Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Notice and Note Book Study: Anchor Questions and General Language

These two sections in the book are pretty short and sweet!  So shall this post be ;o)

Anchor Questions
After finding the different signposts are they were reading, the authors and other teachers kept coming upon the problems of questioning.  "Problem?" you might ask?  The problem was that prior to this, we (the teachers) always asked the questions.  It's in our nature!  But they were our questions, not the student's questions and all that did was have students look for one particular answer and then be done.  Not continue to question, as they should.  Thus they created the Anchor Questions!

I found it pretty amazing that they could come up with one question per signpost that could cover all possibilities, but they seemed to have done the impossible!  Once a students has noticed and noted a signposts then you ask the anchor question to further their thinking and questioning.  When teaching the signposts, also teach the anchor questions as well.  I've updated my organizer freebie from the last book study post to include the anchor questions for you!  Click on the image to get your copy.


The Role of Generalizable Language
This whole section was about using a "general language" as you read through multiple texts.  When you are pausing and reflecting on parts of a story with your class, you only talk about that particular character's issues.  That is only showing the students how to understand one character in one book.  By using a general language about the signposts, you are constantly showing students how to find and comprehend those moments in ALL texts, not just the one you are reading.

We have all been here.  Reading aloud to the class, reflecting and discussing, thinking they've got it, and then you move on to individual conferences and they are lost.  They can't form these reflections on their own because they don't know how to do it with a different book.  By using a general language, always referring to the signposts and then adding in specific detail about your book, you are showing them how to find that general language in all books!

Sorry, it's late and this is one sleepy girl.  I hope that all made sense!  Essentially, use the signposts in discussion and the anchor questions! :o)

Monday, June 23, 2014

Sunshine State Book Reviews 2014-2015: 8 Class Pets

Hey y'all!  Today's post is another Sunshine State Book review for the book 8 Class Pets + 1 Squirrel Divided by 1 Dog = Chaos by Vivian Vande Velde.

Here is the summary from Amazon:
Twitch, the school yard squirrel, has really gotten himself into a bind this time. While trying to escape from a hungry owl, he roused the principal's dog and got chased into the school. Now he's locked in for a dangerous and disastrous night. Can Green Eggs and Hamster, Sweetie the library rat, and the other school pets save Twitch from the crazed dog, Cuddles? In this uproarious chapter book, a group of small animals manages to turn an elementary school into a real zoo.

I loved this book!  It was SO cute!  It's essentially a comedy of errors as this squirrel is running through the school, classroom to classroom, looking for help trying to escape an angry dog.  As he visits each classroom he also finally meets the class pets he has only seen through the windows.  Each chapter is a new class pet and these characters are hysterical!  I think my favorite is Miss Lucy Cottontail (the bunny rabbit in second grade).  She is very smart, almost too smart for her own good, and doesn't really understand how others are not as smart as her.  Needless to say we've all had a kid like this in our class and I just love them!  They might drive some people batty and others might think they have bad manners but I don't know what it is, I just like them!  So of course, I love Lucy - which is also my favorite TV show ;)  Fancy that!

Now, this SSS list is for third through fifth grade but I think this book falls into a much broader category.  It is a very short read and a very easy read.  Here are it's stats:

Reading Level: 4.4
Lexile Level: 740L
Pages: 68 pgs.

You look at that and say, "Besides the small amount of page numbers, what's the big deal?"  I think the only reason it got such a high Lexile level is because at the beginning of each chapter it tells some background information about that particular animal: what it eats, where it lives/comes from, habits, sometimes it even goes into their Latin names, etc.  I really do think that some second graders could read this independently or it could even be a first grade read aloud.  Some of the scientific information and sarcasm might go over their head but they will still understand the story.  Now, this in no way diminishes the book in my eyes!  This will be perfect for some of my lower readers and might entice them to read more of the SSS books after they finish this one.  I did want to give you a heads up that this is not the normal size/readability that we have seen from the SSS list in the past ;o)

