The Power of a PLN!


ImageTuesday is the day to share a “Slice of Life” with Two Writing Teachers. Check out the writers, readers and teachers here.  Thanks to Stacey, Anna, Beth, Tara, Dana and Betsey for creating that place for us to work collaboratively.

Last week as I finished a PD session for some of my teachers, I was asked by the principal to compile separate lists of Informational Books for grades 3, 4, and 5 so they could be purchased for the staff.  So a a “resource-full” individual, I put my question out  on Twitter to see exactly which informational titles the members of my PLN would say that they could not live without.  And they did not disappoint!

Here are the five books that I shared as a result of Alexis Czeterko’s (@AlexisCzeterko ) Closing Workshop “Five Mentor Texts for Information Writing  – and Ways to Use Them with Power”.  The variety is incredible and seems to renew teachers’ interest in quality informational texts as well.  And then the opportunities for using mentor text to explore writing techniques and goals will quickly expand for all writers who study craft moves while reading!

1.  National Geographic – Great Migrations:  Amazing Animal Journeys

2. Surprising Sharks  by  Nicola Davies and illustrated by James Croft

 3. No Monkeys, No Chocolate by Melissa Stewart and Allen Young

4. The Split History of the American Revolution 

5. Elephants  by Steve Bloom

Responses to my request for HELP!

Melissa Stewart provided a great list, but I loved the fact that she said these two books were necessities if only two books could be ordered.  Do you know Melissa Stewart? If not, STOP, reading and just click on this link NOW!

Boy Who Loved Math – Heiligman

The Animal Book:  A Collection of the Fastest, Fiercest, Toughest, Cleverest, Shyest –and Most Surprising Animals on Earth – Steve Jenkins

Melissa stressed that the actual books for a grade level would depend on the content standards currently in place.  So keep that flexibility in mind as the goal is NOT to create a perfect list.  Instead the goal is to put valuable mentor texts into the hands of the student authors!  Check to see which ones you already own and which ones fill gaps in your current collection!  (So unless your room is completely empty, you would need to check your current booklist and your standards before blindly purchasing all of these!)

Grade 3
Vulture View – April Sayre and Steve Jenkins
An Egg is Quiet – Dianna Hutts Aston
If You Find a Rock – Peggy Christian
Plant Secrets – Emily Goodman
Feathers Not Just for Flying – Melissa Stewart
Grade 4
No Monkeys, No Chocolate – Melissa Stewart
The Sun, the Wind, and the Rain – Lisa Westberg Peters
Song of Water Boatman and Other Pond Poems – Joyce Sidman
Neo Leo: The Ageless Ideas of Leonardo da Vinci – Gene Barretta
Planting the Wild Garden – Kathy O. Galbraith
Grade 5
A Place for Bats – Melissa Stewart
Winter’s Tail – Craig Hatkoff
Who Lives in an Alligator Hole? – Anne Rockwell
Living Sunlight – Molly Bang
Boy Who Harnessed the Wind – William Kamkwamba

Allison Jackson (@Azajacks), avid reader who also reviews books for the Nerdy Book Club, and teacher of third grade students submitted this list also on Twitter.

No Monkeys, No Chocolate – Melissa Stewart
Locomotive – Brian Floca
Balloons over Broadway – Melissa Sweet
UnBEElievables – Douglas Florian
What to Do About Alice? How Alice Roosevelt Broke the Rules, Charmed the World, and Drove Her Father Crazy! – Barbara Kerley
Brave Girl: Clara and the Shirtwaist Makers’ Strike of 1909 – Michelle Markel
A Splash of Red:   The Life and Art of Horace Pippin – Jen Bryant
Step Gently Out – Helen Frost
Brothers at BatL The True Story of an Amazing All-Brother Baseball Team – Audrey Vemick

Allison also included any books from National Geographic Kids and any books by Nic Bishop.  Additional books for older students included:

Island by Jason Chin

books by John Hendrix

What FIVE informational books would you recommend for students in grade 3, grade 4 and grade 5?
How has your PLN helped you lately?  And more importantly, how have YOU helped others in your PLN?

Special thanks Melissa and Allison!

SOL 14: Back to School


ImageTuesday is the day to share a “Slice of Life” with Two Writing Teachers. Check out the writers, readers and teachers here.  Thanks to Stacey, Anna, Beth, Tara, Dana and Betsey for creating that place for us to work collaboratively.

 

It’s back to school time for many teachers this week in Iowa.

What does that mean?

