Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Hey girl...Leap Day Sale on TpT!


What:   Big Leap Day Sale.


When:  Well, Leap Day of course!
Who:    Me and and tons of other TpT sellers.
Why:    To save you a bunch of money on great products
How:   Use coupon code L2P29 when you check out for 10% off. Many sellers including me are throwing 20%off sales in our stores, so that means 28% off for you altogether!


This picture added by request from some of the male sellers on TpT.  

Monday, February 27, 2012

FREE Leap Day Mad Lib!

Here is a fun activity to do on Leap Day with your students! Mad Libs are not only fun, they are a terrific way to practice parts of speech! This one is designed to easily be used individually, in pairs or small groups, or with the entire class. Another option is to send it home as a fun homework assignment!


Just in case you missed it, you can also get The Leap Day Challenge, a FREE Leap Day scavenger hunt activity here.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Inference Guest Post for PediaStaff!

I had the honor to guest post for PediaStaff this week! The post is on teaching inference and there are a ton of great ideas for teachers of all populations.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Pinterest DOs and DON'Ts

As you probably know, Pinterest is gaining popularity as at a rapid rate. What you might not know is that there is some controversy about copyrights and the way images are used. Here are some DOs and DON'Ts for using Pinterest legally and politely.

DO understand the terms of use you agreed on when you signed up for Pinterest in terms of copyright. Basically, despite the site's encouragement to pin whatever you want from wherever you want, the terms of use say that you are the owner of what you pin and that Pinterest can do whatever it wishes with any images that are pinned. Learn more about this from Laura Candler's post on Cork board Connections.

DON'T pin it unless it is yours or you have permission to pin it. If you want to let people know that it is okay to pin from your site or blog, you can get a button like this one at Cork Board Connections right here. If you do not want images from your site pinned, you can get some code from the Pinterest site that you can install to block all pins.

DO make sure that your URLs are correct. That means be sure they are linked to the original post where the image was found (not google images, not someone else's post that references the original, but to the original post).

DON'T use someone else's image that you found on Pinterest and change the URL to link to your own blog or site. You'd think that would go without saying but...

DO make sure that you pin to the specific blog post, not the main blog page. This is easy to mess up if the post is the most recent one and is already at the top. Be sure to click on the post title to isolate the post you want before pinning!

DO check links before repinning. Before placing a pin on one of your boards make sure it actually leads to the post that the pin indicates. Also make sure the pin represents the post. Did the post lead to something offensive? Sometimes a funny pictures links to a post of several funny pictures, but they may not all be squeaky clean. Did the post turn out to be something that costs money that you thought would be free? You might not want to repin after all.

DO write something meaningful in the description box. This is how people who are using the search field will find your pins! Also, it is okay and in many cases preferable to delete what you find in the description box on a repin and rewrite it in your own words.

DON'T over self-promote. A little here and there is fine, but if you are just posting a bunch things from your store all over the place, you are just going to annoy people. Personally, I am particularly annoyed when my wall or a collaborative board is covered in products for sale from one seller who has posted the same product or group of products over and over and over within a few minutes. I just scroll through them and don't stop to click through or repin.

DO put an indication of price in the description if it is teacher created product. This one is just my own opinion. I know that things without prices get repinned more, but this facebook poll confirmed my belief that this annoys more people than not. By the same token, if your item is free, be sure and say so in the description!

DO follow me! I have thousands of pins on over 60 boards, many related to teaching. I pin every day and truly strive to be a resource for teachers and parents.

You can find more tips for using pinterest here. You can find links to my most popular pins here.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

20 Fun Dr. Seuss Themed Writing Prompts!

  1. Make a list of things you could do to cheer up the Grinch.
  2. The Cat in the Hat is lending you Thing 1 and Thing 2 for the day. What will you do with them?
  3. In I Can Read with My Eyes Shut, Dr. Seuss wrote, "The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more things that you learn, the more places you'll go." Do you think this is true? Why or why not?
  4. If you could ask Dr. Seuss three questions, what would you ask?
  5. Pretend that you get to choose one Dr. Seuss book that will be translated into every language and given to every single child on the planet. Which book do you choose? Why?
  6. Create a new animal for If I Ran the Zoo. Describe your animal in detail, give it a name, and illustrate it. 
  7. Would you eat green eggs and ham on a boat with a goat? Why or why not?
  8. Write a new ending for The Cat in the Hat.
  9. Horton was determined to save Whoville. Write about a time when you were very determined to do something.
  10. Write an advertisement for the Star Belly Machine that appears in The Sneetches. 
  11. Choose a Dr. Seuss character and pretend that you will spend the day together. Create a schedule for the day.
  12. Make a Top Ten list of your favorite Dr. Seuss books. Be sure to rank your books according to how much you like them.Your favorite book should be at the top of the list. 
  13. Write a poem about yourself in the rhyming style of Dr. Seuss. 
  14. What would you do if the Lorax gave you the very last Truffula seed?
  15. And to Think that I Saw it on Mulberry Street features a boy who hugely exaggerates what he sees to make his story more interesting. Write an exaggerated story about something you saw on the way to school (it does not have to rhyme).
  16. What emotions do you feel when you read or hear The Cat in the Hat? Make a list of at least five different emotions and tell what in the story makes you feel each one. 
  17. Pretend that you live in Whoville. Write about an average day in your life.
  18. Think of a Dr. Seuss book that has been made into a cartoon or movie. Which version do you like better, the book or the cartoon/movie. Why?
  19. What is your favorite Dr. Seuss book? Why is that one your favorite?
  20. While they are loads of fun, many Dr. Seuss books also meant to teach the reader things about life or to give advice. What are some things you have learned from Dr. Seuss?

