Sunday, March 22, 2015

I Read to Write

Analyzing nonfiction text is something that we have been focusing on this year with the full implementation of CCSS.  I am always on the look out for new resources to help me with this, and when Zaner-Bloser contacted me to review their new "I Read to Write Kits", I jumped on the opportunity. 

Disclaimer:  Zaner-Bloser sent me a class set of these kits in exchange for an honest review.  Though they did send them to me, the thoughts on the program below are my own and not influenced in any way by this.

The I Read to Write kits are consumable workbooks for the students to use to dive into text.  There are three units in the 5th grade level, one about Space Exploration, one about the American Revolution, and another about Sports that use math.  Each of the stories are highly engaging and very relevant to what my students are interested in (and what I am interested in as a teacher....hello American Revolution!!) 

I have been using these with my class to get them to read closer in the text.  We annotate the text, writing purpose questions, underlining key details to support main idea, answer text dependent questions, and construct short answers about the text.  There is also a writing portion that has the kids writing either a narrative, opinion piece, or informational text based on the three reading passages in the unit.

Here are the pros to this program:
*  The Teacher's Guide is included.  This is really, really awesome.  While I was still able to teach them my own strategies (ie: writing the purpose of the reading and finding main idea each time), the TG gave me additional strategies specific to the story that I could incorporate.

*  They are consumable.  The students could write directly on the book.  The pages are in full color, making text features easy to see and gave the close reading a sort of novelty for the kids.

*  They are aligned to common core standards.  With the CCSS being so new for everyone, having something that hits multiple standards, as well as helps get them test-ready is very welcome in my classroom.

Here are the cons to the program:
*  They are consumable.  While I really do love this feature, that means that I can only use them with one class of students.  As a teacher, that could get very costly for me if I am purchasing a class set on my own.    

*  The writing portion is a bit unscaffolded for me.  There are writing organizers, but I would have loved if there was some help getting the kids to actually show text evidence in their writing.  This could definitely be a personal preference issue, but I would like a bit more help here in this area with my students.

Overall, I am so very happy to have had this program to use with my students.  I feel like it was very beneficial and truly did help my kids to have another set of texts to use to dig into.  I liked the text dependent questions and the fact that the kids had to write short answers as well as answer multiple choice questions.  I feel that these books have been a good resource to have in my room and have added to my repertoire of what I can use with my students. 

The Kits are $29.95 for a set of 5, or a class set for $175.  You can also request a FREE SAMPLE HERE!
If you would like more information about the I Read to Write kits, which are available in grades 2-6,  you can find visit their website here

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Culminating Response to Literature Ideas

Culminating tasks for novels and other fiction stories are always something I am looking for, so I thought that you, reader, might also be in search of some.   We have finished reading our novel study of Tuck Everlasting last week, so this week, we have been responding to the story as a whole class.  I wanted to share with you two of the culminating responses we have done.  Both of these can be done with ANY piece of literature, not just Tuck (though, I have to say, both my students and I really found ourselves immersed in the story!)

The question is from Got To Teach's Pack for Tuck!
First, I had my students answer some higher level, deeper thinking questions about the story.  To do this, we did a Graffiti Wall style poster.  Basically, I took 6 questions that were text dependent upon Tuck Everlasting and wrote each one on a separate piece of 17" x 17" paper (I used those dimensions because the window pane glass is that large and I wanted to display them can use any size poster you wish.)  Then, I asked the students to get into groups of 5, with a few groups of 6 since I have 33 students.  Each group gathered around a poster and SILENTLY answered the question.  The students all were writing on the poster at the same time.  So while they were all sitting together answering the same question, this was NOT a collaborative project.  It was each kid answering the question on his own.  After about 4 minutes, the groups switched papers.  They worked for 4 minutes each time, rotating the paper between the groups as time was called.  The paper rotated 6 times so that each student had a chance to answer each question.

What is great about this Graffiti Wall is that all of the students get a chance to write their thoughts without having to feel the pressure to fill an entire page themselves.  What's more, it makes a great display of their learning from the book!
You can see that the writing is upside-down, sideways, and generally, all over the place.  That adds to the "graffiti" aspect of it!

A second response that we did with this novel was using my Story Element Task Cards.  I can't tell you how much I love these things.  Serious love. 

There are about 24 different cards, of which I made 3 copies of each.  The cards are sorted by number.  So there are 4 different plot cards, all with a different number 1-4.  Each of the story elements is this way.  The kids pick one card, say a Theme of the #3.  They respond to that theme question in the #3 section on their recording sheet.  Then, they have to choose another card, but this time from a different number set AND different element (such as setting or character or point of view.)  What I love is that the kids are choosing these open ended cards themselves, so they naturally have a little more buy in.  Since they have to pick one from each of the numbered sections, the kids can't only pick easy drawing ones either.  There is built in rigor and differentiation....and each project looks different!  Did I mention I love these things??

