Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Worksheets Don’t Grow Dendrites {Chapter 5 & 6ish}

Hi, Friends! How are ya? I’m excited about jumping into the book study about Worksheets Don’t Grow Dendrites by Marcia L. Tate! While we’ve been enjoying lazy days around the house, I’ve had pen and highlighter in hand busily doodling over the pages as I’m reading. Hopping from post to post to read how this book is impacting other teachers has been inspiring!

When I read Michelle’s post about Strategy 5, I just had to jump in because this chapter addresses a topic that is near and dear to my heart…something we use in our classroom In fact, her chapter kind of incorporated every single chapter leading up to it.

Before I jump into Chapter 5, here’s my big “take away” or “A-Aha!” from each of the previous chapters.

Chapter 1: Brainstorming and Discussion….Classrooms should NOT be quiet places. There should always be a consistent hum or buzz about the room as children are working and learning together. Opening their mouths to talk allows oxygen to get to the brain which in turn allows for a greater depth of learning.

Chapter 2:  Drawing and Artwork…I could write about this strategy all day, every day! Art is not fluff! Can I say that again? Art is not fluff. It’s the stuff…that you can use to your advantage to make many meaningful cross-curricular connections. Art inspires creativity. Art requires creation, problem solving and THINKING. Art inspires deeper learning by engaging all senses.

Chapter 3:  Field Trips…Sadly, the decreasing of school budgets have brought a screeching halt to taking field trips. To improve in this area, we’re going to look for opportunities to learn outside of the 4 walls of our classroom on campus. I’m also going to get with my favorite techy guru to plan a virtual trip! =)

Chapter 4:  Games…I need to use them more. In classrooms full of boys, games are a great strategy for learning because boys are inclined to compete in everything!

NOW…Chapter 5Graphic Organizers, Semantic Maps, and Word Webs! =)

The best classrooms are ones where students are actively engaged in the learning-talking to one another, moving to learn content, connecting ideas together, thinking positively, and having a purpose for learning. ~Marcia L. Tate

Creating graphic organizers incorporates all of these things! Not only are they engaging, but they’re fun! Every Monday, we create a word web together to introduce our phonics focus for the week. The kids get so excited listing words that it’s hard to get them to stop! I LOVE to doodle! Win-win!

While you may not like to draw or are thinking you couldn’t make a stick figure with a ruler….don’t worry! Have a projector? Well, project a picture you’d like to use and trace away. Your kids will never know and they’ll think you’re an artistic genius! Even if you use your own stick figures, they’ll still think you’re an artistic genius!

We incorporate guided writing toward the end of every week [during guided reading]. This is how we address our comprehension skill. Graphic organizers help students to represent abstract concepts in a concrete, organized, visual format. The brain remembers images more easily than just words. When graphic organizers are used to change words into images, both left- and right-brain learners can use those images to see the big picture. (Gregory & Parry, 2006)

Each group completes a graphic organizer or responsive writing that is specific to their guided reading book. Here, after students read quietly…we discussed story structure and I wrote what they told me about the book. After I wrote to provide an example for them, students created their own story maps by copying the information in  an attractive, engaging format in their guided writing journals.

Same week. Same concept. Two different guided reading groups.

If time allows, students also enjoy sharing what they’ve learned and all students get to experience the gist of each of the different guided reading books that have been used over the course of the week.

This is an example of something new we’ve just recently started. As we approach the final six weeks of the school year, our stories are getting harder and much longer. So that students have additional exposure to the story of the week, two of our reading books have been placed in a work station bin for students to read the story independently. After reading the story, there is an 'I Can' statement provided to guide them toward creating their own graphic organizer. Because we’ve been faithfully creating these each week in small group, they’re now ready to make them on their own!

I Can statements don’t always have to be fancy. Sometimes, they can get whipped up from a sharpie and blank sheet of typing paper. The important thing is for students to have an organized model to follow, IF they need it. =)

Graphic organizers can take on fun shapes too!

In our classroom, kids help create everything. They are much more likely to be engaged and remember what was taught if they have a hand in creating it. Just sitting and watching me have all the fun isn’t actively learning.

This year, we’ve also focused on pumping a little life into our graphic organizers! Just like they can take on shape…they can be 3D too! Using 3D graphic organizers lends itself to project based learning….yet another, brain compatible strategy to grow those dendrites!

They’re great for every subject area. Again, let kids help create charts! Let them color them, touch them….construct them. Let them guide the creation of them. It’s in the “doing” that they’re learning. If time is an issue, {When isn’t it?} I create the background and the kids add the content.

They’re not just for reading! We’ve adapted the Frayer model for tons of uses in math too! We fold and learn a lot! =)

We build our classroom community with them as often as possible. This little book is one of my all time favorites! I usually whip it out as we review routines to begin the second semester. One of my coworkers introduced it to me years ago and I’ve been reading it ever since!

Here’s my reflection on Strategy 5. I hope you’ve found a little something helpful in this post. I’m looking forward to continuing this book study. Each of the sections I’ve read so far have been a big affirmation of personal beliefs and strategies we’re enjoying in our classroom. It’s also given me a greater understanding of the brain research that supports each of these strategies. Reading this book has allowed me time to reflect over how I can improve those strategies and consider how to add more tools to the “toolbox”.

Strategy 6 is all about the use of HUMOR in the classroom. What can I say? I’m goofy. I have the attention span of a 6/7 year old. I love to laugh! It makes the kiddos and I ooper schmooper compatible. Humor is usually one of the bullets my administrators list as a strength on my yearly evaluation. I think it’s their very nice way of saying…thanks for sharing your goofiness! LOL!

It’s important to love what you do. How else can you express joy, if you don’t enjoy the work you do every day? My BIG TAKE AWAY from Chapter 6? Sarcasm is the opposite of humor. It tears children down and can be demeaning. Don’t use it. While older students or advanced students may be able to get the humor part of it, most young children cannot and it can be damaging to them. Soooo, share a laugh. Wear a funny hat or shirt. Dance! Play! Make a funny face and LOVE what you do!

I hope you’re enjoying this book study as much as I am!

Stop by Fabulous in First to read about Strategy 5 and hop through the links.
Stop by One Extra Degree to read about Strategy 6 and hop through the links.
Later, gators!


  1. Thanks for linking up! Your anchor charts look AMAZING!

    1. Thanks, Amanda! I really enjoyed reading your post on humor too! =)

  2. Replies
    1. We've gotta use the talents we've been blessed with, right?! Haha! Thanks for stopping by! =)

  3. Love it all! And totally agree with the sarcasm note. Kids just don't get it and while grown-ups are trying to just be don't get it! Love your blog!

    1. You're too sweet, Elizabeth! Thanks so much for stopping by! =)

  4. Loved your post! Your so right about sarcasm! Kiddos just don't get it...and we need to build their confidence not tear it down by trying to be funny when we aren't! Thanks for sharing!

    1. Thanks, Brittany! So glad you stopped by! =)

  5. What amazing graphics that you draw! I also love your post showing how your kiddos are so active!
    Thanks for sharing!

    Renee at The Science School Yard

  6. I've found so many great ideas here to pin and try!



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