Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Reading and Writing Narrative Texts

As April wraps up and May approaches, we approach field trip season. Whether you are traveling with a class or making memories with your own children, field trips provide a wonderful opportunity for writing narrative texts. Strong readers and writers should be able to "write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective techniques, well-chosen details, and well structured event sequences" (CCSS W.3). The language experience approach is a great way to introduce narrative text writing to kindergarten and first grade students. Students experience an event and then record details of the event. Children can then transfer that knowledge to their reading as they look for examples of narrative texts. We've applied this to our study of Eric Carle books.
Reading and Writing Narrative Texts, Eric Carle

Writing Narrative Texts Using the Language Experience Approach

We love to visit The Butterfly House in St. Louis or the Insectarium at the St. Louis Zoo. I prefer the butterflies to the creepy crawlies. Some kids, of course, would rather experience piles of cochroaches. Gross! After a recent visit, we recorded our experiences in our journals. We drew pictures of our favorite butterflies and insects. Through interactive writing, we recorded the events that happened on our outing. I wrote a lot of the text and they contributed the parts they knew. We talked about words that show order (first, then, next, last).

Reading Narrative Texts for Details and Story Order

After writing about our experiences, we began to explore imaginary narrative texts. We connected to our learning about insects and butterflies as we read Eric Carle's books "The Very Clumsy Click Beetle", "The Very Lonely Firefly" and "The Very Hungry Caterpillar".

Recalling Details in Text from "The Very Hungry Caterpillar"

Our first book activity was very engaging for the boys. After exploring real butterflies, we looked at the life cycle of a butterfly in the narrative text, "The Very Hungry Caterpillar". We read the book and created a caterpillar out of an oatmeal box and retold the story.
Reading and Writing Narrative Texts, Eric Carle
Here's How we made our Very Hungry Caterpillar
Cylinder container with plastic lid (oatmeal box, pringles can, etc)
Construction paper (red, green, yellow)
Purple pipe cleaner
Printable food for Very Hungry Caterpillar

Cover the container with green construction paper.
Trace the plastic lid circle onto red construction paper. Cut.
Cut a large mouth hole from the plastic lid. Trace onto the red construction paper and cut out. Glue on the face, lining up the openings.
Then I provided them with printable copies of the fruits and foods that The Very Hungry Caterpillar ate. They "fed" the printable paper food to the caterpillar by putting the cards into his mouth. We talked about story order and used story order words. (You can find all of the food cards in my insects unit or draw your own based on the book).

Exploring Beginning Middle and End with The Very Lonely Firefly

We began talking about the order of events by talking about stories that have a strong beginning, middle, and end. We read The Very Lonely Firefly and drew sketches of what happened at the beginning, middle, and end of the story. This is an interesting book because it begins at night. It's fun to contrast this with The Very Hungry Caterpillar book and talk about how it begins on a Sunday morning. Students can discover that the time of day is the setting and doesn't necessarily impact the order of the story.

Reading and Writing Narrative Texts, Eric Carle

For classroom purposes, you might want to display these sketches in the classroom with labels. You could also have students draw and write the beginning, middle, and end on a graphic organizer. These printables are included in my Reading and Writing about Insects Unit.

Determining the Order of Events with "The Very Clumsy Click Beetle"

One of my favorite classroom activities for teaching order of events is team sequencing. This activity helps all readers talk about their thinking. It is fantastic for struggling readers as there is scaffolding provided by working in a team, but each student is "forced" to particpate. Here are the rules for team sequencing. Each child gets one card. Each child may only touch his or her own card. The team must get all of the cards in the correct order. Team members should use verbal cues and work together to get the story in the right order.

Reading and Writing Narrative Texts, Eric Carle

You can use this with any story by creating picture cards to retell the story. I've created a set for The Very Clumsy Click Beetle in my Reading and Writing about Insects Unit.

