Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Scaffolded Reading Comprehension - From Answering Direct Comprehension Questions to Socratic Seminars

Students love to talk. We know this. That is why I love the fact that I can run classroom discussions throughout my teaching day. There are lots of moments throughout the day where my students have the opportunity to talk and discuss their opinions, thoughts and questions. One of those moments is during Reading Workshop.

I structured Reading Workshop in a way to build more rigor as students work through each novel throughout the school year. I teach 3 novels per trimester.

Trimester 1

During the first trimester, I kept things simple. Students read the chapters at night, took specific notes and then came to the carpet as a whole class the next day and discussed the reading. This was the trimester where I directly taught them how to have a whole class conversation and we practiced it  everyday. After the conversation, students would answer written comprehension questions. 

Books: Blubber by Judy Blume, The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes

Trimester 2 

During the second trimester, the students read the first book and discussed it with the whole class while I facilitated the conversation. Students are always responsible for reading the night before and taking notes in a way that I assign. For the first book, they were assigned to take 3 notes (I.e. a question, a prediction and a favorite part). Then we would come together and conversations would be guided by using their notes. After the conversation, students would answer written comprehension questions. The second book, students were given notes to take that directly related to the chapters they were reading. They were assigned to small groups and there was a discussion director each week that facilitated the conversation by coming to the group with open-ended questions about the reading. After the conversation, students would answer written comprehension questions. For the last book, I split the class into two groups (15 kids each) and the students facilitated the conversations. Teachers monitored and were a part of the conversation. Students were taught and practiced writing summaries after each conversation. This was their comprehension check.

Books: Weedflower, by Cynthia Kodohata, The Watsons go to Birmingham by Christopher Paul Curtis, Nine, Ten by Nora Raleigh Baskin

Trimester 3

We are now into the third trimester and final trimester before 6th grade, and students are working on advanced comprehension skills. I am running Socratic Seminars. When students come to the circle (15 in each group), they discuss what happened in the reading. The book lends itself well to conversation, so I usually have to tell them to end the discussion about the book and answer my central question (not a bad problem to have). Examples of Central Questions: How does self-confidence play a role in being successful? Is it important to be an individual, why or why not? The students discuss these questions and then are asked to write their answer to the question while also using evidence from the text to support their answers. This is a very advanced skill, but some of my students are able to do it! I am confident that by the end of the school year, I will have almost all of them able to share their opinion and use evidence from the text to back it up. This will be the structure for the rest of the school year. Students seem to be enjoying it and are practicing so many important LIFE skills at the same time: listening to others' opinions, formulating their own opinion and articulating it so that others understand, considering important questions that will help shape who they become, and finally, connecting their reading to their own beliefs and experiences.

Books: The Wave, by Todd Strasser, Courage for Beginners by Karen Harrington

Thursday, March 1, 2018

WWII Multimedia Timeline in 5th Grade

This trimester, students studied WWII events. I modeled for them the steps of research with the topic of Japanese Internment Camps and they researched a WWII event of their own that they chose. In small groups, they were assigned and given a syllabus to complete a multimedia timeline that depicts 10 important events of WWII. Students mostly used recycled materials they found throughout the school and at home. They decided on the events and how they would depict them. Below are some examples of their hard work. I am so proud!

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Teaching Kids how to do Research in 6 Easy Steps

I remember when I first decided that I wanted to teach my 5th graders how to conduct research in order to write a 5 paragraph essay. I was overwhelmed with where to even start! I know that kids are highly motivated when they have choice and are excited about their learning, and so I knew it    would be important for each child to choose their own topic of study. Even though I would be modeling each step along the way, I did not want to assign them their topic. To guide students in choosing a topic, I always tell them a subject to choose a topic from. For example, for years, I had students choose a state they wanted to research while I modeled researching Alaska. For the first time this school year, I asked students to choose a topic related to WWII while I model with Japanese Internment Camps. It    gives them a sense of interest and independence when they are able to choose for themselves what topic they will be spending their time digging through books and talking to experts about. 

