Archive for April, 2011

This week I selected a poem by David McCord, one of my favorite children’s poets. In a New York Times article in 1964, he wrote this: “‘three things should be remembered: good poems for children are never trivial; they are never written without the characteristic chills and fever of a dedicated man at work; they must never bear the stigma of I am adult, you are a child.”

How true.
This is My Rock
by David McCord

This is my rock
And here I run
To steal the secret of the sun.

This is my rock
And here come I
Before the night has swept the sky.

This is my rock
This is the place
I meet the evening face to face.

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Inquiry station

I’ve been working with primary teachers at Mark Twain Elementary in HISD (Houston) on stations. They are an IB school and teach with PYP themes. Currently, kindergarten is studying about life cycles as part of their PYP studies. So, they’re going to set up an Inquiry Station using materials they already have in their rooms. Can’t wait to see what they do!

Here are some of the things they already have set up in their rooms. Right now they’re studying life cycles. Some classrooms have an “I Wonder” board posted. The class can jot down questions about their topic of inquiry to answer at this station!

1- PYP themes are posted in this kindergarten room.

Life cycle materials are already in place.

This "I Wonder" board could be integrated into a new inquiry station.

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It was a joy working with teachers in grades K-4 on math work stations in Frankfort, IN. We met in grade level teams and looked at their curriculum and state standards. We also checked out the Common Core State Standards (www.corestandards.org) for math. Then we planned upcoming lessons and math stations to accompany them. We used the planning form in Chapter 8 of my new book, Math Work Stations. I’ve posted pictures of the work we did in 4th grade since many of you have been asking about how to create math stations for upper grades. They were teaching about improper fractions. We made a sample anchor chart for improper fractions that the teachers will make WITH their classes to help anchor this learning. Students can refer to the chart as they learn about and explore math stations related to improper fractions. Not all stations will have fraction work at them. Some stations will review other concepts as well.

How to Plan for Math Stations:

1. Look at what you’re teaching. Talk about how you’re teaching concepts as a grade level and share ideas!

2. Use materials and games/activities you’re already teaching in whole group math (or even small group for some kids).

3. Plan for related math stations to be used as follow-up and review by pairs of students. Be sure kids are familiar with concepts and activities so this isn’t brand-new work. Familiarity helps students work independently.

4th grade planning chart for math work stations related to what is being taught next

4th grade sample anchor chart for improper fractions- this will be made with students to anchor their learning for this challenging concept

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Poetry Friday: Spring

Here is a great spring poem to share with kids — there is so much life and rhythm in it, and so many fun words and rhymes. Enjoy!


By Karla Kuskin

I’m shouting
I’m singing
I’m swinging through trees
I’m winging skyhigh
With the buzzing black bees.
I’m the sun
I’m the moon
I’m the dew on the rose.
I’m a rabbit
Whose habit
Is twitching his nose.
I’m lively
I’m lovely
I’m kicking my heels.
I’m crying “Come Dance”
To the fresh water eels.
I’m racing through meadows
Without any coat
I’m a gamboling lamb
I’m a light leaping goat
I’m a bud
I’m a bloom
I’m a dove on the wing.
I’m running on rooftops
And welcoming spring!

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Often, primary teachers have many phonics materials available in their classrooms. One teacher I worked with had write-on cutouts for students to use for working with word families. These are good materials for literacy work stations. However, don’t put out too much at once. And differentiate the materials so the right kids are working with the right word study patterns.

Here are photos of materials we recently sorted (and color-coded) for students in kindergarten (or grade 1):

Dont put out all the phonics charts at once. Less is more!

These word study patterns are the easiest ones from the set. Use these with students reading easier books at DRA levels 5-6.

Other students at DRA levels 5-6 might use these cards with more challenging patterns after they show mastery of easier ones.

For kids working at DRA levels 3-4, provide CVC activities, such as these write the CVC word picture cards with Elkonin boxes or Word Sliders from Lakeshore (after youve taught with them in small group).