Additional Resources
You can find more activities including scoring guides and more graphic organizers in my complete unit Reading and Writing about Insects which you can purchase in my store.
Reading and Writing Narrative Texts, Eric Carle

Reading and Writing Narrative Texts, Eric Carle

Reading and Writing Narrative Texts, Eric Carle

How have you used the language experience approach to teach writing? How do you connect your writing to reading? I'd love to see your ideas-- share in the comments. I'll pin and share links to posts as well.

You can also find me busily pinning on Pinterest, tweeting on twitter, and chatting about the best Children’s literature on facebook and Google+.


Friday, April 18, 2014

Close Reading Informational Text about Insects

Did you know that there are some 8,500 species of click beetles? Did you know that click beetles frequently fall on their back and can't roll over?  Did you know they have to release a snap mechanism to fly through the air and hopefully land on their feet? Did you know that the 4,000 types of crickets can be found underground, above ground, and even in water? Did you know only the male cricket can make a sound? Did you know that ladybugs eat aphids that feed on leaves?
Where did I learn these fun facts? I've been reading books by author Eric Carle with my boys. When you think of Eric Carle, you may think of classic stories: The Very Hungry Caterpillar, The Very Quiet Click Beetle, The Very Grouch Ladybug, and more. What you may have overlooked are the informational text passages in each of these narratives. Most of these paragraphs can be found at the beginning or end of the book. You may have also overlooked the potential for using these as close reading passages for K-2 grade students.

Close Reading Informational Texts

Locating Passages for Close Reading

It can be tricky business finding informational text for K-2 students to read closely. Ideally a passage needs to be short, include strong vocabulary, and engage students. Well written texts can provide a mentor text to students so it's helpful if the passage has a strong main idea and details. I know a lot of teachers have scoured libraries and online resources to find these types of paragraphs. Some teachers are even writing their own passages. You probably have several of Eric Carle's picture books in your classroom and these are a great resource you could use today!

Routines for Close Reading of Informational Text

Provide the students with an introduction to the text. It could be simply looking at the illustration on the cover or a few selected illustrations in the book. Carle's art is very engaging to students and they will probably take notice of a lot of information from simply looking at the illustrations.

Read the paragraph. Depending on the reading level of your students you may want to read the passage aloud, together, or let students read independently. Consider projecting it for the whole class to see if you are reading it aloud.

Ask students to stop when they notice something that surprises them. Then have them ask, "Why does this surprise me? What does this suggest?"  I found this question from Kylene Beers blog. She is the author of Notice and Note: Strategies for Close Reading and she is working on Notice and Note for Expository Texts. She is already sharing a lot of tips on her blog. I tried out this strategy on my kindergartener when we were reading a book about Koalas. It surprised him that Koalas have two thumbs on each hand. When I asked him the follow up questions, he said, "It tells me I'm not a Koala." At first I thought, "no, duh!"-- but I didn't say it, promise. But as I continued to listen, he said, "Maybe it's because I don't eat just leaves. Maybe I need more energy than that, so I eat other foods. Maybe the Koala needs those thumbs to eat those leaves." All of those were facts he had drawn from the text. Koalas have two thumbs. Koalas eat leaves. Koalas don't have much energy. So, I think it was a successful close read. Allowing kids time to talk about their reading, really does pay off.

More Close Reading with Insects

When you are working with your students to closely read the informational texts, you may also want to focus their attention on vocabulary and text dependent questions. It may be useful to put your TDQ on cards and let groups draw cards and talk about them. You might even want a card that says, "Your Question". I think the ultimate goal is for students to take ownership of the questioning and discussion. Here's an example of one close reading passage about ladybugs. 

Insects are a popular spring theme in K-2 classrooms. If you would like an additional close reading passage, activities, and more lessons for reading and writing informational text, check out my Reading and Writing about Insects unit.


Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Insect Unit with Eric Carle Books

Eric Carle is a much loved children's book author. Many of his books are written about creepy crawlie critters which are perfect for spring reading. We love to watch the very hungry caterpillar as he eats, grows, and changes into a butterfly. We love to read about the very clumsy click beetle who could not turn over and the very quiet cricket who could not make a sound. I enjoy sharing these well sequenced narrative texts, but I also enjoy learning facts from these books as well. Many of Eric Carle's books include an informational paragraph about the insect featured. This is a great mentor text for students who are writing their own informational texts. One of my favorite units to teach in spring is Reading and Writing about Insects (and other creepy crawlies) featuring Eric Carle books.

Eric Carle Book Activities

Eric Carle Insects Unit

The common core state standards  require students to both read and write narrative and informational text. My common core aligned unit helps students to do both. Students will read literature with Eric Carle texts such as
The Very Quiet Cricket by Eric Carle
The Very Lonely Firefly by Eric Carle
The Very Clumsy Click Beetle by Eric Carle
The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle

There is also a focus on close reading of informational text in this unit. Students will answer text dependent questions and focus on gaining new vocabulary. 

Eric Carle Book Activities, Insect Unit, Close Reading Passage

Students will work with a variety of graphic organizers to record details from their reading and plan their own writing. They will use a plan for reading informational text and connect that planning sheet to their writing. 
Eric Carle Book Activities, Insect Unit
They will also use a graphic organizers that focus attention on specific details and events in narrative text. 
Eric Carle Book Activities, Insect Unit

The projects in this unit are fun and create an engaging environment.

Eric Carle Book Activities, Insect Unit

Students will enjoy retelling The Very Hungry Caterpillar. Bright colored printable signs will help you display student work.
Eric Carle Book Activities, Insect Unit

The entire unit is focused toward helping students meet the standards so they can create meaningful writing of their own.  In the unit, students are often required to take on a role such as bug researcher, coauthor, or party planner.

Eric Carle Book Activities, Insect Unit

Reading and Writing about Insects is a fun writing unit for K-2 grade students.  You can easily print the activities which are aligned to the standards. There are scoring guides aligned to standards which will make standards based grading quick and efficient. You can purchase this unit in my teachers pay teachers store by following this link or clicking the picture below.

Eric Carle Book Activities, Insect Unit


Monday, April 14, 2014

In the Tall Tall Grass by Denise Fleming Spring Book Activities

Welcome back to the Virtual Book Club for kids. Each month I join with a group of bloggers to feature book activities from books by a selected author. This month we are featuring the works of Denise Fleming. I've chosen "In the Tall Tall Grass" by Denise Fleming. It's a wonderful pick for spring reading.

book activities, denise fleming, in the tall tall grass

Spring has sprung in our yard. Our grass is green, tall, and full of interesting creepy crawlies. The book "In the Tall Tall Grass" partners well with our outdoor explorations. This book explores the tall tall grass from the perspective of a caterpillar. The book explores the daytime critters as well as the nighttime critters. It has great descriptive rhyming text.  It provides opportunities for children to label and count a variety of grassland critters such as hummingbirds, bees, moles, snakes, fireflies, bats, and more.

Of course we had to explore our tall tall grass. Tyson was able to make connections to the text and compare and contrast the critters in our grass and the ones in the book. We continued the counting 
in the great outdoors as we counted plants and bugs. We also used vocabulary from the book to label bugs and birds and talk about the movement of the animals.

When we returned inside, we made our own tall tall grass craft. I gave Tyson a set of stickers. These were from a set of Eric Carle stickers that I found several months ago. Any bug or animal sticker would work for the activity. We also used some flower stickers. Children could also draw their own critters. We placed the stickers on one sheet of paper.

To create the tall tall grass, we snipped the green paper. I drew lines for Tyson to follow so he would know where to stop. I wanted him to leave a small section at the bottom of the page.

We glued the two papers together and the stickers were hidden in the tall tall grass. I reinforced the concepts of labeling objects using story vocabulary and counting objects as we explored Tyson's tall tall grass.

In the Tall Tall Grass is a great book and it's loved by all members of our family.

If you'd like to see more ideas for Denise Fleming books, visit these blogs.

