Sunday, July 12, 2015

I Teach 1st! {Jen Jones' Sessions}

I'm back with more from day 3.  Here is what my afternoon looked like.

Session three was with Jen Jones from Hello Literacy about developing critical thinking skills. Do you see a trend here?  I didn't realize I had signed up for so much on critical thinking until I starting writing these posts, but all of these sessions have been great and I think will really help my students.  Have you been to Jen's blog?  If not, you need to go there and read up!  So many great ideas I can't cover it all.  Between this session and the next one, I got a lot of ideas!  I stayed with Jen for my last session of the day, which was about vocabulary instruction.  I think this is an area where I could always improve.

Jen shared that the more you raise your own awareness and interest in words, the more students will be interested.  Encourage your kiddos to ask questions if you use a word they don't understand.  Capitalize on their curiosity!  The kiddos in Jen's school each have a vocabulary notebook.  They intentionally teach a new word each week.  Students record the word, definition (not in K) and a picture of the word.  Students can also choose to include other word they learn and want to add to their journals.

It was also brought up that kids need to work on their listening skills.  I've learned that this can be especially evident when students struggle with phonemic awareness.  It isn't necessarily that they don't understand the topic/concept, but that they did not listen to what was said.  I see a lot of kiddos who can't differentiate between beginning/middle/ending sounds; frequently it is just that they need to listen more carefully.  We started doing directed drawing this year, and by the end of the year, the kids knew that they had to listen and follow directions carefully to make this work.  Listening is such a critical skill!

One idea I loved was "picture of the day".  On IG, Jen uses #vocabularypics to share pictures that would be great vocabulary builders.  She pointed out that pictures are informational text.  When you cross the street, you use pictures to tell you when to go and when to stop, for example.  When showing the pictures, she asks 2 questions: "What do you see?" (observation) and "What do you think?" (inference)  This gets students thinking about what is there and what might be.  I can absolutely see this in my classroom.  I've been on the lookout for things around me that could be used for picture of the day.

Another suggestion was asking questions that get kids to think.  "How" and "Why" question elicit much more critical thinking than "What" or Who".  Rachel Lynette has Would You Rather questions in her TpT store (a suggestion given in the workshop) that will help kids think about what they would rather do.  They then need to explain why they would rather do one or the other.  A great way for them to use their expressive vocabulary and explain their answer.

Analogies were focused on in both of Jen's workshops.  I can see this happening seamlessly in my classroom as well.  She stated that analogies help kids see relationship and think about how words are related.  Suggestions for analogies were: upper and lower case letters, rhyming words (pictures), sizes, shapes, and vocabulary words.  I think this would be great for "theme vocabulary" and also for reviewing basic concepts.

A way to get kiddos to take the time to explain is to prompt them with "because".  Jen has the word "because" hung in her room to remind herself and students to ask for more.  She also said to ask students "Can you explain ______?" instead of asking them to define it.  Defining it is a very basic skill, whereas explaining it takes some thinking.

These 2 sessions were great, and I look forward to implementing some of these ideas this year.  How do you help your students develop critical thinking and/or vocabulary?


  1. So many great ideas to build vocabulary! One thing I've done is put thematic flashcards in my science center. When we did a Weather unit, I had a set of cards with a picture on one side and a brief description on the other. Kids enjoyed looking at the pictures and we'd read the info together. It exposed them to words like meteorologist and anemometer. I learned along with them! We did the same with solar system cards and a set of animals in the wild cards. You can pick up boxes of nature flash cards at Target $ Spot, the $ store, museum gift shops.

    1. Thanks, Donna! I love the idea of themed cards from the $ Tree or Target. Inexpensive is always good!

  2. Wow Amanda!!! I so wish I could have gone to this conference too! I do question of the day in the mornings, and I have some of my higher readers do vocabulary journals, but after reading your post, I think I want to try everyone doing vocab journals all the time! And picture of the day...that would be great for when they come in each morning... great start for morning meeting!!!