Sunday, September 29, 2013

Genre: A Step Further (Lesson 5)

Last week was a breath of fresh air for all of us. Children discovered how the Cinderella story varies throughout the cultures, and learned different components of fairy tales, such as protagonists, antagonists, donors, and plot devices.

This week, we are finished with Discovery Education testing, and are therefore back to where we left off. Our latest story is about Roberto Clemente. Roberto Clemente: Pride of the Pittsburgh Pirates tells the true story of the first Latino to be inducted into the baseball Hall of Fame.

Since this is nonfiction, we will be shifting our focus this week from storytelling to fact-displaying. Growing research shows that although students enjoy reading nonfiction, its lack of presence in the classroom (and at home) is causing students to neglect its importance when taking standardized tests. With the third grade FCAT's Reading portion being 40% informational text**, students cannot afford to miss out on the information provided by nonfiction. For more information about why nonfiction is important, check out this article.

Here's what I'm proposing: let's expose the students to as much informational text as we can. Show them newspaper clippings, magazine articles, maps, web pages, brochures, etc. If you find age-appropriate texts you would like them to share with the class, please send them in.

In addition to dragging out my nonfiction books, I am encouraging them to check out nonfiction books at the library. I noticed that while many students met their Accelerated Reader goal, most read no nonfiction books. The ones who did test on nonfiction didn't always do consistently well.

At a recent training, our presenter said it best: we see nonfiction at a disproportionately higher rate daily than we do fiction. How many of us are so busy throughout the week with our jobs, families, and activities that we seldom take time to read a novel? However, between road signs, instruction manuals, recipes, menus, directions, etc., we are constantly bombarded with information. These are the things our children need to be exposed to as well.

Happy reading!


Sunday, September 22, 2013

Taking a Break from the Basal

What a year it has been thus far! With this new reading series, Journeys, I have felt as much like a student as your children have. These new standards are demanding and rigorous, but I can see that my students have more than risen to the occasion.

That said, when planning this week, I ran into a challenge along the way. Due to a technological speed bump last Monday, our Thinklink Reading test had to be rescheduled for Thursday, September 26. We were previously locked in to take the Math portion tomorrow. With both assessments being quite time-consuming, I calculated that I will lose roughly three hours of instructional time this week.

Instead of trying to cram four days' worth of Reading instruction into two, I have deemed this week a review week. There will be no testing this week (other than the make-up Reading test Tuesday; see the latest newsletter for details). We will work on concepts that perhaps not everyone grasped the first time, such as nouns, conjunctions, complete/incomplete sentences, rounding, expanded form, etc.

Additionally, we will begin our Cinderella unit, which I have been planning for the past few weeks. We will be reading different Cinderella stories from around the world and comparing/contrasting them (Don't be fooled by the glass slipper, boys. Cinderella isn't a girl in every story!). Topics of discussion will include (but will not be limited to): social hierarchy in 1600s France, language (learning how to say common words/phrases in Afrikaans, German, French, etc.), the shifting donor role throughout various versions of Cinderella (e.g. the Fairy Godmother in Cinderella, the bull in The Irish Cinderlad, the crocodile in The Gift of the Crocodile, etc).

We will be writing from various perspectives (example: writing a thank you note to the bull from the character Becan in The Irish Cinderlad). Also, we'll explore the theme (message) we can infer from reading these iterations of the classic tale.

Finally, we are going to explore the meaning of the phrase "Cinderella story". This will lead us into next week, when our story of the week is a true rags-to-riches/Cinderella story about Roberto Clemente, the first Latino baseball player to win a World Series as a starter.

As always, students should continue to read for thirty minutes each night (uninterrupted).

Happy Reading!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Genre: A Step Further (Lesson 4)

Pop's Bridge is our latest story. Written by Eve Bunting, this is about two young boys whose fathers helped build the Golden Gate Bridge of Chicago.

Since this book is Historical Fiction, we will be discussing the traits of this genre. Many students will try to compare this to Destiny's Gift, our Realistic Fiction story from last week. Like Destiny's Gift, Pop's Bridge is realistic in the sense that the events and characters could really happen. However, unlike Destiny's Gift, this story contains actual events from history, such as the completion of the historic bridge, as well as a tragic accident that occurred around the same time.

Remind your child that, although the children in the story seem very real, they were created by the author to make for an interesting tale. It is important for children to differentiate between the real and the imagined, as it has a profound effect on their comprehension.

Here are some Historical Fiction selections, now available in my library:

  • Mr. Lincoln's Whiskers (level 2.7) - This is the true story of Grace Bedell, who suggested that Abraham Lincoln grow a beard.
  • Pink and Say (Level 3.8) - Sheldon Curtis describes his meeting with Pinkus Aylee, a black soldier, and their capture by Southern troops during the Civil War.
  • John, Paul, George, and Ben (Level 3.7) - This book takes a humorous look at five of our country's founding fathers, John, Paul, George, Ben, and Tom.
  • Mailing May (Level 3.6) - In 1914, because her family cannot afford a train ticket to her grandmother's town, May is mailed and rides the mail car on the train to see her grandmother. (Although this is not available in my library, I will be providing a copy for each student to read at home this week.)
P.S. - Pop's Bridge is a level 3.4 and is located in your child's Journey's textbook.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Genre: A Step Further (Lesson 3)

For this week's story, we are reading Natasha Anastasia Tarpley's Destiny's Gift (Level 4.0), about a young girl who rallies her community together to help save a local bookstore. Our essential question is: Why is volunteering good for a community and its people? We will discuss how we have volunteered in the past, and how we can volunteer in the future.

