Thursday, March 5, 2015

Worksheets Don't Grow Dendrites Book Study: Chapters 1 and 2

I'm so excited to be linking up with Elizabeth from Kickin it in Kindergarten for this fabulous book study. 

I finally have a little time to write because this is what it looked like outside my window when I started this post: 

A couple inches down, several more to go. Yuck. I'm over winter. 

But I'm glad to have a little extra time to read and blog today (and probably Friday, too, at this rate). 

If you're looking for a quick read that will affirm what you are already doing and give you some great ideas on how to improve, Worksheets Don't Grow Dendrites by Marcia L. Tate is the book for you. In the Introduction, she gives examples of two teachers who teach the same content but in opposing ways, pointing out that the one who uses movement, engagement, and ownership will yield better results from students than the teacher who simply reads from the textbook. 

Chapter 1: Brainstorming and Discussion opens with a rhyme from one of Tate's other books: 
"They can't talk in class. 
They can't talk in the hall.
They can't talk in the cafeteria.
They can't talk at all."

As my school's Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) coach, I can relate to this rhyme. When my team and I were creating our school-wide expectations, we struggled to strike a balance at first between being respectful of other classes and being mindful of the needs of students as individuals. We eventually decided to expect a Level 0 (silent) voice in the hall (impossible after lunch and recess but not too bad other times), a Level 1 (whisper) in the restroom, and a Level 2 (table talk) in the cafeteria. And my classroom has a range of all three levels throughout the day, even a little more of Level 3 (outside) than I would like lately! It has always been important to me to allow as much collaboration as possible in my room, and my kids love it. 

My kids are professionals at Turn & Talk. It's how we begin our reading block every morning. It's how they get to share their ideas for writing and then their rough drafts. It's something we would all miss if we left it out of our day, and it may be one of the most important things we do all day. 

When we are on the carpet, the red row turns to the yellow row and talks first, and the green row turns to the blue row and talks first. When both partners have shared, they turn back to face me so I know they're ready to share out. 

I also try to use the Whole Brain Teaching strategy "Teach-OK" to have my kids teach each other what they just learned. So after I introduce something, I say, "Teach!" and they say, "OK!" and turn to their neighbors and say what they just learned. I am able to assess whether or not they understood what I just taught in a matter of seconds, and they love being the teacher! 

And as part of our calendar/spiral review each day, I give them an answer, and they have to write the question. At first, this was SO HARD for them. But they have gotten so good at it. They can even anticipate what I'm going to say if someone's question isn't specific enough, and they try to come up with questions that no one else will think of. Ahh love it. 

Each chapter provides some examples of instructional strategies that can be used at most grade levels, and there are definitely some I want to use more often in my room. But my big takeaway is to keep letting kids talk! :) 

If you've ever been nervous that your principal is going to walk in when your class is doing an art project, you're not alone. But you will feel better after reading Chapter 2: Drawing and Artwork. 

I want to copy the "Why" section of this chapter and hang it up by my desk so I can remember that art is important, and I should never be afraid to let my kids draw, color, and paint! 

One of my favorite ways to teach visualization and retelling is with this "Stop and Draw" retelling activity (I didn't use the actual directions on the page). I read a book without showing them the illustrations and ask them to stop and draw at selected points. Then they use their drawings to retell the story to a partner. 

We begin writing projects by brainstorming. We usually use a graphic organizer, and I encourage them to add illustrations as they are coming up with their ideas. We also use my Finish the Picture Writing Prompts almost weekly, and I am always impressed with their creativity. 

And we add art projects/craftivities to the pieces we publish, which is even an Indiana College and Career standard: 1.SL.4.2 Add drawings or other visual displays, such as pictures and objects, when sharing information to clarify ideas, thoughts, and feelings. 


And can we talk about how much first graders love to paint? We paint apples in September to go with our apple opinions after tasting different colored apples. They had a homework project in October to turn their pumpkin into their favorite book character, and most of them chose to paint their pumpkins. We also painted Christmas lights in December to accompany a "You Light Up Our Classroom" writing. In January we q-tip painted snowmen to enhance our how-to pieces about building snowmen. They turned out to be beautiful and meaningful to my kids. 

Next year I want to paint more often. They absolutely love it, and their personalities shine through their artwork. They are also learning valuable design skills that may help them in a future career. 

I am loving this book so far! I hope you are, too. And even more, I love that I have a schedule to follow. Without deadlines, I can't get anything done! 

Come back for Chapter 3: Field Trips this weekend! 

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