Sunday, September 30, 2012

Week 5

Miss Dorothy and Her Bookmobile by Gloria Houston
Read to 3rd and 4th Grades (7 classes)
Targeted Skill: Review Literary Elements

This book is a MUST READ for all librarians because it captures the essence of what we do; when we put books into the hands of kids, we change lives. We don't need a fancy library with walls and shelves to live this legacy--it's really all about the book and the connections that we make  with the people who read them. (Can you tell that I am a cheesy librarian?) I chose this book because I want my students to understand how LUCKY/BLESSED/FORTUNATE they are to have access to a school library. I want to give them a world view through books--that there are people in this world who will go to great lengths to make sure that kids get books even when there is not a library in their town. Miss Dorothy is a real person, and the author wrote this book based on her experiences growing up in Miss Dorothy's library-less community, so I classify it as literary nonfiction. I still have a pseudo concept about this genre, so I could be wrong about classifying this as literary nonfiction. If you have read this book, let me know how you would classify it.

We started with a quick review of the plot, character, setting, and theme. I then read the book, which is a little lengthy, and I stopped to discuss and clarify the concept of a bookmobile. I asked the kids to imagine me cramming as many books as I could into my mini-van and driving to their homes for them to check them out. They thought this was a fabulous idea (me, not so much), but then we talked about the problems with this, and they decided that our school library worked much better than a library on wheels. They made connections to ice cream trucks, mail trucks, and pizza delivery when thinking about a bookmobile (However, I made sure to stress that Miss Dorothy did not SELL the books just like I don't make them pay for books in the library). The conclusion of the book has two pictures of the countless readers that Miss Dorothy impacted, and the kids noticed some details in the pictures that I had missed. I love it when this happens--my kids teaching me something new. 

In the spirit of full-disclosure and to put my fallibility right out there, I want to make it very clear that the purpose of this blog is not to hold myself up as some rock star librarian who teaches in Library Land Utopia. Um, NO. I invite any of you to come spend a day with me, and you will see the messy, chaotic mistakes that I make in a feeble attempt to try to keep up with this monster that I have created.  The purpose of this blog is to simply chronicle what I do in the library. As a writer, it keeps me writing and thinking about the intentionality of my lessons. Because I know others might read this (fingers crossed), it is keeping me accountable for the quality of my lessons. Are these lessons always going to be perfect? No. I teach in the real world. I want there to be more collaboration among my colleagues--teachers AND librarians. We need to share what works well and what doesn't. We are all in this together!

This lesson is a perfect example of me trying to do too much in too little time, which is one of my many faults as a teacher librarian. I still try to teach like I did in the classroom, which is a good thing, but it's also a bad thing when I only have about 20-30 minutes for a lesson (as a former high school English teacher, I am use to teaching on a 90 minute block. You can go DEEP with that amount of time.) I did not even get to my question about Miss Dorothy's character, but I included it because...well, I think it's an example of a higher-level question, so maybe you can find a way to work it in. This week I really struggled with this realization: My lessons have to be MINI; I can't go into the depth that I want to when the kids also have to checkout books in that little chunk of time that we have together. Full-disclosure: most classes only got about 7 minutes to checkout, and it looked like Wal-Mart on Black Friday--a mad dash of frenzy and grab and go. NOT what I want the checkout experience to be for my kids. I try so hard to maintain the balance of STRONG lesson and ADEQUATE checkout time, but it is HARD with a school my size and a small library. Those are my librarian problems. Just trying to keep it real.

All of this is to say that we are ALL feeling the squeeze of time and too much to cover, and it's so hard to find that BALANCE. The teachers at my school, across my district, and I think across the great state of Texas are trying to CRAM as much as possible into their lessons because of the looming pressure of high-stakes tests. (I will refrain from stepping up on my soap box--that's a entirely different post.) At one point this week at the end of a crazy afternoon where my timing was off, and I just wasn't feeling like I was in the groove, I stopped and thought, "Am I doing more harm than good? Is this the way I'm suppose to teach? Cramming it all in?" After talking with some of my colleagues in the classroom, I know I am not alone in this feeling.

