Writing Time: Let's start a blog!

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Journal Writing is an activity that is implemented very early in the Shurley English curriculum.  Students are taught how to create a written journal to record their thoughts and feelings.  Then, throughout the school year, they are encouraged to respond to specific prompts in their personal journals. (If you’re wondering about the benefits of journaling, please check out my previous blog, “The Value of Journal Writing (…and how to get started).”)

Today, I’d like for you to think beyond the written journal and consider developing a classroom wall blog.  This type of activity affords you an opportunity to support your classroom instruction and teach your students how to become responsible writers. 

To begin, here’s a blog for you and your students to read:

Hello, students! Have you ever been in class and felt as though you had something important to say, but you just couldn’t raise your hand to speak up?  Me too! 

Sharing your voice is not always easy.  Writing in a journal is an excellent way to get your thoughts out of your mind and onto paper without speaking in front of anyone.  When you journal, you can record your thoughts and feelings about people, places, things, or events that are important to you. Journaling gives you an opportunity to express yourself!

Did you know that you can also journal online?  It’s called blogging, and it can be a lot of fun! A blog is a journal that you share with others. When you write a blog, you express your own thoughts and experiences, knowing that others will be reading your words.

A fun way to start blogging is to participate in a Classroom Wall Blog!  It is a great place to practice and improve your communication. Remember, when you write your blog….

  • Always take responsibility for how you express yourself when writing in a place that others can read.

  • Don’t write anything private, rude, or unkind.

  • Have FUN sharing your voice!

 

Activity Time:  Classroom Wall Blog

Teachers, this Wall Blog activity is an awesome way to get your students more engaged in journaling, support your grammar and writing instruction, and create a closer sense of community in your classroom. 

1. Define your wall blog space with butcher paper or poster board.

2. Create a fun name for your Wall Blog.

3. Discuss what topics are appropriate for student blog entries.

4. Encourage students to express their thoughts about what is going on in their classroom, family, school, and community as blog topics

5. Have students write their blog entries on notebook paper and hang them on the wall.

6. Incorporate time in your weekly schedule to discuss hot topics posted on the Wall Blog.

After your students practice their blogging skills by contributing to the wall blog, you may consider creating a private, online classroom blog. This will afford your students the opportunity to develop good digital citizenship while under your supervision. 

Boost Your Mood With Gratitude

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Every year, Daylight Saving Time (DST) ends on the first Sunday in November, when clocks are moved back an hour at 2 a.m. local daylight time.  When this happens, It takes our minds and bodies several weeks to adjust to the time change.  On top of that, the early evening darkness can wreak havoc on our overall mood due to a reduction in the amount of sunlight we receive.

Research tells us that 4-6% of the American population will experience the effects of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) due to the reduction of light.  Another 10 - 20% will experience a mild version of SAD.  Some of the symptoms of this disorder include:  sadness, anxiety, lost interest in usual activities, withdrawal from social activities, inability to concentrate, hopelessness, and despair.  The good news is that these symptoms tend to resolve by spring when sunlight increases.

There’s evidence to support a positive way to combat some of the issues caused by DST and the reduction in sunlight, and it involves writing!

Many mental health experts recommend journal writing as a way to improve our mood and manage symptoms for depression!  Of course, it’s not a cure, but there are plenty of benefits to writing down our thoughts and feelings to understand them more clearly.  Journal writing can help us become more self-aware so that we can: (a) manage anxiety, (b) reduce stress, and (c) prioritize problems, fears, and concerns. 

Studies suggest that when you write down a list of positive events (3-5) and why the events made you happy, a person’s overall optimism and happiness tends to increase while self-reported stress levels go down.  Each “Gratitude Journal” entry can also include a picture, which adds bonus points towards increased joy!

Here are a few writing prompts to get started with your own Gratitude Journal.  This idea is rewarding for everyone, so get your students involved too!

  • Write about a time you were grateful for something a loved one did for you.

  • What are three ways to thank someone without saying “thank you”?

  • What is something that makes you unique that you’re grateful for?

  • Look out the window.  What’s something you’re grateful for outside?

  • Think about the work that went into the clothes you wear or the house you live in.

  • If you had to give up all of your possessions but three, which three would you keep and why?

  • Write a thank you note to yourself.

  • Pick a random photo, and write about why you’re grateful for that memory.

  • Write about something you’re looking forward to.

  • Write about something in your life that you have now that you didn’t have a year ago.

  • Reflect on a time you made a mistake and what you learned. What are you grateful for about that learning experience?

  • Think back to the last time you laughed until you cried, and write about it.

  • List three things that made you smile this week.

  • Think about someone who helped shape the person you are today, and write about what they mean to you.

  • Think about a time you were able to help someone else.

