Saturday's Sites

Passing along more great online literacy resources today…

  • I found an awesome online resource related to a question I posted earlier this week on Facebook: What things do you do with your child to keep her from forgetting what she learned the previous year in school?  This PDF ebook gives MANY  ideas of things to do during the summer months.
  • Annie @ The Moffatt Girls has posted Unit 3 from her Ready2Read series.  Free printables and lesson plans…gotta love that!
  • Michelle @ Beginning Reading Help has a great post with free online stories.  I’ve already checked quite a few of them out and am impressed.  Michelle is right in saying that kids love computer time, so here’s a sneaky way to get some more literature in there!
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Hey! What’s the Big Idea?

A couple of weeks ago, I posted a mini-series on using fiction plot structure to retell a story.  In these lessons, the plot structure was used to help the student determine what was important to the story.

But sometimes fiction texts don’t follow this exact structure.  Maybe there isn’t a clearly defined problem or climax.  I’ve found this to be particularly true of stories around the K and 1st grade levels.  When a child struggles to create a main idea in these texts, I like to prepare an idea sort.  I go through the book ahead of time and pull out big and small ideas and have the  student sort them.  (See my definitions below.)

Small ideas are in a small part of the book; maybe only on one page or in a part of a picture.  They are not very important or may even be irrelevant to the story line.

Big ideas are usually on more than one page and are essential to the story line.  If big ideas are left out, the story would not make sense.

First, I model by sorting a couple of the ideas myself.  I tell the student why I sorted it as a big or small idea. Then I support the student as she sorts the rest.  I ask, “What made that idea big/small?” with each idea, I help the student explain her thinking.  If I see that the student is picking up on the concept rather quickly, I back off my support.

After sorting all the ideas, we use the sentences from the “big idea” column to create a main idea (what the text is all about).

Here’s a sample sort with Duck on a Bike by David Shannon, one of NJoy’s favorite books right now.  I practically have it memorized!  I have this one leveled at end of 1st grade.  Scholastic’s Book Wizard classifies it as 1.8 (first grade, 8th month).

Disclaimer: this is my first time using 4shared.  Please let me know if you have problems downloading the sample sort.  Thanks!

Hey! What's the Big Idea?

A couple of weeks ago, I posted a mini-series on using fiction plot structure to retell a story.  In these lessons, the plot structure was used to help the student determine what was important to the story.

But sometimes fiction texts don’t follow this exact structure.  Maybe there isn’t a clearly defined problem or climax.  I’ve found this to be particularly true of stories around the K and 1st grade levels.  When a child struggles to create a main idea in these texts, I like to prepare an idea sort.  I go through the book ahead of time and pull out big and small ideas and have the  student sort them.  (See my definitions below.)

Small ideas are in a small part of the book; maybe only on one page or in a part of a picture.  They are not very important or may even be irrelevant to the story line.

Big ideas are usually on more than one page and are essential to the story line.  If big ideas are left out, the story would not make sense.

First, I model by sorting a couple of the ideas myself.  I tell the student why I sorted it as a big or small idea. Then I support the student as she sorts the rest.  I ask, “What made that idea big/small?” with each idea, I help the student explain her thinking.  If I see that the student is picking up on the concept rather quickly, I back off my support.

After sorting all the ideas, we use the sentences from the “big idea” column to create a main idea (what the text is all about).

Here’s a sample sort with Duck on a Bike by David Shannon, one of NJoy’s favorite books right now.  I practically have it memorized!  I have this one leveled at end of 1st grade.  Scholastic’s Book Wizard classifies it as 1.8 (first grade, 8th month).

Disclaimer: this is my first time using 4shared.  Please let me know if you have problems downloading the sample sort.  Thanks!

Tuesday's Teaching Tip

Teachers and reading mamas alike know that fluency is an important part of reading.  Fluency is very closely correlated with comprehension; the reason we read in the first place…to make meaning.

Fluency includes things such as:

  • word recognition which is directly related to words per minute (reading rate)
  •  inflection of the voice (expression)
  • phrasing (stopping at periods, pausing at commas, etc.)
  • This reading mama’s definition for kids is, “Fluency is when you sound like you’re talking instead of reading.”

