Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Writers Notice Things and Write Them Down

As you are preparing to finish your year, one of the things that is probably on your mind is: How can I encourage my students to be lifelong writers now that they are leaving me?  I was asked to do lessons with students as they attended their last few days of the school year. I would only have them for 1/2 hour. What could I teach them in that short time to help them be better writers? That was my thinking as I prepared for that day.

My lesson ended up being: Writers notice things and write them down.  Here is the lesson I came up with for notebook writing and helping students to be better observers and therefore, better writers. It might be something you want to try with your students on these last days of the year.

Writers notice things and write them down
Lesson: Notebook Work….Snapshots
I really enjoy taking pictures. One thing I take pictures of is just snapshots of things I observe around my neighborhood. I observe things very closely. Let me show you a couple of my snapshots. [Show pictures of daisies and two bird nest pics]

What do you observe in these pictures? Turn and Talk
When I took those shots, what senses did I use? Turn and Talk

When we write, we also need to be good observers. Using our senses helps with that. I want to show you an example of how one student did that. [Use from LWN N-5] Quinnee is in 4th grade. She took a walk outside and wrote this in her notebook. As I read it, notice which of the senses she used. Turn and Talk
You can do this, too. You can collect snapshots of your world with words. You might even want to add a drawing or sketch if you think that would enhance the snapshot you’re trying to create. You don’t have to go to a faraway place to find ideas to write about. If you get in the habit of observing, you’ll find that there are plenty of things close by.

Today we are going to make a snapshot book to collect our snapshots. [Make book—foldable—put sense on each page & page for wonderings] We are going outside, quietly, and become observers. As a writer, you should do TWO things:

1.    Notice things
2.    Get in the habit of writing them down

(This lesson was taken from ideas from Lessons for the Writer's Notebook by Ralph Fletcher and JoAnn Portalupi.)

Friday, May 3, 2013

Making Revision Work For You in the Classroom

In May, many classrooms are doing a unit of study on revision.  Actually, all classrooms should be discussing revision as a tool for their workshop. This time of year is when students reflect on what they know about revision no matter what genre they are writing. This is a great time to allow students to choose the genre they want to write and then incorporate the revision study with all those genres. I decided I would share with you some of the books I have used as help for me when I teach this unit or when I see children doing something that needs further study. Here are a few of my favorites.
The book: The No-Nonsense Guide to Teaching Writing by Judy Davis and Sharon Hill is one of my most used books. It has chapters on various units of study and it is easy to follow. There is also one chapter on revision. It is called: 'Mastering the Magic of Revision'. What a great way to think of revision.  It is not a time that you have to go back and rip out and start over. It is a magical time to make your piece come alive.
Making Revision Matter is by Janet Angelillo. She is a favorite author of many in northeastern Indiana because she has visited and trained many of us. I have this book tabbed with loads sticky notes hanging out of it. First of all, she gives actually mini lessons that teachers can use from the beginning of the year to the end of the year. She also has a year long curriculum with ways to teach revision in various genre studies. As she takes the reader through the year she shows how to deepen the study of revision.

If you are always asking yourself: "How can I get my students to revise their writing?", then this is the book for you. The Revision Toolbox by Georgia Heard not only gives basic ideas on how to revise. She talks about how to get the students to know the difference between revision and editing. She uses three main toolboxes: words, structure, and voice. She also has a chapter on conferencing techniques just for revision.

I love this quote by Barry Lane: "Until a teacher promotes choice and responsibility among her students, the tools of craft this book has to offer won't help students become writers." This is the practical way Barry undertakes in writing After The End. His simple samples of ideas to use in inviting students to revise is so beneficial to teacher who do not have time to read whole books or even whole chapters to find what they need to teach. By simply picking up the book, opening to any page, there will be an idea for a lesson. Barry also encourages teachers to become writers themselves. "For years researchers like Donald Graves have done work to show that teachers who can model writing process through their own writing have a tremendous advantage in transforming their classroom into a community of writers." This is a challenge for teachers as they are looking forward to some "down time" in a few weeks. Take some time to become writers yourself. This is the best way to prepare for the fall and a new year with a community of writers!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

How To Pump Gas

We are winding down our Gramma Preschool. The things we are doing are all coming together and Meron is feeling more and more anxious about going to kindergarten next year. I want to be sure she has everything she needs to be successful as she enters her years of schooling.

