Saturday, August 25, 2012

SIOP Saturday 4: Comprehensible Input

Happy weekend!! Today's SIOP post is our third component in the SIOP model: comprehensible input.

Here's where we are within the whole SIOP framework:

Lesson Preparation
Building Background
Comprehensible Input
Lesson Delivery

The comprehensible input component reminds teachers that they need to be mindful of the words that they use, the rate at which they speak, and to make sure that they are explaining themselves clearly to their students. This component contains the next 3 features:

10. Speech appropriate for students' proficiency levels
This feature refers to rate and enunciation, and the complexity of speech used.  Students, especially ELLs, may need more time to be able to process words.  If a teacher talks too fast, much of the information is lost. However, if teachers remember to slow down, use pauses, and speak clearly, students will be able to understand much more.  Paraphrasing and repetition are also two techniques that can help give students multiple exposures to the words and ideas that the teacher is conveying.  If teachers are familiar with the student's native language, a special emphasis on cognates (words that are nearly the same in both langauges) can also be beneficial to aiding student understanding.

11. Clear explanation of academic tasks
Teachers can help ELLs better understand required tasks by breaking directions down step by step.  Giving directions in more than one way (for example, explaining directions orally and also writing them on the board and/or providing visuals) allows students to process them the way that they are strongest, and the written directions or visuals give students something to refer back to if they need to check the directions again.  Further, teachers should model or demonstrate what they are asking their students to complete, as this gives ELLs (and ALL students) the chance to see the steps in a process in action.

12. A variety of techniques used to make content concepts clear
This feature reminds teachers of the importance of approaching learning from many different ways, and allowing students to interact with content material in more ways than just copying notes, or reading a book.  These can include: using gestures/pictures/objects to accompany speech, using multimedia within lessons, previewing the material and noting which parts to emphasize to the students, or allowing students to use a variety of ways to demonstrate their learning.

*Being mindful of using expression and body language
*Speaking slowly and clearly
*Using more pauses between phrases
*Using shorter sentences with simpler syntax
*Repeating and reviewing vocabulary
*Using visuals to accompany discussion
*Watching carefully for comprehension and being ready to repeat or clarify if necessary

How do you monitor the ways that you provide information and interact with students while teaching?

Next Saturday's topic: Strategies

Friday, August 24, 2012

First week done...and those boring perpendicular lines!

Blogger friends!!  I survived my first week of fourth grade!  Not only survived, but I absolutely love it. :D

This is the first year that I've really felt like I have a stronger handle on my classroom management system.  I did so much research over the summer (and thanks to some of you for sharing your wonderful ideas and serving as inspiration!) and really hit the ground running!

Last year Angi and my first-grade teammates introduced the clip-chart system to me, and I loved it!  The thing that I love most about the clip-chart is that you can tie it in nicely with any other behavior systems, such as schoolwide systems, or even integrating it with my classroom economy system like I want to do!  So I am still incorporating the clip-chart in my classroom this year.

However, with learning more about whole brain teaching, I'm also incorporating elements of that with my classroom.  I created my own set of class rules, but much like whole brain teaching, I make it a point for my class and I to recite the rules every day, and I also tied in some gestures to go with the rules to help us remember them.

I'm also using some of the "chants" (for lack of better term) from whole brain teaching - day one, I introduced "class-yes" and "hands and eyes" and oh goodness, I so wish I had known about them YEARS ago!  Honestly, "class-yes" is the most basic idea ever (for those of you unfamiliar, you teach your class that whenever you as the teacher say "class", the students have to respond with "yes" and then be silent and ready to listen to what you will tell them next) but it is by far ALREADY super effective at bringing my kids attention back to me when necessary.  I do have a few chatters (haha, what year have I not?) but I've already noticed the positive peer pressure from other students to encourage them to kick it in gear and get on board with the rest of us. Love love love this idea the most of all.  Honestly, try it, and I bet you'll be pleasantly surprised as well! :D

I am loving the difference between first grade and fourth grade.  My kids can already read, and can already express their ideas through writing.  We can get to the meat and bones of stories now, really thinking about what is happening and the devices that the authors are using, instead of just working on decoding words.  In math, (most of) my kids already understand how to add and subtract (one I'm not too sure about...poor sweetie) and even have experience with multiplying (dividing is still a little shaky).  I introduced silent reading and talked about the behaviors we should be using during that time, and today (after only 2 days of practice) we sat and read...actually READ...for 20 solid minutes.  My kids were engaged with their books, and we were working on writing down predictions as we read.  I was able to walk around and give individual attention to some students who needed a little extra help.  SO NICE!!