Since this story is Realistic Fiction, we will compare this text to other texts we read previously (A Fine, Fine School and The Trial of Cardigan Jones). Children are apt to thinking that in order for something to be fictional, the text must contain some form of outlandishness. Many students will not think this is fiction simply because it contains no talking animals or imaginary creatures. It is important for students to comprehend that, while Destiny's Gift tells the story of a young girl doing a very real thing (helping a friend), it is not a true story; It could be. That is the best way to help students grasp Realistic Fiction: it could be real, but it is not.

Here are a few examples of Realistic Fiction, now available for checkout in my library:

  • Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo (Level 3.9, 3 points)
  • Dear Mr. Henshaw by Beverly Cleary (Level 4.9, 3 points)
  • Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson (Level 4.6, 5 points)
  • The Diary of a Wimpy Kid Series by Jeff Kinney (5.2-5.8, points varied)
  • Thunder Cake by Patricia Polacco (Level 3.5, 0.5 points)
  • Song and Dance Man by Karen Ackerman (Level 4.0, 0.5 points)
  • The Relatives Came by Cynthia Rylant (Level 4.1, 0.5 points)

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Place Value

Place value for kids is tricky. Many children do fine at the ones, excel with tens, and even master the hundreds and thousands, but add a fifth or sixth digit, and they're sunk. As we continue to learn how to read bigger numbers (and determine each digit's value), I would like to share one manipulative that has helped.

For relatively no cost, you can create what I like to call the Place Value Machine. All you will need are four-six styrofoam cups and as many markers (different colors help).
Each cup represents a different place value (my example only goes up to thousands, but you can add ten thousands and hundred thousands when you feel they need a challenge). You will need to number the side of each cup (the part that sticks out when they are stacked) 0-9. Be sure to line the numbers up across all cups or this "machine" will not properly work. Write the remaining value of each number on the part that is hidden (see photo above).

Here is what your Place Value Machine should look like when stacked:

Now, ask your child to create a number. As they are creating the number, I like to have them make sound effects like a real machine. They're pretty creative with it.

Once the number has been made, ask them what the value of each digit is. Students often struggle with this question simply because they forget what value means. I like to tie its meaning into money, or what something is worth.

Go through each place. Have them say the value.





Remind them that as you say a number, many digits say how much they are worth (in 3,242, the 3 said, "3,000"; the 2 said, "200"; the 4 said, "40"; and the 2 said, "2").

Have your child practice expanded form (3,242 is 3,000+200+40+2). Students will enjoy doing this at home. You would have thought I had let them play on the iPads when I brought this out the other day!

Credit: idea from Pinterest

Genre: A Step Further (Lesson 2)

This week, students will be reading Tim Egan's The Trial of Cardigan Jones, a story in which the title character, a clumsy moose, is convicted of stealing a pie from Mrs. Brown's window. Naturally, our topic this week is the court system. We will be discussing why courts are an important part of our government.

In addition, since this story is an example of Fantasy, our class will be comparing other literature that falls under that genre. Some things to discuss at home are: What makes Fantasy different from other works of fiction (like realistic fiction)?; Where are we most likely to see Fantasy?; What movies would be considered Fantasy, and why? Remind your child that Fantasy books often contain non-human characters (animals, monsters, objects) taking on human traits.

Here are some examples of the many Fantasy titles available now in my library:

  • The Geronimo Stilton series (third/fourth grade level, depending on the title)
  • The Castle of the Cats (Level 3.2)
  • Shrek (Level 3.9)
  • Fantastic Mr. Fox (Level 4.1)
Encourage your child to take the AR test on The Trial of Cardigan Jones by the end of the week. It is a level 3.4. Read away!

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Genre: A Step Further (Lesson 1)

This week, your child is reading Sharon Creech's A Fine, Fine, School as a main selection. Like many of our new reading series' selections, this book is AR (level 3.3, 0.5 points). If you read the last post, you know by now that I am a firm believer in helping children find a book to which they can relate.

A Fine, Fine School tells the story of Mr. Keene, principal at a laughably perfect elementary school. He decides one day to make school days longer, eventually to the chagrin of the students. It's a great story for students who don't enjoy school, as many of them can relate to feeling like they are always in class.

This title is best categorized as Humorous Fiction. When reading these kinds of books with your child, be sure to discuss what makes it humorous. Is it the characters? Is it their actions? Is it the dialogue?

If your child enjoyed this story, they may enjoy others like it. Look for these funny books (all available in my class library):

  • Click, Clack, Moo: The Cows That Type by Doreen Cronin (level 2.3, 0.5 points)
  • Officer Buckle and Gloria by Peggy Rathmann (level 3.4, 0.5 points)
  • Diary of a Worm by Doreen Cronin (level 2.8, 0.5 points)
  • Substitute Creacher by Chris Gall (level 3.6, 0.5 points)
  • The True Story of the Three Little Pigs (level 3.0, 0.5 points)
  • The Magic Finger (level 3.1, 0.5 points)