Monthly Archives: August 2014

Starting the year with solid routines

It was SO exciting to spend this week with my new 3rd graders!  (My 4th graders were MAP testing so I only got to see them twice.)

Getting off to a solid start means taking the time to teach and instill successful routines.  The focus this week was on getting to know the room, how and why to select “ELO‘s”, creating and self-scoring comprehension connections notebooks, an introduction to talk about text, and learning how to use our listening station.  Oh and I forgot…loving language with lyrics! We discovered “onomatopoeia” in the song What Does the Fox Say?

3rd graders got “tweeted” about! See @KnappTimeDK or @mrsweberREAD

4th graders started their comprehension connections notebooks and got their special TaT underway with our first book club discussion! With caribbean music in the background, we had some discourse, discovering that Turtle in Paradise is FILLED with figurative language.  Then the 4th graders “self-assessed” their preparedness, evidence of reading, discussion and participation using our rubric.  We ended with an “exit ticket” (written response to the discussion question.)

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Getting into the routine…

It seems like we are getting a slow start, and in some ways we are. I’ve only seen the kids a few short hours this week but we are really accomplishing a great deal.  It is extremely important for me to take the time to fully instill a routine and the expectations that go with it.
So while the children had their 7th day of school today, I’ve only spent 2-4 hours with them thus far. You will not see a great deal of “product” coming home yet but know that the foundation is being put into place.  Be patient and know that once we get everything in place, the intensity will build.
Most of the 4th graders have the advantage of familiarity with me, the room, and a core set of expectations.  Their MAP testing limited our time together…time that has been spent setting up some new routines.  New to the 4th graders are the novel study/book club and comprehension connections notebooks.  The notebooks are a BIG addition for me this year and I am really excited about how they will enhance and extend the children’s learning.
Comprehension connections notebooks are intended for curriculum compacting.  I’m teaching the necessary content through short, info packed mini-lessons (our “video” lessons.)  Gifted students pick up material quickly, so my goal is to present definitions, explanations of terms, etc.  Then we will work to apply these terms.  For example, our first lesson has been about discovering the magic of words. The mini lesson was on some basics, such as syllables and the concept of multisyllabic words.  I used the 11-syllable word “antidisestablishmentarianism”, not because I wanted them to learn and apply the word, but rather to help them see how a complex word can be broken down into syllabic parts to help them (1) actually read it and (2) look for known parts, such as affixes and root words to determine the meaning.  The lesson also includes the concept of “domain-specific” words.  These are words that are not part of our everyday language but apply to a particular domain or topic.  With 4th graders, I extended this concept to “jargon” and gave them a list of words I read in an article about brain research.  The “domain” was neuroscience.  Again I did not expect them to apply or learn the words, but rather see that when they as learners start to get into domain-specific words they will need start using syllabication to help them actually read a word and then context clues to infer possible meaning, followed by later accessing sources/tools to help them look up meanings when necessary. This is a big important skill now that they as readers are transitioning from the “learning to read” phase to the “reading to learn” phase. The next lesson will focus on etymology (study of the origins of words).
So…while you are not seeing work coming home yet, I hope this gives you insight into why I’m taking the time to slowly establish routines and a foundation.

A “Novel” Idea…

This year, 4th graders will read 3 novels together.  The focus will be on discussion and examining characteristics of fiction.  I am very excited about “delving into some deep discourse” with the children! While I continue to encourage the children to pursue their own reading interests, a common text will give us the same background experience. This will be an additional “talk about text” task, but we will refer to it as our “book club”

Book club novels for 4th graders

Book club scoring rubric

I have selected 3 different novels for us to read.  Starting with Turtle in Paradise by Jennifer L. Holm, I want to take time to closely read this so that we can enjoy the figurative language.  It is a great historical fiction piece, set in 1935 in Florida Keys so the setting is really great for analysis.  This will take us into winter break.  In January, we will take on A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle.  I chose this because it is science fiction/fantasy, which is a genre I don’t see many of my students reading these days.  I would like to expose them to it.  This novel will be great for the winter time as it is a more complex read.  I am curious to see where our discussion could take us with this book.  Finally, I have selected The Van Gogh Cafe by Cynthia Rylant for after spring break.  It is a short read and quite a unique one.  I came across this gem a few years ago when I was looking for great texts to use for teaching specific comprehension skills.  It has an interesting plot that flows quite well; perfect for discussion!

“Housekeeping” issues…

  • Fridays are our discussion days. Students will be expected to read and make “tracks” of their thinking (aka annotating); a discussion guide will be provided each week so students have a focus for their thinking: Book Club_Turtle in Paradise_ch 1
  • “Points” for the week will involve preparation and participation
  • Students can read ahead, but will be expected to focus discussion on the current chapter and previous chapters discussed (no spoilers allowed in discussions :0)
  • Students who chose to read ahead will need to re-read the current week’s chapter to be best prepared for discussion
  • Discussions will be audio recorded for reflection purposes
  • Students can use the current novel for their weekly reading response letters (just not every week! :0) In fact, this is encouraged…just be sure to use the response choice menu as a guide and keep a balance with non-fiction texts too
  • Each student will be given a copy of the text to borrow but may purchase and use their own copy if they wish; using their own copy allows a student to write directly in their text, highlighting, underlining, etc.

Countdown commencing…

We are less than 2 weeks away from the start of our 2014-2015 school year! I am very excited so I’ve been revising the menu of choices students work from. On a normal “5-day” week, students are expected to earn a minimum of 100 points. Returning 4th graders should be used to this; new students will need some time to learn the routines and get familiar with choices. An important piece of my gifted service model is helping students become self-directed in their learning. Some students are automatically; others need guidance to get there; some do the “minimum” and are content.  Whatever the case may be, I’m here to guide each individual gifted learner. Keep in mind, “one size does not fit all” and students with superior cognitive ability have a range of strengths/needs.

Our weekly ‘routine’ consists of a menu of choices…Main courses, side dishes, snacks, and desserts.  We need all of these things for a well balanced learning diet.  Check out our menu: Weekly assignment menu 2014 page and info page: READ station menu overview

One thing that the students start to figure out quickly is that they need to do more than just the required tasks to earn 100 points and just because a task might be worth up to 10 points, it doesn’t mean they automatically get 10 points for doing it.  I will guide students to quality with feedback and will gradually increase my expectations as the year progresses.  But to get full points, they have to impress me…not just complete an assignment!

“Grading note”: The goal is 100 points on a normal 5-day week (we found we had many “exceptions” last year). For 3rd graders, this is necessary to achieve “satisfactory” status (which is a “3” on the report card”). 4th graders are capable of higher expectations and so I will place a “150” requirement for a “3” level (100 is the minimum; thus “2” level).  Remember gifted reading is intended to be accelerated and advanced, so just doing the minimum in my classroom is equivalent to a “2”.  Gifted readers should be achieving above and beyond grade level expectations as a rule.

“100 club”: students who learn to manage their time and work well can choose from a few options: 100 club perks

4th grade “book club”: This year I am going to read 3 novels with the 4th graders. These will be a variation on “talk about text” and reading outside of class is a must in order to be prepared for a lively discussion.  While I will supply copies of these novels, students are invited to get their own copies.  I know I like to highlight and write notes about my thinking as I read!  Book club novels for 4th graders

Enjoy those last few days of summer! And get ready for a FANTASTIC new school year!