Link up your own post ideas below.  Share your favorite crafts, recipes, and activities to go with Denise Fleming books.

Next month we'll be exploring books by Mem Fox.


Friday, April 4, 2014

How to Teach Close Reading Part 2

On April Fools Day I posted a foolish look at close reading. I introduced some non-examples of close reading in an attempt to get the conversation going about what close reading is and what close reading is not. If you missed my April Fools Day post on Close Reading, check it out:

While I wish there was a magic formula for closely reading and comprehending text, there isn't. I don't claim to be an expert on close reading, but lately I've been reading a lot of great books and blog posts with strategies for close reading. Today I'm sharing some of what I've learned about close reading. I'm also giving you a peek into my professional library. I've even found some resources you can use in your classrooms right now.

1. Learning by Osmosis. 

Did your teachers have the poster with Garfield "learning by osmosis" back in the 80s? (I really want to share it, but I'm afraid I'd be breaking copyright, so just google it). No matter how hard Garfield tried to convince us this was a possibility, I don't think there is any merit in reading in close proximity to text, so lets move on to the real stuff today.

2. Close reading groups. 

While packing too many kids into a small classroom doesn't correlate to higher reading scores, there is a benefit to reading in close proximity to an adult. "Children are made readers on the laps of their parents." Emilie Buchwald.  In fact, I wonder if many reading problems could be avoided if all children were given an opportunity to hear thousands of bedtime stories?

My Dad reading to my nephew and baby Logan.

I'd recommend the book, "Reading Magic" to those parents of young children who want to prepare their children for close reading. While the book isn't specifically about "close reading" it will help you enrich read aloud time. Mem Fox says in her book, "Reading Magic"

"Finding a book, getting a child, and sitting down and reading the book is completely fine on its own. It's exactly what we should be doing."-- Mem Fox, Reading Magic

Many early grades teachers are already mimicking this lap reading experience in the classroom through shared readings and interactive read alouds. While shared reading looks different than the close reading of upper grades, you are laying the foundations of literacy. One of my favorite resources for helping young children become literate is Fountas and Pinnell's "Literacy Beginnings". Here's a taste from a chapter on "Using Interactive Read-Alouds to support Emergent Readers".

"Many children who enter prekindergarten have been read bedtime stories for two years or more; others have heard many "lap stories", beginning from the point they could look at a book and listen to even part of a story. Others have had less experience in hearing written language read aloud. Luckily, with a rich prekindergarten program, you can help those children 'catch up' on their reading! If the activity is engaging and fun, they learn very quickly. In this chapter we explore the important role of conversations with children in connection with reading aloud to them."

If you are a early grades teacher who has been told you must do close reading as part of your reading program, this resource by Little Bird Kindergarten is fabulous. The passages are short. You can do a shared reading on your smart board using the pdf files. There is a strong focus on vocabulary and talking about the text. It incorporates skills that are appropriate for Kindergarten students like writing around the room and creating responses to reading that are drawn, dictated, or written. (Disclaimer: I do not know this author and this was not a paid promotion. I just really like this resource!)

3. Highlighters and sticky notes.

 In yesterday's foolish article on close reading, I joked that highlighters and sticky notes would improve your student's reading abilities-- magically, no scaffolding required. Unfortunately, I don't think there is a magic pill to help all children succeed in reading. (If you know of one, please, please leave a comment). Yesterday a reader, +Carolyn Wilhelm  of Wise Owl Factory left a comment on my post,

"Funny, but highlighters and small groups do work, nice post."

I think the research backs up her quote. In fact, one of my most favorite new resources for teaching close reading is a book called "Notice and Note: Strategies for Teaching Close Reading" by +Kylene Beers and +Bob Probst 

 This text provides lessons for teaching "signposts" or teaching students to notice features in text that would help a student read closely and better comprehend the text. Notice and Note provides explicit lesson plans that help students know exactly what to do when they notice a text feature and how to ask themselves questions to extend the learning. Here are the authors thoughts on responding to texts.

