I have been focusing on the shop a lot lately, but I don’t want to neglect the lesson tips, instructional strategies, and new information I’m itching to share on the blog. So we are going to get back into it today! To kick it off I’m going to do a little book review from our professional development book club! In the beginning of the summer, I wrote a post about reading professional books over your break. I did a lot of research, acted out some lessons from these texts with my summer Methods students and can give a proper review on (almost) all of them! I still haven’t had a chance to get into Lucy Calkins Pathways to the Common Core, but from what I’ve skimmed of it, it’s a must have. Read along to see how to use each one of the other books I did have a chance to check out in your classroom:
Texts and Lessons Bundle by Daniels and Steineke
These two books were the easiest to pick up and apply right away. Each book contains articles and mentor texts to use immediately in a lesson, then the lesson is broken down into parts for you to easily read and implement. And each article is used as an example for a different instructional strategy that you may use with a small group or whole group (see photos below)
I used this one night with my Lipscomb students in our Methods course during the month of July. I grabbed a few articles about texting and driving from the Content Area book and made copies for each student. Although they were adults, I wanted to show them how to utilize the jigsaw strategy in their classroom, which is one strategy that is highlighted in the book. I followed the lesson in the Content Area book piece by piece and was able to walk them through how they would use this in their future classrooms. We started by passing out the article that I copied for them. Prior to copying the article, I split it into four sections. Then the students numbered off into groups of 4. Each group was assigned a different part of the article. They were responsible for reading it and becoming an “expert” on that one section of content. After about 10-15 minutes, we reconvened, and each group shared their expertise with the class. By teaching us about one part of the article that they had learned about, they were able to focus on just a few facts and pieces of data and not the entire 4 page article. They retained more knowledge about the subject and were able to accurately give details and information. Once each group shared, we discussed as a class what we learned about texting and driving. At that point, the students were able to interject with their own personal stories and opinions about this controversial topic. The conversation and discussion was good and we were able to even debate a few different sides (for example, it isn’t the actual act of texting that is the most dangerous. It is other involvement with your smart phone… Facebook, checking messages, following directions… that is the most distracting). I could easily see how this strategy could be used in a 2nd grade classroom and up.
Another way I used this book was with my friend, Angela Bunyi. She was a guest speaker for my Methods course and used an article from the Content Area book to model the Socratic Seminar method. You can read more about her strategy (with more details and a breakdown of her lesson) here. But basically, we passed out an article about a cheating scandal in one Ohio high school. The students read the article independently. They were then given a minute or so each to write a response to the article. Then they would pass their written response to the person next to them. They were then given another minute to read their classmates reaction and respond. This continued four more times. Then we gathered in a large circle and discussed the article, including reactions and opinions. Everyone was encouraged to speak and the students were actively engaged in conversation and discussion. Angela walked them through exactly how she implements this strategy in small groups, including expectations and ways that she leads the seminar. I received wonderful feedback from the students about this strategy and I think the Texts and Lessons book is an easy way to begin to facilitate such a strategy.
Here’s a breakdown of one chapter from the book and a few comments that I enjoyed about each page:
Comprehension Connections and Genre Connections by McGregor
I had used Comprehension Connections in my first grade classroom a lot. I used it to teach students about the various strategies and I’m proud to say that my students were often heard using language such as “schema”, “inferring”, and “synthesizing” when we would discuss a text. Guests and visitors to my classroom were always so impressed by this, but the students didn’t know any different. When we would be reading a book, students would always stop me to say “That reminds me of…” or “I have schema for this because…” They did this because we began the year using this language. I never used words that I didn’t want them to use. So throughout lots of modeling, my students began to pick up this language. Even when we were in the science lab or outside to recess, a student would say, “I’m changing my mind about cicadas. I used to think they were disgusting, but now I think they’re a good food source for the birds!” This idea of synthesizing their thinking and using various comprehension connections was all from Tanny McGregor’s first book.
So of course I was anxious to read her newest book, Genre Connections. There is a strong emphasis on linking together literary and non-fiction which was something I had practiced throughout my career. (Need a good non-fiction unit? Check out my original lesson and post on Wonder Bubbles!) Plus (again) there is such a strong emphasis on evidence based writing and non-fiction texts with the new Common Core standards. So I figured this would be a perfect new addition to any teachers professional library. Now I have to admit that at first glance, it reminded me a little of my beloved Lucy Calkins units of study (and we all know how I feel about Lucy) but I attempted to keep an open mind. 😉
I really like McGregor’s sensory connections to art and music that she has the students make. So many students are not just visual learners anymore, so this aspect of each lesson was appealing to me. I always played music when the students would work in writing workshop, but I hadn’t thought about using the music within the instruction. I also visualized a lot of collaboration between the art teacher and myself as we tie in paintings and sculptures with a poetry lesson or research a painter for a historical fiction lesson, for example.
A few other pieces that stood out for me was her lesson on using book jackets to think about genre. I had so many book jackets that I kept in a box (but couldn’t think of a good use for them). By allowing students to examine book jackets, they are using the evidence of the illustrations on the jacket to place it into a genre and are having to defend their answers with evidence based discussions. Love! Another favorite of mine from McGregor was the image journal. “Students are exposed to 5,000 images in a 24 hour period”, she writes. Students are asked to keep a journal or record of the number and kinds of images they encounter over the course of a day. Students bring in their journals to share as you make a master class list. The discussion lends itself to how these images are used for marketing, advertising, and the power that each image has on us. I could see this being developed into an entire mini-lesson to tie in with your Economics unit or to use as you teach kids about the importance of their illustrations in their writing.
An Example of Tanny’s Genre Anchor Chart
Overall I thought this would be a good book to use with many of the other lessons you do in your classroom. I think that there is a place for this text in your writing workshop. The informational text chapter would tie in nicely with your Non-Fiction unit. The section about biographies and memoirs would work wonderfully with your study of famous scientists, historians, authors, or notable Americans or even as the students write their own biographies. I could continue to go on about Genre Connections, but I think you’ll just have to dive in for yourself!
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