Adventures in Literacy Land: nonfiction

Showing posts with label nonfiction. Show all posts
Showing posts with label nonfiction. Show all posts

May The Force Awaken Reading

The Star Wars bug hit our house this past year.  My husband finally felt that my girls were ready for all the Star Wars movies...and they were hooked. This led to also reading ALL the Star Wars books that they could get their hands on.  And through this, I learned that there is quite a variety of books that are available to all our different readers, learners, and Star Wars enthusiasts.

So in honor of "May the 4th (force),"  I am highlighting some of the Star Wars books that are currently out there.  It may not be an interest of mine, but as teachers, we always need to be on the lookout for books that are going to "hook" our readers in.  Especially the readers that are awfully hard to "hook."  Some of these books (or ones like them) may just do the trick.

Fiction stories...There is a wide array of book available that tell the different stories within the Star Wars movies.  These range from leveled books, bedtime story books, to chapter books.  Some books are illustrated, while others have photographs of scenes from the movies.

Jeffrey Brown has also put out some Star Wars books that explore a new side to Darth Vader...fatherhood.  They are humorous books that examine what Vader's household may have been like when Luke and Leia were younger. You will want to pre-read these books to ensure that the humor matches the age of your students.

Some graphic novels called "Star Wars Jedi Academy" were also written by Jeffrey Brown. The story is about a boy, Roan, that is rejected from pilot school and finds himself headed to middle school at a Jedi Academy.  Woven throughout the books are journal entries, notes, letters, emails, and much more.  These additions make it so much more than a graphic novel.

Nonfiction texts...It is really interesting that Star Wars is a fictional set of stories but there are so many books available that are written in a nonfiction style.  One example is the Character Encyclopedia.  It is a large book that is chuck full of information about the different characters within the movies.  Captions, labels, diagrams, photographs, and biographical information are all included.

There are also books that focus on the technical side of Star Wars.  Some of these books are thinner, with less challenging words for our younger readers.  They may include diagrams of the different ships, details about items sold in shops, or facts that compare and contrast lightsabers.

Although Star Wars books are not my first choice of reading material, they may just be a hot-ticket item for some of the students in my class.  And I know that many of us will do just about anything to reel our reluctant readers into this wonderful world of reading! 


Using Google Slides To Share Research

Last month I shared with you some of my favorite resources for researching with beginning readers. This month, I want to share with you how my students shared the information they learned from a recent research project we did in class.

This year's kindergarten class seems to be particularly interested in animals, even more so than classes in years past.  They cannot get enough of nonfiction books about animals.  When we began our 2 week animal unit, I knew I wanted to do something a little more with their research, so I decided to try Google Slides.

Our district uses Google accounts for all staff and students grades K-12, but as I learned, K students have never used these accounts.  Once all the accounts were set up and students completed their research, our fun began!

Because I have student teacher, I had the opportunity to work with students in groups of 4 in the computer lab while she taught the rest of the class.  If I was by myself, this would have been done during center time with me working with 2-3 students in the classroom on our classroom computers while centers were happening.  I know there is also an iPad app, but my students' logins were more complicated on there as they would have had to type their full e-mail address as opposed to just a part using a computer.

We first learned to login to our new accounts.  This was less challenging than I thought it would be! Students then chose their slide template and began to put their information in.  We did not change slide setups or anything; this was a very basic, first time project!

Once students typed all their information into their slides, we started to use Google Images to find pictures for each slide.  I didn't worry much about copyright as they were only going to share with their families and the class.  The kids learned how to copy pictures from Google Images and paste them into their slide shows. Below is a video of a kiddo narrating her work as she tries to copy and paste on her own after a little mini lesson.  Please excuse the vertical video and the kiddo's voice in the background who is also working on his project!  The last thing they did was choose transitions for each slide.  

After completing their slideshows, they shared them with my Google account so we could easily project them in the room.  Once projected, students read their slides to the class.