Well, lots of meetings and professional development for one thing.  But also the culmination of lots of planning for teachers.  Many teachers have been reviewing and polishing their lessons from last year.  Others have attended professional development locally or even in such far away places as New York City for the #TCRWP Writing Institute.

What blogs would be good to review now?

The Blog-a-Thon at Two Writing Teachers for the last week focused on building classroom routines for both reading and writing workshops.  That link was for Tara’s first post about Writing Notebooks.  And here is the recap for the week if you want to pick and choose your topics. What routines do you establish with your students to move them to the “independent” stage?  What new routines do you plan to add this year?

 

What quotes are you going to hold on to as the year begins?

Lucy Calkins:  June and August Reading Institute 2014

“To lift the level of reading you are teaching, you must work on your own reading. Outgrow yourself as a reader. Start today.”

“ We are no longer teaching information, but teaching students to sort, understand and make something out of the information that is at their fingertips.”

From Brooke Geller and the July TCRWP Reading Institute:

Richard Allington:  “Many of our readers are over taught and under practiced.”

From Mr. Minor at the August TCRWP Reading Institute:

“Don’t slow down for struggling readers. Projects disrespect. Keep pace high with repetitions.”

(All of these tweets were also found n Twitter.  Just one more reason for you to check out #TCRWP this week during the August Reading Institute!) :-)

 

What do those quotations have in common?
What is different about them?
Which two would you choose to compare and contrast?

 

What are you planning for/ holding onto as you begin this new school year?

 

Back to School

New room

New students

New teacher

Excited to learn!

 

Pencils

Pens

Paper

Stapler.

 

Books on shelves

Books in tubs

Books on spinners

Books everywhere.

 

The bell rings.

Students race in.

Excited voices

Eager to tell their stories.

Newspapers: Are they biased / unbiased?


You may have an answer for that question in the title.  But do you know for sure?  Definitely?  Unequivocally?  How did you research this issue?

The possibilities for bias in text are endless because text is all around us.  Literally and loosely, text is the scenery around us whether it is print or not.  The texts that comprise our daily lives may include a variety of print or non-print sources including electronic emails, blogs, newspapers, magazines and books.  I want to focus on one of those – the writing found in news sources, typically in newspapers and how we can help students examine that question as they continue to build their reading skills for life.

Standards Addressed:

  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.6  –  Assess how point of view or purpose shapes the content and style of a text.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.9  –  Analyze how two or more texts address similar themes or topics in order to build knowledge or to compare the approaches the authors take.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.L.5  –  Demonstrate understanding of figurative language, word relationships, and nuances in word meanings.
One event. Three articles. Three different stories.  

How do you know whether the news is being reported or if the news is being shaped by the authors and publishers?  Let’s investigate further!

To begin, we will just look at the pictures from the three stories:

la-afp-getty-obama-meets-with-leaders-of-honduras-20140725

U.S. President Obama disembarks from Air Force One as he arrives at Los Angeles International Airportfox pic

What do you know?  What do you wonder?  

(Questions from What Readers Really Do:  Teaching the Process of Meaning Making by Dorothy Barnhouse and Vicki Vinton)

Hold onto those thoughts as you look at the titles.  (And the titles are NOT listed in the same order as the pictures!)

Titles

“Obama tells Central American leaders most children will go home”

“GOP lawmakers fight plan to bring more illegal immigrant children to military bases”

“White House pursuing plan to expand immigrant rights”

What do you know?  What do you wonder?

What theories are you now ready to begin building?

The sources in alphabetical order are:  Fox News, LA Times, and Reuters

Which sources go with which pictures and article titles?  Are you already considering revising your theory?  That process of continually questioning and researching based on what you know and wonder allows a reader to demonstrate flexible thinking.  Thinking really is one essential by-product of the “act of reading and understanding printed messages.”

What words/phrases do you notice in the opening paragraphs of the article covering the same event – news about immigrant children on this date?  Read and jot notes about those words.

Opening paragraphs in the LA Times:

 “Even as President Obama grapples with the crisis of immigrant children arriving at the Southwest border, White House officials are laying the groundwork for a large-scale expansion of immigrant rights that would come by executive action within weeks.

Officials signaled strongly Friday that Obama’s move would shield from deportation large numbers of immigrants living in the country illegally, as advocacy groups have demanded.” (LA Times, 7/26/14)

 

The same story from Reuters begins this way:

“President Barack Obama urged the leaders of three Central American countries on Friday to work with him to stem the flow of child migrants who have surged across the U.S. border and warned that most of them would not be allowed to stay.

