How to Use Team Points (and why it works!)

In my classroom management, I like to implement systems on three levels of accountability: hold students accountable individually, as teams/ small groups, and as a whole class.  This is how I use team points for small group accountability: 

How I use team points in my own classroom:
-teams of 4 are optimal (because it’s two partnerships… also, it’s small enough where everyone is accountable, but big enough that there’s not too much pressure on any one student)
-the teams have their desks together and sit together when other grouping is not in place
-teams work together to earn points
-the points are recorded on the board or on a chart so everyone can see them
-only I can award team points (But I can invite another teacher to give their opinion on which team/s have earned points.  This keeps other teachers from completely taking over your own system, but allows for some continuity.) 
-the team with the most points at the end wins a prize
-during the first month or so, prizes are awarded after a week
-once students have ‘bought in’ and the system is in place, switch over to awarding prizes after two weeks (I like to take advantage of a shorter school week to say, “Oh, this is a short week, let’s keep these teams until the end of next Friday instead,” as a trial for the longer time period.)
-immediately after the winners have been named, move the students into new teams.
-the winning team is responsible for erasing all of the previous points from the chart, so it’s ready for a fresh start (because they are leaders, and leaders show responsibility for the whole group!)
-there’s an editable map (in PowerPoint) of our classroom that I use to create new teams by moving the students’ names around.  I keep it secret until it’s time for the students to switch into new teams.  Then, I project it onto the board and let the students move their desks to match the map.

Why this system works so well (for me):
-Moving the students so frequently helps the kids get to know each other and creates a stronger bond and class culture.
-If parents (or students!) are upset about their seat placement, I can just remind them that it’s only for (at most) ten school days, and then they will be moved to a different spot with a different partner and different team.
-Almost all of the responsibility for running the system is on the students.  They move their desks, they set up the team points chart, and they can even collect their own prizes (if you set up a system for it).  The teacher just needs to award points and make the new seating chart by moving the names around on the slide.
-This system grows with your students, as they mature.  In the beginning of the year, I spend a lot of time awarding points for things like: getting ready on time, listening, raising your hand, having your pencil, etc…. basic direction following and things we need to do to have order in the classroom.  As the students mature, I start to award points for things like: making sure your partner understands a concept, reminding your team to bring home their math book for the homework assignment, being honest even when it’s hard, making good choices,  working hard to improve in something, or helping someone from another team clean their desk and get organized.  At first, students will do these things to earn points, but eventually, it just becomes part of your class culture and part of who the students are as human beings.

Happy Teaching (with teams)!!
Christine Cadalzo

PS: You can get my printable Team Points chart parts here, if you don't want to make your own. 

Ways to Talk About Teamwork

Teamwork is one of the most important skills we can teach our students.  It’s one of those things that they will need to rely on in almost every aspect of adult life, and yet sometimes it gets pushed aside in our busy teaching schedules.  Here are some ways to add teamwork to your teaching:

1.  Read books about teams.
Work some teamwork examples and discussions into your literacy block by doing read alouds that have a teamwork theme, or even just adding more books about teamwork to your classroom library.

Some of my favorites are:
Picture books:
Swimmy by Leo Leonni
The Biggest Snowman Ever by Steven Kroll
The Seven Chinese Brothers by Margaret Mahy
Stone Soup by Marcia Brown

Chapter books:
The View From Saturday  by EL Koningsburg
Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library by Chris Grabenstein
James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
Holes by Louis Sachar

Teammates by Peter Golenbock

Together by George Ella Lyon

2. Post and share teamwork quotes.
Hang them up around the room,  add them into your own teacher talk, and draw attention to thetimes when kids say valuable things about teamwork.  Make quotes part of your pervasive class culture so much that the kids start saying things like, “teamwork makes the dream work!”

3. Reflect after cooperative learning, partner or team activities.
Give students time to pause and reflect on how well they personally worked with their partner or team.  What did they do to support their teammates?  What support did they receive?  What did they say or do that contributed to the success of the goup?  How could they have been more helpful?  What could they improve for next time?

4. Share real life examples of great teams.
Sports, music, technology, and art all provide concrete, real world examples of teams and how they function.  Encourage students to think about their favorite groups, teams, or even partnerships and to look at how they work together to make great things happen.  (And what happens when things fall apart and they are less successful.)  Who are the team’s role models for being a great teammate?  Who makes a great leader or team captain, and why?  How do they handle success or failure?  What do they say about themselves, their team, and their teammates?

5. Talk about teamwork examples in the content areas.
Animals work together in nature all the time.  (Leaf cutter ants are a particularly good example.)  History is full of examples of people working together for a common cause.  How do they do it?  How do they accomplish difficult, incredible things by working together?  What can they do together that they could not do on their own?

