Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Operation Choose Kindness is a GO!

I saw how a teacher over at Head Over Heels For Teaching started a big Kindness movement in her classroom. We have talked a lot about kindness as we read Wonder this year. (See about that in THIS post) I challenged my kids to think about the theme of the book and their life precept just like in the book. If you have not read the book, I encourage you to read it. My 5th graders begged me to read it aloud to them. I almost couldn't wait with them and took it home, but decided to stick with them and read it at the same pace. Needless to say this will be my beginning of the year read-aloud for many years to come.

When talking about the theme and life precepts one of my kids came up with "There is no limit to kindness." While I am sure he was not the first to come up with this or something similar, I jotted it down on a sticky note and it really stuck with me. Part of my school's mission revolves around service. This means teaching kids about serving others and being an active part of society and the community around us. So when I saw the "Kind is the New Cool" I couldn't pass up the opportunity to make it play out in my own classroom.

We kicked of the pre-planning stages of our Kindness Campaign yesterday when I told the kids about our "plans" and what we need to do to get into planning mode. We started with the background assignment for the campaign. Each student had to pick a quote about kindness and write a speech about what it means to them. I did NOT create this idea on my own (see HOHFT link above), but we are using it to kickoff our campaign.

After break my students will be going to the other grade level classrooms and presenting their quotes and speeches and challenging each class to committing to one random act of kindness in the community. The ideas for our 4 week long campaign are endless. I can't speak enough of how amazing the ideas at Head Over Heels for Teaching are. We are planning on completing some of the same challenges and activities along with coming up with some more of our own!! So until then...

wonder choose kind - Google Search:

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Creating 5th Graders Who LOVE to Read!!

My last post was about how I HOPE to instill a love of reading in my kids paired with my new look into Book Clubs or Lit Circles. You can read that post HERE.

My kids were so excited after completing our last round of book clubs that they BEGGED me to do it again. I was standing in front of them explaining how we won't have time to do Book Clubs again until January, because we have a week off for Thanksgiving and then only 9 days of school after that. (Yes, I am at a private school on a college campus. We follow their schedule. I get a MONTH off for Christmas. It makes this mommy's heart VERY VERY happy!) So in the midst of explaining to them that we don't have enough time they were seriously BUMMED. I then informed them that if they really REALLY wanted to do Book Clubs again that I would LOVE to do! It only meant that they would have to completely finish the book in 10 class days. This would assure that they had time to complete the book before having an entire week off of school.

I thought I would hear a definite silence or OH MAN from them at this point. WRONG!! I heard nothing, but LETS DO IT!! So I geared up and headed into my full Book Club bookshelves and picked 5 new books. They chose their picks and away we went.

One of the book I selected ended up being such a hit that over 90% of the class wanted to read it. I had to scrounge to even have 6 of this book. SO I will be adding this one to Book Clubs again until it has run out of interest from the class.

What is THE book? The Compound by SA Bodeen.
I had not read the book myself, but heard great things about it. I knew I would struggle to get through it in time and that I did not have an extra copy for myself. I lucked into an audio book copy of it at the public library and my librarian retrieved it for me! I listened to it on my long commute to and from school each day and within a day I was HOOKED! I would find a reason to be in the car or take it with me to listen to during my planning time. It is a serious page turner!!

I would not recommend this book for students younger than 5th grade. It does use some vulgar language in my opinion, but there are not any words that are out of the realm of typical. It does say He** and Pi**ed several times. BUT it is completely unpredictable and keeps you wondering and reading throughout the entire book. The suspense is just amazing!! Even my girl readers are loving it.

There is a sequel to it. I am looking for ways to order this for my kids or at least a copy for my classroom. The only copy our library has is missing!

I am still smiling from the unreal reaction my AMAZING READERS gave me!! Tune in next for an amazing and SUPER exciting service project that we will be embarking on! I am working hard to make this a student-led life-changing movement in my 5th graders lives. More to come soon!

Monday, November 9, 2015

Book Clubs- 5th Grade Version

We just finished up our first successful round of Book Clubs (AKA Literature Circles, Lit Clubs, Book Circles, Book Studies, etc.). It can always seem like a three-ring-circus trying to keep it all organized, but my kids always LOVE these clubs!!