In a White House meeting with the leaders of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, Obama had a tough-love message: his administration had compassion for the children, but not many would qualify for humanitarian relief or refugee status. Many of the migrants have fled poverty and crime at home.” (Reuters, 7/26/14)

 

And the third story from Fox News begins with:

“Republican lawmakers are challenging the Obama administration over a newly announced plan to expand the use of U.S. military bases to house illegal immigrant children, warning that it will put a strain on troops and threaten military readiness.

The Pentagon confirmed this week that Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has approved a request from the Department of Health and Human Services to house an additional 5,000 minors at DOD facilities.”

 

Do you notice any patterns?  What are you wondering about at this time?

There are many ways to continue reading these articles.  The length is conducive to having each student read all three, but a student may only be an “expert” on the actual writing techniques used in one or two of the articles.  Do remember that it is sometimes easier to analyze two articles through simultaneous comparing and contrasting rather than just one article by itself.

 

I was wondering about the “experts” and the sources of quotes within the articles.  Who does each author use?

LA Times:

“Obama said last month that because Congress had failed to act on comprehensive immigration reform, he would take executive action to ‘fix as much of our immigration system as I can on my own.'”

“When the decision is announced, it will ‘increase the angry reactions from Republicans,’ Peiffer said.” (White House senior advisor – two other quotes as well)

 

Reuters:

“‘There may be some narrow circumstances in which there is a humanitarian or refugee status that a family might be eligible for,’ Obama said after talks with the leaders. ‘But I think it’s important to recognize that that would not necessarily accommodate a large number.'” (plus two more quotes by President Obama

President Juan Orland Hernandez of Honduras,  “’They have rights, and we want them to be respected,’ he said.”

“‘The idea here is that in order to deter them from making that dangerous journey, we’d set up a system in coordination with these host countries to allow those claims to be filed in that country without them having to make that dangerous journey,’ said White House spokesman Josh Earnest.”

 

Fox News:

paraphrased information (no quotes in article)”The Pentagon confirmed that Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel . . . request from Dept. of Health and Human Services. . . “

Direct quote – “Donelle Harder, a spokeswoman for Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., told FoxNews.com.”

“Alabama lawmakers . . . ‘ongoing talks’ . . .  . . . “Alabama GOP Reps. Martha Roby and Mike Rogers ” . . . . ‘The housing, feeding and caring of immigration detainees would severely compromise the critical mission at Maxwell-Gunter,’ they wrote.” (also a second quote)

“Rep. Jim Bridenstine, R-Okla., said the request poses a very real threat to U.S. military readiness,’ noting the base is the ‘primary artillery training center for troops before deployment.'” (second quote also)

 

What might instruction/inquiry look like at this point?  

I might begin to model comparing specific words and phrases that were used in the articles and also begin to discuss the sources. Which words/phrases seem to be the most simple form of reporting (without opinions/emotions) in comparison to words or phrases that seem to have been chosen for their emotional nuances?  What could those comparisons look like?

Paint chips, a visual way to show the progression of vocabulary words, could be used.  Students in 1:1 districts could simply create these using a chart and add color gradations to the boxes.  Or students could consider how to use “shapes” to show the different layers of word meanings / nuances or  phrases and words that explicitly provide evidence of the biases and or point of view of the reporters/publishers. Words could then be added as text boxes inside each color.

Screenshot 2014-08-03 07.20.46

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For additional discussion or to see an explanation of this vocabulary activity, see Sarah Brown Wessling, 2010 Teacher of the Year, at the Teaching Channel here.

 

If you have not yet googled the articles, here is the link to each one where all advertisements have been stripped courtesy of the readability app (with more information here):

Fox News

LA Times 

Reuters

 

So what are some other choices?

If you are a devotee of “Falling in Love with Close Reading” by Chris Lehman and Kate Roberts, you may have been thinking of all the connections between the lenses of text evidence, vocabulary and point of view!  That would be another way to conduct a close reading of these articles in order to see how they were “reported differently”.

Or, if you are interested in adding in some writing, you might have partner groups of students “summarize” their article in two or three sentences while asking them to include evidence that will help them “defend” their summary as “The Best Summary”.

OR you might consider this question - Can you predict how additional topics will be “covered/handled” by Fox News, LA Times and Reuters?  After making your prediction (and writing it down), pick a topic, pull up the three different articles and see if your predictions are accurate!

Or consider where your own local newspaper fits within this “range” or reporting!

 

Does every text that you read contain some bias?  What do you think?  What would you need to do to unequivocally answer that?

