Thursday, October 29, 2015

Pirate Family Literacy Night

Arrr you ready for Pirate Family Literacy Night? 
Ha! I crack myself up. Every year we host our families for a fun night of reading and writing activities in a theme. 
Pirates is a fun theme with tons of possibilities.
I mean, think about it. There are hook hands and peglegs and  ships with huge sails. 
There are treasure maps and jewels and deserted islands.
You can say Arrrrr! a lot, and wear scarves and hats. What's not to like?
So how do you put together a family literacy night, a la pirate?
Well, here you go!

About a month before Literacy Night, I start the planning. I figure out what stations I'm going to have, what materials I need to make and copy. 
I also find out who will be able to help out at a station or at the front of the school. 

Event planning form from my Instructional Coaching MegaPack

I cut, stack, and laminate (or I have the lovely volunteers at our school help with it.)
About a week before Literacy Night, I start putting samples and materials together. I go shopping and buy everything we need. I put together the bags for the door (including a bookmark and a reading pledge). I talk to our librarian to make sure we're ready with the free books we give away - one to each child. And I put together the snack station. 
This year's snack was this adorable craft:
To make it, I stuffed plastic snack-sized bags with a popsicle stick (for spreading frosting), a mini chocolate doughnut, a pretzel stick, and a handful of goldfish. I also cut up little pieces of white paper for the sail and purchased the little paper plates and frosting.

I downloaded How I Became a Pirate to play in the background while the kids were working on their snack.

At the front door, our librarian handed out books to our kids!

This was the Treasure Map station: a fun word family game. Kids made the pieces by cutting them out of yardstick and then put them in a paper bag. The kids and parents took turns drawing cards to fill up their treasure maps!

Kids and parents read these fun pirate partner plays with their hats and hooks on!

This was our reading station: Pirate Cove. We set up comfy chairs and spots to sit and read and provided baskets of books. Our super art teacher made this ship, too!

This station was a huge hit: Digging for Buried Treasure. I took two plastic wading pools and had some helpers fill them with balled-up butcher paper in yellow and brown (to represent sand).

Then I copied these gems and coins on cardstock and mixed them up in the paper balls.

Teachers read a card  with a prefix (at the big kids station) or a rhyming word (at the little kids station) and kids dug through the pools to find the matching words!

At the last station, kids wrote adorable stories about how they became pirates and then they made a paper plate pirate!


Want to learn more? Check out my How to Plan an Awesome Family Night video!
Looking for fun pirate ideas? Check out my Pirate Theme Pinterest Board full of pirate inspiration. 
You can get everything you need to run your own fun pirate family night at TPT!

Pin It

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Structures and elements of dramas and plays *Freebie!

Do you spend much time on drama? Like, after PE or lunch?
Hahahaha I am cracking myself up.

Well, obviously, that's not the kind I'm talking about. For the past two weeks, I've been working in some fourth grade classrooms.

Our current unit in reading is drama: plays. We've been working on the structures unique to dramatic literature (cast of characters, stage directions, scenes, etc.), and making inferences to describe the characters in dramas. 

And it's been so much fun!

We started out by introducing the various structures of drama and just finding examples in a dramatic text.

We used Storyworks by Scholastic. There aren't a ton of stage directions at the beginning of each scene, but they're engaging plays for kids. 

These are the structures we introduced. For each one, we had students practice a gesture to help them remember the meaning. For example, the gesture for "dialogue" is to place your open hand on your mouth and move it away from your mouth to show the lines the characters say. These gestures helped students recall the meaning of the structures.

The second day, we started out by identifying the genre (again). It's so important for kids to practice identifying the genre of a text and think about how that will impact their reading - the strongest readers change the way they read a text based on the genre. That's why teaching reading by genre is so important!

We used our genre cards on rings to identify the genre and then I gave each student about ten tiny post-its. They had five minutes to hunt through the genre and identify the structures we introduced the day before.

