Thursday, April 25, 2013

Cultural "Artifakes" and Artifacts

Cultural “Artifake”
In Social Studies, my 3rd graders are learning about primary and secondary sources and cultures of the past and present. To begin our unit we learned about artifacts or any object made by a human being, typically an item of cultural or historical interest. Tools, jewelry, pottery, clothing, toys…all of these are example of artifacts.

To make this lesson meaningful for the students we asked them to share a cultural “artifake” or a fake artifact from their culture. A cultural artifact is anything created by humans that gives information about a culture. Some students created their “artifake” while others used a objects found in their homes. 
We asked the parents to talk to their child about their “artifake” and how it represents their culture. In the classroom we placed all the items in our cultural museum, the student's labeled their "artifake" and included details about where the "artifake" originated.

After learning more about different cultures around the world, the student's interviewed each other about their personal cultures. At this time, they were able to share their "artifakes" with each other. The students were able to make new connections to their culture and the culture of their peers through this activity and the passages in the text.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Text Features, Text Features...


Text features are parts of text that draw your attention to important information. Some examples of text features include Headings, Photographs, Captions, Print Styles, Illustrations, Charts, and Diagrams. Text features help readers to understand the important parts of the text. They also can help readers to make predictions and set a purpose for reading.

To kick off our unit on text features we introduced different types of text features using posters like the "Captions" and "Diagrams" examples above. After introducing each text feature, the students hunted for the text feature in their Science and Social Studies textbooks. We quickly learned how to identify different types of text features.

We then created a Text Feature Wall, the students worked in groups to find the very best examples of each text feature from various non-fiction magazines. We discussed each text feature and how it was used in the text and then we organized the text features on our Text Feature Wall.

As we read about the Neighbors of the United States in Social Studies, we continued to identify and label the text features in each chapter. We discussed why the authors decided to use the text feature and what was its purpose. For example, a map may help us to learn where things are located or it may help us to understand specific information about a region.

After the students were familiar with text features and their purposes, we used textmapping to help us make predictions and set a purpose for reading. Before reading the next chapter in our Social Studies text, we made copies of the chapter and pasted the pages in order on a long scroll. Then the students worked in groups to identify each text feature using a textmapping key. 

After identifying each text features, the groups labeled their purpose. It was challenging for the students, but we encouraged them to be specific (ie. not to write the purpose of a map, but to write the purpose of the specific map in that chapter).

Once the scrolls were complete the students could "read" the text features to learn about the content in the chapter. The students were impressed with how much you can learn just from "reading" the text features! We were also able to make a lot of predictions about the chapter before we even read it. 

Text features have become part of our daily discussions in Reading, Science, and Social Studies. I love it when the students refer to a chart, sidebar, or any other feature to provide evidence to their conclusions!

Monday, April 1, 2013

Tracking Student Progress...

I'm always looking for meaningful ways to track student progress that are simple to create and utilize in the classroom. Tracking student progress allows both teachers and students to examine increases in knowledge towards a learning goal. Teachers can use multiple informal assessments to quickly assess progress being made on a daily basis and to adjust instruction. Moreover, students are able to make connections to learning goals and their learning progress. Most importantly, however, tracking student progress helps students to take responsibility for their learning. 

During my junior internship, I was able to work with an amazing team of 3rd grade teachers that developed an efficient system to track student progress. For each student, the teacher created cards for each learning goal. The cards included the learning goal, customized scales, and a bar graph for the student to track their progress. 
Prior to, during, or after a lesson the students would track their progress. Students would fill in the date, use the scale to determine where they felt that they were in attaining their learning goal, then shade in the bar graph to the corresponding number on the scale. Students used a 3x5 index card box to store their individual tracking progress cards and separated the cards by subject area.  
Once you create the initial set of cards, the system is simple to use and effective. The teachers and students were able to visualize student progress. Also, students could re-visit learning goals throughout the year.  Some students showed that they met their learning goal on their individual bar graphs, but they were not able to demonstrate their knowledge on a formal assessment. Students and teachers can use both the bar graphs and formal assessments to reflect on the student's progress and set new learning goals. The graphs provide great data for teacher/student conferences and/or parent conferences.  

In my senior internship, I used a similar system to track student progress for a various standards units. Below is a Social Studies example. Although I love using individual bar graphs to track student progress, I've learned that we should use a variety of techniques to track students' progress both informally and formally in the classroom.