Saturday, December 28, 2013

Movie ~ Walking With Dinosaurs ~ Theme Connections

I took our youngest son to Walking With the Dinosaurs today.  Our teenager tagged along as well.  This was a wonderful movie filled with strong themes.  It is a story about a baby dinosaur who grows up with many hurdles, falls in love, rallies his herd to become a community and leads his herd to safety.

After watching the movie, on the way home I asked my boys what the theme or central message was in the movie ~ You just can't get away from a Mom who is a Reading Specialist!  Here is what they responded:

1.  Perseverance (Big kid)
2.  The biggest person doesn't always win. (Little kid)
3.  Never give up! (Big kid)
4.  A group of people is always stronger than being
     alone. (Big kid)
5.  Teamwork! (Little kid)
6.  If you love somebody, stick with them. (Mom)

Sometimes the most meaningful conversations occur when you least expect them.

I love my boys!

Friday, December 27, 2013

Snowflake Bentley by Jacqueline Briggs Martin ~ Lexile 830


Snowflake Bentley by Jacqueline Briggs Martin is the kickstarter book to our third grade unit on biographies that include Scientists, Inventors, Authors, Musicians, Firsties and many more... This biography is a delightful story about one man's passion and perseverance when he was not always supported by others who surrounded him.  Snowflake Bentley gives the reader a glimpse into the strength of character needed to pursue your dreams.  The students also gain an understanding of the process for making snowflakes that is a great springboard for studying states of matter.  The book that Wilson (Snowflake) Bentley published is still in print today, which is sure to intrigue many students!
Book Jacket Synopsis:
Snow in Vermont is as common as dirt.  Why would anyone want to photograph it?  But from the time he was a small boy, Wilson Bentley thinks of the icy crystals as small miracles, and he determines that one day his camera will capture for others their extraordinary beauty.
Often misunderstood in his time, Wilson Bentley took pictures that even today reveal two important truths about snowflakes:  first, that no two are alike, an second, that each one is startlingly beautiful. 
I brought the book home to write down some ideas and ended up developing an entire literacy unit for our teachers.  It can be found at Teachers Pay Teachers and includes two versions of a clothesline timeline, which is an introduction to timelines, a cause and effect interactive activity, two anchor charts; one is on biographies and the other is about theme, Greek and Latin roots and how they are key to understanding vocabulary in this story and many more integrated ideas! This unit is applicable to third and fourth grade reading levels.

 A preview is below.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

WIN ~ What I Need Interactive Journals

Our elementary school has WIN (What I Need) groups for thirty minutes daily where each student receives literacy instruction at his or her own level in small or larger groups depending on their needs.  These groups run 6 weeks with the seventh week set aside for teachers to look at data, student progress and regroup through progress and like target areas of need.

Teachers just started their second WIN group cycles.  As the district Reading Specialist, I help coordinate groups.  Teachers focus on three areas in each lesson:  Word study, Sight words or vocabulary and a graphic organizer with a writing extension.  This looks different at every grade level.  Lessons may take one or two days depending on the level of complexity.

In addition, all teachers incorporate interactive journals with text-dependent questions and many are starting to annotate within their groups.

Below is a first grade activity that I help coordinate weekly.  Students are reading about Seeing-eye dogs/Guide dogs.  These students are very strong readers.  They write a new and/or interesting vocabulary word down on a Post-it note and share daily.  In addition, students pull one fact that they found important to the text and write it down.  During group share, students discuss how their facts relate to their understanding of text.

The addition of writing to "cement" ideas is crucial.  The time to process ideas in writing is the final component to comprehension.

The Interactive Notebook below is one of my favorites as the content is applicable for all grades, 1-4.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Addy Adjective ~ Developmentally Appropriate Annotating ~ Amazing!

Addy Adjective is a continuation of Nicky Noun and Vicky Verb.  Our first grade teachers have introduced nouns and verbs through interactive props with a boy on a Popsicle stick that represents Nouns and a girl on a Popsicle stick that represents verbs.  The teachers and students identify words from stories that are read in class and students hold the correct prop up to demonstrate their knowledge.

Addy Adjective is a new prop shown on the anchor chart below. Students have now created a third prop to hold up when they identify describing words identifying a color, size, how something feels, how something sounds, behaves or looks and to describe how many.

