Monday, September 01, 2014

Homework Assignment

One of my homework assignments for my Intermediate Literacy class is to share about a book that  made an impact on my life. My first go to book idea was To Kill A Mockingbird. I am sure that this book is a common choice for many since it is such a powerful story. My second thought went to a book from my childhood, What Do I Do? 

I have been a reader for as long as I can remember. I don't know when I started reading but I can't remember a time when I didn't read. My mom is a big reader and books, like breathing air,  have always been a core necessity to my existence. What Do I Do?  is a simple book about a young girl, probably a kindergartener. It is a bilingual book so the story is told both in English and in Spanish. I am pretty sure that this was the first bilingual book I owned.  The story goes through a day in Consuelo's life. The story isn't compelling, there is no great plot twist or moral to be taught. The reason I loved the book as a kid was because the main character, Consuelo, looked like me. She was brown like me, she had dark hair like me, her family spoke Spanish, like me, and she did things just like I did. I saw myself in Consuelo. Even though I read and enjoyed everything I could get my hands on, this book was extra special. Here, in this book, was a girl that I could identify with. Sure, there were some differences. Consuelo lived in a big city and her grandparents lived with her. I understood that though because I understood that as a normal occurrence in my Latino culture. It just didn't happen to be the case in my family. Somewhere, as the years went by, and amongst our many moves, I lost this book.

Jumping forward to my first year teaching in public school, the same year that Sabi was born, I took my students to the library for our weekly visit to hear a story and then check out books. As the librarian read a story to the kids, I scanned the shelves that I was sitting by and happened to see this same book, What Do I Do?, on the shelves. I had the biggest physical and emotional response to seeing the book. I was flooded with excitement and memories of reading the book as a kid. I remember feeling so warm and happy inside and I wanted to call my mom RIGHT AWAY to tell her about the book. I checked out the book and took it home to share with my mom and Sabi. I then spent the next two weeks trying to track the book down online because I had to have a copy of my own. I found one and I now have a special place for it on my bookshelf.

Why is this book so important? It is important because Consuelo was a character that I could identify with. When I was growing up, there weren't many stories I could see myself or my family in. Owning and reading this book reminded me that my family was important and just as special as any other family. As an educator, I try to expose all kinds of literature to my students for the same reason. Today, we are so lucky to have a vast array of multi-cultural books available to kids as well as books that address the subject of different types of families and lifestyles.

How about you? What book made an impact on your life?

Saturday, August 09, 2014

FREE Book Site!

We Give Books is a free site with free children's books and lesson plans. So far the books are available for kids up to age 10. Once you have registered, (free) you can access any of the available books on your e-device. The site has links to individual book lesson plans as well as literacy skill specific ideas, for grades k-12. 

The site, I believe is a non-profit site. For each book read online, real books are donated to charities for kids to enjoy in person.

It looks good and it is FREE! 

Thursday, April 03, 2014

Close Reading Lesson

Today I had such a fun time with a lesson that I have to blog about it.

I have played with Close Reading throughout the year. My students have worked on making annotations while reading the text and then how to discuss what their annotations mean. We have also worked on answering text-dependent questions. That is about the extent of my close reading instruction with the class.

Earlier this week, I found a CR resource on Teachers Pay Teachers that looked interesting.  Since I have been treating my classroom like a Common Core exploration lab this year, I decided to try out one of the passages and accompanying review sheets.  I looked over the materials last night to prepare. I also emailed my Reading Guru, Cathe M., to share the resource and to see what her thoughts were. We both thought that the materials looked beautiful. However, Cathe confirmed my thought that the text might too easy for second grade. Also, the resource is set up to use one passage for 4-5 days, with different a different focus for each day. In my mind, it seemed too easy to spread out over a few days. I decided to try it in one day and see what happens.

The Lesson:

The Reading
I started the CR lesson with a review the purpose of a CR. After that, I passed out the text and asked the students to read and annotate the text independently.  This took about 10 minutes.  I read the passage to them for the second read and allowed them to continue making annotations while listening to me. For the third read, we read together as a class. I paused after each sentence to ask if anyone had made any annotations. As usual, I did have to help this process out at the beginning. The first sentence has the word frequent in it. I wasn't sure if most students knew this word so I asked if anyone made a mark by the word.
No one responded.  I then asked what the word meant and no one responded.  Then, I asked "who wants to know what frequent means" and most raised their hands. I reminded them that if they don't know a word to make a note of it so they can look it up in a dictionary or discuss as a class. After that, the rest of the text was easy to discuss. Many students found vocabulary links and content connections to a water cycle unit we did in ELD a few months ago.

Text Dependent Questions
This particular resource has a related page with text dependent questions.  I had the students work in groups of 4 to discuss the questions, to find the answer to the question in the text, and then to write the answer in a complete sentence on the page. This worked out FAR better than I expected. The kids all did their part and they held each other accountable. Phrases I heard were "but WHERE did you find that in the text?", "does that really answer the question?", "we have to add the telling part of the sentence, not just the doing part", and my personal favorite, "That is YOUR opinion. What did the text say? That is what Ms.V wants!"  This simple little activity was a great team opportunity for discussion.

The resource also includes a page related to the text to write a reflection of the passage. Prior to asking the kids to write though, I had them turn over their text and write: If rain never fell from the sky... I then gave them one minute to list as many reflections to that idea as they could think of. After the minute was up, I gave them 5 minutes to share their ideas with their team.

I told them they could add to their lists, if they wanted to. Then came the independent writing. No one groaned and they were all eager to respond. Why? I think it was because they had so much time to discuss and reflect as a class and with their groups.  Everyone had the background information necessary for the assignment. As far as content goes, all the students did well with that part of the summary. Mechanics and grammar were a bit more challenging for some kids.

This lesson gave me far more than I anticipated I would get from it. Yes, the text was on the easy side. I think that the ease of the text though helped move along the discourse. I had far more student discussions with this passage than I have had with others this year. This lesson helped me see the value in using an easier level of text. I wouldn't use it all the time, but I will consider it for lessons where I want the students to have lots of discussion. The writing portion of the lesson was my favorite part. I loved seeing the students so confident at working on this task. The kids knew they had everything they needed in their tool belts to do the job. They seemed proud of their work as they handed it in.