After the kids hunted through their dramas and labeled the structures they could find, I handed out this table. You can download it for free from Google Docs. It includes the main structures of drama and the definition. As we read, we tried to explain how that dramatic structure helped us as a reader and filled in the third column.

The next few days, we worked on describing characters in drama using their words (dialogue), actions (stage directions) and what other characters said about them (others' dialogue). To do this, we used one of the sheets from my Scaffolded Reading Responses for Drama and Plays.

Students collected details about the main character in the play, named Felipe. They noticed his dialogue (he often told lies), the stage directions (he whined, stomped his feet, and crossed his fingers behind his back when he made a promise), and what other characters said about him (his servants didn't have a very good opinion of him).

Then students used the sentence starters in the middle of the page to write a response using their evidence. Students were able to write about the character using specific details from the text and make accurate inferences. It was a good start in helping students understand dramas and plays!

For more ideas about teaching dramas and plays, check out my Teaching Drama pinterest board here.
Pin It

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Responding to Reading: Responding to Questions *Freebie!

One question teachers frequently ask is, "How can I monitor my students' understanding during a read aloud or shared reading?" Sometimes, it's enough just to see what kinds of thoughts students are having as they read. Sometimes, though, I need to see a specific response to a purpose question. After playing with a few ideas, I tried out this reader's notebook strategy for having students respond in a focused way to our read aloud or shared reading. The strategy is: question strips!

Before we read a section of text in class, I would read it myself and write a question or two that I thought might help students evaluate their thinking. I used question stems from our state assessment and other rigorous sources, in order to build students' familiarity to the questions' syntax.

I typed these questions up, and copied them until I had a series of them running down the page. I can usually fit 12 or so on one page. I printed them out (it often only took two sheets to get enough for each student in my class to have one) and then I cut them into strips.

After our shared reading or read aloud (in this case, Esperanza Rising was our shared reading, so everyone had a copy - great for citing evidence from the text), I handed out one question strip to each student. They took a glue stick and quickly zipped it across the page, and then stuck the strip on.

I modeled, modeled, modeled how to write a simple but complete response to the question. After modeling for oh, about forever, my students were able to write coherent and accurate responses to the questions. I wrote questions about characterization, inferences, and personal connections for students to respond to. It was great insight into my students' understanding!
Check out these posts about other ways to use Reader's Notebooks to respond to reading!
Monitoring comprehension
Writing book letters
Double-entry journals
Writing about characters
Responding to questions
And for more ideas, check out "Responding to Reading," a freebie on TPT!

Pin It

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Responding to Reading: Writing about characters* Freebie!

For students to really understand fiction, they need to have a strong understanding of the characters. The characters' traits drive the conflicts and themes of the story! In our shared reading of Frindle, my students and I spent a lot of time writing about characters. 

We started with a simple purpose for marking with post-its: Find evidence about Nick Allen's character. You can use his words, actions, or things other characters say about him. As we read, we marked placed we noticed his character becoming clear with post-its and wrote a short reaction on each post-it. 

After we read, I had students gather their post-its and stick them into their reader's notebook under, "Evidence about Nick Allen."

Then we brainstormed words that could describe his personality.

I wanted students to make some sort of decision about Nick's character, so I asked them a question with controversy: "Is Nick Allen a troublemaker?" Depending on my students' perspective, they would have different ideas about this. 
To help my students understand different types and roles of characters, I introduced the vocabulary: Protagonist and Antagonist. I wanted my students to notice character interactions and think about how the characters were working against each other because of their personalities. 
I chose a good chapter to introduce this concept - the chapter where we meet Mrs. Granger, who is Nick's very strict fifth grade teacher. As we read, we gathered evidence about Mrs. Granger and then wrote a prediction about how these characters would interact. 

Here is one of my students' brief responses to this chapter. On the bottom of the page, you can see that we connected this shared reading lesson to independent reading. The students had the same purpose for reading as we introduced during our whole-group reading lesson: Gather evidence about your character to describe him or her. Predict future events based on what you know about the characters. This student wrote about Diary of a Wimpy Kid, his independent reading selection.