 

ImageTuesday is the day to share a “Slice of Life” with Two Writing Teachers. Check out the writers, readers and teachers here.  Thanks to Stacey, Anna, Beth, Tara, Dana and Betsey for creating that place for us to work collaboratively.

#TCRWP: Information Writing


Well, the June 2014 week of Writing Institute ended one month ago.  The finale included a “flash mob”, laughing and crying, and singing.  Memorable.  Unforgettable.  How do we have evidence of our growth?

We wrote.  We wrote some more.  And even more.  We wrote again and again using the lessons that we were practicing orally and in writing during our sessions.  Here’s just a view of my drafts.

What patterns do you notice in the drafts?

 # Draft 1

DRAFT 1  Monday, June 23

“Writing isn’t really important if it’s okay to write poorly.  Writing should be high quality or don’t even bother asking students to write.”  Mary E quote to begin June Writing Institute 2014.

But students have to write at school.  There are 10 writing CCSS ELA Anchor Standards that specifically address writing.  Under reading, 4-6 also address the craft of writing.  Writing is important.

Writing –  what do authors use for beginnings?  A title – promise of the author to the reader.  Provocative beginning– engage, pull them in so they want to write, yet also fit within the context .  Delicate balance between student choice and teacher need for compliance – do what must be  done!

 

Notes and questions:

  • How did looking at how authors began help us as writers?  How could that be used by students in order to begin writing?  How could that also be used by teachers at PD
  • Look again at the titles that Mary chose.  How did she arrive at those?

When we write:

  • How do we begin?  Introductions? Prologue?
  • What language about writing would be inviting and engaging for teachers and students?

Some ideas. Not a lot of content – YET!

Draft Day # 2 

DRAFT 2  For MS and HS Teachers in Districts    What writing is important?

“Writing isn’t really important if it’s okay to write poorly.  Writing should be high quality or you shouldn’t even bother asking students to write,” according to Mary Ehrenworth (TCRWP Writing Institute.  June, 2014).But students do have to write at school.

Is “not writing” a viable option?  Not really, because there are 10 writing CCSS ELA Anchor Standards that specifically address writing in all content areas grades 6-12 as well as in the primary grades.  To underscore the importance of writing, CCSS ELA  Reading Anchor Standards, 4-6 also address the craft of writing.  Therefore, writing is necessary and important at school in order to address the standards.The CCSS propose that the three types of writing covered by CCSS.W. 1 opinion / argument; 2. Informational/explanatory; and 3. Narrative  are to receive approximately equal attention in the elementary grades.  As a student progresses through the grades, narrative writing is de-emphasized and more attention is paid to Standards 1 and 2.

 

What does this mean for Teachers?

Teachers in all content areas are expected to be able to assist students to be better writers within their content expertise.  Will they be “teaching” writing?  Let’s examine this question a bit farther.  Will the science teacher be teaching writing?  Yes and No.  The science teacher will be expected to read, write and speak like a scientist.  The student will use science vocabulary in oral and written work.  Lab reports might be one example of expected science writing. The science teacher has the knowledge and expertise to guide the student in reading and writing as an apprentice scientist.  The business education teacher will assist the students in reading and writing tasks that would be found within the world of business.  Does this mean that every content area class has to now write a term paper?  The CCRR Anchor Standards do not say that every class should be writing a term paper but there should be an expectation for daily reading and writing in each classroom, even in small doses.

 

(What changed in this draft?

  • Explicitly stated purpose
  • Bold headings stated as questions so text includes the answers)

 

Day 3 Draft

 

DRAFT 3 For MS and HS Teachers in Districts   

Writing

Draft: Well-rounded student – information and all –  parenting – everyone has a role . ELA will not be mastering science content but yet having some uniform expectations  (at least having conversations about how individual roles contribute to the greater good !)

 

Chapter 1  Begin at the Beginning

What writing is important?

“Writing isn’t really important if it’s okay to write poorly.  Writing should be high quality or you shouldn’t even bother asking students to write,” according to Mary Ehrenworth (TCRWP Writing Institute.  June, 2014).

But students do have to write at school.  Is “not writing” a viable option?  Not really, because there are 10 writing CCSS ELA Anchor Standards that specifically address writing in all content areas grades 6-12 as well as in the primary grades.  To underscore the importance of writing, CCSS ELA  Reading Anchor Standards, 4-6 also address the craft of writing.  Therefore, writing is necessary and important at school in order to address the standards.

