Saturday, December 6, 2014

Switching Gears: From Fiction to Non-Fiction

We've been knee deep in fiction from the beginning of the year. It's just the way our curriculum is laid out. We do all this awesome work and then BAM everything changes. It is a welcome change; it helps doing the same genre for both reading and writing. But it just feels like a huge swing and it's such a short amount of time we have. So we did lots of end of unit assessments and tried to have a little fun too with these character report cards! It was perfect timing since students were getting their own report cards too for our first tri.

They picked a character from their series that they knew a lot about and drew them. Then, they picked different traits and had to give them a grade using text evidence or "comments." They loved that they got to be called "Mr." or "Ms./Miss." I modeled how to create their character peeking over the top with Amber Brown. Do you recognize any of the others above? We've got Judy Moody, Junie B. and Sam from the Time Warp Trio! We also had Frog and Toad, Stink, and Ready Freddy to name a few. They did a really nice job on them!

But then, it was a swift shift to nonfiction! Here's all that we've done this week in both reading and writing!
Text Features during Read Aloud

We started our text feature anchor chart during read aloud. Students also made their text feature flip book (check out my previous post on it) and they are coming in handy!! I thought my students knew these text features pretty well coming in, but I was mistaken. So I'm really glad that not only are we building this chart, but they are creating their own resource to help remind them.

Note-taking is big in both areas right now. This chart was made for Writer's Workshop since we launched our informational research writing on rain forest animals. This helps double duty though for when we are stopping and jotting in reading on our RAN graphic organizer. We had quite a few students who were copying word for word from books so we needed this lesson and S.T.A.T. They got the hang of it quickly and they'll get lots of practice!

We spent the whole week 'REVVING' up our minds and getting ready to read nonfiction books. I kept my little motorcycle graphic from last year and just stuck it to this chart. This work has been really beneficial this week as we've gotten into our own nonfiction books. Stating our purpose as to why we are reading that book helps us determine important facts vs. interesting (or it will- soon). Previewing reinforces the importance of text features and helps us predict what that section will be about so we can confirm our thinking or revise it. I took questioning a new way this year. I still used a matrix, but the focus wasn't so much on how to write a question, but WHY we were asking that question. We noticed a lot of our questions before reading a section were questions that would check our learning (What is... Why did... How did...). Most of our questions during reading fell into the "learn more" category (What would... Why would...  How would...). Questions after reading a section were often to challenge our thinking (What might... Why might... How might...)

Preparing to Read Nonfiction

It took us all week, but we'll revisit this chart often the next 12 days to make sure we are focused.

The last thing... well... don't laugh at me.

We had to make a desk map for what our desk looks like during independent reading time. There is just too much we have out on our desks and we waste so much time going through it all. And the organizer in me just was loosing patience. So we made a map of how our desk should look and now all I need to say is,

"Get your desk ready for our reading block."

And students reference the map and get their materials ready to go in 90 seconds or under. So far- it's working like a CHARM! It's saving our sacred reading time, allowing for faster transitions, and freeing up time for important things like sharing about our reading.

Organizing it All
Have I mentioned that "organized" is a character trait my students used to describe me? They know me so well...

Well, it was a whirlwind with lots of new changes, but I'm excited for these next 12 days! We start hitting main idea and detail next week (I started a bit last week with some small groups) and judging by the pre-assessment I made and used on Friday, I think we'll be very successful!

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Hot of the Press and Oldies but Goodies: TpT Cyber Monday Sale

It's here! It's been a year since I've become a seller on TpT. It's been a pretty cool ride so far. By no means am I raking in oodles and oodles of dough, but the little extra income doesn't hurt each month. But more importantly, it's allowed for me to be creative in a way that I've truly enjoyed and never knew that I possessed. It's allowed me to connect with others and really tap into the awesome resources out there that other teachers create. And it's allowed me to procrastinate from doing some of the mundane work load that teachers have and enter into an escape that is still productive. To say the least, I am very thankful for TpT and all that it's given me. With that mushy stuff aside, it's time for the Cyber Monday Annual Sale! And I've gotten a few new items in my store that I wanted to share with you as well as some oldies that are perfect for this time of year (and beyond).

