Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Fluency, Science Fair, Tribes, & Animal Research - Part 7!

Every year, our school participates in the South Kettle Moraine Interpretive Reading Contest. Students are encouraged to read 3-5 minutes from a text of their choice and are judged on their eye contact, diction (pronunciation & enunciation), vocal volume and rate, vocal variety and expression (pleasant & interesting voice), posture and overall appearance, facial expression (appropriate and not distracting), poise (seems well practiced, minimizes errors, not memorized), understanding (conveys main ideas of selection), and audience appeal. Two students are selected from each class to advance to the school-wide competition, and then one student from each grade level moves on to the finals.

To help prepare for the Interpretive Reading Contest, we spent a lot of last month learning about fluency. We studied the different dimensions of fluency: pausing, phrasing, intonation, stress, pace/rate, and integration. Between teacher modeling, shared reading, and independent practice, students worked to adopt all the dimensions of fluency while reading.

I kept my fingers crossed that with our month-long study of fluency, we'd have some kids sign up to do the Interpretive Reading Contest, and lo and behold....we had nine kids sign up to participate! (We had one missing today who was sick. He'll read tomorrow!)

Today we held our classroom competition. Here are the brave students who got up in front of their class to get judged as they read. Our two finalists who will move on to the school-wide competition will be announced tomorrow! It is definitely going to be a TOUGH decision. We had a lot of excellent candidates read today.

Here is Nina who read a section from The Dog Who Cried Wolf by Keiko Kasza.

Here is Cyndi who read Silverlicious by Victoria Kann.

Elie read a section from Word After Word After Word by Patricia MacLachlan.

Summer read a section from The Wolf Who Cried Boy by Bob Hartman.

Cody read a section from Miss Alaineus by Debra Frasier.

Tyler's selection came from The Secret Knowledge of Grown-Ups by David Wisniewski.

Katie read Nice Try, Tooth Fairy by Mary W. Olson and Katherine Tillotson.

Elisa's book was My School's A Zoo by Stu Smith.

Yesterday we had a chance to go visit the Science Fair at the Hoard Museum. On display were all the science projects and essays of students (K-12) who participated.

Here are some of the K-2 projects. It's proof that you can be a scientist no matter how old or young you are!

There was an essay contest for the older kids.

We only had 3 brave fourth graders submit science fair projects. Here Teagan stands proudly next to her 'Perfect Polish' project in which she tested how long cheap, middle-ranged, and expensive nail polish lasted on both her and her mom's nails! Her results: Expensive nail polish really DOES last longer!

Here is Seeger standing next to his science fair project.

And Megan stands proudly next to her project!

While we were at the Hoard Museum, we asked if we could take our exit route through the Mysteries of the Mounds exhibit, which is exactly what we are studying in Social Studies right now!

In Social Studies today, I put students into 'tribes'. These small groups will be participating in a fur trade with me (the European) next week. To help build community among their tribes and to unify each tribe, I had students create necklaces with the other members of their tribe. Group members got the same color yarn but each of them could design their necklaces using any of the picture symbols they wanted. Teams made decisions as to which colored beads they would all put on their necklaces too. This was the first step to working together, problem-solving, and cooperating, which they will need to do next week during our fur trade.
Here's our orange tribe.

Here's the blue tribe (minus a member who was sick today!)

Here's a close-up of the maroon tribe.

The yellow tribe working diligently!

As Social Studies came to a close, several students asked if we could make a new seating arrangement to allow tribes to sit together every day. They claimed it would help them continue to problem solve throughout the day and build unity. I definitely couldn't argue with that, and because I believe in a democratic classroom, I told them I honored their voices, and we'd give it a try, as long as they could problem-solve as a whole class, get the desks where they needed to go, and could continue to earn the privilege. Below is the seating arrangement they came up with. :)

I guess only time will tell as to how well this will go over. I'm hoping that because they took ownership for the idea, they'll be more invested in making sure they keep each other in check!

In Writer's Workshop today, we continued on with our animal research. In my last blog posting (Part 6), we organized our diet notes so they were in the best order. Today we organized our defense mechanism notes so they were in the best order. We will begin drafting our paragraphs next week!

Here is Tyson as he organizes his notes on an alligator's defense mechanisms.

This is another student's order for his notes on an alligator's defense mechanisms.
To see pictures and footage from the next lesson in this animal research unit, visit this blog posting (Part 8).
Visit my TpT site if you're interested in getting all the student sheets used in this animal research unit.


  1. i wish i would have done interpretative reading


  2. Hello Miss Bongers...

    I came a across your blog today and I was so excited to see your class working on reading fluency and the videos of the students reading. My class is a Grade 4/5 class up here in British Columbia, Canada and we are just starting to work on speaches for our speach competition. I really appreciate you sharing your large poster with the 6 dimensions of fluency.

    My class was wondering if there was one or two dimensions that were harder to work on over any of the others?

    Mrs. Murphy
    Our class blog can be found at:

  3. Hi Mrs. Murphy!
    So glad you fell upon Life in 4B! It sounds like you're definitely diving into talking about fluency like we just did. In terms of which dimensions are the toughest, I'd say phrasing probably was the hardest one for us. With pausing, it's easy to know when to pause because look for punctuation but with phrasing, sometimes we have to pause in places where there ISN'T punctuation. Each dimension was taught as a mini-lesson. I put text up on the SMARTboard and modeled for students how I applied the dimension in the text, then we did a lot of shared reading as a class, and partner reading, making sure to apply the dimension of the day and the previous dimensions we had learned! The kids seem to be a lot more confident when they read which definitely helps their comprehension, too!

  4. I just have to ask...What is with the bath tub?

  5., love,love your blog. I was wondering if you'd share what is on your shelves with the baskets? Is it all different leveled reading books?

  6. The bathtub is a tub I restored from its originaly rusty condition. I bought it off Craigslist for $25 and it now serves as a tub for my students to read in. One person each week is 'Reader of the Week'. They can bring a blanket, stuffed animal, slippers, and/or pillow and throughout the week, when it's time to read or do independent work, that student is welcome to sit in the tub to do work. It's also a great place for a pair of students to work. Two fourth graders fit in the tub perfectly!

    In regards to the book bins - those bins are sorted by genre. White baskets have ficitional books in them; blue baskets have non-fiction books in them. Grey baskets are baskets that start off empty but then eventually house the mentor texts we use throughout the year for different strategies, traits, or genres we are studying.

  7. I was meandering about on Pinterest and found your blog. It is amazing! I LOVE it! :-)
    I'm primary trained but I teach in high school and I am going to use some of your ideas with my Year 9 students. Thanks for sharing! Keep up the great work. :-)