Monday, February 18, 2013


I have been teaching my students about adversity during our Reading Workshop study of narrative nonfiction. I had students post jottings on this interactive anchor chart. Students chose jottings that described the adversity in the life of the person they were reading about in their biography book clubs. This helped me gauge students' understanding of adversity.

Impromptu Poetry Moment

One of my students asked if she was allowed to write a poem as a jotting. I had never considered this before so I told her, "sure, as long as it relates to your book."

This is what she came up with after meeting with her biography book club and discussing Abraham Lincoln:

I am so proud of her for extending her thinking beyond a simple sticky note jotting. She took what she knew about poetry and combined it with information she learned from her book. When she shared her jotting with her book club one of the boys shouted out, "Kyndall had a poetry moment!"

Linking Your Reading Life with Your Writing Life

In Writing Workshop we have been studying expository writing. Students have been reading animal books to pique their curiosity. They have been writing lists of facts and interesting details as a prewrite step before they begin writing reports. I was so pleased and proud to notice that my students were recording books in their My Reading Life reading logs during Writing Workshop.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Retell, Recall, Relate

I have noticed during conferencing that some of my students are still making jottings that simply list something that happened in the book. When I talk with them they have wonderful things to say about their book. They ask questions and share wonderings. They envision and show empathy for the character. They talk about feelings and connections to other books. Their jottings do not reflect their thoughts though.

This week I am going to do a jottings reteach minilesson. I am going to lace the words retell, recall, and relate into my read alouds. I think my students need a little reminder using some new vocabulary and a new anchor chart to set them straight. I hope this will help them make some thicker jottings for their book club discussions. If all goes well I will post photographic proof of thick jottings later this week!

Book Club Dilemma for Low-Level Readers

In a previous post, Book Hunt, I described how I went about finding books to use for our Biography Book Clubs. I had a difficult time finding books for my low-level readers though. I searched on Reading A to Z and the lowest book I found was a level J and I need D, G, and H. I looked for some passages on Read Works, but the lexile-leveled passages on there were not low enough. So I had to get creative!

I have some old Social Studies big books that were part of a retired series. I use them to cut out pictures, paragraphs, and nonfiction text features to use as examples in various lessons (see my posts Biography Boxes and Bullets and Repurposing Those Old, Boring Textbooks). I decided to look through them and see if there were any biography pieces.  Jackpot!

I cut out all of the biography passages and created my own biography big book.

I dedicated the book to two of my students who have made great strides in reading. They will be the first two students to use this book.

The large print and simple sentence structure will allow my low-level, special needs students to participate in their own biography book club. They will read together with their exceptional needs teacher and personal needs assistant. They will be able to make jottings on large sticky notes.

Some of the passages had great text on the back. I created a flap so students could read both sides.

I also found some worksheets with short biography pieces. I cut the worksheets apart and created multiple copies of these small biography books. The vocabulary is a little bit high for the group that will use these books, but I am going to do the first read with them. Then they will break apart and read it independently and make their jottings to prepare for their discussions in book club.

Biography Boxes and Bullets

During the Lucy Calkins' unit Navigating Through Nonfiction, students learned how to organize the main idea and supporting details by using the boxes and bullets method.  Students are going to be revisiting main idea as they read biographies, so I wanted to create an anchor chart specific to the genre.

I have some old Social Studies big books from a retired series that I often use when I need authentic text examples. You can't hang a big book on the wall and it can bulky to use without an easel.

Anchor Chart!


Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Expository Writing Materials

In Reading Workshop my students are studying narrative nonfiction and participating in biography book clubs.This blends perfectly with our Writing Workshop study of expository writing. Since we have a classroom library to house our books to read, I decided to create a special section in the classroom for our expository writing materials.

I am not a glitzy, glittery, cute decorations kind of teacher. I like things that are organized, easy, and functional. I decided to have students sign out the books for research so it would feel more professional and important. I also teach 2 blocks of students (38 total) so if one student needs a book I can find the other student that is using it and have the two students share.

All of my books are labeled with Fountas and Pinnell reading levels, but I do have some really great unlabeled expository nonfiction books that students can use. I decided to put a special color code on them to let students know that they can use the books, but that they might be difficult for them.

Animals and outer space are the top two topics of interest for my third graders.

I have a miscellaneous basket of nonfiction books that students can read for research. I also included index cards and sticky notes for them to use when recording facts during research lessons.

My school's talent development teacher lent me some nonfiction big books. I think these will help motivate my reluctant readers and writers.  They will also be great for my special needs students.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Read Aloud Prep for Narrative Nonfiction

As I prepared for my read aloud during the new unit featuring narrative nonfiction, I came across a book I bought at a Scholastic warehouse sale--Rosa by Nikki Giovanni. Great author, Caldecott Honor Book, Coretta Scott King Award Winner, complex text (Fountas and Pinnell Level T)--seemed like a great pick to me!

I read the book and created my jottings to share with students based on my teaching points in the unit. These jottings were written on blue sticky notes. Then I read it again and created green sticky note tabs to mark relationships in the book because my students have been struggling with sequential events, cause/effect, and inferencing.

This book is informative and interesting. I never knew that the buses had a separate entrance in the back, that Rosa was actually sitting in the neutral area of the bus, or that people across the country sent shoes and jackets to the boycotters since they had to walk everywhere.

Rumplestiltskin may be an unfamiliar tale to some of my students so I may need to do a quick retell.