The kids loved listening to one another share what they learned with a thunderous round of applause after each presentation.  Slideshows were also shared with the child's family.  I would absolutely do this project again after seeing how much they got into it!


Nonfiction Resources for Beginning Readers

When I learned that Carla was writing about Project Based Learning (PBL), I thought about things that help make PBL successful in my classroom.  One of the most difficult things in my kindergarten class was finding nonfiction resources that my students could use relatively independently.

As we are heading into the spring, I know many lower level teacher who are going to be working on research with their kiddos.  In kindergarten in particular, as this is where my experience lies, it can be difficult to find nonfiction texts for your beginning readers.  A few years ago, I dreaded researching with my class due to their lack of independence.  With the help of my local library and through some personal research, I'd found a few sets of books that have made it much easier.  I'm going to share some photos I took of the books in each series to give you a sneak peek.

The first set I want to share is something many of you are probably familiar with: Pebble Plus books. These are published by Capstone and typically written around an H-I guided reading level.  These are great for my higher kids but still manageable enough for my lower level kids to at least get something out of.  The text is laid out for early readers. Here are a few peeks into one of these books.

The second book series is another one that I used sporadically, but last year our building bought sets to go with the themes we have.  I like the Blastoff Readers Books.  I only use the Level 1 books because these are most manageable for my kids.  I like the nonfiction text features in these.  

Last, but certainly not least, is my favorite for the earliest of readers: Bullfrog Books from Jump!.  I first checked a few of these out at the library about this time 2 years ago and instantly fell in love. They are simple to read, generally guided reading levels C-E, have awesome photos and great text features.  I just found that these are starting to come out in paperback, which makes me SO excited because it is so expensive to add a large amount of hardback books to a classroom library.

I hope these book ideas have given you some new ideas for the research your kiddos do.  I'd love to hear about any other books or resources you have been successful with your students!


Project Based Learning...Good for One, Good for ALL

We often talk about how a one-size-fits-all curriculum just doesn't work in education, but today I'm hear to share with you that one instructional practice. Project Based Learning, or PBL, IS good for one learner, but it's also good for ALL learners.
Project Based Learning is GREAT for all students. Visit this post on Adventures in Literacy Land to read about the research supporting it, benefits for students, and how to get started.
Recently, I was able to hear Nell Duke, a leading researcher in the area of reading, speak on the topic of engagement. We know that engagement is more important than ever with the increased demands our standards bring, and we know what happens when you give challenging work to students who aren't interested in doing it, right? ONE ANSWER...Project Based Learning.

Duke says, "If you care about kids' interests, skills, and background knowledge, you'll get better comprehension results." She cited Jerry Brophy's study on ways teachers motivate kids. According to his study, teachers should:
Model interest in learning
Induce curiosity and suspense
Make abstract concepts concrete through demo lessons
Make the lesson objective clear to the learner 
Provide informative feedback 
Adapt tasks to interests
Give choice for tasks 
How does Project Based Learning mesh with these?  Why does Duke feel PBL is the way to go? Well, she began by describing a PBL experience that was done with 3rd grade students. The teacher introduced the idea with a read aloud about pesky animals such as earthworms, spiders, bats, and snakes in the book, Animals Nobody Loves by Seymore Simon. (Would this build curiosity and suspense? Yes.)  
Then, the students selected animals that they wanted to research further. (Would this be adapted to student interest? Yes.) Once the research part was complete, the students were asked to persuade others to LOVE the pesky animal and create a project that demonstrated WHY they should. (Would this task allow choice? Yes.) (Will students get immediate feedback? Yes.) Doesn't this sound like fun? As she described this project, I thought about how excited my students would be doing a project like this. The most interesting point she made though was that this was offered to ALL students in a low SES school. The results were very, very positive, and here is why.

