Book of the Week: Arctic Babies

Every Monday, I highlight a book from our school bookroom along with lesson plan suggestions. I hope you find this useful, and please leave a comment with any suggestions or additions!

Arctic Babies, by Kathy Darling

Start typing here

There is a CAFE menu included with this mentor text, and I’ve highlighted these as suggested lessons:

Comprehension

Determine and analyze author’s purpose and support with text. When we’re reading nonfiction, I’ve often noticed my students will inevitably decide that the author wrote the book because they were interested in the topic they wrote about. That makes sense, after all, haven’t we been teaching them to write about what they’re interested in? But this could be an interesting book to dig a little deeper into that idea. The author is Kathy Darling, and the photos are by Tara Darling. Are they related? Do they visit the Arctic together? Tara Darling has photographed animals all over the world. You can find out more about the duo here. Tara has a Facebook page, too.

Compare and contrast within and between text. The format of this book makes it perfect for copying a few pages and giving them to students for a shared reading or working with a partner to compare and contrast two animals.

Please add any lessons or supplemental materials to the book bag so future teachers can utilize your good thinking!

Comments and constructive feedback are always welcomed. Please let me know if these lessons were useful in your class!

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Book of the Week: Max Found Two Sticks

Every Monday, I highlight a book from our school bookroom and I include a few mini-lesson ideas. I hope you find this useful, and please leave a comment with any suggestions or additions!

Max Found Two Sticks, by Brian Pinkney

Brian Pinkney, like his father, the legendary Jerry Pinkney, has illustrated a ton of books. We have several in our school library if you’re interested in setting up an author study. Jojo’s Flying Side-Kick, Dear Benjamin Banneker, and Happy Birthday, Martin Luther King are all available, and if you check with our interventionists, we should have several copies of Jojo’s Flying Side-Kick from the Soar to Success program.

Holy cow, there are a ton of resources available to help students with this book. I find the choices overwhelming, quite frankly. This site has tools to help students with phonics, writing, comprehension, spelling, and vocabulary. If you’re someone interested in hard copy work, plenty of blackline masters are available here.

Additionally, if you want to use this book as part of the 3rd grade Sound science kit, that could be doable. There are a few other books on music in the bookroom in the bucket labeled Fine Art, and there are a bunch of leveled readers as well. (that will be a future post)

Drum vibrations

There is a CAFE menu included with this mentor text, and I’ve highlighted these as suggested lessons:

Comprehension

  • Recognize literary elements. The book follows a pretty traditional three-tries story structure (Max bangs on the bucket, the hat boxes, the garbage can, and then receives the marching band drummer’s sticks). Talk about why so many stories, particularly traditional folk/fairy tales follow this pattern. This is a good place to start if you want to explore patterns in literature. Here are the 36 dramatic plots identified by Georges Polti.
  • Compare and contrast within and between text. Use this strategy in conjunction with the one explained above!

Expand vocabulary.

Please add any lessons or supplemental materials to the book bag so future teachers can utilize your good thinking!

Comments and constructive feedback are always welcomed. Please let me know if these lessons were useful in your class!

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Book of the Week: Dear Rebecca, Winter is Here

Every Monday, I highlight a book from our school bookroom along with lesson plan suggestions.

Dear Rebecca, Winter is Here, by Jean Craighead George

I suppose this post has a bit of a Christmas in July feel, seeing as how most of the country is crazy-hot and humid. If you need to cool down, you can preview the book here at Google Books. As you’ll learn, winter actually began June 21, according to Grandma’s character.

This book is written in a letter format, and I could see it working well with The Gardener, by Sarah Stewart. I also received a great tip from Ohio teacher Ms. LaCrosse that Jean Craighead George books are a pretty great resource for folks looking to integrate science into their literacy block.

Scholastic has leveling information, and a quick search brings up all sorts of resources connecting this book to the winter solstice.  I plan on using this with our weather unit this fall. There’s a Reading Rainbow episode called Snowy Day: Stories and Poems, and a good supplemental lesson plan with several other suggested books can be found here.

There is a CAFE menu included with this mentor text, and I’ve highlighted these as suggestions:

Comprehension

  • Check for understanding. If you’ve been teaching students to stop every paragraph or page or so to check for understanding, this could be a good book to help them refine the strategy. The whole book is one letter, so you can’t really stop all the way at the end of the letter (this would be contrast to the multiple letters in The Gardener, because you CAN pause and check for understanding at the end of each letter in that book). But at the same time, if you stopped EVERY page, meaning could actually be LOST because there’s not much text on each page and you’d be pausing in your reading an awful lot.
  • Use text features (titles, headings, captions, graphic features). George has her author’s note right at the front of the book rather than buried at the end. Why do students think she made that choice? The author’s note is brief, clear, and interesting, so copying it for students for a shared read might be a good idea. There’s a master copy of the author’s note already in the book bag if you need it.
  • Use main idea and supporting details to determine importance. About once sentence is on each page, and each section of text is accompanied by a small image. How did the illustrator choose what creature or scene would be featured in that small image? Does it relate to the main idea of the page, or does it illustrate a supporting detail? Maybe break students into pairs and give each pair a different page of the book.

