Sunday, November 28, 2010

Writing Teacher David Stoner's Great Collection of Inspiration for You!

      Hi MW! This is a writing site that you MUST save to your "favorites" and bookmark on your computer! It doesn't matter your grade or years of experience. :) There is something for everyone on this site that was created by teacher David Stoner. He is the co-director of Indiana University Southeast Writing Project. Stoner is truly passionate about sharing his knowledge and experiences on best practices in writing with other educators.

David Stoner:

Here are just a few examples of the many lessons and inspirations that you can unearth on this site:
      Stoner recently revamped and updated his site. I still find interesting sparks on the site, and it's been a "favorite" for awhile. :) Enjoy exploring!

Quick Links: PALS Literacy Workstations Presentation and Resources

      In W-JCC, the Phonological Awareness Literacy Screening (or PALS) tool is utilized in Kindergarten up to third grade to assess literacy development. These are two links which are provided by the developers of the PALS assessment at U.Va. to guide best practices with literacy workstations. Perhaps a reminder or a fresh idea might inspire you in this short presentation you can find by clicking here:

Also, there are classroom activities given for Kindergarten and learners in K-3 the following areas:
  • Comprehension
  • Alphabet Recognition
  • Concept of Word
  • Letter Sounds
  • Print Knowledge
  • Vocabulary
  • Word Recognition
  • Oral Reading in Context and Fluency
  • Spelling
  • Writing

      Check out this link to see concise lists of activities which support the respective areas of literacy development. This is particularly helpful to use for teachers who are new or new to their grade level, as well as student teachers. You can bookmark these as "favorites" and refer to them when you need a source of suggestions for Tier One intervention and individualizing in your classroom. :)

PALS Activities Listed by Skills

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Gifts of New Read Alouds for the Media Center's Professional Book Shelf!

      As you can guess, I really enjoyed our school's annual book fair! I love discovering and reviewing brand new titles and thinking of what would make good additions to our school. Due to the generosity of Mrs. Wilson's help, we were able to secure five new hardback books that will soon be a part of the teacher's read aloud collection to support reading and writing mini-lessons. This collection is housed behind Mrs. Pauley's check out computer. I have written how these books can be used for lessons inside of the front cover, and you can get a sneak peek of those ideas below.

In the Garden with Dr. Carver Written by Susan Grigsby and illustrations by Nicole Tadgell (Albert Whitman and Company, 2010) 

     In this story, the reader is taken on a realistic account of one of the many visits that Dr. George Washington Carver made to the Alabama countryside to educate people on how to enrich their farmland's soil. In particular, Dr. Carver educates some children on how to naturally develop the nutrients in the soil at a school, and fosters an appreciation for the bounty of nature.  

     This book can be used to highlight several concepts in reading, including:
  • an example of "hybrid nonfiction" - narrative realistic fiction that also delivers factual information
  • Cause and Effect - Because Dr. Carver traveled throughout the Alabama countryside on weekends to educate people on how to enrich their soil, the effect was that many farmers were able to grow better crops on their land.
  • Problem/Solution - Problem: poor soil that resulted in poor quality crops; Solution: Dr. Carver taught people how to enrich their soil to grow better crops
  • Examples of Metaphors: comparing the soil and caring for it with medical terms doctor, patient, and an operation
  • Examples of Similes: "Quick as a hummingbird"  and "sticks to you like a little burr"
     From an interdisciplinary perspective, George Washington Carver is an important person in American History for First Grade's SOL Social Studies 1.2. Students are tested on this in the Third Grade SOL History test.

Colonial Voices: Hear Them Speak Written by Kay Winters and illustrated by Larry Day  (Dutton Children's Book, 2008)
       This historical fiction story was recently recognized by the Virginia State Reading Virginia State Reading Association's Virginia Readers Choice List for 2011-2012. The story's main character is a young boy named Ethan, and the reader accompanies him through Boston in December of 1773. This text lends itself wonderfully to colonial life studies in history, as well as aspects of economics with the various professional trades that are explored in the town by Ethan. From the mini-lesson perspective in reading, this text can be used for:
  • highlighting a form of hybrid nonfiction, where historical fiction also provides an avenue for learning factual information.
  • showing an example of a story told in a free verse poetry format
  • giving examples of various points of view of a variety of characters all experiencing the same moment in history
  • showing how font is sometimes used to highlight the main idea in a page spread and how placement of text can lend emphasis
  • providing an example of historical notes and a glossary at the end as nonfiction text supports for deeper comprehension

Climbing Lincoln's Steps: The African American Journey Written by Suzanne Slade and illustrated by Colin Bootman (Albert Whitman and Company, 2010)
     This beautifully illustrated text captures the historical events that have occurred on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and their significance upon the history of African Americans.  This text is wonderful for tying in applicable historical studies. It can also be used to:
  • highlight how an author uses placement of text and dashes for effect in pausing and digesting the text in a thoughtful manner
  • show how the "echo" or repetition of phrases for emphasis of the main idea of the text
  • give examples of the effective use of adjectives in writing
  • show the passage of time, indicated with dates, years, and historical time frames
  • correctly sequence events
  • act as an example of cause and effect (For example: Because....happened at the Lincoln Memorial in history, the effect is....change occurred.)
  • serve as an example of a narrative nonfiction text
  • practice using inferential skills in order to use the clues and context to figure out what isn't explicitly told to the reader
  • show an example of a text which as additional information in the form of an author's note and a timeline at the conclusion of the story