"Because the intent of these signposts is to create skilled, observant, engaged, independent readers, at some point in some way students need to record what they're observing as they read on their own." (Notice and Note)

They go on to give examples of signpost bookmarks and reading logs, sticky notes, allowing students to write in the actual book, or using an ereader to highlight text. I found a few free printables on teachers pay teachers that can be used for these signpost lesssons you are using them. Plus there are awesome logs and bookmarks as well as sample anchor charts in the text itself.

Notice and Note Signpost Bookmarks from Engagement in English
Notice and Note Reading Log from Gifted Kids Network

In the 21st century classroom, children can stop and notice while using digital texts. Let's face it, the highlighters and sticky notes have gone high tech. In Notice and Note, authors Beers and Propst say, 

"Digitally delivered texts allow us to quickly highlight, extract, annotate, and then share our thoughts about what we are reading with others through social networking sites." Notice and Note)

Isn't that cool? No longer are we limited to a board of sticky notes responses at the end of a lesson. Now my classroom can connect with your classroom. I think learning can increase exponentially in this way.

4.  Choose rigorous texts. 

I have heard a lot of talk about rigor lately. It is encroaching on close reading's spot on pinterest boards and blogs. I'll be the first to admit, I've had a flawed view of rigor. I've mistaken rigor for "hard". If kids can read "hard" books, they will be competent readers. The book "Notice and Note" helped me to reshape my ideas about rigorous text. 

"Rigor is not an attribute of a text but rather a characteristic of our behavior with the text."
"The essential element in rigor is engagement." (Notice and Note p. 21)

I'm beginning to learn that rigor isn't the text itself, it's the level of engagement with the text. 

This idea is further supported by Lucy Calkins,  in "Pathways to the Common Core, Accelerating Achievement"

"If you empty reading of meaning and purpose, young people won't step up to the hard work it takes to become more powerful readers. As long as there is a reward for their work, children and teens are game to work hard...Entering the wonderous lives of others - that will fascinate a reader... learning how to live your life- that will sustain a reader" (p. 52 Pathways to the Common Core: Accelerating Achievement)

Pathways to the Common Core has been my favorite book for breaking down the language of the CCSS and giving me a fuller understanding of the verbage and the application of the standards to classroom teaching. 

5. Reread, reread, reread, reread. 

It turns out rereading is a hallmark of close reading.

"Less skilled readers rarely see the value in rereading and when they do reread, they do so indiscriminately... When you are confused by something you've read, you reread but with purpose, with questions in mind, with a hypothesis about the meaning you were trying to confirm." (Notice and Note)

To me, this quote means that the point of the lesson is not to reread. The point of the lesson is for readers to begin to notice features in text and analyze them closely. If we walk out of the classroom door at the end of the day and simply check off that we read the text three times, highlighted texts, and taken notes, we have not read closely. 

I love this video of close interactive reading of Bats at the Ballgame from +Jennifer Jones. The students are engaged with the text and the talk is authentic.

7.  Text Dependent Questions
The notion of interrupting the reading every 1.5 seconds to ask questions is clearly not a best practice for helping students comprehend text. However, the common core state standards seems to call for a sharp increase in literal comprehension of text. As I mentioned, I've been reading "Pathways to the Common Core: Accelerating Achievement." The authors Calkins, Ehrenworth, and Lehman point out a shift in teaching reading. For many years, our instructional focus was to help students make connections to the text. In Pathways to the Common Core, the authors highlight that the common core state standards ask students read within the four corners of the text. That is, students need to refer explicitly to text, refer to details and examples in the text, and by fifth grade they need to be able to quote directly from the text. 

It's easy to jump to the conclusion that asking long strings of text dependent questions will help students read within the four corners of the text. However, Beers and Probst suggest that text dependent questions don't seem authentic to learners. Teachers simply ask questions that they already know the answer to, students answer the questions by refering to the text... not very engaging... not very rigorous. They suggest we should, instead, teach the students to notice signposts in text and teach students how to ask ONE question about each signpost. The full lessons are in their book and are awesome!

