Spring Bulletin Board: See How We've Grown!

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It’s not always easy to see how much we’ve grown in one year, especially for a child.  Physical growth might be the most noticeable because we can feel it in several ways.  For instance, we can tell when our clothes are too big or too small; they don’t fit right.  We know when our feet have grown because our shoes are too tight, and our feet hurt.  Also, we can tell when our hair has grown when it starts covering our eyes and ears. 

Intellectual growth, on the other hand, is much more difficult to notice.  Other people, like a parent or teacher, seem to notice this type of growth before the individual realizes it!  Everyone enjoys being told how much they’ve grown intellectually, so here’s a way for you to do that in your classroom.

Image Source:  Volunteer Spot

Image Source: Volunteer Spot

Throughout the year, Shurley English students have spent a lot of time building their vocabulary skills to improve their word choice strategies.  They have created their own synonym/antonym booklet, a vocabulary notebook or notecards, and also learned how to use “Power Words” in their writing.  Now, they can use all of these learning tools to help create a spring bulletin board. This bulletin board idea gives your students an opportunity to reflect on the words they’ve learned  and written in their notebooks and to realize how their vocabulary word bank has grown. 

Below are the steps to follow in order to build a “See How We’ve Grown” garden in your classroom:

Step 1: Create a Synonym List:

Materials Needed:

  • Synonym/Antonym Booklet

  • Vocabulary Notebook/Vocabulary Notecards

  • Power Words (found in Shurley English Student Textbook)

  • Shurley English Student Textbook

  • Thesaurus

  • Paper

  • Pencil

To Do:

  1. As a class, create a list of basic words your students overused at the beginning of the year.  (e.g., good, bad, friend, happy, sad, etc.) 

  2. Allow students to work in pairs and assign basic words to each group. 

  3. Have each pair create a list of three to five synonyms for their assigned word(s). 

  4. Encourage students to use their Shurley English resources and a thesaurus to complete the activity.

  5. Monitor students’ work by walking around the room to assist each group.

 

Step 2: Create Vocabulary Flower:

Materials Needed:

  • Circles (pre-cut)

  • Long strips of colored paper (pre-cut)

  • Glue

  • Stapler

  • Black markers

  • Pipe cleaners

  • Green leaves (pre-cut or *create a pattern)

  • *Green construction paper

  • *Scissors

To Do:

  1. Write the basic word in the center of the circle with a black marker.

  2. Write the synonym for that word on half of the long strip of paper.

  3. Loop the long strip of paper so the half with writing on it is on top. (See example below.)

  4. Glue the two ends of the loop together.

  5. Repeat for each synonym.

  6. Once all leaf-loops are constructed for that basic word, glue or staple the leaves under the circle to complete the flower.

  7. Students continue to create flowers to fill your bulletin board. (You might even want to add a clothesline with a few writing pieces on them.)

Source:  IMGLabs

Source: IMGLabs

 Finally, use your own creative flare to build a beautiful spring garden that showcases your students’ growth!  Don’t forget to discuss and celebrate their growth as a class.  When our efforts and growth are recognized, the acknowledgement gives us the extra motivation to keep going.  This is a wonderful way to keep your students engaged and excited about finishing the school year.

 

How to Increase Emotional Intelligence with Controversy and Introspection

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If you have been following my posts about guiding kids to connect emotionally with their learning…thanks! I hope it has been interesting and helpful. I am wrapping up my series with another combo from Jensen’s work: controversy and introspection.

The mere mention of the word controversy is controversial. But what I mean is not going to usher in a strike of some kind and make you want to walk in a picket line. Controversy and introspection in the classroom are a dynamic duo because of the kind of thinking they inspire in your students.

Ages ago, when I was in high school (The exact number of years ago shall remain undisclosed!), I had a history teacher who, quite frankly, was able to teach history from experience…he was THAT old. But, with age comes wisdom—and he had a lot of it. I remember one lesson in particular that affected my learning and thinking in quite an unexpected way. He simply introduced a scenario filled to the brim with controversy. Granted, we were high school students and able to manage some heftier topics. Consequently, if you decide to introduce controversy, you must consider your audience.

