Sunday, June 14, 2015

Revolutionary War Book Clubs

In Michigan our fifth graders study American History from the first Native Americans up through the Constitution. Even though I do not teach social studies, I try to integrate history into our reading and writing blocks as much as possible.  One way I do that is through historical fiction literature that connects to the time periods my students are studying.  For this post, I'd like to share with you how I integrate the Revolutionary War time period into Reading Workshop time. There are so many great historical fiction texts that focus on The Revolutionary War and American life during the 1700s.  If you're not already using some of these stories in your fifth grade classroom, maybe this post will inspire you to try a few out next year!

To incorporate social studies into our reading time, the first mini-lesson I do is on the elements of historical fiction. I draw a large venn diagram on an anchor chart during this lesson and have students identify the elements of nonfiction on one side of the venn diagram (facts; real events/people/animals; text features; compare/contrast or causes/effects organizational structure; photographs; etc.) and elements of fiction on the other side of the venn diagram (made up characters, events, settings; story elements; conflict; theme; etc.).  In the middle of the venn diagram I write historical fiction and then we discuss how you find elements of both nonfiction and fiction in historical fiction (true facts/characters/events/settings but with additional made up characters/events/settings along with conflicts (often true) and themes.)

After this mini lesson, I begin to expose my students to some historical fiction texts through picture books set in the time periods they have studied in social studies class. The time period I chose was "America" during the 1700s.  I discuss with students that authors of historical fiction texts give many clues about the setting so readers can infer the tone of that time period.  The two picture books we used to analyze the setting/time period clues were Katie's Trunk by Ann Turner and Redcoats and Petticoats by Katherine Kirkpatrick. In both books we focused on paying careful attention to the author's clues that set up the tone of the 1700s in "America."


Next, I explain to students that they will continue to investigate the tone of the 1700s in America through analyzing further historical fiction literature in books clubs with their peers.  We do book clubs a lot in our classroom so my students are familiar with the procedures and expectations.  I use the lesson plans found in my Complete Guide to Book Clubs in the Upper Elementary and Middle School Classroom in the beginning of the year to set this groundwork. 

By this time, my students are really excited to see which book club books they'll get to choose from.  Here are the selections we used this year, plus a few more of my favorite Revolutionary War books.  I chose books at a variety of reading levels to target all of my readers.






Are you thinking of trying this out?  If so, here's a quick run down on how we do book clubs in our classroom:

After the students choose their books, using the Top 3 Choices sheet from my Complete Guide to Book Clubs for the Upper Elementary and Middle School Classroom, I place them into their groups.


During their first meeting, they create a Book Club Constitution and set up their nightly reading/response schedule.  They can't wait to start!  Yes, you read that correctly, they can't wait to start reading about history!! Score!!

Throughout book clubs you can cover so many ELA common core standards with your students while reviewing social content as well.

Even the Speaking and Listening standards are covered with book clubs. Students will learn what good book club discussions look and sound like through watching "fish bowl" discussions.  I pull a random stick and that group conducts their meeting in front of the class while we watch and "grade" their discussion. We look for good listening skills, preparedness, taking turns, clearing up confusions, piggy-backing off each other's ideas, deep thinking about the texts and citing evidence for support. You will find a "fish bowl" grading sheet in my Book Club product above. After the "fish bowl" group is finished we discuss what went well and what could be improved. Then the rest of the clubs meet and model their discussions off what they just witnessed.

Team captains start off the discussion and keep the groups on task.  I number all my book club books and team captains are simply the member who has the number book that I spin. The team captains keep track of who is contributing to the discussion and who is not prepared or off task during the meeting.  At the end of club meetings I collect team captain recording sheets (found in the Complete Guide to Book Clubs) so I can assess student behavior.

Throughout a round of books clubs, I give 3-4 comprehension quizzes (found in the Complete Guide to Book Clubs).  I model the skills on each quiz (story elements, citing evidence, predicting, wondering, theme, character change, etc.) through our classroom read aloud and encourage students to talk about the skills during club meetings before they take each quiz.

When book clubs are all over, which is always a sad day in our classroom, I further assess student understanding of the deeper meaning of the book through a written response.  Students can choose to create a book recommendation of their book or write a summary (Both are included in the Complete Guide to Book Clubs, along with rubrics).

And that's that.  Loads of ELA standards covered, and social studies content too.  Students leave book clubs with an understanding of a time period in history that's deeper than any textbook can offer, and they've authentically used ELA skills and strategies in a real life situation. I try to do a round of book clubs between each major reading unit.  But for some of my kids who struggle with choosing just right independent reading books and finishing books, I keep them in book clubs most of the year. They read SOOO many books this way because they have the accountability of their group of peers,

Have you ever tried book clubs before?  Are you integrating you social studies concepts into your reading block?  I'd love to hear how you're fitting it all in too!!

