Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Slice of Life

"I would have been sad if you didn't choose us."

That sentence still echoes in my ears as I sit and ponder the next days activities for my writer's workshop.  Today my class and I discussed moving in time-flashbacks as our goal for writing for the day.  I described a scene from Wicked. Elphaba singing the last bars of Defying Gravity and giving  me goosebumps as I watched her rise in the air defying the odds.  All the while I looked upon the stage wondering what if? What if I had decided to not marry? To not stay in Oklahoma? To do what I had planned as  my 18 year old self?  Where would I be? Could I be where those actors are? Would I be teaching in New York like I had planned?

The sea of faces staring at me looked puzzled. What if? Ms. S is losing it they seem to say in their stares. Then the one sentence escaped from the young ladies mouth,"I would have been sad if you didn't choose us."

Me too sweetie....me too.

Getting to the Gist of It

One of the hardest things for students to understand at this level is how to read informational text and summarize in their own words. The lesson I taught has to do with getting to the gist of it. I wanted my students to be able to read the information and then summarize in 10-15 words the paragraph they read. We had been practicing summarizing in our novels at the time, so moving into the informational text wasn't hard, but for some students they still wanted to write the author's words which is plagiarism.

I choose an article on Saturn from Time For Kids and I read each paragraph and then summarized in 10 words or less on a note card. I used Book 6 from the Comprehension Toolkit to model my lessons after. However, I used articles about Space because the kids were studying this.

We spent 3 days practicing summarizing in articles about Space. Each day students would turn in their best card for an informal assessment to assess their progress.

Monday, November 29, 2010

What is Informational Text?

As we teach students to distinguish between fiction and non-fiction we need to understand that non-fiction is a broad area (just look at the Dewey Decimal System).  So I have begun to refer to content material as Informational Text.  The day I introduced informational text writing. I brought in about 30 different informational books that I like and let the kids explore. As they explored I asked, "What do you notice?" I began to generate a list.
  • title
  • author
  • table of contents
  • pictures
  • bold words
  • index glossary
  • color
  • vivid description
These are just a few things my students came up with.  Then we discussed the purposes of the text features.

The next day I had the following poster up (basically their list) and we reviewed the text features and the purpose.  The task at hand this day  was to locate at least 4 features of the list  in one of the informational books in the tub. They  made a t-chart as they browsed their book finding these items listed and identifying how it helps the reader. At the end I have students sticky note their favorite text feature in the book and share it in a sharing circle.

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Dreaded Research Project

You know what I'm talking about. "Just wait, 5th graders!! Soon you will have to do a HUGE research project."  Later on in writer's workshop you find yourself saying, "Think this is rough...wait until your research project!!"

This is how research was introduced to me, as a student,  followed by the AWFUL five paragraph essay.  I detest the formulated 5 paragraph essay so my classes the last few years have done various forms of presentations in place of a research paper following the research experience. My students have made PowerPoint presentations, written free verse poems, made epitaphs, brochures, advertisements...you name it.  But, I now have a new form of presentation---the two page spread (think magazine).  My students are wrapping up their projects, so I will begin posting lessons and how-to's soon!!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

SOLC~Just little bit obsessive

So where I do start? I  mailed THE BOX.  The box is gone. I took THE TESTS, and enjoyed my summer with my kids.  Suddenly NOVEMBER arrived.  The month that all the national board forums predict we will find out whether we passed or failed.  Or what is it some people say it's not that you failed it's, "You should be proud of yourself for just trying".  Well, guess what that doesn't help me much. I am a teacher. A person who was born first in her family and has thrived under I am a driven person and I will do it and I will do it well. Well, this person has realized waiting causes her to become OBSESSIVE.  I have checked my profile online on the off chance I missed the email that said when scores are posted; EVEN though I know they are not posted because everyone else is obsessing over them on the forums.  The funny thing is my rational side understands that I have finished the work and there is absolutely nothing I can do about it now.  The papers and tests are graded.  So instead I wait like all the other thousands of applicants across America wait and wonder will I be with the 40% who pass or the 60% who "should be proud because we tried" group.  So after writing all my thoughts out there is only one problem left--I am still waiting. The rational side has officially has it's booty kicked by the obsessive side. :-)

Re-Evaluating for Second Nine Weeks

I have two groups of students: one group is ready to move on and the next group still needs time with narrative writing. I didn't just guess this. I looked at my conferring notes, my data from the grade level rubric, and discussion with my fellow colleagues in my grade level.  So some of my students are writing descriptively within a small poetry unit and others are focusing on telling a small moment using dialogue, inner story, and word choices. What I absolutley love about data driven instruction is the guess work is gone or willy nilly "I think I'll teach that..." doesn't exist. I know exactly what each student has or has not mastered. 

 This nine weeks I have been using less of Lucy's Units of Study and more of Ralph Fletcher's work. So these are some lessons that have been taught in my room since mid October.

  • writing descriptive leads
  • using sense of humor in  endings
  • describing the setting
  • using redunant words
  • outer story vs inner story
  • confusing pronouns
  • using FANBOYS with run-ons
  • using white space in poetry
  • using fragments in poetry
  • the power of words
Where are your students at on the writing continuum?  What are you doing to monitor their progress and find out where they are going? What lessons are  you teaching for second quarter?