For individual accountability, teachers have had students identify Adjectives in their individual reading, write the word on a Post-it note and draw an illustration for class discussion.

Class  discussion celebrates student knowledge.  This is an ongoing, interactive activity that really "cement" student learning.  Best practices in action!

Monday, December 9, 2013

Annotating at the Elementary Level

Today teachers of K-4 met to discuss close reading, text structure and annotating.  After our workshop and discussion of key annotation, teachers worked in small groups to work through how they would lead annotating in their classrooms.

The first chart is an annotation of The First Day of Winter by Denise Fleming.   It was powerful to watch these amazing teachers discover the teaching text structure, vocabulary and the big questions to guide instruction with this book.  You can clearly see that numbers were underlined.  This is a sequence book using ordinal numbers, therefore, the text structure of sequencing was identified.  Each noun had a descriptor such as "10 salty peanuts."  The vocabulary category of Adjectives was identified.  Finally, teachers focused on inferencing with, "What do you infer the boy is building?"

This was so much fun!  

Teachers in third and fourth grades focused on Thundercake by Patricia Polacco.  They focused on inferencing using the illustrations and text from the story.  Inferences included evidence that it was cold outside and what the cake would look like when it was finished.  In addition, the text structure of sequencing was identified.  Finally, the concept of grouping words for comprehension was discussed through the words mixing and mixing bowl.  Mixing is a verb showing action, but a mixing bowl is a noun.  Good stuff is happening with these teachers!

Happy Reading! 

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Close Reading Strategy ~ Again and Again (Patterns in Stories)

As I am preparing for an inservice on close reading, annotating and text structure, I am reviewing all of the amazing teacher clips demonstrating best practices in literacy instruction. 

The following clip is a favorite on the definition of close reading:

 The following clip demonstrates a very useful strategy of helping students tune into words that an author uses repetitively to convey an idea or meaning.  This teacher's lesson is stellar!

Link below:

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Text Features Anchor Chart

The fourth grade teachers at my building are really promoting and referencing anchor charts to the point that everything posted in their room is used and referenced by them and the students.  It is like Christmas when they show me a new anchor chart they are working on with their students.

Below is a text features anchor chart.  The images were downloaded from a freebie on TPT.  Teachers shrunk the images and started making notations about the features on their charts.  This is an excellent example of best practices in teaching!

Link to these amazing FREE text features posters:

You can see at the bottom that morphographs~Prefixes, Suffixes and Root words are focused on as part of vocabulary instruction. Again~best practices in action!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Capitalization Rules & First Grade

First grade teachers in our building decided to introduce capitalization rules when they started their three week unit about dinosaurs this fall. They started with an anchor chart outlining all of the capitalization rules.  

This was the perfect opportunity to introduce that special names (Proper Nouns) receive capital letters such as the specific names of all different dinosaurs!  Teachers in each classroom created class lists of dinosaurs and introduced the editing mark for capitalization at the same time.

These fabulous teachers have been adding capitalization rules over the past several weeks and making their anchor charts interactive through gluing examples when referencing their charts.  

This is a wonderful, ongoing introduction and review of capitalization rules that really "cements" learning in our young students while keeping learning engaging!

*Inspiration* for their anchor chart can be found at Zeke's Zoo blogspot,  This is a really cute blog!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Ten Apples up on Top ~ Early Literacy

I was looking on You Tube for a song or rhyme to go with the first Words Their Way Sort for Emergent Readers when I found this DELIGHTFUL song to go with my lesson!  I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Christmas Countdown

My son has finally figured out the concept of yesterday, today and tomorrow.  This has been hard for him!  His new question is, "How may days until_____?"  

Yesterday, his question was, "How many days until Christmas?"  This prompted a Pinterest search for an easy Christmas countdown.  I found a number countdown hung from an railing at Tip Junkie.  I modified this idea using Melonheadz Christmas labels that I downloaded from Teachers Pay Teachers.  I added the free Lulu font from TPT to add in my numbers and created my own countdown tags.  We will hang one tag before bed until Christmas Eve.  I think they turned out grand!

Click for Melonheadz link.

Original idea at Tip Junkie.