Sunday, March 20, 2011

Kevin Henkes Mouse Pointers

Each of the children has received their own personal mouse puppet this week, sewed by our own Para Extraordinaire Lee Cordoza. The children have been using these little puppets as pointers to keep their place in reading and as their own little puppet character as they read. Just ask them their character's name and they can all tell you!

Readers' Theatre- Choral Style

The children are each practicing an individual part with a Kevin Henkes Readers' Theatre script. At the same time they are practicing a script that they are reading with as a group. Both readings work on fluency - the ability to read like talking with expression. The script with individual parts gives the students a chance to really work on hearing their own voice. The choral reading has more support so that even the weakest reader can use the support of the other readers for words that may be difficult or for reading with expression. Listen as the children begin their choral reading practice.

Monday, March 14, 2011


Transferring the skills that we are learning in our Author Study to our general reading is our goal. We want the children to understand that learning about story elements (characters, setting, problem and solution) in our Kevin Henkes books helps us understand any fictional story - that if we understand the structure of a narrative story that it will help us predict what will happen in any fictional story and understand comprehension at a deeper level. So that our children can practice using story elements across their reading, we had them use the same graphic organizer that they used for the Kevin Henkes' stories to organize "just right" stories from their reading bin. The children used their reading response notebooks to record the story elements of one of their own fictional books.On the first page the student drew a triangle and recorded the characters, setting and the problem in the story.On the next page he drew a large rectangle and drew the events. Some students wrote three events and others wrote four or six events, depending on the action in the story. On the last page the child drew a circle and inside that ending shape, wrote the solution to the problem in the story. In this way students are transferring the organization of the retelling of the Kevin Henkes' stories into their own reading lives.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Rubric with Response to Literature

As we begin to complete our written responses to Kevin Henkes' books to go in our portfolios around our Kevin Henkes Author Study, the children are given a rubric to help them decide when "good is good enough." We want them to be able to look at their own work and then look at the expectations for a response and begin to work on the revision process by themselves and during conferences with the teacher. We also want them to begin to internalize some of the editing techniques that we have taught. Revising and editing are not always easy for a first grader! Above is our Response Rubric and below Dazha's response to Kevin Henkes' Wemberly Worried with revision and editing comments in red. Wemberly Worried by Kevin Henkes
Have you ever been worried a lot? If you have, you will know how Wemberly Worried was feeling when she was worried.
This first page and the last page were actually added after the retelling was complete. As Dazha went back and compared her work to the rubric, she realized that she had not included an opening to hook her reader, a connection (which was optional) and a closing, so she added them as the last pieces of her response.In the beginning Wemberly Worried was worried about everything. She was unique because she worried a lot. She worried about big things, little things, and things in between. Wemberly worried in the morning. She worried at night. And she worried throughout the day. And she worried about her doll Petal.
The second sheet is actually the back of the first sheet which shows that Dazha used a technique for inserting information of putting a star on the front page where the insertion is to take place and then writing the information on the back of the page. In this case, Dasha wanted to get extra credit for using one of the vocabulary words, "unique," that we had been studying as part of this Kevin Henkes Author Study, so she added it during the revision process!In the middle she went to school and was worried but she made a friend that had a stuffed animal just like her. They played with each other.At the end Mrs. Peachum said, "Come back tomorrow!" Then Wemberly said, "Don't worry. I'll come back tomorrow." And when she got home Wemberly, her mom and dad danced around in a circle.
Remember when I told you that have you ever been worried a lot? Well I have. When my mom goes in the car washer I get scared, but things come our okay. If you have things that you were worried about they will come out okay.
When Dazha came to this writing conference she wanted to close her response with a connection which she had written, "When my mom..." but when she reread her closing she decided that she wanted it to connect back to the beginning so she added the first sentence on this page and then used the insertion editing mark to add in the middle of the last sentence.

