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Shark Schema Chart: Teaching with Intention!

Teaching with Intention by Debbie Miller is one of my all-time favorite professional development books.  When I read this book in 2008, it really helped me define my teaching philosophy and think about WHAT I do as a teacher and WHY I do it.  When you do activities with your students, it's important to be able to define their purpose and to be able to explain why you think it's important.       I LOVE this book, and I've blogged about it MANY times over the last five years.  
One of my favorite things that I took away after reading it was the idea for creating Schema charts.
In the book Debbie used file folders for schema. However, for Kindergarten and First Grade students I thought that it was important for the charts to be large enough for the students to see them and refer to them on a regular basis.  
The picture above shows what a schema chart looks like after we've worked on a topic for several days.  In the pictures that follow I want to take you step by step through the process, I use when I do these with my students.  The following are my words, not Debbie Miller's, but I hope that I can do her work justice.  :)

DAY ONE:  Before I read any books or tell them any facts about a particular topic I first record their schema.  It would sound something like this,  "Boys and Girls, this week we are going to be learning all about sharks.  Before we start I want to find out what schema you may already have about sharks.  Who would like to share?"  As the students share their schema, I record them all on the same colored post-it note.  EVEN if someone shares something that I know isn't correct, I still record it.  
I want ALL students to know that their thinking and learning is valued.  

As we are reading and learning new information throughout the week, we add it to the chart using a different colored post-it note.  We continuously go over the schema we recorded to make sure it is correct.  Sometimes we tag the new learning to our schema as you can see in the above picture,

and sometimes we find out that there were some misconceptions. When we find a misconception we talk about why the information wasn't correct and move it to the misconceptions box.   NOTE:  I NEVER point out the misconceptions,  as we read informational texts and learn together through discussions the students are the ones who point them out.  The first few times we do these in the fall, I make sure that MY schema goes in the misconceptions box first.  That way students understand that we are all still learning, even the teacher.  You never want to a child to feel like they are wrong or they will stop participating.  

You can see that the chart is added to throughout the week.  When we added the misconceptions, we talked about them.  For example,  "Why is it a misconception that sharks eat people?" and we would discuss that sharks sometimes bite people who are swimming in the water because they mistake them for food.  

When used correctly these charts are powerful learning tools!  

This is one of those books that you will read over and over and mark up the pages.
You can see my book below.  Tons of sticky notes, highlighting and writing in the margins!  
Did I mention that I love this book?  If you've read it I'd love to hear your thoughts.  

Enjoy the rest of your week! For some of you Summer is almost here!! 


  1. I love the idea of physically moving a fact from the "schema" category to the "misconception" category. It's so much more authentic and memorable to see it move like that.

    1. Exactly! I let the kids move them when it's time so that I'm not the one in charge of their thinking chart. It's their chart, I'm just the recorder. :)

  2. Love this post! Such great ideas :)

  3. I am going to order this book right away! It would be a great summer reading book study (hint! hint!)

    1. Shawna, It is a great book. You will love it! Her books are easy to read and they are like having a conversation with a friend. I can't wait to hear what you think about it.

  4. Hi, Deanna! I have used the schema idea a lot for this year. I didn't know that's where you got it from. I will definitely get the book and read it this summer! Thanks for the step by step format. I will plan on doing that for next year. The students love to talk about their schema. I used it as well with your Guided Reading Series and that boosted their comprehension skills tremendously! Thanks for the post! Linda Groce (lindaslearningloot)

    1. Hi Linda, Debbie Miller also has another book called, Reading with Meaning and it's one of my favorites also! Enjoy your summer!

  5. Hi! I am a follower and discovered that you had a fun math activity posted that I'd like to use. Here's what it says on your blog page:

    After we worked on this several times together I gave them all workmats, a recording sheet and gold
    (Corn Pops cereal). This activity isn't included in my unit but if you click on the picture below you can download the workmat and recording sheet.

    When I click on the workmat and recording sheet, it says that I need permission from you in order to access this. Is this no longer a freebie?



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