But sometimes our kids may sound more like a robot or a wind-up doll that needs a good winding.  Their reading is choppy and many times very laborious.  Or, on the flip side, they may sound like a wind-up doll out of control, reading way too fast to comprehend a word.

What are some things a reading mama can do in these cases?  Here are just a few things I’ve done with kids:

1. Model, model, model…and be explicit and specific.  Kids need to hear us reading with fluency and expression.  They need to be shown that the punctuation, character’s feelings, etc. helped us know how to make our voice sound.  Letting them “echo read” after you, practicing it themselves can also be fun.

What I’ve found with older kids (above 1st grade), is that they tend to get confused and think that fluent reading means you just read really fast.  One of my favorite books I like to read is “Yo! Yes?” by Chris Raschka to illustrate this point.  It features two characters having a short conversation with one another (but leaves a lot to be inferred).

I first read the book VERY quickly, without expression or pictures (this takes maybe 60 seconds to do!).  I then close the book and ask them what the book was all about.  They look at me like a deer in headlights.  I read it again, but this time with expression and pictures.  I close the book once more and ask them what the book was all about.  They are able to tell me.  We discuss the difference between my two readings.  If time allows, I have the student pick one character to read and I read the other as we practice reading with expression together. 

2. Check to make sure that the reading text is an appropriate level for that child.  If the level is too difficult, obviously fluency is going to go out the window as there are just too many words that need to be decoded.  Kids need texts on their level for many reasons, but one biggie is to help them read with fluency.

2.  Don’t expect fluency the first time!  This is a mistake I made initially when teaching reading.  Many adults can’t read a passage (on their own level) fluently the first time, much less a kid learning to read!

Here’s a “fluency game” I’ve played with a few students in tutoring:

  • give them a short passage on their reading level (I used poetry)
  • They read it 1 time
  • After reading, have them rate their own fluency from 0 to 5; 0 “read it like a robot” to 5 “read it like a teacher” (if they struggle with this, it greatly helps to record them reading it, playing it back for them to hear themselves)
  • They read it a 2nd time
  • After reading, have them rate themselves again
  • Then do one more reading, rating themselves yet another time
  • After it’s all said and done, we would discuss the various reasons why their fluency got better

3.  Give them real reasons to re-read.  If a kid doesn’t enjoy reading in the first place, asking him to re-read can throw him into a tizzy–although I’m sure that’s never happened to you, right?!?  Here are a few authentic reasons we can ask kids to re-read:

  • for understanding; to check comprehension–maybe they got side-tracked and didn’t understand a passage, so re-reading is necessary
  • proving an answer to a question I’ve asked them–I’ll ask my students to go back and re-read the part that helped them get their answer
  • reviewing what happened at the end of the last chapter so we can pick up where we left off
  • sounding like a character: if the character is mad, re-read their words and make me believe it…I want to hear you sound mad when you read that quote
  • practicing a speech or part in a play for a performance
  • explaining a game: I like to write up and print out directions to games, such as Old Maid or Go Fish and I may play “dumb” and ask them to re-read a rule for clarification
  • printing words to a favorite song that they like to sing over and over

For more info on reading with fluency, check out Reading Rockets.

Tuesday’s Teaching Tip

Teachers and reading mamas alike know that fluency is an important part of reading.  Fluency is very closely correlated with comprehension; the reason we read in the first place…to make meaning.

Fluency includes things such as:

  • word recognition which is directly related to words per minute (reading rate)
  •  inflection of the voice (expression)
  • phrasing (stopping at periods, pausing at commas, etc.)
  • This reading mama’s definition for kids is, “Fluency is when you sound like you’re talking instead of reading.”

But sometimes our kids may sound more like a robot or a wind-up doll that needs a good winding.  Their reading is choppy and many times very laborious.  Or, on the flip side, they may sound like a wind-up doll out of control, reading way too fast to comprehend a word.

What are some things a reading mama can do in these cases?  Here are just a few things I’ve done with kids:

1. Model, model, model…and be explicit and specific.  Kids need to hear us reading with fluency and expression.  They need to be shown that the punctuation, character’s feelings, etc. helped us know how to make our voice sound.  Letting them “echo read” after you, practicing it themselves can also be fun.

