Sunday, March 20, 2016

25 Way to Use Newspapers to Teach Informational Text!

Newspapers can be a HUGE asset to teachers as an informational text teaching tool.

Why are they helpful?

1. Students who regularly read the newspaper show greater interest in local, state and national affairs.
2. Students who read the newspaper in school have less trouble reading it on their own, and have a more positive attitude towards the newspaper.
3. People who read newspapers regularly are more likely to become regular voters.
4. Reading the newspaper helps to raise reading scores according to research done by Dr. Dan Sullivan of the University of Minnesota.
5. Newspapers are more timely than text books
6. Newspapers are models for clear and concise writing.
7. There's something for everyone in a newspaper

Here are just a few of the ways to use newspaper to teach informational text!

1. Choose one main article and copy it for the class. Discuss the lead sentence. That is the "Hook" to get readers to continue reading the article. How does the lead sentence in this article grab the reader's attention? How would students make it better?

2, Discuss the 5 w's used in newspaper writing. (who, what, when where, why).  Go through one article and point out how each of these questions is answered. Ask students to write their own article following the 5 w's about something going on in school.

3. Get into groups of three. Ask them to skim a newspaper section within a specific period of time, then do a short report about what is in the news today.

4. Writer a letter to the editor on an item of interest.

5. Cut out pictures from a newspaper and ask students to write a story to go with the picture in the form of a newspaper article. What happened just before the picture was taken?

6. Ask students to write a new headline for an article of interest.

7. Look for articles that show the different types of writing (narrative, persuasive, expository). Write each heading on the board. Cut out articles and put on the board under each heading. 

8. Group students into groups of two or three. Ask students to take 10 to 15 minutes to make up a ten question quiz on a newspaper article. Ask them to focus on who, what, when, where, why. Swap quiz with another group to answer. Discuss what makes a good question.

9. Ask students to take a particular article and make a list of key vocabulary words used in the section. Ask them to then write a defition for each of these words, and draw a small picture to illustrate it. 

10. Ask students to cirlce all of the store ads in a section of the newspaper. Ask students to discuss what makes an appealing advertisement, and what does not. Ask students to explain what text features in the add were especially appealing, and made them take interest in the add. Ask students to create their own that will be appealing to readers.

11. Ask students to read the pets section of the classified ads. Which add makes them want to see the pet, and maybe adopt or buy it? Ask students to pretend they work at the local pet store. Their job is to write an add of their own selling a pet at the local pet shop. 

12. Assign students a particular article from the newspaper. Asks them to do a mind map of the article on a piece of paper. Draw a rectange in the middle of the paper, then write the main idea in that rectangle. In circles around the rectangel, write supporting details that support the main idea. 

13.  Use the site: to choose and print an article from any country in the world on any subject! Compare how the article compares with the local newspaper.

14. Keep an eye out for articles in your local newspaper that may be of interest to your students. Bring them in and read to students, then discuss, or write a short paragraph to summarize the article.

15. Ask students to skim articles in the main section of the paper. Newspaper editors must decide which article is worthy of being their lead front page article. Ask students if they agree with the editor's choice. Why? What other article might deserve to be the headline article instead?

16. Use the newspaper to compare your own weather to that in other parts of the country. Discuss the map features used that help in understanding the information. 

17.  Choose an article that students may not be too familiar with. Do a K-W-L chart with students. First show the article, discuss the headline. Then ask students to write under the "K" what they already know about this subject. Then under the "W" what they want to know, then read the article and under the "L" write what they learned.

18. Teacher chooses an interesting article for students, reads it to them as they draw a picture of what the article causes them to visualize. After sharing pictures, discuss the word choice in the article that prompted pictures to be drawn in such a way. Add a caption to the picture to explain what it is about.

19.  Ask students to find one word for which they do not know the meaning in a newspaper article. Ask students to figure out the meaning by using context. Share definitions.

20. As a homework assignment, ask students to read an article in the paper or online at home. Draw a picture to summarize the article, and write a two sentence summary.

21. Do a short research paper on one person discussed in the news.

22. Look at the opinion section of the newspaper. Underline facts, and circle opinions.

23. For a center, cut out about 10 headlines, and the ten articles that go with them. Students must match the headlines to the article.

24. Make a list of ten questions and pass out to groups of students. Post the different articles the questions come from around the room. It is best to put them on construction paper so they are obvious. Students go around the room reading the articles, then answer the questions on their paper. 

25. This is easiest as a center: Give students a number of old newspapers. Then give them a page with the following things to look for: some good news, some news about a different country, some bad news, something about a famous person in politics, news about a Hollywood star, news about a sport. Students write a short sentence about what they found, and give the date of the newspaper it was found in. 

Tips for using the newspaper in your classroom:

Before starting explain how each section of the paper works, and what the focus is for the section.
Look for vocabualry words that could cause difficulty, and go over 3-5 of them that students will see.
Give kids time to do the reading.
Use one section at a time. Too much is well, too much!
Newspapers can be cut-up, marked on, whatever is love that!

Hope you enjoy using those newspapers! If you have any other suggestions that you have used in your classroom, please add it below!

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Thursday, March 10, 2016

How Do You Create Decimal Super Heroes?

Decimals can often be one skill that makes a lot of  kids cringe. Teaching it sometimes made me cringe too. It seems like they just "get" fractions, then I would need to throw decimals at them. I'm not gonna lie! When it was time to teach decimals, I heaved a heavy sigh.  So, the hunt was on to make it more understandable to all the kids, and more fun for me to teach. What I was looking for was "Pizazz" to give life to my lessons.

