Graphic Organizers Galore!

If I can organize my thoughts, ideas, questions, feelings into graphics, then I’m all about it. Language learning is so much more enriching when pictures can be associated to word concepts. Sometimes it takes a short video clip to see the concept in motion or maybe an action that can be associated with the meaning of the word. All of these elements, whether used alone or in combination, help to further instill language and new terminology. 

We can talk all day about healthy foods and read about eating a rainbow of foods. But it doesn’t really help us if we only know a few of each colored food. I created this food color wheel to go along with our book from Reading A to Z, A Rainbow of Foods. I put up a picture of some colorful foods, we referenced our book and completed this healthy food wheel. This helped my students a lot with more ways to eat healthy and better snack choices. 

This organizer came straight from the Reading A to Z activities with the non-fiction text, The Foods We Eat. In this text we learned about where different foods come from and how they are made. Students had to brainstorm some of their favorite foods and figure out if they were plant eaters or meat eaters. Again associating a word with a picture and even a partial definition in this case with explaining the where. Some students took it a step further by telling where exactly their food came from.  

A story we read from the My Sidewalks on Reading Street collection had a similar picture that I drew up as a labeling activity. The book had this diagram at the end of the section for students to look over and read. I created this document for the students to physically label the plant parts between a flower and a vegetable. This activity was completed with first graders but can easily be modified for up to third grade, depending on how many parts you’d like to label.  

Not every graphic organizer has to include graphics. Sometimes just the movement and separation of words and phrases gives the visual or kinesthetic learner a different approach to understanding. This is where good old Venn diagrams,  t-charts, or KWL (know, want, learned) charts come in handy.

These types of graphic organizers are my absolute fave! They are so versatile and of course can be tailored to anyone’s needs. I first discovered them through Vocabulary A to Z, a branch of the Reading A to Z collection. Sometimes I choose the words to be defined and other times I make a list of vocab words for the students to pick the words they need a more clear understanding of. Students look up images on Google, our text, or from our discussions. For the more advanced students, we take our words and illustrations to the next level by writing a sentence about them.  

And then there are always more graphic organizers that are just more visually pleasing ways to share and keep track of information. Sometimes it’s good to physically see the connections between different things and how they correlate with like topics. Other times it’s good to make a timeline or number line to list out events in chronological order to get a grasp on time itself and the significance of events. 

Whatever works best for your students and you is something to take and run with.  My personal favorite is the vocab words with matching illustrations, which can be used across the board in various content areas and learning abilities.  I hope this blog will help you and your students to further develop language skills and comprehension overall. These are definetly big hits with my kiddos. 


Connecting Contractions

Sometimes we know what apostrophe’s are and sometimes we think they are commas that got away. But when it comes down to taking out a letter, or two or more, we throw that old friend in the air to signal that something is missing. When using contractions, we are taking two words and pushing them together as  concept can be easy to grasp but often times the students keep reading the contracted word as two separate words. When reading it’s, they are often saying it is. Sometimes when breaking things down we only make it that more confusing. So I like to take a few different approaches to concepts and grammatical tools to fully develop the thought process.  

When looking at contractions that end in “d” we are getting more difficult. Because many words end in “d” so it’s important to read through the whole sentence to understand where it’s going and which word will fit best. It’s also good to point out that you’re taking away way more than just 1-2 letters for these types of contractions. We practiced these choices more together to wrap our brains around these potential rule breakers. 


Building Up Our Word Count

Redundantly putting together, sounding out, and stretching CVC words in order to build up our word count. We can read simple words and rhyme, but putting the letters together and really feeling for every letter sound changes the dynamic. It’s one thing to rhyme words and write out CVC word patterns for those rhyming -am, -at, -ed, etc. but to physically move around the letters to build words tends to change their thinking. This really peaks the interest of those kinesthetic and visual learners to physically grasp the concept of building words and sounds them out. When we can touch the letters and really think about the sounds they make that makes a difference when we go back to pencil and paper writing.

