Thursday, July 17, 2014

Reading Informational Text - Using Graphic Organizers

When teaching informational text and nonfiction, it's important for students to be able to interpret and transfer the information in a meaningful way so they understand what they are reading. There are so many different types of graphic organizers to use when studying informational text. And, it's important for teachers to understand how and when to use the graphic organizers.

Graphic organizers provide students with an organized framework so they can connect existing knowledge with new knowledge. They can be text boxes, bubbles, pictures with lines and arrows filled with facts, ideas and concepts. They have been used for all subject areas in print, online, on iPads and in interactive notebooks. Studies have shown that graphic organizers are effective in improving reading comprehension and quality of research.

I use graphic organizers when I teach informational text and nonfiction. It lays the foundation for students to use them as a tool during the research process and so they can create their own graphic organizers according to what they are studying.

Education Place has an abundance of graphic organizers that can be used in the classroom. They are generic and very easy to use.

Reading A-Z is another great website that has a even more attractive graphic organizers that are categorized according to grade levels and reading strategy, comprehension skill and vocabulary.

Many of my products are informational text and nonfiction so I include different types of graphic organizers. 

In my Biography of Famous Americans, I use graphic organizers to teach about important events in their lives, text features and text structure.

If you use the iPad in your classroom, it is worth spending $25 for a class set of graphic organizers for your hand-held devices. Tools 4 Students is my favorite app for any subject. It has 25 different graphic organizers that you can use in your classroom. It only costs $.99 per iPad. The completed organizers can be emailed, saved as a PDF and saved to your Drop Box. 

Saturday, July 12, 2014

From Lemons to Lemonade: Making the Most of Your Summer

I was driving down the street when I saw my neighbor's children selling lemonade and cookies. I couldn't help but stop and buy some delicious raspberry lemonade. They were so professional in asking which size I wanted and giving me the cost of my purchase. This made me think of selling lemonade as the foundation of entrepreneurship and learning about economics.

Besides having fun with friends selling lemonade and visiting with customers, parents can talk about the cost of buying the items needed and profit. This is also a wonderful way of giving back or donating profits to a worthy organization or charity. Our local elementary challenged the students to earn money for a fundraiser the school was having. The money was then donated to a local charity.

I have several units on economics and entrepreneurship that teach the basics in starting a business. I include vocabulary, PowerPoints, templates for brochures and flyers and other activities for young entrepreneurs. These are some of my top selling products.

This product is great for upper elementary. Students develop their own business plan.

Everyone love chocolate. This product is fun for all elementary grade levels. Students can create their own chocolate bar, store front and invite parents to their chocolate party!

For extra practice with money, students can work the problems and check them by scanning the QR codes. And, they can design their own lemonade stand. 

I love the app "How to Make Lemonade." It's a cute how-to book. Or, try the Lemonade Stand simulation that my students absolutely love. This is on the Primary Games website.

I hope you and your students enjoy your summer with some cool lemonade!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Reading Informational Text - Prior Knowledge

When reading informational text, students can use any prior knowledge they have to make connections and lay the foundation for new knowledge. "Prior knowledge lies dormant until making a correlation between what was learned and what is new learning." (Virginia L. Wallace and Whitney Norwood Husid)

Before giving the students nonfiction books to read, I show the students pictures, objects and even some videos. We discuss everything we know about the subject or person and then use a graphic organizer to group the information. The students tell how they know the information; have they read about the subject, have they been there or seen it or has someone told them about the subject? It's important to understand their connections to the subject and if their prior knowledge is correct and can be proven.

In studying biographies, I present a book about someone that all the students are familiar with. I love using famous inventors, people who are still living and Walt Disney. I try to use anyone who can spark enthusiasm.

Using background knowledge can help student students make predictions about the text and the author's purpose or central idea and help them with comprehension. When reading text, prior knowledge about the subject can also help with vocabulary. 

Having prior knowledge about general text features can also help students as they read a nonfiction book or any type of informational text. When the author uses side bars, graphs, captions, etc., it grabs the reader's attention and helps in understanding the author's central idea. As students read the text, headings, subheadings, different types of print, it makes it easier to know the what the content will be about in a particular section of the book or article.

Using prior knowledge can also help with differentiation in the classroom. Extending a child's learning or focusing on student needs based on a child's learning experiences is a way teachers can differentiate on projects and essential skills.

Using a simple KWL chart during nonfiction units is a simple way of learning "What do I Know?" Students can self-examine and take ownership in their learning. Students will record what they have retained or recalled from earlier learning experiences; not, what they think they know.

I used to discourage my students from reading or doing research about subjects or people they were familiar with. I didn't realize they actually wanted to deepen their understanding about the subject and prior knowledge helped them in making the connections to absorb new information. Making connections is essential in reading informational text. Otherwise, students will find the information boring and just words on a page. Reading informational text and using their prior knowledge lays the foundation for reading and comprehending the new information and making it more meaningful.

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