Friday, February 26, 2010

Poetry Friday: Poetry Circles

Have you ever thought about using poetry circles in your classroom instead of literature circles.  I came across this idea at a Faye Brownlie workshop I attended.  Faye's book, Grand Conversations, Thoughtful Responses: A Unique Approach to Literature Circles is a fantastic approach to literature circles in the classroom that focuses on getting students involved in authentic conversations about literature.  Poetry circles is an adaptation of the same idea.

Basically, you provide 6 copies of 4-5 different poems.  Students select which poem they want to read. Students read the poems individually three times.  The first time they draw a picture of any images they see while reading.  The second time they circle, mark any keywords that jump of the page. After the third time through, they free write a response on the page about what the poem makes them think about.  Altogether, a fairly simply process to get them to have some understanding of the key ideas in the poem.  After each student has had a chance to work with their poem, they meet in groups to discuss their images, words and responses.  In the next lesson students would select a different poem and end up in a different group.

Poetry circles could help introduce/teach a poem in 30-40 minutes, and covers oral language and reading learning outcomes.

It could be a variation to A Poem A Day...

Jone has the Poetry Friday roundup today at Check it Out.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Poetry Friday - A Tongue Twister of a Language...

I haven't used this poem in a couple years, but it is one of my favourites for teaching the importance of spelling and grammar and ensuring that your writing uses the correct words.  It's fun to get students to try and read it out loud as it takes some focused effort not to trip up on the words.  There are also a few words and spellings even I had to look up before I read it with my class the first time..

I don't know the author's name - but if anyone does I will edit the post to give them credit.

Hints on Pronunciation

I take it you already know
Of tough and bough and cough and dough?
Others may stumble but not you,
On hiccough, thorough, laugh and through.
Well done! And now you wish, perhaps,
To learn of less familiar traps?
Beware of heard, a dreadful word
That looks like beard and sounds like bird,
And dead: it's said like bed, not bead -
For goodness' sake don't call it 'deed'!
Watch out for meat and great and threat
(They rhyme with suite and straight and debt).
A moth is not a moth in mother
Nor both in bother, broth in brother,
And here is not a match for there
Nor dear and fear for bear and pear,
Just look them up - and goose & choose,
And cork & work and card & ward,
And font & front and word & sword,
And do & go and thwart & cart -
Come, come, I've hardly made a start!
A dreadful language? Man alive,
I'd mastered it when I was five.

Maybe I will dig it out this week to use with my class... 

Irene has the roundup at Live. Love. Learn!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Books We Love - Anything But Typical

Before I picked up this book I had read several reviews by bloggers who were reading or thinking about reading this book aloud to their class.  It was on my list to read, but I kept putting it off because it just didn't sound like a book I wanted to read.  Well, I was wrong.  I read this book cover to cover in two sittings.  I was moved by the main character's voice and several moments were truly heartbreaking.

The main character is Jason Blake, a 12 year-old autistic boy who doesn't fit in at school and is judged by his teachers, classmates, strangers and some members of his family.  He finds a storyboard forum online where he submits stories he has written for comments by other young writers.  This forum allows him to express his ideas without being judged and it is here he is treated as an equal.  He meets PhoenixBird online, another story writer who becomes a friend.  Things get complicated when Jason's parents surprise him with a trip to the Storyboard convention where he will have to meet PhoenixBird in person, which runs the risk of ruining everything...

I am now planning to use this as my next read aloud with my class.

Nora Raleigh Baskin is the winner of the middle-school 2010 Schneider Family Book Award for “Anything But Typical.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Poetry Friday: A Poem a Day

I was first introduced to the work and writing of Nancie Atwell this summer when I started my Master's Program.  After reading several of her books and applying her ideas to my classroom, I can't believe that I taught for four years without ever coming across her ideas.  I have completely changed my language arts program based on her books and I am thrilled with the results.  My students this year developing into fluent, passionate readers and are as excited about books as I am.

Which in a round about way brings me to this week's poetry Friday topic: 'A poem a day.'

My students all have a poetry duotang and most mornings when my students arrive I have a copy of a poem waiting for them on their desk.  While I am taking attendance in the morning they read over the poem and mark up what they notice, what they like, what they think it means, etc. on their copy.  Often we read it together and sometimes I read it with expression and have them listen and sometimes I let them read.  I have been astounded with the deep discussions that have arisen and they have constantly surprise me with their ability to understand the big ideas in the poems.

A lot of the poems I use come from Nancie Atwell's book Naming the World: A Year of Poems and Lessons.  Each poem has an explanation and discussion ideas, and they are poems that she has used with her middle school students.  We have laughed at some, and discussed global issues with others.  Teaching a poem a day takes about 15 minutes each morning, but I believe it builds reading comprehension, oral language and written response skills all at the same time.

