Read Aloud With a Twist

27 03 2011

I always like to read a loud a book to my students, but I sometimes find it tedious to read the same section over each period. I also feel like my kids hear me talk enough, that a different voice may be nice to shake things up. So I decided to try a new way to read aloud- I got the audio CD copy of Juvie Three by Godan Korman and I put it on my IPod. We then listened to the book as a class. After a few days of just listening, I decided to let the kids see the words as we listened to the reader read. I put the book on the Elmo so that those that wanted to read along as they were listening could. I let the kids be the ones who moved the book on the Elmo and turned the pages as we went and they loved doing that! Overall the kids liked listening to a different voice, and seeing the story unfold on the overhead screen. It was especially nice since the main character was a boy, to hear a male voice read the story.  I definitely won’t do this every time we read a story aloud, but it broke up just hearing me read aloud. I am currently reading aloud Leon’s Story– a short true story about a boy growing up in the late 1930’s and early 1940’s. Check it out if you haven’t heard of it before-A VERY powerful story that is short to read aloud to a group and lends itself to great discussion.



Theme & Symbolism in one quick hit!

9 11 2009

Fly Away HomeI find that students constantly struggle with distinguishing the theme from the plot. I try to read a lot of picture books and have them tell me the theme after we have read it. I recently  read Fly Away Home by Eve Bunting to my students and I had them pick out the theme. It is a story about a dad and young boy who live in an airport because they are homeless. It is also a good segway into discussing the topic of homelessness and reasons people are homeless etc… We also talked about symbolism (the bird represents that there is hope and that the boy and dad have hope to someday get a home). This can be used as a warm up to spark student’s writing ideas in their writing notebooks.5 minute picture book= symbolism, theme and a discussion, or at least a thought in student’s s mind about a social issue- can’t go wrong!

The Importance of Writing Daily

28 10 2009

It is so important to have students write daily, even if it is only for a few minutes and it is extremely important for students to see you writing and sharing with them. Writing WITH the students shows students that you value writing and it is important to you. I know it is so tempting to do all those classroom tasks while they are quietly working, but think about what that is conveying to your kids. If you have to do the classroom tasks, at least write before class and explain that you wrote earlier in the day and share some of your writing.

Every day, even on days when I don’t do writing workshop, I have them do what I call a “Warm It Up”. I give the students something to think about and then let them write for about 5-7 min. They can write about the prompt idea, OR anything else they want. {I do hate the word prompt. So many times teachers, myself included in the past, have given students a meaningless prompt and asked them to write about it. For example, write about a time with your pet. What about those of us who don’t have pets??!! } I encourage the to continue writing the entire time.

Today I showed them the book: Life’s Little Instruction Book: 511 Suggestions, Observations, and Reminders on How to Live a Happy and Rewarding Life. by Jackson Brown Jr.

Life's Instruction bookI had them come up with advice, funny, witty, serious, about school, life, teenagers etc.. and share them. It was great to hear what they wrote. I even am considering having my classes write their own advice book. It may be an end of the year project that they leave for future students??

I loved that when I told them to put their writer’s notebooks away, they were still frantically jotting down more advice that came to mind as others were sharing! 🙂

The power of a read aloud

27 10 2009

Old HenryToday I read, Old Henry by Joan Blos. I stopped in a few key places throughout the book and the students sketched what they were thinking, or what the story was about. The book’s wise and witty tale is about different kinds of people learning to get along. Henry’s house is worn down and he doesn’t keep his lawn groomed. His neighbors get upset and try to make him change his ways. Henry moves away and then the neighbors realize that they miss him. At the end of the book, Henry writes a letter to the mayor of the town asking if he can come back.

I had the students write a response letter from the mayor to Henry with his decision. We then shared our sketches and letters. We also are working on theme and character type. The students had to identify the theme of the story and the type of character Henry is (round, dynamic)

It was a quick way to review some vocabulary terms we have been working with, and to have the students listen to a story and do a little writing!! I love that even with eighth graders, they still LOVE hearing a story read to them. They all listen intently and they really enjoyed sketching (a non-threatening way to practice comprehension). We also got a laugh out of which students let Henry come back and which students said stay away in their letters.

Using THE word in class… Writing workshop!!