Well, there you have it.  Two different ways to bring closure to your novel studies in class.  What is something you have done in the past?  I am always looking to add to my repertoire! 

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Character and Inference

We revisited character traits and combined it with a lesson on inferring this past week. 

Our class novel, Tuck Everlasting , is filled with vivid descriptions of the various characters that lend themselves to deep inferences.  So I asked the students to think about a character that they connected with, and list 10 character traits that could be used to describe the character.  (They used this chart that we had previously glued into our journals from Read, Write, Think)

Once they had the list of character traits, the students had to list text evidence from the novel that supported their character trait inference, AND their own schema that led them to the inference.

After the list was complete, the students did two things.  First, they wrote a paragraph describing the character from the story using the character traits and the inferences.  I had them use this form (which is from my Character Traits in 5 Days pack, but you can download for free here) to help them really keep organized.  They also had to work to reference the text, direct quote, and list the schema to create a cohesive paragraph that adequately described the character.

Then, each student was given a little man cut out.  On it, they had to write the character trait in big letters.  Under that, the direct quote and the background knowledge schema was written.  This formed a visual representation of the paragraph.....that the kids really enjoyed making!

The final product was pretty neat looking, and made a nice, standards-based bulletin board!

How have you taught/reviewed character traits and inferring?

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Text Features in Our Own Writing

We have been diving into nonfiction over the past few weeks with a unit on colonial America.  One of the key things we have been looking at are how various text structures contribute to the reader's overall understanding of the text.

Each time we read a nonfiction text, whether it be in the social studies book or out of a trade book or periodical, we stopped for a second to acknowledge the text features and make note of what they were helping us, as a reader, understand.

As a whole, the class decided that pictures with captions and headings were the most helpful in giving us information that we would make the text a bit clearer.  So, when the students were in the process of writing an informational article about one of the colonial regions, we decided to include those two text features.

First, the students researched one of the three colonial regions found in the early days of English settlement.  They used multiple sources and created several prewriting organizers to gather all of the information.  (we used the Essay of the Month format, so the kids were super organized when writing.)

After all of the drafting was done, the students added the two text features to their final drafts.  To put the picture on, I just cut an index card in half for each student and they used that little card to create the picture box. The picture they drew then had to represent an idea in the paragraph they wrote, as well as include a summarizing caption for that picture.  The heading needed to summarize the paragraph itself.

Adding these text features to the articles the kids wrote was an easy way to connect several of the units of study we have engaged in over the past few weeks.  What have you done to get your kids to connect text features, nonfiction, and writing?

Friday, February 13, 2015

A Little Measurement Conversion "Trick" {video}

One thing that I am finding I have to spend a lot more time going over now is measurement conversions.  In the past, I would touch upon it, but since it wasn't a key standard, my in depth study of it was limited, to say the least.  But now, with SBAC looming and conversions being SUCH a big part of all of the released questions, I am finding myself really diving into this skill.

Knowing the actual units of measure doesn't seem to be a problem for my students.  But it is making the conversions that are proving a problem.  The actual math itself (multiplying or dividing) isn't the issue.  It is knowing *when* to use the correct operation that is tricky.


I came up with this little gesture "trick" that we have been using to help the kids remember what to do.

If the unit of measure that is being converted is BIGGER than the unit being converted to, the students put their hands over their head and create a multiplication sign.  They then know to multiply by the conversion rate.

If the unit of measure that is being converted is SMALLER than the unit being converted to, the students put their hands low across their body and mimic a division sign.  They know that division is called for to convert the measure.

Got that?  Well, just in case, I made a little 1 minute video to show you just how to do it!  :)   I am not an actor, so bear with me ;)

Doing this little muscle memory trick, my kids have been pretty successful at doing their conversions.  I have a little poster to go along with this too!  It features the cutest little girl (if I do say so myself ;))  Just click here and download the preview...and you will get the poster to print for {free} :)

To practice, I have made some task cards, sorting activities, and other thinking pages that have helped them to really hone in on the conversion skills.

Are they masters yet?  No.  But they are getting there far faster and better than any class I have had before :)
Would you like the lessons and printables that I used with my students?  You can get them right here!  Comment below about how you teach measurement conversion (with your email so I can contact you).  I will use a random number generator and choose one person whom I will send my new Measurement Conversions in 5 Days out to!  I am going to pick the winner Saturday at 5pm PST.  Which is when I will then post my new resource.  I can't wait to hear all the ways you teach measurement conversions!