Monthly Archives: November 2014

Picture Book Projects

Part of my experience at the National Association for Gifted Children conference Nov. 13-16 included some amazing sessions about higher level thinking and “reading beyond words”, examining picture books, and exploring artistic techniques. I returned with some incredible ideas…and came back to a HUGE pile of fantastic work waiting for meaningful feedback!

So to give me time to catch up with feedback, meet with small groups to continue some poetry explorations we started before I left, and have the children get a chance to engage in some of the amazing things I discovered (and to work around the surprise snow day we got), we put our routine on pause.

First I shared a short video clip with the children: (It’s a Book! by Lane Smith).  This clip is a humorous look at how we may have gotten so wrapped up in our digital media that some of us may have lost the joy of just reading a physical book.  (*PARENTS NOTE: I am NOT recommending that you purchase/read the actual book without inspecting first!  The characters in the story are a “donkey” and an “ape”.  The actual text uses another term for the donkey at the end, which is an accurate term but can have an “inappropriate” connotation that some may find offensive.) The video however was “safe” and appropriate for the lesson.

The Picture book project is giving the children a chance to explore the amazing things publishers are doing with hardcover books. From the book jackets, to the inside covers, to panels and vignettes…there are so many incredible things to discover. I intentionally left things open ended…

Here’s where we are sharing our projects:

Screen Shot 2014-11-22 at 9.37.20 AM

Responding to text with a plan

Organize your thinking before you writeBeing able to respond to text with well written essays is an important skill.  But writing about a text is an extremely involved task that needs a great deal of scaffolding.  My goal is always to get children writing so that I can assess what skills they have in place and where to construct an individual scaffold.

However, I do teach some basic principles to my writers.  Planning their thinking and organizing ideas BEFORE writing pays off in a BIG way! Now that my 3rd graders are in a routine of writing a “weekly response letter”, the time has come to start stepping things up!

We’ve worked on extending our learning experience with Bloom’s Taxonomy (or levels of thinking from lower level to higher level).  Now it is time to stretch thinking and challenge our minds.  I gave students some new Ready to be a detective_with reading response and focused on how we now need to be “detectives” as we hunt for evidence.  Finding support in a text to drive our thinking is a critical skill.  It is how we formulate ideas and “prove” what we are claiming.

In addition to ramping up some expectations, I also showed students how they can plan a well written response.  (See lesson at This builds upon the “how to write a paragraph” lesson taught just a few days ago.  The key is to start with evidence that supports the thinking they are going to do.  Or find your quotes!

Screen Shot 2014-11-08 at 1.39.07 PMPES Paragraph 1 (Use link to download sample)

Screen Shot 2014-11-08 at 1.43.02 PM PES paragraph 2 (Use link to download sample)

Screen Shot 2014-11-08 at 1.44.31 PM PES paragraph 3 (Use link to download sample)

These 3 paragraphs represent the “body” of an essay or response letter.  Obviously most students will not be ready for this, but modeling what is possible was important.  I also used a “generic” plan for an introduction paragraph that students can use: PES intro Screen Shot 2014-11-08 at 1.47.20 PM

At this time, I did include conclusions.  Those come later once a child has become comfortable with a introduction and at least one paragraph for a body.
Here is the entire letter: Prob Effect Solution pg 1 Prob Effect Solution pg 2

Here are some “color coded” versions:

Intro  Evidence and plan

Response 1Response 2

Using a plan to write a response