Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Reading Flipables

Today as I was walking down the hallway on my way back from the copy room, I heard giggles and laughter coming from a third grade classroom. Intrigued, I had to peek in and see what all the commotion was about. I peered in. Did I see indoor recess in the works due to the rainy day that lasted allllll day long? No. How about a silly brain break or quick energizing game? No. Instead, I witnessed students sitting on the carpet completely locked in and engaged on what the teacher was saying. And just WHAT was the teacher talking about you may ask? MATH!! The students were absolutely mesmerized. I couldn't help but listen in too. I was caught up in the higher-level math talk that was happening between the teacher and students, but I was caught up in something else too. The fun! Who says learning can't be FUN and RIGOROUS??

Following this line of thinking, I have been doing lots of work this year around the combination of rigor and making learning fun. We know that in order to achieve mastery of a particular skill, students need repeated practice. And some skills require lots and lots and LOTS of repeated practice such as math facts or vocabulary development for instance. (I still remember as a third grader myself my 7s times tables were the ones that got me, I had to practice those babies probably a ZILLION times!) As teachers, we also know that some students require extra practice in comparison to others to learn certain skills. Thus, I have been looking at ways to provide that practice in ways that are meaningful and fun because in an ideal classroom, both should go hand-in-hand.

One skill that I have recently focused on for my "infusion of fun" if you will is summarizing. Summarizing is a reading comprehension skill that my second graders work on and develop literally all year long. This is a massive skill that quite simply takes hours, days, months, yes YEARS of practice. And so began my journey to find and create resources to make this repeated practice both rigorous and fun. Here are some things I found along my way...

"Follow the Yellow Brick Road", Retelling Rope, Sticky Note SummariesRoll & RetellFive Finger Retell Glove, Summarizing Foldables to name a few. (P.S. If you haven't noticed yet, click on each one to be taken directly to the resource!)

Inspired by all this fun out there, I have made an entire PACK OF FUN devoted to building reading comprehension skills that require repeated practice. The skills I focused on were: describing fictional story elements, supporting a main idea with details, using text evidence to identify character traits, asking and answering questions while reading, summarizing, developing vocabulary, confirming and adjusting predictions, making connections, and text analysis (specifically through the context of literature circles and book reports). I designed flipables for each skill perfect for student usage during whole group instruction, independently during reading workshop, in a small group with other students, or as part of an interactive notebook.

Here is an up-close and personal look at each flipable!

The story elements flipable has students describe and sketch a picture of each key fictional story element (characters, setting, problem, and solution).
The main idea and details flipable does just what it says--students determine the main idea and supporting details.
The character traits flipable has students use text evidence to determine character traits. The last page includes a menu of positive and negative character traits for students to chose from.
The asking and answering questions flipable has students use each key question word (Who, What, Where, When, Why, How) as a stem to formulate a question. Then, while reading, they answer it. To amp up the fun even more, have students complete just the asking portion of their flipable and then exchange with a peer or several to answer each other's questions.
The summarizing flipable walks students through the prompting words (Somebody, Wanted, But, So, Then) with clarifying questions to then write a summary paragraph.
The vocabulary development flipable can be used for any subject beyond reading (science, social studies, math!) to help students build a deep understanding of specific content words. Students write the word, identify the part of speech, write a definition, use the word in a sentence, create a list of synonyms and antonyms, and draw a picture.
The making predictions flipable has students make predictions while reading and then confirm or adjust those predictions as they keep reading.
The making connections flipable has students make text to self, text to text, and text to world connections while they read.
The literature circle flipable guides students through text analysis through the specific jobs of word wonderer, clever connector, literary luminary, amazing artist, and discussion director. The description of the job is written at the top of each page for quick reference.
The book report flipable has students describe the main character (both physically and internally with character traits), identify the setting, write a plot summary, determine the theme, design a book cover, and explore their personal thoughts by writing about their favorite part of the book as well as writing a recommendation.
I can't wait to unfold (no pun intended!) the fun when I introduce these to my students! 
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Saturday, April 4, 2015

Everyday Heroes: An Opinion Writing Unit

"Faster than a speeding bullet! More powerful than a locomotive! Able to leap tall buildings at a single bound! Look! Up in the sky! It's a bird! It's a plane! It's Superman!" Launching spider webs from your fingertips to scale a skyscraper in seconds, diving through the clouds to rescue a damsel in distress, or fighting crime under the disguise of night is just a normal day in the life of a superhero from the comic books. But you do not need to have SUPERhuman strength, SUPERnatural abilities, or even a fancy SUPERhero costume to be a hero. In fact, a hero can look a lot like someone you know very well, maybe even a person you see everyday. Moms, dads, grandmas, grandpas, doctors, firefighters, veterinarians, teachers, and police officers are some of our everyday heroes just to name a few. Ultimately, being a hero is less about what you look like on the outside and more about the heroic choices you make and quality of character you have. My most recent opinion writing unit is designed to have students explore just that.
This writing unit can be steered in a number of different ways. You may choose to have students write about a specific person they know if their life (such as their mom, sibling, grandfather), a famous person or hero from history (such as Martin Luther King Jr., Mother Teresa, Cesar Chavez), or an everyday hero based on job (surgeon, soldier, coach). Depending on the direction you want your students to take, you may even have them gather research should you want them to write about a historical hero. Once you have the direction you want to take narrowed down, it's time to get students brainstorming about what defines a hero.

Then, comes the fun part! I am SO EXCITED about this opinion writing graphic organizer! It is a foldable made to look like a cootie catcher (remember playing with those back in the day??). This OREO (O-Opinion, R-Reasons, E-Evidence, O-Opinion Restated) foldable comes with this everyday heroes unit but can be used with ANY OPINION WRITING UNIT!
How it works is that students write their topic and opinion on the front of the foldable. Then, each flap lifts up for students to write a reason with detailed evidence to support their opinion. FUN and RIGOROUS, the best combination, am I right?!

Students use the OREO graphic organizer to write their rough draft. Once drafts are written, there is a series of checklists for students to use during the revising and editing process. This pack comes with rubrics too to grade final copy papers and provide specific feedback!
There are two anchor paper included in this pack as well to use as your own while you model each step of the writing process. One is designed with lower grades in mind, the other is a multi-paragraph paper with upper grades in mind. You can refer to these anchor papers as examples of what a quality piece of opinion writing looks.
To access this unit at my store on TPT, click on the picture below!
To be a hero, you don't need to shoot sticky webs to climb buildings like Spiderman. You don't need to be able to fly through the sky as fast as a rocket like Superman. And you don't need to conceal your identity with a mask while stopping villains in their tracks like Batman. (Although admittedly, all of those things would be pretty cool) All you need is SUPER quality of character like having incredible heart, determination, and selflessness. Take a close look. You too just might have a SUPER hero living under your very own roof!
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