This week for writing I let her take the lead.  I asked her what she wanted to write about for that session.  We talked about writing a story. I suggested writing about what she had learned about magnets. That was our science project for our day. She had discovered that magnets picked up some things and didn't pick up others. We put our findings in her Science Notebook. She had another idea. She wanted to write about how to pump gas.
On our way from her house to Gramma's house, we had to stop and get gas. Her first question was, "Can I help pump the gas?"  I thought about it. Well, it would take longer if she "helped". Still, it would make a great learning experience. 

I pulled up to the pump and she piled out of the backseat. I popped open the door for the gas to be pumped and she unscrewed the cap. I put the credit card in the slot. Each thing we did, I explained what was happening. We put the hose into the car and held the handle down. Then we did a counting exercise as we counted up the gallons of gas going into the car. After awhile it was full and the hose clicked to tell us to stop. We then put the hose back into the pump, she screwed on the cap and shut the gas door. Climbing into the backseat again, she said, "I know how to pump gas, don't I Gramma?"

That is where she got her idea for the book. Not only did she want to write that book, she also knew who the audience would be. As she wrote she said, "I want to give this book to Audrey for her birthday!"  Audrey is her four-year-old cousin.  You never know when you will have to help someone pump gas!

Monday, April 29, 2013

How Do You Feel About Memoir?

May is the month for memoirs in many classrooms.  I love the idea of writing memoir at the end of the year. Students can look back at their writing throughout the year and decide what is really important to them in their life. Their notebooks will show this. Reflecting on what has been written and then going deeper into what does it really  mean to me, is a way to start their memoir adventure.

To begin this journey, it is best to dig into some mentor texts. Today, I am sharing four books that I enjoy using for mentor tests in this genre.
One of my favorite books for memoir is by Ralph Fletcher. Teachers know this author because of all the books on writing he and his wife, JoAnne Portalupi, have written. Children know this author because of the young adult novels he has written. This book on memoir will not disappoint either. Each chapter gives you a little snippet of Ralph's life and shows beginning writers how to write that type of genre. The book is: Marshfield Dreams.
Another book I like to use when teaching memoir is Childtimes.  It is also written by a familiar author: Eloise Greenfield.  This is a three-generation memoir because it takes you across three generations in this family. This is not just a chronicle of stories from a family, it takes you into the heart of that family. As you read the happy, sad, and always vivid stories, you are being taught the art of writing memoir.
In the book My Life in Dog Years, another favorite author, Gary Paulsen, shares his life but it now is using all the dogs in his life.  I especially like this book because it would be one that I could use as a mentor text and make my own life in dog years.  I think this memoir would be one that the boys in the upper grades would connect with and use for their own.
The last book is the year of goodbyes by Debbie Levy.  This is a new book to me and I really bought it when I was studying historical fiction. This memoir is from the view point of a Jewish girl in 1938 living in Germany. This is a book of memoirs telling the Salzberg family's last year in Germany. It was a year of change. This book might be more for middle school children than elementary.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Mentor Texts for Preschool

This month the kindergarten students are learning how to use mentor texts to help them with their writing. They may be using a classroom text for the entire group to use. With that sort of text, the students would listen to the books during read aloud time. They would discuss what they notice and then the teacher would chart it. Perhaps the students would be able to take this idea a step further and come up with their own individual mentors. At least that is what we hope for them to be able to do in the years to come.
For our Gramma Preschool time last week, we used the book by Karen Hess: Come On, Rain! The book is about a young girl who is in the  middle of summer wishing that it would rain. We used the book because it was a rainy April day. We had listened to Vivaldi on our way to preschool and talked about how that was the perfect music to listen to every time it rained. Then for Reading Time, we read the book and talked about the pictures. Meron loved the illustrations and could identify with the character! She chose to take that book home with her in her satchel.
When it was time to do writing, she decided to write a story about a time it rained. She wrote about how they were in the car and it was raining. Then when they got to the store it stopped. She illustrated the pages with the car, raindrops, and pictures of her, her brother and mom. This time she even labeled the characters without me suggesting it. She really is getting the idea of how writing is a way to tell a story.

