Saturday, July 31, 2010

Moon by christine kennedy on Prezi

Moon by christine kennedy on Prezi

Donors Choose

I started using Donors Choose few years ago. I wanted class sets of books that would compliment my curriculum. Donors around the country have to pick your project through the website. You can choose whatever materials you would like and write up a proposal. I teach American History so I chose The Discovery of the Americas by Betsy Maestro. I also use a Social Studies textbook but it is pretty old.This book gives the students so much more detail and the pictures are great. The story of Phillis Wheatley's life fascinates me so I got a class set of the most beautiful book: A Voice of Her Own: The Story of Phillis Wheatley, Slave Poet. This is a great book to practice all of the reading strategies with. She lived in Boston at the time of the Boston Massacre and the Boston Tea Party so it is a terrific choice for teaching the Revolutionary War. I also got three class sets of Eve Bunting books from Donors Choose. Every year I do an author study on Eve Bunting. I particularly like Gleam and Glow, Smoky Night, and Fly Away Home. Not all of my projects have been funded but I have to say I have done very well by Donors Choose. Christine

Friday, July 30, 2010

Text features

Children do not automatically use text features. This is why lessons which explicitly teach text features are so important. One idea given to my by the great Nancy D. is to go on a text feature "hunt" using a variety of nonfiction books and magazines. Have the students work in groups and list which text features they found in the various books (see poster). Next, have them do a project/poster on any acceptable topic which involves using 6/7 different text features to create a page on their subject.I will try to post a copy of one in the future.Christine

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Harriet Tubman week

I love to read the story Go Free of Die: The Story of Harriet Tubman to give the children lots of background knowledge about Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad. Its an easy fast paced suspenseful read. We usually finish it in 2-3 days. My next stop is Henry's Freedom Box by Ellen Levine. This is another story where a slave escapes but this time he mails himself to freedom in a box. The pictures are just beautiful. I also like to read the picture book Harriet and Sojourner by Catherine Clinton. I have a lesson I will post in the future on comparing and contrasting the two women. I also like to use Nettie's Trip South by Ann Turner. It is the unforgettable story of a young northern girl who travels south right before the Civil War breaks out. She sees a slave auction and it changes her life. The book is written in letters to her friend back home. After reading all of these stories the children have some solid information on what slavery was and how the Underground Railroad worked. The obvious question the kids ask is, "Does slavery still exist today?" I then talk to them about Iqbal Masih, a young Pakistani boy who was sold into slavery by his family at age four. I have them research Iqbal's life. Iqbal is a modern day hero. Children are amazed by his story.  Christine

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

What I am reading right now

I am reading as much of the Comprehension Toolkit by Harvey/Goodvis as I can get out of the library. The Toolkit Texts (gr 2/3) (gr 4/5) are interesting. They are short nonfiction stories and articles to use in small group or whole group instruction. You can print them out with color pictures from the CD. I liked the variety of content: Science, Social Studies, Biographies and more. I am always looking for nonfiction with text features that you use to comprehend the text like maps and graphs.The gr 2/3 book had some stories with great text features. Christine

Monday, July 26, 2010

root words or base words

Learning a bit about how words are built can be of great help to a reader. When children begin to examine words more closely they discover how words are related to each other. I have enough of this "tree" poster for group work. I like to have the children study 10-20 common roots (base words) at the beginning of the year and do exercises  like this one together matching roots and prefixes and suffixes together to change the meanings of the words. Christine

Sunday, July 25, 2010

SMART Boards in elementary school

I want to try this SMARTboard application. Its from Laura Candler's website Instead of pulling names from a cup to call on students or make groups you can do it on the SMARTboard. See Laura Candler's website for free materials. I also like her poetry cards. They cover our 5th grade standards pretty well. Christine

Friday, July 23, 2010

reciprocal teaching

I made a bunch of these posters for group work after reading Reciprocal Teaching At Work by Lori Oczkus. She uses the formula: predict, question, clarify and summarize in small group instruction. I like to use this idea with groups of 2-4 kids. Each child gets to pick a box or two to write in but all of the work has to be done as a group. The lesson on the poster was from a nonfiction article in National Geographic for Kids called Our Oceans. Before I had the children open the magazine I told them the topic (oceans) and had them do the top of the poster: What do you know about...After they have brainstormed I had them open up to the article and predict what it will be about by doing a 10, 9, 8....(I count backwards slowly while they do a sort of picture walk to look for clues in the text features as to what the article might be about.) Next they read the article as a group and fill in the section that asks what questions came to mind as they read, and the section marked clarify   which is the vocabulary piece ( they have to list the word they didn't know, the definition of the word, and how they figured it out). Lastly they summarize  the article. The part they love about this lesson comes after it is complete. I give every child in the group a sticky and ask them to privately write the name of the person in their group who worked the hardest. Everyone wants their name on that sticky. Its a great motivator for many kids. Sometimes I even give them a "grade" for how well I think they worked together. Lori Oczkus also wrote Interactive Think Aloud Lessons. I liked that book as well. Christine