I've also found a resource for helping students to take ownership of this process of citing text based evidence. +Jennifer Jones has a text based evidence graph to help students use TBE and evaluate their usage. Read her blog post that explains why she created this resource. Jennifer Jones' insight into the readers of the 21st century is awesome! It makes me rethink everything about teaching.

If you stuck with me to the end of this lengthy post, pat yourself on the back and give yourself a gold star. I love being able to reflect and share what I've been learning through studying professional texts. I also love to engage in conversation with other educators about literacy related questions. I started a G+ community for that very purpose. I'd love if you'd hop over to Reading with Children and share your faves for teaching students to read closely.


Tuesday, April 1, 2014

How to Teach Close Reading

UPDATE: This post was my humorous look at non-examples of close reading for April Fools Day. click on the link to check out my real post on close reading. You'll find my favorite resources and tips.

Close reading is an important part of any stellar reading program. Lately the term "close reading" has gotten a lot of buzz. It all started when the common core state standards were released and teachers, publishers, test producers zeroed in on this standard, "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." This is clearly an important topic. It's the first reading anchor standard and judging by the number of pinterest boards dedicated to "close reading", these two words carry some weight!! There are differing views on what close reading actually means. I'm happy to announce today that I have discovered a method for teaching close reading that will work with every student with 100% success. 

How to Teach Close Reading

close reading

Hold the book closely. 

We all know the old saying, "He's got his nose stuck in a book." This is likely the secret to successful reading. Try to hold it as close as possible-- even so close that the letters turn squiggly and blurry. Students can then closely analyze the markings on the page!

Create close reading groups.  

close reading

Pack as many students into a small classroom as possible and let them read closely. Many school districts are already ahead of the curve on this trend-- filling classrooms to max capacity. Kudos to you on your close reading efforts. I'm sure they'll pay off.

Use highlighters. 

close reading

Highlighters are the magic pill in close reading. If your students highlight the text, they are reading closely. You don't even need a lesson plan, just highlighters! Make sure teachers create a system for highlighting that involves circling, straight lines, wavy lines, check marks and stars. This system should remain a mystery to the students as that increases the rigor.

Choose "rigorous" texts.

close reading

Speaking of rigor, choose texts that are completely inaccessible to the students. These texts should be at least 3 years above a child's frustrational reading level. All students should read the same text and individual levels and interests should never be considered. As long as you use the secrets of close reading, your students will instantly show success on these levels. No scaffolding required.

Reread, Reread, Reread, Reread...

Create a strange routine for re-reading boring texts. Have the students read each small paragraph nearly 500 times. Read 100 times in average speed. Read 100 times in slow mo. Read 100 times while using the magic of highlighters. Read 100 times on a tablet. Read 99 times in a British accent. Follow the same routine every single day for an entire school year. Keep it as boring as possible and don't let students connect with the text on a personal level!

Buff up the Text Dependent Questions.

close reading

Ask a text dependent question every 1.5 seconds. Make sure to interrupt the flow of the story. Consider stopping students between each syllable of text. This will surely increase comprehension as students analyze text.

April Fools!

Last but not least, Happy April Fools Day! I hope you have caught on to the sarcastic joking nature of this post. Come back tomorrow and I'll share what I've really been learning about close reading. I'm certainly not an expert, but I've found some great resources to help me navigate these choppy waters.

Oh, and if you use highlighters, rereading strategies, text dependent questions, etc, I am not judging your teaching. I've used all of the above. I am encouraging all of us to really look at how we teach kids to read and comprehend text. I'm hoping that as professionals we can create a conversation in order to discover the best practices in teaching reading.

I thought April Fools Day would be a fun day to share some of the outrageous resources that many publishers have created that are "common core aligned" and support "close reading". Feel free to chime in with your thoughts in the comments or on facebook.