Friday, November 21, 2014

Writing a Response Using Details from the Text for Support

Today we are going to take the event from yesterday and use it for support on a writing prompt. This is working backwards from normal, but the process and use of an event for supporting details is the same. This event can be used for a number of topics like setting, character, problem, plot, conflict, comparison to self, comparison to another character, comparison to another setting, mystery, etc. For this example I am going to write about setting.

I just finished reading Compound by S.A. Bodeen. The setting plays a major role in this book. The story takes place in an underground compound/bunker. For almost the entire book, the main character, Eli and his family live in the "Compound."

The books opens with this scene:

My world ended with a bang the minute we entered the compound and that silver door closed behind us. The sound was brutal. Final.   .   .   .   My fists beat on the door. I bawled. The screaming left me hoarse.

Right from the start as a reader I had to stop and try to imagine myself in this place. I couldn't imagine being forced to survive trapped underground with no hope of escape. Also, when Eli finds out his twin brother and grandmother don't make it to the shelter and die, the setting causes even more thought. Eli's father, mother, and sisters Lexie and Terese managed to get safely inside within the forty minutes needed to survive, but his twin brother Eddie and his grandmother didn't make it..

In a way, the setting is the whole world because the world just ended with a nuclear explosion. However, Eli's family was safe only because of the compound. Eli's father (a billionaire) had prepared them for this day and made provisions to help them survive underground for the next 15 years. This tells me right from the start of the book that the entire story takes place underground in this compound prison.

Being trapped here causes major problems emotionally for Eli. He was forced to live with the fact that he caused Eddie's death. Eli had talked him into sneaking into their grandmother's car. She didn't make it back to the compound in time to get to safety in the shelter. Now Eli had to spend each day knowing his brother, his twin died because of him. There is no escaping this fact and being stuck in this setting reminds Eli of this every minute of every day.

Compound is a great book with a lot of events that bring you into the book and make you wonder what you would do in this situation. The setting controls the lives of the characters and the entire story.



Thursday, November 20, 2014

Start with an Event

I just finished reading Compound by S.A. Bodeen. This is the opening scene:

My world ended with a bang the minute we entered the compound and that silver door closed behind us. The sound was brutal. Final.   .   .   .   My fists beat on the door. I bawled. The screaming left me hoarse.

In the next few pages the book explains that Eli's family is in an underground shelter but his twin brother Eddie and his grandmother didn't make it. Eli's father, mother, and sisters Lexie and Terese managed to get safely inside within the forty minutes needed to survive.

The world just ended with a nuclear explosion. Eli's family was safe only because of the compound. Eli's father (a billionaire) had prepared them for this day and made provisions to help them survive underground for the next 15 years.      

Eli was forced to live with the fact that he caused Eddie's death. Eli had talked him into sneaking into their grandmother's car. She didn't make it back to the compound in time to get to safety in the shelter. Now Eli had to spend each day knowing his brother, his twin died because of him.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Support Your Writing with Details!

Reading Workshop students, please copy and paste the latest writing topic about the book you are reading, "Could You be the Main Character?" To see more about this project you can see all responses to this topic on the Question Board.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Why We Sing in Language Arts Class

Each day in Reading Workshop for about 7 minutes (usually two songs), students sing. Lyrics are shown on the white board using the LCD projector. Music is played and students sing along, reading the lyrics as they sing. Every week, we sing at least one new song. As students get familiar with a song, they know all of the words, so they don't need to read. Changing songs is important to keep students reading. It also helps with vocabulary instruction. With each new song, there are new words to learn and discuss.

The best part of singing in reading class though, is how it helps academic achievement. When students read fluently, the ability to comprehend increases dramatically. Conversely, when students fight to read each word, starting and stopping, and starting again, comprehension decreases dramatically. We have all listened to a student read, struggling with each word, never reading a sentence through, and wished we had a magic bullet. We know if we could just get him to read fluently, he would have a better chance of understanding what he reads.

