I had a great FULL week of school this week! We had a power outage, a strange beeping noise, workers stomping around on the roof to fix leaks and an unfortunate stomach bug incident…but no snow days!! A week with no snow days means that I was able to get back to the business of teaching, which made this Tibrarian extremely happy. Here is what I have going on with my lower grade classes at the moment:
- We are talking about making predictions using pictures, story events, and previous knowledge.
- We are also starting to use the terms “beginning”, “middle” and “end” to describe the parts of a story.
- The kindergarteners are working on money in their classroom, so I read them Benny’s Pennies by Pat Brisson
and did a great activity on my whiteboard that had students putting the story events in order and using their counting and money skills to “buy” items from the store.
- We finished up a poetry unit by reading the wonderful rhymes of Dr. Seuss during Read Across America week.
- I am now starting to introduce research with the first graders. We are using a flip chart(SPORTS_RESEARCH) on the whiteboard to work through the steps of the research process. This week, we discussed the meaning of the word “research” and identified the steps in the research process. I then had students vote to choose a sport to learn about for their whole-class research project. Once each class had chosen their topic, the students came up with 5 questions to guide their research. We had to talk a lot about what a good research question looks like and I encouraged the students to keep all prior knowledge and personalization out of their questions (e.g. don’t ask the questions “How do you do a round-off?” or “What is the name of the coach?” about gymnastics). Eventually, we were able to get to questions like “What equipment do you use in soccer?” and “What are the rules of the game?”. We ended the session with students coming up with different sources of information that they could use to find these answers.
- Next week we will use nonfiction books that I will read aloud to find the answers to our research questions. The final week of the project will give students the chance to share what they have learned on a poster about their sport.
- For more information about this project, see pages 23-24 in The Tibrarian Handbook.
- I have been struggling a bit with my second graders, but I think we are finally starting to get back on track. Before all the snow days, I started these students on the book talk project that I describe on pages 30-32 of The Tibrarian Handbook. As any good Tibrarian knows, however, there are some projects that work well year after year and then just DON’T work with a particular group of students. This is what I was facing with my second graders. It might be all of the snow days, or the large class sizes (28 students in each class), or the percentage of students who are not reading on grade level (almost 40%), but for whatever reason, this project simply wasn’t working. I knew that I would have to rethink and reset.
- I knew that I wanted the focus of this project to be on writing a summary. The project form on pages 166-168 of my book focuses solely on beginning, middle, and end, but I really want these students to be able to write a summary. I created a new form that walks the students through the steps of writing a summary. It asks them to think about the beginning (focusing on characters and the story problem), middle (focusing on events), and ending (focusing on solution) of the story before they try to write the summary. I have modeled this for the students several times, but they were still unable to complete the activity on their own.
- My new plan is to do one last model lesson where I read a story (I am reading this adorable new book): and then to put students in groups to work together on a summary. I am going to put students in groups based on their reading level for this project. I think that I will be better able to help each group if the students in the group are at similar ability levels. After reading the book together (I will read the book aloud for my lowest groups), students will work as a team to complete the book talk form. They will then present their book talk as a group to the rest of the class. I am hoping that working in teams will help students to learn from each other and will allow me to be of more assistance to everyone (it’s much easier to help 6 groups than 28 individuals in a 30 minute period)! I hand-selected the books that students will use for this project. I looked for books that have clear story problems, repetitive events, and simple plots to make summarizing easier. Here are the books that my students will summarize:
Ella the Elegant Elephant by, Carmela and Steven D’Amico (for higher readers)
Always in Trouble by, Corinne Demas (for average readers)
Curious George Goes to a Chocolate Factory by, Vipah Interactive (for average readers)
Llama Llama and the Bully Goat by, Anna Dewdney (for lower readers)
Bear’s Loose Tooth by, Karma Wilson (for lower readers)
I will let you know next week if students are doing better with this new format. I will also tell you about what my upper grade students have been up to this month! Happy teaching, Tibrarians!