Thursday, March 28, 2013

March Book Madness

I love to come up with new ways to encourage kids to read. Some of the kids at this age get caught up in chapter books and don't stop to read some of the more terrific picture books out there simply because they aren't chapter books. In an effort to guide the kids back to picture books, we're celebrating March  Madness in our classroom, reading style!

Okay, so my display isn't the greatest right now, but it's a work in progress. I wanted to get it up before I left school this afternoon. I'll add some things to it as we move along. 

I worked with our wonderful librarian to find picture books that we had multiple copies of and checked them out. Fortunately, she had several sets of picture books from previous years' Bluebonnet Books list, so I was able to find about ten titles with three to four books each. I'm starting small and used four titles this time. (Maybe we'll celebrate April and May Reading Madness with the remaining titles if this goes well!) I paired each one of those books up with a book that we had already read aloud. I made the pairings based on theme or genre. The pairings are in the pictures below with the book we've already read aloud listed first.

Minty: The Story of a Young Harriet Tubman vs. The Extraordinary Mark Twain
White Water vs. Ruth and the Green Book

The Memory Coat vs. Sparrow Girl
The Lotus Seed vs. The Luck of the Loch Ness Monster

Throughout the next three weeks we will read and discuss the two books and then the kids will vote on their favorite of the two. Only one of the titles from each pair will make it through to the next round. After we determine the winner of each pair, I'll ask a student to write down a quick note (no larger than a 3x5 index card) explaining why that particular book won and staple it up. Comparing and voting will continue until we determine a winner of Mossman Book Madness! I think this will be a great way to develop talk about books and will be a great way to lay the foundation for our upcoming book review unit in writing. After all, you have to talk about something often first as a rehearsal for writing about it.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Subway Summaries

One of the reading skills that third graders must learn is the art of the summary. Students have to read a passage, identify the important information, and then turn around and use that important information to construct a coherent summary of what they have read. It's a challenging skill for the kids to master and one that typically takes time and exposure for the kids to be successful with.

This year we've already taught summary in the fall semester, but we're revisiting summary as we wrap up our unit on theme and genre. Today I did a lesson to review what should be included in a summary. I had a little fun with this lesson just to make sure I had the kids' attention.

Before the lesson began I put on my apron and hat. I made signs that said "Subway Summary Artist." Years ago the Subway sandwich shops had their employees wear shirts that said Subway Sandwich Artist. So today I was a Subway Summary Artist. I put the apron and hat on and while I talked about what to include in the summary I put up pictures of a bun, lettuce, tomato, cheese, and meat. We had fun with it today and the kids really did pay attention! At the end of the lesson today they really were able to tell me what information should be included in a summary.

Monday, March 11, 2013

You've Got Mail!

As a child I loved getting things in the mail. I dutifully checked the mailbox every day, hoping to find something for me waiting inside. On the rare occasions that I actually did get something, I was thrilled! Getting real mail made me feel special. I still have a card that my first grade teacher sent me for my birthday.

I try to communicate with my kids in various ways, whether it's a pat on the back or a comment left on a post-it in their notebooks. Another way I like to communicate with my kids is by sending postcards. Our society is increasingly text and email oriented, and I want the kids to experience that same thrill I did as a kid when I actually got real mail. I don't tell the kids I am sending the postcards, I simply put the cards in our outgoing mail basket in the office and wait for them to arrive. The kids get a kick out of them! I always know the cards have been received because the kids will ask "Did you send me mail?" or a few will bring the card in to show me for proof.

I send cards for various reasons. I typically will send one at the end of each writing unit. One year I sent each child a card praising their effort on our state tests. I've also sent cards to welcome new students to our class or to praise a specific child for something I've seen them do in the classroom.

It can be hard for me to remember who I've mailed cards to and who I haven't. I try to keep it fair and mail one to each student before mailing a second one out. To help me keep track I address an entire class set. That way after I mail one or two out, I still know who I have left to mail cards to because their card is still in my stack. When I run out of addressed cards then I can start again.

Here is one type of cards that I send out. These are provided by our school. Usually we are required to complete one of these as exit slips at faculty meetings or other events. The front of the card says "I Noticed..." and the back has room for a message. I'll use these kinds of cards for messages like "I noticed you working hard today during writing time" or "I noticed you making good choices during independent reading today." The kids love these.

I also send out these cards. I had these made at They say "Good News" on the front and "Mrs. Hamilton is proud of me!" on the back. I used the card style on the right at the beginning of the year. The style on the left is what I am using now. I found these templates at Vistaprint by searching "kids" for the right style and "dots" for the left style. I changed the font faces and the text boxes to make the cards say what I wanted. I use these cards for positive feedback ("I loved reading your poetry anthology!") or other comments for the kids.