As we know, there is no magic pill, to cure all ailments. However, with modeling, and repeated readings, students can significantly increase fluency. In fact, primary teachers use this daily. Adolescent learners will quickly turn us off though, if we try to read as a class every day. This just wouldn’t be “cool.” This is where singing plays an important role in the language arts classroom. Singing their favorite new hit is most definitely “cool.”
The available evidence provides reliable, scientific evidence of the positive impact of repeated readings on a variety of reading tasks and outcome measures. These studies also indicate that engaging children in repeated readings of a text is particularly effective in fostering more fluent reading in children who are struggling to develop proficient reading strategies.

What better way for repeated reading than through singing?

Thursday, November 6, 2014

What Happened in the Book Last Night?

Here is an example written by Trinity T. in about 15 minutes.

Gecko had stolen a car from a lady. He was trying to find his brother Reuben but couldn't find him on foot. He was under age to be driving. He was only 13! The lady called the cops and he had cops after him in a few moments of driving. He was going about 80 mph down the highway trying to find his brother. He finally found his brother running out of the door at a game store with a bunch of games. Gecko figured his brother was stealing the games. Reuben spotted Gecko and ran to the back door. He hopped in with all of the games in his hands.

The cops started to catch up with him and soon were on their tail. Up ahead was an old lady pushing a stroller with a baby in it. Gecko swerved the car and the car started to spin. Gecko slammed on the brakes and the car stopped. Gecko noticed that he had missed the old lady. He sighed in relief. The cops were long gone. No where to be seen. So he headed back to the house. Gecko started to think that his life needs to change.

This is from the Gordon Korman book, The Juvie Three.


Is Study Island Making You Crazy?

Jacob came to school this morning and he was really upset. He did his best on Study Island trying question after question after question and his score was still really low. He spent a lot of his evening last night trying to improve his grade. I appreciate his effort very much, but there are a couple of things he needs to know.

1.  Doing extra work always pays off. Even if it doesn't help his grade it will make him smarter and make success more likely down the road.

2.  Students are only required to do 20 questions. They can do more to improve their grade, but they should never do more than 40 - 50 questions.

3.  Study Island is a challenging program and I don't expect students to get A's all the time. All I ask is their best effort. 

4.  The grading scale is curved for a reason. Getting high grades every time is extremely difficult.

5.  There are a lot of grades in language arts each grading period. One or two low scores will not ruin a grade. Just keep working hard and your grade will show it.

6.  I appreciate the hard work Jacob put forth last night. Even if his grade doesn't improve, he earned my respect for his positive attitude and that is worth a lot more than any 10 point assignment.

Image from http://www.theguardian.com/

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Could This Be You?

He came to me extremely upset. It was almost time to turn in his assignment and he had really messed up. He figured it out, but it was too late. He didn't have enough time to make it right and he was tore up.

He said, "Mr. McGuire, I don't know what to do. I think I did this all wrong." He was shaking and distraught. He so wanted to do well and he knew what he had done wasn't good enough.

We talked over the assignment, I showed him an example (See the post below), and then he asked if he had to turn it in right then. He chose to stay in from recess and work on his post during study table. Great job J.C. You got an A!

The big question that anyone seeking success should ask is, "could this be you?" Do you have the drive and determination to do your best? Will you make the extra effort to be a winner? Could this blog post be about you?

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Main Character Comparison

Here is an example from Emma M. that earned an A.

I'm like Sophie because she is curious. When her mom came to see her in the summer, Sophie would always asked, "What do you do on Skin Island," and,"Why can't I come and see you?" But her mom would never tell her. Sophie got more curious every time. And she even asked her dad what her mom did. But even with many times Sophie begged, he wouldn't tell her. I am curious like her too. One day when I was watching a really good show called Pretty Little Liars, (it's a mystery). I was trying to figure out who A was, but I got so curious that I couldn't take it anymore so I Googled it and was shocked by the answer. The weird thing was that the original A wasn't the person that showed up.

