Media Literacy and Critical Thinking

Last year, in Third Grade,  we had a bad case of the “I Wants”.  My students wanted absolutely everything they saw on TV, or in a movie, or in the advertisements that pop up on YouTube. If they saw it, they had to have it.  ‘Show and Tell’ became a constant list of the toys students wanted to get and buy. Every day someone came into the class with a new item that they ‘had to have’.

Media literacy and critical thinking in elementary - a blog post by Poet Prints Teaching

I wanted my kids to know that they were being advertised to, plain and simple. Most of these ‘wants’ and ‘gimmes’ were the direct result of good advertising.  I wanted my students to have the tools to see this for what it was, a clever marketing campaign where they were the perfect targets.  I thoroughly believed that they were capable of looking at Media with a critical eye.   

Once we defined different types of media we got to work looking for them in our everyday lives. We started by cutting up and sorting our Scholastic book order to help students to see that all media has a purpose: to persuade, to inform, and to entertain.   It was fun to see them try and see which books fit into which categories. As a teacher, I loved that ‘lightbulb’ when my students realized that their book order was designed to make them want to purchase things.

“Mrs. P, I know why this is in bright colors!  So we will want everything on it!” BINGO!

Using our class book order flyer helped students to make a real-life connection to the content. 

Together, we looked at clips from popular movies and examined how characters always hold the latest gadgets, toys, and treats. Another way to convince us to buy, buy, BUY!  But my favorite lessons, by far, were the ones where we explored YouTube.   My students love YouTube, but the dreaded before-video-ads make me cringe.  This unit helped us to look at those ads critically, and use the advertisement time as teachable moments.  What are we being sold? Why is this ad here? How are we being persuaded?  

It was so rewarding to watch my students develop as critical thinkers.  I noticed a huge change in their attitudes towards “I Want” as the year progressed.  Sure, they still wanted new toys and treats, but they were ‘calling out’ persuasion tactics they saw in the media.  A student even came home from a superhero movie on the weekend and told me about all the products he had seen on the screen.  

“Do they think we will fall for that?” he asked.  

I don’t think I’ve ever been more proud.

My Media Literacy Unit is available on Teachers Pay Teachers.  It’s perfect for third, fourth, or fifth grade.

 

Media Literacy and Critical Thinking - a blog post by Poet Prints Teaching
Rachel PoetkerComment
Five Ways to Review for any Test

Quizzes and tests are inevitable when it comes to teaching. And as teachers, we need to help our students feel prepared and successful prior to the test. It’s not enough to give study guides and do practice tests. But what can we do?

5 ways to review for any test - Poet Prints Teaching

I think all of us have had that moment sitting in front of our computer, Google opened, trying to search out how to engage our students in lesson reviews before tests. I’ve been in that place multiple times. Over the years, I’ve discovered some fun and engaging ways to review for any test. Here are some of them:

Test Review 1: Stump the Panel

This is a game where all students come up with a set of quiz questions. Several students are chosen to be on a panel and they sit in a row of chairs at the front of the class. The remaining students are in the audience and they are responsible for asking questions of the panel. If one of the panel students does not answer a question correctly, they will take a seat in the audience and be replaced by the student who asked the question.  Learn more here!  

Test Review 2: Kahoot

This is a website based game. I love creating purposeful review activities and this website is a fantastic tool. On Kahoot, teachers are able to program in questions that they would like the students to answer. I have my students bring in their devices (or you can use school devices). Then I group my students together and give them the access information for the website. On their devices, they can pick their answers to the review questions and see a growing graph of what answers other students picked. This also provides a quick check for me, so I can see who might need some extra review.

Photo from getkahoot.com

Photo from getkahoot.com

Test Review 3:  Flashcards

This is an oldie, but a goodie. Students really do need to be taught to create flashcards or study notes. It’s an essential skill that they will use throughout all their education. However, flashcards do not need to be stagnant. I once had a parent tell me that she inserted “Gummy Worm” cards throughout the flashcard deck. As she quizzed her daughter on sight words, the “Gummy Worm” card would come up every once in awhile. She would then give her daughter a gummy worm. Her daughter LOVES doing sight word flashcards now.