Monday, April 22, 2013

It's Monday, What Are You Reading? More Historical Fiction

I want to share with you an Indiana author that I have been reading lately. Margaret McMullen is from southern Indiana, but was born in Mississippi. The two books I just read were set in that state at the time of Civil War. Our book club is going to hear her speak in a this weeks and we wanted to be familiar with her work before that meeting. 
I had read one of her books several years ago at the recommendation from a friend. It is a children's book (young adult) and a fast read. I got it back out this weekend and read it again. Also fell in love with it again. It is How I Found the Strong.  It takes place in 1861-1865.  The Civil War had started and all the men old enough to hold a rifle, were heading off to war. The main character, Frank "Shanks" Russel, could not go...he was too young. Staying home with his mother, grandparents and young slave, Buck, was difficult for him. The book contains the story of what happened while others were fighting in this glorious war. At least that is what he thought. McMullen helps you have a different view point of the war and keeps you wanting to turn the page!
I wasn't satisfied with just reading one of her books. They are short reads, but great for historical fiction. These books would make great mentor texts while teaching this genre to fourth and fifth graders. The other book I read was: When I Crossed No-Bob.  This book takes place after the war, when the slaves were free. But were they? Addy O'Donnnell is the 12 year old main character who lives in the patch of woods called No-Bob. Her family (clan) is mean, stinky thieves. Her dad is said to have left for Texas and her mom is mean and cruel, but all she has. Then the mother takes off leaving Addy to go live with a teacher, Frank Russel, and his new wife. (Does the name sound familiar?) Addy has t eventually stand up for what is right even if it means going against her clan.

Both these books were written from the stories of Margaret McMullen's own family. This is a great way to teach children to draw from things they know to write their stories!

Friday, April 19, 2013

Informational Writing in the Content Areas for Third, Fourth and Fifth Grades

This month many students in third, fourth and fifth grades are working on writing informational books or essays to go along with current content areas. They might be working on things for social studies or science. These pieces will be used to further teach classmates about the subjects.  This is a new concept in many classrooms. As I went through all the information that we have on this unit of study, I drew some connections to things students have done in the past in writing a feature article, which also was a nonfiction piece. 

Looking at all this information, I went through and made a day-by-day lesson series to help teachers have a place to start as they work with this unit.  I am including on this blog the day-by-day outline.  In this piece, I have noted that there is attached a lesson.  I did  not include those lessons due to the room on this blog. The lessons are usually things that teachers have taught while doing the feature article unit of study and can draw from that.

Here is my outline!

Day One: Informational Writers Know How to Take Notes without Just Copying (See attached lesson)
Day Two: Informational Writers choose a (sub) Topic   (See attached lesson)
Day Three: Informational Writers choose an angle for their topic (See attached lesson)
Day Four: Informational Writers Communicate Their Ideas through Sketching Using Detailed Labels and Captions
          Students will take their research and sketch their ideas. They will not just recopy what they
           have read. They will put in as much detail as possible and then add labels and captions to their
Day Five: Informational Writers Communicate Their Ideas through Observational Writing
           Students will use sentence starters like: “I notice”, “I see”, “This reminds me of”
Day Six: Informational Writers Use Questions and Wonders to Clarify Their Writing
            In the notebook, students will read over what they have collected and then write their own
            questions about what they are thinking at this point. They will also write what they are
           wondering about now, too.
Day Seven: Informational Writers Think about Their Observations
             Students will look back over the writing they have collected and write about what they are
             realizing. These entries may start like: “One thing I know,” “Another thing I know,” “This
             made me realize that, “ “This helps me understand,” “I used to think…….but now I know,”
Day Eight: Informational Writers Choose the Best Structure to Teach the Information They Present by Drafting a Table of Contents (3rd)  
Day Eight: Informational Writers Prioritize the Research They Gather (4th & 5th)
            Students will learn how to decide what is important to include in their essay. They will use
            words like “most” or “least”. Phrases they might use are: “most influential” or “least
            effective” help them to decide which points to refer to in the essay.
Day Nine: Informational Writers Cite Research Correctly (4th & 5th)
           Students will take a card and write a research fact on one side of the index card and then
            rewrite it on the other side of the card from memory. (Paraphrasing)
Day Nine: Informational Writers Use Linking Words Like: Also, Another, And, More, But, to Connect Ideas and Information (3rd)
Day Ten: informational Writers Use Their Notebooks as a Valuable Resource
             Students will look at their notebooks for detailed drawings to write more on a page. They will
             use their notes to give more details in the writing by adding more specific vocabulary,
             captions or labels.
Day Eleven: Informational Writers Add an Introduction and Conclusion to Their Essay      (See attached lesson)
Day Twelve: Informational Writers Revise by Thinking about Their Audience
Day Thirteen: Informational Writers Edit Their Work by Rereading to Be Sure it Makes Sense and for Conventions
Day Fourteen: Informational Writers Edit Their Work Looking at Conventions
Day Fifteen: Informational Writers Present Their Books and Teach All They Have Learned to Others (3rd)
Day Fifteen: Informational Writers Publish Their Essays by Using a Variety of Strategies (4th & 5th)