Possible ways to use this in your classroom:
  • Compare and contrast two of the class pets in the book.
  • Research one of the class pets.  You can come up with your own criteria on what you want them to find and how you want them to present it to the class.
  • Come up with your own class pet!  What would their name be?  What is their personality?
  • Divide your class up into roles and reenact the story.
  • Create a book trailer.
I hope y'all enjoy this book as much as I did!  Very quick read but it will bring a smile to your face :o)  Next up on the review list, thanks to my friend Alison over at Rockin' and Lovin' Learnin' for the recommendation, Elvis and the Underdogs by Jenny Lee!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Notice and Note Book Study: Defining Signposts (Freebies & Giveaway)

Welcome to the Notice and Note book study!  Today is all about the parts of the book that make you pause and reflect on what you just read: the signposts.  First off, let me say that I am L.O.V.I.N.G. this book!  Once I was finally able to start reading, I couldn't put it down!  There are so many great ideas to use in your classroom.  Some things you might already do and some things help you take it a step further.

My section was all about the signposts we see in literature as we read.  While Kylene Beers and Robert Probst were reading novels that were commonly taught in certain grades they kept comparing notes and finding that they were pausing and questioning and reflecting in the same areas.  Not only were these parts of the story helping the reader analyze, they were also causing the reader to comprehend and reveal literary elements in the story: conflict, plot, theme, symbolism, setting, etc.  As they kept looking for those features they wanted to set up a criteria that had to be met so they knew that feature was worth teaching.  That criteria was:
  1. The feature had to have some characteristic that made it noticeable, that caused it to stand out from the surrounding text.
  2. The feature had to show up across the majority of books.
  3. It had to offer something to readers who noticed and then reflected on it that helped them better understand their own responses, their own reading experience, and their own interpretation of the text.
From this criteria they established the six core signposts and which literary elements they help the reader understand:
Notice and Note Signposts

Contrasts and Contradictions
A sharp contrast between what we would expect and what we observe the character doing. Literary Elements: character development, internal conflict, theme, relationship between setting and plot.

Aha Moments
A character's realization of something that shifts his actions or understanding of himself, others, or the world around him.  Literary Elements: character development, internal conflict, plot.
Tough Questions
Questions a character raises that reveal his or her inner struggles.  Literary Elements: internal conflict, theme, character development.
Words of the Wiser
The advice or insight a wiser character, who is usually older, offers about life to the main character.  Literary Elements: theme, internal conflict, relationship between character and plot.
Again and Again
Events, images, or particular words that recur over a portion of the novel.  Literary Elements: plot, setting, symbolism, theme, character development, conflict.
Memory Moment
A recollection by a character that interrupts the forward progress of the story.  Literary Elements: character development, plot, theme, relationship between character and plot.
I've already started to bookmark these signposts in my first novel study for next year and I can already tell how helpful they are going to be!  When students pause and reflect on these signposts they are also using the comprehension processes: visualizing, predicting, summarizing, clarifying, questioning, inferring, and making connections.  You really can't beat that!

Ways to incorporate these signposts into your classroom:

I saw this photo on Pinterest (it did not have a home, so if you know where it originated from please let me know so I can give credit where credit is due!) and I will definitely be doing this with our novel studies and literature circles this year!  Love me some colored post-its ;o)

I created a few freebies for to use in your classrooms if you would like as well!  The first are two different sets of bookmarks.  The first one has the signposts, definition, and a box for you to put in a text code you might want to use.  I left the boxes blank so you can choose your own symbols/codes for your classroom and just have your students fill them in.  The second bookmark is just the signposts and definitions.  Both sets come in black and white and color.

Click on the image to grab your FREE bookmarks!

 Another freebie I created is this graphic organizer for your students to use while they are reading independently.  You can use this many different ways!  You can send it off for copies whenever you want your kids to write down their ideas quietly before sharing or for their own books.  I'm thinking I might laminate mine so we can reuse them again and again.  Not sure though...  Thoughts???

Click on the image to grab your FREE graphic organizer!
My friend Theresa over at Pinkadots Elementary has a SUPER CUTE Stop, Notice, and Note poster set for the signposts that I have already bought, printed, and laminated - ready to go for next year!  She has also generously offered to giveaway a set of these posters to one of you!  All you have to do is enter in the Rafflecopter below and cross your fingers!  These posters are a chalkboard theme (which I love!) but she also includes a "save ink" set that is on a white background :o)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The Rafflecopter will close by tomorrow (Friday, June 20, 2014) at 11:59PM, so hurry and enter for your chance to win!  If you would like to check out even more great ideas for this book study, click on the links below to take you to some amazing bloggers and their thoughts on the book so far.  Thanks for following along and please feel free to comment and share your thoughts and ideas on signposts in the classroom!


