Thursday, January 28, 2010

Reading Strategies, Using Prior Knowledge Part 2

Yesterday's class focused on Using Prior Knowledge to help students read and understand their SSR book.  Today in Reading Workshop, we will look at how this skill appears when reading nonfiction.

Good readers constantly try to make sense out of what they read by seeing how it fits with what they already know. As you are reading, think of connections to the text from your experiences and background knowledge.

This article is from MSNBC/Washington Post.

This winter's extreme weather — with heavy snowfall in some places and unusually low temperatures — is in fact a sign of how climate change disrupts long-standing patterns, according to a new report by the National Wildlife Federation.

Read the entire article here.

As you are reading, list facts/information that you know that enables you to comprehend this article.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Reading Strategies, Using Prior Knowledge

Imagine picking up a book written in French.  How much would you understand?  How about the same book in English?  Even if there are parts you don't understand, you could get the gist.  This is because you know enough of the words to help you comprehend.

What you know is a key to understanding as you read.  Using background knowledge, or your experiences, help make connections to the text, and then comprehension increases. Good readers constantly try to make sense out of what they read by seeing how it fits with what they already know.

As you are reading, think of connections from your experience to the text. This is the foundation, that will help you understand new facts, ideas, settings, and characters. As good readers read, they think about what they are reading and consider how it fits with what they already know.

New facts or information only makes sense when we connect it to what we already know. Using prior knowledge helps make sense of the text.

As you read today in Reading Workshop, consider what you already know that helps you understand your book.  What facts and information (prior knowledge) are you using to understand the text?
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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Reading Strategies, Connect with Your Book

Good readers constantly make connections. As they read each paragraph, each page, each chapter, they relate it to their life.

Making connections to things the reader already knows helps understand what they are reading and relate to the characters and events more deeply. The purpose of connecting with text is to help use what the reader already knows to understand new information.

Here are the start to connections.

This is similar to my life . . .
This is different from my life . . .
Something like this happened to me when . . .
This reminds me of . . .
This relates to me . . .
When I read this I felt . . .

This reminds me of another book I’ve read . . .
This is similar to another thing I read . . .
This different from another book I read . . .
This character is similar/different to  another character  . . .
This setting is similar/different to an other setting . . .
This problem is similar/different to the problem in  . . .

This reminds me of the real world . . .
This book is similar to things that happen in the real world  . . .
This book is different from things that happen in the real world . . .

Students, as you read today, what connections did you have?

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A Wimpy Movie Coming Out

On April 2, 2010 the movie based on Jeff Kinney's Diary of a Wimpy Kid will open.  For all of the students in Reading Workshop that have read the series, this should be a funny and exciting show as Greg faces all of the challenges of middle school and growing up.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Reading Strategies, Ask Questions for Comprehension

Good readers must get inside the book.  For comprehension to occur, several reading strategies must take place simultaneously.  Students must connect with the book--the characters and the setting.

The reader must visualize, picturing events as they happen.  Predictions must be made, evaluated, revised, and then renewed.  Prior knowledge must be related and compared.  Students must constantly question the story, the characters, and the events.  When all of this happens at once, usually without the reader consciously thinking about it, comprehension happens.

One skill that is particularly important is asking questions.  Students must wonder, examine, doubt, and inquire as they read.

Examples of starts of questions might include:

How will the problem . . .
Why did she . . .
I wonder what will happen when . . .
Does this look like  . . .
Why did that character  . . .
How will she solve  . . .
Where are they going to  . . .
Who will be the one to  . . .
Why did the author . . .
Why didn't he  . . .
If I was there I wonder  . . .

Students, as you read today, what questions did you have?

Dreams for Your Future

This school year is half over/still half to go.  As the new semester begins, take a minute to think about your goals.  This poem, Mother to Son, by Langston Hughes describes facing the challenges to a greater life. 

Well, son, I'll tell you:
Life for me ain't been no crystal stair.
It's had tacks in it,
And splinters,
And boards torn up,
And places with no carpet on the floor --
But all the time
I'se been a-climbin' on,
And reachin' landin's,
And turnin' corners,
And sometimes goin' in the dark
Where there ain't been no light.
So boy, don't you turn back.
Don't you set down on the steps
'Cause you finds it's kinder hard.
Don't you fall now --
For I'se still goin', honey,
I'se still climbin',
And life for me ain't been no crystal stair.

What hopes and dreams does your family have for you? What challenges are ahead of you (stairs to climb)?  What do your parents want to see you accomplish?  How do they picture a better life for you?  Do they see your life ahead half full or half empty?  What successes do they hope for in your future?

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Thursday, January 21, 2010

Student Blog Rubric

As the grading period ends, Student blogs must be assessed.  For those striving for excellence, here is the expectation.