Test Review 4:  Quiz Takeover

Students often like to put on their teacher hats. Give students an opportunity to “think like a teacher” and predict the quiz questions. Then have them write a few quiz questions for their peers and coach their peers through the answers. If you’re interested in a template for this review activity, you can find it in my TpT store.

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Test Review 5: Charades or Drama

I like doing charades or dramas because it lets students interact with each other and move around. Another bonus is these movement games take virtually no preparation! To play charades, throw a bunch of the unit vocabulary words into a hat and have students act out the words without saying anything. Alternatively, you can have students create a short drama to enforce vocabulary terms. For example, if you were learning about the lifecycle of a plant, students could pretend they are a plant growing through the stages of seed, germination, seedling, young plant, and mature plant. While this might make some students uncomfortable, it will definitely give your kinesthetic learners a chance to shine.

I’m always looking to expand my repertoire of review games and activities. Have you discovered any that work well for you?
 

5 ways to review for any test - Poet Prints Teaching
Rachel PoetkerComment
Building Solid Parent and Teacher Relationships

“Let me know if I can help you with anything”
“You’re not meeting my child’s needs.”
“Thanks for being a great teacher!”
“You give too much homework.”
“You don’t give enough homework.”

Building Relationships with Parents - Poet Prints Teaching

These are all things that parents have said to me in the last couple of years. And if you’re anything like me, you’re a perfectionist and some of these things are hard to hear. You work so hard towards creating engaging lessons, building good student-teacher relationships and organizing your time well. But there always seems to be some parents who are hard to connect with. By all means, I am not an expert on building perfect parent-teacher relationships, but I have learned some tricks over the past few years that have greatly minimized misunderstandings and hurts.

Tip One: Meet Parents as Soon as Possible

This is key to starting a positive relationship. I like to have quick chats with each parent after school as they are picking their children up. Usually, I’m able to connect with each parent at some point in the first week or two after school. However, sometimes parents work long shifts, or daycare comes to pick up the children, so I don’t get a chance to talk with them in person. For those parents, I will call them on the phone. During these brief conversations, I’ll introduce myself, and get to know the parents a little bit. If the conversations lead to it, I’ll even ask them about their greatest hopes for the year.

Tip Two: Stay Positive

Say as many positive things as possible. This helps parents trust that you see their kid and recognize their child’s positive attributes. It also helps when you have to have those inevitable tougher conversations. When a tough conversation comes around, the parents know that you have seen the positive things about their child too.

Positive Notes by Poet Prints Teaching

Tip Three: Stay in Contact

Find out how parents want to be contacted and make sure that information is getting home. Information should be sent home in a few consistent ways.  Kids’ backpacks often become black abysses, where notices and information get crumpled up and lost. I’ve learned to never assume that information is getting home when I give it to a child. I will often follow up with an email or a reminder to make sure parents received the information. On the other hand, some families don’t have internet at home, so they might not be getting your super-informative emails. Thus, you might want to print off the emails to give those parents a hard copy. There is no hard and fast rule when it comes to parent-teacher communication. You’ll have to find the method that works best for you :)

Photo by William Iven on Unsplash

Photo by William Iven on Unsplash

Tip Four: Send Information Home

How many times have you asked a child what they did during the day and they respond, “Nothing.” We all know that this isn’t true, but kids often forget what they did during the day. An easy solution to help parents out is to send home information about what you are doing during the day. This might be in emails, through an app, a notice, or whatever method works best for you. Did you do a great science experiment? Send home a picture or a quick message. Did you watch a youtube clip to introduce a new concept? Send the link home, so parents can watch it again with their child. By sending home these sneak peaks of the day to the parents, you give them a starting point for conversations with the students. These conversations make you, as the teacher, look really good.

Do you have any awesome ways to create and sustain strong parent-teacher relationships? I would love to hear your tips and tricks.

Building Relationships with parents  - Poet Prints Teaching
Rachel PoetkerComment
Morning Devotions for Kids

Devotions - spending time with the Lord for a focused period of time. Morning devotions with kids - spending time with the Lord for a focused period of time, and teaching kids the importance of following God. This is so important! But sometimes it’s hard to do because we lack ideas. If you’re anything like me, you like to establish routines in your classroom, and finding a devotion routine for school (or at home!) can be tricky.