Because of my time constraints, I think I should have just focused on one element with this book--Miss Dorothy's character traits would have been excellent--or discussing the theme of the book, which is  higher-level thinking because kids have to infer so  much. The theme of this book is wonderful: sometimes our lives don't work out exactly as we dream them, but we can still be happy and make an impact. Maybe I should have asked each teacher what SPECIFIC element their class needed to focus on--that's the essence of true collaboration and co-teaching  that I still struggle with. I share all of this with you so that you can take my ideas and improve them. That's the purpose of this blog--to share what I do so that you can do it better.

Even though I don't feel great about the effectiveness of this lesson, this is still an excellent book to share with kids because it teaches them so much about the power of books and libraries, and to keep doing what you love even if it doesn't quite work out the way you envisioned it. Thank you for that important reminder, Miss Dorothy. Lesson learned.

Lesson Frame & Literary Elements Anchor Chart:

Waiting for the Biblioburro by Monica Brown
Read to 2nd and 6th Grade (6 classes)
Targeted Skill: Asking Questions to Monitor Comprehension (2nd Grade) Theme (6th Grade)

Everything I wrote about Miss Dorothy, ditto for this lesson.Trying to cover too much, running out of time, feeling like I did more harm than good...check, check, check.  But this is another MUST READ, and I think it would be excellent to pair this with Miss Dorothy and Her Bookmobile because they are essentially the same book with the same theme.

During the reading with my 2nd graders, the curriculum focus was on asking questions, and it quickly became apparent that my kids, like most I assume, have a hard time asking questions while reading. It's probably our own fault--we always want them to ANSWER our questions, but do we ever give them an opportunity to ASK them? (Once again, lack of TIME might be to blame.) Honestly, I think our educational system beats that inquisitiveness out of children, and then we stand appalled when they are apathetic about learning (once again, another soap box post for another day). This book is an EXCELLENT mentor text because it illustrates the connection between reading and writing,  the imagery is glorious, and the story is strong. I simply adore it.  And it makes me cry (I told you that I was a cheesy librarian).

I read this to my sixth grade bilingual class, and I had the luxury of time with them because I got to spend 45 minutes on the lesson. Full disclosure time: I suck at Spanish. Seriously. After 14 hours of college Spanish, I still suck. I memorized my way through those classes, and I can't roll my r's to save my life (even with the help of tequila). So I had to apologize upfront to my bilingual students for butchering their beautiful language, but this was an opportunity for them to be the experts and try to help me say the Spanish words correctly. Even they they tried so hard and were so patient and sweet, it didn't help. I am a hopeless cause. But at least I own it. The teacher and I had an authentic co-teaching moment during this lesson because he knows the true story behind this book, so he could interject and share his knowledge. I love it when this happens.

The older kids were very interested in this story and this real person. I think I see a research project forming, and I have another sixth grade class coming next week, so I might share this book with them and see if they have the same level of interest. I put my librarian skills to work and found a few resources that I want to share with my 6th graders:

CNN Article

Excellent video from PBS documentary

I have searched for 2nd grade-friendly expository texts about Luis Soriano, but I have not been able to find anything. I might show them this video next week so that they can see that he is a REAL person. I have some lesson ideas that I want to expand upon with Dorothy and Luis, but I am not sure how it will all come together. I'll keep you posted.
The REAL Biblioburro, Luis Soriano with Alpha and Beto (Alphabet!)

Lesson Frame and Higher-Level Questions:

King Jack and the Dragon by Peter Bentley
Read to Kinder & 1st Grade (10 classes)
Targeted Skills: Using picture and word clues to make a prediction; Distinguishing between fiction and nonfiction books; Identify Title, Author, Illustrator, Spine

This is a sweet story that the kids really enjoyed. It works well with making predictions because the kids had to access their schema and use the picture and word clues. It is a quick read that emphasizes the joy of using your imagination.  It also rhymes, so there is an easy rhythm that flows when read aloud.
My students could easily distinguish that this was a fiction book because of the narrative, and they were also quick to point out that dragons are not real. Good to know. 

Lesson Frame:

Friday, September 21, 2012

Week 4

Read to 5th Grade (5 classes)
Targeted Skills: Main Idea and Supporting Details; Nonfiction can be written as narrative

My 5th Grade teachers wanted me to teach a lesson that would incorporate "Freedom Week" (noted in their Social Studies curriculum) and main idea, a concept that many of their students were still struggling with. I immediately thought of this book because it's new to our library, and I was looking for an opportunity to share it with my older students.