6. Be a role model.
Be transparent and let your students see how you work as a part of a team- with their parents, with administrators, with your colleagues.  Whenever it’s appropriate, let them see how you communicate, divide up tasks, share ideas,  and handle frustrations. 

Happy (teamwork) Teaching!!

Christine Cadalzo

Foundational Reading in Upper Elementary

Foundational Reading in Upper Elementary

Foundational reading skills are the basics of phonic, decoding, and fluency.  It’s the actual reading the words part of reading (as opposed to the comprehension part).  In primary grades, students are largely ‘learning to read,’ meaning they learn to decode the letters and accurate read them.  In upper elementary, students focus more on ‘reading to learn,’ where they switch over to working more on comprehension.  But, like most of education, we these skills overlap heavily, and teachers will need to support students in both areas.  Even though the focus in upper elementary is more on comprehension, we can’t neglect these foundational reading skills. 

If students are truly struggling with basic phonics and decoding in upper elementary, most likely they are going to need an intervention in this area.  But, for our students that are (more or less) on grade-level in this area, there are many ways to support foundational reading skills in the upper elementary classroom.

What are the foundational reading skills students need in upper elementary?
They fall into three areas: decoding, fluency, and oral fluency.

-decode multisyllabic words
-use prefixes, suffixes, and roots to decode and understand the meanings of words
-apply phonics and word analysis skills to decode words
-read irregularly spelled words

-read accurately enough to support comprehension
-read fluently enough to support comprehension
-self-correct based on context
-reread when necessary

Oral Fluency:
-read aloud accurately
-read aloud with an appropriate rate
-read aloud with expression

Ways to support these foundational reading skills in upper elementary:

1. word walls:
-These are especially good for reviewing irregularly spelled words.  Collect them throughout the school year as you come across them.  Students can even keep their own mini-dictionaries of irregular words.
-Use example words that have prefixes, roots, or suffixes that the students will come across, so they can use these words as a reference.
-Use word walls as a reference for phonics and other skills students will need for decoding.

2. modeling:
When reading aloud to students, model these behaviors:
-self correcting for errors
-rereading when comprehension breaks down
-strategies decoding multisyllabic words.  Connect the written word and each syllable/ affix/ root with its sound and meaning.
-reading with appropriate rate- you can also read too fast or too slow to show students what happens when you don’t read at an appropriate rate
-reading with expression- or read things with a flat tone to show students how expression helps comprehesion

3. have students share their strategies with each other:
-Students can listen to each other read aloud and give each other tips on how to be more expressive
-Students can offer help with decoding strategies by sharing their decoding strategieis and asking each other, “How did you figure out that word?”
-Ask students, “How did you know you needed to reread that?” or “How did you know that was wrong and you needed to correct it?”

4. practice:
-Whenever possible, give the students copies of the read aloud text, so that they can see the words in print as they hear them.  Connecting the written words with the the auditory will help them become more fluent.
-Provide opportunities for multiple readings.  Have the students practice a paragraph or page until they can read it accurately and with expression.  This works especially well with poetry.

-Do partner work.  Students can read to each other or to younger students (or even to pets!) to become more accurate and expressive with their reading.

Happy (foundational reading) Teaching!!
Christine Cadalzo

Adding Language Skills to your Read Aloud

It can be really hard to fit everything in to our ELA instruction.  Often, it’s language and grammar that gets left out, but these are important skills that our students need in order to become truly literate.   One way to fit these sills in is to work them into our read aloud time.

Here are some quick ways to add some language and grammar to your read aloud:

When students all have a copy of the text:
-look at verb tenses in a paragraph or across a story line
-ask: what does this possessive mean? (and have students look at how it’s spelled)
-point out singular and plural nouns and look at their spellings
-highlight all of the conjunctions
-point out various parts of speech
-look at how the author uses capitalization
-look at punctuation: commas, quotes, apostrophes
-look at how the author uses commas- especially for making lists and using clauses
-look at how the author uses punctuation for quotation marks
-look at spelling changes (for example, ‘happiness’ comes from ‘happy,’ and we change the ‘y’ to an ‘i’ before adding the ending)
-look at spelling patterns- especially in multisyllabic words
-use the glossary to help understand the meanings of words and how to pronounce them
-discuss homographs, what they mean, and how you know which way to pronounce them
-find and discuss prepositional phrases in the text
-look carefully frequently confused words (to/two/too, etc.)
-identify conjunctions, prepositions, and interjections and look at how they are used in the text
-look for patterns in verb tenses across the chapter or story
-choose several sentences and rewrite them by condensing or expanding them (this is also a good lead-in to a writing lesson)

