Friday, April 29, 2016

May: Closing the Year One Read-Aloud at a Time

We can’t believe it is almost May and another school year is winding down.  Our kids are getting a bit antsy waiting for summer vacation.  It is getting a little harder to keep them engaged in learning all day long. The one time of day we can count on to keep them captivated is our read-aloud time.  They love listening to, discussing, and writing about the books. This month we chose six wonderful books to close the year.  Each book was carefully selected to ensure that we could meet all the Reading Literature standards during our close reading sessions.  This post contains small previews of only a few activities from each read-aloud. We cover many standards in each three to five day close read.

We paired the classic “The Boy Who Cried Wolf” with a fun modern twist of the fable, “The Boy Who Cried Bigfoot”  by Scott Magoon.  We chose the version by B.G. Hennessy, illustrated by Boris Kulikov, because of its beautiful, comical illustrations and its catchy phrases.  We chose to have students compare and contrast these stories.  To prepare them for this challenging final activity, we will take deep dives into both stories so they will compare the events, details, and illustrations along the way.  First we will fill out (or cut and paste) story mountains to gain an understanding of the plot and key ideas and details in each story.  Then, we will make connections between words and illustrations with one of our favorite graphic organizers.  By the end we are confident our students will be ready to compare and contrast.  As an extension, students will write friendly letters to one of the boys giving advice for the next time he is bored.
Anansi is one of those series that caught us by surprise.  A good friend introduced us to Anansi a few year ago and we can’t believe we taught in classrooms where Anansi wasn’t part of our collection.  These books by Eric A. Kimmel, illustrated by Janet Stevens, are absolutely delightful.  After reading “Anansi and the Talking Melon,” I purchased every single one of the Anansi stories that night on Amazon.  These books are perfect for close reading because of their complexity.  They require multiple revisits for children to fully comprehend and enjoy. “Anansi and the Talking Melon” is a trickster tale where Anansi plays another clever trick on his friends. He sneaks into Elephant’s garden to eat melon.  He eats too much and gets stuck inside. He spends the rest of the story talking from inside the melon, convincing his friends the melon is magic, and plotting his escape. This is a great story for teaching character traits.  We plan on having our students complete a character traits graphic organizer using evidence from the story. Then they will use their organizers to write about one of the characters. 

"Rosie Revere Engineer" is a must have book for every teacher. This new book is perfect for teaching growth mindset and the important part failure plays on the path to success. The story is about a girl named Rosie. Rosie loved to engineer new things until she invents something for her favorite uncle and he laughs at the invention. She stops creating and inventing until her Great-Great-Aunt-Rose comes for a visit and inspires her to start creating again. Rosie's aunt teaches her the importance of failure. We plan to dig into the phrases in this story. The first time you read the story to your class, your students might not understand everything, but after you ask the text dependent questions and complete the unknown phrases graphic organizer, they will have a deep understanding of the text. 

"Diary of a Worm" by Doreen Cronin is a class favorite! The structure of this story is presented as Worm's diary, reflecting a variety of events as seen through the eyes of a worm. The author uses a combination of real and make-believe adventures that draws students in, again and again.  After learning true facts about worms, we plan to use this text to discuss what could and couldn't actually happen to a worm. Students will take time to compare and contrast this story with an informational text on worms.  We will also study the story's structure, then students will write their own Diary of a ____ texts.

Because it's the end of the school year we felt it was necessary to include an end-of-year story. "Last Day Blues" is the perfect way to end our year of read-alouds. If you read "First Day Jitters" at the beginning of the school year, your students will probably remember how nervous Mrs. Hartwell was to begin the school year. "Last Day Blues" takes readers through the emotional roller coaster of the last week of school. The students are concerned that Mrs. Hartwell is going to spend her entire summer missing them, but Mrs. Hartwell is secretly just as excited about summer as they are. This structure makes for a perfect point of view lesson plan. After talking about the point of view of the characters, we plan on discussing how the students in the book talk about what they are going to miss about class and what they are excited to do during the summer. Then, we will have our students write about things they will miss and things they are excited about. 

You can purchase each of these read-alouds and activities at our TPT store. You can also purchase all of them as a May Bundle. 

Sunday, April 3, 2016

A Year of Read-Alouds Curriculum

Meeting some of the Common Core Reading Literature Standards can be challenging. Many teachers out there are using old basals, published before the Common Core was implemented.  In order to meet Core Standards, the reading units must be adapted or enhanced, which can be very time consuming. Trust us, we have written our fair share of text dependent questions for the stories inside basals. Other teachers are teaching in schools without a set curriculum.  We teach in charter schools, which gives us the autonomy to create our own language arts curriculum. We have tried a few comprehension resources over the last two years but weren't completely satisfied. 

We have been writing close reading lessons for a few years now and were getting skilled at planning close reads for popular children's books.  Last fall, we decided to start the daunting task of writing our own curriculum. We embarked on our journey to infuse Core Standards into our read aloud time. We still teach phonics, grammar, and writing, but use our read aloud time to immerse our kids in their favorite stories AND teach Core Literature Standards at the same time.  

Our Year of Read-Alouds curriculum can be implented in any classroom.  If you teach in a school where you have the freedom to make curriculum choices, this is all you will need to cover the Reading Literature Standards.  If you teach in a school where the basal isn't the only resource that can be used, our Read-Alouds are the perfect resource to extend your basal instruction. If you teach in a school where you cannot stray from the basal, our Read Alouds can be taught exclusively during your read-aloud time.  

We have been teaching this Read-Aloud curriclum in our school since September.  We have found it to be incredibly easy to use and engaging for our students. In one week, we teach all eight Reading Literature standards using current children's literature. New authors and illustrators engage readers in a way that can't compare to some obsolete stories that are still in old basals. Of course there is always room for classic children's literature and that is why we have included old favorites in our Read-Alouds. 

The way authors and illustrators work together to write books can't been seen the first time you read a book to your students. We have learned so much from revisiting the same book several times, and so have our students. Our students love figuring out what more they can learn about the story through the illustrations and text working together. They also love paying attention to the author's craft.  They are experts at noticing and understanding the author's use of rhyme, enlarged or bold text, italics, ellipsis, etc..

This is just one example of how we meet Core Standards with our read-alouds. There are a hundred more reasons why it is better to teach using current literature in your classroom. 
Check out our other read-aloud posts to learn more how we meet all the standards one read-aloud at a time throughout the school year.  
Click Here to visit our TPT store to check out over 40 individual read-alouds packs, 9 monthly packs, and a year long bundle.