Monday, October 6, 2014

Book Tabbing: A Pacing Guide for Independent Reading

Pacing independent reading can get harder as students get older.  Longer books, more time, less adult guidance, more responsibilities and activities. etc.  I require my 5th graders to read outside of school and set goals with them about their independent reading that sometimes require deadlines.  Most students have no trouble finishing in the necessary amount of time, but my slower readers, my procrastinators, and my self proclaimed I-have-better-things-to-do kids need a little guidance.  Since I can't follow them home each night to check in on their reading, nor do I have time to conference with each student each day, book tabbing has been a life saver.
The idea is that we set a goal for how much a student should be reading a day.  Instead of seeing a chapter book and having no concept of how to finish it in two weeks, the book is broken down into smaller chunks that a kids can be responsible for.  The number of pages to read is determined by the goal or deadline and the number of pages in the book.  This is helpful because I have a surprising number of students who like to pace themselves according to chapter.  This could be ok, but it doesn't work if they have the idea that reading one chapter a day is sufficient, no matter the length or number of the chapters.  Pacing by pages splits things a little more evenly, and I always encourage the kids to read past their goal to get to the end of the chapter when they can.

Having a goal of pages to read each day is much more appealing and manageable when  let the kids use these cute little tabs.  They act as a book mark and a visible goal for their daily reading. I use the little post-its that you can get in multi packs (the cheap off brand ones work just as well- they are tucked inside a book page, so they stick just fine).  You could cut regular post-its in strips, but that is more time consuming and expensive.  The kids love the colors, love that they are post-its (who doesn't love post-its?), and love reaching a tangible goal each day.

There are two groups of students that use Book Tabbing in my classroom:
1. Students who  are behind in their independent reading, have a history of procrastinating, or chose a book longer than they normally read: these students are required by me to tab their books.
2. Type A kids that like to be organized or just really like post-its: I am totally fine with these students tabbing their books when they want to.

All of the kids are capable of tabbing their own books, but I have to do a little instruction to help them with that- otherwise they just stick a random amount of tabs in a book.  In a designated place in our classroom, I keep a bag with the needed supplies: a set of instruction cards (printable below), easy to use calculators (though they can do the math by hand), and little post-it tabs.

Here are the step by step instructions for the students:

 Here's a shot of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe tabbed to be read in ten days:
You also can make it even more specific (and easier to check on) by writing the dates that a section needs to be completed on each tab. The students know that they can always read past a tab or even read to more than one tab, which they will sometimes do in preparation of a busy day or two that they know they have coming up.  Time management and thinking ahead are nice skill to see in a 5th grader!

These tabs make it very easy for me to quickly check in on students who need some guidance and accountability.  I can ask if they read to their tab the previous day (or visually check) and ask them a few quick questions about that section, as well as what their plan is for finishing today's tab.  Book tabbing is also helpful to me as a teacher because it allows me teach my students to set appropriate goals and to pace themselves when working on a big project, not just rely on adults to tell them where and when to complete a task.   It has been a great (and easy to implement!) tool in my classroom.

Click here for printable Book Tabbing cards to use with your students:

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Finding Truth in Halloween: Repost

It's October, so that means it's time for a repost of one of my most popular activities on this blog.  Looking to teach your kids about the truth behind Halloween?  The history of All Hallows Eve and the Connection to All Souls Day and All Saints Day?  The deal with relics, zombies, and praying for the dead?  Well, here you go!  Plenty of information packed into a booklet or several coloring/info pages, ready for you to use in your classroom or home.  Enjoy!

It's almost Halloween.
Will you be decorating with skulls or cornstalks?
Dressing your kid as a zombie or St. Francis?
Teaching about death and salvation or pretending that the holiday isn't really happening?

I have to admit, all of the "camps" of opinions about Halloween can be confusing.  Redeem the holiday.  Ignore the holiday.  Revive the "holy day" in the holiday. Reject the dark, embrace the harvest. Focus on the Saints, forget about the evil...

There is great truth in the traditions and rituals of Halloween, and I think that instead of forgetting about them entirely, we can use this holiday (which the culture has abused) to teach kids about topics that can be easy to skip over, like death, purgatory, praying for the dead, relics, and good & evil.

