Sunday, August 18, 2013

Tips and Tricks on Writing Assignments {Guest Post}

Tips and Tricks on Writing Assignments

            Aside from Mathematics, writing is one of the students’ most dreaded academic-related activities. Apart from the tedious process of researching and note taking, writing assignments must be done in a manner that will reflect a student’s understanding about certain topics and its ability to convey such understanding to the readers.

While not everyone may be a born writer or has the luxury of spending too much time on a writing task alone, here are some guidelines that will help when writing your assignment.

Gather all relevant data and information. It should constantly be stressed that research is very important before doing your assignment. Use all the tools and resources available in the library or online and highlight the information you’re going to need.

Make an Outline. As a blueprint of your assignment, an outline should include the main points of discussion. Having an outline will help organize your ideas and how to write it, conduct literature searches and helps divide the word count for every section.

Create an Introduction. An introduction should contain 1-2 paragraphs with a brief background about what will be discussed and the objectives of writing the assignment. The thesis statement may also be incorporated in the introduction.

Ensure continuity of ideas. When writing your assignment, make sure that the idea conveyed in your first paragraph will be related to your succeeding paragraphs to enable your readers to follow your train of thought. Use transition words wherein the last sentences or ideas written will act as a “bridge” as you move on the next paragraph conveying a different subject. And as a general rule, stick to one main idea per paragraph to avoid confusion among readers.

Use examples. Use examples to better explain your topic and to enable readers to have a clear understanding of what you are talking about. More so, your assignment should reflect on how well you are able to understand your topic based from multiple sources by applying the concepts learned in practical applications.

Maximize tables and figures. While it may not reduce the number of words you’re only allowed to use, tables, figures or any form of illustration can be useful and effective in conveying information and date to your readers. For instance, if you have to present the 2013 Obesity Rate in the United States, graphs or tables may be a better way of showing it, to be supplemented with 2-3 sentences describing the illustration. Keep in mind that every illustration used should also be labeled for reader’s reference.

Stick with the word count. 1,000-word assignment may be dragging to read while shorter ones may not be able to exemplify the idea you would want to convey to your readers. If the word count indicates 450-500 words, then your assignment should be within the limit prescribed.

Cite your sources. Plagiarism is prevalent these days, hence considered as a major offense in most schools and universities around the world. Make attributions when borrowing an idea or illustration or making a direct quotation from a person. All the information and materials you’ve used should be included in your bibliography list. And in making citations, there are numerous styles that can be used so use a specific referencing style according to what was prescribed by your instructor.

Make a Conclusion. Your conclusion should state again the aim of the assignment, a brief summary of the main points discussed and final sentence which can be a challenge or question or something to think about for your readers. Conclusion should be strong and compact in order to leave in impact to your readers.  

Lois Weldon works at dissertation writing services She moved from Liverpool to London with her family. Loves writing helpful articles for students. She is a great Star Wars fan.
The Caffeinated Teacher

Friday, August 16, 2013

Classroom Exercises to keep Students Calm and Focused {Guest Post}

Classroom Exercises:  Keep Your Students Calm And Focused

While the classroom is designed to be a comfortable environment for students to learn and advance in their education, it is often that teachers have a difficult time maintaining their students’ full attention, especially with younger children. While we might like to think that kids are able to stay calm and focused throughout the school day, the reality is that many students just have too much energy to really stay focused on their education.

That’s why some teachers have started doing basic calming exercises with their students right in the classroom. These breaks from the normal lesson plan can help students focus and be more disciplined in their studies.

While all students may not need the exercises, almost every child in your classroom can benefit in some way from regular calming exercises. 


You won’t be conducting full yoga sessions in your classroom, but a few minutes of exercise that incorporates the basics of yoga can help kids feel more relaxed and ready to learn. For example, you can include some of the fundamental stretches and poses found in yoga with deep breathing techniques.

You can even break up these different exercises throughout the day. For example, stretching exercises may be beneficial for students in the morning, since they can help increase blood flow, while deep breathing exercises may be more beneficial after lunch or in the afternoon, when children have just eaten or come in from the playground.

Yoga exercises are also ideal for older children and teens who can really gain something from the relaxation and focus-boosting benefits of yoga. 


Basic Calisthenics

While many schools have physical education programs, a lot of kids don’t get the regular exercise that they need on a daily basis. You can’t really provide that in a classroom environment, but you can help kids release some of their energy so they can be better prepared to learn in class by using basic calisthenics.

Because of the size of most standard classrooms, you don’t have to necessarily incorporate the standard calisthenics in your class. Instead, try replacing jumping jacks by having your students jump in place while they reach for the ceiling.

Small kids will love the activity, and they can get out a lot of energy in just a minute or two, so the exercise doesn’t eat up all of your class time.

