Linking up with the wonderful Jivey at Ideas By Jivey. This week's question is What do you use to help your kiddos get their thoughts out on paper? I've made it a habit to use graphic organizers as much as possible in my classroom. I feel that my lower students thrive from having somewhere to organize their thoughts before actually answering a question or writing a narrative. Although my students come into 4th grade expecting a lot of assistance, while using graphic organizers, I try to use the gradual release model. I think it is important to instill confidence and independence in students throughout the year. Students are on the actual "release" part at different times depending on their abilities, the topic being addressed, and their individual goals and needs. I used to use a ton of answer frames from Nancy Boyles to help my lower students, but with the CCSS our school is moving away from a typical "formulated answer response."
A time I use the most graphic organizers would definitely be during small group and guided reading. I think the students enjoy putting their thoughts down on thinking maps and they really do appreciate cutesy planning sheets. We put together our favorite organizers in a pack called "The Guided Reading Survival Kit!" I seriously wished someone gave me this file as a new teacher. It would have saved me a lot of thinking, time, and helped my students faster.
Teaching students the basic text structures and the corresponding graphic organizer for each structure is also an important lesson I feel students need to master. Because my class was particularly struggling with this, I created worksheets with matching posters. That sure did the trick because they quickly turned into pros, which was noted from the quiz at the end of the packet!
I also use a great graphic organizer for narrative writing. The kids can create it quickly, fill it in, and write a full narrative story quickly. This led me to the idea to create a narrative writing game. I call it "Funny Ha Ha" because just saying that out loud makes me laugh. The kids absolutely LOVE it. It helps them create and correctly use a planning graphic organizer before they start writing and the game portion makes it entertaining and new. I've used this as a whole class exercise, small group, intervention, and even individual work. Either way, the kids ask to play it over and over.
Thanks again for the linky Jivey :)