Dazha has learned so much during this unit. She began with the retelling (which was easy for her) of a beginning with the characters, setting and problem and then moved to the middle with its events and then finally the ending which solves the problem. Then she used her rubric to identify the missing parts of her response and added an engaging beginning and a closing to wrap up the piece. She also showed that she had learned some techniques for inserting information by using a star and writing information to be added on the back of the paper and also by using the insertion editing mark to add right above the writing. She even thought about adding a connection which was optional and a vocabulary word for extra credit! Look out Dazha - I might be standing in line one day getting your autograph after you publish your first book!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Kevin Henkes Readers' Theatre

For two weeks we are using Readers' Theatre to culminate our Readers' Workshop unit of author and illustrator Kevin Henkes. Readers' Theatre is a lot like reading a play with children assigned specific parts. The difference is that the children are not expected to memorize their lines and they don't walk around on the stage. Instead they stand in a straight row and "read" their lines. The purpose of Readers' Theatre is for students to practice reading like they talk - to help them read with fluency including with expression. The students gather in a circle each day and practice reading their lines in order. They practice being kind to each other and waiting patiently until a child asks for help before giving a word to a child that might be struggling with an unknown word - no small task. The mini-lessons as demonstration and practice or reading with expression. On Friday the children performed their first scripts. On Monday they will get a new script with a new group or actors. They will perform their new script next Friday!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

March Madness

I'm not sure what "March Madness" means in your part of the world, but at Chets Creek it means that the Principal is coming for a read aloud. Susan Phillips does one of the best read alouds in the building. She was a kindergarten teacher and you can tell the moment she starts to read aloud. She dropped into my class to read the 2001 Chets Creek Book-of-the-month, Apple Batter, yesterday. Not only was the book a delightful story about perseverance that the children LOVED, but the Principal guided my students through a question and answer session to help them think deeper about the characters and the story line.

As a Leadership Team we have identified read aloud as the starting place to deepen our children's comprehension skills in our building. While we want children to think deeply so that they are ready for our state assessment beginning in third grade, comprehension is about so much more than the ability to answer tricky questions on a state assessment! We want our children to fall in love with stories. We want them to beg us to finish reading a story that we have started in class. We want them to sneak books home and read them under the covers after lights out. We want them to speed through breakfast so they can get to school and share the latest adventure with a friend that they read the night before. In other words, we just want them to leave elementary school in love with reading. We believe we can do this by talking about books and choosing books that make children emotional - whether the book makes them excited, happy, sad or boiling mad! That is why Mrs. Phillips is spending time with every single classroom of students. Besides, she really likes spending time with kids! It's one of her favorite things to do!
Listen to a piece of the story to see just what the Principal is doing during OUR March madness!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Demo-teaching 2011

One of the best things about Chets Creek is that we do lots of demo-teaching which means doing demonstration lessons for our peers and for visitors. Today I had the pleasure of watching a demonstration lesson by co-teachers Carrie McLeod and Laurie Thompson. Our Standard's Coach Suzanne Shall arranged the lesson for both the Reading Council and primary Science Council which means the teachers watching the lesson were the grade level leads for Reading and Writing at each grade level and the grade level Science leads for the primary school, plus, of course, the Standard's Coach and Principal. No pressure! I am sure Carrie and Laurie had a moment of stressful concern, wondering why they ever agreed to do this, but Chets Creek is a forum where risk-taking is admired and celebrated, and it is a safe environment where peers support and help each other... so they took a deep breath... and it was - on with the show!

The point of this lesson was to show both Reading, Writing and Science teachers what echoes across the day can look like. We know that we get a bigger bang for our buck when we are able to integrate the Science content into our reading and writing lessons and when we are able to practice those reading and writing skills in Science.

Readers' Workshop
Mini-lesson: Today's big topic in reading was Reading Like a Writer. Carrie and Laurie, whose rituals and routines are crisp and clean, began with a mini-lesson connecting today's lesson with the bigger topic. Next for the teach, they showed the students a report written by a 2nd grader (completed in 2nd grade but pulled from a 4th grader's cum writing portfolio!) The teachers identified some of the text features in the report, such as the Table of Contents, words highlighted that were found in the Glossary, headings, captions, etc. - all text features that had been covered in earlier lessons. Then the teachers labeled each noticing with a stickie note. For the active involvement they turned to a new page of the report and had the students "turn and talk" about their noticings so that the students could practice the strategy that had just been demonstrated. The teachers pulled the group back together and had them share out their labeled noticings. The link involved giving each group of two or three students a different 2nd grade report to repeat the same - notice and label text features.

