Sunday, November 20, 2011

Last Week's Work Coming Home

Lots of work from last week will come home tomorrow (Monday). This will include the quiz on non fiction text types and the reading passages we've been working on.

One of the things the students are working at improving is reading different kinds of passages (both non-fiction and fiction) and answering specific questions from the text. We call these "right there" questions because the answers are "right there" in the passage. Learning how to do this is important, and also more challenging than you'd think. I gave them a lot of practice last week and they improved.

One of the other things they are working on is answering open-ended questions. I'm trying to get them to answer in detail--right now many are content with just basic answers. I'm really pushing them and grading their answers in a pretty strict way. We'll be practicing this a lot more throughout the year.

New Student Directed Learning Assignment

Our first student directed learning project wrapped up last week and was a huge success. Students explored non-fiction text types and then created something to demonstrate their learning. They were in (almost) complete control--they picked what they wanted to learn about and how they were going to present it.

The final piece of the puzzle was a "gallery walk" where students showed off their learning to their classmates. I think it worked, because when we took a quiz on Friday about non-fiction text types, the class average was about 80 percent!

We're going to try it again with a new and important topic for readers: Idioms. Students will be exploring idioms an have to do the following:

  1. Clearly explain what idioms are.
  2. Provide several examples
  3. Provide "translations" for each example
  4. Any additional information they discover along the way. (books about idioms, idiom origins a.k.a. where they come from, etc)
It's completely up to them how far they go with this. I want them to explore, discover, and enjoy. I have challenged them to present their learning in a different way than they did with the previous assignment.

They'll be working on this in class with the goal of finishing by Christmas break. Of course, if they want to work on it at home, that's good, too. Especially the research stage.

I will keep you posted as we go!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Book Projects are Complete--Part 3

The final group had a very challenging book to read, The Westing Game. It's a mystery novel that features a cast of about 20 different characters. We studied these characters very closely and then I had the students answer some questions from 4 of the characters' points of view. We used Blabberize to put a unique twist on this! Take a look & listen:

Book Projects are Complete--Part Two

The group reading Number the Stars recently completed a project that turned out really nicely. Their book was set during World War II in Denmark. So we learned a lot about history while reading this book. Students created a "VoiceThread" to share their learning. Take a look:

Be sure to have your child tell you all about this fascinating book and what they learned while doing this project. If you're having trouble figuring out how to navigate through this VoiceThread, just click the play button. Or, you can have them do it for you!

If you're having trouble viewing the project, click here:

I can't wait to get started on the next book!

Book Projects are Complete--Part One

We have wrapped up our first guided reading books (actually we finished them a couple of weeks ago). We've also finished up a project for each of the books. These projects focused on some deeper learning and required the students to really think about what they read and to write about it.

The Walk Two Moons group created a "Google Lit Trip" by creating an interactive map that tells the story of the main character's trip across the country with her grandparents. Understanding this part of the novel was absolutely necessary to make sense of the deep and complicated themes it contains. And without understanding it, they couldn't do this project! Take a look at some of these examples:

View Selena WTM in a larger map
View Cheynise WTM in a larger map
View Larger Map
View Chase WTM in a larger map
View Kaylen WTM in a larger map
View Renard WTM in a larger map
View Suhmer WTM in a larger map

I think these turned out really well. I really challenged the students to be detailed in their summaries of each place the family traveled. Students were also asked to include imaginary postcards that the main character would have sent. To view their notes, just click on any of the placemarks.

I encourage you to have your child explain their map and give a synopsis of Walk Two Moons to you. Have them share what they did and how they did it. I'm quite impressed. Stay tuned for the projects from the other two books.