If a child can't learn the way we teach, maybe we should teach the way they learn.

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Researching techniques for 8th Graders

Cross posted from Language Arts Blog

My eighth graders have started a research paper on different types of diseases and disorders.  We are working collaboratively with our science teacher.  Each student randomly chose a different type of disease selected by Mrs. Jaffa to research.  They are using this organizer to create their paper.

8th grade research 2013.docx

Once the topics were chosen, it was time to work with our librarian, Mrs.Hallett.  We started a series of lessons involving how to properly search for reliable information, how to cite the resources properly, and how to take notes without plagiarizing.

Our note broadcaster of the week, Sabrina M., shared detailed notes of our lessons with the class.

Research Paper Notes - Google Drive

class13 res

Now that the students have learned these necessary researching skills, they have been working on visiting their chosen sites and taking notes.  Next week, we are planning to start writing the first draft of their research papers.


What tips have you learned about researching?  What is important to share with others?


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Skyping with Brazil

Cross posted from Teitelbaum Language Arts Blog

My sixth graders had the opportunity to Skype with Silvia Tolisano and her new school last week. They were the experts on creating “tutorials”.  They shared what they’ve learned with the students in Brazil and gave some  helpful tips.

Each student had a different “job” during the Skype call.  We had a tweeter,  two note takers, four students on the panel answering questions, and one student was the photographer.  We also had one student looking up information as needed.


Have you ever created a tutorial before?  What suggestions would you have to help someone who has not created a tutorial?

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A New Way to Learn Vocabulary


We have completed two weeks of school and have accomplished plenty.  Learning to utilize only 45 minutes to teach vocabulary, literature, grammar, and writing has been challenging.  I decided to try something a little different with vocabulary.  I introduce four new root words each week.  One student (in each of my classes) is assigned the job of being the scribeThe scribe must open up a Google Doc, define each root word, write its origin, and list 5-6 examples for each.  Here is a sample of one scribe’s assignment for the root word geo:

ROOT                           Meaning                            Origin                       Examples

Geo                               earth                                 Greek                          Geography





Once this part of the assignment is complete, the scribe must then share the document with all of his/her classmates and myself.  The rest of the students are to choose an example listed for each root word, define it, find its synonym and antonym, and write a sentence using each word.  They also have the option of writing an analogy instead of a sentence.  After the first quarter, I will probably require analogies once a month.  After three weeks of root words, I will assess the students on the meanings.

When I first came up with this idea, I was trying to find some way to have weekly vocabulary, without it taking away too much teaching time.  The beauty of this technique is that it is completed individually at home, and simultaneously provides each student with a comprehensive study guide.  I thought it would be complicated for the students to understand the procedure, but after one week of modeling it each day, they got it.  Each scribe completed their jobs before I even gave a reminder.  Each week a new scribe is in charge.  I am hoping that it will be effective in learning the meanings of many root words, which from my summer reading, I discovered is the key in teaching vocabulary.

I am using mini-grammar lessons to start each class, and then we jump into literature analysis or writing.  My 6th graders will be writing short stories, my 7th graders will be writing modern myths and legends, and my 8th graders will be working on a research project.  We are definitely staying busy.


Here is one student’s work for the root words bio, phon, dict, and port:

 8th Grade Vocab 8_26_13 - Google Drive