Thursday, April 25, 2013

Making Meaning out of Nonfiction

I told this joke to my kids yesterday:

Why does everybody want to hang out with the mushroom?

Cause he's a FUNGI!


They didn't laugh. I don't think they got it.

Anyway, this is why I told them that joke: This week, with my struggling fourth and fifth graders, I wanted them to read with a purpose! The kids I've started pulling out recently have some pretty rough reading habits. Fake reading, mostly, and when I ask a question about their comprehension, a couple of them read a random phrase in the hopes that I will

1. Say. "Close!" and then magically make their phrase into an answer.
2. Tell them a response that should replace their response.
3. Give up and move on to another kid.

I'm pretty stubborn. I don't do those things.

Kids must be accountable for their thinking and responding! So this week, I pulled out an old Scholastic article about the chytrid fungus attacking frogs in their natural habitats. Hence, the fungi joke.

I chose it for several reasons: Earth day is April 22nd, fourth and fifth graders are currently studying life science (habitats, ecosystems, niches, etc.), and also the pictures of frogs are pretty neat. I hoped it would be high-interest and easily connected to by the kids.

It was!

We first previewed the features and made predictions using the information in them. We completed the top half of this chart.

Then I had each student write a question that they expected could be answered in the text. They
recorded these on a post-it. As they read, their purpose was to read for evidence that could help them answer their question. I think that, because the kids wrote their own questions, they were actually pretty engaged and read very deliberately. That was a big improvement.

They read closely and added their evidence to their post-its. Afterwards, we shared and charted out our questions and evidence. The student who originally wrote about the question shared his/her evidence first, and then other students filled in with additional pieces of information they gathered during their reading. This helped us create well-rounded responses to many of the questions.

Here's my fourth grade chart:

I really wanted to encourage kids to find specific pieces of evidence that contributed to their understanding of the question as a whole. This means that they often needed to find more than one piece of evidence for each question.

Here's a similar chart with fifth grade (the second half, where we recorded questions and evidence):

Two questions were so specific that there was not enough evidence to completely answer the question. This was a good conversation - students realized they could only find a piece of the answer but not the exact answer. This was a good talking point: making sure our evidence actually answered the complete question, instead of just being related to the question; a habit they are very guilty of!
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Sunday, April 21, 2013

Earth Day: The Great Kapok Tree

So one fun part of my job is that I sometimes get to pull out kids to do fun stuff instead of test practice. This is what happened last week and the week before. I worked with a group of third graders and a group of fourth graders who had been successful in their test-taking, and we didn't want to waste their time with more of it before the test. So we learned about Earth Day!

I mentioned previously, in my Five for Friday post, that I had started working with this group of kids, and I shared a couple charts we made. That's what we did first, before we read The Great Kapok Tree. We also read this freebie article about Earth Day from Rachel Parlett. You can grab it free at TPT and we charted out some basic points about Earth Day.

Using the structure I posted in my Five for Friday, post, the students wrote brief paragraphs about Earth Day and published them on some cute writing paper.

The next day, we read The Great Kapok Tree. 

My purpose for reading this book was to, of course, introduce students to reasons for conserving our rainforests, but also, to have them take the fictional story and rewrite it as a drama. I wanted them to think about what would be the role of the narrator, which character voices they would need, and what would be included in stage directions.

We started off together, charting the introduction to the drama. After a conversation about how we should differentiate between the narrator and stage directions (the kids decided that they wanted the narrator to tell the actions, and the stage directions to describe. This was with some guidance, of course!), this is what we came up with:

Then, I divided the students up and gave each one a chunk of text that introduced a different animal. I had a small group of students, and there were many animals, so only two students had to buddy up. They wrote their chunk of the story as a drama and published it, using their animal's fur or markings to illustrate the border.
After that, each student got a paper plate and enough construction paper to fill their every heart's desire.

 And this is what they made:


Yanamamo Boy


Jaguar (looks pretty tiger-y to me)


Porcupine - just noticed she made mistakes in her drama. Poop. Gotta go back and have her redo that one!


Toucan (kind of)

Bee.... with a ghostly reflection of myself in the background. 
How funny that, in all the pictures, the only one I came out in is the Bee!