Anyway, the scenario my teacher presented was much like a reality show on television where several characters with various talents and skills are introduced. They are placed on a deserted island and have to fend for themselves. Then, a situation is presented that forces you to analyze which characters have what it takes to survive and which characters are expendable because they don’t. You are also given a finite list of goods that have been provided to aid in the participants’ survival, and you also have a list other supplies that can be used creatively to further enable future survival for the fittest, smartest individuals. Next, my cohorts and I were teamed up. We had to discuss each character in depth. We had to weigh out which ones to help and which ones to ignore. Those decisions were based on our own life experiences—the real ones—that helped form our general world views. Wow! You would never have guessed the level of sophistication our conversations reached when we began to make decisions that would positively or negatively affect the outcome of the situation for each character.

I can’t remember a time when I enjoyed my history class more, and it came about because my teacher gave us permission to think through potential real-life situations in a safe zone…and the conversations, the thinking, the arguing were lustrous and titillating! So much so that I still remember the lesson even today!

Well, that’s what controversy, when it is handled carefully and considerately, can offer a learner. Now enters introspection. I grouped controversy and introspection together because one begets the other. When kids authentically analyze a problem and work together to solve it, they demonstrate introspection. If you are familiar with Bloom’s taxonomy, you know that the kind of thinking I am talking about is all too rare in many of our classrooms. Students who are encouraged to express their ideas, thoughts, opinions, biases, and misunderstandings glean so much from every learning opportunity. They learn how to evaluate their own thoughts, behaviors, and actions in light of their environments and cultural groups. Another reason I saved this dynamic duo of social-emotional learning until this post is because it isn’t for the squeamish. It gets gritty, and it is probably best suited for older kids. However, don’t shy away from these powerhouse emotional intelligence boosters, especially if you work with students from junior high level to college. It is the deep and wide thinking you elicit in your students that makes the risk worth taking.

(This post is part of a series on Emotional Intelligence. To start at the beginning, click here.)

ELA Success: Patience is key!

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Most of my blog content comes from questions I’ve answered at one time or another from teachers and administrators who use Shurley English.  I often hear the urgency in their voices, and they seem to be looking for a quick fix to the problems their students are experiencing. Sure, we all want quick results, but usually by the time you manage to find just the right curriculum or just the right supplement to your teaching, the students have moved on.  Then, you get a new batch of students with similar but unique struggles, and you’re back at it again, trying to find what works and what works fast.

Even though we, as a society, rely on instant gratification, immediate feedback, and quick results, the outcome of an exemplary education won’t happen that way.  Honestly, we all know there are NO quick fixes that produce the quality results we’re seeking, not in life or in curriculum.

In a previous blog, I broached the topic of having patience and of trusting the process. This is true of any quality curriculum, but especially so with Shurley English. You have to tap into your reservoir of patience—patience with yourself, patience with students, and patience with the curriculum.  Academic growth will manifest quickly in your students’ grammar and writing, but only after you have invested the upfront time needed to lock in the foundational patterns and strategies.

Note to Kindergarten – 3rd Grade Teachers:  Patience may be harder to come by for the lower level teacher of Shurley English because classroom management issues often chew up instructional time.  So, be patient out there, all you Kindergarten through 3rd grade teachers! Remember, you are the heroes who lay the grammar and writing foundations on which the later teachers can build upon.

Yes, Shurley English sometimes requires you to teach concepts that you may not have had to handle until a much later grade in your own schooling.  Just because you didn’t have the opportunity to learn in such a dynamic way personally, you need to know that you are exposing your young learners to concepts they will master in time, not necessarily with you.  You may not get to see the beautifully written masterpiece that the upper grade level teachers will see, but the foundational concepts you teach are vital.  

Note to 4th – 8th Grade Teachers: Middle elementary teachers, dig deeper into your reservoir of patience. Your kiddos are still trying to figure out this organized writing thing, and you are helping them to understand the connection between grammar and writing. Middle school teachers-have patience when trying to fill in the gaps, and smile when you’re the one that gets to submit their 5-Paragraph Essay to the writing contest! 

