Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Hunger Games Hysteria: How do we know a book is a good fit for us?

I take notes whenever I go through student work/assessments.  I take note of things I'd like to work on with individual students, and I also take note of patterns I notice across big groups of students.  This is how I came up with our spelling list for this Friday; I noticed a common set of misspelled words and decided that we all needed to be able to spell them correctly when we're writing about our reading.

Another pattern I noticed is that many, many sixth graders are reading or have read recently The Hunger Games.  I'm personally a big Hunger Games fan, but I wondered, based on my experiences with and knowledge of the book (basically: it's a tough read!) whether it might be a good time for us to talk some more about how we know books are good fits for us.

Here's what we talked about together in class:

Why do people choose certain books?

  • Recommendations from friends, family (especially siblings and parents), teacher, librarian
  • Look at bestseller lists
  • Type in a genre they like
  • There's a movie out (example: The Hunger Games)
  • Read/hear reviews

After you choose a book, how do you know it's a good fit? (for independent reading)

Thanks, R, for sharing your table's work!

  • Start out with the good ol' five finger rule.  Each student, and then each group, identified all of the words on page four of The Hunger Games that sixth graders might not understand.  We defined "understand" as "able to explain the word meaning to someone else and then use the word in a new sentence." All groups found at least five tough words on this page; by this rule, Hunger Games is pretty hard.
  • You need to be able to re-tell what you read
  • Make sure you can imagine/visualize what's going on
  • You should be able to read it smoothly/fluently out loud
  • You should be able to make logical predictions
  • You should be able to ask logical questions beyond "What is going on?!?!"
  • You should be able to make notes off to the side or on a sticky
  • If you're trying really hard to understand (like using context clues to understand confusing words), and you're getting frustrated, you should try something else

What do we do if we think it's not a good fit after all?

  • Try listening to it on CD
  • Get an adult to read it to you and talk to you about it
  • Buddy read/check comprehension
  • Read a summary of the book, so you know more about it, but then choose a different independent book
  • Wait a few months/year and try again 
  • Ask someone for books that are similar
    • Hunger Games examples: The Line, The Maze Runner (this one is tough, too!), The City of Ember

Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Rivalry: a book talk by Josh P.

Check out this super-professional looking book talk that Josh made! Please leave him some specific, positive feedback :)

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

WONDER-ing Through Our New Read

FINALLY: It's Wonder day #1!  What a thrill to 1. be finished with our big -- and important, but tiring -- round of assessments and 2. get to share this amazing book.

We started out with a very brief preview of the book cover; I decided not to do very many previewing activities, because I'm coming around to the idea that previewing may be more for book selection.  When we're picking out books, we'll read the cover, the blurb, maybe the first chapter, and check out other features to see if it's a book that suits us.  In this case, the other sixth grade teachers and I have already selected the book.

In "real world reading," we also don't have a teacher to guide us through pre-reading activities and discussions ... so today, in an effort to practice doing things the "real" way, we kept it simple.  We just checked out the cover.

We talked about the differences between observations and inferences  (Mrs. Siegfried, are you listening!? We're being all science-y! Woo hoo!)  We observed, for example, that the eye on the cover is bright blue, a big contrast from the rest of the picture.  This led us to wonder why that particular feature was so different.  Later, in the chapter about Auggie's birth story, we had a big AHA! moment that led us to infer why Auggie might want the eye to look different.

Everyone did a lot of thinking in their readers notebooks today! So much thinking on our papers!

Remember our big take-aways? Not just about the book?
1.  Readers ALWAYS have questions.  (It's a "misperception" that good reading means you know all of the answers) Readers wonder.
2. Readers store those questions in their brains and have the patience to wait and look for answers.
3. Readers pay attention to details that help them answer the big and little questions.

Challenge: Do you remember our conversation about Via? Why did we infer in the first chapter that she was Auggie's sister? What later information helped us know for SURE that she is?

Here's my WONDER-ing from block #1 ... what else do you have in your notebook?

Nerd note: I'm currently reading this great teacher book called What Readers Really Do.   Yes, kids, for fun. I embrace my inner nerd... and I'm enjoying trying out some new ideas on you. Bwahaha. :)

Let me know: what do you think of the book so far?