There's also a frog, but he's not done yet.

Stay tuned for my upcoming hallway display debut: It took me two weeks, but it is almost done!
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Saturday, April 20, 2013

Summarizing nonfiction

So the other day I shared how I took an article, cut it up, and collaboratively re-created it with my fourth and fifth grade pull-out intervention group. That went really well and you can read about it here.
Over the past couple days, my students and I took those articles we reconstructed and re-read them in one piece.  This was the article I read with third and fourth grade. 

 With fourth grade, I used the article as a way to review writing a nonfiction summary to process text. I wanted students to think about using the structure of the article (divided into sections with headings) to help them write their summary.

With third grade, I wanted to practice the same skill, but my third graders have trouble differentiating between the most important ideas, or main ideas of sections, and specific facts or details. To support this, I wrote a variety of statements from the article on sentence strips. 

Some ideas (Meerkats live in burrows under the ground) were very specific facts from the article. Others (Meerkats help each other by taking turns looking out for predators) were main ideas from the article. Using these sentences in a pocket chart, as well as the headings for each section and the title, we made decisions about the following things:

1. Which pieces of information are important and which are specific facts?
2. Which pieces of information would be included in a summary?
3. How can the title/headings help us choose what is important and organize it?
4. What order should the important information be sequenced in to be in logical order?

We made a little chart to help us with interesting vs. important. I forgot to take a picture! But this is the general idea:

Interesting: a specific fact or detail. Makes you say, "Wow!" or "I didn't know that!". May not be related to the main idea or purpose of the article. (real-life example: toys. They're not necessary, but we like them)

Important: a big idea. Related to the main idea or purpose of the article. Headings/titles can give you clues about what will be important in the article. (real-life example: food. It might not be fun, but it's necessary)

Still, though, this was tough for my third graders. This is what we came up with. I marked the words in the sentences that helped us identify if the statement was related to the main idea/topic of the article.

Overall, not a bad lesson. Wish I'd had a little more time to spend with them, though. Half an hour was kind of rushed.

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Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Water, Water Everywhere! Water Cycle & Weather Pack *Freebie!

Teach the water cycle in a fun, hands-on way with these activities to help you figure out what students already know! Download a free cut-and-paste worksheet to use as a pre-assessment, a quiz, or an assignment, and have students explain what they know with a fun water cycle foldable! #watercycle #foldable I'm pretty excited about my new water cycle and weather pack, Water, Water Everywhere!

It's over 80 pages of printable materials to work with the water cycle and weather!

I've used these ideas in my own classroom, and it's one of the things I miss!

The water cycle was such a simple and fun concept to teach, and weather is exciting! 

This investigation was always so simple but so enlightening for kids!

Teach the water cycle in a fun, hands-on way with these activities to help you figure out what students already know! Download a free cut-and-paste worksheet to use as a pre-assessment, a quiz, or an assignment, and have students explain what they know with a fun water cycle foldable! #watercycle #foldable

Water Cycle Craftivity

Teach the water cycle in a fun, hands-on way with these activities to help you figure out what students already know! Download a free cut-and-paste worksheet to use as a pre-assessment, a quiz, or an assignment, and have students explain what they know with a fun water cycle foldable! #watercycle #foldable

Cloud Types Folded Flip Book

Teach the water cycle in a fun, hands-on way with these activities to help you figure out what students already know! Download a free cut-and-paste worksheet to use as a pre-assessment, a quiz, or an assignment, and have students explain what they know with a fun water cycle foldable! #watercycle #foldable

I have... Who has...

Teach the water cycle in a fun, hands-on way with these activities to help you figure out what students already know! Download a free cut-and-paste worksheet to use as a pre-assessment, a quiz, or an assignment, and have students explain what they know with a fun water cycle foldable! #watercycle #foldable

The complete pack at TPT includes...