If you only have one copy of the text being read aloud:
-make a word web for abstract nouns that are important to the text
-ask: what does this particular pronoun mean/ refer to?
-pick out simple, compound, complex sentences and discuss how they function in the text
-point out relative pronouns (whose, whom, etc.) as you read aloud
-look at modal verbs (can, should, must) and how they affect the meaning of the text
-point out examples of run-on sentences and sentence fragments and how the author uses them for effect
-discuss how the author chooses words & phrases for effect
-look at spoken language when the characters are speaking, and compare and contrast it with the narrative text
-use context clues to figure out the meanings of words or phrases
-use roots/ affixes to figure out the meanings of words or phrases
-use dictionaries to look up words and discuss their meanings in the context of the read aloud
-discuss figurative language
-list literal and nonliteral language
-look at shades of meanings for different words
-analyze similies and metaphors
-look carefully at words that have multiple-meanings
-discuss idioms, adages, and proverbs
-point out synonyms and antonyms and how they relate to each other
-compare and contrast varieties and styles of English
-point out examples of either/ or and neither/nor and what they mean in the context of the book

Happy (language skills) Teaching!!
Christine Cadalzo 

Including Speech & Language Standards in Daily Instruction

With everything upper elementary teachers need to think about and cover, it can be really easy to let some things slide.  The speech and language standards tend to be one of those things.  These skills are important because they lead to more complex discourse in upper grades and college, and are an essential part of being an active citizen and participant in society.  The speech and language standards can also be a vehicle for teaching, practicing, and reviewing other content, so they are one of those ‘kill two birds with one lesson’ set of standards.

Here are some super simple ways to make sure your students develop appropriate speech and language skills in the general education classroom (without losing your mind):

1. Use a focus of the day or week. 
Choose an overarching focus of the month (or week) and then a specific focus for each week (or day).  This doesn’t require any extra class time, but helps focus students’ attention on a skill, so it’s more likely to be practiced.  You could also start by doing one overarching idea per month, and then once you cover them all more slowly, start cycling through by week to create a spiraled review.

Common Core-aligned examples:

overarching idea: participate in discussions
specific skills:
build on others’ ideas
clearly express your own ideas
            provide requested detail or clarification when asked
speak in complete sentences
            speak clearly
            speak at an understandable pace
differentiate between formal and informal situations (grade 4)
adapt speech to context (grade 5)

overarching idea: follow agreed upon discussion rules
specific skills:
stick to the topic
use active listening
take turns speaking
gain the floor in respectful ways
make sure everyone contributes
carry out roles (grades 4 & 5)

overarching idea: ask questions
specific skills:
ask questions to stay on topic
ask questions to check information
ask questions to clarify information
ask questions related to the comments of others
ask follow up questions (grade 4)

overarching idea: come to discussions prepared
specific skills:
read to prepare
use what you read to participate
study to prepare
use what you studied to participate

overarching idea: reflecting on conversations
            explain your own ideas in light of the discussion
review the key ideas expressed (grades 4 &5)
draw concludsions in light of knowledge gained from discussions (grade 5)

2. Use an activity-specific focus:
When it’s time for read aloud, or when information is being given visually, quantitatively, or orally, knowing the focus skill(s) for your grade level can make things less overwhelming.  These skills are already covered in other ELA standards, so we don’t have to add any additional content.

for read alouds and content delivery:
grade 3: determine the main idea and details
grade 4: paraphrase
grade 5: summarize

from speakers:
grade  3: ask & answer questions, elaborate & give detail
grade 4: identify reasons & evidence
grade 5: summarize, identify reasons & evidence

3. Make sure to include diverse groups regularly in the classroom:
-one-to-one/ teacher-led/ student groups
-diverse partners
-diverse topics & texts

4. Plan for these one-time mini-projects, as part of other ELA or content instruction:
A: give a report on a topic or text or tell a story (grade 3 & 4) or present an opinion (grade 5):
            give appropriate facts
            give relevant, descriptive details (that support main ideas/themes)
            in an organized way (grade 4)
            sequence ideas logically (grade 5)
            speak clearly
speak at an understandable pace

B: create an audio recording of a story or poem:
            use fluid reading
            use an understandable pace
            add visual displays
            grade 5: add multimedia components (graphics, sound, etc.)

If we just take some time at the start of the school year (or whenever we’re ready to tackle these) and plan it all out, then it’s easy to implement with very little extra work.  It’s mostly just a matter of adding a secondary focus to already existing lesson plans or projects and giving students a specific skills to practice during read alouds and conversations.

Happy (speech & language) Teaching!!
Christine Cadalzo