My favourite poem so far has been Autobiography in Five Short Chapters by Portia Nelson.  I thought it would be too obsure for my students, but everyone of them could talk about how it personally applied to their own lives.  Here it is - a quick google search finds many many links, so maybe it is just new to me...

Autobiography In Five Short Chapters
by Portia Nelson
I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk
I fall in.
I am lost ... I am helpless.
It isn't my fault.
It takes me forever to find a way out.
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I pretend I don't see it.
I fall in again.
I can't believe I am in the same place
but, it isn't my fault.
It still takes a long time to get out.
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I see it is there.
I still fall in ... it's a habit.
my eyes are open
I know where I am.
It is my fault.
I get out immediately.
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I walk around it.
I walk down another street.

On February 12th, the Poetry Friday roundup takes place at the blog I'm Here. I'm Queer. What the Hell Do I Read?

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Books We Love - The Diamond of Darkhold

I finished reading the Fourth Book of Ember, The Diamond of Darkhold last night.  I started it on Thursday night, so my inability to read books a couple chapters at a time seems to remain stong.  I thought this was a good book to wrap up the series, but it wasn't my favourite of the four.  There were moments that the plot seemed manipulated a bit to fit the situation, and I HATE when children's book authors feel the need to write a final chapter giving the happily ever after of the characters and what happens to them as adults.  I think that is better left to the reader's imagination, even if it does drive my students crazy.  They couldn't believe that the first book ended when it did.  But the fourth book continues the themes of the first 3: survival, hope, community, and persistence, and Lina and Doon continue to be unsatisfied with the hard times faced by their community and have the drive to do something about it.  All in all, I have been impressed with the entire series.

I have read the City of Ember to several of my classes and am now reading The People of Sparks to my class this year.  They have enjoyed both, but I am not sure I want to read them out loud again - it may be time to move on, and put They City of Ember into my literature circle collections.  The City of Ember allows for students to practice inferring as their are lots of moments where things are left partially explained and the reader needs to fill in the rest.

I am currently on the hunt for some good read-alouds that will get my students thinking and discussing big issues.  I am also making a list of 'dystopian' novels for young adults and would like to do a novel study on that theme.  I would need a long list, with many titles at different levels for it to work out...

Graphic Novels in the Middle Years Classroom

This year I have been spending quite a bit of time trying to get to know a bit about the world of graphic novels and their use in my classroom.  I have a unique group of readers in my 6/7 split: one group of very strong readers who read all the time and can read pretty much anything they choose, and another group of reluctant readers who still struggle with fluency and novels and who definitely are uninterested in practicing reading outside of class time.  So my solution was to do a bit of research on high-interest books, and I came across a lot of research that suggested that graphic novels were an excellent approach for reluctant readers.

So far, my anecdotal experience has shown that it works - or at least it gets those particular students more interested in reading - (we are doing another round of CBM's this week to see if fluency has improved since September, and my fingers are crossed for improved results for some of my lower readers.)  I had no idea that the world of graphic novels was so large and complex, and I feel I have only delved into the edges of it.  I am still reluctant about supplying students with manga or anime novels, and I think I am a little biased against some of the more commercial series (Batman, Spiderman, etc.).  But I have found many that my students loved and can't wait to read the next in the series.  I also find myself constantly looking at bookstores/libraries to see what's out there and buying/borrowing graphic novels with particular students in mind.

There are several series that were originally published in traditional novel format (Artemis Fowl, Alex Rider, The Hobbit) and the series have now been re-written into graphic format.  (I even found Twilight the graphic novel this week).  My hope is that my students will start with the graphic novel and then move into the traditional novel as their skills improve.  But, even if they don't - I have introduced a format of reading that they love.  They ask to borrow the books and take them home and return the next day with the book finished.  I would like to include a graphic novel into my literature circles choices this spring, so hopefully the sets my school has ordered get here in time.  I am still on the lookout for books that others have used to get their students reading.

Check out The Graphic Classroom - this blog has helped me to choose books to bring into my classroom and provides extensive reviews and reccomendations of graphic novels for all grade levels.

Scholastic has a good article on using graphic novels in the classroom and particularly discusses the Bone series.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Introducing a New Blog...

Well, I have been thinking of starting a blog with an educational focus for awhile now.  My last attempt with blogging started out alright, but sort of fizzled when I started working full-time.  It was fantastic when I was a TOC, but lately I can't even get dinner on the table and show up to work in clean clothes, so I am not sure how blogging will work out.  (My last blog was a gardening blog - and I haven't given it up forever...)

I am hoping this will be a place where I discuss successes and failures from my classroom with regards to eaching literacy skills, and a love of literature to my middle-school aged students.  I am also currently working on my MEd in Middle Years Language and Literacy, so I hope to write a few posts on exciting things I learn and come across as I take part in this program.  I hope "Books We Love" will be a regular posting topic that my students will help contribute to in order to share books that grab the attention of middle years students.