If you are looking for more great writing prompts, check out these two resources.


Picture copyright: The feline hat image was created by me. You may use it on any blog post or printed resource if you properly cite the image as belonging to Rachel Lynette and link back to this blog post. 

Monday, February 20, 2012

FREE Leap Day Challenge!

Leap year only comes once every four years, so why not have some fun on Leap Day? This activity is perfect for upper elementary students. Use it with the whole class, as enrichment or even homework.


Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Exploring Nonfiction Text Features

Nonfiction texts can seem a little overwhelming at first. Encouraging students to view a nonfiction book in terms of its parts or features can help quite a bit. The very first thing that students should understand about most nonfiction texts is that they don't need to read every word from start to finish. A nonfiction book can be compared to a grocery store. You buy what you need. You don't need one of everything. In a nonfiction book, you read the parts that you need. Of course, there are times when it does make sense to read a nonfiction selection straight through, such as when you want to learn everything you can about a particular subject, but in most cases, students are using nonfiction texts to find specific information.

Understanding text features can help students to find the information they need quickly and effectively. Here are some ideas for how to help your students as they explore nonfiction texts.

The table of contents 
Teach students to scan the table of contents for chapters or sections that look useful. Often, children and adults skip this step in favor of thumbing through the book looking for relevant chapter headings and subheadings. Here is a fun experiment way to show your students how useful the table of contents can be. Give everyone the same text book. Split the class in half and have one half find a specific piece of information using the table of contents and have the other half do it by thumbing through the book. It should become blatantly clear which method is more effective.

Headings and Subheadings
These may serve to hold the reader's interest, but in most nonfiction texts, their purpose is the give the main idea of the following section. One way to demonstrate this concept is to have students quickly go through one chapter reading only the headings and subheadings. Then ask what information they think they would find if they read the entire chapter.

Illustration, photos, and captions
Pictures make the text come alive. They are also a great opportunity to help your students dig deeper into the subject at hand. Here are some questions to ask students about a specific picture:
  • How is this picture related to the main text?
  • What can you learn from this picture that you can't from the text?
  • Would a different picture be better on this page? If so, why and what would the picture be of?
  • Does this picture make you want to read the text (as a side note, editors know that people tend to look at the picture first, then read the caption, and then read the text...IF they are still interested, so often pictures are picked specifically to hold the reader's interest)?
  • Is the caption interesting? Does it help you to understand the picture better?
Maps, Diagrams, Graphs, Tables, and Charts
These types of features are great because they not only grab your attention, they can also hold a great deal of information. Here are some things ideas for what to do with one of these features:
  • Use the questions above adapted for the feature you are focusing on.
  • Orally or in writing, have students state everything they have learned from a specific map, diagram, graph, or table. Don't rush this. Give them the time and encouragement to find every nugget of information. In addition to learning more about the subject at hand, this is a terrific exercise in fluency and possibly inference, depending on the image you are using. 
  • Without showing students a given page, read the text to them out loud. Then tell them that the page includes a map (or diagram or chart). Ask them what they think the map shows. Get many different ideas, or if one ideas seems to be prominent, explore that idea to find out what features the students think would be featured on the map. Then compare the students' predictions with what is actually on the page.
Sidebars and Fact Boxes
These popular features are showing up more and more in children's nonfiction text, mainly because they tend to grab attention and are a great way for the author to fit in information that would not go easily into the main narrative. Here are some questions to ask when reading sidebars:
  • What is the main idea of this sidebar? Can you summarize the sidebar?
  • How is this sidebar related to the main text?
  • Why do you think the author made this information a sidebar instead of putting it into the main text?
  • Is this sidebar important? Is it interesting?
Font Styles, bullet points, and quotations
Students should know that each of these features can add to their understanding of the text. Here are some questions to ask:
  • Why is this part of the text in red (or highlighted, italicized, bolded etc.)?
  • Why did the author choose to give this information in bullets points instead of in paragraph form?
  • How is the person who is quoted important? What purpose does he or she serve?
  • Is the quote interesting? Does it add value to the text? How?
The Glossary
Make sure that younger students know that most nonfiction texts do include a glossary and that they can find  definitions for bold printed words from the text there. They can't use the tool if they don't know about it. One way to extend a glossary activity is to have students use the words they are looking up in sentences.