Drawing or Writing Exercises

When you have kids in a classroom that just won’t focus or calm down to get to work, it might be counterintuitive to allow them to do something on their own. After all, they’re going to continue talking or messing around, right?

In actuality, many kids will calm down fairly quickly when asked to work on their own. Something as simple as as telling a child to draw every shape they know on a piece of paper can help them calm down and get into the right mindset for learning.

Best of all, an exercise, like a shape-drawing exercise, only takes a few minutes of class time. Drawing has other benefits for children as well. 

Kids get a lot of stimuli in and out of school. It’s no surprise that they often come to class bouncing off the walls and would rather run around, talk and giggle, rather than learn about history, math or any other subject you may be teaching.

By using these exercises, you can help kids of all ages calm down so they can learn efficiently-- they’ll likely enjoy the break from their monotonous schedule of lessons too!

Virginia Cunningham is a health writer and mom of three living in Southern California. She also works with Northwest to educate other parents about their family’s overall health. With three kids of her own, she is always finding new ways that will keep her kids from bouncing off the walls, such as yoga and gardening.
The Caffeinated Teacher

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Word Nerds Book Study: Chapter 8


 Once again I am linking up with Sabra from Teaching with a Touch of Twang for our summer book study of Word Nerds: Teaching All Students to Learn and Love Vocabulary. Don't forget you can preview the entire book online at Stenhouse and there is this handy little study guide you can use as well. 

I will offer some summary and overview of each chapter and put my thoughts and reflections in blue italics so you will know what is coming directly from me. To find all of my posts for the book study, click here.

 Chapter 8: Learning Through Assessment
 In this final chapter, the authors take a look at how we can use formative as well as summative assessments throughout each vocabulary cycle to help us to guide our vocabulary instruction just like we would with any other type of lesson we are using. Data drives instruction.

How do you plan for vocabulary assessment? The authors provide four important guidelines (as cited by Bean and Swan Dagen, 2006).
1. Think about the goals and purposes of the assessment
2. Use authentic measures of vocabulary progress
3. Plan to assess for depth of understanding
4. Be aware of comprehension connections

The authors provide an awesome Vocabulary Cycle Plan on pages 124-125 for using assessments throughout the vocabulary cycle. The best part is, they break it up for a 5 day vocabulary cycle and a 10 day vocabulary cycle. 
I really appreciate the two versions of this plan because we have vocabulary that we are required to teach within our Reading Street curriculum. Some of it is fluff that could be let go without hurting anything but the vast majority of the words actually fit into the realm of the kinds of words you would want to use in a vocabulary cycle--words that are useful in life and across curriculum domains.

Formative Assessments
There are many types of formative assessments that can be use throughout the vocabulary cycle to help teachers keep tabs (daily) on student progress with the current words.
Thumbs Up/Thumbs Down -- use while introducing words and studying synonyms and antonyms

Observations -- observation is a useful strategy when students are engaged in Counting Dude, Bragging Dude; Scramble; Vocabulary Rap; Line It Up; Crystal Ball Words; Word Charades; Chain Link and during review

Analyzing Student Work -- reviewing vocabulary journals; vocabulary rings; word illustrations, word colors, powerpoint portrayals

Questioning -- Useful with all activities and with whiteboards

Student Generated Questions --  during board games, review games and celebrations

Summative Vocabulary Assessment
The authors mirror their cloze activity that they use at the start of each vocabulary cycle to make their summative assessments. These assessments are designed to mimic the type of vocabulary work students will see on standardized tests. The teacher creates a passage about the learning that has taken place during the week, using the vocabulary words from the vocabulary cycle. Students read through the passage and use their vocabulary knowledge and context clues to fill in the passage with the correct vocabulary words.

Eventually, if appropriate, the students can create their own vocabulary assessment with a passage (often written as a letter to the teacher) using the words from that vocabulary cycle to show that they know the words and how to use them.

I LOVE this idea because the weekly test we are required to do with Reading Street has vocabulary questions in isolation and my students always do very poorly on those. I'm interested to see how this would work if they had this passage-style vocabulary assessment first so that they could see the words in a better, more familiar context. I can't wait to experiment with this and see if it makes a difference in the vocabulary achievement of my class.

Finally the authors provide a chart of vocabulary filled in with a rubric-style key and the other blank for filling in students' names. This provides an easy way for teachers (especially those who are just beginning to use vocabulary in this way) to help track where their students are with their vocabulary use and knowledge.

 Believe it or not, this is the end of the book study! I am SO SO glad that I decided to read this book this summer. I have such big plans for using these strategies in my class for 2013-2014. In fact, using the strategies from Word Nerds is one of my goals for 2013-2014 for my yearly evaluation. I am PUMPED to get my first couple of vocabulary cycles planned so that I can think about how this is going to actually look in my classroom. I can't wait! Thanks for joining me on this amazing journey!
The Caffeinated Teacher