The CCSS propose that the three types of writing covered by CCSS.W. 1 opinion / argument; 2. Informational/explanatory; and 3. Narrative  are to receive approximately equal attention in the elementary grades.  As a student progresses through the grades, narrative writing is de-emphasized and more attention is paid to Standards 1 and 2.

What does this mean for Teachers?

Teachers in all content areas are expected to be able to assist students to be better writers within their content expertise.  Will they be “teaching” writing?  Let’s examine this question a bit farther.  Will the science teacher be teaching writing?  Yes and No.  The science teacher will be expected to read, write and speak like a scientist.  The student will use science vocabulary in oral and written work.  Lab reports might be one example of expected science writing. The science teacher has the knowledge and expertise to guide the student in reading and writing as an apprentice scientist.  The business education teacher will assist the students in reading and writing tasks that would be found within the world of business.  Does this mean that every content area class has to now write a term paper?  The CCRR Anchor Standards do not say that every class should be writing a term paper but there should be an expectation for daily reading and writing in each classroom, even in small doses.

So what will ELA teachers teach about writing if content area teachers have to teach writing? 

Picture this:  Suzie Q is an ELA teacher who LOVES, LOVES, LOVES narrative writing.  She has her students write narratives at the beginning of the year, then she adds in some response to reading, some argument and informational writing.  But a review of her lesson plans and her curriculum map show that Suzie’s students spend 23 out of 36 weeks on Narrative Writing.

Or picture this:  Janie Smith is an ELA teacher who prides herself on giving students choices in what to write.  She begins the year with a unit on each of the following writing genre:  narrative, response to reading, argument, and informational writing.  Each of these four units are approximately four weeks long and are typically completed by the end of the first semester.  During second semester, students can choose their own content to write based on their other course assignments and needs, yet they know that each student will be asked to add at least one more piece of each writing genre to their portfolio collection with a reflection about how it is different from their first semester writing.

 

Which ELA teacher is not only following the spirit of the curriculum but is also focusing on the curriculum of the students?  Correct, Jani Smith, because she has taught the basics and then provides some student choices that allow for increased writing opportunities with fewer “fake” writing assignments just for teachers (OK, snarky – have not included this idea before that writing only for the teacher is a waste of time!)

 

Chapter 2   Predictable Scenarios in Students’ Informational Writing

Katie Clements, TCRWP staff developer, shared these three common predictable patterns of difficulty in Informational Writing for students in grades 3 – 8.  By being aware that other students have had these problems, you yourself can be prepared to plan for a mini-lesson or at the very least to have conference around these issues.  What and how you teach will be built on previous writing instruction in your classroom, but see if any of these ideas spark your thinking!

 

Possible Scenario for Informational Writing:

Disorganized
Only a tiny bit about each part
Jumps right in without setting up expectations

What changes did you note in Draft # 3?

What remains the same?  

What questions remain unanswered for the reader?

 

And then the final four page draft after comments from classmates and my writing partner. (I really struggled with how to “access this format” because I still don’t understand what a Mac can do!)

Still a draft – but formatted 

Over the course of a week, what did you see change?

Only fitting to share this as my Slice of Life this week:  Evidence of Learning at the June Writing Institute 2014!

 Do you save your drafts?  How do you know your writing is improving?

ImageTuesday is the day to share a “Slice of Life” with Two Writing Teachers. Check out the writers, readers and teachers here. 

 

 

#TCRWP: Informational Writing Goals


The Teachers College Reading and Writing Project’s Units of Study have been in K-5 classrooms for over a year and the grades 6-8 units were published about six weeks ago.  The range of resources for each grade level has more than enough content to help both teachers and students be better writers of all three text types in the Common Core while significantly upping the ante for informational text and therefore meeting CCSS Anchor Standard 2. “Write informative/explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas and information clearly and accurately through the effective selection, organization, and analysis of content.”

What are some goals for information writing?

Here’s a look at just 3 of the goal areas that we explored during the June TCRWP Writing Institute.  If you are fortunate to be attending an advanced institute in August, you will have an opportunity to see these materials up close and personal.  If you have the new middle school units, you already have these materials in your hands.

First of all, understand that we were a group of educators representing grades 3-8.  Some of these ideas were familiar in texts that we read.  But many of them were unfamiliar when thinking about “using them” in our own writing.  Identifying how  and why “authors” used these goals was an important first step for “Reading like an author” before we practiced these in our own writing!

Our reading study was around wolves.  Here is  one text that we used and the first three of the goals that we talked about.

wolves goals overview

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our first task:  Look to see how this author met Goal #1 Hook the Reader.