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Writing Fantasy in Second Grade

In April, many second grade classrooms will be trying out a new genre with the unit of study on Fairy Tales/Folk Tales/Fantasy. These students have a great foundation for this genre since they know how to write personal narratives and realistic fiction. Now the trick is to get them to explore this type of fiction. The main thing the teacher needs to keep in mind is that these seven-year-olds are going to just be approximating this type of writing.  It won't look like The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe or even Harry Potter.  Remember to take each student where they are and help to make them a better writer. Take baby steps.

The purpose of teaching this genre is to go along with the Common Core State Standards. They are asked to read this genre, so why not write it, too. The thinking is that some day in the future, when these second graders will be taking the high stakes tests, they will be asked to write this genre. We want to give them enough background to help them feel comfortable doing that.

Here is a unit of study that I put together with things from Lucy Calkin's Curriculum Plan for the Writing Workshop.  Hopefully, it will help you in this new adventure of fantasy writing!

Second Grade Writing Unit   Fairy Tales/Folk Tales/Fantasy
Adapted from A Curricular Plan for the Writing Workshop, Grade 2, 2011-1012 by Lucy Calkins and the Colleagues from the Reading and Writing Project

­­­­­Things to Remember
  • This unit is designed to expose students to the power of this genre in teaching story arcs and specific life lessons
  • This unit is designed to give students more practice in writing fiction
  •    It is important to immerse students in this genre through read alouds and discussions about the structure
  • Anchor charts created in other units of study are made available for student use
  • Students will practice comparing and contrasting two or more versions of the same tale
  • Launching the unit:
    • Through literature
      •   The Wolf Who Cried Boy by Bob Hartman
      •   The Little Red Hen (Makes a Pizza) retold by Philemon Sturges
    • Through Text book (Macmillan Treasures
      •   Farfallina & Marcel; Hermie the Hermit Crab; Pip the Penguin
      • Head, Body, Legs; Telling Tales; The Story of the Giant Carrot; Three Wishes from a Fish; Three Dog Wishes; Click, Clack, Moo Cows That Type
      •  Pushing Up the Sky; Why Sun and Moon Live in the Sky; Why the Sky is Far Away; Sky Seeds
      • Mice and Beans
  • Make sure you keep these few things in mind as you get started:
    • Give students a choice about what they want to write
    • Give students a chance to be immersed in this genre before starting to write
    • Still walk through the writing process (plan, draft, revise, edit, publish)
Menu of Teaching Points:  Fairy Tales/Folk Tales/Fantasy

Goal #1: Writers plan before they begin to write
  •   Writers think about what they could change in their adaptation of the story
  • Writers make many adaptations of the story
  • Writers plan their stories in a booklet or storyboard
Goal #2: Writers make important decisions while they write
  • Writers ask themselves many questions as they plan their stories
  • Writers work with writing partners to work out their choices and change their versions
Goal #3: Writers choose one plan and begin to write
  • Writers take a number of pages and transfer their ideas by using sketches
  • Writers are storytellers using dialog, action and thinking
  • Writers act out the scene or tell it over and over to get a clear idea of what to put on the page
Goal #4: Writers reread what they have done and plan what to do next
  • Writers reread to see how to make their stories stronger
  • Writers make stronger beginnings by using: “Once upon a time”
  • Writers use language for transitioning: “but, then one day…” or “Not long after that…”
  • Writers use sentence length to strengthen their stories
Goal #5: Fairy Tale writers use similar story structure
  • Fairy Tale writers use a main character and create a wish or problem for the character
  • Fairy Tale writers build the problem throughout the story with a solution at the end
  • Fairy Tale writers use tension to hook their reader
  • Fairy Tale writers use dialog, action and show-not-tell to keep the reader’s attention
  • Fairy Tale writers make each scene like a ‘small moment’ story
  • Fairy Tale writers use endings with “happily ever after.”
Goal #6: Fairy Tale writers teach readers a lesson
  • Fairy Tale writers think about what they want their readers to learn
  • Fairy Tale writers work with partners giving each other advice
Goal #7: Fairy Tale writers may adapt a story by writing a whole new version of the fairy tale told
                from a different character’s point of view