First, I set the tone for the students by telling them that this was a different kind of book than I usually read to them. Since this is about the TRUE of events of September 11, we needed to be respectful because real people lost their lives, and to goof off while listening to the book would be disrespectful to their memory. I then told them that I would only read this book to 5th grade because I knew they were mature enough to handle it (I like making grade levels feel "privileged" that they are the only ones to hear a book. I hope to read this to my sixth graders, too, but only fifth grade got the privilege this week). I briefly touched on main idea and connected to the umbrella analogy (see 3rd/4th grade lesson), but I dove into the reading because this book is LONG, and I only had 45 minutes with each class (all lesson time--no checkout). 

I let this book speak for itself and did not stop much to discuss. But I made sure to stop and ask students about the qualities of a hero and the importance of putting others before self, which is a huge theme because Brown details the actions of a few of the countless heroes of 9/11. At the end, there is an excellent main idea paragraph that summarizes the book, and we stopped and discussed why it took a paragraph and not just a sentence. We then discussed that not all stories/books/articles have main idea sentences (nor are they always at the beginning), so sometimes you have to create your own main idea sentence, which is hard. I made sure to connect to the umbrella analogy so that the kids could see how the main idea COVERS the piece of literature.

I took a risk with this book. I knew this could go really well or it could have been a disaster.Overall, the risk was worth it, and it was a powerful lesson. I recommend reading this under the Elmo so that the students can track the words and look at the pictures while listening. I did not do this with my first class, but I decided to do it with the other four, and I could tell that they paid closer attention. This book might be better for a teacher to read in a classroom setting so that there is time to go more in depth. But I'm glad that I took the risk of reading it to my kids in the library. I am proud of the maturity and respect that they showed during this lesson. I hope that I planted some seeds for further thought and reflection about what it truly means to be American and honor those who have sacrificed their lives for our safety. 

Lesson Frame and Higher-Level Question: 

Blackout by John Rocco
Read to 3rd and 4th Grade (6 classes)
Targeted Skills: Determining Main Idea and Supporting Details; Making Inferences

The kids really enjoyed this book. Rocco creates vivid pictures that tell most of the story , so it is excellent for making inferences. Most of the kids had experienced a power outage, so they could easily connect to their schema.

Before reading the book, I opened an umbrella and had them brainstorm how a main idea sentence is like an umbrella. (Now THAT'S dedication to risk all of that bad luck to teach a lesson.) My kids easily connected that an umbrella COVERS a person just like the main idea COVERS the story/article/book. We then discussed how the handle of the umbrella is like the supporting details that "hold up" the story. I then read the book using the Elmo so that the kids could easily see the beautiful illustrations. We made inferences and connected to our schema while reading--I stress this each time I read a book to kids to model that this is what good readers ALWAYS do--not just on certain weeks that their teachers tell them to. After we finished the book, I had the students "turn and talk" about the main idea. I had them do a thumbs-up activity to determine if certain sentences that I had made up were "Main Idea" (two thumbs up) or "Supporting Details" (one thumb up). After the kids decided that the main idea of the story, we connected it back to the umbrella. I HOPE that this helps main idea stick in their minds.

Lesson Frame and Umbrella Illustration:

Guess What is Growing Inside this Egg by Mia Posada
Read to 2nd Grade (4 Classes)
Targeted Skills: Notice that not all nonfiction books have Text Features; Make Inferences

Even though this book is not new, I chose it because it is a great example of a nonfiction book with few text features. It has that fiction "feel" because it rhymes, has illustrations rather than photographs, and does not have any of the typical text features associated with nonfiction. I want my kids to THINK about the purpose and meaning of a book in order to determine if it is fiction or nonfiction.

We only read a few of the pages, and I had the students make inferences about what was in the egg based on the TEXT EVIDENCE (clues) on the page. They enjoyed guessing, and then we learned interesting facts about the animal on the next page. The students noticed the lack of text features, but we talked about how this book does not have a story (beginning/middle/end) with characters; it's purpose was to teach us FACTS about the animals, therefore, it is nonfiction. I then showed them a nonfiction book about spiders that had text features galore, and we compared the two books.