And my team of fourth grade, I take that back, basically all the staff at my school... are so WONDERFUL to work with.  And SO extremely willing to help me out with whatever questions I have, even if I've already asked them the same question 5 times in a row for 3 days straight. Haha.  Friends, I have NEVER felt so much at home in a school setting...and this is STILL just the first week!  Even after the first day, one of the other teachers asked me how things were going, and she said it just looked like I was "radiating happiness".  I'm head over heels with it all. :)

I want to leave you with my first funny... we took a math pretest before beginning with the first lesson in the book, and I didn't realize (because I wasn't the one who typed up the page) until I went to check over them that there was a typo on one of the problems.  The question should have read "are these lines perpendicular and INTERSECTING" but instead said "perpendicular and INTERESTING".  One student really considered this as she wrote her response:

Happy Friday!!

Saturday, August 18, 2012

SIOP Saturday 3: Building Background

It's Saturday again!  That means time for another installment of SIOP Saturdays!

We're up to the second component: building background.  Here's where we stand within the SIOP model:

Lesson Preparation
Building Background
Comprehensible Input
Lesson Delivery

Building background emphasizes the need to connect what students will be learning with what they already know, and filling in the gaps before teaching the lesson so that they will be successful.  This component contains the next 3 features:

7. Concepts explicitly linked to students' background experiences
As educators, we know that students come to school with previous background experiences and schemata that may be different from ours, especially if students come from a culture that is different than that of the teacher's or the general school culture.  Students' backgrounds influence the way they perceive information, and the way that they may process problems or generate solutions.  Thus, it is important for teachers to try to connect the concepts that they will be teaching to relevant background experiences that students have, or if there is no connection that can be made, teachers have to create the learning experiences to build the background knowledge for the students before teaching the new information.

It is important to note that there is a distinction between "activating prior knowledge" and "building background".  Prior knowledge is what students already possess, and thus activating it means that you are reminding students of what they already know.  When "building background" is mentioned, this refers to the need of teachers to front-load information that students will need to know before beginning the lesson in order to be successful.

8. Links explicitly made between past learning and new concepts
Teachers should explicitly build a bridge between what students have previously learned and connect it to what students are GOING to learn.  This way the teacher can explicitly explain how the concepts are related, and help the students make connections between what they know and what they are learning, which allows them to adapt new information into their schemata more easily.  This can be done by simply asking "Who remembers what we learned about _____?" or can be done by reviewing graphic organizers or classroom notes.  When possible, teachers should have and display the item/knowledge being referenced (i.e. show the graphic organizer from yesterday, or put yesterday's powerpoint up again, etc).

9. Key vocabulary emphasized (e.g. introduced, written, repeated, and highlighted for students to see)
This feature actually includes 3 types of academic vocabulary that students need explicitly emphasized:

CONTENT WORDS: the key vocabulary terms and concepts relating to a particular topic (for example, in geometry: circle, square, cube, sphere, vertex, side, face, etc, etc).

PROCESS/FUNCTION WORDS: the words that have to do with performing certain processes or tasks (for example, discuss, graph, classify, share with a partner) and language processes (for example, skim, argue, summarize, question, etc).

WORDS AND WORD PARTS THAT TEACH ENGLISH STRUCTURE: the words that allow students to learn new vocabulary, based on English morphology.  Also known as root words and their affixes.

*Journaling - students can write about their own personal experiences with a certain topic.
*Quick-writes - students can write what they learned, or what they still have questions about.
*"Tired" words - students can identify synonyms for words that are common and over-used to expand vocabulary.
*Word walls - choose words from each topic to highlight, discuss, and display for student use.
*Word sorts - students can organize words based on structure, meaning, or sound relationships.
*KWL chart - the old teacher stand-by. :)

What are some ways that you build background with your students before teaching a new topic?