Goal #8: Fantasy writers use what they know about realistic fiction to help write in this genre
  • Fantasy writers feature a character with a problem just like realistic fiction writers
  • Fantasy writers use magic or an imaginary setting instead of something real as in realistic fiction
Goal #9: Fantasy writers act out parts and storytell over and over again
  • Fantasy writers work with a partner to storytell or act out their piece
  • Fantasy writers use dialog and very small actions into the their writing
Goal #10: Fantasy writers stretch out their fantasy stories
  • Fantasy writers use story arcs to help develop the problem in the story
  • Fantasy writers create obstacles that keep the reader on the ‘edge of their seats’
  • Fantasy writers think outside the box about how to use magic to help their character
  • Fantasy writers use charts around the room (old and new ones) to make good choices in their writing
Ways to Structure Fairy Tale/Folk Tale/Fantasy Writing
  • Write a fairy tale from another point of view: different characters, different setting, different problem
  • Write a whole new piece making up the characters and problem for a fairy tale or folk tale
  • Write a whole new piece using new ideas for magic and make believe for a fantasy story






Monday, April 15, 2013

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? How About Some Anthony Browne?

Today I want to share a couple of my favorite books.  They are both by the author, Anthony Browne. He is also the illustrator. As many classrooms are getting ready for the high stakes testing in multiple choice, they are focusing on inferencing. These books are wonderful for that comprehension strategy.  Looking at the art work and the story that the pictures are telling us, is a way to exercise our inferring muscles. Anthony Browne has a special way of getting the reader to look deeper at the story. What is really happening? What is really happening?
The book Voices in the Park is one that can help students to look at things deeper. I will be posting at a later time the lesson plan for using this book with students. For right now I will just focus on the actual story. Reading it as a Read Aloud is a perfect way to get students familiar with the Anthony Browne "style". Putting the book on the document camera so students can actually see the pictures as you read, is a better way to allow students to discuss at a higher level.

Another of Anthony Browne's books is The Shape Game.  In 2001-2002, Browne was a writer/illustrator in residence at Tate Britain in London. He taught literacy using the resources in the gallery. This book is based on the responses to works of ark in the collections. This is a great Art/Literacy connection book. Again, I love the way Anthony Browne uses the illlustrations to tell the story as much as the words.
A study in Browne books would be beneficial during this time of test prep. However, a study of his books is also beneficial for writing workshops any time of the year! Hopefully, you and your students will discover the wonder of Anthony Browne's world!

Friday, April 12, 2013

Cross Genre Writing in First Grade

As much as we as teachers, do not like it, there are times when students are tested on their skills as writers. One way to prepare them for this is to revisit the genres that they have been writing all year. This also is a chance for those students who always seem to write about the same topic no matter what the genre is. They just have a passion for that topic.

In first grade the students have written in these genres: Personal narratives, Realistic Fiction, Opinion/Persuasive, and Informational (How-To, All About). These are the genres that would be focused on in this Cross Genre study. Students would take a topic they are passionate about and write in each of those genres.