Project Based Learning...

takes an extended period of time
achieves a purpose beyond school requirements
uses different learning styles (building, creating, answer deep questions)
is interdisciplinary
offers choice and voice
integrates reading and writing
taps into student interests, beliefs, and attitudes
is linked to standards (research strand is ideal)
gives students purpose for reading
AND allows students to reach a NEW audience

We know when students have a deep desire to read challenging texts, motivation will help them push through to complete it. We also know that reading multiple texts on the same topic deepens understanding of the content as well as related vocabulary too, so there is certainly research to support using PBL with ALL students.

How to Get Started

To prepare for this post, I reached out to my blogging friends to find additional blog posts and resources that teachers could use. First, I'll share posts for additional reading. If you are just getting started, you are sure to have lots of questions. These posts will hopefully take care of those and help you see a few more PBL examples.

This post is from Matt at Digital Divide and Conquer, and if you visit Matt's blog, you'll find a plethora of resources as well as informational posts on PBL I liked this post for explaining step by step how to dig into it. It's a MUST read, and his PBL units have been recommended by several who have used them.

This post from Performing in Education explains what PBL is, how it looks for teachers and students, what the process is, and (lucky you), it includes a sample resource. 

Cyndie at Chalk One Up for the Teacher has jumped into the PBL pond, and explained a PBL experience she had with her students. I just loved this example, and I know my students would love it too.  This one is a great example of PBL in the primary grades. Cyndie's students began with reading books in The Magic Treehouse series, and these books led to "inquiring minds". Having a leading question is important because it drives the exploration. Be sure to check this out if you're teaching grades 1-3.

Finally, I had to share this project from my friend, Sandy at Sweet Integrations. She has quite a few PBL sets in her store, and this post on her blog really caught my attention because we've read about the Iditarod with my fifth grade groups. The kids read Stone Fox in early fourth grade, so they had a little schema for dogsled racing. I had also used the book, Dogteam by Gary Paulsen for descriptive writing, and we had read a Close Reading article about the Iditarod too. Sandy's project would have been so perfect for them. (another year I guess) Anyway, she offers great ideas in her post about it if you think your students would be interested in learning more.

Free Sets to Get Started

Insect Intrigue, PBL SamplerShark Security Force! Project Based Learning:  Freebie EditionThe Leprechaun: Project Based Learning, Lucky Charm Edition
Project Based Learning - Holiday Tea   Project Based Learning: Teacher for a Day Fractions, Decim
Now, doesn't this sound like fun? Remember, Project Based Learning is not just a teaching idea for your Talented and Gifted students. Project Based Learning is a great technique for ALL. 

Have a great day, and I'll see you next month. 


Setting Up for Close Reading {and tons of FREEBIES!!}

Hello Everyone!

 Laura here from Where the Magic Happens Blog.  A few weeks ago I was invited to present at the 2016 South Eastern Reading Recovery Conference in Myrtle Beach. I was actually invited by my favorite professor (and mentor) from grad school. To say that I was humbled and honored is an understatement.
I have HUGE respect for Reading Recovery teachers because they are the real deal.
They know the nitty- gritty.
The understand the reading and writing process better than anybody else.
Every single RR teacher that I have ever met radiates knowledge and wisdom.

So my initial thoughts were:
What do I have to offer to such a knowledgeable crowd?
What will I share with them if they already know it all?

Close reading. Yes, that was my topic.

Anyhow, one of the most recurring  questions in my sessions had to do with the things that I do to set up close reading routines with my firsties.
Well  let me ya...
According to  Fisher & Frey:
Close reading  is purposeful, and careful  repeated readings of a complex text.
As a result, it is important to remember:
Close Reading is challenging. As a teacher you need be able to model and show your students the differences with guided reading.

The very first time I attempted  close reading with my firsties, one of my sweet students told me that close reading is like peeling an onion because you uncover layers and layers.

Genius! Truly genius!

My wheels were turning.

Then, my sweet teacher friend Krystal from next door also mentioned that she had seen something similar on Pinterest where a teacher used an Oreo cookie to introduce close reading to her students.

