SOL #30 – “Life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.”

The sudden changes in mood and conversation with fifth graders still surprises me sometimes often.

I had a couple students at my table during reading workshop today.  We read Langston Hughes’ Mother to Son and were talking about it.  Really they were talking about it and I was listening composing this slice in my head.  It is amazing what these kids are capable of understanding and the conversations they have:

Well, son, I’ll tell you:

Life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.

It’s had tacks in it,

And splinters,

And boards torn up,

And places with no carpet on the floor –

Bare.

But all the time

I’se been a-climbin’ on,

“I’m picturing the son leaving for college.  And the mom is saying that life is going to be hard, but he should keep trying.”

“Yeah, but I think she wrote it on a note.  Cause people don’t just go around and talk in poems.”

“No one’s life is easy.  Everyone has struggles.”

And reachin’ landin’s,

And turnin’ corners,

And sometimes goin’ in the dark

Where there ain’t been no light.

“It means there are lots of struggles, obstacles.  She’s saying there are hard things in life.”

“And you think things are better, you’re done.  And then there’s more.”

Don’t you set down on the steps

‘Cause you finds it’s kinder hard.

Don’t you fall now –

For I’se still goin’, honey,

I’se still climbin’,

And life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.

“She’s telling her son not to give up. ”

“Plus, if you sit on a tack, that would really hurt.”

“And falling off the stairs and landing on tacks and nails…”

The sudden changes in mood and conversation with fifth graders still surprises me sometimes often.

New Grade Level…New LC Units of Study

I am moving to fifth grade after three years in third and I couldn’t be more excited!  However, it does require some extra preparation this summer.  It’s nothing that I haven’t done already:  My district adopted LC Units of Study for Writing the summer before my first year as a classroom teacher and I spent that summer reading the third grade units.

Since I know I’m not the only one needing to prepare for a new grade level, I thought I would share how I approach the Units of Study for a new grade level.

1.  I read each Unit of Study book, taking notes on each session.

Yes, I know Lucy is wordy and goes on and on.  The very first unit I read, I read EVERYTHING, which I would recommend if you have never used Screen Shot 2016-07-07 at 10.35.31 PM.pngthem before.  However, after that it isn’t really necessary to read each word on each page.  Within each session, the main points are in bold, it isn’t necessary to read all of the dialogue/text after that unless you don’t understand what is being said.

When I take notes, I try not to put my own thoughts or take out what I know won’t work.  I try my best to keep it as it is.  These notes come in so useful because I can copy, paste, and adjust into my plans during the school year.  This has really been a time saver in the long run.  Plus, I am a big picture person and I am more effective if I know what is coming.

2.  I read in the genre, looking for mentor texts appropriate for the grade level.

The units name some mentor texts, but there are so many more out there.  I read as much as I can, after all I need to be ready to write with the kids!

A few additional thoughts…download

  • During the year, as I am teaching a unit, I read the dialogue that LC includes for each session before I teach it.
  • I put in a lot of my own lessons into the LC units, more each year as I get to know the kids, standards, and units better.
  • I’m finding that the fifth grade writing units, especially the Memoir one I am working through now, is more “fluffy” than the third grade ones.  Anyone else?
  • Don’t be scared of LC or the Units of Study!
  • My dog snores…

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SOL #26: A Gem of a Sentence

I incorporate phonics/decoding into my guided reading groups based on the need of the students.  My groups reading below grade level get phonics/decoding practice every day.

Recently we have been working with r-controlled vowels.  We read them and spell them. Once they’ve got the pattern in single words, we move on to sentences.  I dictate the sentence including a word with given phonics pattern.   They write the sentence with appropriate capitalization and punctuation.

And then, sometimes, I give them each a word and they have to make up a sentence using that word.  It is with this activity that I get to read a gem of a sentence like this one:

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Saturday Skinny

Screen Shot 2015-05-26 at 11.58.24 AMReading Workshop 2.0

$_35Today I finished book #11 of my summer reading:  Reading Workshop 2.0 by Frank Serafini.  I was hoping for more than I got out of the book.   :/   A lot of the book was theory or lists of tech resources that are already familiar to me.  I did learn about some new resources and I set some goals for my reading workshop this fall.