Student Blog Rubric

Basis for Scoring

--------------------= =

4 or A

  • Concise (3 -4 paragraphs) with a specific focus
  • Shares thoughts, ideas, or opinions
  • Opening grabs the readers' attention while introducing the point of the post
  • Specific details support the main idea
  • Has a "So What?", theme, lesson, or specific point that attracts the readers' attention
  • Demonstrates detailed understanding of the blog topic
  • Positive tone engages the reader
  • Picture that supports post with attribution
  • Spelling, punctuation, and capitalization is correct

The rest of the rubric can be found at The Reading Workshop Blog Rubric.

For examples of students' blogs that earned a 4, check out these sites:
Hannah's Hideout
Hadley's Planet
Ian's Corner
Bethanie's Word
Hannah's Hangout
Katey's Corner
Kaitlyn's Cave

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Tell the Story of Your Street

Chicago author Nelson Algren said, “A writer does well if in his whole life he can tell the story of one street.”  Chicagoans, but not just Chicagoans, have always found something instructive, and pleasing, and profound in the stories of their block, of Main Street, of Highway 61, of a farm lane, of a path sometimes traveled.

The best poems draw us in and make us part of them.  Images bring us into the author's world.  Write a poem that tells the story of your street, path, road—real or imagined or metaphorical.

Thanks to Eye of Amoeba for a link to the University of Chicago's Essay Questions.
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Thursday, January 14, 2010

Blogging for Teachers Made Easy

Roberta Caudill and I had the opportunity to share our blogs and some blogging basics at the Logan Elm Schools waiver day.   Here are some ideas and a few links to help the beginning blogger.

This video by Lee LeFever of Common Craft explains what a blog is, and how it works.

Getting a blog is easy.  All you need is an email address. You can sign up at  Blogger, Wordpress, or Edublogs.  Blogger and Wordpress are free.  Edublogs is free but has ads on it. All are fairly easy to use and have similar features.  One disadvantage of Blogger  is on the top of each page there is a Next Blog link which will sometimes take you to inappropriate sites for a school blog.  You can disable this using HTML code in the layout.

Pictures make a blog much more attractive, draw in the readers, and frequently help make a point.  Three excellent sources for pictures that have Creative Commons License (which makes them legal to use on your blog) are Pics 4 Learning, Wikipedia Commons, Compfight Images.

I prefer Compfight Images because it uses the library from Flikr, but has a filter that keeps the pictures student safe.  You can also choose the picture size.  I prefer the small size--usually around 200 x 200 pixels.   Just save them to your computer (right click and then save as).  Then, click on the image button on the new post tool bar, and upload to your blog.  Be sure to give credit to the photographer.

Whether a blog is used as a means to communicate with parents, as part of instruction, or to improve students' writing skills they are a valuable tool for all teachers.

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Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Poetry for Self-exploration and a Special Kind of Fame

Who are you?  Do you know yourself?  One of the greatest aspects of poetry is the way it helps the writer explore his/her thoughts, ideas, and opinions.  Feelings need to be understood and analyzed in order to express them.  This poem is an example of one author's ideas about being famous.

Naomi Shihab Nye

The River is famous to the Fish

The loud voice is famous to silence,
which knew it would inherit the earth
before anybody said so.

The cat sleeping on the fence is famous to the birds
watching him from the birdhouse.

The tear is famous, briefly to the cheek.

The idea you carry close to your bosom
if famous to your bosom.

The boot is famous to the earth,
more famous than the dress shoe,
which is famous only to floors.

The bent photograph is famous to the one who carries it
and not at all famous to the one who is pictured.

I want to be famous to shuffling men
who smile while crossing streets,
sticky children in grocery lines,
famous as the one who smiled back.

I want to be famous the way a pulley is famous,
or a buttonhole,
not because it did anything spectacular,
but because it never forgot what it could do.

What do you want to be known for?  In what way do you want to be famous?  Rewrite the last two stanzas to reflect your view on being famous.

Start by thinking about 2 things:

1.  I want to be known for . . .

2.  I am going to show this by . . .
     The reader will see this by . . .

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Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Poetry, Just Dig In

Poems are built on ideas, experiences or emotions in a condensed form that makes the reader search for understanding.  The reader should slow down, think about each line and the words in it, and then reread and reconsider.

However, to understand poetry the reader must not go gently, but should attack.  As we begin to spend time in Reading Workshop with poetry/word study, students must overcome their fears and dive into the language of poetry.  Whether it be as a reader, analyzing the work of others, or when revising their own work, students must go full speed ahead.  They need to take the advise given by Eve Merriam.

How to Eat a Poem

Don't be polite.
Bite in.
Pick it up with your fingers and lick the juice
that may run down your chin.
It is ready and ripe now, whenever you are.

You do not need a knife or fork or spoon
or plate or napkin or tablecloth.

For there is no core
or stem
or rind
or pit
or seed
or skin
to throw away.

What is Merriam's point?  What about the poem makes you think that?  What thoughts do you have when tearing into her poem?

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Monday, January 11, 2010

Poetry-worthy Topics

As we begin to spend time in Reading Workshop on poetry, one of the first tasks is to list events  that merit consideration of the time and effort to put them into a poem.  Don't sell an idea short.  Use it if it is something that interests you, something you are passionate about, something that makes you smile, think, wonder, cry . . .