 The wheels kept on turning. Then I figured I would do this:

Of course I thought about this like at 9:30 at night when I was taking a bath with calming oils.
I usually keep tangerines in my house for me and  my boys, but I was out. People at my school may have thought that I was going coo-coo when they received my text messages asking if they had tangerine oranges in their homes. My beautiful and stylish literacy coach even offered to stop by the grocery store to get fruit. So sweet. I ended up going to the closest Harris Teeter before school and I purchased a big bag of  "cuties."

But why a tangerine? And what does a tangerine have to do with the phases of close reading?

Let me begin by  showing you the phases of a close read:

Some researchers may use terms like cold read, hot read, or warm read to name the phases of close reading.
I particularly like how Fisher & Frey "spell out" the phases of a close read.

For stage one or "what does the text say" I took the tangerine out and asked the children questions like:
What is this?
What do you see?
And others that I don't quite recall at this moment.  I have reached  and age in which I forget a lot of things. You just cannot tell because I use really good skincare
Each pair of students got to hold one tangerine. After I asked each question, I gave my firsties 30 seconds to do a "think-pair-share." What is important to consider here is how all the questions are grounded on the  things that we can "see"  about the tangerine, just like the questions of a first read in a  close reading.

For stage two or "how does the text work" I asked my students to get the tangerine ready to eat. They had to peel it, get the pieces ready, and some of them even had to take some of those white strings off.
I asked questions like:
What would happen if you didn't peel your tangerine?
Why do we have to pull the little pieces apart?
What are your observations?
Just like in the second read where we discuss vocabulary, author's purpose, and my favorite: text structure.

For stage three or "what does the text mean" I asked the pairs to eat their tangerine. I asked them questions related to their thoughts about the tangerine:
What did it taste like and why?
For example.

For stage four or "what does the ext inspire you to do" I asked for their personal opinion about the tangerine using evidence from their experience.

Pretty neat. Kids loved it and made true connections to our goal: understanding the phases of close reading

But why going to all the trouble about finding tangerines for this activity in the middle of the night?
Very simple:

A couple of years ago I  decided that I was going to start a vegetable garden.  I bought books,  seeds, Honey Graham built two raised beds, and he ordered some manure enriched soil. This was close to our anniversary, so when my mom asked what gift I had received, I openly told her that he had given me a pile of sh.
Here I am with all this stuff in front of me and no tools. Not. A. Single. One.
Not a little shovel, nothing.
I had to go and find some little plastic shovels out of the boys' beach toys pile.
So what if I had done this wonderful tangerine lesson and my firsties had no idea what to do when I asked them to read closely.
Well first, let me tell you:
In the primary classroom, a close reading MUST be guided by the teacher the whole time. There is no sit over there with this paper and answer these questions. That is NOT a close read. I would call that a worksheet.
Isn't  our job to prepare kids for anything? Aren't we supposed to give them the tools to do so?

Well... same thing with a close read.

What is inside this jar?

  • Three markers: each marker is for the first three phases of a close read. I put these labels on each of the markers so the kids know what to do and when.

I am so sorry I do not have pictures of the labeled markers.

You may download this set of labels by clicking HERE!!! the labels are Avery 5160.

There is also a cool pencil, a cool eraser, and these bookmarks:

Yes! These three think marks are what research considers appropriate for a close read. You can download them by clicking on the picture

 These are the labels that you can put on the jars. You can get them by clicking HERE!
Oh, BTW... the jars came from Oriental Trading Company.

Oh anchor charts and Thinking Maps... how I love you so.
I am going to let these pictures of this anchor chart speak for themselves.

I am an anchor chart aficionado.  In my experience, they offer an opportunity for my students to process deeply when they are offered as an initial experience.

 In case you are interested, you can stop by my TPT store and check out  my close reading packs.
I hope that you have found these tips useful and they can help you set up classroom routines for your students.
Until next time!