 

Please add any lessons or supplemental materials to the book bag so future teachers can utilize your good thinking! You can find this text in the red bookroom bucket labeled realistic fiction or narrative nonfiction.

Comments and constructive feedback are always welcomed. Please let me know if these lessons were useful in your class!

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Using Reference Material: Poppy

One of the CAFE strategies we learned this week was the comprehension strategy of using reference material. As we were reading Avi’s Poppy, we came across a section where Poppy puts lady slipper petals on her feet and pretends like she’s Ginger Rogers dancing with Fred Astaire.

First we tried the strategy of Back Up and Reread. We reread the section. But no matter how many time we reread the word “lady slippers” or “Ginger Rogers,” we weren’t going to somehow spontaneously understand what those phrases meant by using the clues in the text.

We could have turned to the dictionary or a thesaurus, but in this case, photos and videos from the Internet seemed to fit the bill.

Poppy wears petals from lady slippers to pretend she's a dancer.

Poppy talks about dancing as though she were floating on air. After watching a few videos of Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire, I think you know what she means.

For more information on our literacy program, visit The Daily Cafe.

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Release Time!

Some of the most invigorating and inspiring experiences I have had as a teacher have been when we visit other schools. Last week, our third grade team had a half-day of release time to visit Adelaide Elementary. Former Wildwood teacher and friend Jake works there now, and I interviewed with Jason back in the day when I was first applying to be a teacher (I dare you to find a more passionate, driven leader — he’s great). They are an incredible bunch.

The school is calm, and you can tell the kids are excited to be learning there. Here’s their behavior rubric that’s posted in each class and in the halls.

Behavior Rubric
Behavior Rubric

Sondra Maier, one of the school’s literacy coaches, showed us around their Teacher Resource Center, a kind of uber-book/supply room that goes beyond just function to be a place that’s truly inspirational.

Holy cow, leveled books
Wall-o-leveled-books

All their books are leveled so they can be pulled for guided reading groups. Each book set is in a bag with an index card, so teachers can check out an entire bag of books at a time.

A book bag
A book bag

The leveling is done based on AR level, but I think we’re looking to level our book library by Guided Reading level.

DRA books
DRA books
Intervention materials
Intervention materials
Professional development books
Professional development books

I loved that the TRC seemed like a place where teachers were really being motivated to improve their practice, not just taking care of business.

Note the sharing board, where teachers can post ideas, new graphic organizers, blacklines, etc. (sorry the image is rotated funny)
Note the sharing board, where teachers can post ideas, new graphic organizers, blacklines, etc. (sorry the image is rotated funny)

When we were there, a team of 1st grade teachers were meeting to put together their reading preassessment for next fall. They were focused and working thoughtfully. I wanted to join them!

This is a board where staffers can see thumbnail sketches of how students are doing.
This is a board where staffers can see thumbnail sketches of how students are doing in reading (and math).

I’m a visual person, so I love that each pocket shows an approximate level of where each student is currently performing. That way, intervention specialists can make sure that no students are slipping through the cracks.

Sample focus board, so students know what they're expected to know and why.
Sample focus board, so students know what they're expected to know and why.

Sondra took us into two 3rd grade classrooms to observe their reading block. Adelaide uses this framework as a bit of a guide/backbone for their literacy program during the school year:

K-5 Reading Strategies
K-5 Reading Strategies

And Adelaide’s TRC doesn’t just help teachers with reading materials. Oh, no. Last year, they collected all math manipulatives from the teachers, organized them, cleaned them up, and stored them all in a central location. That way, no one winds up hoarding anything, and intervention specialists always know what materials are needed.

Holy cow, manipulatives.
Holy cow, manipulatives.
...and more maniuplatives (with a cart of shared reading texts)
...and more maniuplatives (with a cart of shared reading texts)

I’m dying to show you the organizational systems we saw in the classrooms we visited, but I’m waiting to get the teachers’ approval. Fingers crossed!

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The Sisters!

My homeroom students and SFA students are flexible and patient. We have been using pieces from The Sisters’ Daily Five since March, and their reading habits have shown tremendous growth.

On Wednesday, I was walking to Pilates when I saw a sign in the window at Barnes & Noble. I did a double take, then a triple take, when I realized that The Sisters would be HERE THIS SATURDAY!

Today, Ms. Nietering and I had the chance to hear Gail Boushey and Joan Moser speak. These are two incredible women — Gail is an instructional coach in Kent and Joan teaches in my district at Green Gables Elementary! They talked with us about the CAFE menu for reading instruction, which is used along with the organizational format laid out in The Daily Five.

Gail, Ms. Nietering, Me, Joan
Gail, Ms. Nietering, Me, Joan

Wow. They also spoke with us at length after their presentation. So many consultants and people who write teaching books have lost touch with the classroom, but these women know exactly what we’re going through. I emerged from the event inspired and re-energized.

I’m finishing up a few fantastic books by Debbie Diller, but I know what I’m reading next…

My signed copy of The CAFE Book!
My signed copy of The CAFE Book!

Olive, one of my cats, was also re-energized this weekend. However, I think it was the sun that rejuvenated her, not research about literacy instruction.

Olive in the kitchen
Olive in the kitchen

Oh, wait. Maybe she wasn’t as re-energized as I thought…

Olive yawning
Olive yawning

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