It starts with a "Hook".  

I think some of the lessons on-line are pretty darn awesome. They need to be well under ten minutes and to the point to use them as the "hook" for the lesson. What I've found, it a good hook makes all the difference. It wakes everyone up and makes them ready to learn. Check out the ones below:

This is a great one to start with as you teach changing a fraction to a decimal. VERY step-by-step.  It's also very good to remediate confusion.  It's only a little over 4 minutes long.  You do have to sign up for a free account, but it is worth it for all that is available. 

Reading decimals can get a little tricky. This video is clear, and easy to understand. It is almost seven minutes, but it's worth it. 

To include with your lesson on putting decimals on a number line, don't miss this one! It's fun, and to the point.


Songs are always a great hook, and a great way to end the lesson. This one is a really good one on decimal place value. I know the picture looks funky, but it really is a great video!


This song is terrific for helping kids learn how to decide which decimal is larger...and it's fun.

Some Interesting Lesson plans...We don't always have to reinvent the wheel!

One of my favorite lessons for when it is time to teach how to write a decimal from a fraction, is called "Decimals, Fractions, and Percentages" by Math is Fun. The pictures are very good, and it breaks everything down in easy-to-understand pieces.

Be sure to check out the lesson "Rockin' Fractions" if you teach 4th or 5th grade. It is a song plus lesson plan for teaching decimals. Includes worksheets and more.

When you want a great, easy and fun game to reinforce the concepts, try Decimal War! It can be adapted for any grade teaching decimals. It's a fun activity to either add at the end of a lesson, or even use for game-day. 

I found a few pre-made worksheets that might be helpful.

This site has amazing worksheets for all areas of decimals. Each download includes the grading key.
This site is a treasure!

This is only one worksheet, but it's a good one. 

This site has a lot of short little practice sheets. Nice and short. Great for a quick check. They start easy and get harder. Great for differentiation.

One last one that is pretty nice.

The next step is LOTS of fun practice. Worksheets have their place, but fun learning is learning that lasts!

Fruit splat is like Fruit Ninja and is sure to be a kid-favorite!
LOVE that it has five levels of difficulty. Good for 3rd through 5th grade!

This game site has great games for review, plus this game on converting fractions to decimals, don't miss this fun site!

Now for the great review game! This is a Jeopardy game on decimals, fractions and percents that the whole class can play in teams.

Kids will love this one! They can play on their own, but are playing against other online players. It's called "Puppy Race".

Don't miss this book for teaching fraction, decimals and percents! Get it at your local library, or ask your librarian to order it. 

I hope the lessons, ideas, worksheets and games are just what you need to round out your decimal lessons. After all, decimal Super Heroes don't just happen, sometimes it takes a little "Pizazz"!  If you have more ideas for other teachers, please add them below!

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Friday, March 4, 2016

Make Dry-Erase Boards for Pennies!

Dry-erase boards are the one pice of equipment I just can't teach without! They are easy to carry anywhere, allow me to check answers for everyone in the class at a glance, and kids love to use them. It's a win, win, win!

My problem was always the cost. They are pricy little devils. Then I found a quick and easy (and cheap) way to get a whole class set in only a few minutes. I always let the kids take them home at the end of the year, but NEVER during the year. I always have a few extra, but they are to replace boards that get beaten up for one reson or another. There aren't many that go bad, but when they do, they need to be replaced. 
So, follow the simple directions below and you'll have your class set!

I live near a Home Depot, so I go there. I'm sure other stores like it would also have everything you need. It takes one 4' by 8' piece of Eucatile. It sells for $13.97.  That's 43 cents per board. It has a slick white surface, which is perfect for a dry-erase board. I've also heard it called "white board". 

Home Depot will cut it up for you at a small cost BUT I have always told them I was a teacher, and it will be dry-erase boards for my students. They have always cut if for me for free, which I always appreciate!  Each finished dry-erase board is 12" by 12".

This is what Eucatile looks like. It is found in the Millworks section of the store. You will recognize it because it is white, shiny and slick.

The first step is to get someone who looks friendly (you want it cut for free----right?) and he will take it to the cutting station. 

I just tell them that I want it to be cut into one foot sections. The first thing they do it cut it into one foot by four foot strips. There are 8 of these strips.

Next he will take the 4 by 1 foot strips and cut them into one foot squares.

When he is done you have 32 boards.

The whole process takes about 15 minutes.

You don't have to tape the edges. I have never had a child get cut on an edge in over eight years. Have each child write their name on the back with a sharpie, and bring an old sock from home for an eraser. My school provided dry-erase markers, but with cut backs you may need to ask students to bring a couple of those as well. I only used black, since it was easy for me to see when they held up the boards. I told my students that the board was theirs, but they could NOT take it home until the last day of school. That rule came about after my first year of using them. Many, many, many never came back to school. Irritating, and not fun for me. The boards hold up amazingly well throughout the school year, but there are some that get pretty beat-up. Since 32 boards come from one sheet of Eucatile, I always had extra to replace boards with. 

How to use dry-erase boards in class?
1.  Reading: Answer question and hold up the board. You can see immediately who needs help. They are perfect for guided reading!!
2. Math: Work together or alone, hold up the board for teacher to check.
3.  Spelling: Practice words, homophones, etc.
4. Writing: Practice hooks, better adjectives etc.
5. They are perfect fore groupwork, individual practice and centers. Honestly, I used them many, many times throughout the day!

If you can think of any other ways to use dry-erase boards in class, please add them in the comments below!