Friday, January 13, 2012

Tools and Tricks

I have always been amazed how a new tool such as a post-it, a new spiral notebook, a colored pencil, or even tape can engage a student into a moment.  I should not be surprised since I also get excited about a new notebook, a new pack of post-its, a new purple pen, or highlighter tape!  Then, comes the tricks....the tricks that come at us.  We might not even remember who said it first, but we are always willing to pass them on to another teacher or students.  Whether it be the saying "there is no 'a' in they" or the multiplication trick for solving nines with your hands.  A trick always gets a student to not only hear, but to listen.

So...I decided to post about a tool and a trick that I have used recently.  After being in the literacy coach position for four years and coming back to the classroom, it was a tool and trick that I had pushed to the back of my memory.  After 15 years of teaching, I don't remember who said it.  I don't even remember if it was something I read or something that was said.  All I know is that I stored it, and wish I could remember who/what suggested it to me because I would love to thank them!  This tool and trick combination brought a spark back to revising and editing this week.

Tool:  a green colored pencil and red colored pencil
Trick:  to color code your sentences.  The capital letter at the beginning gets green for "go" and the punctuation gets traced over in red for "stop"

A student transfers the tool and trick to writing about your thinking in inquiry workshop.
Simple...I know.  After modeling for my students this "new to them" tool and trick, I was amazed at the conversations while we were beginning to edit a realistic fiction piece.  Conversations developed not only around editing, but into revising as well.  There were conversations on sentence complexity, word choice, and types of punctuation.  The students visually could see the beginning of one idea to the start of the next.  By tracing the beginning of each letter, conversations were happening on varying the start of sentences.  I was able to listen to many conversations that, in the past, were not happening.  It was easy for them to look at a sentence in isolation and it was easy for them to revise or edit as a whole piece.  All of this because of two colored pencils and some tracing.  I am still wishing I could thank the source for this tip...bet my students do too!

Have any simple tools and tricks that you use? Reading, writing, math...whatever! Would love to hear them...leave a comment! :)

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