It might look like this with the topic of DOGS:

Genre                                         Example

1. Personal Narr.                      A story about you and a dog
2. Realistic Fiction                    Story about made-up character and dog
3. Informational                        All About Dogs
4. Opinion/Persuasive              Why dogs make the best pets

The first step would be to have mentor texts available using one topic in these genres. Here is an example with the topic being Fireflies:

Personal Narr. Fireflies by Julie Brinckloe
Realistic Fiction: The Very Lonely Firefly by Eric Carle
Informational:  Living Lights;  Fireflies in Your Backyard by Nancy Loewen
Opinion/Persuasive:  A letter written by the teacher about saving fireflies

 Writing one genre a day is a great way to start this unit of study.  After those four days, then they may go back and work on finishing the pieces or revising and editing them.  A folder of writing with the focus on one topic could be the end of the unit goal.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Authors as Mentors for Kindergarten

Bulletin Board display from Kindergarteners in New York City
This month many kindergarteners will be using Authors as Mentors as their unit of study. This is a time when students will use various authors as their writing teachers. They will develop styles, strategies and craft like a certain mentor writer. To do this the class will study several authors. They will read books written by the mentor authors and find what makes those writers unique.

First, a mentor author needs to be chosen to start the month. Some of the authors I have used are: Donald Crews, Ezra Jack Keats, Kevin Henkes and Tomie de Paola. As you choose your authors, they should be ones who can help students with craft. What the teacher already knows about her class of writers will help her make that choice.

After one author is chosen, the teacher will do a read aloud reading the book twice--once for enjoyment and once to look for various craft moves. Using a chart with the author's name and perhaps picture on top will be where craft moves of the book are listed. As this author is being studied, different books by him/her will be read each day. The chart will have more craft items listed on it. Students will try to model what they have learned from that day's author in their own writing.

Children will be looking at the world through writer's eyes. They will see things in a different way---a way to turn what they see into a story. In order to capture these details of their lives, they may want to carry Tiny Topic notebooks with them. They can then jot down words or sketches of things that happen in their lives. This will give them a collection of ideas to use as stories.

Lesson: Authors As Mentors: Ezra Jack Keats (The Snowy Day)
Materials: many E.J. Keats books; chart paper
You have heard lots of books this year. Your teacher has read them to you and you have even read some books. Who is the person who writes the words in a book? That’s right, the author. Who is the person who draws the pictures in a book? That’s right, the illustrator. Sometimes the author and illustrator are the same person, they do both. Today and for several days, we are going to look at one author. We are going to look at the book he wrote and see what he did that we could do as writers. Are you ready?
New Learning:
We are going to start by looking at the author Ezra Jack Keats. You have already heard many of his books. He wrote the book: The Snowy Day. I bet you have heard that book.
Let’s make a chart that says: Ezra Jack Keats, and look I have his picture right here. We will put it up here beside his name. Remember I said we are going to look at the book The Snowy Day? Well, I have the picture of the cover and I am going to put it right here.
We are going to listen to the book again. But this time I want you to be listening for things that you could do like Mr. Keats is doing. Ready? Read the book to them.
What did you notice? Pick out things like: put spaces between his words. He drew the pictures, too. Sometimes wrote only a few words on a page. His words matched his pictures.
Active Engagement:
Turn and talk to your partner about what E.J. Keats did in his book that you could do in your book today. Have a few of them share.
When you go back to your seat today, think about how you could write like Mr. Keats. He will be your writing teacher. Those of you who do something like Ezra Jack Keats will get to share. Happy writing!

Friday, March 29, 2013

Happy Easter From Gramma Preschool

This week at Gramma Preschool we did some fun spring things.  We first of all had reading and read some spring books. Then we worked with words using magnetic letters.
We also made playdough using spring neon colors. When we were done, we had three different colors all put in individual zip lock bags to take home.
For writing this week we did Easter cards. She made one for Mom and one for Dad. She wrote their names on the front and added stamps using ink pads. On the inside she wrote Happy Easter and signed her name!
The last time she was here, she made chocolate instant pudding for her snack. Afterward, she wrote a How to book on How to Make Chocolate Pudding.  She was quite the expert on that!
1. Put in pudding 2. Add 2 cups of milk 3. Stir it up 4. Put in cups 5. Eat it!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Poetry: Ordinary to Poetic

As you are writing poetry in your classrooms, it might be fun to try something new. The lesson I will share with you today is all about how you look at things. Just observing the every day normal things around us can turn us into wonderful poets.  Try this and see what you think!

