Friday, March 14, 2014

Writing Around the Text

After reading Buffy Hamilton's post detailing children having written conversations around a selected text, I knew I had to try it. However, Buffy's students are in high school and I only have a thirty minute time frame so I knew I needed to tweak the idea. 

Currently, our 4th grade is working on a Body Systems unit and our 5th grade is researching the American Colonies. I was looking for something to spark interest in these units before the formal research began. This seemed like the time to try this strategy. For the Body Systems unit, I found an article about exercise benefits from Time for Kids, a diagram with an explanation about the new My Plate, and two short chapters from our library books about the digestive system and how the brain sends nerve signals throughout the body. With the American Colony unit, I found a political cartoon that shows the Native American view point, an article about the lost colony of Roanoke, an article of how a colonial kitchen was set up and run, an article describing African Americans being sold as slaves and a time line from Jamestown to the Revolutionary War. I pasted each text on large bulletin board paper that span our library tables.

The children in 4th and 5th grade needed more guidance with their discussion than Buffy's high school students. I am in love with the Fountas and Pinell prompting guides and use them to help create open ended discussion questions for my book clubs and my lessons. I selected four discussion questions and displayed them on the Promethean board. The questions focused on author's message, text features, prior knowledge and any new questions the text may have raised.

The directions were simply...
1. Read the text at your table as a group.
2. Write about one of the discussion question prompts.
3. Read and respond to any table's article or any comment that a classmate wrote.

Each class was different. Some needed more guidance with which question to respond to while other classes jumped right in. Some groups chose to have one person read while other groups wanted to break up the articles so everyone would get a chance to read. The discussion questions did seem to focus the student's responses.

I will definitely use this strategy again. My goal of sparking interest in a topic was obtained. The children also seem to dig deeper in the text and enjoyed commenting on classmates answers.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Olympics and the Library Triathalon

Over the summer I was reading, The Tibrarian Handbook: A Teacher-Librarian's Guide to Transforming the Library Into a Center of Learning by Christine Varachi. She had a wonderful idea for a school-wide library Olympic contest where the children earn points for reading minutes, activity minutes and researching facts. I fell in love with the idea and realized that the Winter Olympics were this year! Ideas began on my iPad immediately. 
The library, in both schools, hosted a Library Triathlon! Each homeroom was given a country that was competing in the Sochi Winter Olympics. The children would turn in forms for nightly reading and activity minutes along with facts they researched about their homeroom country. Each of the events were weighed equally in a spreadsheet, created by my principal, that gave a daily point count for each country. The country's flags were moved on a large horizontal wall chart in the hall for all the kids to see. Each country had a larger vertical chart paper hang in the hallway as well. The information the children research about their country was pasted on those posters. This way the children could read all the new facts! Here are templates that I used. 

Three weeks of library lessons focused on the background of the Olympics, the contest rules, the town of Sochi and all they did to make their winter games unique and biographies from some of the Olympic athletes representing Team USA. The students truly enjoyed learning about the symbols, traditions and especially the athletes stories. 

At Allen, the Library Triathlon ended with a school wide celebration. Each county ceremoniously walked in to the event with a country flag and a "torch". We "lit" the large Olympic flame with the Olympic theme playing in the background. Our principal, Mr. Clarke, reminded us of how our school behavior is similar to the Olympic spirit and explained the rules to our first activity "Ballius Uppius in the Areaius (from the Greek/Latin: Ball Up in the Air). So much fun! The second activity activity was Olympic Trivia based on the library lessons. Mr. Clarke added more suspense by adding in a relay race with the Olympic rings before the questions were answered. A huge hit! 
In both schools, the top three classes earned Gold, Silver, and Bronze medals from Oriental Trading Company. The Gold class will also receive a Pizza Party, the Silver a Popsicle Party and the Bronze will enjoy a Popcorn Party.   

This is a movie from our closing ceremony at Allen.