Monday, January 22, 2018

Introducing...The Literacy Suitcase!

     Amid much excitement, I introduced the kids to our Literacy Suitcase this afternoon.  The Literacy Suitcase is a small suitcase filled with a variety of word games intended to help build a strong phonics foundation.  These games will help the kids develop skills they can draw upon in both their reading and writing.
     Each day one child will be chosen to take the Literacy Suitcase home for the night.  On the evening your child brings home the suitcase, they will not have any other homework.  I encourage you to share in this learning experience with your child.  Enjoy!

Friday, January 19, 2018

Posting in our Nonfiction Books

    During Reader’s Workshop, we continue to focus on growing our knowledge about the topics in our nonfiction books.  The kids have been working to “leave tracks of their thinking” using Post Its as they read.   This week the children began using sandwiches (yes, sandwiches) to help assess the quality of their own nonfiction postings.  The kids are using the terms “white bread”, “hot dog”, “B.L.T.”, and “taco” to help them with the skill of self assessment.  They are using this tool (otherwise known as a “rubric”) to stretch their thinking about their nonfiction learning. 
    A “white bread” post is a post with just a few words describing their learning - dry, with limited “flavor” or details, much like a white bread sandwich.  Example: Leaves, fur, and moss. 
    A “hot dog” post is a post with slightly more flavor/details than a white bread post.  This post includes something that the reader learned. Example: “I learned that squirrels put leaves, fur, and moss in their nests.”     
    A “B.L.T.” post includes more details and is more interesting - much the same way a B.L.T. has more flavor than a white bread sandwich or a hot dog.  This post includes something the reader learned, followed by a wonder or how their new learning changed their thinking. Examples: “I learned that squirrels put leaves, fur, and moss in their nests.  I used to think the nests were only make of sticks,” or “I learned that squirrels put leaves, fur, and moss in their nests.  I wonder if they use fur from other animals.”  I encourage the kids to work towards at least a B.L.T. when posting in their nonfiction books.
    A “taco” post is the most detailed of all posts, much the same way that an actual taco is filled with lots of flavor and ingredients…and what second grader doesn’t love a taco!?  A “taco” post is a place where the kids can really “push their thinking.”  A “taco” post uses either of the following sentence frames, “I learned… I used to think… I think…” or “I learned… I wonder… I think…”  Examples:  “I learned that squirrels put leaves, fur, and moss in their nests.  I used to think the nests were only made of sticks.  I think they add those other things to make the nest softer for the babies,”  or “I learned that squirrels put leaves, fur, and moss in their nests.  I wonder if they use fur from other animals or only squirrel fur.  I think that they only use squirrel fur because they would not like the smell of other animals in their nests.”
    One of my goals in our nonfiction reading unit is for the kids to become more than just fact collectors as they navigate a text.  I  encourage the children to determine importance (figure out what is important in each part/section) and then synthesize the information (combine their schema with their new learning) to grow their knowledge about a topic. This self assessment tool has improved the quality of the kids’ posting immensely!  The kids are thinking more deeply about the information in their books.  They should be EXTREMELY proud of the growth they have shown this week in their posting!  Hip hip hooray!

Friday, January 5, 2018

Nonfiction Writing

     We are immersed in nonfiction during Writer's Workshop and the kids' enthusiasm is certainly contagious!  The children are bursting at the seams, eager to share their areas of expertise as they craft nonfiction books.
     I began this writing unit by directing the kids' attention to the nonfiction section of our classroom library.  I pointed out that none of "their" nonfiction books could be found on the shelves and that the only way to fix this problem was to begin writing nonfiction of their own.  I used this as a springboard to encourage the children to choose nonfiction topics on which they are already an expert, and with some scaffolding, the writing began!
     During the second minilesson, the kids each chose one nonfiction book from their book box to use as a tool to study another nonfiction author, noticing the interesting things they do to teach the reader.  The kids quickly noticed many interesting ways to teach a reader about a topic, including the use of diagrams, using a table of contents, including a glossary and bold faced words, and including fun fact bubbles.  I encouraged the students to use these ideas, to borrow these "craft moves" in their own nonfiction writing.  I was absolutely amazed at how quickly the kids were able to include these sophisticated text features in their own pieces!
     After several days of crafting nonfiction books, I introduced the Information Writing Checklist to the children.  This is a wonderful tool that teaches the kids to reflect on the nonfiction writing they have completed and to set a goal for themselves moving forward.  During this lesson, each student created a nonfiction writing goal and created a plan in reaching their goal.  Be sure to ask your child about their personal writing goal.
      The kids have already begun to fill our "Room 208 Nonfiction Authors" book bucket that now resides in our classroom library.  This is a bin that kids are able to "shop" from during Reader's Workshop, as a way to share their work with one another.  I am thrilled to see the excitement and enthusiasm around this new addition to our nonfiction classroom books!

                                                        Information Writing Checklist