  • List three people who helped you through a tough situation.

  • Name someone who did something nice for you unprompted.

Comment /Source

Jamie Geneva

Jamie Geneva is the Senior National Consultant at Shurley Instructional Materials and is a seasoned subject matter expert in the realm of English Language Arts.  Her career with the company began during the days of the Shurley Method binder, which was pre-1st Edition, and has spanned across three decades.  Over the years, her various roles have included teacher, presenter, state representative, consultant, manager, and most recently, a Shurley English Digital Assistant.  You might not recognize her face, but her voice could certainly sound familar.  That’s because she’s recorded Jingles, Q&A Flow Sentences, and other Shurley English content for many, many years. 

Jamie and her husband, Garret, live in the foothills of eastern Oklahoma. She loves spending quality time with her family, traveling, reading, cooking, and staying connected on social media.

Ms. Geneva received her B.S. degree in Elementary Education and her M.Ed in Public School Administration from Northeastern State University in Tahlequah, OK. 

Summer Learning: How to create a family storybook

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Summer Break is here, and our thoughts are revolving around words like vacation, relaxation, rest, getaway, and so on!  Words like homework, project, and assignment instantly turn into bad-words the minute summer vacation begins, so I encourage you to avoid them at all costs!  Instead, try to generate creative ways to keep your child/children actively involved in writing, reading, and processing information over the break.  One way to keep all these language arts skills at the forefront in a covert way is to develop family storybooks

Family storybooks are similar to reflective journaling yet different because they are created through group effort!  Topic areas are limitless because the stories can be written on just about anything!  (Examples include: Our Day at the Zoo, Cleaning Day!, The Cruise of a Lifetime, etc.)  No storybook will ever be complete until every person submits their entry.  It will be up to you to pick and choose the number of storybooks your family will create over the summer break!  All you have to do is introduce the activity and provide the encouragement.  Your participation will set an excellent example for your kids, and the final product will be a keepsake for everyone to enjoy now and forever! 

Here are the steps involved:

1. Explain the concept of the family storybook prior to the activity.

2. Encourage children to pay close attention to details during the event so they will be able to describe them in writing later.

3. Take digital pictures before, during, and after the event (if possible), and allow each participant to choose pictures to include with their writing.  Of course, pictures can also be drawn or painted; get creative! 

4. Encourage each child to write as much as they can about the experience, including personal thoughts and feelings.

5. Set a deadline for the individual drafts to be completed and pictures to be selected.

6. Combine everyone’s story in a logical order (example: youngest to oldest) and place them in a notebook, report binder, or digital file.

7. Enjoy reading each family storybook individually and/or together. 

8. Share your family storybooks with others!

It’s a fact that each person perceives their surroundings by seeing, hearing, smelling, and feeling.  Accordingly, everyone’s experience will be unique to them, and it will be fun to see and read varying accounts of the same event.  After the first family storybook is completed, subsequent storybooks will usually become easier and more detailed!  The best part about the activity will be that you and your family will be engaged in writing, reading, and information processing all summer long!  Family storybooks will be a unique memento that will capture moments in time to enjoy a lifetime!  This could become a new summer tradition!  Whatever you do, have fun with it!

Comment /Source

Jamie Geneva

Jamie Geneva is the Senior National Consultant at Shurley Instructional Materials and is a seasoned subject matter expert in the realm of English Language Arts.  Her career with the company began during the days of the Shurley Method binder, which was pre-1st Edition, and has spanned across three decades.  Over the years, her various roles have included teacher, presenter, state representative, consultant, manager, and most recently, a Shurley English Digital Assistant.  You might not recognize her face, but her voice could certainly sound familar.  That’s because she’s recorded Jingles, Q&A Flow Sentences, and other Shurley English content for many, many years. 

Jamie and her husband, Garret, live in the foothills of eastern Oklahoma. She loves spending quality time with her family, traveling, reading, cooking, and staying connected on social media.

Ms. Geneva received her B.S. degree in Elementary Education and her M.Ed in Public School Administration from Northeastern State University in Tahlequah, OK. 

Summer Learning: Journaling with Appreciative Inquiry

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Summer vacation is coming soon! So, what are your plans?  Have you included any activities that will help your child keep their language arts skills sharp over the break?  (Haha!  I’m almost positive that most of you just knitted your brows and sarcastically muttered the words: “Ugh, NO!”)  Before you stop reading this post, I’d like for you to consider doing some “AND” thinking because there is a way for students to enjoy their time off from school AND continue applying language arts skills! They might just learn to appreciate the experience while they’re at it if we add an additional AND to the list!  The key is to cop a good action plan in advance!

