April 15

Daily Writing

I am always investigating ways to increase the incidental writing that i can get my students to do. As they get older many students begin to dislike writing, I think this correlates with the time that writing changes from writing a few sentences (K-2) into writing ‘text types’ with paragraphs. Last year when I had an all boys class, I was faced with two thirds of the class being very ‘anti-writing’. I had to try to promote as much incidental, daily writing as possible.

I had used journal writing in the past, but found many students had ‘writers’ block’ when left to write their own thoughts. Journal writing topics are great, I found  a lot of ideas here.  I developed a journal writing topic that gave the students the content for their writing. I linked this to social skills, cultural events, class topics and student interest and made sure that a range of writing styles and genres were covered.

journal writing sample

To promote vocabulary, I used a ‘word of the day’ study and combined it with my journal writing.  I created templates for the journal writing.

Click here: journal writing to access the templates. (NB: They are Australian based. Some fonts may not load if you are opening this PDF on a MAC)

As I had an all boys class, I did a little bargaining. One of the Journal Writing tasks I substituted for Journal Drawing. I gave them a specific drawing task as they all loved drawing.

Click here: journal drawing to access my journal drawing template.  (NB: They are Australian based. Some fonts may not load if you are opening this PDF on a MAC)

journal drawing sample

This year I am back on a Co-Ed Class, and am continuing to use Journal Writing. I have added an Extension section, as I have a lot of fast finishers, and this can include the Journal drawing options. I have also created a handwriting activity to substitute for one of the Journal Writing tasks. This sheet gets stuck in our handwriting book not our journal, and the extension tasks continue our handwriting skills, with a social skills focus.

Journal Writing 2011

I try to do three journal writing/handwriting sessions a week with a word of the day. I don’t have my class on Tuesdays due to Assistant Principal commitments. Having only 3 a week gives me flexibility to move one around if changes occur, or if for some reason I’m not there!

April 1

Kagan Cooperative Learning

In the summer holidays I attended a conference and was lucky to attend 3 workshops run by Laurie and Spencer Kagan. The Kagan’s have revolutionised the idea of Cooperative Learning, Something I believed I was doing well, until their workshops!

Yes I was using cooperative learning strategies to some extent, in a random manner. ‘ Turn to the person next to you and share your ideas’, ‘Find a partner and work together’, ‘Tell your group’ were common phrases I was using. The Kagan’s strategies for cooperative learning (or ‘structures’ as they call them) are nothing new, good teachers have been using them in one way or another for years. But their structures are presented to the class in an explicit way, teaching the strategy from start to finish.

Each structure has been designed for maximum classroom participation at all times. This removes the situation of the smarter or more outspoken students dominating group time by speaking too much or doing all the work. Roles, responses and tasks are demonstrated before each structure is carried out.

One of the structures I have used this year is Talking Chips.

Here are the 4 steps that you explicitly teach the students. These slides come from the DVD.

Talking chips 1

Talking chips 2

Talking chips 3

Talking chips 4

I bought two packets of poker chips from the $2 shop. I found you needed to teach the children not to ‘play’ with the chips, there was a lot of tapping and spinning of the chips the first time we did Talking Chips. We did it for some brainstorming activities in Literacy and History lessons. After reading a text we did talking chips for naming all the characters, and for our topic on The Australian Gold Rush we did it naming miners’ equipment. At this stage I am using talking chips as a way to recall knowledge. I have been using other Kagan Structures for the sharing of ideas.

It was very successful, due to the novelty of using the poker chips. I have found that if I overuse the Kagan Structures for Cooperative Learning that the kids tend to get over it, so it’s been useful rotating a few each fortnight. I am looking forward to implementing more structures soon!