Lesson Frame:

Press Here by Herve Tullet
Read to Kinder & 1st Grade (10 classes)
Targeted Skills: Making Predictions

This book was an ABSOLUTE HIT and a MUST READ for all teachers and librarians. It's one of our Mockingbird books for the year, and I just couldn't wait until the spring to share it (we will read it again in the spring, and they will love it just as much).

This book is PERFECT for teaching predictions based on clues. When we got to the clapping part to make the dots get bigger, every class screamed in delight when the page was turned. You could feel the JOY radiating from the kids all because dots got bigger, but the kids really thought it was magic.This must be read under the Elmo so that the reader can interact with the book. My teachers LOVED this one, too. SO FUN! One of my fave books of 2012!

On Friday I got the idea of using the kids' library cards instead of having them raise their hands to make predictions because it was getting a little chaotic. Since I don't have Popsicle sticks with names or numbers on them, I just put the library cards in a bucket and drew from there to call on kids randomly. I was able to call on every student in each class to make a prediction throughout the book, and this also helped me learn the Kindergarten names. I will do this with each class from now on. This is proof that you can have a good idea on a Friday.

Lesson Frame:

Sixth Grade Inference Lesson 
(3 classes):

Some of my sixth grade teachers asked me to do a lesson on making inferences. I used Press Here and Blackout since I was already reading them during the week.

I started with Press Here to show the kids that inferences are "beefed up" predictions. We have to put our schema and the text evidence (clues) together to make an inference. I then made sure to stress the fact that making inferences was not just a reading skill but a LIFE skill. As I read the book to them, I emphasized the fact that they were making predictions based on schema and text evidence; therefore, they were making inferences. The sixth graders LOVED this book just as much as the little ones. Now that didn't squeal in delight, but they did smile and give the occasional "that's cool," which is the sixth grade equivalent to a Kindergarten squeal. I'll take it.  It just shows that this book is universal in its appeal.

I then shared Blackout, and we talked about how we had to make inferences based on the pictures because of the lack of words.After the book was over, I asked them to turn and talk about the technology that they can't live without.

                                                     Lesson Frame & Higher-Level Question:


Sunday, September 16, 2012

Week 3

Inside Tornadoes by Mary Kay Carson
Read to 3rd & 4th Grades (10 Classes)
Targeted Skills: Connect to Background Knowledge; Establish a Purpose for Reading, Skim and Scan for Text Features

I started the week with  Iceberg, Right Ahead!, one of my new nonfiction books that I knew would feed my kids' love for all things Titanic. But the book sprouted legs and walked off (without being checked out--someone REALLY wanted this book), which sometimes happens when I give a book my blessing. So I chose Inside Tornadoes because it is bursting with cool text features. I wanted to pick a book that had a subject that would make the kids connect to their background knowledge because I wanted to emphasize that good readers ALWAYS activate background knowledge before ANY reading task. Over the course of the week, I made up several chants to help the kids remember this. One was:
I say, "Sche!" You say, "Ma!" Sche-Ma! Sche-Ma! I want the kids to learn this "sophisticated" word for background knowledge.
Another was:
Bring your brain to the book! Bring your brain to the book! Sche-ma! Sche-ma! I need to video us chanting these because they don't translate well in writing.
After we briefly connected to our schema, I explained that our purpose for reading was not to learn cool facts about tornadoes. Our purpose was to notice the text features and ask ourselves why they are important. We skimmed and scanned the book together and noticed the different text features and how they added to the information. I then had kids pull a book from a cart of various nonfiction books that I had gathered, and they skimmed and scanned for text features, counting how many they encountered. We then shared the ones that we found with a thumbs-up activity.

Boy + Bot by Ame Dyckman
Read to 1st and 2nd Grades (9 classes)
Targeted Skills: Connect to Background Knowledge

This is a simple, short read-aloud that the kids really enjoyed. It is a great book to show kids that our schema (we did the schema chants, too) not only is important in our reading, but that we use it in our everyday lives to help us make decisions. Boy and Bot both use their different schema to figure out how to help each other, and the kids easily picked up on this.

Higher-Level Questions:
Why do you think the author used the + sign in the title instead of an "and"?
What lesson can this book teach us about friendship?