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Reinforce Academic Vocabulary and Create Amazing Bulletin Boards at the Same Time!

Displaying academic vocabulary in the classroom is extremely important! Research shows that students need exposure to new vocabulary words multiple times before they reach mastery. So, what better way to provide this constant exposure than posting vocabulary words for students to reference throughout the year.  You will reinforce academic vocabulary and create AMAZING bulletin board displays at the same time!

I have vocabulary sets in my store for ELA and Math grades 3-6, as well as the critical verbs of the Common Core.  Each set contains ALL the words found in the Common Core standards for that grade level. You can even buy multiple grade level BUNDLES so you can review the previous grade level words or enrich with more advanced vocabulary.  Plus, if you switch grades - no worries, just print the new words from your My Purchases tab on TPT.

Themes include: Chevron, Polka Dot, Black & White, Bright Rainbow Colors, Animal Print, Nautical and MORE.   

How do I use these academic vocabulary sets in my classroom?? At the beginning of each unit, I pull out the appropriate words and take a day to discuss the new vocabulary.  My students write the new words in their vocabulary journals and they work to describe each word, identify synonyms and antonyms, and use them in a sentence.  Click HERE for a FREE SAMPLE of my vocabulary instruction companion packet to go along with the Critical Verbs vocabulary word wall set.  The next day I post the words on our bulletin board display and refer to them constantly throughout the unit.  I know I've done my job when I see my students walking up to the board to reference the words when needed!!  Score!!

Here are some pics of a custom black, white and lime green set I created to match the decor in my classroom!

This is my bright chevron Critical Verbs set!  I absolutely LOVE it!!! I have it posted on my closet doors.  

If you need some new bulletin board ideas, summer is the perfect time to plan out your displays for next year.  If you purchase now, you'll have all summer long to print, laminate and cut!!  

Monday, May 25, 2015

Splish Splash into Summer Blog Hop and Giveaway!!!

Welcome blog hoppers! I am so happy you're stopping by my blog to learn a little about my favorite summer past times, snag an AWESOME freebie and enter to win a summertastic GIVEAWAY!  So, here we go...........

I am soooo looking forward to summer starting this year.  It won't officially start for me until after June 16th but I'm already dreaming.  How about you?

The first thing I'm looking forward to the most about summer is SLEEPING IN! During the school year my alarm goes off at 5:30 am. Ugh!  I prefer to start my day around 8 am.  To me that is the perfect time to roll out of bed and start my day.  Right now, 5:30 am is making me feel like this.....

Can you relate?

The second thing I'm looking forward to the most is catching up on my summer reading stack.  I have a few titles already in mind - Counting by 7s, A Snicker of Magic, El Deafo, the Crossover, and MORE.  Right now these books are in my students hands, but in just a few short weeks they'll be all mine and I can't wait.  Here's a picture of part of my summer reading pile from last year.  I loved every one of these books!   Reading is by far my favorite past time, has been since I was a little kid and my mom had to limit me to 7 library books a week.  I'm a #nerdybookclub member for life!

Third, I'm going to Vegas again this summer!  My husband and I will be there for an entire week - sans kids and we can't wait.   We did Disney with our kiddos a few months ago - it was fabulous - but this trip is just for US.  I can't wait for good food, good friends (meeting up with so many of my favorite bloggers and TPTers at the annual TPT conference), and good fun.  Any show or entertainment recommendations?  

Lastly,  I'm looking forward to spending months in these!!!!

Flip flops are the best invention EVER.  Nothing says summer to me like FLIP FLOPS and my favorites are always from JCREW.   I can't wait for my annual flip flop tan line!!!  

Now, on to the good stuff..........

I'm so happy that summer is almost here, to celebrate I'm changing one of my TPT products to a FREE product just for YOU!! Are you thinking about setting up your room for next year already? Do you need a new calendar set to brighten up your bulletin board?

For five days only - May 25th-29th - my Bright Chevron Monthly Calendar Set is FREE in my TPT store.  This set will turn any pocket chart into a beautiful calendar display!  It comes with monthly headers, days of the week cards, number cards and tons of holidays and special events cards.