*Water Cycle & Weather Word Wall Cards
*Water Cycle Poster
*Frayer Model for Vocabulary: (Weather, Climate, Evaporation, Condensation, Precipitation, Accumulation)
*Water Cycle in a Bottle Investigation (instructions, setup, and handouts included)
*Water Cycle Folded Flip Book
*Water Droplet Shape Book
*Water Cycle Mobile Craftivity
*Water Cycle Song
*Water Cycle Reader’s Theater
*Water Cycle Mix-Mingle-Team Up Activity (24 cards)
*Water Cycle Comic Strip
*Water Cycle Diagram Cut & Paste
*Water Cycle Quiz & Matching Handout
*Cloud Types Article
*Cloud Types Chart: Cut & Paste
*Cloud Types Folded Flip Book
*Weather Acrostic Poem
*Weather Jigsaw Activity (Includes readings, handouts, 
and scoring guides)
*Daily Weather Log
*Water Cycle/Weather I Have... Who Has... (24 cards)
*Bonus: Internet Resources & Webquest

Teach the water cycle in a fun, hands-on way with these activities to help you figure out what students already know! Download a free cut-and-paste worksheet to use as a pre-assessment, a quiz, or an assignment, and have students explain what they know with a fun water cycle foldable! #watercycle #foldable

And grab your freebie at TPT too! This freebie set includes a water cycle poster, a water cycle song (color and B&W versions), and a cut & paste water cycle diagram! 

Teach the water cycle in a fun, hands-on way with these activities to help you figure out what students already know! Download a free cut-and-paste worksheet to use as a pre-assessment, a quiz, or an assignment, and have students explain what they know with a fun water cycle foldable! #watercycle #foldable

Want to see more about how I teach the water cycle? Check it out here on the blog!

Happy Teaching!
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Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Reading is a puzzle: putting it all together!

I pull out three small groups of struggling students: third grade, fourth grade, and fifth grade. Throughout the year, I've used a guided reading structure to work with students and  improve their decoding and comprehension. But in the last two weeks before the test, I decided to change it up and try out something different.
I took a Scholastic News article and I cut it all up! I cut up six sets of each article. I put each set in a paper bag and labeled the outside with the title and grade level.
It took much longer than I thought. I cut out each text feature, and separated them. For example, I cut the captions off of photos and I cut out the headings, subtitles, and title. I also cut each paragraph out separately.

This was my intent: I wanted students to reconstruct the whole article based on what they know about making meaning out of nonfiction text. The fourth graders I work with tend to move their eyes across the page and pretend to read when no one is prompting them. I wanted to focus on "making meaning" because I feel like this is the whole point to reading! 

We started out by putting the captions together with the photos and making decisions about what the title was and which were the headings. As we attacked the pieces, I charted out our strategy.

After we had the features connected and understood, we looked at the paragraphs. This was the tricky part. Kids had to read each paragraph and sort them under the heading they belonged to.

Then, we looked at each section and sequenced the paragraphs. This was great, because it spurred a real conversation and critical thought about the content of each paragraph and the relationship of the ideas in that paragraph to other paragraphs. 

For example, in the pictures below about feral cats, we decided that the paragraph that starts with "One of America's..." was an introduction to the cat issue. The next paragraph expects the reader to have been introduced to the idea of "domestic cats" because it mentions it, but doesn't explain much about it. It also uses this previously explained idea to explain the new term, "feral" cats, so the feral cat paragraph must come after the domestic cat paragraph. 

This strategy could also be great to support text structures, as students have to understand how ideas relate to each other to identify the text structures of cause-effect, sequencing, etc. I would probably use a shorter text, maybe a paragraph, and cut it apart by sentence to have students rebuild that. 

We enjoyed it. Have you done this with your kids? Do you think you might?
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Sunday, April 14, 2013

WILD About Reading!

In my classroom, I always used Reader's Workshop. I included shared reading, read alouds, independent reading and guided reading, and word study. To help teachers set up their Reader's Workshop and independent reading components, I put together this jungle safari themed "WILD about Reading" Pack! 