We turned to the double page spread of the text (pages 1 and 2).

wolves goals one hook

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Read these pages.

What hooks you the reader?

Which technique(s) help the writer meet his goal?

  • Is it the question?
  • Is it the picture?
  • The actual “stance” of the wolf?
  • Is it the description that includes the “lonely howl”, “more voices”, and “chorus of howls”?

Is this dull, boring information writing?

 

Goal # 2 Introduce new topic/subtopic/person

wolves goals two

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Is “Wolves All Around” a new subtopic?

Does this page meet that goal?

What techniques help meet the goal?

  • Is it the heading?
  • Is it the fact that the “print format” of the heading is now predictable?
  • Is it the placement at the top left of the double page spread?

Again, is this dull, boring information writing?

 

Goal # 3  Give background information

Read this double page spread.

wolves goals three background info

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Does the information qualify as background information?

As readers we find out where wolves live (all over the world), what the most common wolf is (gray wolf), and the fact that there are many kinds of gray wolves that are “not just gray.”

What technique (s) does the author use”

  • Factual statements
  • Pictures
  • Labels
  • Comparisons in pictures

 

Was this dull, boring information writing?

In all of these examples, multiple techniques were used to ensure that the reader understood what the writer was saying.  These combinations included words, phrases, sentences, illustrations, headings, titles and additional print features.  As expert readers, are we paying attention to the cumulative effect of ALL of those techniques?  How do we share that expertise with our students?

How does reading like an author and writing like a reader produce riveting informational text across all content areas?
How do you teach students to “effectively select, organize and analyze content”?

SOL14: Digging into History


ImageTuesday is the day to share a “Slice of Life” with Two Writing Teachers. Check out the writers, readers and teachers here. 

 

Where do you live?  Do you consider your hometown to be the BEST in your state?  Or that your state of residence is the best in the country?   I often joke about the fact that I live in Iowa and literally in the “boonies” – out in a rural area, literally surrounded by a state forest on three sides.  My background includes being a “farmer’s daughter” and more specifically a daughter of a “porcine production manager”. (A story for another day about the fact that the pigs who were MONEY had air conditioning long before the family!)

But I must admit that I often have to suffer through bad jokes or questions about being from “Ohio” or “Idaho” as some folks just struggle with knowledge of the Midwest.  Iowa claims:

      • the first in the nation – Iowa Caucus;
      • the birthplaces of John Wayne, Donna Reed, and Johnny Carson;
      • the home of Olympian Shawn Johnson;
      • the birthplace of President Herbert Hoover;
      • Ashton Kutcher who is often seen at sporting events in Iowa;
      • The Bridges of Madison County and
      • The Field of Dreams.

This weekend I was looking for information about the 101st Airborne Division based at Fort Campbell.  I’m not sure that I really even knew what “Airborne” meant in military terms but my research was fascinating and highlights from the Army can be found here.

220px-Saving_Private_Ryan_poster

 

Do you remember “Saving Private Ryan”?  Do you remember where Private Ryan was from?  (clue – my state!) Private Ryan was a fictional character. (But Iowa did also have a basis for a family with multiple members killed in the line of duty  – The Sullivan Brothers from Waterloo, IA serving on the Juneau during World War II.)

 

The screenwriter for this movie, Robert Rodat, saw a memorial to eight soldiers who died in the Civil War and began to write this story  about one week during World War II that began with the assault on Omaha Beach on June 6, 1944, where three brothers in the same family were killed. (70 years ago last month)

 

Lincoln’s “Bixby letter” was used in the movie as a reason to search for and send Private Ryan, 101st Airborne Division, home to Iowa.  That letter is referenced here and is often recognized in the top three of President Lincoln’s epic writings.  (Although there is some debate about the authorship)

The text of the letter  -

“Executive Mansion, Washington, November 21, 1864

Mrs. Bixby, Boston, Massachusetts:

Dear Madam: I have been shown in the files of the War Department a statement of the Adjutant-General of Massachusetts that you are the mother of five sons who have died gloriously on the field of battle. I feel how weak and fruitless must be any words of mine which should attempt to beguile you from the grief of a loss so overwhelming. But I cannot refrain from tendering to you the consolation that may be found in the thanks of the Republic they died to save. I pray that our Heavenly Father may assuage the anguish of your bereavement, and leave you only the cherished memory of the loved and lost, and the solemn pride that must be yours to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of freedom.