Society often relies on instant gratification, immediate feedback, and quick results, but the outcome of an exemplary education won’t happen that way.  It’s all about patience! Shurley English sets you and your students up for success, but you must be patient.  If you want quality-you’re in the right textbook!  If you want a confident, competent writer-be more patient. Remember…

Patience is the calm acceptance that things can happen in a different order than the one you have in mind.

-David G. Allen

The Playbook of Literary Success: Composition

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The Playbook of Literacy Success highlights the necessary knowledge, skills, and practice required to win the game of literacy development.  Great players gain confidence when they own and use a broad vocabulary and a strong grammar foundation.  These two core concepts serve to prepare all players for one of the greatest plays of all: composition!  If you missed Part I and Part II of the Playbook of Literacy Success, you might want to go back to the starting line to catch up with some calisthenics we call Shurley English Jingles and then move into our version of the wishbone formation, which we call the Question and Answer Flow.  Today, our focus is on composition and the writing process.

We use the term “process” in writing instruction because it takes time—time and practice, first with basic skills and then moving to complex skills. In some past blog posts, we have shared how you can use a figurative “magnifying glass” on sentence writing with the Shurley English Sentence Blueprints. This strategy can be the start of something BIG for writers. Once mastered, you are helping youngsters literally build skills into their own writing process. Great sentence writing leads to great paragraph writing. Great paragraph writing leads to great compositions.

Reflective teachers can take this opportunity to model reflective thinking for their students because, as we have said before, teaching kids to write is the same thing as teaching them to think. As students apply their skills gained from Sentence Blueprints, we run the “practice drills” for each of the next several gameplays. Young writers practice their organizational skills, using a two- and three-point writing model. As they gain confidence, the content becomes a key player in their writing development. Learners, who now understand how to sequence their writing, have a wide-open door for writing responsively or creatively. Below are some important goals to keep in mind as you coach your budding writers.

Checklist for Shurley English Composition:

  • Use the teacher manual to guide your writing practice;

  • Engage students in brainstorming activities to generate writing topics;

  • Double-check students' ability to follow the writing process;

  • Give students opportunities to write in all genres according to the manual;

  • Use the writing evaluation guides as writing rubrics;

  • Conduct frequent writing conferences and provide feedback;

  • Set up "finished" and "in-process" writing folders for your students;

  • Maintain a writing portfolio for each student, containing examples of each kind of writing;

  • Incorporate Discovery and Across the Curriculum activities;

  • Encourage correct English use in both spoken and written forms;

  • Guide students in their research of content to write about.

The writing process will become more automatic for students as they gain experience and confidence.  One of the most important things you can do as a teacher is to provide clear, concise instruction and multiple writing opportunities so that students can repeat the steps of the writing process often enough to own them.  Always remember that the more frequently the brain utilizes a learning path, the deeper the knowledge is embedded in the long-term memory.  Write on!

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For more information about Shurley English Writing, click here.

How to Increase Emotional Intelligence with Role Modeling

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Welcome back to my series on emotional intelligence. My two previous articles were closely related because drama and storytelling involve playing the roles of characters. The same is true with this entry about role modeling. Role modeling, like drama and storytelling, reaches deep into the emotions of learners. Real-life situations and relationships get real-world practice in role modeling.

As adults, we play various roles, right? Sometimes we are bankers; sometimes we are coaches. We might even have to be referees! Whatever the role, we can plan to model specific behaviors intentionally and invite others to share their roles with kids. These experiences offer kids real-life opportunities to walk in someone else’s shoes just a bit, and it inspires them.

Role modeling makes learning interactive with live models. Showing kids how they can play a certain role in a classroom or at home can increase their awareness of their own strengths and talents. Kids often begin to demonstrate their abilities in certain domains early. Some kids paint like an artist, while others can sing well. Some kids demonstrate athletic ability early in life while others gravitate toward literature. If you can identify the kids’ strengths, you can then encourage them to express themselves in real-life situations inside the classroom.