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Despite all the excuses that I come up with - my biggest one being “I don’t have time today”, I have discovered that devotions help to ground my day. When my students come in, they do morning work. Let’s be practical, we need those few minutes to talk to parents, organize backpacks, etc, etc. But right after that, we all sit together at the carpet for devotions. I find that doing devotions in the morning is a way to invite Jesus into the day. It sets the tone for the day: we are first focused on Christ, then our endeavors of the day. It reminds the students (and me!) about the importance of obeying and trusting God in everything we do.

Devotions are important for every age, so here are some suggestions for devotional books that can help you establish a routine in your classroom (or at home), no matter which age group you teach.

Pre-K and Kindergarten: Read and Share Bedtime Bible and Devotional, by Gwen Ellis

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Although titled “Bedtime Bible”, it does not have to be read at bedtime. This book is full of short Bible stories written in kid-friendly language, with colorful illustrations. Each story is only about 50 words long, and at the end there is a discussion question. Since the stories are short, more than one story could be read and discussed.

Kindergarten and 1st Grade: Betty Luken’s Flannelgraph, by Betty Luken

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Both the Kindergarten teacher and 1st Grade teachers at my school use flannelgraph when teaching Bible stories. Betty Luken’s book is written in the form of a narrative story, with flannel pieces to accompany it. The K and 1 teachers will do one story in the morning, then chat about the story and pray. Later in the day, during play centers, the students can use the flannelgraph pieces to retell the story. The kids love doing this!

2nd and 3rd Grade: The Jesus Storybook Bible, by Sally Llyod-Jones

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In my room, we use the “Storybook Bible”, which has beautifully written stories that focus on God’s plan for the world and our need for a Saviour. We gather on the carpet to read one story a day. This way, all students are super familiar with the “Big Picture” of the Bible. After reading, we talk briefly about the story and then take time to pray.

2nd, 3rd or 4th Grade: The One Year Book of Devotions for Kids

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If you’re looking for something that goes beyond Bible stories and delves into specific Bible passages, this is the book for you. Each day, there is a short Scripture to read, followed by a short narrative story about modern-day kids who have to practice the virtue or principle outlined in the Scripture passage. At the end, are discussion questions and suggestions for a Bible Memory Verses.

4th Grade: Jesus Calling - 365 Devotions for Kids, by Sarah Young adapted by Tama Fortner

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This book is written as if Jesus is speaking to the children. Each page starts with a Bible verse. Then there’s a short passage, written from Jesus’  point of view, telling the students about how wonderful His plans are and how He wants them to live their lives. This book does require students to have a background knowledge of the Bible, so that’s why it’s better for older children who have some foundational knowledge.

These are only a handful of the resources that my teacher-friends and I have used for our morning devotions with our students. There are so many wonderful books and routines out there. What are some of your suggestions and tried-and-true routines?

- Rachel

morningdevotionspoetprints
Rachel PoetkerComment
A Little Encouragement Goes A Long Way

There is a saying that goes like this: “You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar”. As teachers, we could change this to phrase to read like this: “You impact more students with encouragement than harsh words”. If you think back on your schooling, which teachers do you remember with fondness. My favorite teachers were the ones who encouraged me along the way. The ones who took time to get to know me and what I needed. The ones who knew how to “fill my bucket”, to borrow the phrase from the ever popular book “Have you Filled a Bucket Today?”

PoetPrints Encouraging Your Students in 4 ways

It really is true that a little bit of encouragement can go a long way. As teachers, we have a unique job because we have the privilege of setting an example for the kids. I don’t know about you, but I want to set an example as an encourager and someone who takes the time to build others up. Here are some simple ideas for how to ‘love on’ different personality types in our classroom.

Encouragement Idea One: Tea Time

This is for those kiddos who feel love through ‘quality time’. I set aside time a day or two a week (during Lunch, Recess or Centers) to have some one-on-one time with a student. I brew a cup of herbal tea for each of us and we chat. In the past, I’ve had a chart on the back wall where students can sign-up to spend tea-time with me. The kids really look forward to someone on one time with Mrs. P. Some kids thrive on starting conversations and carrying them on, so chatting with them is easy. Other students need some prompting. For those kids, I have a stack of questions cards that help the conversation to flow more naturally.

