Thursday, January 22, 2015

Tuck Everlasting {Introduction and Prologue}

We started our novel study for Tuck Everlasting this week.  Now, this story is NOT a read aloud.  (we are reading Wonder for that.)  Instead, this is a whole group novel that we are reading to learn about story elements, figurative language, grammar, and fluency.  We use this book in lieu of the anthology, but are learning the same skills that we would if we were sticking tight to the basal.  So this book is something that will have the kids reading, rereading, and then reading again.

To introduce the story, I had the students examine the actual physicality of the book before I told them anything about it.  We did this with our first novel study, Gregor the Overlander, as well.  First, I read the title to the kids.  I ask them to make an inference and predict what the story will be about, simply based on the title.   They wrote their ideas on a sticky note and we shared out. Then, I placed the book cover on the doc cam and asked them to make a new prediction on a sticky note.   Using the visuals, how did that impact their thoughts on the book?  Again, we discussed.  Finally, I read the plot summary on the back of the book and one last time had the students write their thoughts on the book on a sticky.

What is interesting is hearing how some students really want to stick with their original predictions based on the title, EVEN after being faced with the new ideas presented in the visuals and the book summary.  They were very gung-ho in their initial thoughts!

Now, if you have ever read Tuck Everlasting, you know that it is heavy in figurative language.  There is so much imagery brought to the reader through metaphors, similes, personification, etc...that it would be a disservice to this book to read it without really dissecting the use of these writing techniques.  So, to start us off, I created a huge figurative language chart to display in our classroom (yes, I did use my window space.)  As we read the story, and as we find examples of figurative language, we will be adding it to the chart.  (using window markers)  The chart will grow as our understanding of the story grows!

So there you have it.  A few of my introductory things to get us going on Tuck Everlasting.   What do you do to introduce a novel? (not necessarily this one, but any novel that can universally be used.)

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Foreshadowing {in Tuck Everlasting}

Foreshadowing is a technique that authors use all the time, yet I find myself rarely discussing it in class.  Well, I thought I would do a little close reading of the prologue in Tuck Everlasting and have the students annotate the text to show evidence of foreshadowing.

We started by making an anchor chart for the literary technique.  The students took notes in their reading journals.  While we did this, the students naturally came up with examples from other books we had read aloud in class where the new-to-them device was used.  That was a promising sign ;)

Then, I passed out a photocopy of the Prologue to each student (as I didn't want them writing in my brand new books!)  On it, I had them write the main purpose of our annotation at the top of the page.  We wrote:

Purpose:  Underline evidence of foreshadowing in the text and write any thoughts about what it may be a foreshadow of.

For five minutes, the students worked independently.  I wanted to see what they would do alone before I led them through any example or they had partners to bounce ideas off of.  Then, once the five minutes were over, I had the students work with their seat partners.  They continued to annotate while I walked around asking them to explain to me what was being underlined and why, as well as asking them what their notes were in reference to.

After five more minutes (because there wasn't *that* much foreshadowing in the prologue), I called them together.  We discussed the foreshadowing and, more importantly, how they thought it was going to impact the rest of the story. 

The students really understood this topic by the end of this 20 minute lesson.  I really foresee great things coming from this lesson in our literary future!  (you see what I did there???  ;))

Want more Bright Ideas?  Visit my bloggy friends below for some great posts you can bring into your own classroom.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

The Answer Is....PART TWO

My classroom is an ever evolving entity (a Triple E if you will....).  I try something new and it may work or it may not.  Sometimes, things that I try actually grow even more from their inception.  That is what is happening with "The Answer Is...".   A few months back I posted about how I was using "The Answer Is" in my classroom (you can read about it here).  I wanted to post an update to tell you how it has evolved and changed to become even more interactive.

Each week, the students complete a "The Answer Is..." card, creating a good (usually multistep) word problem that goes along with each answer.  At the end of the week, I have been putting the cards with the problems into a little white container.  For a while, we didn't do anything with them.  But now, those little cards in the little container are a part of my problem solving station in the math rotation block.

Now, each week, the students grab one of the cards out of the little container and they have to solve it.  But solving it wouldn't be all that difficult (because, let's face it, the problem authors are actually 5th graders, so the problems aren't always that challenging!)  So in addition to also solving the problem, the students must DISSECT the problem using the problem solving strategies we have been using in class.