Sue MacDonald Had a Book by Jim Tobin
Read to Kindergarten (5 classes)
Targeted Skills: Notice Rhyme & Connect to Background Knowledge

Even though the Kindergarteners have not had a formal lesson on vowels, I chose this book because I knew they would recognize it's connection to "Old MacDonald Had a Farm." They connected to this old song, and some of them even knew about vowels from their Pre-K experience, so that was a good way to discuss the importance of background knowledge. We discussed the rhyme and the kids liked to chant A-E-I-O-U each time. I hope that this will stick in their schema so that when their teachers introduce vowels, one of them might say, "Hey! We read a book about them in the library!"

Weeks 1 & 2

I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen
Read to 5th & 6th Grades (10 classes)
Targeted Skills: Making Inferences & Monitor Thinking

The school year started with my 5th & 6th graders getting first dibs on check out, and I made a point of addressing them as the "leaders" of our school and because of this, they were getting the privilege of checking out books first. They liked the feeling of seniority.

We started off the 45 minute chunk of time with this perfect book. It's a simple story, yet shockingly funny, and so much of the humor comes from the inferences that must be made. We stopped throughout the reading to "monitor our thinking"--make connections, ask questions, predict what would happen next, infer--all of those skills that strong readers do in their minds. After we finished the book and everyone had a good laugh, I pointed out that so much of the humor in this book would be lost if we had not stopped to infer. That's when I made the kids chant, "It's cool to be smart! It's cool to smart!" I strive to point out this fact to all of my students--especially the upper grades. Life is richer when we NOTICE small details around us and connect them to our prior experiences.  

Higher-Level Questions Asked (These make sense after you read the book):
Why do you think the author changes the color of the text on the second page?
What can we infer about the rabbit from his response? What's your text evidence? 
Why is the page red when the bear realizes where his hat is? How did you that red means anger? What does this tell us about the importance of our background knowledge?
So what happened to the rabbit? How do you know this? 

 The Astonishing Secret of Awesome Man by Michael Chabon
Read to 4th Grade (6 classes) 
Targeted Skills: Connect to Background Knowledge, Make Inferences, & Monitor Thinking

I chose this book for 4th grade because I know that some of the teachers read Perfect Man to them, so I wanted them to make that connection, and those who had heard the book did. The students made many connections to their background knowledge about super heroes that they have seen on TV or in the movies. We made inferences about Awesome Man's "secret identity" and then used text evidence to support those inferences at the end when his identity was revealed. I modeled my thinking as a reader by asking questions and noticing the similies that the writer uses. After we finished the book, the kids made the connection that Awesome Man was really a kid with an overactive imagination. I asked them how he got all of this background knowledge about super heroes, and they said because he probably read books about them. I asked them to turn-and-talk about this:

Higher-Level Question:
How is reading like a super power? Use evidence from your own life and the world around you to support your answer.  

I encouraged the teachers to have the students write about this back in the classroom.

I Know a Librarian Who Chewed on a Word by Laurie Lazzaro Knowlton  
Read to 2nd and 3rd Grades (10 classes)
Targeted Skills: Connect to Background Knowledge

 I stumbled upon this book while shopping at Barnes and Noble this summer, and of course, I had to have it. I chose it for 2nd and 3rd grade because I wanted them to connect to their background knowledge of the song "I Know an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly." Of course, they did, and we discussed why the author used this familiar song as a pattern for her book. We discussed the word "absurd" and how we could use context clues to figure out what the word went if we did not have prior knowledge. We also made inferences about what the word that the librarian chewed because it is not revealed until the end. I made sure that the students had a chance to "turn-and-talk" about the book. I want to implement this more into my lessons this year. Because of the short amount of time that we have to do a lesson and checkout books, I feel like I am often rushing the kids into meaning. Turn-and-Talk gives ALL of them an opportunity to talk about the book, which is such an important part of reading.

Higher Level Questions Asked (These make sense after you read the book):
What do you notice about the illustrations of the girl who wants to know the word? How do they change throughout the story?
Why would a librarian swallow the word "READ?"

We're Going on a Book Hunt by Pat Miller
Read to 1st Grade and Kindergarten (10 classes)
Target Skills: Library Procedures, Book Care, Choosing a "Just Right" Book  

This was a fun, easy way to introduce the little ones to the way our library works. I had to change a few things and skip a few pages (we don't use shelf markers) in order to make it relevant to our library. For the 1st Graders, this was a quick review, and they enjoyed the singing and motions. My Kindergarteners caught on quickly and checked out books with ease on their first visit to the library!