Saturday, April 21, 2012

Color Poems, Immigrant Challenges/Contributions, & Author's Perspective!

Last week, we continued to work on our color poems in Writer's Workshop. Prior to peer conferencing, I had students circle 5 words in their poems that they weren't sure of in terms of the spelling. I also had them put a question mark next to the two phrases in their poem they thought they could make better with the help of a peer. By doing this, students had specific areas in their poems to work on with one another.
Over the past two weeks, I've taught several lessons on how to use a dictionary successfully (those darn guide words are tricky, aren't they?!) During students' color poem peer conferences, pairs used dictionaries and their Quick Word books to find the correct spellings for the words each student circled in his or her poem. (Note: Some kids needed help spelling more than 5 words. For the sake of making peer conferencing a manageable task, pairs only had to tackle 5 from each poem together. Adult help was given for the rest of the words.)

After peer conferences, students poems looked very ... COLORFUL! You can see this writer's original ideas in pencil, her own revisions adding adjectives and extending her ideas in red, and fixes made during her peer conference in blue.
Now that their poems had been taken through the writing process, I had students publish their poems in our computer lab to learn that word processingt is another way to publish writing. Students are learning typing skills during IMC time with Mrs. Barels - our awesome library media specialist. They are getting faster and faster with word processing! (Note: I encourage students to wear their headphones while typing to help eliminate distractions and extra talking. I highly recommend it!)

I also taught students to insert a text box and fill it with their color using the paint tool and use the 3D word art tool to type the name of their color. I plan to have students put a little flap over the name of their color so their audience will truly have to infer the color they are writing about before peeking at the answer. Students poems were proofread by an adult prior to printing (this one still needs an adult eye!) ;)

In social studies, we are continuing to use our leveled immigration readers to learn more about the reasons immigrants left their homelands, the challenges they faced, and the contributions they've made to American society. The texts below came from National Geographic. I love them because the look of the books is the same, as are the three main ideas discussed in each of the books. It's the complexity of the content that is differentiated, allowing ALL students to access information at their independent reading level. Yay!

For this lesson, I had students use a two-column note-taking technique to record important information. In one column, students listed the challenges their immigrant group had on their journey to America. In the other column, students listed the challenges their immigrant group had in America. Again, each student was given a reader that was appropriate for their independent reading level.

After students finished recording the challenges for their specific immigrant group, they met with everyone else who read about the same group of immigrants to compare information and make revisions to their notes, if needed.

 Here's a clip of some of the groups as they discuss their immigrant groups. It's a little hard to hear what they're saying but I assure you they were focused on the topic (immigrant challenges).
The next day, I showed students how to organize their information using an electronic note-taking program called Kidspiration.
Here is one student's graphic organizer on the challenges Chinese immigrants faced on their journey to America and the challenges they faced once they got here.
In a final lesson last week, students read the four pages from their reader that discussed the ways their immigrants have contributed to American society. By looking at students' graphic organizers, I could easily monitor the kind of information students were deeming important and support students who needed me the most.
Here is one student's web on how German-Jewish immigrants have contributed to American society! I could tell this student understood that German-Jewish immigrants have written books and music, made films, shared their knowledge and skills, and contributed to medicine, biology, and inventions. At the time I took this picture, he was adding in the names of specific German-Jewish immigrants and linking their names to the appropriate bubble on the web.

In reading, we are continuing on with explicit mini-lessons on determining importance. On Friday, I taught students that when reading a piece of non-fiction text, good readers should:
  • Identify the the main idea
  • Infer the author's opinion and perspective about the topic
  • Think about their own opinion in comparison to the author's
I used an article called Can Kids Stop Kids From Smoking? (from the Comprehension Toolkit by Stephanie Harvey and Anne Goudvis). I modeled how to analyze each section of the article to pull out the main idea and thought aloud about what I believed the author's opinion was of the topic of kids smoking. I also thought aloud about my own opinion and how it compared to the author's. Finally, I revealed my own written response to pull all my thinking together. I colored coded each section of my response so my students could see each of the three sections of my response.
For guided practice, I gave students a different article called Turn It Off! The article focuses on TV Turnoff Week (which just happens to be this coming week!).
Students read the article and thought about the main idea, the author's opinion, and their own opinions regarding TV Turnoff Week. Students wrote their own response to the article in the My Thinking tab of their Thoughtful Logs to help me assess their ability to think about main idea and author's perspective. I left my own modeled response up on the SMARTboard as a scaffold for students while they worked independently.

