Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Book Sets to use for "Unlocking" Levels

Book Sets to Share
    Through our recent PD experiences we have been talking about all things Guided or Strategic Reading. We have spent time considering the purpose, structure, best practices related to guiding readers to be strategic in their problem-solving so they can ultimately understand what they read.
   In the K-2 group, Angelica's led teams through creating lesson opportunities for a set of books ranging from 6-24. *Check out the awesome doc they created! In the 3-5 group, I've worked to facilitate learning about the possibilities for using instructional texts with readers to raise the level of ANY reader-struggling, on level, above level. By examining and analyzing texts through the lens of "unlocking" a hurdle a reader would encounter at that level, we have begun the process of building strategic readers.
  When doing this process, we have to always ask ourselves, "What does the reader bring to this level?" and "What hurdles can I support them with as they read this instructional text?" We can think of it as holding their hands (guiding them) through something within that text (with a variety of texts) at that level so they can more quickly become independent enough to read that level.
   If you are looking for more texts to use with students, please consider using some of those in our building. Kevin has this set, there are also sets in the 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade closets. We have the DRA levels and you can ask for parent or student support (after school) in labeling them for easy access.
   Some books have been used and lesson plans with "What could I do with this book?" grid has been created by those using them. Check it out on the S drive in the Guided Reading folder.
   As always, you have the support of your colleagues, Angelica, team members, and me. We are here for you to guide or just grow with you.


Monday, February 3, 2014

Layering ELA Understandings Through the Lens of U.S. History

Examining Beliefs on Building Schema:
Layering ELA Understandings Through the Lens of U.S. History
Throughout Our Students’ Elementary Experience

* Dedicated to all those who crave a richer social studies experience for our kids, or maybe just some support along the way.

Do you catch everything the first time you hear or learn about it? The second time? What happens as you look and study the different facets of a topic?  We layer students’ learning of the thinking strategies, year after year, right? So, it’s only fitting that we honor that same process with deepening understanding of America’s complex history.

I’ll back up a little:  Just checking…how often do you hear or utter the words, “Our social studies curriculum is so dry. It lacks depth and there’s nothing for our kids to really sink their teeth into and get vested.” These honest and accurate sentiments are typically shared by K-4 teachers. Or maybe it’s, “ We have to teach all of American history in 5th grade! From beginning to end- all of it. It’s just too much.” Of course, these teachers are right, too. Well, they used to be right. Now, our ELA curriculum threads powerful and engaging U.S. history through at least one of the units during the year.   Don’t get me wrong, the literacy learning takes the forefront and is the true focus, but who can resist the opportunity to build background knowledge so that the powerful history of our country makes more sense as students continue to reengage and build depth with it year after year? I can’t.  Nor can I argue with the logic and the excitement it create in learners. Ask any of our 5th grade teachers about students’ willingness to participate or eagerness to learn more about American’s history: slavery, war, and ground-setting humans of our past. Children typically enjoy the emotional and factual connections our history has to our present, so why not layer their learning through literacy? The timing to consider this could not be better as we begin to plan our Unit 5 in an extended ELA planning session. It’s American History Background Building Time!

Curious about the intentional literacy and historic connections offered in Units 5 or 6?  These units support our learners with such skills and understandings as: questioning information fosters opinion making and depends understanding, cause and effect, revising for readers, comparing literary and informational texts, using digital tools, building and effectively using content-specific vocabulary, making sense of text structures.

Scaffolding students to build background knowledge for 5th grade American History through texts/concepts in a theme
Unit Title
Historic Connection and possible texts for literary focus
America’s symbols and celebrations
focus on symbols and celebrations
American Contributions (unit 6)
important Americans (presidents, Paul Revere, Betsy Ross, Jackie Robinson, Pocahontas, Ben Franklin
A Long Journey to Freedom
long and multifaceted effort to break down barriers to racial equality in the United States (Harriet Tubman, Lincoln, Rosa Parks, MLK Jr., civil rights movement)
The People, the Preamble, and the Presidents
people, the Preamble (to the Constitution), and presidents of the United States. Immigration, America’s Start
Revolutionaries from the Past
American Revolution, Abigail Adams, Sojourner Truth, Susan B. Anthony, Molly Pitcher, Revolutionary War, Sam Adams, John Hancock, Paul Revere. Trail of Tears
America in Conflict
American Civil War, Underground Railroad, Sojourner Truth, Abraham Lincoln,  Bull Run, all things CW

"United We Stand, Divided We Fall," right? Here's to powerful and layered learning experiences for our Bears.