Monday, March 31, 2014

Must Read Monday: Mentor Text Picture Books and Teen Fiction

Despite my crazy schedule of being a full-time teacher and part-time doctoral student, I always find time for pleasure reading.  I read all the time for graduate school, but that is mostly articles and nonfiction. I love fiction, and I have been entertaining a love affair with young adult literature since the 6th grade.

There are a couple of great linkies on Mondays about books, so I figured that is a great way for me to share what I have been reading.

Teach Mentor Texts - It's Monday! What have you been reading?

Teaching Maddeness - Must Read Monday

Must-Read Monday Linky

I read a ton of books over Christmas break and Spring Break, so I have quite a few books I would like to review overall.  However, this is a good way for me to get started.

Picture Books:

This last week we used The Best Story and Crow Call as our mentor texts for writing.

The Best Story by Eileen Spinelli is a cute story about generating ideas for stories and how the best stories come from the heart.  You can follow it up by having your students make a heart map. We used it to discuss ideas for what make the best stories.  We are working on narrative writing.

Crow Call by Lois Lowry is a fabulous story for discussing creating small moments in a story and also using sensory details.  We used this to model personal narratives and describing one day in detail.

For reading in class, we are working a unit to survey different genres.  They are reading stories from ReadingA-Z from different genres.  Then, they will choose a genre they want to read and I will assign literature circles for novels based on their genre preferences.  We introduced our genre unit by reading The Fantastic Flying Books of Morris Lessmore.  This is such a great story with a great theme of the joy that can be found in a book.  Next year, I will read this book at the beginning of the year and use it to introduce genres.

Teen Fiction:

Here is what I have read in the last couple weeks in teen fiction. I try to read a lot of teen fiction because I also have fifth great students who read at very high reading levels and are already reading a lot of the teen fiction.  I like to know which books might have content I think is too mature for them and which ones are a little more clean.

I finished Looking For Alaska by John Green.   It is a great book with some really interesting characters.  It deals with a lot of mature subject matter like sex, drugs, smoking, and suicide so I would not recommend it for younger students.  It definitely brings up a lot of room for discussion on character analysis.  I would recommend it for 8th grade and up.

I had finished The Fault in Our Stars right before Looking for Alaska.  The Fault in Our Stars is so popular right now.  It is a sad story about two cancer patients who fall in love.  It definitely deals with issues of life, death, and love.  Overall, it is a cleaner read than Looking For Alaska but definitely still on the mature side.  After reading The Fault in Our Stars, I almost wanted to go back and reread A Walk to Remember by Nicholas Sparks (which I have not read since 10th grade).

I have recently discovered that I can check out ebooks from my library and borrow them for two weeks on the Kindle on my iPad.  It is awesome!  It is making it so easy for me to keep up with my reading without going broke.

This weekend I read Mystic City by Theo Lawrence.  It reminded me a lot of Legend.  It is a love story set in a dystopian novel.  It was a clean read and one younger students could read.  I would recommend it to any student who liked Legend.

I also read When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead.  This book involves sixth grade students and some time travel.  It takes place in the 1970's in New York City.  It might make an interesting read aloud.  This book does reference A Wrinkle in Time a lot, so it might be nice to pair with A Wrinkle in Time.  This book reminds me a little of Chasing Vermeer by Blue Balliett for situational plot and characters, but I liked Chasing Vermeer a lot better.

What have you been reading?

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Finally Trying Out Mentor Sentences

Over the past week we are back from Spring Break and starting quarter 3.  The last couple weeks I have put a lot of time and effort into trying to really plan out the last 10 weeks of school.  It always feels so hard to decide what needs to be covered and what doesn't.  I attended a teacher workshop about four years ago where someone told me about Jeff Anderson and his book Everyday Editing.

I immediately bought the book and really wanted to try to start using mentor sentences.  It always seemed like so much work to have the time to pick out sentences, so I never implemented it.  I decided that this quarter would be the perfect time to try it out. I have been trying to plan out what sentences I would use and matching those to the different texts I am using to introduce writing units.  We are doing a genre study for Reading and working on writing narratives for writing.  Then, we will do a novel study and some opinion writing.  Then, we will cover some poetry and lastly review over nonfiction text structures. That comes up the rest of the year.

I was researching resources for mentor sentences.  The best place to start is Ideas by Jivey.
Ideas by Jivey

She has some great blog posts and some great picture book mentor sentence units.  I purchased some of her units.  I am using some of her books, but using some of hers gave me a starting point where I felt motivated to pull out some sentences of my own with other mentor texts I knew I wanted to use.

There also some other TpT sellers who have made some mentor sentence units that are not dependent on a mentor text.  I think this sounds like a great idea if you just want to match it to any curriculum plan. If you do not use a lot of mentor texts, this would be a good way to go. Here are a couple options:

Amber Thomas - 4th grade mentor sentence packs (These seem like a good option, especially if you teach fourth grade.)

Jen Bengel - Monthly interactive edits (These have monthly themed sentences.  I tried these in December.  You make observations about the sentences, but the students are not asked to create their own sentences inspired by the mentor sentence.  The themes are cute though and would work well for a center.)