It's so hard to fit everything in one image!
In the pack are student sheets, teacher resources, printable posters & cards, bulletin board materials, and student response bookmarks! This is the full listing of materials included:
-Reader’s Notebook Cover
- Sample Anchor Charts
- Reading Survey
- Myself as a Reader 
- Genre Graph
- Genre Bingo Recording Sheet
- My Reading Goals
- Choosing a Just Right Book
- Book Pass Activity & Recording Sheet
- 2 different versions of bunting banner
- 4 and 5-day versions of Home Reading Record
- 25 Book Club: directions, recording log, 
  recommendation sheet, and bulletin board 
  recognition materials
- Independent Reading Rubric
- Independent Reading Record
- Response Ideas Poster
- 2 different fiction summary posters
- Independent Reading Response Sheet, M-F
- Guided Reading Strategy Cards for Prompting
- Book club Roles & Responsibilities
- Book Club Accountability Sheet
- 6 Bookmarks for recording thoughts during independent reading (connections, visualizing, summaries, questions, predictions, characters, facts)
- “WILD” printable bookmarks
-Teacher Materials: Conference Record Sheet, Library Check-in/out
- Bulletin Board Materials: What is Reading?

I'm excited about this pack. So excited that I'd like to give it out to the first five responders! Leave a comment below with your email address and the answer to this question: What's your favorite read aloud?
Grab it at TPT or Teacher's Notebook!
Happy Sunday!
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Friday, April 12, 2013

Home Alone

Ok, so I wrote this post before the Five for Friday Party got started! Then I did yardwork....
And two hours later, there are over 100 people at the party! What the WHAT?!
Anyway, here's my Five for Friday link-up!
My hunnybun left for his trip to Vegas today. He's going for a videographer convention. THIS MEANS I'VE BEEN HOME ALONE!

It's nice, and then not nice, and then nice again.

It's nice when I get to watch whatever I want on TV. Like The Walking Dead (which Fernie won't watch because he doesn't like zombies) or the Office (which Fernie won't watch because he's had a boss like Michael Scott so he can't get past the first couple episodes). 

Then it's not nice. Like when my hunny texts me from a tasty restaurant and says, "It was sooooo good. Wish you could've come."

And I'm eating scrambled eggs for dinner.

Then it's nice again when I get to make a pot of flavored coffee because the hunny only drinks plain decaf.

So it's been a bit of an adventure. All of this disclaimer is necessary for my Five on Friday post!

#1: This is what I had for dinner on Monday. It's mashed cauliflower I found on pinterest. It was eh. But by the time I finished making it, trying it, and getting the seasonings right, I was full. So that was my entire dinner, right there. A plop of mashed cauliflower. Mmm, you're thinking. Yummy.

#2. So what's that in my glass, you say? It's wine. Yes, wine in a Star Trek glass. I know what you're thinking.

It is indeed classy. Mad Men is on in the background. It doesn't get much classier than that. Oh, Roger Sterling. 

#3. In case you're feeling a little uncomfortable, I thought I'd share my fancy brand of wine with you. 

See that? That's FRAN-ZEE-A, for those of you who don't speak French. Muy fancy. Look closer and see why it's such a great buy:

Yes! I am! I am reducing my carbon footprint! You're welcome, Earth.

#4: All this Earth-saving inspired me. The third grade teachers in my school asked me if I could pick up a group of students who have been successful in test-taking and I thought that sounded like fun. I decided to put together a group of third graders and a group of fourth graders to work on Earth Day!

I love Earth Day stuff. 

This is what we started on.

We watched a BrainPop about conservation and then we read a brief article. From the article, we charted out this information:

#5. We wrote an Earth Day paragraph using sentence frames. Many of the students are ELLs and are working on developing their English. To help them build their sentence structure, I used sentence frames.

First we wrote four sentences using the information we learned from the video and the article.

This was the example: "Earth Day is... a special day to celebrate the Earth and practice conservation! Conservation means... using our natural resources carefully. You can help by... turning off the water when you brush your teeth! This can help us... use less water and protect our resources.

Then we used the sentence frames in green to create diversity in their writing. On Monday, they're going to publish.

Go link up with DoodleBugs!
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Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Media Literacy

Tuesdays are the days that I plan with grade levels. We plan two weeks at a time and we have 90 minutes. Most of the time, it's actually pretty fun! We look at the student expectations bundled together in the upcoming unit and plan lessons/charts/activities/assessments that will support those SEs.

Yesterday, second grade planned out their unit on media literacy. Media literacy is a relatively new-ish idea in our standards. It was added a few years ago, but has only recently begun to be tested, so there are not many materials out there to support it. Fortunately, media is everywhere!

