Temporary Hiatus

Purple Writing

My oldest son has been injured (with a longsword no less!). He is in ICU and likely to be there for at least this week. Needless to say, I’m trying to spend as much time with him as I can. Therefore, I am temporarily suspending my posts until he has recovered.

I’m praying like mad, and I know God loves him even more than I do! I’m counting on that.

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Reading Response: A Focus on Vocabulary

Want to help your children or students build their vocabulary? Try this exercise.

Prepare to Read

First, either instruct your children or students to read for a set amount of time. When I was a classroom teacher my standard “student choice” reading homework assignment was to read for 10 minutes, 3-5 nights a week.

You might do the same with your children or students, or you might read aloud for a set time period or length of pages. Be sure, if you are a parent, your child is sitting beside you so he or she can see the text as your read. If you are a teacher, be sure you are reading from a text that all the students can have a copy of, so they can follow along.

Print the following statements onto a note card, project them on your Smartboard, or write them on your whiteboard:

  • A word I did not know or was not certain of the meaning of was…
  • I found it in this sentence…
  • I think it means…
  • I looked it up in the dictionary and it means…

As you or they read, tell your students to be on the lookout for a word for the exercise.

Read

Instruct your child or student to begin reading, or you begin reading. It is best if you do this in a quiet room without a lot of distractions. Tell him or her to write down the word and page number when they spot it and then continue reading for the allotted time.

Respond

When done, instruct your students or child go back to the page they noted and copy down the sentence in which he or she found the word. Instruct them to fill in the remaining statements or, if your group is small enough, discuss the remaining statements together.

Closure

Challenge your students or child to look for ways to use their new word for the next few days.

Your Turn

How do you like to help your children or students to expand their vocabulary?

Teacher’s File Drawer: Name Research Project

“What’s in a name?  That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.”
Shakespeare, from “Romeo and Juliet” (II,ii,1-2)

In honor of International Celebrate Your Name Week, I want to share my favorite research project–a Name Research Paper.

The Name Research Paper

Every person has a name—some two, three, or even four names.  And all names have some kind of story behind it.  What I asked the students to do was research their own name. It could be their first name, middle name or both.

Questions to consider were:

  • How did their parents choose their names?  Why?
  • What traditions were in their families for choosing names?
  • Why did their parents decide to spell their names the way they do?
  • What does their name mean?
  • What is their names’ histories—in their family? In the world?
  • Are there other versions of their names?  Where do they come from? What do they mean?

Page 2 of the assignment sheet provided a section for parents’ signatures, so that my students parents would know what we were working on and what was required.

Name Research Sources

The students were required to interview a family member as one of their resources for the project. Other resources can include baby name books and baby name websites, and if they were named after a fictional character or famous person, research into the story of that individual. At least 5 different types of sources should be used.

I used these criteria when scoring for the number of sources used:

  • 1 Source—0% of points possible
  • 2 Sources—35% of points possible
  • 3 Sources—70% of points possible
  • 4 Sources—85% of points possible
  • 5 Sources or more—100% of points possible and higher

Notecards

Students were expected to use note cards and part of their final scores were determined by how many notes they took. For full credit they needed at least 25 note cards.

One day of the project started with a lesson on how to create note cards.Here is an example of a source card:

Here is an example of a note card:

I used these criteria when scoring for notecards:

  • None-5 Cards—0% of points possible
  • 6-10 Cards—50% of points possible
  • 10-11 Cards—60% of points possible
  • 12-13 Cards—65% of points possible
  • 14-17 Cards—70% of points possible
  • 19-21 Cards—80% of points possible
  • 22-24 Cards—90% of points possible
  • 25 Cards and up—100% of points possible and higher

Remainder of Name Research Paper Project

When it came  time to write the paper, I required my students to use the complete writing process: pre-write, rough draft, revise and edit to MLA format for citations, participate in peer evaluation, do a final revision and edit, and produce a final copy complete with bibliography.

Scoring the Name Research Paper

This is the scoring page for the name research papers:

At the time I was teaching this lesson, my state, Oregon, was using their own writing scoring guide whose traits you see listed in the middle section. You can easily adapt this section to include your own writing scoring guide.

At the bottom, you see writing reflection questions the students were required to fill out and turn in with their research papers. I found using reflection questions at the end of long projects like this helped the students cement into memory what they learned while working on the project.

Why Did I Love This Project?

Because the paper is all about something that relates to them personally, I found it was easier to generate student buy-in.

It was a good assignment for practicing research skills and, because of the personal aspect, for establishing the student’s unique writing voices.

I usually did this near the beginning of the school year, and it provided both me and the students’ a good opportunity to get acquainted, and nearly all the papers were enjoyable to read.

Your Turn

What kinds of assignments do you like to use to help you get acquainted with your students? What topics have you found to be useful for generating student enthusiasm?

Best Books of February

best-books-logo

Initial Choice for Best Book of February

All through February, the book I had in mind for “Best Book of February” was The Devlin Diary by Christi Phillips, a double mystery set in contemporary Oxford and 17th century London. However, on February 28, I finished reading Donald Maass’ Writing the Breakout Novel.

breakout-novelBest Book of February

Writing the Breakout Novel is a book I have heard recommended at more writing conferences than I can even remember to count. Finally, I have read it, and I understand the raves. This book is about the characteristics that move a novel beyond the mid-list into best seller territory. Maass describes each quality, gives examples, and provides practical advice for working it into your novel. The book is both inspiring and practical at the same time. I would recommend “Breakout Novel” to any novelist, and I know I’ll be reading more of Maass’ books.

Your Turn to Recommend a Book

So, I shared my favorite February read. Tell me, please, what was yours? It could be fiction, nonfiction…any genre. What book did you or maybe your children really enjoy? What book made a major impact on you? Please use the comment space to share the title, author’s name, and just a snippet about your book to whet your fellow readers’ appetites.

 

Literate Lives New Blog Schedule

new-blog-schedule

Beginning next week, Monday, March 6, I will begin posting on Mondays and Thursdays, rather than my Tuesday/Thursday Schedule.

My initial thought with the Tuesday/Thursday schedule, was to post a brief, something to think about post on Tuesdays and a more substantial post on Thursdays. However, I have not been able to keep myself to that pattern. (There’s a reason I’m a novelist!). Therefore, I am switching to the Monday/Thursday so that readers will have closer to equal time to read and enjoy each post.

See you on Monday with “Best Books of March.” Be ready to share your favorite read. It takes you and me to make that plural–“books.”