Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Book Clubs: Books in a Series

I wanted to share a couple of anchor charts and some of the organizational tools I am using for the beginning of my current unit, Book Clubs: Books in a Series.
I decided to use a hot pink star as a visual cue for my students. 

I placed hot pink stars on the baskets of series books in the classroom library.

I added a hot pink star to the focus board to show students were studying a new unit, book clubs, but were still focusing our learning on following characters into meaning.

Students will have their first book club meeting tomorrow, so check back for more details!

Students use the following chart to help guide their Book Club conversations.

Students came up with reading behaviors that demonstrate what Book Clubs look like and sound like.

Words Their Way...THEIR Way

I found this spelling activity on Pinterest and I thought my students would enjoy it because they are a very kinesthetic group. I thought they would enjoy a break from Speed Sorts, Blind Writing Sorts, Word Hunts and other typical Words Their Way activities. I am new to Words Their Way, so maybe adding in a different type of activity that is not part of the program in a no-no, but I know I need to keep my students fresh and hooked. They understand the routines used in Words Their Way, but every now and then it is good to disrupt a routine with something new.
They worked with their writing partners to roll a number cube and complete a corresponding activity.

This may seem like a simple activity for 3rd graders to do, but some of my spellers practiced their words more times than I had ever seen them do before. My reluctant writers and spellers enjoyed this activity because it was a novelty.

Some of the students used their sorting mentality from Words Their Way and wrote similar words in columns using the activities from the number cube activity!

Tic Tac Toe Reading Partners

I was browsing through some materials I collected at a training I attended at some point in my teaching career. I found this handout meant to remind teachers of different ways readers can work together. I thought it would work perfectly as a Tic Tac Toe game because that's how a Pirate Teacher would use it--hook them with a game!

I had it copied on green paper so that it would stand out. Students put it in their Literacy Binders under the category Reading Strategies.


The students were on-task and active. They had targeted conversations and were cooperative.

During Independent Reading, students met with their partners and completed 3 of the boxes in the grid to complete tic-tac-toe.

So teach like a pirate and turn plain old buddy reading into tic-tac-toe partners!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Welcome to Opal's Party

Did I teach like a pirate? No, I taught like a superhero for this lesson! A pirate superhero--argh! My lesson was on pirate overload!

I used the Chef Hook. I also changed the lighting and added ambiance in the classroom using music. I recreated a scene from the book.  When my students entered the classroom this past Friday morning, they felt like they had entered the book Because of Winn Dixie.

I set up the party that Opal had in Gloria Dump's backyard. I had the pictures of dogs that Sweetie Pie brought for decorations. I had Miss Franny Block's Littmus lonzenges (butterscotch candies). I made Gloria's Dump Punch (using the ingredients listed in the book). I even brought Otis' big jar of pickles. I used lights for candles inside of brown bags, just like they did in the book. 

On the Smart Board I played the soundtrack from the movie. The students were amazed and their comments were priceless.  One girl wanted to go get her sister from another classroom so she could see it. A parent asked what was happening today and a student told her all about the party from the book--perfect retell.

Being able to actually participate in Opal's Party was a wonderful experience for my students. One student said, "this looks exactly like the mental movie in my head!" Another boy was drinking his Dump Punch and he told me it tasted just like the punch in the book!  A boy was sucking on his Littmus lozenge and he said he could really taste the sorrow. What better way to show children the purpose of a skill or strategy than for them to experience it? 

During the party, students took turns making jottings on the Smart Board. They shared their thoughts about the book using empathy, envisioning, predicting, and character traits.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Character Traits the Common Core Way

One of the more difficult skills to teach third graders is to reference the text and provide evidence for their thoughts. During our current unit, I think I have encouraged and/or required my students a million times to show evidence from the text .
I try to provide them with a variety of activities to practice this skill. Some students catch on to the skill and are able to use it simply by writing a jotting on a sticky note. Other students need a template while still others must have a fill-in activity sheet to follow exact steps in a process.
Whatever type of response my students use, I always post examples on the Focus Board so they can reference it whenever they need to during their Independent Reading time.
During the unit, I was on Pinterest searching for some anchor charts to use. I found a couple of ideas I liked and tweaked them to create my own charts.
Pinterest Chart--above


My own chart--above

Student response activity after a lesson using the anchor chart

Pinterest Chart--above

My own chart--above
Student response after a lesson using the anchor chart
Student response after a lesson using the anchor chart
Student response after a lesson using the anchor chart...and what I discussed with the student during conferencing
This is what one student wrote about the character traits for the dog, Winn Dixie, in our read aloud lesson! Check out what he said for the evidence!


Students posting their jots about character traits

Student jots
Student jots
I conferenced with the student about how to find evidence in the text.



More Books! Time to Reorganize the Library

I went shopping at my favorite used book store, The Last Word. Lucky for me they were having a $1 and $0.50 sale!  Woooo!