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Reading rec: Son of Neptune

Check out this awesome summer reading project from one of your peers, K.  What a neat way to share a recommendation for Son of Neptune.

Leave her some positive feedback below! Way to go, K.!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Feedback: Summer reading discussions

While you're working on your baseline diagnostic tests, I'm going through the reflections you completed about yesterday's group work.  Here's what I found:

  • Almost every person commented that their group did well on the ABC activity (90% of you listed that as an accomplishment).  What was it about that activity that made you do so well with it?
  • Six people wrote that their groups did not need to improve on anything. Consider that all groups (and all people, really!) have room for growth.
  • About 25% of you wrote that your group needed to work on not goofing off/laughing/joking around so much.  Having fun is okay sometimes, but I think you all are noting that maybe you were playing around when it was time to focus.  During what part of the group work did you find yourself most distracted?  During the summer reading questions discussion?  I wonder at what times you're most likely to be off task.

Thanks so much for your helpful feedback! I'd love to read comments about the questions I've raised here :)

Monday, September 10, 2012

How do we have good book discussions?

I like having a plan in place -- a suggestion about how to start the conversation.

Otherwise, one of two things happen:
1. Awkward silence + awkward staring
2. Talking about random topics (such as the Steelers game, nails, some random YouTube video, anything BUT the book)

Here are our tips for high quality group discussions:

  • Commit to actually talking about the book.
  • Listen to the other people in your group; this is an important sign of respect. Don't be that person who zones out and then repeats a big point three minutes after it's been made.
  • Share your own thoughts instead of just sitting there -- we want to hear what you have to say.
  • Decide what you need to get done by the end of the discussion.
  • Go back to the book/evidence so you know what you're talking about. Don't fake it.

Here's OUR plan to get our conversations started, before we get in to discussing our summer reading questions.

Start with "Alphabet Soup" (an activity I took from the Litlovers website). First think as a group how you want to divide up the task!

Here are two processes we tried for this task in first block :
1. Find a starting point (like start at "A") and then be ready to change course if you start to think of other things
2. Fill in the most obvious letters first, then once your brain is warmed up, go back and fill in the others

Friday, September 7, 2012

Weekend Reading Plan

This weekend, everyone (including me!) is responsible for reading at least an hour, total.

What are some of the things that we have going on this busy weekend?
Soccer games, volleyball games, piano recitals, football games (playing and watching), visiting with relatives, pool parties, going out of town, babysitting, spending time with family, spending time with friends, sleeping, playing video games, going to the mall, baseball games, sleepovers/slumber parties (I'm told that there is a difference), cleaning instruments, acting classes, Japanese/Hebrew/Korean school, church, running, golfing, homework, going downtown, thinking about Halloween

We are busy people!

What and when are we going to read this weekend?
Big Nate Strikes Back (E.) --> going to read in the morning
Out of my Mind (J.) --> going to read in the morning
Merits of Mischief (T.) --> going to read to and from his soccer game
Flush (R.) --> going to read during free time on Saturday
The Hunger Games (D.) --> going to read during free time, especially in the morning
Catching Fire & Holes (C.) --> going to read one hour before bed each night for each book
The Maze Runner (R.) --> going to read in the morning
The Hunt for the Seventh (P.) --> going to read in the morning
Wonder (B.) --> going to read before bed
Flush (A.) --> going to read before bed
Artemis Fowl (J.) --> going to read after lunch
Johnny Tremain (N.) --> going to read when Dad tells him to
The Lemonade War (W.) --> going to read before dinner
Taking Liberty (L.) --> going to read before bed each night
Graphic novel (S.) --> going to read in the morning
The North American Guide to Lighthouses (T.) --> split the time - 15 minutes in the morning and 15 minutes in the evening each day
Super Human (C.) --> going to read each night
Matched (A.) --> going to read in the evenings
Catching Fire (C.) --> going to read whenever she gets the chance (in the car, etc.)

Monday, September 3, 2012

"What's her life like?"

By Cali Gall
Dublin Coffman High School, class of 2016

For anyone who's ever looked at someone in a weelchair and wondered, "What's their life like?"
Well, I can tell you first hand: It's not easy. 