So here is what it looks like in my room...I select 4 books that I hope to draw student INTEREST in!! NO, I do not base my book clubs on READING LEVEL. {Disclaimer- I do have a group of HIGH readers and I do choose books that ALL of my students are capable of reading. I DO understand that this is not always the case and will not work for everyone!}

I have spent lots of time reading and researching on reading instruction. I have struggled with book reports and my love-hate (more like I only love to hate them) relationship with them. I read the book The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller and decided that the best thing for me to do is to "break-up" with book reports in my class. To me they were busy-work take home projects that your creative students put a lot of attention in to and end up with the same grade as the students who scrape by and put only the required minimum in to them. Also, I am not fooled into thinking that my students read their book in its entirety. I have tech-savvy 5th graders who have the same online resources that I did when I was a student who didn't want to read the entire book. OK so enough about my book report thoughts....I came to the conclusion that I NEED my students to LOVE reading! And so that is what I set out to do in my classroom this year. We set out to spend many more minutes READING for the love of READING in my classroom. MORE ABOUT THOSE THOUGHTS TO COME LATER....

Here is the book I was referring to...

Moral of that LONG paragraph was that in my classroom, students are not bound by their reading levels. Therefore, I pick books that I can hook them with. The students rank their picks in order in which they would want to read them. I select groups based on their top picks (with a small behavior consideration of course). Then they get together and READ!!

Last year I feel victim to the endless copies and the JOBS each student needed to complete in books clubs. I get creates a grade and holds each student accountable. BUT it does not encourage reading or comprehension. Instead I focus in on a skill every couple of days and allow the students to demonstrate their knowledge of that skill.

For instance, one skill we focused on was character! About 1/4 of the way into the book, I asked the students to analyze their character. I asked them to use character traits for the inside and outside to tell me about the character. I asked them to tell me about problems the character was facing and to look for solutions that may come along. I asked them to look for ways that they character has changed as a person. This took them two to three reading sessions to complete and they could add and change it as they please. The assignment took them about 5 minutes each day, but I KNEW that they were actively reading and THINKING about the character in the story.

Another skill we have focused on is DISCUSSION. I challenged my students to come up with a THICK and open-ended discussion question to share with their group. We went over good vs. bad questions and I set them on their way. They got it! It clicked! I was so proud of the effort they put into thinking this through...but the fact that I modeled until I couldn't model anymore might have had a little to do with it.

Currently they are working on SUMMARIZING and PREDICTING with this quick recording sheet.

This was meant to be a short post to share TWO books that I read with my students and fell in LOVE apologies on the short novel that led me to these points:

1. Make Book Clubs MEANINGFUL!! Don't give lengthy assignments each time that require lots of WORK from you as the teacher. Focus on allowing the students to READ!
2. Skip "follow up" assignments that resemble boring book reports. Again, make it meaningful!
3. Throw out the BOOK TESTS!!! (see #4)
4. Read THE BOOK WHISPERER by Donalyn Miller- it will change your reading instruction for the best! And for the best I mean for the students and their LOVE of reading!

Here are the two books I fell in love with:

This is a super CUTE and FUNNY read for pre-teens! It was a story that kept me and my students laughing and wondering what they outcome would be.

I am a SUCKER for Mike Lupica books. He had me hooked when I was in college and buying books for my classroom all the time. His books have a wonderful story line and are one-day readers for those with the time! This one was no exception. I had boys and girls in this group and they all LOVED this one. It talks about families in hard times and I think all of my students were able to relate to this at some point in their lives. Even my off the charts high reader (who had already read this book) told the whole group that they would not be disappointed. His books are perfect for your sports enthused boys and girls! I am considering reading this one again already...

My kids LOVED being able to pick their reading groups so much that they BEGGED me to start another round of Book Clubs even if it meant that they would have only two weeks to finish the book clubs before our Thanksgiving Break! I firmly believe that my knowledge and research from Miller's book is helping my kids grow their own LOVE for reading!

Donalyn Miller Quote
Graphic from HERE