Friday, April 20, 2012

Getting our feet wet with Informational writing


     Do you ever just pull a book to read and midway through realize you have a whole new lesson, new focus that will last for days based on your kid's enthusiasm? This happened this week. I picked up the book, If You Lived Here Houses of the World. I had read a review of it on A Year of Reading so I knew it must be good. 
     We are starting a study of cultures so I thought it would be a great non fiction read aloud to start sparking discussion of cultures. Each double page spread has a type of house and text to describe where in the world the house can be found and what is is made of.  

Readers jot main ideas and key details - as we read we jotted down the important details about each house we wanted to remember

Readers sketch and add words to their sketches to build understanding - after jotting notes we realized our words couldn't capture the description. We needed sketches of these houses along with words to explain what we saw

Readers think about what they read - after saving important information about each house, we jotted down our thinking (inferences, why we would or wouldn't want to live in the house)

Readers read across texts to research - after reading about a few of these homes the kids wanted to learn more. We went online and first searched for more images on several types of homes and then read short articles on wikipedia about a few

Readers write to share their learning - partners took their notes and wrote about what they had learned. They added facts to inform and tried to add opinions, voice, and word choice to entertain

After trying this with a buddy students then got to choose their own type of house to research and write about independently. They read, jotted and are trying out a short informational writing piece.

Who knew this book would spark such enthusiasm! Hopefully it is gearing us up for a larger informational report.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

"Crack open" a line

     This week we tried out "cracking open" lines authors write. We learned that to analyze is to examine details carefully, break open the pieces to dig deeper. Analyzing is pausing to think about what you read, the heart of analyzing in my opinion is discussion. We talked about how in books there are many lines that the author puts in to show you something, to reveal something to you, in other words to urge you to THINK BIG!
      We read John Henry by Julius Lester. (Great book for figurative language!) At the end we found the line we knew we had to analyze, to "crack open" and discuss meaning.

"But whether it was a whisper or a thought, everyone had the same knowing at the same moment, Dying ain't important, everybody does that. What matters is how well you do your living"

We discussed and jotted what we thought this line meant together. The students had to bring it back to the text and describe what in the book happened that made them think this. 

It was a great discussion and we will continue to "crack open" more lines together. I hope students will find these lines in their own books to think deeply about and write their thinking about. 

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Making our thinking "Sticky"

     The above chart was taken from a tweet I read this fall and has been one that my class has come back to again and again. How do readers read deeply or "submarine read"? Readers have to make their thinking "sticky". I told my class this year that their are two main ways readers can make their important thinking about books "stick" (to their brains), to become readers who dive deep into reading to understand.

1. Talk about your thinking to someone else
2. Write about your thinking

Throughout the year we've been pushing ourselves as a class to talk and write about what we read to better understand, remember and extend meaning of what we read. 

     As much as education is changing I believe that conversations and written responses will remain essential building blocks to literacy instruction. Every year around this time I start to see the magic of talking about books throughout the year emerge. Our conversations are becoming more lively, more kids are sharing their thinking, deeper meaning is emerging through great conversation. Reader's notebooks remain the spot where our writing reflects where our brain has been in the book. This post from Tracy helped give me a way to breathe some new life into our reader's notebooks.
     The phrase below helps our class make deep reading a habit. Readers have to be motivated to understand and make important thinking "stick".  Talking and writing about thinking is a habit we hope to do daily in our reader's workshop! It is a habit I hope I as a teacher am squeezing time in for daily, because I believe it is essential to deep comprehension.

How do you encourage kids to talk about their thinking or write about their thinking?