If you have a strong art student, model for that student how to create a sketch book of ideas and an art portfolio. Invite a local artist to visit your classroom and conduct an art session for the whole class. Do the same for all of your students who show obvious ability in ANY area. Some students don’t know about their strengths yet, so this is especially important for them. All students will benefit from observing these role models, but for the students who may not think they have any skills or talents, this kind of role modeling could change the course of their entire lives…it’s THAT important!

 

ACTIVITY:

1. For two weeks, watch your students carefully and note any budding skills or talents.

2. Share these notes with parents and other care givers so that they can encourage the child.

3. Invite district or community to discuss their careers or demonstrate a talent or skill to your students.

4. Find ways to create real-life classroom events that highlight various students’ abilities and strengths.

5. Plan for showcase events in various subjects where students show aptitude.

As you help kids invest in their learning through role models, you are also helping them make powerful connections between that learning and their emotions. Emotional intelligence has a quotient you can’t necessarily measure, but if you want to help kids improve their E.I., add role modeling to your bag of tricks. It works!

(This post is part of a series on Emotional Intelligence. To start at the beginning, click here.)

Help Your Students Improve Their Revision Skills

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How many times have you asked your students to revise their work, only to have all of the papers returned to the hand-in basket within a few minutes with little to no changes at all?  The problem is that many students lack the necessary grammar skills required to revise. 

Simply writing a comment on a student’s paper to suggest a revision isn’t enough.  These comments are usually unclear and unhelpful to them—i.e. ‘too vague, too wordy, repetitive, etc.’ Students need more support and instruction than this; they need someone to show them how to make these types of revisions if they are to learn how to revise their content and achieve optimum results.

Students need a well-rounded grammar foundation to write with competence, and that foundation should include learning very specific revision skills.  It doesn’t have to be a painstaking task, but it is a process that must be taught.

First, students must understand that revising means to find ways to improve word choices and sentences in their rough draft.  They must also understand that revising requires them to read their rough draft critically several times to make sure they’ve said what they intended to say in the way they intended to say it.  They must read it aloud to themselves, and it helps to read it aloud to others to help find the “rough spots” that could use improvement.

A checklist to revise and improve the rough draft can be extremely beneficial.  The following example will help students focus their attention on five of the traits of effective writing, including:  (1.) ideas, (2.) organization, (3.) word choice, (4.) voice, and (5.) sentence fluency.  Try it out in your classroom today to help your students improve their revision skills!

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The Playbook of Literary Success: Grammar

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Let’s get back into the language arts huddle to go over some key plays that will help your students win-the-game!  If you missed Part I of the Playbook of Literacy Success, you might want to go back to the starting line to capture the necessity of a strong vocabulary.  As for today, we’re going to focus on Part II: Grammar.  We’ll begin with some calisthenics we call Shurley English Jingles, and then we’ll move right into our version of the wishbone formation! We call this feature the Question and Answer Flow

Remember, English is like a competitive sport, and every K-8 teacher is part of the coaching staff charged with developing players’ language arts knowledge and skills.  The playbook contains plays designed to help each team member achieve literacy success, which is the ultimate goal of the game, and the action plan involves the following equation:

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When it comes to teaching grammar, Shurley English uniquely teaches and reinforces the eight parts of speech and other important language arts concepts, using Jingles.  For clarification purposes, Jingles contain the important pieces of information of each definition, stated in a catchy, rhythmic way.  Each time a Jingle is recited, the brain goes through the motions of reigniting the learning path that was formed previously.  The more the brain repeats information via the learning path, the more likely that information will be retained in the long-term memory.  

Note:  Jingles are like calisthenics for the brain, and Jingle practice has been distributed appropriately throughout the Teacher’s Manual. And of course, as a reflective practitioner who must hold both your students and yourself accountable for the knowledge gained, the daily rehearsal of the jingles becomes an out-loud-and-in-your-face measurable way to determine how well students are retaining the new knowledge.