When creating a process for conducting research, I also wanted to provide students with a list of steps that they could use later on in middle, high school and even college. The steps had to be simple enough to work for any topic and any level of topic. So I knew they had to be simple, but also have potential to incite lots of information.

If you would like to purchase the unit of study that I created for writing a Research Essay, click here

Below are the 6 Steps to Research  

1. Decide on a Topic 

Teacher provides structure of choice by assigning a subject such as a state or topic related to a time period in history such as WWII. This is helpful for when you are modeling steps 2 and 3. 

2. List the Questions you want to answer about your topic. 

I usually tell the students to come up with at least 20 questions. The more questions they have, the easier it    will be to write the 5 paragraph essay. Also, I remind students to ask open-ended questions and to start with who, what, why, when, and how. 

3. Categorize Your Questions.

This step can be a little bit more difficult for students if their questions are very basic or if they have less than 20. I sometimes will support students by discussing with them which categories they want to include (tell them to choose at least 4) and then list the questions, Reversing steps 2 and 3 helps those who are stuck on creating questions that will provide a decent amount of information.

4. Answer all of the questions. 

At this step, I have students create Research Collection Folders in order to ORGANIZE all of this information. Each file folder uses library card pockets to hold the color-coded index cards. Each pocket is a category and on each separate index card, students write their questions on one side. Afterwards, students write the information they find that pertains to the questions they asked. 

5. Add New Information to the Categories. 

I suggest for students to choose the categories that are most interesting to them and read about it    in their books then jot down any interesting new facts they learned. 

6. Review Your Notes (index cards) and Decide on Which Categories will make Content-Rich Body Paragraphs in Your Research Essay

Students should choose 3 topics for the body portion of their essay. After this step is completed, students are ready to draft their research essay! 

If you would like to purchase the unit of study that I created for writing a Research Essay, click here

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Celebrating Wonder, by R.J. Palacio

My class and I celebrated Auggie's 11th birthday today! Auggie is the main character in the book, Wonder by RJ Palacio. If you have not read this book to your class yet, I HIGHLY suggest you do! It is a heartwarming story about a boy with a facial deformity who is starting school for the first time in 5th grade. The book focuses around the theme of kindness and really hones in on the idea that we should ALWAYS treat each other kindly.

I started my day off bright and early so I could come in and decorate the classroom before the students arrived. I purchased "Happy Birthday" necklaces to give everyone and placed one around each student's neck as they entered the classroom today. 

Last week, I suggested to my students to bring in a book that they thought Auggie would like or reminded them of him. I framed it as the book would be his birthday present and a donation to our classroom library. After the students got settled in this morning, they wrote me an email response explaining what CHOOSE KIND means to them. When everyone circled around for Morning Meeting, students shared their ideas about choosing kind and then we opened up Auggie's presents (his books for our library!).

Next, students created a birthday card for Auggie. The directions were to include in the card something Auggie taught them. I gave them the sentence starter "Thank you, Auggie for teaching me _____ when _____"

After students finished the cards, we gathered together in a circle and students performed a Reader's Theater skit where they re-enacted the story. This was an AWESOME resource I found on Teachers Pay Teachers here.  The kids had so much fun and this ended up being one of their favorite things from today! Lots of laughs!

Our final activity was one that focused on the students and their positive traits. I gave everyone a name tag and they were asked to write one positive trait they hold (in place of their name). Then I used the name tag to stick a blank paper to their back. Next, the class went around and wrote positive affirmations about each other on the paper. I used cardstock so the kids can keep these papers for a long time.

Once everyone got a chance to write positive affirmations to each other, I settled them down to listen to an interview with R.J. Palacio. Afterwards, we discussed. It was great to hear the students reflect on their learning based on what they learned of the author's perspective when she wrote Wonder.  You can find the interview here.

I have a few more activities that I will share with the kids before we finally wrap up this book. I have a feeling they will get really excited when I tell them that we are going to get a private screening of the movie on opening day!!
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