Saturday, June 30, 2012

Book-a-Day Challenge and CCSS

I have been spending the summer reading.  I've read professionally, personally and for the classroom.  I am participating in Donlayn Miller's Book-a-Day Challenge.  With the onset of the Common Core State Standards, I have been trying to read more non-fiction this summer and trying to figure out how I can tie it into the standards and my classroom.  According to the standards in 4th, students should be reading 50% literary text and 50% informational text.  By 8th, 45% literary and 55% information.  Finally by 12th grade the criteria should be 30% literary and 70% informational text.

One CCSS, Reading Information Text 9 (K-5) discusses how from kindergarten to fifth grade students should be comparing and contrasting two informational texts on the same topic.  One resource, of many I will use for this is Wonderopolis.  Below are the some nonfiction books that I have read so fair during my Book-a-Day adventure that I may use in my classroom.  I have also included the Wonders that could be used to compare and contrast with the informational texts.

Looking at Lincoln
by Maria Kalman

This is a great story of Abraham Lincoln.  Some of the story is told in a question/answer format.  After the question is asked, the answer is expanded.  The book discusses Abraham Lincoln's life including, his love for reading, his height, his family, the Civil War, the Gettysburg Address and finally his asassination.

I would use Wonder of the Day #132 Where Was Abraham Lincoln Born? to compare and contrast to the book.  The Wonder primarily deals with Abraham Lincoln's early years, where as the book is about his entire life.  

Living Sunlight How Plants Bring the Earth to Life
by Molly Bang and Penny Chisholm

Why Do Elephants Need the Sun?
by Robert E. Wells

Both of theses stories are about how everything on earth is dependent on the sun.  Living Sunlight How Plants Bring the Earth to Life has almost a poetry feel to it where as Why Do Elephants Need Sun? is a mixture between traditional informational text and a picture book.

Both of these books could be used to compare and contrast their topics.  There are several Wonders that either of these books could be compared and contrasted with including, #332 How Hot Is the Sun?#487 Do All Plants Have Roots? and #589 How Do Seeds Sprout?

by Sneed B. Collard III
This is a fabulous book about different kinds of animals and their wings.  I love the format of this book because each page is a short text.  Rather than read the entire book, you could choose a few pages and share those.

There are several creatures in the book that are included in Wonders, including dragonflies #615 Do Dragonflies Breathe Fire?, hummingbirds #556 Do Hummingbirds Really Hum? and vultures and falcons #483 What Is a Raptor?

Wolfsnails a Backyard Predator
by Sarah C. Campbell
I love how this book shows (with real photographs) and tells the voyage a wolfsnail takes when looking for food (a snail).  It is also a great example of a nonfiction circular story.  Along the wolfsnail's journey the book tells how a snail and wolfsnail are different.

There is an excellent Wonder related to this book, #544 How Are Slugs and Snails Different?

Insect Detective
by Steve Voake
Insect Detective is a story about a boy, who's an insect detective and ventures through his backyard finding insects.  I love how the story ends, "Sometimes, when you think about these strange and wonderful things--moths hiding, ands talking, dragonflies changing--it's hard to believe that they could really be true.  But you don't have to take my word for it.  All you have to do is open the door and step outside."

There are several insects and concepts described in the book that would be perfect to compare and contrast to Wonders.  Some of the topics and Wonders include, camouflage #342 Do Animals Play Hide and Seek?, ants #258 Why Do Ants Think They're Invited To Picnics? and dragonflies #615 Do Dragonflies Breathe Fire?.

Lowdown on Earthworms
by Norma Dixon

This book tells everything you want to know about earthworms from why they're "humble heroes" to how they work.  I especially like how it shows and tells how to make your own wormery, which I think I might try next year in my classroom.  Think of all the wondering that could go on with a class wormery.

The Wonder that would be great for comparing and contrasting to this book is, #513 Where Do Worms Go in Winter?

Friday, June 29, 2012

4th of July Activities

We spent another WONDERful afternoon volunteering with at-risk children.  We shared two different American themed Wonders and the kids made flags representing their families.  The Wonders below and the flag lesson are perfect activities for celebrating the 4th of July with your own family.  I also included some additional links for more ideas/activities.
Betsy shared Wonder of the Day #151 Who Wrote the National Anthem? While she shared her Wonder the kids wondered why the national anthem is sung before sporting events.  One child thought it was because sports are part of America and so is the national anthem.  Another child wondered if it wasn't a way to bless the teams.  Thank goodness for modern technology, because we learned that the main reason the national anthem is played at sporting events is because it is a battle song and sporting events are a kind of battle.