At the beginning of the year, I started teaching my students how to build better math responses using Jen Runde's pack from her store.  It truly has made my students think more deeply about their math responses.

So I had my students take those strategies and apply them to the Answer Is.  During the problem solving session of their math rotation, the students go to the "White Box" Answer Is area (we call it that because I put the index cards in a white box.)  and pick up a slip at random.  Then, they start solving the problem in the workspace on the response sheet.  While solving it, the students are color-coding their response. 

Doing this helps them to really see each step of what they are doing.  It helps them to distinguish between the various stages of solving a problem AND it forces them to actually write about what they are doing, instead of simply solving it.

This really has been the perfect way to up the rigor on an already rigorous activity...and keep the kids meaningfully engaged.

Want to try a free sample of the math response sheet I use from Runde's Room?  Click the preview in her store and one will come up to print out for you!

Friday, January 9, 2015

Free Up Some Time with Fifth Grade Freebies!

Fifth grade is the grade that I have spent the longest time as a teacher.  I have taught many other grades, but really, when it comes down to it, 5th is where my heart is.  Because of that, I am super excited to bring you, my loyal blog readers, an entire blog dedicated to fifth grade!  I am a contributor on Fifth Grade Freebies, a blog that strives to bring you the highest quality fifth grade ideas, lessons, and FREEBIES for you to use in your own classroom!

I am teaming up with 14 of the blog contributors to bring you an awesome blog hop filled with great freebies along the way....and when you make it to the end, there is a special giveaway in store for you!

So here we are, the start of the hop and I have a nice little time-freeing freebie for you.  This is something I use in my classroom to help the students with the scientific process.  It is a little trifold that we use for each and every experiment that our class conducts.  I find that it is really helpful in making the students think about their experiments and the required elements.  They know that each section must be filled in and it is something that now, after using it for some time, I can grab and give to them and KNOW that their science experiments will follow the correct process!  And now with our school-wide science fair on the horizon, using the proper experiment process is even more important!

Now it is time to hop to pick up your next freebie!  Head to Jennifer's blog Teaching with Grace for a great freebie I know you will be sure to love!

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Teaching Literary 5 Days

This past semester, I implemented reading rotations into my classroom.  I am still tweaking them and trying to get them to work as fluidly as math rotations, but the one thing that has been SPECTACULAR for my teaching has been breaking the concepts I am imparting to 5 days.  Teaching these big ideas (such as conflict or theme or plot) within the span of one week has been a lifesaver for me!  I wanted to share the basic flow of the lessons with you, since it is this flow that has helped me so much.

I begin each week by introducing the concept and creating some sort of anchor chart with the students.  These anchor charts become something we refer to each day the rest of the week.  They really help to cement the ideas for the students and are a key to the actual learning of the concept.

Day one is basically a concept introduction.  Day two is when we interact with the concept.  Usually I give the students some sort of short story or a series of one sentence plot summaries to help demonstrate the concept.  Sometimes I even have them use the reading passages that we are using in class.  But the second day is when the kids really interact with the concept.

On day three, the students are much more invested and knowledgeable about the literary concept that they are learning.  This is when I have them work on their own to show the literary element in the reading passages.  This is when they usually have to dig into the text we are reading and find evidence of the literary element.  They might have to draw a picture of the setting, citing the evidence from the text as to how they knew about the setting.  Or they may have to read the story we are working on and pull out quotes that signify the theme.

Day four and five are writing days.  This is when the students take what they were learning in their *reading* and apply it in *writing*.  Why do I do this?  Simple.  THE TEST is going to have them do it.  They will need to be able to write about their thoughts, pulling evidence from the text to support their thinking.  So, after three days of learning about the concept, the kids are then able to begin the process of writing about that learning.  I always have them use the reading we were doing in class.  They have to pull evidence from the text to talk about character traits or setting or theme. 

Doing these 5 day long sessions has really really REALLY helped my students understand the literary concepts that I have been teaching.  What is even better, is that my students are engaged in the lessons!  I only teach 20 minutes a day.  That is it.  So the kids are focused, they learn, and they APPLY the learning.  I have seen such success with this model!

Is this something you think you could do as well?   Have you been doing a 5 day format in your room?  What are some advantages you have seen?
Now, you could definitely take this model and come up with your own lessons.  BUT if you would like to use the lessons (the actual lesson plans) that I use, you can get them here.  They really, honestly, and truly have made a difference in my classroom....and I hope they will in yours too.