PWIM superstars! aka categorizing and classifying

The students at Hawrylak are doing an amazing job learning their PWIM words; now they are continuing on the process and learning how to classify words according to their attributes.  I have been lucky enough to work with both Rebekah Picard (gr 2) and Danielle Robertson (gr2/3) and have learned so much about the PWIM process.  I thank them for allowing me to be a part of their journey.

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The next step in the PWIM process is the classification of the words that students have shaken out of the larger image.  Some benefits of classification in terms of teaching practice: organizing information is an important skill in inquiry, classification is really a stepping stone for better understanding specific concepts; the classification piece helps students make connections and better understand and retain the vocabulary words, and this can be enhanced through cooperative learning as students discuss and assess with their peers.

Rebekah used the idea of classification to discuss two key concepts in French language study: those of gender and number.  She began the process by grouping and modelling words together and having them come up with the common attributes of those groups.

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Students then work on creating their own word groups according to these attributes that she has identified.  As students work on this process, Rebekah circulates to ensure understanding.

Below and above right – students are sorting their word cards according to gender, number, and as verbs.

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Rebekah continues to model examples of ways that words can be classified.   Her main focus is on number and gender, but words can be classified by many attributes, including phonetics (starting and ending sounds or letters), structural analysis (types of words) or based on content (linked around various themes).  Students review the attributes that Rebekah has selected and organize her larger words that she has prepared on the pocket chart.


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The following day, Rebekah planned to do more work with classification.  To differentiate for students who were struggling, she regrouped them according to their strengths or weaknesses that she noticed the previous day.  She created diagrams for students to fill out and prepared an extension activity (a VENN diagram) for students who found the content too easy.

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While Rebekah has students working independently and in groups, much like her structure for the Daily Five, she can circulate and work with small groups.  She identified one group that was struggling and so she was able to focus on them.  Rebekah did find as she was wandering that her students were having difficulty with the activity, so she planned to continue with more modelling and more practice before trying the activity again.

In Danielle’s grade 2/3 classroom, students are also experimenting with classification.  Danielle has explained the concept of classification and we have modeled numerous examples of classification.  She has assigned the same task as Rebekah (above).

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Danielle’s students will also spend some time working on classification over the next little while.  Both Danielle and Rebekah will continue a balanced literacy approach in which PWIM is part of the larger picture.  Both teachers have focused on the structure of the Daily Five (The Two Sisters) in their classrooms and can also spend time reading, working on strategies, developing stamina, and PWIM connects well to this piece.

As their students progress with their classification skills, Rebekah and Danielle will continue to vary the sorts of classification that they share and eventually, the next steps will be into creating titles, and eventually, writing.

The highlights from the past few days?

– Seeing the scaffolding afforded to teachers through the process.

– The beauty of the Daily Five structure – having this in place permits students to understand instantly what is expected of them when they work with someone.

– The classification process and how beautifully it connects to second language learning and areas of emphasis.  Students have worked on a phonics based reading system and this can be linked to classification as well.

– The engagement on the part of the students – again, everyone is on task.


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