Sunday, February 19, 2017

Modal Auxiliary Verbs

Modal Auxiliaries... I have to admit, when I first ran across this term in the 4th grade Common Core language standards, I had no idea what modal auxiliaries were. 

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.4.1.C  Use modal auxiliaries (e.g. can, may, must) to convey various conditions.

Other than the three examples, the standard itself didn't provide much information for me, so I had to do an Internet search on the topic... and I quickly became overwhelmed! I knew immediately that it would be difficult to teach the subtle nuances between these words in this special class of helping verbs- especially to my English language learners! 

Ultimately, I decided that students will gain proficiency in this area if they are introduced to the modals, and then have plenty opportunities to interact with the modals themselves. Today, I'm going to share my modal auxiliary verbs anchor chart and a followup activity that will help your students understand how to use modal auxiliary verbs.

First of all, here's the anchor chart I created to accompany this standard. (I always introduce new standards with a PowerPoint presentation, so I would create this anchor chart on the second day of my unit, when students have some prior knowledge on the subject.)  I recommend getting your students involved in the creation of this anchor chart by having them help you create the example sentences.

Modal Auxiliary Verbs Anchor Chart- This blog post also contains 4 FREE posters!

I also created the following "politeness" activity to do with students after the anchor chart has been created. One of the articles I ran across on the Internet addressed how different modals convey different degrees of politeness in certain situations. As a teacher of English Language Learners, this is something that I wanted to be sure to point out to my students. While these nuances may seem obvious to native English speakers, they can be quite confusing for ELLs.

I would begin by telling my students that we are going to play a little game to test our "politeness" levels. I would stress that this game isn't for a grade... it's just for fun! I would display the first poster using the document camera, briefly discuss the directions, and then have the students record on a scrap of paper which character's statement was more polite.
Modal Auxiliary Verbs: This blog post contains 4 FREE posters that address how different modals can convey different levels of politeness!
Then I would display the other three posters:
Modal Auxiliary Verbs: This blog post contains 4 FREE posters that address how different modals can convey different levels of politeness!

Modal Auxiliary Verbs: This blog post contains 4 FREE posters that address how different modals can convey different levels of politeness!

Modal Auxiliary Verbs: This blog post contains 4 FREE posters that address how different modals can convey different levels of politeness!

After students recorded their answers for all four posters, we would return to each poster individually, and discuss the correct answer. (Click on any of the posters above to download your FREE posters, and to access the answer key!)

If you are looking for additional student-friendly materials for teaching your students about modal auxiliary verbs, feel free to check out the bundle that is available in my store!
Address the common core standard L.4.1.C (modal auxiliary verbs) with these resources! This bundle includes a PowerPoint, craftivity, task cards, posters, and worksheets!

Thanks for stopping by today! Come back soon!


Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Studying Dialogue to Deepen Understanding

teaching dialogue
One thing I have really tried to do this year is help my students understand that "faster isn't always better"--and this is particularly true when reading challenging texts.

We are in the midst of our historical fiction unit where are reading historical fiction now--and will be writing it next.  We've done all the important work of studying different eras to help us understand our settings...and now I want my students to really dig into their characters to help us with our writing next week--where we will rewrite a key section of their book club books as if they were a different character telling the story.  It's a ton of fun!

In the interest of true "close reading", we dug into a few pages from a recent read aloud to see what we could learn about WHAT the characters were saying--HOW they were saying it...and what we could learn about them or the story from their words.  Again--I reminded students that sometimes reading is more than merely finding out what happens--it's UNDERSTANDING what happens and connecting to the characters.

Attempt 1:  I sent them off in trios to read the page and to "notice" the dialogue.  I encouraged them to interact with the text--to underline, highlight, add annotations, and so on.  They got to work right away and I circulated...but I noticed something.  Although they were FINDING the dialogue, they were talking about the EVENTS.  I let them work a little bit longer, then I threw the text under the document camera and we did some sharing.
teaching dialogue
 I got a few "a-ha' moments when I started to get after that initial direction--"Find out WHAT the characters were saying, HOW they were saying it, and what we could learn from it.

I sent them back to their groups...discussions got more focused.
studying dialogue
After a while, I could tell that we still weren't getting deep enough so I grabbed another section of text and put it back under the document camera and we really picked apart the first few paragraphs.  I read aloud slowly, paused for some think time, and asked students to raise their hand if they had anything to say about WHAT was said, HOW it was said, or any insights they had after I read it.

Along the way, I started to highlight the actual dialogue to separate it from the descriptive narration, and we started to notice some things--first, the words the author has the characters speak are important.

"It must be lonely, when your best friend is gone forever."

...but the other words are JUST as important.  The word "sighed" really helped us feel Elise's angst.  Earlier, we noticed this sentence;

We sat, but didn't start talking.  I looked at the smooth water, dark and far away.

We talked about what NOT talking told us...about how the characters were being reflective...and thoughtful...and calm.
deep thinking
 As we worked our way through the rest of the second text, we noticed all the different things characters' words "taught" us about them...and how different the text would have been if the author simply TOLD us these things as a narrator might.
reading comprehension
I think the most powerful thing about the lesson was how empowered my students felt...the felt like "grown up" readers who had the power to think deeply and really think about the characters--and what they believed the author was trying to do by carefully choosing the words to have the characters speak.