Download it now for FREE and get an early start on printing, laminating and cutting for the new school year.  This set matches all of the products in my chevron decor line and will last you for years. If you lose or rip a piece or if they get faded from the sun you'll just reprint whenever you want. Plus, I'll add additional holidays and events for FREE.  If you love it, I would appreciate your feedback on the item in my TPT store to help get the word out.  Thanks in advance!

To continue the celebration and excitement for summer, Yay!!!! Summer!!!!!, I'm also hosting a giveaway.  The lucky winner will get to choose up to $25 of products for FREE from my TPT store. Who doesn't love a FREE shopping spree!!!!  Yahoo!!!!  Whatever will you choose?  Maybe a new Vocabulary Bulletin Board set, or Data Tracking Workshop Organizer Binder bundle (these are lifesavers in my opinion), maybe Exit Slips or Assessment Packs for the WHOLE YEAR.  The choice is yours!



All you have to do for a chance at a $25 dollar shopping spree in my TPT store is enter the rafflecopter below.  The lucky winner will be chosen at midnight on May 29th!  Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The fun doesn't stop here, check out the other AMAZING freebies and giveaways at the next stop on our blog hop.  Click on the sun below to hop on......

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Sailing into Summer Tips Blog Hop - Next Year's To Do List

Even though I'm not officially "Sailing into Summer" until June 16th, I'm going to celebrate with all you early birds by joining in on a summer blog hop sponsored by The Language Arts Classroom and Faulkner's Fast Five!

Each year as summer approaches I always start a list in the notes section of my phone titled "To do for next year."  This is where I write all of the things that:

  • I want to continue for next year
  • I wish I had gotten to this year
  • I want to do better at next year
  • I read about too late into this year
Making this list allows me to relax a bit more in July knowing that I already have a plan in place for making next year the best yet.  It also helps me plan and organize the new year a little quicker once I am ready to start getting everything set up in August.  Do you make a list like this too?  If not, you should try it out this year.  My list is pretty lengthy by the last day of school, I won't bore you with all of my (OCD) plans, changes, and reminders, but here's just a few of the things on my list already for 2015-16:

1.  Expose ALL students to greek/latin roots and affixes.  Even my struggling readers need exposure to this rigorous vocabulary instruction to increase their word knowledge.  For the past few years I've used a differentiated program that only exposed my highest achievers to these words, but this has put my average and below level students at a disadvantage when they are presented with complex text. This coming year I'm planning to make sure ALL my students receive this integral instruction and I will provide word work interventions for my lower students in addition to this instruction.

2.    Continue the 40 Book Challenge.  I work really hard to instill a love of reading in every student. The 40 Book Challenge (you can read more about it in Donalyn Miller's book The Book Whisperer) is a challenge that I set for each student to read at least 40 books by the end of the school year.  This challenge provides a bit of competition (which most kids love), lots of choice (which all kids love), and an attainable goal that will hold my students accountable for reading as much as they can (which I love)!  I set basic genre requirements which you can look at HERE if you're interested and we keep track of our progress all year long.  I continually check in with the students to see where they're at with the challenge and I even participate in the challenge right along with them.  Here's a photo of my 40 Book Challenge door.

3.  Create a routine for teaching grammar.  Currently, I squeeze in grammar instruction (based on my grade level's Common Core expectations) whenever I can, but it's not enough.  I also constantly discuss grammar and model proper grammar during writing instruction, but grammar still continues to be a huge weakness for my students.  I feel like with a more organized, clear routine for instruction, that spirals back throughout the year, my students would leave with a clearer understanding of how grammar can improve their ability to elaborate and their writing in general. Any ideas or advice to help me accomplish this wish would be much appreciated!  Thank you!

So there's a sneak peek at my to do list for 2015-16.  The last thing I want to share with you is an organizational tip you may want to consider for next year.  If you have a classroom library of books that you let students borrow for reading, and you have to pack up all those books every summer so the custodian can lift up your book cases to wax your floors, than this tip is for you. I've learned that if you organize your books in bins by genre or author or series (you can buy clear plastic shoe box bins at Walmart or plastic baskets at Big Lots for $2) all you have to do at the end of the year is take out the bins (with the books still inside) and stack them up somewhere.  Then when you come back to set up in the fall, you just put the bins back inside the bookshelves and you're done.  No more unboxing and reorganizing books for days.  Plus an organized library is just so eye appealing.  Here's a pic of mine from August.  I could just stare at it all day long.  Of course it doesn't look quite so neat now in May, but it will stack up nicely when I'm ready to pack up - in less than 4 weeks!!!!!  I can't wait!!!!

Thanks for stopping by and I hope you found some useful tips.  Sail on over to the rest of the blogs in our hop for more fantastic summer ideas!

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