Next Saturday's topic: Comprehensible Input

Friday, August 17, 2012

Finally...classroom reveal!!

Bloggers, I am exhausted.  It's so hard trying to get used to a new building and a new team and new procedures and a new grade and everything!!  And all at once! Kids start on Monday, as I've mentioned, and I'm looking at probably still having to go in tomorrow AND Sunday to try to finish up as much as I can! But, as I promised, I am FINALLY posting pics of my classroom!  Pretty much the only part that isn't finished is my library area... I still have more organizing and sorting and book unpacking that I want to do.  So pardon the fact that I'm not quite done with that area yet! :)

I'm linking up this post with Brigid's Classroom Tours Linky, and with Courtney's Show Off Your Space Linky!

Welcome to my new classroom!!
BEFORE, whole-class view:

AFTER, whole-class view:

BEFORE, entry corner:

AFTER, entry corner:
(Thanks Kristen for the fun numbered supply labels!)

BEFORE, front of classroom:

AFTER, front of classroom:

(Thanks Angi for the lovely birthday stars!)

(I don't have a before of my teacher corner...haha)

BEFORE, math wall:

AFTER, math wall (and new home of kidney table):

BEFORE, library corner and back wall:

DURING (haha), classroom library:

AFTER, back wall:
(Thanks Rachelle for the Boggle letters that look great in my classroom...even though I haven't added the actual Boggle letters yet...the header still looks great!)

BEFORE, back whiteboard (and old home of kidney table):

AFTER, back whiteboard (now CAFE board and gathering area!):
(Thanks Kristen for the CAFE letters, which actually served as the whole inspiration for beginning this journey into the world of teacher blogging!!)

BEFORE, cabinets:

AFTER, cabinets:
(The change here was more internal...and you can now see how many storage containers I have left over!)

BEFORE, sink area:

AFTER, sink area (and now word wall!):

And one more view, from the back of the room to the front of the room:

Still more last-minute things to do before I'm ready for students... but I've worked hard and wanted to finally share my progress!  Hope you enjoy! :D

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Back to school jitters linky party!

I'm exhausted!! I've been in my room every day (yes, including weekends) for the past week and a half or so.  It's sooooooooo close to being set!  And that's a very good thing, because today was the first teacher institute day, and our kids start on Monday!

Next post, I PROMISE to have some pictures finally!!  But in the meantime, I'm linking up with A Turn to Learn for the Back to School Jitters linky party! And believe me, I have plenty of jitters!

Back to School Jitters Linky Party

Saturday, August 11, 2012

SIOP Saturday 2 - Lesson Preparation

Let me begin by saying... thank goodness you don't have to have an actual voice to be able to blog, because mine deserted me!  I drove to Indianapolis yesterday to visit a fellow teacher friend... my voice began the trip with me, but did not arrive with me! But I don't need it for typing, thank goodness!  And, maybe I can get this out of my system now so that I don't have to lose it this year when I start teaching, which always seems to happen!

Anyway, time for installment 2 of SIOP Saturday!

Today's focus is on the first component of the SIOP model: Lesson Preparation.  If you remember from last time, the SIOP model has 30 features, broken down into 8 components. Here they are again:

Lesson Preparation
Building Background
Comprehensible Input
Lesson Delivery

Lesson preparation contains the first 6 features.  Think of the "features" as "important things to remember".  For me, at least, that makes it just a little easier to understand.  So, let's dive into the first 6 features:

1. Content objectives clearly defined, displayed, and reviewed with students
Many districts are requiring teachers to post their objectives in their classrooms so that any visitors or passers-by can see what learning is taking place.  SIOP stresses the importance of actually talking to your students about what the learning objectives are.  That way, everyone is held accountable for the learning being accomplished, and learning stays on track.

2. Language objectives clearly defined, displayed, and reviewed with students
Here is an important new concept for many teachers: language objectives.  I like to think of language objectives explaining HOW students are going to demonstrate their learning of the content objectives.  Language objectives should encompass one or more of the 4 language domains: reading, writing, speaking, or listening.  Here are some examples:

Content objective: Students will identify parts of a plant and their functions.
Language objective: Students will label (write) the parts of a plant on a picture and discuss (speaking and listening) the functions of each part with a partner.

