Saturday, February 28, 2015

Book Study: Worksheets Don't Grow Dendrites Chapters 1 & 2

I am stoked about joining this book study to learn how to better engage my students through reading Worksheets Don't Grow Dendrites by Marcia L. Tate.

I set the stage... highlighter, coffee, cupcake...check, check, check!

Thanks Elizabeth for Kickin' it off at Kickin' it in Kindergarten!

I've always been a huge advocate for hands-on learning (especially since my first 2 years of teaching were in PreK and worksheets are NOT an option). It's great to be reaffirmed that so much of what I do daily in my classroom is research based! Yet, after reading the first two chapters I have a growing list of other strategy ideas I can start implementing!

At the beginning of the year, I feel like I spend a lot of time setting the ground work for productive discussion. I teach/model when to talk, how to answer a question, what it means to stay on topic, and how to be a good listener when someone else is talking. Routines and expectations are the framework for effective discussion.

Here is my favorite "trick" for giving students wait time...while holding the "blurters" at bay (a difficult balance in Kindergarten)...
I give a question and tell students to "whisper the answer" in their hand. They keep the answer "trapped" until I see that everyone has had time to process the question (their fists are in the air). When I open my fist, they copy me and "let out" the answers by saying them out loud.

A growth area for me is asking questions at various levels on Bloom's Taxonomy. It takes time to develop quality questions that stimulate higher-order thinking. One action step I plan to take is to develop a variety of questions (at various levels) for some of my read-alouds. I will type them up and tape them inside the book's cover so I have them ready!

It's obvious - ART is in SMART! I have always loved integrating art into daily learning.  My love for art is a reason I have an well stocked Art Center in my classroom. This is a FAVORITE center ALL YEAR LONG! During play time, I often have students take supplies to their table spot because all of the seats at the center are full. I rotate supplies and add word walls correlating with our themes. I also add dictionaries, themed vocabulary binders, and bar graph templates to encourage writing.

Here's two recent example of how we've integrated math and art.We created our own stick structures after reading 6 Sticks by Molly Coxe.

Then we counted how many sticks we used in our design and wrote the sentence:
 "____ sticks make a _____."


Symmetrical Hearts: We decorated a backdrop for our Valentine's program. Each child painted one of their hearts with a symmetrical design.

Not going to lie... it takes time to prep art projects! But the active learning that happens as a result is SO worth it!

Tell me, I forget. 
Show me, I rmemeber.
Involve me, I understand!
- Old Chinese Proverb


  1. Teachers who've never taught the littles often don't get how long it takes to model/teach discussion skills. It sounds like you do a great job of it, and that's got to put you in a good position for implementing some of the strategies from this book! I love your tip for "trapping the answer" - just the kind of physical gimmick that will "stick" with kindergarteners!
    Primary Inspiration

    1. Thanks Linda! You're right - model, model, model! I am always amazed at how different discussion time is now compared to earlier in the year! Totally worth the consistent practice up until this point.

  2. I love your pictures! It's SOOOOOO hard to get out of the "yes/no" questions...I really do love the "stick pick" app because you can set it to prompt you with questions that individual students are ready for {based on Bloom's}. {You can differentiate the prompts it will give you}

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts...I feel encouraged after reading your post!

    Crisscross Applesauce in First Grade

  3. Those stick projects are just too cute! I love seeing what kids think of when we just let them create!

  4. So that cupcake looks delicious #1...
    After I moved on past the cupcake, I really love your idea about "trapping the answer in you hand". What a great idea and probably very effective! Thanks for linking up :)

  5. Hi, Hannah! Your idea for the to "whisper their answer in their hand and then make a fist to catch it" is brilliant! I will start doing that this week! I've been thinking how to better help the ones who don't even try to answer my questions and this way they will all feel like they are participating and it will really get their little minds thinking. I also want to do the stick art activity. I loved it!! I'm really seeing how important it is to have an art station during centers. Since you mentioned Bloom's Taxonomy a few times, I wanted to share with you that in our district, we are using Norman Webb's Depth of Knowledge. There is a graphic organizer that is called Webb's Depth of Knowledge Wheel that is a great resource. The levels of knowledge are on the wheel with questions below it. This resource helps me add more rigor and relevance in my learning target activities. Here's the link if you are interested: http://static.pdesas.org/content/documents/M1-Slide_19_DOK_Wheel_Slide.pdf Thanks again for such a great post!! Linda (lindaslearningloot.com)

  6. Thanks for sharing the link Linda. I like that the Webb's Depth of Knowledge is divided into just 4 categories and arranged in a neat graphic organizer.