26 10 2009

Relatives Came

When I was young in mountains

I finally introduced the word writing workshop to my students. We went through what a typical writing workshop day will look like:

Warm Up
Minilesson of some kind

We are doing writing workshop two days a week, sometimes three. Every Monday and Tuesday is writing workshop (WW) day. The students have been writing in their writer’s notebook their writing territories heart map ( a heart shaped paper that they wrote the things they cared about, memories, trips, people who are important to them etc..) and their “piggy bank” of writing ideas ( a piggy bank printed on a paper that they write genres they want to try and pieces they want to write and audiences they want to write to).
I made a powerpoint of how writing workshop will work- what our days will be like,what to write, where to get ideas etc… Every other Friday is going to be open mic. in which the students will be able to share pieces they have written, or book reviews that they have. If they want, I will record them and put it in a podcast on the website for them to listen to later.

I anticipated them not being sure what to write, so I in order to help them with what to write I started with writing memoirs. I read them, The Relatives Came by Cynthia Rylant. We talked about what memoirs are, and looked at some previous student’s work. I then had them create a timeline of their lives to try to pick an event that is meaningful to them and that they want to always remember. I also read When I was Young in the Mountains by Patricia Polocco. As we are working on memoirs I keep trying to show them different examples of memoirs and get them to think of something to write about that is important to them. As a warm up I also had them write 25 random things, facts, goals and dreams about themselves. After all of these different ideas I gave to them- I figured they all had to have something to write about!

During writing workshop- I am letting them either work on their memoir, OR any other piece they want to write. The students LOVE this time to just write. They seem very interested in writing letters to their favorite bands, actors, people and companies asking for freebies! An awesome moment was when they asked me if I could show them the correct letter format!!! It was great to see them care about writing correctly because they are writing authentically!!!

After the first week of WW, I went through the revision and editing card strategy that we practiced with our short stories at the beginning of the year. More on that to come…. (click here to see my post on revision and editing)

First few weeks into the school year…..

26 10 2009

Mysteries of Harris BurdickTime flies when you are having fun reading and writing with the kids. At the beginning of the week I read The Important Book to the students and they created an important page about themselves. We then bound it in a class book and put it in our library.

I have been having the students do what I call a Warm It Up at the beginning of class every day. I either read a picture book and they respond, show them an object or picture and they write. This week I used a ceramic doorstop that was a fish as a writing prompt. I also used a Time Picture of the week as a writing prompt. The only thing I told the students was to write about the object/ picture etc.. in any way they want. They can write a story about the prompt, create a poem or describe what they see. I then had each student share one line from their writing as we went around the room.
So far I haven’t mentioned the word writing workshop to them. I am just showing them that I value reading, writing and sharing in our classroom.
The first writing assignment I am currently working on with them is writing what I call a quick publish. This is for me to see their writing skills and to gage what they are struggling with, and what I need to focus on. We read T
he Old Woman Who Named Things wrote and discussed what the story elements were. We discussed what writers do when they start a story ( I wanted them to realize that writers brainstorm before just writing), The students then picked a picture from The Mysteries of Harris Burdick or a person from a 1948 graduating class photo frame that I photocopied when they were hanging in our school. The students were told to create a graphic organizer and brainstorm their ideas for their short story. Next week we will work on writing the short stories and editing them with our new writing workshop editing procedures that I hope to use.

Starting the year out reading and writing….

26 10 2009

Way to Start a DayFrom the first few weeks of school:

Although I am not completely doing writing workshop, I am working them into it. I am reading and having them write and share every day. I am setting the expectations now that I value reading and writing. When they write- I do too.
Writing Notebooks: For their writing notebooks, I have them write what I call the Warm it up part ( at the beginning of class). The back half of the notebook will be used for reading response and the very last five pages will be for their writing territories that I will work with them on next week.

So far, I have read to them:
One: I read aloud, The Way to Start a Day by Byrd Baylor and had them write about their ideal way to start a day, or school year. Then I had them pick a word, quote or phrase to share with the class.

Day Two: I read aloud, I’m In Charge of Celebrations by Byrd Baylor. I had them create a celebration and explain what they would celebrate. Again, I did a quick quaker share-each person shared their celebration and one thing they would do during that celebration.

Day Three: I read aloud, The book, Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge by Mem Fox. I stopped periodically throughout the book and had the students sketch whatever they want related to the story when I tell them to. The sketches don’t have to be detailed, or well done. At the end, I had the students share with someone around them their sketches and explain why they drew what they did.

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