I can't wait until we start our own writing so students can try their own hand it this!  We learned how to write dialogue earlier this year, but I'm going to repeat my lessons with a new lens--what as authors are we trying to SHOW about our characters.  I'm hoping the dialogue my students write to enhance their historical fiction stories will be more meaningful and relevant than the work they did earlier this year. Here are the tools I used then if you want to take a peek!
Thanks for stopping by!  Give this lesson a try and see what you think!

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Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Encouraging Reluctant Writers to Write

So I had this really incredibly elegant post that I was going to write all about the intricacies of writing. Seriously, I was planning on making it this period piece that would stand out more than any other writing idea that’s existed since the invention of parchment.

But then something happened. I got distracted. I decided not too. Besides, writing is not fun. It has to be incredibly structured. I need to have main ideas. I needed to have topics and reflect on the structural differences between personal narratives and persuasion. So I didn’t do it.

Instead, you get this...

How do I get my reluctant writers to write?
How do I get my kids that struggle to write a single sentence in 20 minutes to be a better writer?

It’s a problem that many teachers face. It’s a problem that I actually have myself. I don’t like writing. It takes time, effort, practice, revision, and sometimes it actually makes my brain hurt.

Would it shock you to know that some of these sentences you’ve read have been erased six different times because I felt like I was never able to get my point across. If I’m having these issues, I wonder how my students are feeling.

So I gotta change it up with my students. I don’t need them to love writing, like I love coffee. But I need them to write, and I've got to find ways to encourage them along the way. I could stop hear and talk a lot about how important a growth mindset is for kids when it comes to writing…but I won’t…you already know. So instead, I’ll share some of my simpler techniques I use in my classroom to get kids putting pen to paper (or voice to text).

Round Robin
Each student gets a paper and we all write the opening sentence salvo together. Then they add their own portion of the story with another single sentence. (let me add that most of these writing activities involve creative/free writing).

Next, pass the paper to the student next to you. The next student reads the story and they continue the story by writing their own sentence. Then pass it on again. Read the story, write a sentence, pass it on. This can happen however many times you want.

On the last pass, I give the stories back to the original student so they can close out the story. Then we read our stories. And the kids love it.

FreeWrite Friday
One of my favorite writing activities is what we like to call FreeWrite Friday. This year I’ve backed off of it some, but it’s making a comeback.

We turn down the classroom lights, turn on some loud(ish) soundtrack, and write while the music is on. I typically set a timer (for myself) of 8-12 minutes in length but if students are still quiet we let it ride.

Many times I’ll give them a topic or story starter like waking up in a video game or the time they got to ride on a t-rex, real heavy hitting stuff that will bore them.

Sometimes we'll watch part of movie trailers and make predictions. Honestly, we never know what we're going to do, but it normally revolves around pop-culture.

Embed It Like Inception
I’m a project based learning kind of guy, so I like to use my resources as a gateway to get my students writing. I love to use the “why” in PBL because it forces students to tell me exactly what they are doing and why they are doing it.

Students will fill the pages with their own ideas because it’s the only way they can share what they’ve learned. Sure, I could go over and let them tell me, but that’s not what I want. I want them to write without realizing they’re doing so and project based learning is one of the ways we get it done.

One of my favorites is where they create their own story, which you can do if you don’t write. So we go to The Island; from their they read a top secret government report, and create a story and characters from there. The less they write/produce -the smaller the story is.

Share Their Works
Whatever we write, we share. Writers need to hear others and they need to be heard. We celebrate every written work by being specific with our praise and also giving feedback for areas that will continue to need work.

Students need to be reading their works out loud.

Google Voice Typing
Writing doesn’t have to be with a pen, pencil, or keyboard. Google’s voice to text is an absolute game-changer with some of my students. For my students that write slow or have lower writing/reading skills this is a must-use. Students can speak and it writes, but you have to be using GAFE, Google Education.

I just had a student (a fourth grader) "write” his entire report with Google Voice and the whole thing took him 15 minutes to complete. (Editor’s note: This does not include editing) If he did it the traditional way, it would’ve taken 3-4 hours.

And let me just say, that this isn’t cheating. We’ve all got those kids that are filled with so many ideas, but they lack the organization skills to ever get it on paper. A beautifully thought out phrase is turned into a seven word sentence. That’s not fair for those students. Give them a tool to get them going.

For me, the core purpose of writing is to coherently get your ideas into an organized form for others to understand.

Write With Your Students
Seriously, write with your students. Or just practice writing.

I’m an honest person, I know my writing isn’t always up to par. Yet, that’s one of the main reasons I started blogging/writing in the first place—because I knew I was ungood at it. And every day I can get a bit better.

What are you’re ways that you get your reluctant writers going?

You can find more from me at Digital: Divide & Conquer where I tackle project based learning, technology,  and at home reminding my kids to turn off the lights in their rooms.