I picked up these two sets of books because they have Hispanic main characters. Children like books when they can relate to the characters. I think my Hispanic students will enjoy these books.

I am always on the hunt for good mystery books for my students. I was excited to find several books from The Woodland series. I was also glad to find lower leveled mysteries, J and K.

I found a variety of nonfiction books in levels I-S.

These are books from popular series in levels J-Q. I have been motivating my students to read more chapter books to increase their stamina. These books will help them stay on target.

Hardback books for $1--no further explanation needed.

Multiple copies of series books levels J-R to use for books clubs.

With all of these new books, I had to reorganize my shelves in the classroom library. One set of shelves is fantasy and realistic fiction levels A-T. Another set of shelves is chapter books levels L-V. Another set of shelves contains all nonfiction books levels A-W. One set of shelves contains baskets of books levels J-P that can be found in a series. The final shelf is a variety of books from a variety of levels.

Mental Movies

Our current unit, Following Characters into Meaning, focuses on four main skills: envisioning, empathy, making predictions, describing character traits. Using the book Because of Winn Dixie as a read aloud, I have taught my students that envisioning is like making a mental movie in their heads. To bring this point to the front of their minds, I created a movie poster using scenes from the movie Because of Winn Dixie.
I had an old book that I found somewhere (probably a freebie from Scholastic) that was a scrapbook of the movie. I cut out photos from the book and placed them on the movie screen after we read that particular portion of the book.
The students love looking at the display each morning to see what new photos have been added. Many times they comment to each other that this is not what they had envisioned during the book!

In the book, Teach Like a Pirate, there is a strategy called the Board Message Hook. This isn't a message on the front board, but I think it meets the same criteria. Originally I thought it was more of a Props Hook, but I've changed my mind! This display hooked my students and encouraged them to discuss the book outside of Reading Workshop. I say that is success!

Sunday, November 3, 2013

A-Z with F&P

I need to begin this post by giving credit to my Literacy Facilitator, Vicki Douvikas, for sharing this idea at a Balanced Literacy training. She showed us how to create a toolkit to help us have more effective conferences during Reading Workshop. I took her suggestions, added in my own ideas, and created my version of a conferencing toolkit.
The basic idea of this toolkit is to give teachers a readily available set of books and questions to guide your conferences with readers based on their reading levels.

I used a thick, 3-ring binder with plastic pockets. You could choose to color-code your plastic pockets with green for at-level, yellow for strategic, and red for intensive based on your grade level text. I did not color-code mine because I wanted it to be flexible just in case I ever have to change grade levels.


There is one pocket for each letter of the alphabet which corresponds to the Fountas and Pinnell Guided Reading Levels. Inside each pocket there is a set of prompts to use when conferencing with your readers, one or two books at the particular level, and questions stems to guide your discussions.
I use books from the website Reading A to Z. I chose these books for a few reasons. They are readily available and you can print as many copies as you need. These books are leveled to the Fountas and Pinnell scale. The books are also part of RAZ Kids, so the students can independently read the books you use during the conference. There are a variety of genres and interesting topics. These paper books are not as bulky as real books.
**Please take note of the inside cover of the book--the correlation is sometimes a letter off.  Make sure you have the books leveled correctly. A Reading A to Z book may be a letter L, but its F&P level may actually be a K.**
I cover the stapled spine of the book with duct tape so it will last through many reads.
I also place jottings inside the book to help guide my discussions with readers. I will be honest and say I do not have all of my books coded with sticky notes yet because it is very time consuming. This binder is an ongoing piece of work. I am sure I will add, delete, and change several things as the year progresses. That IS what good teachers do--we change instruction to meet our learners' needs.


The books I put in my toolkit are not random.  For the lower levels, A-F, I used mostly realistic fiction. With levels G-U I chose to use as many fables, mysteries, and biographies as I could find because these are the genre that my students struggle with the most. I added in some nonfiction books and chose topics my students are interested in such as dangerous animals and the Titanic.

The prompts and question stems come from a couple of different places. One set of prompts is from our TCRWP coach. I'm sorry I do not have these to share with you. They were part of our district's training and I only have hard copies. If you are part of Balanced Literacy with Teachers' College, I would ask your coach for a set of them.You also could use any questioning stems or prompts you are comfortable with such as Marzano's or Bloom's.
The other prompts I use are based on Reading 3D and mClass (you know, the DIBELS people). They are taken from the TRC section. The website has PDF files of the questions broken down into F&P levels. If you look at the screen shot below, the first PDF file will give you a bulleted list of questions and the second one will give you a matrix version of question stems.

bulleted lists

This toolkit was time consuming. I had to use a lot of ink, a lot of paper, and spend a bit of money to purchase the materials. I think it is definitely worth it though! After you create your toolkit, you will have instant lessons tailored to your students' reading levels. You will have talking points all ready for when you conference with your readers.

Thank you again, Vicki, for the great idea.