Hi, I'm Cali Gall. I'm just like any other 15 year old girl who's just started her freshman year at Dublin Coffman High School. I love the Hunger Games, hanging out with my friends, and doing everything teenage girls love to do. To me, Saturday night wouldn't be Saturday night without Saturday Night Live, and like many of you, I sat every day in Mrs. Taylor's room as a 6th grader. 

So why would I know about life in a weelchair? 

Simple, I'm in one. 

My story began in June 1997. But it wasn't supposed to start until September 1997. I weighed in at 1 lb. 11 oz. I was the smallest baby most people, still to this day, have ever heard of. I was in the intensive care nursery until I was three months old (that's a long time, most kids get to go home at a few days old.) 

Flash forward to just before my 1st birthday. My parents had noticed I wasn't walking yet, and just sitting up was a monumental struggle. So they took me to the doctor, where it was discovered after a brain scan, that I had Cerebral Palsy. 

It turns out that I'm luckier then most. Only my legs and left hand are affected. Many people with CP can't talk, feed themselves, or are unable to be potty trained. But even though I'm thankful for being so high functioning, does that mean having CP still doesn't suck sometimes?  Nope, still sucks sometimes. 

Can I go over to my friends houses? Nope. They're not accessible. 

Can I spend the night alone somewhere? Nope. Can't take myself to the bathroom. 

Did it suck not being able to try out for the tennis team at school even though I desperately wanted (and still want) to? You bet. 

So how can I still have a positive outlook? I owe that to my parents who have taught me that being different is not a bad thing but actually a good thing. They have chosen not to sugarcoat my disability, but rather work around it the best we can. 

So, what do the kids that can't communicate, don't have parents like mine, what do they do? Well my friends, that is just what Mrs. Taylor and I want to fix. But we need YOU, so please, if you'd like to help, contact Mrs. Taylor with any questions you may have. Remember, we can only pull this off if we ALL work together. 


Mrs. Taylor's note: Cali is one of the brightest, funniest, most thoughtful students I've ever had.  She is passionate about advocating for other students who have disabilities but who can't share their stories like she can share hers.  Please email me at taylor_gretchen@dublinschools.net if you'd like to become an expert in a disability facing kids just like you; together, we can help Cali realize her dream of a Disabilities Fair and a kinder world for everyone.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Commitment: How Readers are like Olympians

We started class Friday by reading about Olympians and thinking about how their journeys might be similar to readers' reading journeys.  Remember that your task was to highlight or circle words or phrases that were written about athletes but could also apply to the reading process. I walked around and noted on a sticky the most common highlights I saw:

The biggest word on the Wordle -- and therefore, the word that came up most often on your papers -- is commitment.  It's an appropriate choice, given that we then focused our talk on committing to reading goals.  As M. pointed out, it's easy to put off reading, but if you commit, then you have to fulfill a commitment.

Everyone should have his/her first reading goal ready to roll.  We'll add them to your planners for September, and at the end of the month, we'll work together to figure out what worked, how you need support (help with your schedule, book recommendations, a reading buddy, etc.), and what a revised October goal should be.

In the meantime, if your biggest obstacle is finding the time to read (this is the most common obstacle I hear), check out your tips for COMMITTING time to reading:

  • Read on the bus home from school (if you're on a quiet bus!)
  • Read on the bus on the way to school (ditto)
  • Read for a half hour after school
  • Read in the car on the way to tournaments
  • If you get carsick, listen to a book on CD/iPod
  • Go up to bed a half hour early and read
  • Read during Study Center (my Study Center is always quiet)
  • Have a friend, family member, or teacher to check in with -- tell them how many pages you'll read a certain night or week, and have them follow up with you
  • Partner up with a friend to read the same book -- the mini-book club will hold you responsible for reading
  • Cut back on TV or video games. Notice that I didn't say to cut them out completely (depending on your household rules!), but reconsider your use of time.  I compare it to eating chocolate cake.  Boy would I LOVE to eat a whole chocolate cake -- it would taste great at the time, but then afterward, I know that I wouldn't feel great (and if I did it all the time, it would be bad for my health!).  I'm sure it's fun to play four hours of video games, but I also bet afterwards, you feel groggy and out of it.  All cake and screen time in moderation.  Do something good for your brain, too (read) :)