Wednesday, May 27, 2015

How to Write a Topic Sentence

When writing a topic sentence, I say that every topic sentence needs a TOPIC and A MAIN POINT. Here's what I mean, students are writing about something but they also need to make a clear and focused point about that something. Here is what I mean....

 how to write a topic sentence

Your topic is watching TV and the point you are making in this paragraph is that violence negatively influences behavior. 

When students are just beginning to write a topic sentence, it might be ok for them to write "watching too much TV is harmful." But, as they become better writers, if students just wrote "watching too much TV is harmful," it really doesn't provide the reader with enough information about the paragraph. What about watching too much TV is harmful? What else is the writer going to write about harmful TV watching?  

Teaching students the TOPIC + MAIN POINT technique helps students make sure their topic sentence is specific and focused, which allows them to further expand on the topic in an effective way. 

Some activity suggestions: 
Two activities I have liked to do to help them understand topic sentences are using sentence stripes and writing topic sentences for already written paragraphs. You could easily write a paragraph with a good quality topic sentence, mix up the sentences, and have the students put them paragraph back in order identifying the topic sentence and other parts of the paragraph if you want. The other activity I like to do is to pre-write some paragraphs that are missing a topic sentence. The students should then write a topic sentence that goes with that paragraph. Then, have the students share their topic sentences and they will see that while not everyone's is the exact same, they are fairly similar. 

If you would like to download the activities suggested above please CLICK HERE. I also have a whole group PowerPoint lesson available to you. 

Friday, May 1, 2015

Classroom Management Tips and Tricks: Using the Restroom

Classroom Management Tips and Tricks: Using the Restroom

Managing who uses the restroom and when is such a small part of the day, but it can be frustrating. Of course someone ALWAYS needs to go right when you start an important lesson or when you begin seat work, a writing task, or worse, in the middle of you giving directions. This tip works for literally any classroom no matter what age K-8.

How it works:

Have a designated object, one for boys and one for girls, that indicates they are in the restroom. When a student needs to use the bathroom, they just get up grab the object, and set it on their desk and go to the bathroom. When they come back, they return it to its designated spot. Simple!

Having been a substitute teacher, I have seen many different things used as the "restroom indicator" from beanie babies and passes that say BOYS or GIRLS. However, my favorite was simply small cones such as pictured below. Why? They are very easy to spot on a students desk when you are scanning the room and don't break easily.

Why it works:

I love this because the students have to make a decision about if it is or is not a good time to leave the room. It helps them become slightly more independent and take ownership over their learning. If they choose to leave the room in the middle of an important lesson or it results in them not finishing their work, they have to make up for it.
In addition....
1. Only 1 boy and 1 girl can be out of the room at the time. If there is no cone/bathroom indicator available, they just have to wait without even asking you :)
2. They don't have to interrupt your lesson or other students work time to ask you to use the bathroom
3. If they get up to go to the bathroom and it's not a good time, you can just let them know without a discussion about it. A simple "not now" or "in five minutes" does the trick.
4. If you are super busy and you can't remember who left to use the bathroom 5 minutes ago, just glance around the room and find their desk. Let's face it, those students and those days happen.

For the student that takes advantage:

I know what you might be thinking, what about the student who decides this is a free pass to leave your classroom 10 times a day. Not to worry. I have a solution for that. Popsicle sticks! Assign 2-3 popsicle sticks to that particular student or to the whole class. When they want to use the restroom, they have to turn in the stick. If by the end of the day they run out of sticks, oh well (unless it's a huge emergency)!!

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