For kids working at DRA levels 1-3, have them do sound sorts. Start with beginning sounds. Then move to ending sounds, Finally students can sort pictures by middle sound, as shown at this pocket chart station.

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As I drove up to my training site in Indiana, I saw the most unusual site! A large bus from Kokomo Schools had just pulled into the parking lot, and teachers were getting off the bus carrying camp chairs! I had been told that our venue was in an interesting space, but this was a first!

You know that times are tough out there! So, to save money, these dedicated teachers took a bus (rather than driving in their own cars) to drive over an hour. The bus wouldn’t start several times, but they made it (there and home again!). We had to meet in a gym in an old school that no longer has kids there (it was free to meet there!) and there wasn’t enough seating. That’s why these folks brought their camp chairs. We had a wonderful training on math work stations. It was a venue I’ll never forget!

Teachers in camp chairs at training on math stations

Teachers sit at cafeteria tables and camp chairs during training

Kokomo teachers and their bus (that kept breaking down!)

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Here’s the last installation in the Lullaby series. It’s the classic nursery rhyme that all students should be exposed to! Great for listening to rhyming words and for dramatizing. You might want to use the book, Hush Little Baby by Sylvia Long, as a repeated read aloud. And here’s a link for retelling pieces for this lullaby.

Hush, Little Baby

Hush, little baby, don’t say a word.
Papa’s gonna buy you a mockingbird

And if that mockingbird won’t sing,
Papa’s gonna buy you a diamond ring

And if that diamond ring turns brass,
Papa’s gonna buy you a looking glass

And if that looking glass gets broke,
Papa’s gonna buy you a billy goat

And if that billy goat won’t pull,
Papa’s gonna buy you a cart and bull

And if that cart and bull turn over,
Papa’s gonna buy you a dog named Rover

And if that dog named Rover won’t bark
Papa’s gonna buy you a horse and cart

And if that horse and cart fall down,
You’ll still be the sweetest little baby in town.

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Last month my Stenhouse editors Philippa Stratton and Toby Gordon took a welcome break from their Maine winter to visit Houston at the start of our spring season! They visited classrooms at Askew Elementary where I’ve been working all year in preparation for filming a video on math work stations in grades 1 and 2 next fall. It was fun watching stations in action, and my editors got their first glance at seeing a Smart Board being used by students, too! After our visit, they had a chance to dine outdoors before heading back to the airport (and the freezing Northeast!). Their visit was a treat for us all!


My math editor, Toby, talks with a pair of 2nd graders at a math station about their work.

My editors, Philippa and Toby check out the Smart Board in Asma's 2nd grade classroom along with Rebecca, our producer.

Philippa, Editorial Director at Stenhouse Publishers, enjoys visiting the classrooms where I am working.



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Here is the third lullaby in my series of these sweet, calming poems:

The Wind’s Lullaby
by Wayne Leon Learmond

A cool wind is blowing
across the land tonight

The stars are shining brightly
in the evening of twilight

The trees are whispering – silently
the birds, have taken flight

And the wind,
she hums
a song of old
and kisses the land goodnight.

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On Saturday morning our instructor at the gym said, “Would you like to do stations today?” Everyone enthusiastically said they’d like to try something different! So she set up areas all around the room with equipment and exercises with which we were very familiar.

She reviewed how to do each exercise (that we knew from previous lessons) and then assigned each of us to a station. We spent 1 minute working out continuously at each one, and then our teacher told us to switch as she watched the clock (so we wouldn’t get worn out and not want to do the next one). She planned for a balance of what we would practice at each station… some for upper body, others for lower. We had a jump rope station, the chest press station with free weights and a bench, the kettlebell station for lower body strength, a biceps curl station with a body bar, a station for crunches with a medicine ball, the “plank” station on a mat, the ball rollup station with a large exercise ball, and the triceps station with free weights, to name a few. We got a great workout and had fun. The time flew by!

At the end of class, our instructor asked if we’d like to have stations on a regular basis. We all said we would. She’ll vary the activities from time to time so we don’t get tired of the routine. I kept thinking of all the parallels between what we did here and literacy and math stations.

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