PoetPrintsTeaching Tea Time

Encouragement Idea Two: Whiteboard Marker Notes

Another great idea for leaving encouraging words is writing on their desks with a whiteboard marker. (Yes, it really works, and erases quite easily!) I like to do this the night before, so the kids see the notes when they come in for the morning. It’s also fun to hear the shock in their voices when they see you have written on their desk. It’s so worth it.

Encouragement Idea Three: Positive Notes

This is for those kids who feel love through ‘words of affirmation’. Students love to receive little notes and hear positive things about themselves. When these notes go home, parents also love to read the positive things about their child. I try to have a stack of notes ready to go in my desk drawer.  (You can find the notes that I use here.  I also have a Bible-based version for Christian classrooms) In the package, there are many pre-made notes that you just need to print out and give the students. These are great to slip into report cards, journals, or leave on the kids’ desks in the morning.

Ready-to-print positive notes that focus on good character.  

Ready-to-print positive notes that focus on good character.  

Encouragement Idea Four: Trinkets and Tokens

Some students feel the most loved when they receive a small gift. I’m not saying that you need to break the bank on getting 20+ students a gift. It could be something as small as a new fun pencil or eraser for each student. Or maybe you could bake cookies for your kids....just because. There doesn’t need to be a reason! If everything is a reward, it can lose its meaning. Sometimes a surprise gift will bring the biggest smiles to your students’ faces.

These are only a few ideas that I’ve used over the years, and I’m always on the search for more ways to show my kids some extra love. What are your favorite ways to encourage your students?

- Rachel

Poet Prints How To Encourage Your Students
Rachel PoetkerComment
5 Things Missing From Your Sub Plans

This year, my teaching career looks very different from the past few.  After university, I was super lucky to land a third-grade teaching contract, and I stayed there until this past June.  After moving to a new city over the summer,  I am trying something different.  While we get settled somewhere into our new house and community,  I am taking the year to be a substitute teacher in our local public district (or, as we call it up here in BC, a TTOC, Teacher Teaching On Call). 

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It's been fun to pop into many different grade levels for the day and see how different teachers and schools choose to run their classrooms.  Most often, teachers leave me wonderful day plans with exactly what I need to teach each day.  (However, I have been very thankful for emergency plans on days that there has been nothing left!)  

In looking through many, many different 'sub plans' I've noticed that most are missing a few key pieces of information that would make my day, as a substitute teacher, so much easier.  Here are the things I wish all sub plans would include:

Your Usual Attention-Getter

How do you usually get the attention of the students in your room? Are you a clapper?  Do you do a call-and-answer?  Do you ring a bell?  Does someone turn the lights off?  As a sub, it can be almost impossible to establish a new attention-grabbing routine in a day or two, and kids respond best to what they are familiar with.  When a teacher leaves this key piece of information in his/her plans, it helps to set me up for success! 

Extra Class Lists

So often, substitute teachers are only given one class list for attendance, and then it is required to go back to the office first thing in the morning.  The rest of the day, I am without a complete class list.  I love when the teacher has left a few easy-to-find copies of the class list somewhere readily accessible.  

Important Routines

I have found that students thrive on routines, so when a substitute teacher arrives, they can be very thrown off by familiar routines that are not 'done right'.  If you have an important routine in your classroom - morning meeting, end-of-day dismissal, birthday songs, line up, how centers are chosen, etc.  write down the procedure to help different substitute teachers maintain the routines while you are away.  

Off Limits Items

Regardless of how 'on' I am as a teacher, there will always be one or two students who try to get away with things that the classroom teacher would not normally allow.  If there are things in your classroom that the students can't use, touch, or do - jot them down in your sub notes.  

Student Notes

As a classroom teacher, you have days (and weeks, and months) to try and 'figure out' some of the tougher students.  Substitute teachers have only minutes.  If you have a student with special needs, or a student who may need some behavior help, write down some of the strategies that have been successful.  As a sub, we want to help your students be successful, but the best way to do this is to partner alongside the work that you are already doing daily in the classroom.  

Have I missed anything?  Is there anything that you include in your sub plans that is a lifesaver for your students?  Let me know in the comments below!

- Rachel

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