Ben shared Wonder of the Day #274 Who Made the American Flag?  We discussed the history of the flag and what the stars and stripes symbolize on the flag, including the specific colors and what the colors mean.
Finally, we made flags representing our own family.  The lesson is from the National Museum of American History and called Design Your Own Family Flag.  Each child thought of words that described their family and then drew a symbol of that word.  Finally, the children used the symbols to make their family flag.  I encouraged them to think of colors that represented their family.  For example, one boy said his family was "cool".  I encouraged him to think of a color that represented that word.  Ben and Betsy both participated in this activity and enjoyed making their flags.

Here are some more activities that you might want to try with your children on the 4th of July:
National Museum of American History -  The Star-Spangled Banner
ReadWriteThink - Independence Day Book List
ReadWriteThink - Myth and Truth: Independence Day

Sunday, June 24, 2012

All Write!!! 2012

This year I was fortunate to attend the Seventh Annual All Write!!! Summer Institute thanks to Ruth Ayres and Stacey Shubitz at Two Writing Teachers and their March 2012 Slice of Life Challenge.

One thing that I took away from all sessions I attended is that I need to show my students that I am a reader and writer outside of the classroom.

Ruth Ayres (Twitter @ruth_ayres)
Ruth was the keynote speaker.  Her title was, "Mandates, standards, and evaluations. Can teachers still change the world?"
  • She asked us, "what is our mission as an educator?"
  • Ruth Ayres reminded us that our story indeed does matter.
  • There is a new song out by Barry Lane called, More Than a Number.  The words were written Amy Ludwig VanDerwater at the The Poem Farm.  The song went perfectly with Ruth Aryes' keynote.  
April Pulley Sayre
I love April Pully Sayre's nonfiction picture books and they have always been a great addition in my classroom.  She was a wonderful speaker and very entertaining.  I love being able to share with my students pieces about an author (that you can't read on-line) when I read aloud one of their books and look forward to sharing the bits and pieces she shared during her session.

  • I did learn about a great blog that various nonfiction authors co.ntribute to called, I.N.K. (Interesting Nonfiction for Kids).  This will be a great resource for me and my students next year.    
Franki Sibberson (Twitter @frankisibberson)
This is the first time I have been fortunate enough to hear Franki Sibberson speak in person.  I feel like I have learned lots from her by following her on Twitter prior to her presentation.  
  • The most important thing I learned from Franki is that when my students blog, they need to be doing so with a purpose and that I need to take plenty of time to model and set up the purpose.  I have had my students blog for the last two years.  Last year, I even had parents in for a blogging night.  I haven't felt like the blogs were very good either year.  I kind of felt a "duh", or maybe it was an "ah hah" moment.  I spend time model and give purpose to most of the writing students do, why wouldn't I do it for blogging?  Over the next month, I will be taking the time to plan out some mini-lessons using real blogs and then being sure to give purpose before blogging.
  • One neat idea that Franki shared was to have students write a paper blog post and have student practice writing comments for the post on sticky notes.  If you click on presentation above and go to slide #40, you can see an excellent picture.
Ralph Fletcher
I was fortunate to have Ralph Fletcher visit our school this past year.  He also conducted some PD after school.  Below are ideas he gave for using mentor text in the classroom.
1. Read books you love.
2. Take advantage of "micro-texts" that can be read in one sitting.
3. (Somehow I missed this one-sorry.  Probably because I was checking what others were saying on Twitter about different sessions.)
4. Try not to interrupt the first reading of a book.
5. Leave time for natural response.
6. Reread for Craft (he cautioned about over doing this).

Patrick Allen 
Last summer I was part of a #cyberPD book group that read and blogged about Patrick Allen's book, Conferring: The Keystone of Reader's Workshop.  I spent lots of time last school year working on my reading conferences and was excited to learn more form him.

  • Teach what I do as a reader (this really goes for writing too).
  • Be sure to use the language that readers use.
  • Write about books that have changed our lives and have kids do the same.  
  • "We need to teach kids to memorize great lines."
Donalyn Miller (Twitter @donalynbooks)
I think every teacher should read Donlyn Miller's book, The Book Whisperer: Awakening the Inner Reader in Every Child.  She has a wealth of knowledge to share about getting kids to read and getting them to enjoy reading.
  • Donalyn Miller quoted a study from the University of Oxford (2011), "Reading books is the only out-of-school activity for 16-year-olds that is linked to getting a managerial or professional job in later life." --This is so powerful.
  • She asked us to think of an avid reader and list some characteristics of that reader.  She encouraged us to teach children these kinds of things.
  • I loved her idea of having kids carry books everywhere in school.  Think of the extra reading time they would have if they read during all the down time we have in school.
While the above is just a sample of what I took away from the All Write Conference, I know my students will benefit from my knowledge and learning for years to come.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

A Mystery Skype

A while ago Mrs. Thiessen from Surrey, Canada contacted me on Twitter to see if I would be willing to do a Mystery Skype with her students.  I felt honored to be asked and was very excited to connect with her grade three students from Green Timbers Elementary School.

