Dare to Care

create, communicate, collaborate, and think critically

22/Feb/2016
by Denise Krebs
Comments Off on In Support of the Word Wall

In Support of the Word Wall

I moved to second grade this year to a room chock-full of English language learners.

I’ve had a word wall for many years–in grades Kindergarten through 8. This is the first year, however, that I’ve received such positive feedback about the word wall.  For instance, here are two things that happened within a week.

I received this valentine from one thankful student who takes pride in spelling high frequency words correctly.

Then this morning before school, I had to rearrange a few words because of maintenance work done over the weekend.

Word Wall: Friend of English Language Learners

Word Wall: Friend of English Language Learners                Photo by Fatima Hu.

A different boy came in and saw me with words in my hand and proclaimed, “What? Are you taking the words down? I need them to spell ‘because’ when I write it.”

I was happy to be able to tell him that, indeed, I was not taking the words down.

His enthusiastic question has motivated me to find even more ways to use it effectively.

I have always known that children learn with confidence if they are given as much scaffolding as needed. The word wall is perfect for writing with children of all abilities.

Many children still need to look at the word wall to spell are instead of ar. Eventually these children will learn or at least tire of me pointing to are and reminding them to spell it correctly. They will become independent spellers.

Other children need the word wall very rarely. They have already put many words to memory, or the words are decodable and they have the key to unlock many English words.

Eventually my friend from this morning will know how to spell because independently–not because it was a word on his spelling list once upon a time. He’ll learn it because the expectations are high and the environment supports his learning. The best part, though, he’ll learn because he wants to!

Here’s a great resource for primary classes from Harcourt’s Storytown to make fun and effective use of the words on the word wall. (Intermediate grade activities here.)

A couple favorite activities we do to learn the words are chanting the spelling and the mind reader game.  My favorite use of the word wall, though, is for authentic writing, as my two boys and their testimonials show.

How do you use a word wall?

Photo by our photographer of the day, Eman.

Photo by our photographer of the day, Eman.

29/Jul/2015
by Denise Krebs
2 Comments

Pearls of Wisdom for Second Grade English

Michael Buist's picture of pearls of wisdomflickr photo shared by buistbunch under a Creative Commons ( BY-NC-ND ) license

Recently I noticed the above picture on Michael Buist’s Instagram account.

I have watched Michael’s Instagram posts about pearls of wisdom, and I was always curious. This time I asked him if he had written a post about his pearls. Good timing. He was just getting ready to write that post. You can read it on Michael’s Tumblr blog: Pearls of Wisdom Gamify Learning. Be sure to click on that link now and read the post for details about the Pearls of Wisdom. (I’ll wait for you.)

It’s a game. It’s an alternative to grading. It honors the ability of young people to memorize for a lifetime. (I always enjoyed memorizing times tables, presidents, U.S. capitals, and more. I would have loved the pearls of wisdom idea.)

I’m definitely going to try this with second grade English language learners. What would the pearls be for, though? I just finished teaching Kindergarten. For those students, some of the pearls may have been for knowing all the letters and sounds, days of the week, months of the year, and Kindergarten sight words.

For second grade, I need some advice from second grade teachers and teachers of English language learners. I have a limited time with the students, only 3-4 hours a week! What pearls of wisdom would your second grade English language learners earn?

Michael, thank you so much for sharing this awesome idea and write up on your Tumblr account. Thanks for introducing me to two new teachers from KGA. (You can follow Michael and his colleagues here: @BuistBunch, @NusKnights, @notleycrew1, @gforceteach). I have one more question, though. Do the pearls of wisdom stay with the child? Or in the room, as this photo below suggests? Do they stay in the room and students add to them as they earn? Are their names on the string? (Some would have few pearls and hanging up for all to see, right? 🙁 )

Michael's Class #PearlsofWisdom

Michael’s Class #PearlsofWisdom

flickr photo shared by buistbunch under a Creative Commons ( BY-NC-ND ) license

12/Jul/2015
by Denise Krebs
8 Comments

What is the Purpose of School?

Recently Oliver Schinkten asked the question, What is the purpose of school? (Read more provocative questions at #QinEd)

My first thought was that was a very big question. I believe the purpose of school is to save our democracy. It’s a frightening thought to consider what America, and other countries, would be like without school. I believe in public education, even with all its problems that will be fixed. I believe our country needs school in order to save itself.

On a more down-to-earth level of school purpose, I liked the idea of communication Joy Kirr shared in this blog post when she answered Oliver’s question.

Certainly communication is the paramount goal of English language learner instruction. I am teaching in a bilingual school in the Kingdom of Bahrain; this year I’m moving up to second grade after 1.5 years in kindergarten. On a day-to-day basis, my goal is much like Joy’s, to use the English language in all its facets to communicate with my English language learners. In addition, I want them to grow in their ability to communicate in English, as well as their native Arabic.

I teach them about what research says about their growing brains when they are learning multiple languages. (Some of them actually speak three or four languages.) I teach them about how they get smarter when they have to struggle to learn something. (SIDEBAR: Join us on 6 August 2015 as we discuss more about using #mindset in the classroom.)

Of course, the reason for all of my teaching is a bigger life lesson.  My purpose is for them to be not only lifelong learners, but creative innovators, collaborators, and confident world-improvers.  What could be a better gift for today’s world than these bilingual innovators from Bahrain using what they’ve learned to make the world a better place? That’s my ultimate purpose in teaching English to second graders.

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