The Opening Act

Friday, January 20, 2023

I hope your spring semester is off to a wonderful start!

Normally, I would save a post like this for late summer as we gear up for a new school year. But if the last few years have taught us anything, it's that we can pivot and adjust on a dime. 

I want to shine a light on the first half hour of your day/class period and provide some ideas for purposeful, daily practice.

Star Points

What: Gretchen Bernabei's star points help students know the correct context for commonly misused words- there/their/they're, where/we're/were. Her Grammar Keepers book also uses the same routine to teach proper punctuation, capitalization, spelling rules, and parts of speech. Whew! That's some heavy lifting!

How: I keep a writing journal right along with my students. When they come into class, the "notes"- word, proof, example sentence- are already written for them to copy down. When class start we discuss, mark up the example sentence with the proof, and role play the verbal routine. Here is a picture of a lesson from Grammar Keepers. 

You might be tempted to skip out on the verbal routine, but I caution you- don't. This is important in having students develop this dialogue in their own minds. Trade off parts A and B. Eventually work yourself out of a part altogether. Students will have fun with their role. Sometimes they even mimic your persona in the teacher role- which is equal parts hilarious and horrifying!

Once this routine is up and running, this is about 7-8 minutes of your class (with 5 minutes of that as writing time). 

Mentor Sentence

What: Provide students with a correctly written sentence. It's a good idea for this sentence to come from something you're reading that week. Throughout the week, the class will look back at the sentence for different purposes- to notice, to inventory, and to imitate. This application to their own writing is so important for transfer! 

How: At the heart of the strategy, students return back to the mentor sentence in order to notice, label, revise, imitate, and edit. When I taught 4th grade, I used a product from Ideas by JIvey. Here is a link to a free sample lesson and video demonstration of the routine. This provided a handout of mentor sentences for students to add to their notebooks, a lesson plan for the week, and a quiz for the last day. I also created a Power Point that you can use to walk students through the process.

This conversation should last about 7 minutes. See a trend? I really think 7 minutes is a sweet spot for length of time. 

Shared Reading

If you've been around here for any length of time, the addition of Shared Readings is no surprise to you! 

What: Shared Reading encourages student to return back to a short text multiple times for multiple purposes throughout a week. Skills range from comprehension, grammar, vocabulary development, inferencing, and writing about reading.

How:  We've curated a set of shared readings for English 1 and 2, middle school, and upper elementary that will last for a school year. You can see all the sets here

All routines will start a little slower, but once rolling, Shared Readings will take 7-10 minutes. your 30 minutes (or less) into your class period, and you've already covered grammar/foundational, writing, and reading comprehension. Not too shabby! With a tight, focused teach piece for the day, you've got your instructional block covered. 

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