Yours very sincerely and respectfully,

Abraham Lincoln” (Fordham University, Modern History Sourcebook and a lithographic facsimile is available here at Wikipedia)

 

 

Draft Found poem:

Mrs. Bixby
your five sons
have died gloriously.
Weak and fruitless
to beguile you
in your grief
so overwhelming;
consolation
in the thanks
of the Republic
they died to save.
I pray
our Heavenly Father
may assuage the anguish and
leave you the
cherished memory of
the loved and lost
and pride for so costly a sacrifice
upon the altar of freedom.
Respectfully, Abraham Lincoln

(Did you click on any of the links?  Interested in learning more?  Go back and check them out!   Did you learn anything new? What questions remain?)

Many historic events have become the subject of movies and Steven Spielberg has produced some epic films.  What is the attraction to a movie?

Is it the characters?

Is it the stories?

Is it that “kernel” of truth that serves as the basis for the plot?

 

Why do you watch “historical movies” or read “historical books”? 

I love “history” when it includes a factual base with well-developed characters and a fascinating story!

 

Reading and Writing Instruction: Paired Mentor Texts


(This is the fourth post about new resources acquired in NYC while attending the 2014 TCRWP June Writing and July Reading Institutes.  See previous posts for  a compare and contrast lesson #CCSS hereStand for Children here, and a book review here.)

Why Paired Mentor Texts?

Pairing mentor texts enables teachers to meet several lesson goals at once. Students who study the true facts behind a story make connections to the text and to history or current events. In addition, finding patterns and contrasts between  two genres can serve to better distinguish them in the students’ minds.

How can we maximize instruction?

Compare and contrast two texts  on the same topic in order to solidify thinking around characteristics or features of the text

Texts:  The Survivor Tree  – two different versions

The Survivor Tree:  A Story of Hope and Healing - 9/11 Commission (Available at the museum)

The Survivor Tree Inspired by a True Story bCheryl Somers Aubin, Illustrated by Sheila Harrington

image

What do you notice from the book covers?  Stop, pause and jot a few notes.

If you were to begin to form a theory about these books, what would it be?

 

Before this summer, I would have jumped right in, read this first page, and had students make note of what the author was saying.

image-1

I might have considered an “inquiry approach”  where I read this page with the book cover completed covered and asked the students: “Which book is this?” with follow up questions like,  “Why do you think so?” or “What is your evidence?”

BUT, it really isn’t about just being able to NAME this genre of text.  Instead it’s about noticing HOW the author used the techniques of the genre to meet his or her writing goals.  And viewing one text at a time is slow because of the lack of comparison and actually limits the amount of text that students are exposed to over the course of a year.

REDO!

New and Improved Plan (thanks to wonderful learning and time to plan):

Let’s look again using the “Know/Wonder” format from Dorothy Barnhouse and Vicki Vinton’s, What Readers Really Do  Teaching the Process of Meaning Making.  We will begin by putting the first page of both books side by side.  Consider what you know after you read the first page from each book.  What information is the same? What do you still wonder after reading those first pages?

 

YJVNkr0jimage-1

What do I “Know” after reading page one from both books?

Both pages include these specific words:  Gallery pear tree, World Trade Center, plaza, New York City, September 11, story

The first page one specifically says “Survivor Tree” while the second one says “over time, and with great care, she recovered.”

Structurally, the first page one consists of three sentences that are fairly complex.  The second page one has four paragraphs.

 

What do I “Wonder”?

I wonder if both books will actually be about “HOW” the tree survived and the fact that trees can be “resilient”?

Will the first book continue to be more factual and contain more information even though it says it is a story?

Will both books continue to have a lot of similarities in their information that will make it “easy” to compare those stories?

Will the second book read more like a story or narrative with the “tree” as the main character?

Does the use of a watercolor drawing help create the “feeling” of a narrative in the second text?

Which text already seems to have more “narrative” features?

Which one seems to have more informational features?

Why are both authors saying that they are telling a story?

 

Making predictions:

In this new and improved plan, the second stage will actually have us looking at the book covers.  Based on what we have seen on the two different page ones, which book cover goes with which page and why? (Claim and supporting details)  I believe this conversation will have a greater focus on the text and how the authors have begun their stories.  This attention to the author’s craft will help the readers grow in both their reading and writing.

 

Can you already tell which page belongs to which book?  What writing techniques helped you make that decision?
Which plan do you usually use with paired texts?
What other paired mentor texts do you have in your reading and writing instruction?

#SOL: Summertime


ImageTuesday is the day to share a “Slice of Life” with Two Writing Teachers. Check out the writers, readers and teachers here. 

 

                          Summertime

current river

Sizzling,
Scorching,
Lazy sunny day.

