Monday, March 12, 2012

Animal Research - Parts 11 & 12, Learning Fair, Biographies, & Determining Importance (PHEW!)

In our last blog posting (Part 10), students wrote the introduction to their animal reports. Today, we talked about writing a satisfying conclusion. I used the slide below to identify that a conclusion appears at the end of a piece of writing!

We analyzed the conclusions of several published authors. This is the conclusion from a book about tigers. We noticed that the author made us feel like we were right in the environment/habitat of the tiger!

In this conclusion from a book on pelicans, we discussed how the author briefly reviewed some of the surprising information she didn't want us to forget from her book. She also invited us to learn even more about pelicans!

This conclusion from a book on owls also put us right in the environment of an owl and told us what to do if we spotted one!

I made a template to help students combine all these wonderful characteristics of good conclusions. I wrote my own conclusion for my report on owls and left an open template for students to fill in their own. (Please note, the word 'jungle' in the first line of the slide below should say 'forest'! Mistakes happen, right?)

 Here is a conclusion one student wrote for his report on pandas.

Here's another student's conclusion to his report on crocodiles:

The past two days in writing, we've been peer conferencing. Students took their introduction, their habitat paragraph, their diet paragraph, their defense mechanisms paragraph, and their conclusion and stapled it together to make one complete draft of their animal report. I partnered students up, and they worked together to do a "5-4-3-2-1" peer conference. Students were to help each other add 5 descriptive adjectives, 4 lively verbs, 3 sound effects, 2 similes, and put tallies down (we call these the 1's) for any capitals or punctuation that needed to be added.
Click here to see how I structured the publishing stage of the writing process for our animal research! Visit my TpT site if you're interested in getting all the student sheets used in this animal research unit.
In different news, every spring our P.T.O. helps students meet at lunch time a few days a week to explore any topic of their choice to present on a poster at the Learning Fair. The Learning Fair is optional but an awesome opportunity for students to go above and beyond! Here were the kids from our room who participated:
In reading last Thursday, we discussed the difference between narration and dialogue. Authors of biographies use both kinds of text, but they typically use narration more, with just a few sentences of dialogue here and there to help the book come alive. Direct quotes are a great way to show you've done your research and have talked to real people from the person's life! I highlighted in orange for all the narration on one page of our mentor text and explained that narration should be read with a normal, natural voice. I used pink to highlight the dialogue sentences and the quotation marks and explained that dialogue should be read with a little more expression, since it's a direct quote from someone else!
For guided practice, I copied a different page from our mentor text that had narration with some scattered dialogue and had students color-code to show they understood the difference. They also practiced reading the narration and dialogue fluently using the two different types of voices we talked about.

In reading last Friday, we discussed how you can gain a lot of information about a person's time period and culture from reading a biography book. I used a page from a book about Franklin D. Roosevelt to model my thinking. I highlighted parts of the text that revealed information about the time period and culture in which F.D.R. lived. (My thoughts are in pink...)
For guided practice, I handed out a different page from the F.D.R. mentor text. Students read the page and they shared out on what they had learned about the 1930's. (Students' thoughts are in orange writing on the anchor chart above.) They were shocked that kids had to work back in the 1930's - barefoot! - and that sometimes people married their cousins. Students wondered if that was legal back then, and if that's even legal now.
In reading today, we switched gears into talking about our Quarter 3 reading comprehension strategy focus - DETERMINING IMPORTANCE. To demonstrate this strategy, I used two plastic containers, noodles, water, and a strainer. (P.S. - This is a lesson idea I got from Comprehension Connections by Tanny McGregor. Awesome book! You must get it!)

I explained that determining importance is a lot like straining noodles. The container with water and noodles is like a book you pick up off the shelf. Inside the book is all sorts of information - some is very important information (like the noodles), while other information isn't as important (like the water), but that you need all of it to make the book what it is.

As you start reading a book and after you've finished it, it's your brain's job (strainer) to determine what's important (noodles) and what's not (water). Your brain should hold on to the important information, key topics, and main ideas, and let the rest pass through, just like when we strain noodles!

We anchored our learning on this chart. (After all, real noodles only stay fresh for so long!)

Students did a response to explain what they understood about our noodle metaphor for determining importance.

During independent reading, students were to think about the 'noodles' and the 'water' of the books they were reading to see if they could find what was important versus unimportant about their books.


  1. After reading more and more from your blog, I'm going to totally restructure my curriculum mapping (district/school permitting of course!). You seem to really get to the "meat" of teaching reading and writing. I've pinned several pictures on Pinterest just from today's post so that I can remember next year! (I hope that's OK with you.)

    Thanks again,

    Fun in Room 4B

  2. Elizabeth - YES, that's ok with me! That's why I blog to begin with - to share with the world what we're doing and to inspire others who may need a new spark or way of thinking about skills and strategies we are ALL teaching our kids. You need to know that my teaching in literacy isn't who I was just 'born' as - it's taken a lot of commitment, trials, failures, successes, observations, discussions, and reflections. Becoming better at anything means you have to first admit you have growing to do. :) It sounds to me like you are ready as ever to evolve in a new way as a teacher of literacy, and I think that is AWESOME!

  3. LOVE the spaghetti analogy! And you have THE BEST anchor charts! Thanks for sharing even more of your wonderful ideas!

    Runde's Room

  4. you have amazing anchor charts! thank you for sharing!

  5. I am a graduate teacher and finding it overwhelming to know how to teach the content. Thank you for your creative ideas. I hope you continue to share the work you are doing with your students.

    1. From one Miss B to another - I think sharing is the most powerful way to get better at teaching anything. As long as I'm in education, I guarantee you I will share what I'm doing. All it takes is seeing one picture or explanation, and it can help ignite a whole new world of understanding. That's why I love blogs and Pinterest! One picture sets my mind off with a whole new idea!

  6. OMG! I LOVE your noodles lesson!I am new to your blog but have aklready decided to follow yo becasue of the wonderful ideas and strategies that have been displayed. As a visual learner, I LOVE the pictures!
    -Damien from The Reading Buddies

    1. Isn't that a great lesson? If you loved that, check out the rest of Tanny McGregor's concrete lessons for teaching the comprehension strategies in her book called Comprehension Connections. You will LOVE it!