Sunday, June 15, 2014

Sunshine State Book Reviews 2014-2015: King of the Mound

It's another year and another set of Sunshine State books!  I'm actually pretty excited about this year's line-up.  There seem to be a good mix of genres and I think my kids will really enjoy them.


I've joined up with a couple other teacher's from my county and we're meeting weekly for a Sunshine State Book Club to discuss the different books and ways to incorporate them into our classroom.  The first book I read was King of the Mound: My Summer with Satchel Paige by Wes Tooke.

Description from Amazon:

When Nick is released from the hospital after suffering from polio, he is sure that his father will never look at him in the same way again. Once the best pitcher in youth league, Nick now walks with a limp and is dependent on a heavy leg brace. He isn’t sure he will ever return to the mound, never mind be the star he once was.

When Nick starts working for Mr. Churchill, the owner of the semiprofessional team Nick’s dad plays for, he meets Satchel Paige, arguably the best pitcher in the world. Not allowed in the major leagues because of his skin color, Satchel teaches Nick that some things can be overcome with hard work and dedication, and that just because you’re down, you are most certainly not out.

As Satchel and his unique teammates barnstorm toward a national baseball tournament, Nick wonders if he can really overcome what seems like the impossible and pitch again.

I really liked this book!  It showed what life was like during this time period, not only the injustice against African Americans in the United States and baseball, but also how the American people were effected by the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl.  It doesn't come right out and mention these historical moments, so they are something you will probably want to discuss with your class.  I also love that the chapter titles are innings, a wonderful metaphor for Nick's life: top of the eighth, bottom of the ninth, etc.

I would recommend this book for 4th and 5th graders for multiple reasons!  I will read it to my 4th graders aloud because there is just SO much to discuss but your fifth graders can probably understand most of it on their own.  There is tons of fabulous vocabulary, both robust and historical.  There is also an ABUNDANCE of figurative language!  That Satchel Paige is just full of colorful similes and metaphors!  This would be an excellent read aloud during Black History month as well :o)

Genre: Historical Fiction
Grades: 4th - 5th
Lexile: 900
Length: 155 pgs.
Food: Ice Cream, Coke (glass bottle), Sunflower Seeds, Baseball foods (although none of these were actually ever mentioned in the book)

You might or might not remember, but we usually do a Sunshine State Feast at the end of the year for our kids who read all 15 of the books.  Included in the feast are games, scavenger hunts, and a food item from every book.  Hence the food choices above (just in case you want to do the same)!

Supplemental Resources:

This is a short (four minute) video about Satchel Paige and his baseball career.  I love that this video talks about his "mysterious age" and you will hear Satch himself say some of his famous quotes that your kids will find in the book as well!

A great companion picture book is Something to Prove: The Great Satchel Paige vs. Rookie Joe DiMaggio by Robert Skead.  They mention this moment, when Satch plays against Joe, a couple of times in King of the Mound but this picture book tells the actual story of what happened at that fateful meeting.

My kids always love the little side stories and want to know more!  This would be a perfect book to introduce the Great Depression, Segregation, and the Dust Bowl.  Again, the author never comes out and mentions these events by name (except for segregation) but the things that are happening to the main and secondary characters are because of these events.  Here are a few resources if your kids would like to know more about them.

BrainPop Great Depression - The Great Depression was a tough time for everyone. Find out just how tough in this BrainPOP movie, as Tim and Moby introduce you to life during the Great Depression! You’ll learn exactly how many Americans were out of work, as well as some of the ways that people tried to make money and survive. You’ll also find out why the Depression was actually good for unions — and why it was especially bad for farmers in the Great Plains. Plus, you’ll see how people tried to keep up hope, and why things eventually started to get a little better. Even the worst of times pass on eventually!

PBS Interactive Dust Bowl - Students will be able to make their own choices one whether they want to stay and risk it all or move away.  They will experience the ups and downs of farming in the 1930's and how the market was at this time.

I hope you enjoy this book as much as I do and stay tuned for the next Sunshine State Book... 8 Class Pets + 1 Squirrel / 1 Dog = CHAOS by Steve Bjorkman.