Chilly,
even cold toes,
resting on the bottom of the canoe.

Spring-fed
sparkly water and
sandy beaches.

Singly or as a flotilla,
Canoes
Quietly
Floating
Slicing through the clean and serene
Current River.

 
What’s your favorite summertime memory?

Book Review / Summer Vacation Plans?


Another book that I found at the New York City Public Library was this gem that is full of wonderful advice about what you should do this summer!

book cover

Have you seen this book?  Do you remember “Little Golden Books”?

I remember collecting a wide variety of these when my son was little.  They were a perfect length for bedtime reading and had such a nice “happily ever after” ending (or at least the ones I remember). These were constants on the shelves as I traded other books that I was using at school depending upon the season and the age.

I’m not saying that these are great literature and are worthy of “stickers” as we heard Jackie Woodson talk about at #TCRWP’s Reading Institute.  But do check out the messages that I found in a very quick perusal of the book’s pages.

turn off tv

(And it’s very important to note that this page says 1959.  I didn’t know that color TV had even been invented in 1959.  Maybe color TVs just hadn’t made it to Iowa yet! History of color TV here at wikipedia.)

So if you turn off the TV, you should . . .

three

Clever, NO?  Not convinced?

More wisdom . . .

four

or even . . .

five

What have you planned for your summer vacation?

Will you turn off TV?
Will you read a book?
Will you use your imagination?
Will you learn something new?

. . . a cute book that you will enjoy sharing!

New York – Then and Now: Compare and Contrast #CCSS Lesson Idea


I believe in the power of bundling the CCSS Anchor Standards so I was quite happy to purchase this book at the New York Public Library while in New York for the #TCRWP Writing and Reading Institutes.

NY

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I loved the content immediately as each page had a picture and a text block.  The organization was also easy as each two page spread had the “then” picture on the left page and the “now”picture directly opposite it on the right page. My mind took me straight to compare and contrast with “visuals” and texts.

We will begin with the front cover.  The book will be displayed via the document camera.  Each partner group will also have the picture.  The partners will have some time to study the picture and record the things that they know and those things that they wonder.  After all groups have had time to talk and record their notes, we will record their thoughts on chart paper or on a google doc on the screen.  Students will be well aware of the power of “…and the evidence of that is. . .?” as they listen, question, and challenge each other’s thinking.  Each partner groups will then develop a draft theory about this book and its contents.

Inquiry will continue with this picture (text folded under at first).

liberty then

 

So, here’s the first draft of my plan for grades 3-5.  We are going to use the “Know” and “Wonder” chart idea from What Readers Really Do especially now that I have met both authors, Dorothy Barnhouse and Vicki Vinton.  We will begin with the picture only.  Then after all partner groups have several “Knows and Wonders” recorded privately, I will read the text under the picture.  Students will be encouraged to study the text as well.  They will add textual evidence in a different color of ink as the partner groups continue to add to their “Know/ Wonder” thinking.   Before the next picture is added, students will be encouraged to consider whether their draft theory is still holding up or whether it needs to be revised.

 

Similarly, picture 3, partners recording “Know and Wonder”

liberty now

After partner groups have recorded their Know and Wonders from the picture, the text below Lady Liberty, and from class discussion, we will continue to explore whether our theories still hold true.

 

Similar process for another pair of pictures  . . .

square then

square now

 

After working with these two pictures, students will pair square so that each set of two partners will be matched up with another set.  As a group of four, they will discuss their “Knows, Wonders” and patterns and theories.

 

On the next day the quad groups will again discuss whether they have additional “knows and wonders” to add, clarify, or restate.  Time will also be allocated to add, clarify or restate patterns and theories as well.  Partners will be encouraged to take a different set of “then” and “now” photos and continue to test their theories and patterns as well as answer questions that have arisen.

 

How will this work align with the CCSS ELA Reading Anchor Standards ?

The following list of CCSS ELA Anchor Standards could possibly be included in this study.

Key Ideas and Details:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.1
Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.2
Determine central ideas or themes of a text and analyze their development; summarize the key supporting details and ideas.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.3
Analyze how and why individuals, events, or ideas develop and interact over the course of a text.

Integration of Knowledge and Ideas:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.7
Integrate and evaluate content presented in diverse media and formats, including visually and quantitatively, as well as in words.1
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.9
Analyze how two or more texts address similar themes or topics in order to build knowledge or to compare the approaches the authors take.

Do you agree with these possible standards? Disagree?  What would you add to this instructional sequence?
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