My friend Bonnie at A Knotted Life is tackling her parish's All Saints Day party, and has set a goal for bringing in as much symbolic truth into the celebration as she can.  You can read about her ideas here, which includes great plans for snacks, games, structure, and decorations.  She also has a Pinterest board with all kinds of fabulous ideas.

Per her request, I put together some coloring pages with explanations, prayers, and Scripture to explain some of the "holy" found in All Hallow's Eve.  I was more than happy to comply, because after talking about many of these things in my classroom last year, the idea of a teaching tool like this was something that I knew I would be able to use.

Click here for an 8 page mini book about All Hallow's Eve, including its origins and traditions, All Saints Day, relics, praying for the dead, Jack-O-Lanterns, Saints and souls, good and evil, etc.
I also turned some of the pictures and information into single sheet coloring pages, better for little hands or shorter lessons.

Click here for one with info on a few of the traditions of All Hallow's Eve:

 Here is one about All Saints Day: 
(You might also like these All Saints & All Souls Day Letters.)

 Here is a connection between Jack-O-Lanterns and the Morning Offering:

 And one about praying for the dead:

Here is one about zombies and the resurrection of the dead:
And one on relics:

Do you have any ideas on incorporating truth into Halloween and All Saints Day?  I'd love to hear them here, or you can join the conversation at A Knotted Life.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Built on the Rock: Awesome Posters

I was finally able to "finish" decorating our CCD hallway for our Built on the Rock theme this year.  I have had my eye out for posters and decorations to match this bulletin board and signs and our theme colors.  I ordered some awesome posters from Steubenville Press, and had to share them with you!  (You can click on any of the pictures below and go straight to that poster on their site. No money for me, but I want you to be able to find these great resources!)  The business is family owned, and after receiving the posters I was impressed by their quality.  While not super cheap, the high quality and strong Catholic influence made this a valuable resources site for me. 

It all started when one of my catechists recommended I check out their site because she had seen this great explanation of the Vatican Flag:

I also found this one that has our theme verse for the year and lists all of the popes from Peter to Francis:

 They look great in the hallway right next to our Papal Flag!

I also got this one with the disciples on a ship in the storm to match our fishers of men decorations (this boat and this fishing net).

With our emphasis on St. Peter and his authority given from Christ, we will be using lots of info on popes of the past, including displaying this info board on St. John Paul II and St. John XXIII. I was able to find several great posters with recent popes.

So here we have St. John Paul II...
 And Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI...
 And Pope Francis before a crucifix.

 And then I threw in this graphically interesting Nicene Creed for good measure!

Head on over to Steubenville Press to find some great posters or prayer cards for your home or school!  I am sure you will find some great things!

Monday, September 22, 2014

Built on the Rock: Youth Group Object Lesson

When I think of San Francisco, hilly roads, Cable Cars, the Golden Gate Bridge, and earthquakes come to mind.  (and Full House- I've gotta admit Full House makes the list!)

Don't ask me why, but a San Francisco earthquake story that I heard at some point in high school history came to mind while planning a Youth Group lesson based on "Built on the Rock." 

Many of us remember learning about the earthquake and resulting fires that devastated San Francisco in 1906.  An interesting tidbit that many might not know is that much of the rubble from the city was pushed into the Marina District, forming a landfill to which sand and more debris would be added to over the years. 
Not quite ten years later, when San Francisco wanted to show the world that it was "back" as a cultural center and successful west coast city, it hosted the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition.  The Expo was built on none other than the previous pile of earthquake rubble in the Marina.  Quite the statement, don't you think?  They were not going to let an earthquake stop them. 
After the Expo, the fairground-type buildings were torn down, and the land was purchased by developers who built family housing in the new Marina District.

Moving ahead to 1986, another earthquake of nearly the same strength hit San Francisco.  This time the city is better prepared, and buildings and infrastructure are better suited to handle the natural disaster.  The most terrible damage and loss of life occurs primarily on double-decker roadways and bridges.  One exception, however, is the Marina District.  Because of its rubble/sand/landfill base, the area actually experiences liquefaction of the soil- and great damage is done to houses and apartments in this residential area.

When you think about it, our lives are a lot like San Francisco.  We get to decide the foundation we want to build on.  Pushing our messes and mistakes and sins into a neat corner and covering them up can be mighty tempting.  We want to keep up appearances, move on, and sometimes even take the short cut.  However, we are called to something greater.  We are called to form our lives on a firm foundation that doesn't move and doesn't change. That foundation of truth can be found in Christ and His Church, and it can withstand whatever life throws at us.

