Spaceteam app probably wasn’t created to help kids learn to decode rapidly, but it just might be the best method available. Spaceteam requires 2-4 players who all work on their own device to collaboratively solve meaningless problems. Each player is given a dashboard of gadgets with novel labels. Players see commands pop up on their screen. The only thing is each command is to be executed not by the player herself, but by one of the other Spaceteam members; therefore, the player who receives the command must quickly shout it out for another player to execute.
The game requires speed, collaboration, multitasking, and most of all, quick reading skills. For students in grades 2 through 6, they play without even realizing they are working on reading skills, and that’s the beauty of it. The game is so engaging and fun, they will beg for more and more, and before you know it, will have fluency that is out of this world! Here are my own kids (mostly grown ups) playing:
Spaceteam is free with upgrades available for $4.99. It is currently available for both iOS and Android devices.
Gail Boushey and Joan Moser, real life sisters, are the authors of one of the most popular books for teachers over the past several years, The Daily 5. The Two Sisters impact on teachers reaching well beyond just language arts instruction, but also into classroom management and character development. Scott and Tim engage in a lively discussion with these two down-to-earth powerhouse educators about topics like investing in kids, misconceptions about the Daily 5, and developing student skills to support the common core standards.
Last week, Jordan, one of my fifth grade girls, was caught doing something without permission! AND I LOVED IT!
Jordan’s classmate, Koral, was on a trip out of town to attend a funeral. During our book clubs (literature circles), I noticed that Jordan had propped her iPad up in front of her and was talking to Koral on FaceTime. Jordan knew that our class was a safe place to try something new. She also knew that I would approve of anything she did that enriched her education or that of a classmate. So here is Jordan reading Chomp to Koral, separated by a measly 1000 miles.
So what book are you reading these days? And what made you decide to grab that book and read it? Most likely, you heard about it from a trusted friend, relative, or colleague. Do kids recommend books to each other? From my experience, the answer is NO. They aren’t naturally talking about the books they love at recess, on their cells, or online. That’s where you and I come in. We need to provide class time and clear guidance for our students to learn how to recommend books to each other. I train my students at the beginning of the year to record, in their binder or on their iPad, a “Books to Read” list. This list should include the title along with how they can find the book. If it’s in the library, then the author’s last name is usually sufficient. If a friend will loan them the book, then write the friend’s name next to the book title. As students finish reading their current book, they look at their “Books to Read” list to choose a new one.
This is where the Book Party comes in. Students learn to roam around the classroom “party-style” and just informally chat with one another about the books they love. All students must be carrying their list. Students are allowed to gather in groups of 2 or more. The only “rules” for the Book Party is that all students must be either talking about a book they love, listening to someone else talking about a book, or writing down a book recommendation on their “Books to Read” list. One key to helping students to stay focused is for the teacher to constantly scan the room checking for students who appear to be off task. Book parties normally last about 5 minutes. Sometimes, at the end of the book party, I will ask students to hold up the number of fingers to correspond to how many books they added to their list. Here is a brief video peek at my students conducting a book party.
As students work in groups, designate one or more students to silently observe the workers. Call them the Super Spies. The Super Spies silently take notes on positive behaviors and then report what they saw to the class. The teacher should be the first Super Spy to model the types of behaviors that should be reported. It’s quick, it’s simple, and it works wonders.
Watch as Super Spies report positive behaviors to class.
Many teachers have a D.E.A.R. Day on occasion. Drop Everything And Read. Here are 11 keys to D.E.A.R. Day success in the elementary school classroom.
Schedule the day. Break the day up into 15-20 minute segments. Doing what? Read on.
Rotate types of activities. Yes, it’s an ALL reading day, but that doesn’t mean you want little kids trying to read by themselves all day long. That is a recipe for disaster. Four possible activities include reading to self (silent reading), teacher read aloud, book talks, and read with a friend.
Discipline using an on/off switch. Are the kids allowed to talk or not? Make that perfectly clear and enforce it to a T! If voices are off, not a single student is allowed to say one single word. If it’s time to share, let ’em loose. Don’t tolerate a middle ground, occasional chatting when it’s supposed to be silent.
Maintain your classroom rules. The atmosphere should be relaxed but don’t throw your standards out the window.
Allow soft stuff. Encourage your students to wear their jammies, bring their giant pillows, and cuddle with their favorite stuffed animals. It’s a special day!
Move the furniture. Open up the room so the kids can lounge around on the floor. Join them on the floor (with professional discretion.)
Don’t allow movement. When it’s time to read silently, find a place and stay there until the timer goes off.
Read with the kids. Pull out your favorite book and read it while the kids read silently.
Get the kids talking about their reading. At the end of each silent reading block, ask the students to turn and talk about what they just read. Listen into their conversations.
Take pictures. Pictures send this message to your kids: What you are doing is newsworthy. Reading is a big deal.
Don’t ruin the fun. Stay away from quizzing the kids or giving them “assignments.” Make the day all about the love of reading.
Many of today’s students lack the life experience to truly comprehend what they read. Schema is the background knowledge a reader applies to understanding literature. In order to build schema, teachers and parents may want to use videos as the next-best-thing to a real-life experience.
I have organized a list of schema-building videos on my class website to accompany most of the stories from our basal reading book. With so much available on YouTube, a quick search can normally result in a plethora of options to help children build schema.