 

Shurley English Jingles

  • incorporate rhythm, rhyme, and movement.

  • provide domain-specific language.

  • allow for critical reading during sentence analysis.

Checklist for Shurley English Jingles:

  • Teacher models jingles or uses the Interactive I feature of the digital materials.

  • Students recite the jingles in unison at a brisk pace.

  • Students enjoy Jingle Time.

As grammar instruction continues, Shurley English teaches students how the eight parts of speech are organized to form sentences correctly, using a process called the Question and Answer Flow.  The Q & A Flow teaches students how to analyze the role of each word in a sentence. Learning to identify and label the parts of a sentence leads to understanding sentence structure, and as students' understanding of sentence structure grows, they learn to apply this knowledge to write better sentences, paragraphs, and essays.  Think about it this way: Just as a coach choreographs the plays he or she wants the team to master, so, too, grammar is the choreographer of our language.  Therefore, it is essential for students to have a firm foundation of knowledge about the parts of speech and the role they play in written language. The Q & A Flow makes the practice of the parts of speech logical and systematic.

Shurley English Q&A Flows

  • include brain-compatible strategies.

  • make English grammar logical and systematic.

  • serve as a formative assessment.

As you reflect upon your teaching of these important skills, consider the following Checklist for Grammar Instruction and the Question and Answer Flow. Ask yourself, have I…

  • conducted the grammar lesson as directed in the manual?

  • involved students in the oral questioning process?

  • related the new skill to a previously taught skill?

  • taught the students to read the sentences to be classified fluently and in unison?

  • encouraged a steady and natural pace as sentences are read aloud?

  • pointed to words and sentences for younger students as sentences are read?

  • taught students to use the same sequence/order of the Questions and Answers in the Q &A Flow, according to the manual?

  • conducted the Q & A Flow at an appropriate rate and volume?

  • waited until each answer is recited before labeling?

  • monitored constantly the students’ engagement and participation?

  • kept the students involved and on task?

 

By keeping yourself mindful of not only the quality of the content you teach, but also the technique and delivery of the content, you will add yet another game-saving skill to your students’ overall literacy achievement.  In upcoming posts, you will learn even more “plays” you can add to your literacy “playbook.” Don’t miss it!

Writing Folder: New Tools for Writing Success

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The Shurley English Writing Folder will help your students move through the writing process with ease. This foldout, four-pocket folder keeps students organized with a dedicated space for their prewriting, rough draft, revised draft, and edited paper. It is packed with handy references, checklists, and tips to ensure students have exactly what they need to produce a polished piece of writing.

The Shurley English Writing Folder…

  • helps students learn all the steps of the writing process, until it becomes second nature.

  • keeps the most important writing strategies and processes front and center during writing time.

  • provides detailed graphic organizers so students can organize their ideas logically.

  • teaches students how to revise and edit their own writing in a step-by-step manner.

  • develops students’ vocabulary in order to empower them with word choice that is both deep and wide.

  • hones students’ use of accurate academic language in the field of writing.

  • builds confidence and competence as students review each panel systematically throughout the year.

The Writing Folder is rich with content! It provides students quick access to the following reference tools:

  • Graphic organizers

  • Sentence outlines

  • Transition aids

  • Revision strategy checklists

  • Sentence pattern examples

  • Writing process checklists

  • Figurative language definitions and examples

  • Editing tools

  • Homonym lists

  • Capitalization/Punctuation rules with examples

  • Comma usage rules with examples

  • Compound sentence formulas

  • Complex sentence formulas

  • Quotation mark rules and examples

Shurley English Writing Folder:  © Shurley Instructional Materials, Inc.

Shurley English Writing Folder: © Shurley Instructional Materials, Inc.

Shurley English Writing Folder:  ©Shurley Instructional Materials, Inc.

Shurley English Writing Folder: ©Shurley Instructional Materials, Inc.

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Order today!

To add the Shurley English Writing Folder to your ELA classroom, simply call with your credit card, email your School Purchase Order, or visit our online store today!

