Archive for March, 2012

This poem made me laugh — so much fun! Happy Poetry Friday!


What to Wear Where

By J. Patrick Lewis

When I was a boy
In Looziana,
We wore blue jeans
And a red bandanna.
My folks moved up
To the state of Maine,
We wore duck shoes
In slicker-suit rain.
My folks moved down
To the state of Texas,
We wore brand names
Like Lazy X’s.
Now that we’re living
It up in Vermont,
We wear pretty much
Whatever we want.

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Sign up sheets for students to choose books for literature circles on Harriet Tubman

Sign up sheets for students to choose books for literature circles on Harriet Tubman

Recently I received an email from a 4th-grade teacher about using novels in guided reading. It’s a question I get quite a bit, so thought I’d share it here. Here’s the question and my reply:

QUESTION: I am an elementary teacher who is a tremendous fan of your work. My question is when working in guided reading groups in fourth grade, is it appropriate to read the same novel with each group? My lowest level group reads much slower and I don’t know if I will have time to finish it with them. What is your advice? It’s Sarah, Plain and Tall. Thank you in advance!

MY ANSWER: I would not use the same novel with each group. The purpose of small group instruction is to differentiate for students. Choose a book for small group that is at students’ instructional level. This means that each group is reading a different book. If you have the resources, you could try to find books that tie together in some way. But that is not necessary. The important thing is to teach the children, not to teach the book. As for Sarah, Plain and Tall, some children could read that book as an independent read. Others could read it in guided reading. For still others, it will be too hard and they will need too much support. It would be best to read aloud and discuss the book to the whole class, I think. Or read aloud some of it and leave it out for kids to finish on their own, if they’d like.

Another option is to use this book for some children in a literature discussion group. For more information on these, I like Harvey Daniels’ site (but it appears to being rebuilt at this time). Another source is www.litcircles.org. Yet another (for ELL students) is at http://www.eflliteraturecircles.com/

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We celebrated the first day of spring this week, so I thought I would keep the celebration going with this poem. Happy Poetry Friday!


ByKarla Kuskin

I’m shouting
I’m singing
I’m swinging through trees
I’m winging skyhigh
With the buzzing black bees.
I’m the sun
I’m the moon
I’m the dew on the rose.
I’m a rabbit
Whose habit
Is twitching his nose.
I’m lively
I’m lovely
I’m kicking my heels.
I’m crying “Come Dance”
To the fresh water eels.
I’m racing through meadows
Without any coat
I’m a gamboling lamb
I’m a light leaping goat
I’m a bud
I’m a bloom
I’m a dove on the wing.
I’m running on rooftops
And welcoming spring!

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A group of 5th graders read short text and use graphic organizers on main idea to deepen comprehension

A group of 5th graders read short text and use graphic organizers on main idea to deepen comprehension

I worked with such a great group of teachers last week! We studied the power of small groups. If we can remember why we teach in small groups, it’s easier to carve out time for this important part of the day.

Teachers in 4th-6th grade brainstormed these as their top reasons for using small groups:

1. Increases comfort level for students

2. Immediate feedback can be provided to students

3. Students can’t hide

4. Allows the needs of groups of students to be targeted

5. Helps teachers observe student learning more carefully

6. Provides opportunity to individualize instruction

7. Instruction can be more easily differentiated

8. Allows teachers to match reading levels and interest levels to students

What are some of the reasons you use small groups? Leave your ideas in the comments section!

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St. Patrick’s Day
There’s an Isle, a green Isle, set in the sea,
Here’s to the Saint that blessed it!
And here’s to the billows wild and free
That for centuries have caressed it!

Here’s to the day when the men that roam
Send longing eyes o’er the water!
Here’s to the land that still spells home
To each loyal son and daughter!

Here’s to old Ireland—fair, I ween,
With the blue skies stretched above her!
Here’s to her shamrock warm and green,
And here’s to the hearts that love her!

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I just came across this poem by accident. I think the way it captures the magic of childhood and the bond between siblings is just lovely.

In Childhood

By Sarah A. Chavez
In childhood Christy and I played in the dumpster across the street
from Pickett & Sons Construction. When we found bricks, it was best.
Bricks were most useful. We drug them to our empty backyard
and stacked them in the shape of a room. For months
we collected bricks, one on top another. When the walls
reached as high as my younger sister’s head, we laid down.
Hiding in the middle of our room, we watched the cycle
of the sun, gazed at the stars, clutched hands and felt at home.

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Here are a few tips on how to set up a buddy reading work station from my book Practice with Purpose. What ideas do you have for this station? Have you used one in your classroom?

Two students sit beside each other on the floor. Each holds a copy of the same fiction book. They are reading a chapter silently and then using discussion cards to talk about what they read. The cards relate to a reading strategy their teacher has been modeling in whole-group instruction—inference.

They take turns reading the cards and then talking about what they think. For example, one the “I Can” list in the buddy reading basket and have chosen the option “I read a paragraph; you read a paragraph.” They are reading the assigned chapter for science in this way and stop to discuss their reading at the end of each section. When they have finished all the assigned reading, they answer the questions in the textbook together. One is the recorder and writes their answers on notebook paper.

Ideas for the Work Station
Teachers like buddy reading because it doesn’t take up much space and is easy to get started. All you need for this station is a basket (discount stores sell some that are just the right size and price!) and two copies of the same book or other short text. This is a portable station that can be taken anywhere in the classroom; you will be wise to set up predetermined places, though, so it doesn’t get overcrowded in any one area of your room. You might set up two or three buddy reading stations to accommodate more pairs of students.

You might set up different-colored buddy reading baskets for students reading at different levels or put three or four titles at different levels in one basket and code them with colored dots to help students find books at their independent reading levels.

Provide sticky notes and pencils, too, so kids can mark where they finished reading for the next time. Use a variety of texts over time, including popular chapter books, your basal reader, and social studies and science textbooks. It is wise to provide shorter text at this station so students have time to finish reading something and discuss it. Include lots of nonfiction, such as current events clipped from the newspaper, Eyewitness books, fact books such as the Guinness Book of World Records, and Cross-Section books.

To help students know exactly what is expected of them at this station, here are some possibilities for the “I Can” list:
I Can . . .
■ Read the same chapter as my buddy and discuss it when we’re finished reading.
■ Decide how we’re going to read here (together orally; you read a page aloud, I read a page aloud; silently to a certain place).
■ Read a nonfiction text together and discuss it as we read it. Then we can write a summary of what we learned as we read.
■ Use the chart on how to read nonfiction text to remind us not to skip any parts.
■ Write questions about what we read for the next kids who come here to read this text. We can put our questions on a sticky note and write the answers on the back.

How the Buddy Reading Work Station Supports Student Performance on State Tests

Having students practice reading at this station builds both comprehension and fluency. The main thing tested on standardized reading tests is comprehension. Having buddies to talk with about reading can increase student interest and engagement and encourage them to read more than they might on their own. When students pair up and practice reading orally, fluency can really improve as well. Improved fluency often aids comprehension. If the standardized test is timed, this can be a real boon to student performance on the test.

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Did you use a poem with your students on February 29? This is my favorite:

Leap Year Poem

By Mother Goose

Thirty days hath September,
April, June and November.
All the rest have thirty-one,
Excepting February alone,
And that has twenty-eight days clear
And twenty-nine in each leap year.

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