Content objective: Students will understand the difference between parallel and perpendicular lines.
Language objective: Students will explain (speaking and listening) to a partner how parallel and perpendicular lines differ.

Especially with ELL students, it is important to give them opportunities to practice their language skills, and give them support when they need it (example: sentence starters or a template for note-taking).  The next time you are planning a lesson and looking at the content objectives, consider how you might be able to integrate a language objective for your students as well!

3. Content concepts appropriate for age and educational background
Occasionally teachers may have to build additional background knowledge for students if they have come from another district or another country where concepts are taught in a different order.  The common core standards that many states are adopting should help to be a good framework for teachers to reference to see what students are learning in the grades above and below the grade they teach as well.

4. Supplementary materials used to a high degree
Hands-on learning experiences and the use of realia can make lesson concepts more relevant and meaningful to students, especially if they can see how the concepts apply to real-life situations.  Thus teachers should look for opportunities to use additional materials as they are appropriate.

5. Adaptation of content to all levels of student proficiency
Especially with ELLs, every student in your classroom should be held to the same high standard of learning.  ELLs should be learning the same content, but may require the method of delivery to be adapted.  For example, they may require books at an easier reading level; a template for note-taking, or perhaps a quick one-on-one session with the teacher to build the required background knowledge so that the student can be able to learn the concepts.

6. Meaningful activities that integrate lesson concepts with language practice opportunities
Any time that students have an opportunity to practice a new skill they are learning, or a new concept, the teacher should provide a chance for ELLs to use the appropriate vocabulary and language that accompany the concept.  For example, if students are learning to compare numbers (greater than, less than, equal to) the teacher should provide the students with the chance to practice this vocabulary.  This could include talking to a partner, playing a whole-class game, or writing number comparisons while incorporating the language aspect and not just the number sentences.

Next Saturday's topic: Building Background

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Classroom Economy (with printables!)

I've been in my classroom each day this week - pretty soon I'll have some pictures to share with you!

In the meantime, I know I've been alluding to the classroom economy system I want to implement this year, so I'm finally getting around to posting about it! (Stay tuned at the end for some freebies!)

I'd seen various formats for classroom economies posted on the internet and around pinterest, so I combined  a lot of the ideas I liked into my own classroom economy system!

(I haven't tried implementing this yet, so all of this thinking is how I *hope* it will run!!)


First step will be showing the list of jobs and responsibilities and explaining each one, so that the students will have an idea of the jobs that exist, and what will be required.  I am a strong believer in every student having a job for which they are responsible in the classroom.

After that, students will complete a job application for their first, second, and third choice jobs.

I'll collect the job applications, and assign jobs. Students will be responsible for knowing when and how to perform their jobs, and how much "pay" they earn each day.


Students will receive "earnings" each day based on 3 categories: behavior, classroom job performance, and homework completion.
Behavior: I have integrated the clip chart system with this economy structure - students gain/lose earnings based on the color where they finish their day.  For more about the clip chart system, see here.  
Classroom job performance: each job receives a specific amount of "pay" each day.  If students complete their jobs, they earn their wages.  If not, then they do not earn their wages.  I'm hoping this will help motivate the students and keep them accountable for performing their jobs!
Homework completion: If students complete their homework, they earn $1 per assignment.  If they don't, they lose $1 per assignment.

Students will keep track of their monetary earnings in a personal ledger:

At the end of each day, they will total up their earnings and/or losses with a "banker" (one of the classroom jobs).  At the end of the week they will "pay rent" for their property (desk and chair) and have the opportunity to spend their earnings. (I've tried to make sure that even the lowest-paying jobs, combined with good behavior and homework habits, will allow students to have AT LEAST enough to pay rent and to start saving up for some of the rewards!! - hopefully this will hold true, otherwise I may have to adjust a bit!)  If students don't have enough money to pay rent, they can borrow a loan from the bank:
I printed some of these out and laminated them. :)

As students save up money, they can purchase privileges, or they can purchase property!
I already have to change this a bit, as I've learned my school has a strict no-food-in-the-classroom policy.  No candy option for me anymore! :)

I've tried to make the rewards enticing enough that hopefully they will want to save up to get the good ones, and hopefully it won't take too long or happen too frequently!

Or, as an alternative, students can opt to purchase their property (desk and chair) AND/OR others' property!