I personally love the idea of matching it to a mentor text because you can tie it to other writing or reading lessons to always show the interconnectedness of great reading and writing.  I think also encourages students to look for great sentences in what they read.  It shows that we should pay attention to the way writers create great description. We got started this week. I had my students go through the process of writing the sentence in cursive, noticing the sentence structure and then creating their own sentences.  I created this form.  You can have a free copy HERE.

This week we used a mentor sentence from the book Crow Call by Lois Lowry.

We are working on personal narratives, and this is a great text for discussing small moments and sensory detail.  I just put the sentence on the board this week.

This was my sentence inspired by the mentor sentence.  I was showing them it did not have to be as long, but they needed to have two complete sentences joined by a semi-colon and try to use some description in their sentence.

Here were some of my students' sentences.  Overall, I think it was a good start with mentor sentences. Some were more descriptive than others, but they still tried to mimic the sentence structure. 

I am hoping to start having them find some sentences in their reading that we could use.  We will be starting a novel unit soon. Have you tried mentor sentences?

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Workshop Wednesday: Easy Resources for Teaching Students to Write Poetry

I am linking up with Jivey's Workshop Wednesday for Writing Poetry.

One of my favorite resources for teaching writing poetry I bought several years ago.  It is this Poetry Writing Handbook for Grades 4-6.  It has examples of lots of different kinds of poems with graphic organizers to help them plan and publishing paper to write the different types of poems.

I also have this Easy Teach Poetry Unit from Mr. Hughes that I got in Educents' Grades 6-8 bundle over the summer. This has similar easy examples and forms to teach different types of poems.

What I like about both of these resources is that they are versatile.  You could easily incorporate any of these types of poems into another topic.  You could write them about novels, animals, Science topics, etc.

I also have Laura Candler's Writing Powerful Poetry.  This is a great resource to really get your kids to work on free verse poetry, creating imagery, and really thinking about creating meaning in poems.

I had decided that for the rest of the year we were going to a unit on surveying the different genres followed by a novel unit based on their genre interests, as well as cover some poetry and review over nonfiction text structures.  I asked my students today if they would rather do a couple weeks of poetry and then a couples weeks of text structure, or if they would rather do like one poetry type and one text structure each week over a longer period.  They decided they liked the idea of doing one text structure type and one poetry type each week.  We will pair this with them having longer to read their novels as well.  I will have them read the entire novel, and then we will discuss the novels and do some projects when they finish the novels.  This way they can read at different paces without feeling like they have to slow down, but we can also squeeze in the text structure and poetry while they read their novels independently.

I am thinking about tying in the nonfiction text structures and poetry together by having them make an autobiographical anthology.  We are working on personal narratives now, so those could be included. Then, their different poems they write could be about their lives, family, and friends.  They also could choose different aspects of their lives to write problem-solution, cause-effect, compare-contrast, etc. paragraphs.  I think it could make a fun project to send home at the end of the year with a great way to review over a lot of things but also encourage some self-reflection.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

How do interactive notebooks interact with technology and online learning?

I really don't enjoy going this long between blog posts.  This figuring out a routine for working full time, working on my PhD, and finding time to workout and blog is not exactly ironed out yet.

I am spending my Spring Break studying, resting, and trying to do a little bit of planning for the third quarter of the school year.  It's hard to believe we only have like 2.5 months left. I really want to focus this last quarter on doing a review of the major concepts.  I feel like I tend to try to do so much that sometimes it is hard to fit in the depth and quality needed. I want to really keep working on getting my students to work on effort and quality.  The only way to do that is to cut down and allow time to go deeper and have application.

I am thinking I would like to have my students make a learning portfolio during this last quarter that could be a keepsake of what they learning in 5th grade. I love the idea of doing interactive notebooks throughout the year, but I have struggled with it since my students work more independently.  I work in a a blended learning environment, where my students learn through teacher-led lessons and online curriculum both. I am thinking about using a resource like Learnzillion to review over some major concepts in Math and Language Arts at the end of the year.

They could take notes on the lessons in a specific format and then have an output or reflection just like you would for interactive notebooks.  Here is a link to a really cute note-taking form I found. I might just copy it to a smaller size, so we could glue it in a notebook.  We may also just follow the format.

You can create accounts in Learnzillion for your students and assign them playlists of lessons and practice quizzes.  You also could just copy links to playlists and provide them to your students in Edmodo or on your own website. Here is a link to an example playlist:

I love the idea of the input and output aspect of interactive notebooks, but it gets a little trickier when not all lessons are teacher-taught. Does anyone know of a great list of output ideas to give students for journal reflections?  We have our own online curriculum, but what I like about the Learnzillion lessons is that they are short and very clear.  I want to try them as a review to see how my students respond to them. I think they will be a good supplement to review.  I want them to take notes on the lessons and then do a creative reflection.

I have also considered making a digital portfolio besides just a notebook type portfolio.  For a digital portfolio you could either use: - Creates a digital binder - Creates a digital portfolio in the form of feeds - Students could build their own website detailing what they learned or - Students could make a blog with posts on what they leaned.

I am leaning toward using Weebly to have them build a website. I think it will be more organized and look visually more appealing.  We will probably make some type of physical notebook, too.  I may even have them take regular notes on paper, but create their creative reflections on the computer and post those to their digital portfolio.  Have you tried doing learning portfolios with your students?  What process did you use?

I really want to see how interactive notebooks evolve as more schools embrace flipped learning and online learning.  How would you blend interactive notebooks with technology?
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