Another time is when it was Christmas time and a big box came from Amazon. Now when I was eight, boxes were so magical because they hardly never came. So I got super curious and lifted the big box to the couch. And while my mom was making dinner I started to open the magical box. Inside I found these amazing Christmas presents! My mom came in and closed the box and told me to go away. She wasn't that mad though, and she understood that I was only little and curious. But now I'm not allowed to touch any boxes at Christmas time.


Thursday, October 23, 2014

Is Your Teacher Making You Read?

The class was having SSR (Sustained Silent Reading) and I noticed a girl scooting around in her chair. I started watching her and every little bit she would glance at her book and then look all around the room. She looked one way and then the other. She tried to see through the blinds on the windows. She wanted to take a restroom break. She looked at her friends trying to catch their attention. The one thing she never did was read her book.

This girl obviously was only reading because her teacher was making her. She does not like to read. She can't even fake it well. SSR clearly makes her miserable. But of all the reasons to read, reading because your teacher makes you is the worst.

She could read because:

1.   She wants to learn;
2.   She found an exciting book;
3.   She is on the fourth book in a series and the first three books were awesome;
4.   She can't wait to see what happens next;
5.   She wonders who did it;
6.   She can picture the story;
7.   She imagines herself as the main character;
8.   She loves books by that author;
9.   She likes scary books like the one she is reading;
10. She wants to solve the mystery in the book;
11. She hates the main character and wants to see if something bad happens to her;
12. She saw the movie (Maze Runner, Divergent, Hunger Games, Twilight, Holes);
13. She wants to read the book before she sees the movie;
14. She isn't a good reader and wants to get better;
15. She knows she will have to write about the book;
16. She wants to have intelligent things to say about the book on her blog;
17. She heard it was a great book from her friend;
18. She and her friend are reading the book and talking about it;
19. She wants to know how the main character will solve a problem.

Reading should be fun. Reading should be exciting. Reading should be a story in your mind where you can't wait to see what happens next. If it is not this way, here is what you should do:

1.   Get a different book;
2.   Try an easier book;
3.   Try a different author;
4.   Try a different genre;
5.   Ask a friend for a recommendation;
6.   Ask me for a good book;
7.   Pay attention to when you stop getting a picture;
8.   Reread, a page, a chapter, or the whole book until you get a picture.

Whatever you do, don't just read because your teacher is making you.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Why We Read in Class

I have always believed reading makes the best readers. That is the reason behind the Read at Home assignment. Recently I found an article on Twitter that talked about reading in school and how some teachers and their assignments kill students' love of reading.

One part states:

I don’t have time for in-class reading.” Have you ever said this? I used to say it all of the time. If you commit to instilling a love of reading in your students (the most important part of education), then you must make time to read in class–every single day! Two or three times weekly isn’t good enough. Readers read daily; it’s this simple. The single best lesson I ever learned is this: books are the best teachers. Books are more important. Let your students read.

I can't say it any better. This is why The Reading Workshop is based first and foremost on reading.

Image from http://msrosenthalsclassroom.wikispaces.com/

Thursday, October 2, 2014

"You Gotta Have Heart"

Eric Thomas is a former NFL player who played for the Cincinnati Bengals, NY Jets, and Denver Broncos. Eric fought through an extremely difficult childhood, including dropping out of high school. Eventually he followed his dreams, and went to college at Tulane University. Now, he speaks at conventions, high schools, and colleges. He preaches about success, passion, and driving to achieve your goals in life.



In this video, Thomas talks about three keys to success:

1. You gotta have heart
2.  Be able to sacrifice what you are for what you will become
3.  Pain is temporary but if you quit it lasts forever. At the end of pain is success.

He is also famous for his quote on success:

WHEN YOU WANT TO SUCCEED
AS BAD AS YOU WANT TO BREATHE..


How does this video and Thomas's message relate to you Reading Workshop students? What are your thoughts about success?