The index
Indexes can be a great place to find specific answers, but indexes vary by quality quite a bit. Help older students to evaluate an index to decide if it is worth using. A good index lists only important people, places, dates, events, and concepts. Further, it includes subheadings so that the reader is not faced with a long list of page numbers for a given term. Make sure that you are using a text with a good index when you teach index use. One of the most motivating ways to teach students to use an index is to do it in a scavenger-hunt type activity. Give students a list of questions. They must use the index to find the answers, noting page numbers.

Time lines, Fun Facts, For Further Exploration, Activities, etc.
Make sure students know to check the back of the book for what could be a goldmine of valuable and interesting information. Often, these features go unread because no one finds them. Of special note is the "For Further Exploration" section, which may be called by other names, but usually lists other resource materials related to the subject. The Internet resources can be particularly valuable as they can be utilized immediately, as opposed to the books and periodicals, which will probably require a visit to the library.
Hopefully, this post gave you some ideas for creating lessons and activities. If you need it right now, consider these two resources:


*While I write about a variety of topics, I feel especially qualified to write about nonfiction since I am also a nonfiction children's author. Having written or given instructions for all of these features, I have an in depth understanding of how they are used to convey information.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

FREE Presidents' Day Task Cards!

This set Presidents' Day task cards is a great way for your students to learn some fun facts about the presidents while practicing their higher-level thinking skills. Each of the 20 cards includes a piece of presidential trivia along with a creative or critical thinking challenge. These would work well at a center. Another idea is to choose one each day for your students to complete.



You can find more ideas for Presidents Day on my Presidents Day Pinterest Board or at the February Freebies Link Up over at Laura Candler's Corkboard Connection. 
Rachel Lynette
There are also tons of ideas for the younger set at Teacher to the Core

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Valentine's Freebies!

Just in case you missed them, here are two Valentine's Day Freebies.




If you want more, you can spend $3.00 and get this pack of 12 Valentine's Day Activities. There is a nice mix of ELA and math, all with an emphasis on higher level thinking.


Happy Valentine's Day!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Inference Board named Pin of the Week!


I was so thrilled to find out that PediaStaff named my Inference Pinterest Board as their Pin of the Week! PediaStaff  places pediatric therapists in schools, clinic, and hospitals throughout the country. In addition to their highly informative blog, they also have a huge Pinterest account with over a hundred boards with pins pertaining to education, child rearing, special needs, and various kinds of therapies. If you are a teacher or a parent, they are very much worth following.

The Inference Board they featured is full of pins of interesting pictures. Below each picture there is an inference question that you can pose to your class. If your school blocks Pinterest, you could make the images into a PowerPoint to use with your class. Just make sure you only use it with your class so that you do not violate the copyrights of the people who created the pictures.




Monday, February 6, 2012

20 Great Valentine's Day Writing Prompts

Here are some interesting writing prompts to try with your students this week:
  1. Write about a person that you love. What makes this person special?
  2. We often say that we "love" something. For example, "I love chocolate." What is the difference between loving a  person and loving a thing or activity?
  3. Do you think that animals feel love? Do you think a dog can feel love? A cat? What about a cow, a snake, or a slug? What makes you think so?
  4. Make a list of ways you could show your parents that you love them. 
  5. Why do you think that love is often associated with the heart as opposed to other organs in the body?
  6. Write about a time when you felt loved. 
  7. Write a paragraph to convince people that a stapler is the most romantic Valentine's gift you could ever give to someone.
  8. Pretend you have been put in charge of your class's Valentine's Day party. What would you plan to do? What would you plan to eat?
  9. What does it mean to "have a heart of gold?" Do think that you have a heart of gold? Why or why not?
  10. Do you want to get married when you are an adult? Why or why not?
  11. Do you like celebrating Valentine's Day? Why or why not?
  12. Finish this sentence 50 different ways: I love...
  13. Make a Valentine for the fictional character of your choice.
  14. Write a definition of love.
  15. Pretend that Valentine's Day has been outlawed. Write a paragraph to convince the the people who make the laws to make it legal again. 
  16. The answer is, "Valentine's Day. Write five different questions. 
  17. Would you rather not get any valentines on Valentine's Day or not get to eat any Valentine's Day treats on Valentine's Day?
  18. What does it mean to "put your heart" into something? What is something you have put your heart into?
  19. Make a list of as many things as you can that are either pink or red. 
  20. How would the world be different if people could not feel love?


