Monday, July 24, 2017

reading response paragraph prompts

I added a new item to my shop, From The Hive:

*Increase the time students spend actually reading and writing! 

*These rigorous, differentiated, prompted reading responses will train your students to write strong, well-supported paragraphs showing their understanding of their reading. 

*With these reading response prompt forms students write about whatever book they are currently reading (fiction or non-fiction)- increasing choice- increasing engagement!

*They learn to write one well-developed paragraph using a hook, topic sentence, and supporting sentences. 

*Each of the four forms has a slightly more advanced structure guiding them in paragraph creation. 

This started for me last summer. With the goal in mind of increasing the time my students (3rd graders) spent actually reading and writing, I knew I wanted to incorporate reading responses into my classroom routine.  After reading Donalyn Miller’s books (if you haven't read them and you are a teacher- go straight to the library!), Book Whisperer and Reading in the Wild, I became passionate about finding an age-appropriate but rigorous method to train my kiddos to write about their reading.   

Thus were born, these prompted reading responses. There are 4 forms. I use one form per quarter during the school year, but you could use them to differentiate giving kids the form they are ready for.  You could skip right to form 3 for 4th graders, or stay on form 1 and 2 for 2nd graders.  By third quarter, or form 3, I have the students use the form as a guide, but don’t require they write directly on it.  I have them write their responses in a spiral notebook.  If they can use the form to write a strong paragraph, mission accomplished.  

The students use the guided forms to help them write a reading response. This became weekly homework for my class, but it could be in-class work as well. They write about whatever book they are already reading, at whatever spot they are already at, fiction or nonfiction.  They write one well-developed paragraph using a hook, topic sentence, and supporting sentences.  Each quarter has a slightly more advanced form guiding them in paragraph creation.  You can have your students simply fill out the form, or take what they’ve written on the form and write it in an actual paragraph (I recommend moving towards this).  I have my kiddos write this in a notebook.

I collect their notebooks and respond with a sentence or two about their reading response, book choice, paragraph development, word choice, etc.  I write something specific like "This book sounds like something several other boys in class would like, you'll want to tell Matt and Kevin about it," or "I'm excited to hear what Jack decides to do when he solves this  riddle, please let me know," or "I like the way you described Grandpa, but I think you might be surprised when you get to chapter 6!"  We have a little on-going book conversation.  I grade mostly for completion and following format; I don’t typically nit-pick over conventions- grading is never tedious. 

We also used these entries in class for oral  book commercials- advertising the books aloud to each other.  I used this product with my class last year, and after 14 years in the classroom, I've never had a class more excited about reading each other's favorite books and sharing great reads with each other!  

I feel like reading responses help me (and the parents, if you’re using it for homework) keep track of what the kids are reading, the progress they are making, the rate of book completion vs. abandoning books.  The students get an increased amount of practice in paragraph construction,  summarizing, and applying skills from class (using ‘exciting’ words, varying sentence length, adding description, etc). Students have to focus on their own comprehension, knowing they are going to write about what they are reading.  It also excited many to read their book and then write, knowing that their audience would respond (my reading and responding to their entries and then the oral book commercials with their classmates responding).  It sets a purpose for their reading (“I haven't written about setting in awhile, I should pay attention to information about the setting today and write about that.”).  It helps me check their level of understanding as they are reading... “Are they totally missing the main themes of the book?  Are they only picking up on surface level information?  Is setting all they ever what to write about?”    It increases opportunities for reading and writing and builds the connection between the two- my original goal.

   The difference in the writing samples from the beginning of the year to the end are dramatic and impressive.  Here’s a real 3rd grade student example from the first quarter of our school year.  
I enjoyed Charlotte's Web by E.B White.  One of the characters is a spider named Charlotte. Charlotte saved Wilbur's life.  She wrote words in the web so the people thought the pig did it.  

Here’s a real 3rd grade student example from the end of the year:
I am enjoying The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires.  The story is about a little girl who has a wonderful idea.  She has a dog that is her assistant.  According to the book the little girl knows exactly what she wants to make.  She knows exactly what it should look like and how it should work.  She does not know how she will make it and she has tried many times and has failed. She is now mad and explodes in anger.  The book said it’s not her finest moment!  After she calms down, she gets a vision how to make it using all of the other parts that she made and failed.

I used this strategy with my students all last year and got some amazing results, not just what I saw in class, but with the growth they made in our benchmark testing.  If you teach reading grades 2-4, I hope you'll come take a look.  This is my first paid item, but I priced it nice and low because I genuinely do want teachers to be able to use it.  If you like it as much as I do, please let me know! 

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Meet the guinea pigs

Bee turned 12!  All she wanted for her birthday was guinea pigs!  And a phone.  But mostly pigs.  

She was dreaming about guinea pigs, reading books about them, even crafting guinea pigs. 

I mentioned on facebook that we were considering getting guinea pigs and many friends chimed in that they make great pets for kids.  A former student's family offered their girls up to us.  Maybe that should have been a red flag?

Meet Heidi. 

Meet Pepper (Jack)

The girls are much loved already. 

 The cats seem ok with them. After an initial meeting, Ellis doesn't seem to care at all. 

Chloe likes to watch them in interest.  I'm sure she is thinking kind thoughts about them while they are eating their breakfast.  She doesn't generally have much interest either. 

Tippy has a weird relationship with them.  He loves them.  He guards them and watches them.  He cries when they chirp and make their sweet little noises.  He comes and gets us when they sing for their breakfast. One of the pigs sometimes runs around her cage when Bee is trying to gather her up and she makes some noise; Tippy seems alarmed for the pig's safety. 

Even daddy seems to like them.  Actually, he especially like them!

These girls are a bonded pair and have been together since last summer. Peppers's mate passed away last spring and she was rally depressed.  Our friends got Heidi as a baby to be her new buddy.  They girls are besties for sure. 

Here's Tippy giving them kisses- he always greets them when they're out.  He's a weirdo.  (no sound needed- it's just my silly voice)

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Christmas- clearly out of order

I was strolling through my blog drafts and found this.  Clearly out of order.  Here's Christmas.  It's July.  

Forgot that this was back in the days of crutches.   Don't miss those days a bit!

This was our first Christmas in our new home.  

I found these adorable ornaments for the kids this year.  The boy has a broken leg and the girl has a broken arm.  Some day we'll laugh about it, right?

My mom and her hubby helped us explore the woods by our house. 

We went to one of my favorite places- the escape room!  I took a strong team of good problem solvers and we made it out! 

Seriously, the most fun ever!

My Dad gave the kids each a special knife at Thanksgiving.  This one came out when it was time to open boxes.  I got a little sentimental as this was my grandpa's knife.  He always carried it with him and it always came out when we needed it.  It's been a few years since I'd seen it, but it brought back happy memories of my grandpa. 

We got to spend time this Christmas with this cute boy.  

We spent a bit of Christmas break hanging out at the card shop.  

and making cookies. 

And enjoying some new goodies. 

We called this the Addison Russel Christmas.  Lou got several Addison Russel and Cubs things.  That's his favorite player.  I follow him on Instagram and I feel like we are friends now. Hey Addison!

We played Watch Ya' Mouth.  

We played some Pie Face.  Who didn't play Pie Face this Christmas?

I was thrilled to get to host Christmas this year.  These are some of my favorite people and our homes are super spread out now- our moments all together are rare.