Henry Aaron's Dream Written and illustrated by Matt Tavares  (Candlewick Press, 2010)
      This text from Matt Tavares shares a true story about Henry Aaron, an African American baseball player who was able to fulfill his dream of playing in the major leagues through his determination and the positive influences of the pioneering Jackie Robinson. Be sure to click on the title above to go directly to the author's home page for this text. It is a neat way to show how an author researches factual information to tell a narrative version of a person's life. You can also use this site to show how as the illustrator drafts his drawings as a means of sticking to supporting the main events of the story effectively. In addition, you can use this book to:
  • make text to text connections after reading Sharon Robinson's beautiful book on her father Jackie Robinson called Testing the Ice
  • show a real example of a character's traits of determination, perseverance, and being successful
  • read the "Author's Note" in the back to understand the author's inspiration and motivation
    (for additional interesting information on the author, check out his blog by clicking on his name here: Matt Tavares)
  • Note: There is a strong word used in the book once, so preview the story and skip reading that word aloud

Word After Word After Word  by Patricia MacLachlan (Katherine Tegen Books, 2010) 
      It's great for grades 3-4 for supporting the tone of children as authors in writing workshop. (See my previous post on Patricia MacLachlan's books for additional information. :) It's a great venue for:
  • discussing purposes for writing
  • finding your voice as a writer
  • showing a story that shares mentor texts IN THE STORY! :) (It's like MacLachlan visited one of our classes and wrote about a day in our reading and writing life in the classroom!)
Check them out and enjoy using something fresh to energize your teaching!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Mentor Text: Crab Moon By: Ruth Horowitz

                                                                       Crab Moon is a beautiful mentor text written by Ruth Horowitz and illustrated by Kate Kiesler. In this story, a young boy named Daniel travels to a cottage by the shore to vacation with his family. His mother shares with him memories of her special times of observing horseshoe crabs spawning during the "crab moon." I used this text with the third grade classes, and the classroom teachers help to chart responses made during the interactive read aloud. I started the lesson by "zooming in on a moment" and noticing how the story's main idea is a snapshot memory for the main character. We also noticed how the author used other words besides "said," fabulous vocabulary, and "golden threads" of text. The main focus of our lesson was on how Horowitz "shows" and doesn't explicitly tell the reader. This fosters conversations of inferential thinking by using what is shared to figure out what was not stated. This text was also recognized as an "Outstanding Science Trade Book for Children" and is a great example of a narrative hybrid nonfiction text, where factual scientific information about the life cycle of the horseshoe crab is learned within the context of a realistic fictionalized story. I purchased this text for our professional read aloud picture book collection housed in the Media Center. Complimentary mentor texts include Hello Ocean by Pam Munoz Ryan and The Seashore Book written by Charlotte Zolotow.  Be sure to check it out! :)  

Scaredy Squirrel: Quite a Character!

Scaredy Squirrel [Book]

      If you are not familiar with the Scaredy Squirrel series by Melanie Watt, you have to check it out! I love this little squirrel, who frets and worries about the silliest things! This is an activity that I did with Mrs. Pegram's first graders back in September. The document camera actually makes this read aloud come alive so you can zoom in on portions of the illustrations. The kids think Scaredy Squirrel is hilarious, and love to predict the text structure of the books in the series after hearing the first one. The students brainstormed ways of describing Scaredy Squirrel with neighbors at their table. Then, I guided them to support their thinking with evidence from the story. We had so much fun talking about this overly worried but almost completely prepared squirrel. :)  


Friday, November 12, 2010

Quick Link for Florida Center for Reading Research - Practical, Ready to Print Word Study and Comprehension Activities!

T/TAC of W&M
      I want to say "thank-you" to Mr. Bryan Cole for coming down to my room today to show me this fantastic website full of practical, ready to use resources to supplement your word study and comprehension activities in reading groups and classroom centers. It is from the Florida Center for Reading Research. Mr. Cole was so excited to share it with me after going to conference held by the Training and Technical Assistance Center (T/TAC) at the College of William and Mary! I actually clapped my hands with excitement, as I appreciate things which blend suggestions for best practices with practical and instant application! :) Here is the link to the FCRR's index page for student center activities:

      This link takes you to the "Student Center Activities" main page. From here, you can choose to explore your appropriate grade level span: K-1, 2-3, or 4-5. When you scroll down the page, you will see the five major components of reading: phonological awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension. There are many ready to go lessons and copy masters for a variety of lessons and activities for word study! Also, you will find numerous graphic organizers and ideas for general applications for various types of comprehension studies. I know that I'll be exploring it this weekend to find some ideas. I hope you check it out, too! It's another way to teach smarter! Thanks SO much Mr. Cole! If anyone else has additional resources or links that they would like to share, please post them. :)

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Reading Like a Writer with the Work of Patricia MacLaughlin

      Here is third grade teacher Ms. Katie Schultz, who is one of the teachers that I have been collaborating with this fall on writing instruction. In this picture, Katie is reading from Patricia MacLaughlin's book What You Know First. In this book, a girl reflects on how her life will change once her family moves from their prairie farm. Her father tells her that "what she knows first" in her life will be things that she will always remember. Katie charted the fabulous discussion she held with her student in their interactive read aloud.