Sunday, February 5, 2012

Reading Strategies Link Up!

I enjoyed writing my post on Ideas for Using Inference so much that I thought it would be fun to do a link up for Reading Strategies! I am using the term Reading Strategies to refer to strategies students can use before, during, and after reading to improve their understanding. Some examples include: visualizing, questioning, making connections (text to self, text to text, text to world), finding the main idea, summarizing, and predicting. 

Hopefully, you will find many great ideas to use with your students here. If you have a Reading Strategy blog post or freebie, you are welcome to link it up! Just follow the guidelines below. Of course I would also be thrilled if you became a follower of Minds in Bloom.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Hey, Girl...

Taking a little break from the serious...

If you haven't stumbled across them yet, there seems to be a "Hey, Girl" trend using pictures of actor Ryan Gossling. Though not really a fan, I thought the "Hey, Girls" were so funny, I created a whole Pinterest Board of them. But, I couldn't just stop there, so I created a few of my own. Hope they amuse you.




Thursday, February 2, 2012

Tips for Teaching Inference

Inference can be a tricky reading strategy to teach, which is a bit ironic since most of us are constantly inferring things about the world around us, and have been since a fairly young age. The trick is to help kids learn how to do it with text. Here are some suggestions for helping your students to learn this skill.

Be sure your students know what inference is (and what it isn't)
Inference is using facts, observations, and logic or reasoning to come to an assumption or conclusion. It is not stating the obvious (stating the obvious: that girl is wearing a fancy dress and carrying a bouquet of flowers. inference: that girl is a flower girl in a wedding). It is not prediction, though the two are definitely related. Remind your students that inference asks "What conclusions can you draw about what is happening now?" Prediction asks, "What will happen next?"

Let them know they are already experts
Find ways to show how they infer things all the time. Here are some fun suggestions for demonstrating this idea:
  • Come to school in a T-shirt from an event such as a charity run, concert, or theater performance. Ask the students what they can infer from your clothing choice. 
  • Ask the principal or another administrator to come into your classroom at a time that looks unexpected to your students. Have a short, whispered conversation off to the side, during which you point at the fire alarm in your room and then look at your watch (or any other scenario that makes sense). After the administrator leaves, ask the students what they think the two of you discussed.
  • Have a student stand in front of the class and ask what the rest of the students could tell about him if they did not already know him, just by looking. For example, his eyesight is not very good (he is wearing glasses). He likes the Sea Hawks (he is wearing a Sea Hawks T-shirt). He walked in some mud on his way to school (there is some mud caked on his shoes). 
Use pictures
Picture books are, of course, a wonderful source for pictures that can be used for inference. They make a terrific bridge from pictures to text. Here is a list of  Inference Picture Books from Amazon. Before you read the text, ask the students what they can learn from the pictures. Comics is another great source for inference pictures. Cut or block out the captions and speech bubbles and have your students discuss what they see. If you are looking for a great inference warm-up, you might want to check out my Inference Pinterest Board.

Ask questions
Ask inference questions while reading aloud, both literature and nonfiction selections across the curriculum. Teach students to use inference questions when reading independently.  Robert J. Marzono in his excellent article in Educational Leadership suggests using the following four questions:
  • What is my inference?
  • What information did I use to make the inference? 
  • How good was my thinking?
  • Do I need to change my thinking?
Make it a challenge
Have students practice creating inferences as well as identifying them by issuing an Inference Challenge. You could do this orally, but it would make a terrific writing an assignment. Basically, an Inference Challenge is another way to teach, "show don't tell." Some examples of Inference Challenges:
  • Create a character who is very smart without actually saying he or she is smart.
  • Write about a very cold afternoon without saying that it is cold.
  • Write about an old car without saying that it is old.
  • Write about somewhere that is scary without saying that it is a scary place.
Make it fun
Coming up with inferences is a bit like solving a puzzle or a mystery. Older students will enjoy Two Minute Mysteries by Donald J. Sobel. Try reading one to the class as a warm-up or when you have a few extra minutes. For younger children, check out this set of 101 Online Inference Riddles from Phil Tulga. These would be great for independent learning at a computer station. And of course, you can also check out my Inference offering: Two sets of Task Cards, one for grades 3-6 and one for grades 1-2.

Picture provided by Fourth Grade Flipper




How do you teach inference? Please share your thoughts! 
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