Mrs. Thiessen's students were well prepared and asked some great questions to figure out where I was from.  After they figured out that I live in Hamilton, Ohio (north of Cincinnati) and in one of my favorite places, the library,  I shared about being a Lead Ambassador for NCFL's Wonderopolis.  I also shared about the 2012 Wonder Year Adventure.  The students were full of WONDERS about Wonderopolis.  They asked questions such as: where is Wonderopolis, how does Wonderopolis choose the Wonders, what my favorite Wonder is and how old is Wonderopolis.  Some of their questions I answered and some I told them they would have to continue wondering about.  I shared that my favorite Wonder is #515 Why Do Giraffes Have Long Necks?  I also shared that you can tell how old Wonderopolis is by looking at what number the Wonder of the Day is.  I shared that Wonder #1 was Why Are Flamingos Pink? and that Wonderopolis is now 626 days old.  Skyping with Mrs. Thiessen's students was a wonderful way to spend a Wednesday afternoon!

Mrs. Thiessen blogged about the Mystery Skype and her students also blogged about the Mystery Skype on their class blog.

Photos provided by Mrs. Thiessen

Friday, June 15, 2012

Summer Volunteering

A local church has organized two after school programs for at risk elementary students in the district I teach at.  Whiz Kids and L.I.F.E. both involve tutoring and mentoring for these students.  The Youth Pastor at the church has continued a free summer program for the at risk students.  We (my kids and I) decided to spread the Wonder of Wonderopolis about once a week with some of the kids.  The summer program is so popular the Youth Pastor has to rotate who comes on what day.
Yesterday was the first day for us to volunteer.  We decided the theme would be about "friendship".  Betsy read one of my favorite books, Enemy Pie by Derek Munson, we shared Wonder Wonder #301 How Do You Make a Friendship Bracelet? and we showed the kids how to make friendship bracelets.  The kids had fun talking about what kind of pie they would make for an "enemy" and sharing about their best friend.  They enjoyed learning the history of the friendship bracelet from Wonderopolis.  For some of us, friendship bracelets look easier to make than they actually are.  Some of the kids even invented their own technique for making a friendship bracelet.  Ben, Betsy and I decided volunteering was a great way to spend a summer afternoon, giving back to other children!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Professional Reading - Text Complexity: Raising Rigor in Reading

I love summer break for many reasons: spending time with my kids, sleeping in and catching up on much needed housework.   Another reason that I love summer break is that I get the chance to delve into professional reading.  I can really devote the time to reading and reflecting on professional books that I don't have time to do during the school year.  The first book on my summer reading list was Text Complexity: Raising Rigor in Reading by Douglas Fisher, Nancy Frey and Diane Lapp.  

Chapter 1 - Text Complexity Is the New Black
Chapter one challenged my thinking about matching readers to easy and instructional leveled text.  The book gave evidence as to why we as educators should be putting reading materials in student's hands that is neither too difficult nor too easy and supporting them with the reading material and helping guide and instruct them on more challenging and complex text.

Since I began teaching, most of what I have learned and read centered around the idea that students should be reading material that is either easy or at an instructional level.  This  thinking was challenged while reading this book.  While the book doesn't suggest that everything students read should be hard or difficult, it does suggest that students need to be reading challenging material in order to learn and improve.  According to Fisher, Frey and Lapp (2012), "The idea is not to either limit a student to a low-level text or allow him or her to struggle without support in a difficult text, but instead provide texts and couple them with instruction" (p. 8).  

Chapter 2 - Quantitative Measures of Text Complexity
Chapter two gives quantitative ways to measure text complexity, including readability formulas.  It also discusses the Lexile scale, which is a common way text is leveled, especially with the new Common Core State Standards.  The chapter gives examples where specific texts are different levels depending on the way the text was assessed (word or sentence length or frequency of word occurrence).  According to Fisher, Frey and Lapp (2012), "As with all measures, each can report accurately on some aspects, while other equally important elements remain untouched.  For this reason, quantitative measures should be viewed as a first step, but by no means a final one." (p. 38).

