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Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Disrupting Thinking

I've had Disruptive Thinking: Why How We Read Matters by Kylene Beers and Robert E. Probst sitting on my desk for a little while, it was one of my planned summer readings.  It didn't take long to hook me on this one.  I'm going to share some of the ideas that really resonated with me, but you'll want to read this book for yourself.

Clicking on the book cover will take you to Amazon.
These are some of the ideas that really hit me:

  • Books should change the reader: books should disrupt, alter, and change the thinking of every reader in different ways.
  • Tomorrow's Leaders need to do more than extract information.  They need to "learn to think creatively, critically, collaboratively, and compassionately.  To get there we need to change the way they think as they read."(page 22) As teachers this means we need to look closely at the questions we ask students.  Are we simply asking them to extract information or are we asking them to respond to their own thinking about the text?  "We ask students why Jess took Maybelle to Terabithia when we should be asking how Terabithia has changed their understanding of who they, the readers, are." (page 21-22)
  • Book, Head, and Heart (BHH) Reading - We want kids to know what's in the book, we want them thinking about what's in their own head and we want them to recognize what they took to heart, what changed in them from reading the text.  This anchor chart is shown in the book to help students remember that we start with what's in the book, but ultimately need to get to how it affects us.   This chart would be great as an anchor chart or in a reading toolkit.
Honestly, there are so many great things in this book, I could go on with those bullet points for a long time! Other topics in this book include: 
  • Silent reading and what research really does say
  • Focused silent reading
  • Best practices and next practices (things that may work better in the future)
  • Disruptive practices
  • Teaching about topics that are relevant to our students
  • Giving students choice
  • Using real conversation in the classroom
  • Making change that impacts students and their learning
If you are looking to change how your students read, you'll want to pick up this book. It would also make a great faculty book club book.  

Happy Reading!

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Favorite Read Aloud Books

The Research Based Classroom's Favorite Read Alouds for Fifth Grade

One of the most difficult tasks in upper elementary classrooms is finding books that are brand new for your students.  I LOVE to read aloud books that no one has read and that can be pretty difficult by the fifth grade.  Here are a few of my favorite read alouds from the past year.  (Clicking on any of the covers will take you to Amazon.)

I start my year off with Home of the Brave by Katherine Applegate because it's the recommended text for the Units of Study in Reading for Grade 5's Interpretation Book Clubs.  So while we are reading Home of the Brave together, I'm teaching whole class mini-lessons that deal with comprehension strategies.  After about the second week of school, I try to get my students into their book groups using realistic fiction.  There are a couple of things that I really love about this novel.  It's written in prose, so there's few words but so much food for thought.  It really provides a common ground for deep discussions and growing thinking.  The main character, Kek, is a refugee who escapes his own war torn county and joins some of his extended family in Minnesota.  The book moves seamlessly from funny misunderstandings as he tries to adjust to live in  America to scenes that help students build empathy as the reader learns more about Kek's previous life.  It is a fairly quick read that will have you hooked.

The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill was the last book that I read aloud to my fifth graders last year.  My poor class was worried sick that we wouldn't finish before the last day. But we did.  This is a fantasy novel that makes a great read aloud for fifth and sixth grade.  The tension builds up toward the end of the book and my students were begging to read more.  The book creates a lot of great discusssions centered around who the "bad" witch really is.  What happens when evil is called good and people are struggling to survive?  Would you stand up for something that's right, even if your life is in danger?  This is definitely one of my new favorites.  It's also the 2017 Newberry Award Winner.

Wonder by R.J. Palacio was absolutely one of my favorite books when it first came out.  The first year I taught fifth grade, no one in my class had read it and it was a fabulous read aloud with lots of great discussions. It's a little too popular now.  But because the movie is coming out in the fall, I am definitely going to read it to my class at the beginning of the year before they have a chance to see the movie.  I have to admit that the trailer looks good and I usually hate movies that are based on books.  In the book you never fully understand what Auggie looks like and the movie will definitely ruin that aspect so I won't be showing the trailers until after we finish reading the book.  Wonder is perfect for talking about issues such as disabilities, how we make others feel both intentionally and unintentionally, kindness, friendship and empathy.  Just make sure you finish the book before November 17.

I would love to read A Night Divided by Jennifer A. Nielsen during our historical fiction unit, but then I also want to read it at the end of the year when it fits into our social studies timeline.  So for the past two years it's ended up somewhere in the middle.  But regardless of when you read it, this is a great read aloud.  The story is about the Berlin Wall and how it affects one family who gets split up.  It brings out questions about government control, free speech, Communism, bravery, and the importance of family.  It's a fifth grade favorite at my school.

I was looking for something funny to read and Ungifted by Gordon Korman was the perfect book for my class.  This is a light-hearted book about a boy who doesn't find trouble, but makes it himself.  My students were hooked when Donovan gets himself in trouble and accidentally ends up in the gifted academy.  It's a story about self-discovery, friendship, and learning to help others all mixed into a hilarious mayhem of events.  

I hope there's a new book here for you to try.  Leave a comment with your favorite read aloud for upper grades.  Happy Reading! 


Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Building Fluency in the Upper Grades

How do you get your upper elementary kids to reread for fluency practice?  Ideas that students love to do from The Research Based Classroom
If your students are like mine, there are a few that need some serious fluency practice.  And they're the ones that don't love to read in their free time and definitely don't want to spend their time rereading.  Then there's the majority of your students who are great readers, but they really lack when they read aloud.  Last there's that student who is trying too hard to put expression into his/her reading and it's so distracting, plus a few who really do have great fluency.  So how do you help all of these students become more fluent readers?  Even more importantly, how do you get them to do repeated readings without hearing all of those complaints?  And what about those students who really do have good fluency, what will benefit them too?

Fluency in the upper elementary classroom is too often neglected. But here is an easy to implement fluency practice that your students will LOVE.

Picture Books

Go to your school library and pick out 30 repetitive and fun picture books.  I'm sure your librarian can help with titles.  I just went down to the basement and looked for the books my own children loved when they were 3 - 6 years old.  I picked out the books I've read so many times that I practically know them by heart even today.  Most of them are short, repetitive, and just fun.  I brought them to school and put them in a tub.  Right away my fifth graders wanted to know why these books were here.  They were so curious, but I waited until the afternoon to tell them about the books.  I figured a little anticipation wouldn't hurt.  

When our guided reading time finally came,  I gathered them around me and explained that I was worried about the students in the younger grades and how they really needed good reading models to help them learn to read.  We talked about how reading out loud is very different from reading to yourself.  I barely got past the fact that you need to slow down so your listener has time to think and my students were already thinking of people who were good at reading out loud and those that weren't.  They were thinking of adults who were good and some who they didn't like to have read to them.  (Ok, I promised, I won't let any substitutes read our read aloud anymore.  I had no idea they hated that!) I let them help start a list of what good reading models would sound like and what they would do.  I explained that we were going to practice to make sure we're good models for the kindergarten and first grade classes. Then I started pulling out the books one by one and giving a quick one sentence summary about each book.  

My students took 5-10 minutes each day for the next four days practicing for our first class.  Each student picked one book.  They read to themselves, they read to partners, some even read to their families.  They graded themselves, graded each other, and worked hard to make their read aloud perfect.  Click on the picture below to grab my grading sheet.

On the fifth day we met up with a kindergarten class.  I had more students, which actually made it easier to move around my fifth grade readers.  Each fifth grader took a kindergartener to a spot in the library.  They sat side-by-side and my fifth graders read their books.  The extra students stood in a line by me.  When a fifth grader finished, they raised their hand and one of the extras ran over and took their place.  Then the fifth grade reader hopped into line and waited to read again.  Most of my fifth graders read their book 3-5 times in the 20 minutes and they loved it.  We did it again with a first grade class the next day.  My fifth graders thought it was all about helping the younger kids and really enjoyed it. 

 Any picture books that aren't too long will work.  I especially liked rhyming or repetitive ones because they were easier for my students to get the flow of the reading. Remember that when the books are a little on the easy side, your students can focus on the fluency.  Here's a list of some of the books I used (clicking on the titles will take you to Amazon):

The Day the Goose Got Loose
Hip, Hip, Hooray for Annie McRae
I Need My Monster
On the Morn of Mayfest
The Seven Silly Eaters
Big Pumpkin
If You Take a Mouse to School
If You Take a Mouse to the Movies
If You Give a Moose a Muffin
If You Give a Mouse a Cookie (If You Give...)

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Task Problem Tuesday

This is a task that I found while walking in New York City last fall.  I took pictures of the parking structure and prices, but didn't pull it together in time to use it during the school year. I've never posted a problem that I haven't used, so I hope you like this one and I will definitely use it next year myself.  I love that this problem can be used in my unit for volume or multiplying decimals. It also includes adding and subtracting with decimals.  Anytime that I can review one concept while teaching another, I just can't let the opportunity pass.  So let me know if you like this one.

Unparalleled Parking

Unparalleled Parking Task by The Research Based Classroom

The parking structure is 14 sections long, 4 cars tall, and 2 cars deep.  Living in the west, I had never seen anything like this.  I immediately began thinking of all the math involved in this picture and started snapping pictures.

Task Problem Tuesday at The Reseach Based Classroom

When I got home, I looked up their actual prices to create the chart below.

Unparalleled Parking Math Task by The Research Based Classroom

The questions for this math task are endless.  Here's a few that I came up with:

  1. If the parking structure fills up for an event, how much money would the parking attendant collect?
  2. Wednesday is street cleaning day and it is illegal to park on the street during the hours from 5:00 am until 5:00 pm.  All of the residents of the local apartment buildings need to get their cars off the street.  How much would it cost you to park at Unparalleled Parking during this time?  
  3. You enter Unparalleled Parking every day at 6:30 pm and leave at 8:00 am.  What day of the week will be the cheapest?
  4. How much would the parking attendant collect if the parking structure only filled up three-fourths of the spots during an event?
There's no end to the questions that could be asked about this picture. You could even let your students write questions of their own.  To grab my photos and a pdf of the pricing sheet, click here.

Happy Problem Solving!