Before I get to the suggested activity, I want to tell you about an approach to personal change called Appreciative Inquiry (AI).  AI is the study and exploration of what gives life to human systems when they function at their best.  It is based on the assumption that the questions we ask and the dialogue we hold about strengths, successes, values, hopes, and dreams lead us in a particular direction and are themselves transformational! Simply put, Appreciative Inquiry means that what we spend time focusing on and studying shapes our interpretations, learnings, and inspirations!  (Do you focus on what you want or what you don’t want?  Whichever it is, you’ll likely find it.  If you continually search for problems, you’ll find problems.  If you look for what is best and learn from it, you can magnify and multiply your success!) 

With that being said, allow me to give you a summertime language arts activity that will keep your child engaged in writing AND teach them to appreciate their experiences…AND still enjoy their vacation!  It’s fairly simple.  We’re talking about journaling…AI style!  Here are the steps involved:

 

1.  Get a spiral notebook, folder, composition book, or diary.  (A digital journal is fine too!)

2.  Establish a routine for journaling.  (What time of day will work best?) (Will you have your child do a daily/weekly journal entry, or will you only have them journal after certain activities? Etc.) 

3.  Have your child personalize their summer journal by giving it a title, such as My Summer Journal or The Summer of 2018.

4.  Require each journal entry to include the day’s date and year.

5.   Have students write as much as they can as they reflect on the day’s events, using the following Appreciative Inquiry questions as a guide:

  • What was the best part of today?
  • Who was part of my day, and how did we work together to make the day better?
  • What situation(s) took place today that helped me to learn and grow?
  • What relationship(s) helped me perform at my best today?
  • Did anyone do go above and beyond to make today extra special?
  • Did anyone tell me that I made a difference today?
  • When did I feel like I made a difference today?
  • Did I or anyone else help someone have success today?
  • What did I look forward to today?
  • Share a time that I made an effort to listen and hear the opinion(s) of someone else today.
  • Who did I trust and depend on most today?
  • Who made me believe in myself and my potential today? 
  • When did I communicate well with others today?
  • How can I help create an environment that will make tomorrow an even better day?          

6.     Have students draw or create a picture to go with today’s journal entry.

7.     Consider having students share their journal entries aloud so that everyone can enjoy the positive experiences of the day!

As students learn to write, using these AI questions as a framework, their ability to appreciate can translate into a more positive approach to thinking that can last a lifetime if knowledge, skill, and practice are applied.  Give it a try with your child this summer!  The journal will also be something you can save for them to enjoy reading later in life.

Comment /Source

Jamie Geneva

Jamie Geneva is the Senior National Consultant at Shurley Instructional Materials and is a seasoned subject matter expert in the realm of English Language Arts.  Her career with the company began during the days of the Shurley Method binder, which was pre-1st Edition, and has spanned across three decades.  Over the years, her various roles have included teacher, presenter, state representative, consultant, manager, and most recently, a Shurley English Digital Assistant.  You might not recognize her face, but her voice could certainly sound familar.  That’s because she’s recorded Jingles, Q&A Flow Sentences, and other Shurley English content for many, many years. 

Jamie and her husband, Garret, live in the foothills of eastern Oklahoma. She loves spending quality time with her family, traveling, reading, cooking, and staying connected on social media.

Ms. Geneva received her B.S. degree in Elementary Education and her M.Ed in Public School Administration from Northeastern State University in Tahlequah, OK. 

Summer Learning: How to Keep Language Arts Skills Sharp

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Slurpees, sunshine, swimming, sunbathing, relaxing, travel, camping, barbecues, bike rides, fireworks, friends, and LANGUAGE ARTS! Of course, summer vacation might include some of these foot-loose and fancy-free things, but it’s also an opportunity to keep parents engaged in their child’s learning over the summer months.

Remember, the key to success in whatever you want to do is setting goals for yourself. Encourage families to set short and long term academic goals for the summer. (I've included a great bonus lesson on Setting Goals at the end of this post!)

Here are three great ways to keep your child's Language Arts skills sharp this summer:

1. Summer Reading

Check out your school’s suggested Reading List or get started with the list below to keep your students reading fluently! (Need more book ideas? Be sure to check out the suggested reading list located in the back of your Shurley English Teacher's Manual.)

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2. Question & Answer Flow Practice

Keep the Shurley English Question & Answer Flow fresh in students’ minds! You can create your own summer practice packet from sentences found in your Shurley English workbook, or you can purchase a Sentence Booklet that contains new sentences to classify. Either way, you'll be sure to keep those classification skills sharp and automatic with Q&A Flow practice. 

 

 

3. Reflective Journal

Create a reflective journal to document the summer break. Fill this journal with creative drawings, poems, homemade songs/raps, and free writing about unique summer experiences. Journaling gives learners a chance to really tap into their creative side and get outside the rigid box of structured writing. (I encourage you to learn more about the value of journaling here.)

