Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Determining Importance Using Stickers!

Let me start by saying that when it comes to creating anchor charts, I'm totally O.C.D. The explicit wording of my teaching point, the color, size, style, and consistency of my letters, the spacing and organization, you name it... Because let's be real, if I personally don't love looking at it, I'm not going to love teaching with it, and if I don't love teaching with it, I'm not going to be able to engage my kiddos, which means we all end up having a crummy Reader's Workshop, and that's no fun for anyone. My point is that a lot goes into planning a reading mini-lesson, and by attempt number six of creating today's anchor chart, I decided I needed to walk away from the big paper and head to the big screen. Our typical "let's-all-sit-closely-on-the-carpet-and-gather-around-our-easel-for-our-reading" mini-lesson ritual was one I needed to let go of today. "Walk away, Miss Bongers, walk away..."

What ended up happening was for the better though because the kids ended up loving this lesson! I created the following slide to kick off today's reading mini-lesson on determining importance. Computers are wonderful for easy manipulating of fonts, colors, sizes, and locations of things. Nothing is permanent (unlike markers and paper) and on a day like today, I needed that flexibility. Also, put in your long term memory that KIDS LOVE STICKERS. Use them if you can! Red on a stoplight means STOP; green on a stoplight means GO. Kids' schema for these colors became important for practicing today's strategy on determining what about my text was important and essential versus the interesting, little details.

I scanned a section from a National Geographic magazine article called 'Doctor Bugs' (March, 2008). I first modeled the strategy by reading the first two paragraphs. I placed a red sticker next to the sentences where my inner voice said, "STOP! This information is IMPORTANT!" and a green sticker next to information where my inner voice said, "That's neat information, but I can let it GO." The first six stickers on the text below are what I modeled for students.

I also recorded my important and unimportant information on a T-chart. I had students glue a similar T-chart into their Thoughtful Logs to anchor our learning from today. The information above the wavy lines is what we recorded from my own modeling. (P.S. - I know I'm missing an apostrophe in "author's favorite insect". I'll ask the kids tomorrow if they notice any errors in my notes. A teachable moment, if you will. Overall, it's the co-construction of knowledge that's the most important. Even though I'm O.C.D., I've learned to let go of my handwriting being perfect when we record information together.)

For guided practice, I handed out the same piece of text and gave kids one red sticker and one green sticker. Their task was to read the rest of the text and place their red sticker next to a very important piece of information and a green sticker next to a detail they determined was more neat and interesting than important. Then they added their thinking to their T-charts in their Thoughtful Logs.

When guided practice was over, students shared out with their thinking. We added the bottom three stickers to the text based on what they shared and added their thinking to our T-chart (the information under the wavy lines!) I was excited because many of the kids put their stickers in the same places, meaning they agreed in what was important about this text and what wasn't!

Here is one student's Thoughtful Log:
Tomorrow we will build off of this lesson to discuss where important information exists in a text. In other words, sometimes important information is in the first sentence of a paragraph, and sometimes it's in the middle. People's opinions (like the fact that the author of this article once got stung by an ant) are not as important to remember, but they help to make the writing come alive. Stay tuned!


  1. Replies
    1. The quote, "When life gives you lemons, make lemonade!" comes to mind... thank you!

  2. I agree COMPLETELY about anchor charts needing to looking just right.

    Your SMART Board is so much wider than my Promethean Board--you can fit pages side by side. I'm jealous!

    I love this whole lesson (as usual).

    I could read your posts for hours.
    You are TRULY amazing.

    Finding JOY in 6th Grade

    1. Having the side-by-side capabilities really helps for lessons like these. I think the lesson was a lot more effective because of the SMARTboard. What started off as a nightmare lesson turned into one I'm eager to extend tomorrow and keep for next year! Thank you for taking the time to write. I appreciate it!

  3. I LOVE this lesson! If only we could teach together... imagine the fun we could have. :) Hope your year is going well.

    1. We would make a great team, Amanda! You can move to Wisconsin any day now then! :) There's a fourth-grade opening at one of the other school's in our district, and I would put in a VERY good word for you, I promise.

  4. You are such an inspiration! Thank you for taking time to post these wonderful lessons and uplifting anecdotes. Out of curiosity, where do you find all of these student resources / practice pages /etc?

    1. You're welcome! I post because I believe so strongly in this kind of literacy instruction. Our district has two literacy coaches that help to professionally develop a handful of elementary teachers each year in the area of literacy. I volunteered to get coached two years ago because I was feeling 'stuck' with my literacy instruction. Now, I'm completely obsessed with it, and it's all I want to teach! :)

      Not everyone works in a district that has literacy coaches like mine, so I feel that documenting what we do and reflecting about it on this blog is an efficient and effective way for me to share with others who are feeling 'stuck' the way I was two years ago. People who fall upon this blog are usually those who are motivated to grow and those are my kind of people!

      In terms of all the student resources, I wish I could tell you I get them from a nice, organized package you can buy through a literacy catalog, but, I don't ... I make/find them all myself. I make the SMARTboard lessons, I find the texts, I create the mini-charts for students to glue into their Thoughtful Logs. It is a LOT of work, but it's worth it to me to see my kids grow the way they do.

      In my second life, I would love to head up a company to design/put all these resources together in one complete package for teachers to use. That part alone is what takes up our prep time. In a world where teachers are always asking for more time, a "Grade 4 Literacy Scope and Sequence + All the Tools You Will Need for the Lessons" Kit is what we have all been asking for and need. That way, the resources are all right there, and teachers can spend their time growing professionally in HOW they teach reading and writing rather than dilly-dallying with finding the STUFF to teach their literacy workshops. Granted, you know your kids best so you always need to consider their interests, abilities, etc., but it sure would be a great starting point, especially for new teachers!

      Feel free to steal any and all ideas you see on here. I know I've learned from so many others along the way, and I still do. :)

  5. Hi Leanne!
    I have a question....how many Thoughtful Logs do your students fill up in the course of a year? Do you use composition books? Thanks!

    1. Hey Lesley!
      Last year was my first year using them and we filled up about 3/4 of one composition book. This year, we have almost filled up one whole composition book. The woman who's coached me in this literacy model says that really, your kids should need to go into a second Thoughtful Log if they're doing as much writing about reading/thinking as we want them to be! I'll get there... I'm still growing in my use of them but definitely have gotten smarter about ways to use them this year!

  6. where do you find most of your articles at?

  7. These articles came from a National Geographic magazine for kids. Any short magazine articles that are reading-level appropriate and overlap with science/social studies curriculum are the best to use!