what I, and many others see as just plain dumb.  Maybe someone far smarter than me can explain the answers.

  • In 2016 why do we have different fonts for each state?
  • Who decided South Australia's font was unsuitable for Victoria and so on?
  • Why do our teachers, students and parents have to buy a license to use them for purely educational purposes?
  • Who is profiteering from this experience?  Is it the education departments or some commercial group?
  • How does having to pay to produce and use 5 different fonts help our teachers and students in any way?
  • How do we fix this small but dumb element of our education system?  

Here is my solution.  The Victorian Department of Education are obviously far more progressive than their neighbours and make their font (Victorian Modern Cursive) freely available to all.  

Let's (All Teachers) just adopt it as the Australian Handwriting Font and make our teachers and students lives easier by refusing to produce anything that requires a paid font.  You can download the Victorian Font here.

We don't have to keep doing DUMB things in the future just because we have done it in the past.

I would greatly appreciate your answers and thoughts regarding this topic and love to hear what elements of education you see that you think are just DUMB!!! I have more to come.

Thug notes gives learning some much needed street cred...

Thug notes is a YouTube channel which started out as a series of comedy skits that somehow didn't pan out for it's creators who had dreams of becoming stars on the silver screen.

They created video 'cliff's notes' or quick descriptions of of classic literature and films delivered by gangsters and other highly engaging characters.

Somewhere along the line Thug notes switched from a comedy channel to one of the most viewed education channels on YouTube, as their approach had a massive impact on teachers and students.  It was both cool and well researched material.  And yes, it is funny.  It may not be for everyone, but either is sitting in a lecture theater for an hour listening to an incredibly boring analysis of lord of the flies.

Anyhow take a look for yourself here...

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A million minutes of genuine news hits YouTube

Remember the days when TV networks only scheduled an hour of news per day? and a live cross to a breaking story was for a legitimate event worth sticking with...

Well Associated Press does, and fortunately they have made their entire back catalogue of historic news events available to the world through YouTube.

Yes you can relive all one million minutes of the worlds most famous moments, both deadly serious and lighthearted.

The videos date back as far as 1895 and equate to 550, 000 individual uploads to YouTube.  The largest to date.

They are available here and could be applied to the classroom in a multitude of ways...  One thing is for sure though that those boring history lessons are about to get a little more visual.

You can access it here.

 

70 Guided reading Activities for individuals and groups

This collection of 70 Guided Reading activities has all your ELA and Common Core needs covered for grades 3 - 6 and has been a top seller since being released in February. Read the feedback for yourself.

Teachers around the globe are adopting this as their ‘Go-to’ resource for reading and writing activities for months on end without repeat. ‘No-prep’ and maximum engagement. All your students need is a book from home or school.

This bundle of beautifully presented literacy tasks will ensure your students are engaged and on task during literacy rotations either working as a group or independently. Every activity has clear instructions and open ended outcomes to meet the needs of all ability ranges.

These activities have been designed by exemplary teachers and run in our classrooms for over two decades. Each activity is designed to run for approximately 40 - 60 minutes in duration and are ‘evergreen’ meaning they can be applied to any student or text.

Overview of activities included (Please note that most tasks have multiple elements.)
40+ Activities requiring students to use a range of different writing styles.
30+ Activities requiring students to use a range of artistic and creative skills.
20+ Activities that utilize popular technology tools and applications.
20+ Dedicated group work based tasks
20+ Tasks requiring further reading, inquiry and exploration of concepts within a text.
40+ Tasks that can be applied to films and graphic novels.
10+ activities involving drama, music or role playing..
15+ Graphic organizers that can be applied to any text or topic.
Plus much more.


I’ve also added a PowerPoint file that includes all tasks as editable slides on top of a downloadable ebook. The purpose of this is to allow you to share the tasks on a large screen, and if you are fluent in PowerPoint you can edit the tasks to further suit your needs.

This highly sought after resource can be accessed here.

Why we cant expect students to be great writers until we model it as teachers

I found this article by David Cutler about the importance of modelling high quality writing for students in more than just a five minute window on the the whiteboard.  It needs to become a meaningful process every time we pick up a pen and engage with students.

This is definitely something I have been guilty of not doing as well as I could when I looked at his six focal points of how teachers should writing effectively.

1 - Teachers need to be effective writers

2 - Teachers need to share their writing

3 - Teachers need to write for their students

4- Teachers need to run writer's workshops

5 - Teachers need to seek feedback.

6- Teachers need to write about the real world.

It is a great article for anyone teaching writing and is available here.