Here is one student's response. You can see she was able to pull out the main idea, identify the author's perspective about the topic, and think critically about her own opinion. When I conference with her, I will applaud her ability to do these three tasks as a reader of non-fiction. My teaching point will be to stress the importance of rereading her writing to make sure it makes sense from beginning to end. :)

Lastly, Casey was person of the week this week. He brought in his dog, Trevor, for us to enjoy! It was a wonderful way to end the week!


  1. I am totally loving your last couple of posts about your poetry activities!! I am definitely working to build up my poetry file. Thanks for adding so many great pictures, too!

    1. Casey - We're just at the beginning of our unit, so there will be much more! Definitely stay tuned!

  2. I love how you used the leveled readers for teaching about immigration. I sometimes forget about using those resources. Thanks for the reminder.

    As always, I've learned a lot from your post.

    Fun in Room 4B

  3. I tried to search for those National Geographic readers but couldn't find them online. Do you have the isbn numbers? Could you reveal your source? They look like great resources. It's hard to find intermediate grade level text for immigration topics. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Hi Prudence,
      We ordered the readers about 4 years ago so I was glad to still find them here:

      If you scroll down about half way, it's the Immigration to the United States Theme Set, ISBN: 07922-4902X, $339.86 (8 copies of each of the four titles). You will also see you can order the readers as individual packs rather than the theme set that has all four titles together.

      I hope this helps! :)

    2. I LOVE these books! My current concerned is about the price. They sure don't make them cheap! darn book prices. *grin*

      I am always impressed with your lessons and how engaged your students appear during each lesson. I am struggling with keeping their attention even if I have hands on things for them such as thoughtful logs etc. Every lesson feels like I am pulling teeth! Any tips? Thanks SO much for all the information your share! Your truly make me a better teacher ;)

    3. Funding is always an issue, isn't it? I HIGHLY recommend It's a great way to post a project and have people who love you and support education help to fund it. Perhaps you could create a project to buy these readers? Then, once youre project has 'gone live', send the link to family, friends, your PTO, in your news feed on Facebook, etc. and slowly the donations will add up.

      Regarding the kids energy and motivation - don't worry, it's hit my room, too. BUT, I feel like our own teacher energy and enthusiasm and humor need to be ultra-present right now. The kids follow our lead - so share with them anything and everything that makes you smile in a day, and wink (yes, like with your eye) at them when they each do something amazing. These little things keep us all going. If you MODEL with enthusiasm, the kids have no choice but to charge on, too.

      When I hear the first 'sighs' of a new school year, I always stop everything I'm doing, and say something like, "Wait a minute, wait a minute, wait a minute. Am I honestly hearing SIGHING right now? Do you ladies and gentlemen even KNOW how LUCKY you are to even get to go to school? Do you know that in some countries, the kids don't even have that privilege? To learn? To read? To write? To get smarter? The whole sighing thing is NOT welcome in this classroom. SO, we're going to try this again. I'm going to tell you your assignment, just like I did 3 minutes ago, and instead of hearing a bunch of sighs, we're all going to say, "BRING IT ON!!" You get a chance to show me just how smart you are with this assignment so don't moan and groan at me. Look at me in the eye and say, "BRING IT ON!"

      So then we go on to practice our class "BRING IT ON!" chant. Throw in a few fist pumps, pursed lips, head swivels, and happy attitude, and you're set. It will put you ALL in a better mood as they take on their learning. And, you can always just bust out a "BRING IT ON, _____." (followed by a smile) to any individual student who gives you moans and groans.

      Follow this teachable moment with some picture book texts about kids who don't get to learn (like For Every Child, A Better World by Jim Henson) and this clip It will give them some schema for believing you that learning is something we are LUCKY to be able to do!