Students worked on building their words independently with some scaffolding on my part. Often times students would ask me to double check a word they had spelled or even to read their words aloud to me.  After we were all finished spelling words, each student read their words aloud.


Tell Me A Story

Lately when it comes to writing out answers and giving details, my third and fourth graders have been coming to a hault. They have so many creative ideas and want to get straight to their answers, without having fully explaining themselves. We have been working on restating the question in our answers, but that just isn’t enough. The writing block has still smacked us right in the face and left our time to looking up at the ceiling.

So I decided to drop everything and just write. I got together a basic graphic organizer to list out the important factors to a story and just write. To keep the stories relevant we wrote about winter, but we had complete creative reign on the subject. We decided that we should have at least three characters and we brainstormed some settings and potential problems to really get our brains working. From there the writing process was completely independent.  We each sat down, myself included, and came up with a winter story. We took two days to gather our thoughts and get our words down. On the last day we added illustrations to go with our stories. I chose to participate along with the students to model what writing looks like. Although we worked independently, I believe it’s important for students to see their teacher reading or writing and to model those behavioral work ethics. I too illustrated my story and we proudly shared them with one another on the last day.

The energy and confidence that was exulted on this activity, I think, will really make a difference in their writing stamina as well as their writing responses. After reading through our stories, we checked over our writing for any grammatical errors, in which we resolved together. A big thing with ELL students is learning all of the complications that make up the English language. Grammatical errors are very common and often overlooked at first in our beginning writers but becomes a bigger focus when they become advanced. A lot of these differences come up between translation due to words or phrases not translating exactly like we are used to. 


Sharing the Pen

This phrase is so familiar with me as it’s always ringing in my head. Different ways in which we can share the pen with our students to encourage side-by-side writing. Every time I pull a group, we start with the same question, “what is today’s date?” Depending on the group’s abilities, the students help me spell out the day, month, and year. I demonstrate how we can stretch out words to help with spelling like Feb-bru-ary. This breakdown allows us a better chance to hear all the sounds in each word. We take turns whether I right out the date or if a student writes it.

We share the pen in other ways too, especially with my beginner students. One strategy we use of sharing the pen is that physical exchange of the pen. I’ll write a sentence on the whiteboard and then hand over then pen for a student to copy. I write a sentence, we read the sentence, and then take turns writing it out and reading it on their own. When the students take the pen, they are more aware of their writing. They notice where the letters should be touching the lines on their paper, capitalization, and punctuation. These students are still very new to us as well as to the United States. As they progress, our writing turns more into them forming the sentences with some scaffolding by giving them a word list, writing prompts, and their own illustrations to encourage more structure and fluidity in the writing process.



We the (Acorn) People

The ELL Teacher did this project the year before and the kids loved it, so we did it again this year. Her yard gathers acorns every year and she decided to make art with them. Adding some beads, pom poms, pipe cleaners, felt, yarn, popsicle sticks, and a lot of hot glue to embellish these acorns and create little people.

Depending on ability, students were asked to name and write about their acorn person. Our little learners stuck with naming and one thing their acorn person liked. Whereas older students wrote biographies about their people. The kids had a blast creating their own friend. The students would greet and dismiss their acorn people every day when being pulled for lessons they loved them so.

We took the project a step further this time by adding some technology. We spent another week recording each student with their acorn person. Students would first introduce themselves then their acorn person and share their writing. I took portraits of each individual acorn person to add along with the kids’ videos. In a matter of days….and 49 videos later, students and their families were able to access the videos on a private Youtube account.

Once the videos were completed and the photo shoot backdrop came down, all of the acorn people got reunited with their creator and taken to their forever home.


Poetry Share

Over the past couple weeks we have been discussing poetry in our focus lessons. There is a variety of writing types and styles when it comes to poetry. Today we held a poetry share circle to celebrate our study and share our original pieces within our own group. The kids wrote many haikus, free verse poems, and found poems. They also had some creative ways of sharing their work besides just typing it up on a computer. Everyone’s poems were very unique and interesting. I love how poetry is so different from everyday writing. I feel as though we see a different side of ourselves or at least a more inspirational side.