Here are a few ideas from my break:

Nuts and Bolts (Checks Mix)
Teenage Daughters Driving
Presents from My Students

This poem was built from my struggles with helplessness as the parent of teenage daughters driving in bad weather.

I sit in my chair,
book unopened
new snow outside my window
sipping a cup of coffee
and waiting
The ache in my stomach
wishing for time to hurry
while I anticipate the ring.
"I made it.
The roads aren't too bad."
Another episode in the life
of the parent of a teenage driver.

What topics fit you and your life?  What parts of your life do you want to put into poetry?

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Sunday, January 10, 2010

What a Teacher Hopes for from a Student Blogger

Hadley has written 45 posts since September 17.  Most students in Reading Workshop write one or two posts a week.  Hadley has averaged four posts a week.  She writes cleanly and in an engaging style that tells a great story, and sparks many questions.

That's not the only thing that sets her apart.  She gets what matters.  Her posts share her thoughts, ideas, and opinions.  Posts often make the reader laugh and lots of times makes them smile. Her writing style draws in the reader. She posts regularly, writing in the evening after school, on weekends, and snow days.  She reads many of her peer's blogs, and comments on them.

Here is an excerpt from the post A Gray/Brown/Non-white Christmas
 Q :I hate it! I hate it, I hate it, I hate it! What do I hate?
I don’t get it. Do the snow Gods hate me? Was Elvis trying  to tell me something? I don’t know! I do know one thing, though; I WANT SNOW!

Another example from Team Laurelville
In the classroom, there are lots of places for good sportsmanship. Like when your worst enemy gets mentioned because he/she does a good deed, makes a great blog post, or when they get their named mentioned on The Reading Workshop, you should say “Great” or “I like the post” or something like that since they did a good job. Maybe since you did that to them, when you do something you’re proud of, they might treat you the same. The Golden Rule can work with more than just adult life!!

For a great read, and an excellent example of what a student blog should look like, just visit Hadley's Planet.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

The Challenge of Writing Poetry

Poetry is so hard to write.  It is so personal, and no matter whether you are 8 or 80, the difficulty is right there, staring you in the face.  My daughter, Megan is taking a poetry writing class as part of her post secondary class at Ohio University Lancaster.    She shares the challenge.

Poems are Personal

"Poems are personal," he said.
As if I want to share,
with fifteen people I don't know.

I scribble things out
because after two hours
I've got nothing to share.
No love stories, at least not with you.

"Poems are personal."
What's my story to you?
Feelings are hard.
To tell you would leave me bare.
I can imagine me pouring out my heart,
only to see your blank stare.

So nice to meet you.
You'll learn a lot,
because "poems are personal."
I'll have to give this some thought.

Elementary rhymes,
and childish themes.
Poems aren't my style,
or that's how it seems.

As I sit here and write,
with so little heart,
this poem isn't personal,
but it's definitely a start.

As we start our focus on poetry in Reading Workshop, what are your thoughts?  Opinions?  Ideas?

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Partner Project with First Grade

On December 18 the first grade students came to sixth grade for the afternoon. Each student partnered up with a sixth grader and worked together to write a poem to take home to the first graders' parents. The students co-wrote first drafts, read it aloud several times, and then published a final copy to take home.

This is a great way for students in Reading Workshop to grow and learn.  They have the opportunity to be the teacher.  They used their skills to help younger students learn and be successful.  Not only did they help write a message to the younger students' parents, but they also taught the art of writing meaningful free verse poetry.

There were smiles all around, and a lot of hard work put into the afternoon project.  Students from both grades benefited and learned from the experience.

To see more pictures, you can visit the Reading Workshop Wikipage or go directly to the pictures at Christmas Poems with the First Grade.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Let it Snow

Today is the first day back from winter break.  Well, today was supposed to be the first day back.  Instead, we get one more day.  Fourteen degrees out and snowing hard, so school was canceled.

Oh well, tomorrow is the first day back from winter break.

As a trucker stops for a red light, a blonde catches up.  She jumps out of her car, runs up to his truck and knocks on the door.

The trucker lowers the window and she says, "Hi, my name is Heather and you are losing some of your load."  The trucker ignores her and proceeds down the street.

When the truck stops for another red light, the blonde catches up again.  She jumps out of her car, runs up and knocks on the door.  Again the trucker lowers the window.  As if they've never spoken, the blonde says brightly, "Hi, my name is Heather, and you are losing some of your load."

Shaking his head, the trucker ignores her again and continues down the street.  At the third red light, the same thing happens again.  All out of breath, the blonde gets out of her car, runs up, and knocks on the truck door.  Again she says, "Hi, my name is Heather, and you are losing some of your load."

When the light turns green, the trucker races to the next light.  When he stops this time he hurriedly gets out of his truck and runs back to the blonde.  He knocks on her window, and after she lowers it, he says.....

"Hi, my name is Mark, it's winter and I'm driving  a salt truck!"

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