Writing Folder: 978-1-58561-425-7

Writing Folder (10 pack ): 978-1-58561-426-4

Recommended for Shurley English Levels 3-8. Size: 9“ x 12”

Grow Emotional Intelligence with Storytelling

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Last time, I threw drama into the mix to help kids connect emotionally to their own learning. As we think deeper about how important this connection is, researchers report that storytelling offers a unique opportunity for kids to grow their emotional intelligence quotient.

Like drama, storytelling involves kids in several aspects of learning that help them connect parts of their real lives to stories—stories with many different kinds of characters from various cultures and locations. Each character has a point of view in a story, and it is exciting when kids learn how to analyze a story character and add a bit of their own personality to the interpretation.  

When you teach children how to tell a story with appropriate characterization and a point of view, they naturally evolve in areas like self-awareness, cultural awareness, and insights into universal life experiences. What an important way to help students explore their own cultural roots, traditions, and values! Just grappling with these ideas can help kids find their place in the world.

To get kids started with storytelling, provide several options for them. They can read through several books, magazines, or plays to find one they want to develop into a storytelling performance piece. Click on the link at the end of this post to get some great ideas.

 After your student selects a story, discuss the following presentation points:

1. Vocal Pitch

  • Help the storyteller understand how to vary vocal pitch, tempo, and volume to make characters come alive in a story.

  • Emphasize moments of silence and dramatic pauses to get a character’s point of view across.

  • Demonstrate for the storyteller how to use different exaggerated voices for the characters. Have the storyteller create a strong “narrator’s” voice that will remain consistent throughout the story.

 

2. Body Language

  • Demonstrate how common gestures and body language, stance, and movement help differentiate one character from another in stories.

  • Show how certain types of body movements create emotional responses in the audience.

 

3. Staging

  • Show storytellers how to use “stage” space effectively, using an entire area.

  • Give storytellers many opportunities to practice pantomiming specific activities related to a character.

Storytelling Resources: A popular children’s author, Aaron Shepard, publishes an excellent site for storytelling ideas. Check it out here.

Please visit again soon for my next post, where I will explore how role modeling can further your quest to promote emotional intelligence in kids. (This post is part of a series on Emotional Intelligence. To start at the beginning, click here.)



ELA Success: If it works, don't fix it!

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I think you will agree that by and large, if something works, you don’t need to fix it.  I suppose it is human nature, or maybe just my nature, but I never seem to be able to leave well enough alone. It seems like if you’re a teacher, you simply must change, revise, correct, improve, or add to—it’s in our DNA!   Thank goodness for Shurley English because it is the kind of curriculum that works. It works for a lot of reasons, but right now, I want to talk about how the teaching scripts work for instructors to make teaching the curriculum easy.

When it comes to working with a curriculum like Shurley English, following the prescribed teaching scripts and sequence of language arts concepts is the key to student success.  The authors of the curriculum are experts with numerous years of creation and implementation of their “grammar and writing recipe” in their own classrooms as well as classrooms around the world.  The detailed teaching scripts were designed with teacher success in mind and to ensure consistency across grade levels.  Let’s be honest, grammar and writing are not the easiest subjects to teach, but back in the day, this curriculum used to be called The Shurley Method-English Made Easy…and that’s no joke!   If you keep it simple and follow the teaching scripts, teaching grammar and writing is EASY! 

Here are a few reasons to “stick to the script:”

*Accountability: Your administrators can trust that you’re teaching Shurley English with fidelity.  There’s no reason to re-invent the wheel!

*Consistency: You won’t have to fill in the gaps or worry about playing catch-up with students who learned a different way to recite the Question & Answer Flow in a previous grade level.

*Time Management: The lessons are created for you!  You don’t have to spend extra time or effort worrying about explaining the hard concepts in Language Arts. (direct objects, object compliment nouns, natural and inverted word order, complex sentences, clauses, five-paragraph persuasive essays, etc.)

Here’s the bottom line, Shurley English is a proven method that works!  Want to learn more? Please go to our website and request online samples of our Shurley English digital edition.