Lesson: Poetry—Ordinary to Poetic
Material: paper to write on or notebook

T.Point: Poets write with poetic language not ordinary language.
You have been working on poetry and have a sense of what poems sound like.  One of the things poetry does is that it helps us look at the world in a new way and describe it like no one has before.  Today, we’re going to write a poem together that tries to do just that. 
Let’s look at something together---how about the trees outside the window here?  [On a chart draw a line down the middle. On top left write Ordinary and on the right Poetry.] 

            Look at the trees and tell me the first words that come into your minds.  Poets often begin their poems this way with “anybody’s words”.  [Write down words such as: green, tall, leaves, old.] 

            Now we’ll read those words together.  Do they sound like a poem?  NO!  This is what poets do.  They write a few words down, and then they reread it and sometimes realize that they have to go back and resee.

            Now, let’s look at the tree again, even more closely.  What kind of green is it?  The green of the ocean?  How old is it?  [Write down what they say: trees are as green as limes; majestic giants; their leaves are jewels; historic recorders of time.]

            Now, we’ll read these words.  Do they sound more like poetry?  Yes, because we looked at them with poetic eyes.
            Now I want you to choose an interesting object to look at—either out the window or in the classroom.  When you have your object turn and tell your elbow buddy.

Now at your seat start a new paper.  Under ordinary describe the object using the first words that come into your mind.  Then under poetic transform these descriptions into poetry by using metaphor and simile or describing its exact details.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Using Charts to Enhance Your Teaching

It is amazing to see how teachers use charts in the classroom to keep thinking in front of the students at all times. Charts that are made WITH students or BY students are the most valuable.  Even though the posters that can be bought are beautiful and colorful, they are not as powerful as those you make yourself with the children. 
This chart is about the features of nonfiction writing. Notice how bright and colorful it is. Notice how you can really tell that it was made by the teacher, not bought. It is also amazing how the charts were all around the classrooms of those we visited in New York. They found space to display the charts where students were able to see it easily.
This is a chart that the teacher and students have done together about Talk Styles. After this has been discussed and used, it is then put onto chart paper and displayed in the room. It is something that the students will use each and every day.

Charts in the classroom are not just for language arts. This chart is one that would be used in math. It is on Problem Solving.  What a great way to have this thinking in the room where the teacher can refer to it over and over.

This chart was posted in the hall as we walked by it. However, I am sure it was in the classroom during this unit of study. It was from a kindergarten class and a rubric of their writing.
As I said before, charts are everywhere. I think almost every classroom had charts hanging from a wire that went from one side of the room to the other. They were high, but still available to the students. Recording their thinking is so important for their learning!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Displaying Our Work

While visiting P.S. 247 in Brooklyn, New York, we were able to see the work the students were doing as we walked the building. Outside every classroom was examples of each of the steps in writing workshop for a particular unit of study. Whether it was poetry, fiction, or author studies, the work was displayed.  Learning was evident.
This picture shows the writing process. Under each topic: planning, drafting, revising, editing, publishing; are samples of that part of the process. These samples are from an upper grade classroom.

This bulletin board located in a hallway, it is about authors. It  is a study the children did on various authors.  It is not just a simple piece written like the author, but a researched poster on the author the child chose.
This is a sample of a first grade bulletin board.  It is about a particular author the class studied.  It is from the Unit of Study: Authors As Mentors.
The next two pictures are of the same board. It is on poetry. The first picture is of the entire board. You can see the art work around the board. This was done in their art class and was in a particular artist's style. Then each student wrote poetry for those pictures. The next picture is the piece that the teacher wrote explaining what the students did.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Reading Poetry, What Are You Reading?

Today I have two books on poetry that are about as opposite as you can get. I love when that happens!  It is up to each teacher to know the students so well, that it becomes easy to choose books that those children will love and use!  Here are a couple for you to try!
How can you go wrong with Heartsongs by Mattie J.T. Stepanek? This is just one of his many books. Mattie began writing poems when he was three. He had muscular dystrophy and had lost three siblings to the same life-threatening condition. But that isn't why we remember Mattie.  His poetry proclaims the innocent hope, wisdom and humor of childhood. These poems will become heart felt mentor texts for your students.
FEG by Robin Hirsch...This book is for the intelligent child...and maybe the intelligent teacher! From alliteration, haiku, and onomatopoeia to palindromes sonnets, and even spoonerisms this book will have poetry lovers saying, ahhh!  It is such a fun book for those who would like to take poetry to a new level. Ready to try one?  Here you go...hint: read it fast and think alphabet.