Teachers are going to save their materials from home to use in their classrooms. We included learning experiences like evaluating advertisements, commercials, magazines, and even cereal boxes for the techniques used by the writers.

We planned this anchor chart to start off with. I'm excited to see how this unit goes!
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Friday, April 5, 2013

Five For Friday Linky Party

Five for Friday! Finally linking up with this fun linky party from DoodleBugsTeaching!

This week stunk because of STAAR testing. I promise not to bore you with any more of that, though. If you're in Texas, you're bored enough.

1. Finally put up my reading pledge board from our Camp Read-a-Lot Literacy Night! You can read about it here!

2. This is (part of) my family on Easter. My brother Matt is on the left, Mom in the middle, and John on the right. As you can see, as soon as the camera goes up, they cover their faces. I took eight pictures at different times. All of them look like this - paper plate face.

We call John the Yeti, as he is elusive, yet intrusive. 

3. Fabric hunting with my sister-in-law this week. We took this picture to remember the price of a solid color broadcloth. I'm wondering if it's cheaper to make my own table runners than rent them!

4. Planned with third grade on Thursday for our reading blitz review before the STAAR test! They're doing half a day of reading and this is how they're breaking up their time. This is version two of our chart - the first ended up with pink marker barfed all over it due to revisions!

5. Last, but not least, my cat. The Professor is completely inappropriate. It's a good thing I got him fixed, or this picture would be rated R! He has no shame.

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Camp Read-a-Lot, Part II

I've been a terrible Literacy Leader. Two weeks ago, I spent the whole week helping administer TELPAS. This week, I spent my time hopping around at our STAAR Celebration Pep Rallies and administering the Math and Writing STAARs. So I haven't done that much literacy stuff. 
I did get a little schooling from a second grader, though. As I handed out the district's media disclaimer during the TELPAS, I said, "Please sign your name on the line. This means you don't have a cell phone with you."

One of the kids gave me a smarty-pants look. "We're second graders," he said. "We don't have cell phones!"

Sheesh. It wasn't my idea, okay?

Today was my first normal day in a couple weeks. It was nice. I got to work and I was like, "What do I do here? (When I'm not giving tests?)"

I didn't have long to wonder. As I stood, hesitating in my doorway, the day came and hit me in the face and I managed to fill it with planning with teachers, meetings, and working on my very sadly delayed "Camp Read-a-Lot" bulletin board. 

I've been sitting on this board for a couple weeks. What with meeting with my groups, planning, paperwork, and testing, it's been a month since our Literacy Night actually happened! So today I gathered my butcher paper, family reading pledges from the Literacy Night, and put together my board! I can only hope the kids actually remember what it is. Short attention spans...

The board was a bit too long to actually capture it all. I tried that panoramic thing, but it made it look a little curvy, so we're stuck with an angled shot!

I added the little puppets the kids made and I stapled up the cover from the book we used, A Camping Spree with Mr. Magee!

I made a tent out of butcher paper and cut a little flap to add some 3-Dness!

Check out the materials to have your own Camp Read-a-Lot Literacy Night, Super Family Literacy Night, or Roll Out the Red Carpet for Literacy Night!

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Monday, April 1, 2013


It's been months since I've caught the currently soon enough to link up! Finally made it! Have a happy April!

Tomorrow and Wednesday is the first round of STAAR testing for fourth and fifth grades. Because their day is sooo long and horrible (mine too because I'm doing a small group oral administration - scary ) I put together some little treat bags for the teachers. Here's the rhyme:

The STAAR is here. It's time to shine! You and your kids will do just fine. 
To help you get through this long day, have some snacks along the way!

Inside, I put some popcorn, a granola bar, and a Crystal Lite packet for tasty water.

Don't forget about my upcoming sale!
My blog has 500 followers and my TPT Store has 1,000 fans! In honor of these great fans & followers, and also because it's Spring, I'm having a Spring Sale Friday - Sunday, April 5 - 7. Check out my TPT and Teacher's Notebook stores to get 20% off on all items!

Go link up with Oh'Boy Fourth Grade!

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