(Isn't this button adorable? It's from the 3 AM Teacher)
Hot off the Press!

So... I hit a lull once school started. I don't like to just make things to make them- they need to serve me and my students in some capacity. So I waited and waited for both the time and the idea to pop in my brain. We are jumping into nonfiction next week and so I created these two new resources I'm STOKED about. 

What's included you ask?

 Here's an example of one of the pages:

13 posters all set and ready to go for your classroom!

Example Poster

 Want more of a student-created approach? Got that too in this pack!

Headers, Labels, and Examples separated so that you can cut apart and create your own chart!

Example chart that you can create with your students

Oldies but Goodies

This is perfect for the classroom when you can't (or choose not to) emphasize Christmas, but still want in on the fun of having a visitor in the room during these wintery months!

My kids loved it last year... and so did I! He's making his return tomorrow to the room. He even brought the kiddos cool shades to wear in honor of his visit! It was a great alternative to the Elf on the Shelf concept (Stuffed moose is not included). Check out my blog posts here, here, and here from last year on our Moose's happenings. 

And my current top wish-listed item from my store...

These puppies came in handy when I had to pull strategy groups on various nonfiction skills. It gave me some "go-to" strategies to help students work on these skills. This year, I'll have them glue these into their notebooks as opposed to rings to have students record times that they practiced that skill with that strategy (more on that in a later post).

Once again, thank you to all who have supported me in my TpT adventures this past year. Whether you bought a resource, downloaded a freebie, blogged about one my projects, or simply left a comment on the blog about one of my creations, I truly appreciate it! Hopefully next year, this journey will continue to bring joy. 

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Thinking Through Theme and Linking Life Lessons

We ended our character unit by naming themes and life lessons and something finally clicked this year in our approach to teaching these troubling things! It was super successful and I'm about to break it down how we covered them. We used this visual of these steps/cake/pyramid (those are the names they gave it) to help us organize our thinking.

This work started when we first thought about the main problem our characters were facing. 

We used these past mentor text to gather a few different problems characters might face in books.

We talked how some books have one large problem and then some smaller ones also. Some have a problem, but it looks different for different characters. We need to pay attention to how our characters create, react, and solve their problems... more on this later.

We'll use Amber Brown as an example:

We then learned what a theme is. I phrased it in a few different ways- the main focus being that it is a big message the author wants to teach us about. I'm linking up with Deb at Crafting Connections to share the anchor chart we made about theme below!

We made this chart then. They came up with most of the themes- some aren't as strong as other (like stealing) but I put it up there anyways. They came up with many others, but we ran out of room! We linked it back to the problem then we thought of a "big message" or theme for some of our books. We started with just one/two word phrases like friendship. I then extended it to be a short statement about that theme. This scaffold really helped with life lessons. Here is our example for Amber Brown:

Think: What does the author want me to learn about in this book around this problem?

Once we had our themes, we went back to look at how the character reacted to the problem. What did they do, say, or feel? This shows us what to do (or not to do) if we were in this situation and can teach us about life. We went back and noticed how our characters reacted to this problem and it led us to some possible life lessons.

We took the extended themes and added personal pronouns to it to make it "universal." I emphasized this to help students not be super tied to the exact examples to the story. For example...

  • Without personal pronouns: Abigail wanted to ride a bike and practiced. (from Soupy Saturdays with the Pain and the Great One)
  • With personal pronouns: If you want to get better at something, you need to practice.
When we are all down, we have this visual:

Here is an example from a student in one of their own books:

Approaching it in this order and in this way really helped students pick appropriate themes and life lessons. Plus, it really forced them to go back in their text to look for how the character reacted to the problems, as this is the core to this process. It took us about 4 days from start to finish to talk first about problems, then themes, then life lessons during our mini-lessons and each day built upon the previous day's work. I was so impressed with their work and it showed on their assessments as well!