Work Session: As the students divided into small groups (effortlessly!) they each received a 2nd grader's report that had been completed in years past (pulled from cum writing portfolios). Each of the small groups worked independently until they were joined by one of the two teachers to discuss their noticings and labeling. All of the observing teachers were either watching one of the presenting teachers meet with a small group or were soon sitting with a small group themselves helping the children through the task, asking them questions about what they were learning and generally thinking about how they could redesign some of their own work after seeing the lesson. The room was full of artifacts to support the learning that is being integrated. For instance, it is obvious how the day is integrated when you look at the essential questions posted each day. You can see some of the earlier mini-lessons as you read some of the charts that are hanging around the room. As students completed their noticings of the 2nd grade reports, they went to their independent reading, half of the students on the floor reading and half reading in their seats. As the students read quietly Laurie pulled a small group together to reinforce the strategies of text features in a non-fiction leveled book that was on this small group's reading level. At the same time, Carrie, pulled a different small group to go over testing strategies of a state assessment-style non-fiction test. I am assuming this group was pulled together after a task analysis of last week's assessment to work with the students that had specific difficulties with specific types of non-fiction questions. The point is that both of these small groups are off the topic that is echoing across the day!

Closing: The presenting teachers chose two groups as they were circulating to present in the closing. Each group had chosen one example to highlight for the larger group - a text feature that they had noticed and labeled with a stickie note.

Writers' Workshop
We had the good fortune to be able to stay for the Writers' mini-lesson so that we could see how these same lessons were being incorporated into the writing part of the day. The Writers' Workshop also included the 4-part mini-lesson.
Mini-lesson: The teachers began with connecting today's lesson with what the students were doing in reading and what they are doing in Science, which is a habitat and life cycles unit. For the teach the teachers are using butterflies as their example of a topic for writing a report. The students have plenty of background knowledge for this example because they are raising butterflies during Science. The teachers have a seed journal where they have been taking notes about caterpillars and butterflies. As the students begin their writing, they will each choose different animals to write a report on its habitat and life cycle. Some of the previous lessons are obvious, both from charts in the room and the teacher's seed journal example. Today's lesson was on how to organize the notes from the seed journal. The teacher thinks aloud her decision to start with a chapter on "Appearance" and then numbers her notes so that the sequence makes sense. For the active involvement she then turns to a new page in the seed journal where she has taken notes and has the children "turn and talk" about how they would organize this page of information. The link gives the children the facts they need to use the information they have just learned as they go into the work session.

At that point, we had to leave. We had been in the classroom for an hour watching this unforgettable lesson. We will debrief this lesson after school tomorrow. It will be interesting to see if my colleagues took away as much as I did. As for me, there will be things I will tweak and change in my classroom tomorrow because I have had this opportunity today!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Kevin Henkes Attribute Chart

On one of the side walls in our classroom the class has been working on an attribute chart of Kevin Henkes' books. Pictures of the books' covers run across the top of the chart. Down the left side are the headings for a retelling: Characters, Setting, Problem, Events and Solution. Each category represents a mini-lesson on a different day. For instance on one day we talked about Kevin Henkes' characters, the difference between main characters and supporting characters and how characters change during a story. I modeled selecting the main character from one of the books, drawing a picture of the character and writing the name of the character on an index card. Then each student was invited to choose a favorite Kevin Henkes' book, draw a picture of the character and write the name on an index card of his own. Then we chose a card for each of the titles. To show the children how the information in the mini-lesson transfers to a book of their own, each child was invited to identify a main character in a fictional "just right" book in the individual book bin and then to share out their discovery in our closing meeting.
On another day, the children completed cards on settings, problems and solutions. The events took a little more time since the children had to identify the events that show the steps in solving the problem of each story. In this case, I modeled one story and then invited the children to turn and talk to a partner. Together we wrote the events for each story over several days. This attribute chart will be a reference as the children begin writing their retellings.