1.  I want to use more videos of author and illustrator interviews during the reading block.  I know these resources exist, but I always forget to use them.  This coming year, published authors will be sharing in our reading workshop, too!  I promise!

2.  I will include more mini-lessons to model how to navigate and code digital texts.  I swear!

3.  Students can record their book reviews sometimes and post the videos on their blogs.  Switch it up and keep them engaged!

Painting and Crafting

20150704_145659For some reason, I agreed to paint a Minecraft inspired wall in my son’s room.  It is a work in progress, but this project is taking up the majority of my weekend while my son is away.  (I have been working on it for months, but keep finding reasons to procrastinate.  Reminder to self:  Do not make promises to paint entire walls with anything except solid color!)  I’m sure there was an easier way to do this, but my first attempt at stenciling and I don’t think it looks too bad…20150704_212945

I also created this surprise for my son to put in his room, when it is finally done…He creates all kinds of Lego men based on different characters from movies, books, and television shows.   Now he will have a way to display them!

Monitoring Understanding

I think that one of the most common reading struggles that third graders have is monitoring their understanding.  Although the students can read the words and comprehend the words, they don’t stop to make sure that they are comprehending. (Which is the whole purpose for reading!)  Sometimes A lot of times the kids just keep on reading and reading without paying attention to the fact they have no idea what they are reading!

How can we help kids monitor their understanding?

  • Teach kids to ask themselves these questions:  Do I know what I read?  What do I not understand?  How do I figure out what it means?
  • Think aloud:  We need to model reading, asking ourselves questions, and applying strategies when we don’t understand.
  • Stop and Jot:  Teach kids to stop every so often (each page, each chapter) and jot something down about what they read.
  • Notice and Note is a great resource for teaching students to monitor their understanding of narrative texts.17188285
  • Post-its!  They are fun for the kids and a great way to record thinking.  And check out what I found at Barnes and Noble for $1.95.

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Character Traits and Stone Fox

To review inferring character traits we used Stone Fox as a read aloud. This was the second time we focused on character traits.  The first was earlier in the year with The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane and a Lucy Calkin’s Reading Workshop Unit.

We modeled finding character traits for a few days and then asked students to participate.  You can find my lesson plans here.  On day 4, as an assessment, we asked students to write a character, character trait, and evidence.  This was a quick way to assess students without taking half an hour on a pencil/paper assessment.

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Third Grade Book Clubs

This year’s reading workshop has encouraged children to be real life readers.  They spend the majority of the reading block reading just right books of their choice.  So, we decided to end the year with book clubs instead of literature circles.  I wanted students to participate in a book club like adults participate in.  Students will be reading a book over two weeks and then will meet with their club to discuss the book once everyone is done.

First, my co-teacher modeled reading a book (Amos and Boris) and taking notes with post-its in order to prepare for a book club discussion.  Then, students were given a simple picture book to practice.  They were grouped by a range of reading levels.  (C-K, K-P, Q-W)  The practice picture book was far below their reading level, so that they could focus on taking notes and having conversations

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The following day we modeled having a book club conversation about Amos and Boris.  We also created an anchor chart with the students.  The anchor chart is based on Lucy Calkins Reading Workshop Unit:  Historical Fiction Book Clubs.  (The dark purple was written before we modeled and the lighter purple is from the students after we modeled.) After observing us and adding to our anchor chart the students began their book club discussions in the groups that they will be in for their novels.

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The hardest part for the students was to stay on the same topic for an extended amount of time, but we were so impressed with their conversations.  Here is one of my favorite conversations that I overheard about Amelia Bedelia:

          D:  My favorite part was when she planted the light bulbs, but she left the kids alone!

J:  Yea, she should have gotten busted by the principal!

After our practice book clubs, we gave the students their book club books.  Their excitement made it feel like I was handing over a bar of gold!  They couldn’t wait to get started and the rest of the reading block was SILENT.

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