Book Study: Worksheets Don't Grow Dendrites Chapter 1 & 2

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 I'm excited to be joining a bunch of teacher bloggers in a best practice book study using the book Worksheets Don't Grow Dendrites.  I was hesitant to link up since I am not currently in the classroom but I decided it would be a good way to reflect on practices I used in the classroom and areas I could improve upon if/when I return to the classroom.  I also thought reading through this would help the teaching I still do - tutoring and teaching religious education at our church.

Strategy 1: Brainstorming and Discussion

Ways I'm Using This

Chapter one validated a lot of the things I already did when I taught second grade.  Using a picture walk to explore vocabulary, conventions (both fiction and non fiction) and illustrations was one of the strategies we used a lot in reading groups.  I would always have my students start off by doing a picture walk.  I would also model this when we would do a read aloud during my literacy mini lesson.  

My students sat at tables and regularly would need to work with the others at their table for games, activities, discussions, problems solving, etc.  I never thought about calling them or treating them like families.  I really like that idea and I think it would be a great way to help foster a community of learners and have less complaining about who they need to work with for that activity.  

Think/pair/share was important terminology in my classroom.  We sometimes called it turn and talk.  We also called it EEKK (sitting elbow to elbow and knee to knee).  We would use this strategy most often during my mini lesson to give them the chance to think about and digest the information they were learning.

Ways I Could Improve

 The wait time of 5-7 seconds really stuck out to me.  I often think about this when I am teaching and quickly jump in or rephrase if no one is responding.  This becomes a big problem during religious ed each week because we only have an hour and a half.  I feel like because we are trying to do so much in such a small amount of time, I rarely wait and I often let the first person to raise their hand answer.  Bad, bad, bad!!  I need to give them all time to think.  5-7 seconds doesn't seem that long but when you count that out while you are teaching, it is a lot longer than you think!  This isn't a new concept by any means.  I think I remember hearing it as far back as college.  I just think it is a good reminder no matter how long you've been teaching.

I also really like the idea of having students create questions for content area assessments by giving them stems to help them use all levels of Bloom's taxonomy.  I think this would have been a great idea for students to practice and prepare for a test especially in science and social studies.  It would be a great way to check their understanding and review.  I worry though that if they do not actually know the content, the questions and answers could be wrong that they would be sharing with their peers.  Maybe one way to handle this would be to have the students create the questions and answers, then I would check through them and maybe pull one from each student to create a review for the whole class.  Then we could go through the questions, have the students answer them and then have the author of the question share their thinking and answer with the group.

Strategy 2: Drawing and Artwork

This chapter was really important for me.  I can't tell you how often I felt guilty spending time on artwork and illustrations in the classroom.  I felt like the powers that be were watching and judging and making sure that what we were doing was curriculum related.  To be honest, I've even judged all the craftivities I've seen on Pinterest and TpT and thought is it necessary and relevant??  After reading this chapter I feel bad for judging.  I think it does have a place and is important, especially in schools that don't have art programs.  For some students, that is their only chance to have that hands on interaction with different mediums.

Ways I'm Using This

We used drawing a lot in second grade to illustrate stories or show our understanding of a text that we just read.  I also started using it more and more in math.  We would have the students draw a picture to help solve a story problem.  We would also have them illustrate a vocabulary word in their math notebook to help them remember it better.

One of my favorite ways that we used art was by creating individual books to use as a shared reading.  Once again, I LOVED this activity but I often felt guilty spending so many weeks at the beginning of the year working on this.  Now I feel completely validated and think it was time well spent!!  I could kick myself for not taking pictures when I was in the classroom.  I'll try to describe it the best I can and maybe one day I could make some sample mock ups.

I team taught a 1st/2nd grade multiage class.  Because we had 50 students in the classroom of different grade levels and ability levels, we made it a priority to ease into curriculum.  Instead we spent the first weeks working on routines, procedures, and team building.  We slowly taught them the expectations for each subject area.  During our reading workshop time, we wanted them to get used to the idea of must do activities and then choices after they finished.  We also wanted to make more text available to the students that they could actually read.  To do this, we would select a picture book for each grade level and do a shared reading using a big book.  We would read the book every day for a week and encourage the students to read along with us.  Each day, they worked on a few pages of the book on their own by illustrating it.  By the end of the week, they had a completed book that they could read.  We usually did this for 2-4 weeks and used different mediums for them to explore.  They built up a collection of readable text in their book boxes.  For the first graders, we took the text word for word and put it on blank paper.  For the second graders, we would sometimes do this but often times we would let them fill in the words or have them create their own text based on the book we read.  Here are some of the texts that we used for this:

First Graders:
Cookie's Week - water colors (focus on days of the week and sequencing)
The Very Hungry Caterpillar - Rip art with construction paper (focus on sequencing)

Second Graders:
Long Night Moon - water colors (focus on months of the year)
In the Tall, Tall Grass - rip art (focus on adjectives)

We absolutely loved the results and the kids did too.  And now after reading this chapter, I love the project even more because I feel justified that what we were doing was best for kids!

Ways I Could Improve

I think the biggest way I could improve is just to do more drawing and artwork and not feel bad about it.  In my religious ed class, I would like to try other types of art.  We try to do a relevant activity/craft each week.  Because we are pressed for time, I often go for what is easiest and fastest which often ends up being color, cut and paste type activities.  I think it would be good to bring in different kinds of paint or rip art to explore.  Again, I would be making sure the the activity related to what was taught and helped them to expand their understanding.  This is one (From Mrs.  Ehle's Kindergarten Connection) I'm hoping to work in before Easter if we can find the time.  I am pretty much obsessed with it - the colors are awesome and I think it would be a good way to illustrate what happened on Good Friday.  

So that's my take on the first few chapters.  Are you reading along?  What do you think?  You don't have to be a blogger to participate.  You can participate through the comment section.  Just click on the book study graphic at the top to get started.

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