     As an extension of the study of MacLaughlin's craft, I made a delivery of a "book borrowing gift" of MacLaughlin's newest chapter book, Word After Word After Word. This short chapter book features an author, Ms. Mirabel, who begins to visit a class of students to help them develop their writing skills. The way that she mentors five students is highlighted in the story, and the reader is shown how these characters find their inner author's voice. It's a great way to model how we foster the empowerment of writers in our own classrooms. It's available at the book fair, the media center, the public library, and I own a copy as well.

Additional Links for Patricia MacLaughlin:

At Dr. Johnson's ning for The Joy of Children's Literature, I started a discussion on Word After Word After Word. When you check it out, you can post comments on other books that you think are great for writing mini-lessons. :)

Here is a link to example "Golden Threads" from mentor texts by Patricia MacLaughlin.  (There are also examples on this same link by author Jane Yolen who I will be sharing about in numerous upcoming blog entries. She is one of my favorite mentor authors! :)

Sarah, Plain and Tall
Extract example "golden thread" lines from this mentor chapter book text that describe nature:

Here is a graphic organizer that can be used with this book:

All the Places to Love
A Great Mentor Text for Sentence Variety

Lesson: Special Places to Love - "Improving Sentences with Thoughtful Prepositional Phrases: 

Lesson: Introductory Prepositions and Places of Three

All the Places to Love Lesson Mentor Text Mini Lesson from David Stoner

Richard Peck On Reading and Writing

     One of my favorite quotes from Richard Peck is: "Nobody but a reader ever became a writer." Reading and writing are so interdependent! :)

Tomie dePaola: Why Reading is Important

      One of my favorite quotes that I used to post in my room as a second grade teacher came from author Tomie dePaola. At the end of our official author study of dePaola, I would show a DVD of a visit to his house and studio, and he would talk to the viewing children about writing as if they were right at his side and equal to his writing ability. In this short video clip, dePaola shares that wonderful statement: "In order to be a writer, you must be a reader. In order to be a reader, you must be a writer." How true Tomie! :)


Sunday, November 7, 2010

Blogs to Check Out on Science Tradebooks

     I'll continue to post quality links for planning, inspiration, and resources in relation to content area reading throughout the school year in support of the literacy team's nonfiction focus for our staff development. The first blog, called Wild about Nature Writers, has great suggestions for wonderful nature related books that are both narrative and expository in their style of writing. The second blog, Simply Science, reviews a wide variety of science books. It also gives some practical suggestions for teaching with the text and topic.

     I'm certain that Mrs. Wilson and Mrs. Pauley can guide you to some of the selections mentioned in this blog right in our own media center. Also keep in mind that our fantastic Williamsburg Regional Library is just a couple blocks down the street, which makes for a perfect stop on the way home. It's easy to look online on the the card catalogs for either place to save you hunting time. You can always send me (or the whole staff) an email asking if someone owns a particular title, too. Use technology to help you teach smarter, not harder! :) You are all such a tech savvy staff! Also, remember that blogs can be subscribed to by clicking the orange square at the top in the toolbar on your home computer. Then, you'll have all the blogs you are interested in bookmarked and you can keep up with them on one page! :)  

Friday, November 5, 2010

Battle of the Books Coming Soon!

     Attention to our 4th and 5th grade teachers! Battle of the Books meetings will be here before you know it, beginning in December! The BOB coaches are Mrs. Wilson, Ms. Judy Jones, and Ms. Melzer.  Here is the list for the Winter/Spring 2011 BOB:

      One of the many wonderful things we do at MW is hold an annual sleepover in the school media center. Our requirements to participate in the sleepover is that a student needs to receive at least a 70% score on at least five of the fifteen books by our closing date. When it comes to the final team selection, there will be six students selected to be the top MW book experts. We alternate the fifth and sixth students to take turns answering questions up on stage at our competition at the Williamsburg Regional Library. There will be more details in upcoming letters to students and media center class time with Mrs. Wilson after the book fair. In the meantime, you can check the Williamsburg Regional Library website for more general information. :)  

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Quick Link: Storyline

     This website from the Screen Actors Guild offers numerous well known picture books to view online for read aloud. What makes this site unique is that celebrities are the ones reading aloud the texts. They also provide activity guides to download that can give you an idea or two for your planning. There is a pop up box with discussion questions, too. There are great stories such as Thank-You, Mr. Falker, Stellaluna, A Bad Case of Stripes, and more! It would be a nice link to share with parents on Edline for family literacy fun. You could also share via your computer and screen for a twist to a read aloud and mini lesson time. :)