Saturday, May 30, 2015

GOTR...What Is It?

GOTR...what is it? About a year ago, I had no idea what GOTR, or Girls on the Run, was until I got an email in my school inbox from our new P.E. coach. She was looking for two teachers to help her coach running after school for girls in third through sixth grade. The program was called Girls on the Run. I was so excited! I sent her off an email as fast as I could. I wanted to, needed to, be apart of this program. I was so happy when she emailed me back and told me I was in!

Fast forward a few months and I was on my way to all-day coaches training. Two other teachers, who happen to be my best teaching buddies, would also be joining me. At the training, we learned how the program got started, heard some very inspiration and moving speeches, and went to a variety of classes that would help prepare us for our role as coaches. We learned about what healthy snacks would be good to give the girls before and after running, the types of lessons that we would be teaching them, and items we would find in our coaches box. We also got some goodies like a GOTR coach bag, new elastics, a water bottle, and our coach t-shirts. We were all so excited to get the program up and going now!

A few weeks later, we had fourteen girls on our roster (with the maximum being 15). We were ready to begin! For twelve weeks, we met with our girls twice a week for an hour to, not only run, but learn as well. Here is an example of what our daily schedule looked like:

As part of the program, the coaches provide a snack for the girls at every meeting. The snacks we usually had were fruit, granola bars, fruit snacks, and trail mix. One of the great things about GOTR is their sponsors. We were lucky enough to have Harmons purchase ALL of our snacks for the entire program. Once the girls have had their snack, we would gather in our circle and talk about our lesson from a previous time to help the girls make connections with today's lesson. Then, it would be time for the lessons themselves. All of the lessons were in the GOTR coaches manual and were excellent. The first eight lessons are about the individual, the next eight about the GOTR team, and the final eight about the community. Some of the lessons include planning a community service project, learning how to cooperate, understanding that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and learning strategies for bullying, coping, being positive, media, and so much more! 

After the lesson, we always did some warm and cold warm ups, such as high knees, lunges, etc. This was a great opportunity to give the girls some time to move before playing a game that connected with the day's lesson. Once we completed the game, we got ready to go outside and run. This was all of our favorite parts. Some days we would work on our pacing, other days we would do interval training, and still others we would practice running alone and with a partner. Every time we ran, we would always set a lap goal beforehand. To help the girls, and coaches, keep track of the laps they ran, we used lap counters. Lap counters can be anything from putting a bead on a bracelet to making a mark with chalk to writing a word on a poster. The girls love them and they make running so much more fun!

At the end of our practice, we would gather back together in our school and share some final thoughts about the day's lesson. We would also nominate a girl for an energy award and end with the GOTR cheer.

One of the truly amazing things about this program, though, is not the lessons or the accomplishment of running a 5k, but the positive change that is seen in all the girls. These girls realize that they are beautiful inside and out, that they can do anything they put their mind to, and that they need to always let their start shine! They become such a close-knit team and help each other, in and out of practice.

I have loved being part of such an amazing program and am sad to see it end! Today was our 5K and, as I ran with one of my girls across the finish line, I felt so touched to be apart of it. I have loved getting to know the girls and watching them grow and blossom into amazing young women.

If you don't have GOTR at your school already, I highly recommend checking out their website and bringing it to your school. It is an amazing program that will change your life. I cannot wait to do it again next year!

Monday, May 25, 2015

Teaching & Assessing Main Idea

A few months ago, I was perusing Pinterest, TPT, and other online sites to find ideas for how to teach main idea when I came across the blog, Crafting Connections, by Deb Hanson. I was immediately inspired by her blog post on main idea and knew that I wanted to implement her resources into my current unit, so to TPT I went!

As I looked through her TPT store, I found some resources I knew I needed to have! Her powerpoint on main idea would be the perfect way for me to introduce this concept to my students. There are so many things to love about Deb's powerpoint, but the two I love the most are: first, the ice cream cone analogy (my students still use this analogy even though its been a couple of months) and, second, the practice passages and questions that are included. So, on our very first day of main idea, I had my students sit in their rows in front of our SMARTboard with their whiteboard and markers in hand. As we read through the power point together, I had them doodle their thoughts onto the whiteboard. We drew an ice cream come and labeled all of the parts to help us remember the visual. When we got the practice passages and questions, I had the students write their answer on the whiteboards and use the "Chin In, Spin It" method to respond. I was so thrilled by the amount of engagement and learning that was happening in my classroom!

On our second day of main idea, I had my students pull out their reading notebook. We started by reading a FREE passage about beehives that Deb has in her store. After reading through it once, we glued down an ice cream cone into our notebooks, labeled to match the ice cream analogy from day one, and read through the passage, again. This time, though, we boxed the main idea, underlined the supporting details, and wrote each one in a complete sentence next to the correct spot on our color. As you will see in the picture, we color-coded each part to make our learning more visual!

After completing this activity, I divided the students up into groups of three or four and gave them the instructions for Deb's Main Idea and Details Craftivity. Working together, the students had to sort the correct support details, or the ice cream scoops, to the matching main idea. My students LOVED this activity and were thoroughly engaged in it! As I walked around the room, I heard some great discussions and knew that my students were starting to get a solid understanding of the concept.

However, I needed an independent activity to do a formative assessment that could help me decide where to go next. That is when I found Deb's Main Idea Task Cards. These cards are amazing! First, I love task cards, but these cards are truly a gem due to the game-spin Deb has put on them. The students, not only have to figure out the answers to the task cards, but also have to find out the answer to the riddle using their own answers! Its ingenious! Second, the passages and questions Deb asks on the cards interesting to the students, promote higher-thinking skills, and help students practice test-taking strategies.

To use the task cards, I printed them out, in color, on cardstock and laminated them. I did NOT cut each sheet into individual cards; instead, I keep them all together and taped them around the room. Then, I had my students sit in their rows and I explained that today they would be main idea detectives. It was their job to go around the room, find the main idea passages, read through them and then answer the questions. At the end, after reading each passage, they would be able to tell us which ice cream treat was the most popular (this is the game-spin Deb has on them). But, there was one catch, they couldn't help each other out! My students were so excited to begin. They quietly worked their way around the room, reading the cards and answering the questions.

Once everyone was done, I gathered them back together. I explained that I was going to read the answer, so we could see how well we did. The students were to only circle the answers they got incorrect. (We talked about how it was okay if we got something wrong, because we are learning.) After reading through the answers, I had the students tally how many they got incorrect in EACH column and write it underneath the columns. I did this because each column corresponds to a different type of question: main idea, title, and supporting question. From here, I used the data to create strategy-based groups for my small group instruction the following week. Some students would be working on finding the main idea, others on creating titles that matched the main idea, and still others on finding supporting details once they know the main idea.

I am so grateful to Deb and her amazing resources! They truly helped make this unit engaging and beneficial for my students. If you haven't already, I highly recommend checking out her blog and TPT store.