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock. Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell—and great was its fall.” ~Matthew 7:24-27

I used the story of San Francisco as a practical example of living our life built on the Rock with a group of teens.  If you would like to use this idea for a lesson, below you will find a more comprehensive outline and other resources.

Click here for the outline of the lesson, including discussion questions, additional Scripture references, and printable photos from the two earthquakes:

Here are two Scripture cards you can use as reminders for the kids:

Click here for the printable for Psalm 31:3:

Click here for the printable for Matthew 7:25:

The sources for pictures (which are all in public domain) and more information on the earthquakes can be found at the end of this document.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Graffiti Walls as a Teaching Tool

I love using graffiti walls as a teaching tool in my classroom.  They are easy, adaptable to many subjects, and great for any subject or age.

The basic idea is that the students are creating a layered and creative visual representation of what they are learning.  Just like most graffiti, there isn't a definite plan, it is more impromptu than planned out, and has layers of overlapping additions.

My favorite way to use graffiti walls like this is in literature, especially with a read-a-loud or in lit circles.  They of course would be great for teaching a topic in religion as well.  I plan on using them as I continue my introduction of the Sacraments this school year. You can add anything to them, but here are some basic ideas:

1. Start with a large piece of paper.  It can begin on a table or floor, but then should be hung up and continued to be added to as more learning happens.
2. Group work is best.  The ideas and contributions of many students are better for a graffiti wall than just the work of one.
3. There isn't a plan- even from the teacher.  There is no "right" final graffiti wall.  It grows and changes as the learning continues, and represents important parts, new ideas, connections, etc.  Teaching even the same topic in the same way will result in very different final walls.
4. Layer, layer, layer.  Just like the ideas in our heads, the representations on a graffiti wall are not stand-alone, neatly organized, or perfect.  We start at the beginning of a new topic add information as understanding grows and changes.
5. Use both words and pictures.  Visual is key with a graffiti wall.  Pictures are important, but so are words.  However, the words that are chosen to be added should be fewer and boldly represented.

The graffiti walls that I have in this post as an example are from reading the book Esperanza Rising.  We started with plain paper at the beginning of the book (a different color for each group makes identification easy as they work over days or even weeks).  During the beginning part of the book, students would add names of characters, images of the setting, pictures of events, and even (short) direct quotes that impacted them.  Sometimes they would do this while listening to the book be read out loud, and sometimes it was after reading on their own.
We would go back and add as we continued to read the book, lending to the messy, busy look that you see on the original paper.  We also added more info on top of the wall by gluing or sticking on more paper.

Some activities that I can see here include:
-drawing of an object from the book that held great symbolism for the main character
-sequence of events quick comic strips
-adjectives that describe the main character as she grew and changed
-quick questions, using post it notes
-themes seen throughout the book

Anything goes!  Maybe a graffiti wall would be a good formative activity for you to try in your classroom- pick a topic and give it a try!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Built on the Rock CCD Theme Printables

This year our CCD theme is Built on the Rock.  You can see our decorations and bulletin boards here and here and here.

And now for some free printables!

Click here for a coloring page with the theme and scripture verse:

Click here for a printable folder cover:
Click here for stationary/blank sign:

Click here for classroom signs:
(Everyone organizes their programs differently, so there are individual signs for Kindergarten through 8th grade, as well as Preschool, High School, First Communion, and Confirmation)

Here is an example of one of the room signs on a classroom door, complete with students' names written on keys:
You can print the small keys here:

And you can find the matching large keys and bulletin board sign in this post.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Built on the Rock Decorations- Fishers of Men & St. Peter

Back here and here I have already shared ideas for decorations and bulletin boards centering around our CCD theme of "Built on the Rock!"

Here are a few more ideas:

Honoring St. Peter's transition from being a fishermen to becoming a fisher of men:
I inherited this poster but have never used it for anything special, so it got pulled out this year.
I added another cheap fishing net ...
...and added some evangelization fish.

We already had St. Peter painted on our CCD walls, but this year he will be an interactive teacher.  He was ready for the first day with some questions for the students and a poster complete with a marker for them to answer.  Who knows what he might become as the year goes on!

If you like our St. Peter mural, you can get a matching coloring page here.

You can get  more printables for a Built on the Rock theme here and here.