Thursday, July 22, 2010


The Trophies anthology has a variety of genres but its also important to have kids truly think about genre. I like this lesson: have them compare and contrast fiction and nonfiction using a venn. This really makes you think about the differences in new ways. I also have pictures of my "umbrella" posters (fiction, nonfiction and other) that I will post. I got these ideas from the great Nancy Doherty. She is the best! Christine

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

teaching point of view

While reading Elsewhere by Gabrielle Zevin (adolescent fiction) I got lost in the text. The story is about a teen who just died in a car crash. It opens with the thoughts of her (brother???) At the end of the first chapter I had that ahah! moment. The narrator was not her brother, it was her DOG! Of course as an adult reader I had to go back in the text and find out where I went off track. Did the author give me clues that I just outright missed? The kids I teach wouldn't think critically like I would at this moment. They would feel lost and confused, then bored, and then they would give up on the book entirely. When we do the MCAS release question Mrs. Frizby and the Rats of Nimh many times the chidren are unable to tell that the speaker is a rat. If you can't determine who is speaking, comprehension breaks down. How do you teach children to identify when a story is being told by a different point of view? Start with picture books. I love Anthony Browne's book Voices In The Park. It is the simple story of a day in the park told from four points of view. The characters all tell the same story but they tell it differently. I also use the Dear Mrs. Larue series by Mark Teague. Both stories have funny pictures to support young readers as they learn about a new concept such as point of view. The Pain and the Great One by Judy Blume and Tight Times by Barbara Shook Hazen are also good stories to use.Throughout the year, when I use my narrative elements glove, I try to tackle point of view. Later on in the year after reading Shiloh by Phillis Reynolds Naylor I have the children write a summary from the dog's point of view instead of the narrator, Marty Preston. Its important that children realize that a story can be told by one person, many different people, an animal or a non living thing such as a house or a tree. As an adult reader I know that point of view is a literary technique authors use, children need to be taught to think like that.Students need lots of experience identifying the narrator and understanding from whose perspective the story is being told. They need to be shown how to identify the clues in the text that show the reader who is speaking.  Those ahah! moments are teaching moments so be sure to reread and discuss that its the dog or the rat or the tree that is in charge of telling us this story this time. Christine

Saturday, July 10, 2010

revisiting a mentor text

I do an author study on Eve Bunting with my fifth graders. I like to introduce Eve Bunting in November of the fourth grade with this Thanksgiving story, How Many Days To America? I have a class set so this makes it easy. Many times I use the mats and the stickies to help the children make their thinking visible. Its a good book for using all of the reading strategies. It also makes that Thanksgiving connection and expands their thinking about immigration. Recently I got a new idea for this old mentor text from Emily Kissner's blog (its on my blog roll: In My Classroom: The Forest and the Trees). She uses this book for inferring characters feelings. I love the idea of revisiting or working with a book they have already read. This is a great book for inferring the different characters emotions, but I never thought of it that way before I read her post. She starts off the lesson by giving the children examples: How would you feel if you dropped your ice cream cone? How would a dad feel if his daughter crashed the car? ( this brings up the concept of mixed emotions). Then she has the kids work on a linear array for the word angry (upset, frustrated, livid and so on) This is a good vocabulary building exercise. Next, she reads the first page or two of How Many Days To America? and begins a divided page. On the left is the inferred feeling and on the right is the text based evidence. After modeling she has the children work in pairs to come up with some examples on their own. I did this lesson and the kids seemed to really enjoy it. I'd like to come up with some more ways to revisit/reread those really great stories and look at them through another lense.Christine

Friday, July 9, 2010

word sorts

Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis is a class favorite. Its a story about an orphan trying to find his father. After we read the first few chapters I did an activity called a word sort. I put a list of words having to do with the story on the board. The kids have to sort them by putting them in the appropriate column: character, setting, problem, solution. This is interesting because sometimes the children don't agree where the word should go. Often a word can go in more than one place. For example, some children put the depression as the setting (because it is the time the story takes place in.) Other children put the depression as part of the problem. This leads to awesome class discussion...higher order thinking takes place. You can do this activity with trade books, picture books, and Trophy stories. It applies to virtually anything fiction. It is also a good vocabulary building exercise. Another option would be to have the kids make a word sort to be used by classmates. Christine