And this student wrote about her character, Stuart Little. 

Scaffolding students' reading responses by setting up a purpose for reading with a graphic organizer and then providing sentence starters is a great way to grow your readers and writers. 
This simple organizer requires students to identify the evidence in the text that helps them understand the characters' relationship. Then they use the starters to write a short response.
A strong connection between your whole-group lessons and students' independent reading can help students be purposeful and thoughtful during their independent reading time, building strategies to support their reading comprehension.
And for more ideas, check out "Responding to Reading," a freebie on TPT!

Or my new Scaffolded Reading Responses for Fiction!

Pin It

Friday, October 2, 2015

4 Steps to Teaching Transitional Phrases with Pumpkin Jack

Don't you just love it when you read a student's narrative and they use awesome transitional words like "First," "Then," and "Finally?" They add a touch of class and voice to their writing, and really help you experience their unique perspective. 
LOL! No, they don't. Students who use these tired transitional phrases tend to write in a simplistic manner. Authentic transition use can take a moderate piece of writing and turn it into a very strong one. 

This blog hop is pretty exciting. As you click through each post, collect the "mystery word." You can record them on this sheet. Then, enter the rafflecopter to win every book! You'll also collect a great freebie to use with a mentor text for teaching a reading or writing skill or strategy!

Teaching Authentic Transitions

To introduce authentic transitions using a text model (the best way to introduce writing strategies - notice them in a mentor text!), I chose Pumpkin Jack. It's seasonal, easy to follow, and includes a ton of different transitions for different purposes. They're each used in a natural manner that doesn't cause the story to halt every time a transition is used. 
To use a mentor text as a model, this is the procedure I follow:

The Lesson

These four steps help students see the craft being used well by a mentor author. 

Step 1: Notice It! Read aloud a great mentor book that demonstrates the craft you want to try with students. Pumpkin Jack does a great job of using transitional phrases naturally. As you read, mark the phrases with post-its, thinking about how they convey the passing of time. 

Step 2: Name it! Name the strategy and introduce it explicitly. When you name it, make sure to discuss with students how the craft adds something purposeful to the author's writing. 
In Pumpkin Jack, you can discuss the following points:
  • Transitional phrases are used to show the passing of time.
  • They all sound different.
  • Some show a short time has passed; some show a long time has passed.
  • They are written in different places in a sentence and in a paragraph.
This would also be a good time to chart the transitional phrases by purpose, like in the anchor chart below. 

Step 3: Teacher tries it! When you model, think aloud a step at a time about how to use the craft deliberately and purposefully in your writing. Why is that craft a good idea? What is using it going to convey to your reader? How will you use it effectively? You might also revise an older piece using that craft, rather than writing a new piece. 

Step 4: Students try it! Have students try to use the craft in their writing. It might be easier to have them revise a piece of writing in a piece they've already written to use the craft.
For transitional phrases, have students read their pieces to find where time has passed. Add in a transitional phrase that moves the piece from one time to the next. Refer back to your anchor chart of the transitions from Pumpkin Jack.

For a fun activity to do to help you "Notice It, Name It, and Try It," check out my new freebie on TPT for Teaching Transitions with Pumpkin Jack! It includes lesson ideas and tools for teaching students to use transitional phrases appropriately in their narratives. There's even a story for you to model revising with transitional phrases!

Tools to try it out!

Grab it free on TPT!

Did you catch my mystery word?  If not, it is Jack. Now it's time to hop to the next stop. Remember to record all of the mystery words so you can enter the big giveaway! Download the recording form here, if you don't already have it!

Happy Teaching! 

The next stop is...

Selma Dawani: Teaching and Learning Resources
or go to the start of the hop to collect 
all the mystery words or enter the Rafflecopter!

Pin It
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...