Chapter 3 - Qualitative Measures of Text Complexity
According to Fisher, Frey and Lapp (2012), "Sometimes there are words, or ideas that throw off the reader but are not picked up by readability formulas.  It takes a human to notice these aspects of text difficulty." (p. 41).   The chapter also discusses the many aspects that go into determining how complex a text, including: levels of meaning and purpose, structure, language conventionality and clarity and knowledge demands. For example, using a word differently than it is normally used, can cause a text to more of a challenge or a more complex text.  This really isn't something new, but was an excellent chapter to reaffirm my thinking.   

Chapter 4 - Matching Readers to Texts and Tasks
Chapter four discusses all that should go into matching readers to texts, including: cognitive capabilities, motivation, knowledge and experiences.  Fisher, Frey and Lapp (2012) argue that "the most important factor, the reader, is what makes a text come to life.  Until a reader explores the pages of a book, it is simply a collection of words" (p. 77).  As educators, we often forgot about this key component and working to engage them with text appropriately, including keeping in mind their motivation, interests and background knowledge.  

Chapter 5 - A Close Reading of Complex Texts
Chapter five talks about what kind of text to use for close reading activities and what strategies to teach/model.  An interesting point brought up by Fisher, Frey and Lapp (2012), "A significant portion of the reading standards in the Common Core State Standards, upwards of 80% in most grades, require students to provide evidence from the text in their responses" (p. 119).  This is something that I know is something I don't always encourage my students to do both orally and in writing when discussing literature.  I will need to continue working on it as I move forward implementing the CCSS.

According to Fisher, Frey and Lapp (2012) "we must commit to our students and help them read increasingly complex texts and read those texts well (x).  While this book gave evidence and examples of how to implement more complex text, I feel that I need to read more professionally on text complexity, look deeper at the literature that I am currently using and analyze them for their complexity and work harder to matching students with books to move them forward.  One quote from the book that I need to keep in mind is, "It's time to step it up a bit and teach students to read--and read well.  This starts with an understanding of text complexity" (p. 100).  

Sunday, June 10, 2012

A Favorite Summer Activity

One of our favorite summer activities as a family is going to a local drive-in movie theatre.  What can be better on a warm summer evening than packing up the car with some snacks, the dog and watching a movie under the stars?  We are fortunate to live about 2.5 miles away from The Holiday Auto Theatre which was opened in 1948 as the Hamilton Outdoor Theatre.
Last night before heading out to see Madagascar 3, we read over Wonder #249 What Movie Would You Play At Your Drive-In? We learned some interesting facts about when the first drive-in opened and why they began disappearing over the years.  We also enjoyed reading in the Try It Out! section how to make your own drive-in movie at home.  Our pool does something similar several times a year. Instead of calling it a drive-in movie, they call it a DIVE-in movie.
This morning I was wondering about Ohio drive-ins.  I was surprised to learn that the first drive-in movie theatre in Ohio was opened June of 1937 in Akron.  Also, at the peak of  Ohio's drive-in business, there were 189 theatres in operation.  Lucky for us, Ohio still remains among the top 5 drive-in states in America.
When doing a little a bit more research on drive-in movie theaters this morning I found a neat article at ArtsEdge about Richard Hollingshead, who credited with opening the first drive-in.  The article also shared what was shown at the first drive-in and how it was shown.

I encourage you to see if there are any drive-in movie theaters near your home.  It is a great way to spend the evening making memories as a family!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Engaging Children Over the Summer - WONDERful Websites

Last week I wrote a post, Using Wonder to Engage Children Over the Summer and Monday hosted #WonderChat on Twitter about engaging children in wonder over the summer months.  During the chat I shared many websites and ideas that would not only be helpful in engaging children of all ages in Wonder, but would engage them in a fun, interactive and educational way.  Below are some great websites and links.  All summer activities are from  EDSITEment!ARTSEDGEreadwritethinkScienceNetLinks and Wonderopolis.

Reading and Writing 
Tackle the Summer Reading List Together (Grades 4-8)

Write Summer Alphabet Books (Grades K-2)

Summer Trading Cards (Grades 2-8)

Poetic Memories of Summer (Grades 2-8)

Summer Superheroes (Grades 3-8)

Follow the Word Trail: Organize a Treasure Hunt (Grades 3-8)

Friday, June 1, 2012

June #WonderChat

Join me Monday night, June 4th for #WonderChat at 8:00 PM EST.  The hour long chat will be focused on Using Wonder to Engage Children Over the Summer.  Start thinking about how you encourage your students and/or own children to wonder over the summer.  What strategies, activities, books, websites and ideas do you use?  Come share them Monday night.  Don't forget to use the hashtag #WonderChat.  I'm looking forward to a WONDERful chat!