Thursday, July 8, 2010

The Book Seer | Find your next book

The Book Seer Find your next book

character traits

What kind of a person is_____________? Use evidence from the text to support your answer. This is a typical open response question on the MCAS for grades 3-5. I use this laminated poster to teach character traits throughout the year. This story, In The Days of King Adobe, is in our 4th grade Trophies anthology. The words thrifty and rascally are actually vocabulary words for the story. I have a character traits poster hung up in the room for reference. It is also a great vocabulary builder because some of the words on it  are challenging like mischievous or timid. Christine

Wednesday, July 7, 2010


The Titanic story fascinates me. This book is interesting because it gives us a different perspective of the story...The point of view of a cat and a poor immigrant boy named Jim who works on this grand ship.
Questions abound as we read the story. We have to infer to understand what is really going on. I put three questions on the board to help us gather information. 1. What do we learn about Jim? 2. What do we learn about the cat? 3. What do we learn about ships and cats?As we read the story I keep adding to the chart. After awhile we review the information and make some inferences and predictions for what will come next. For some children this story sparks and interest in reading further about the Titanic. I have a collection of books on the subject that I leave out. Look at my post on inferring vocabulary words in context to see another lesson I did with Titanicat.Christine

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

favorite picture books

Francis & Ginger Park (sisters) are the authors of My Freedom Trip. Its a suspenseful story about a little girl who escapes South Korea during the war. I read this book to my class after they have worked with all of the reading strategies for a few months. We use the mats and the stickies to make their thinking visible while I read aloud. Its a really good choice for questioning and predicting. As the suspense builds during her escape, I find myself visualizing a great deal as well.The sisters also wrote another great book to share with kids called The Royal Bee. Both stories are actually based on family members (their mother and grandfather) and could be considered historical fiction. Christine

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Story Elements

Check out this SlideShare Presentation: Emily Kissner has lots of great powerpoints to use with grades 3-5 on I showed this one on my SMARTboard. Christine

plot profiles

I got this idea from Literacy for the 21st Century by Gail Tompkins. Its a great visual for helping children to understand rising and falling action in fiction texts. I read two or three chapters before I introduce the poster. (The poster is laminated and those are just dots/stickers with masking tape stuck on the back for easy removal.) I might write notes next to the dots so that down the road we can remind ourselves what exciting event (climax) the dot referred to. You can see I wrote "steals dog" and then later, "Shiloh hurt" so that we can discuss which event had the highest tension/excitement. Much of this is discussion and the children don't always agree where the sticker should go. As the plot profile develops you can really see the way the author used rising and falling action to build the story. Sometimes I give the children a worksheet copy of the poster and stickers so they can build their own. Christine

Saturday, July 3, 2010

picture books for teaching social studies

I have used Katherine Kirkpatrick's historical fiction picture book Redcoats and Petticoats while teaching the American Revolution for the past few years. Its a wonderful book about a young boy who unwittingly becomes part of a spy ring. The questioning strategy is activated frequently while reading this book. Why is mother doing so much laundry? Why is she acting so strange? Didn't she just wash those same petticoats yesterday? I have the children use the mats I made (previous post) and stickies to make their thinking visible as I read the story to them. After reading we go back and look for all of the clues the author gave us that show what is really going on (its a patriot spy ring ). The kids love this book. Its a fifth grade favorite.Christine

Thursday, July 1, 2010

vocabulary parades

This is a great book by Debra Frasier. It is the inspiration for the vocabulary parades going on in dozens of elementary schools across the country. Due to a vocabulary "disaster", (Sage was out sick on vocabulary definition day) she thinks miscellaneous is really a person: Miss Alaineus, queen of all odd or lost things. This causes much embarrassment in school, but in the end our main character makes lemonade out of those lemons. Very funny book! You can learn more about her books and get some teaching resources at Check out the last post, it is a Youtube video of a vocabulary parade in an elementary school. Christine

Debra Frasier talks on Miss Alaineus Vocabulary Parades

Don't you want to have a vocabulary parade?

teaching conflict

Conflict is a more sophisticated word than problem to use with 4/5th graders.
I leave this poster up all year. I make small pictures of the books we read and laminate them. After we have read three of four stories together (trade books, Trophies basal stories, picture books) we have a discussion about which type of conflict is predominant in the story. Sometimes the children will discover two or more different types of conflict present in one book. We have also discovered that a particular conflict can be a recurring theme in the story. This activity also makes me reflect on my book choices for the class. Am I leaning towards books which have a character vs. character conflict? Christine