Abie's seedy effigy
Eight chide Jake: a lemon
O peek:
You are as tea
You feed double
You axe why

Friday, March 15, 2013

Visiting a New York City School

Last week I had the chance to visit a great New York City school with a couple of my friends.  It was P.S. 247 in Brooklyn. The principal was wonderful to give us not only a tour of the building, but also took the time to explain his thinking behind what made the school so successful.

We picked this school to visit because it was similar to the ones we work with in our district. It has 27 different languages spoken in that one school of about 700 students.  There is a 75% free and reduced lunch count. We felt right at  home. The thing that startled us was when the principal took us to his office window and showed us another elementary school just three blocks away that has 1,000 students.  Yes, it is a neighborhood school. These children all live within three or four blocks of the school. AND, if you went to the other side and looked out, there would be another school with that many students.
We got there early in the morning as the students were walking to school.  In fact, after getting off the subway, we were having a hard time finding the school. We finally asked a mother with a little child, "Are you going to P.S. 247?"  She said yes and allowed us to follow them to the school. On the walk there, she couldn't stop talking about how great the school was. Many of her children had gone there and she loved it!
The school was build in the depression era and was four stories high. It was built on a small area of land. The funniest thing was when the principal showed us a stairway that led to nowhere...a wall. The original plans were to have a gym there, but there wasn't room when they went to build it. So, the wall!

As we traveled the halls of the building and stepped into various classrooms, we saw great teaching and very engaged children. The expectations for teachers and students are high. The atmosphere was relaxed and happy. The students would greet us with smiles and "Good Morning" as we entered the rooms. They were used to people visiting their rooms.

Next week, I will be blogging about some of the actual things I saw while walking around the school. Great charts and bulletin boards. We can't thank Mr. Ogno and the staff and students at P.S. 247 enough for allowing us to take a peek at the wonderful things that are happening for children at their school!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Where Poetry Hides For Me

This month in all Indiana schools, the children in many classrooms will be taking the state test. Doing writing during that time can be difficult. For that reason, many are turning to the more relaxed, pleasure of teaching poetry.

I remember when I first taught poetry to my second graders.  I tried all the usual types: acrosstic, haiku, rhyming, you get the idea. However, when I began using the non-rhyming poems, that is when both boys and girls fell in love with poetry. That is my wish for your children. Does that mean we don't teach those other types?  Of course not.  It is just an easier way to get the children "hooked" on poetry!  Here is a lesson that I started out with.  Try it and see what your students think!

Lesson: Beginning Poetry

Materials: overhead of my: Where Poetry Hides for Me; copies of various kids’ poetry showing variety of subjects on overheads

You have been doing a lot of writing in your room.  Today we are going to talk about a different type of writing.  It is called poetry.  I love poetry because I can say things with poetry that I can’t say any other way.  The lines are short and usually I don’t have to worry that much about punctuation.  I get ideas for poetry everywhere.
Today I want to talk to you about where we get our ideas for poems that we might write.  I like to think of it as, where poetry hides.  Yes, hides!  Poetry is everywhere!  Lots of times I find poems when I am outside. It seems like nature is a place where poetry hides for me.  I can see poems on my morning walks with my dog.  I can see poems when I sit outside under a tree and watch the sky.  Poems can be in the food I eat.  Poems might be around the Christmas tree or in the rain falling in big drops.
I'mgoing to show you what I do first when I get ready to write a poem.  I go to my notebook and look at a list I have made. I call the list: Where Poetry Hides For Me.  Look at this list. (Show it and go over list.)
Maybe you don’t have a list like I do.  That is something we are going to work on today.  First, I want to show you some poems that some kids have written.  Where do you think these poems were hidden? (Go over the overheads and let children talk about the topics.)
Think for a minute where you think poetry hides for you.  Who has an idea?  (Let them turn and talk about some ideas and then share a few with the group.)
Now when you go back to your seats, get out a paper (or notebook) and start your list like mine.  I am going to give you some time to do that and then we will share our lists.

For sharing time use the “whip share”.  Sit in circle and each child gives one idea from the page.  The others may add an idea they liked from a friend’s list.