For example, if Sally purchases her own property, she will no longer have to pay rent.  If Sally purchases Billy's property, then Billy has to pay his rent to Sally!  Depending on how this idea goes over, I may have to instate a rule that if you can afford to buy your own property, you get dibs on it...or something like that, just so there aren't too many arguments and/or tyrant property owners! :)

WHEW! I think that's everything! Now for some FREEBIES!! :D I've included some of the above documents, in case this classroom economy system appeals to you!

I'd love to hear if any of you choose to implement this in your classrooms, and how it goes! :)

Saturday, August 4, 2012

August currently.... and a NEW feature (SIOP Saturdays!)

Thunderstorms are just starting here... I've got my bucket and towels in place (because no, bloggers, repair man has not returned to fix my ceiling yet) but so far so good and no leaks yet! (Knock on wood!)

Here's my August currently:

Also, bloggy friends, I want to introduce a new feature to my blog: SIOP Saturdays!

Background: I just completed a 3-day training in my school district about using the SIOP model for instruction.  I also took a class about it a few years ago as part of my path toward my bilingual and ESL endorsements.  I think it is such a fantastic method for teachers to use, not only for ELL students, but for ANY students!  So I decided that once a week, on Saturdays (because then my teaching week will be over, and also because SIOP and Saturday both start with S, so it makes sense!) I will highlight a feature of the SIOP model, and list a few examples of strategies that teachers can implement in their classrooms to address each feature!

Disclaimer: Let it be known, these are all MY opinions.  I am neither being told to, nor receiving any form of compensation for, explaining SIOP.  The book Making Content Comprehensible for English Learners: The SIOP Model is written by Jana Echevarria, MaryEllen Vogt, and Deborah J. Short, and copyright by Pearson Education, Inc.  Hopefully that's everything I need to include to make sure proper credit is presented where it is due. :)

Today's Feature: Overview of SIOP

I'm many teachers who are not Bilingual/ESL teachers already know what SIOP stands for, or use any of the features in their classrooms?  I know I had never heard of it before I began pursuing my bilingual/ESL endorsements.

SIOP stands for Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol.  What is it?  It is an empirically validated model of sheltered instruction.  (Those of you unfamiliar with sheltered instruction, that term means that the teacher adapts instruction in order to make the material more easily learned.  The same typical curricular standards are being addressed, but the manner of addressing them may vary based on student language skills).  In simple words, SIOP provides a framework for teachers to use in lesson planning and delivery in order to be more mindful about WHAT they are teaching and HOW the students will learn the material and practice language skills.

There are 30 specific features of the SIOP model, and these features are grouped into 8 main components:

Lesson Preparation
Building Background
Comprehensible Input
Lesson Delivery

My goal for this series is to address one of these components each Saturday, highlight the features that are specific to each component, and show some examples of strategies (when applicable) that can be integrated into classroom instruction to promote student engagement and student success.  I hope you will join me through this series!  Next week I'll start with Lesson Preparation! :)

(Also, through the typing of this post, the rain came and went, and brought old leaks and new.  Ceiling leaked again (but this time just through the hole he made, so I guess that was a good call on his part!) and also the frame above my patio door.  Sad face again.)

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Classroom sneak peek!

Ohhhhh friends... I am so happy!

I had a last-minute opportunity offered to me to attend a SIOP workshop in my district over three days (yesterday, today, and tomorrow) that is actually being hosted at my school building... so I've had the chance to meet teachers from my school and the other schools in the district, which has been amazing!! Everyone has been so kind and welcoming to me, and I am SO super excited (even more than I was before!) to be where I am this year.

Today I also had the chance to get...the keys to my new classroom!!!  And I got to go in, and took some pictures, and am anxious to start thinking about how to arrange everything.  The teacher who had the room before me retired, so she left lots and lots of materials and resources... which is good because I'm sure much of it will be useful, but a little bit distressing because it just means I have THAT MUCH more stuff to go through and organize.  But I still have lots of time to do it!  So here is the "before" picture of my classroom - be not deceived, it may look like it's up and ready to go, but I haven't brought ANY of my things into the room yet, and I haven't done ANY decorating of my own!!

I'll keep you updated on my progress!! :)