 

You’ve probably heard the saying, “Out of sight, out of mind.” This summer, I challenge you to keep what your children have learned throughout the school year in sight. Keep their minds sharp and know that you are supporting their growth towards confident, competent communication!

 

BONUS LESSON: Setting Goals

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Comment /Source

Kimberly Crady

Kimberly Crady is an adventurous woman with an immense love for life, learning, and teaching. After teaching in upper elementary classrooms for nearly 10 years, she joined the Shurley Team in 2005.  Kimberly has had the unique experience of teaching Shurley English lessons in all levels, Kindergarten-8th grade and training teachers across the United States.  Kimberly is a National Consultant and SEDA Teacher for Shurley Instructional Materials.

 

Kimberly’s passion for helping people and living a healthy lifestyle has led her to continue her education in the area of Health and Wellness.  She enjoys numerous outdoor activities from hiking and snowboarding in the Rocky Mountains to paddle boarding in the ocean; although, these days you can find her practicing hot yoga in a Bikram Yoga studio. She also enjoys traveling abroad, live music, reading, and spending time with her favorite mutt, Lu.  Kimberly’s experience as a Certified Health & Wellness Coach and Teen Life Coach helps support her firm belief in teaching the whole person, especially in the classroom.

 

The Value of Journal Writing (...and how to get started)

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Mrs. Riddle, my sixth grade teacher, is one of the reasons I became a teacher.  I’ll never forget the year I was in her class; it was my final year as an elementary student.  I have so many memories, like the day the total solar eclipse happened; it was so dark!  Then, there was the time I cried because I got a “D” on my Social Studies test.  That’s the day I realized I wasn’t perfect.  Another memory I’ll never forget was the day my classmates and I watched the Challenger explode on television during Science class!  All of these were big events and are still vivid scenes in my mind, but there was something else that set Mrs. Riddle’s class apart and that I still hold dear.  Every day after lunch, she would give us time to write in our own personal journals.  She created an opportunity for us to write about something personal, or we could follow a given prompt.  We could even share what we wrote with the class if we liked.  You see, Mrs. Riddle was that teacher who, of course, was dedicated to our academic success.  She cared about our lives outside of her classroom, so she took Journal Time seriously. Believe it or not, I still have my 6th grade journal!

I confess. I didn’t really enjoy writing because I never thought I was very good at it, but in my journal, I always had a lot to say and write.  I don’t remember learning such detailed writing structure as what Shurley English teaches, so I never really knew how to organize my writing.  That’s why I enjoyed journaling-there were no rules! 

I do believe journaling gives learners a chance to really tap into their creative side, and get outside of the rigid box of structured writing.  Journaling secretly gives students a tool to clear their minds and relieve stress.  If we can de-clutter our minds, especially of the negative junk that moves in and takes over, then maybe we can free-up space for more creative thoughts to reside.  What an invaluable tool to teach our young learners. 

In my own classroom, I chose to follow Mrs. Riddle’s lead.  Shurley English was the curriculum that supported my Journal Time.  It supplied specific prompts from which my students could choose, or it allowed for students to create their own interesting prompts with my approval, of course.  Yes, reading 25-30 journals took some time, but the result of doing so allowed me to develop a connection with my students that was unique and rewarding! 

I think journals are special and meant to be a safe way for people to get creative without judgement.  As I reflect 31 years later, I do believe that Mrs. Riddle saw the value in journaling; she knew this was much more than a time-filler.  She knew it was a tool that her students could take into adulthood. I'm so glad I did!

Below are some tools to help you get started with Journal Time in your own classroom.

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Comment /Source

Kimberly Crady

Kimberly Crady is an adventurous woman with an immense love for life, learning, and teaching. After teaching in upper elementary classrooms for nearly 10 years, she joined the Shurley Team in 2005.  Kimberly has had the unique experience of teaching Shurley English lessons in all levels, Kindergarten-8th grade and training teachers across the United States.  Kimberly is a National Consultant and SEDA Teacher for Shurley Instructional Materials.

 

Kimberly’s passion for helping people and living a healthy lifestyle has led her to continue her education in the area of Health and Wellness.  She enjoys numerous outdoor activities from hiking and snowboarding in the Rocky Mountains to paddle boarding in the ocean; although, these days you can find her practicing hot yoga in a Bikram Yoga studio. She also enjoys traveling abroad, live music, reading, and spending time with her favorite mutt, Lu.  Kimberly’s experience as a Certified Health & Wellness Coach and Teen Life Coach helps support her firm belief in teaching the whole person, especially in the classroom.