What I’ve found with older kids (above 1st grade), is that they tend to get confused and think that fluent reading means you just read really fast.  One of my favorite books I like to read is “Yo! Yes?” by Chris Raschka to illustrate this point.  It features two characters having a short conversation with one another (but leaves a lot to be inferred).

I first read the book VERY quickly, without expression or pictures (this takes maybe 60 seconds to do!).  I then close the book and ask them what the book was all about.  They look at me like a deer in headlights.  I read it again, but this time with expression and pictures.  I close the book once more and ask them what the book was all about.  They are able to tell me.  We discuss the difference between my two readings.  If time allows, I have the student pick one character to read and I read the other as we practice reading with expression together. 

2. Check to make sure that the reading text is an appropriate level for that child.  If the level is too difficult, obviously fluency is going to go out the window as there are just too many words that need to be decoded.  Kids need texts on their level for many reasons, but one biggie is to help them read with fluency.

2.  Don’t expect fluency the first time!  This is a mistake I made initially when teaching reading.  Many adults can’t read a passage (on their own level) fluently the first time, much less a kid learning to read!

Here’s a “fluency game” I’ve played with a few students in tutoring:

  • give them a short passage on their reading level (I used poetry)
  • They read it 1 time
  • After reading, have them rate their own fluency from 0 to 5; 0 “read it like a robot” to 5 “read it like a teacher” (if they struggle with this, it greatly helps to record them reading it, playing it back for them to hear themselves)
  • They read it a 2nd time
  • After reading, have them rate themselves again
  • Then do one more reading, rating themselves yet another time
  • After it’s all said and done, we would discuss the various reasons why their fluency got better

3.  Give them real reasons to re-read.  If a kid doesn’t enjoy reading in the first place, asking him to re-read can throw him into a tizzy–although I’m sure that’s never happened to you, right?!?  Here are a few authentic reasons we can ask kids to re-read:

  • for understanding; to check comprehension–maybe they got side-tracked and didn’t understand a passage, so re-reading is necessary
  • proving an answer to a question I’ve asked them–I’ll ask my students to go back and re-read the part that helped them get their answer
  • reviewing what happened at the end of the last chapter so we can pick up where we left off
  • sounding like a character: if the character is mad, re-read their words and make me believe it…I want to hear you sound mad when you read that quote
  • practicing a speech or part in a play for a performance
  • explaining a game: I like to write up and print out directions to games, such as Old Maid or Go Fish and I may play “dumb” and ask them to re-read a rule for clarification
  • printing words to a favorite song that they like to sing over and over

For more info on reading with fluency, check out Reading Rockets.

Fiction Text Structure: Part Three

READ AND RETELL with Text Structure

So far, I’ve taken my student(s) through these steps in this mini-series on fiction text structure: (this is told as if I only did this with one student, but was done with several of my reading tutees)

1. READ AND IDENTIFY/LABEL the text structures within the text (Part 1)

2. READ AND SORT the text structures within the text (Part 2)

3. READ AND WRITE the text structure (also Part 2)

Now, it’s time to take it a step further: READ, WRITE, AND RETELL.  Could my tutee use the  information she gleaned from the text structure chart to help her retell the story?  I thought she was ready!

READ, WRITE, and RETELL

1. As a different way to review the plot elements, I had my student match up the text structure parts with their purpose or importance to the story with this sort: Fiction Text Structure Sort

2. She re-read Arthur’s Pet Business (from Part 2) by Marc Brown and explained her answers to me in the Blank Fiction Text Structure.

3. I explained that what she wrote in each of spaces are the important parts of the story.  These are the things we want to make sure we include in our retelling of the story.  There are other parts to the story, but those other parts aren’t as important, so we won’t include them in the retelling.

4. I modeled a good retelling first.  We discussed why this was a good retelling: 1- it includes all the important parts from the story found on our fiction text structure chart, 2-no unimportant details are in the retelling, and 3- it retells the story  in order.

Retelling 1: While D.W. and Arthur are looking at puppies, he decides he wants one.  His parents say he can get one, but he first has to show that he is responsible.  Arthur brainstorms over how he can show his parents he is responsible.  He decides to take care of other people’s pets.  Arthur has to take care of lots of pets, including Mrs. Wood’s pet Perky; who isn’t the nicest dog.  The animals almost take over his house, but Arthur manages to keep it all together.  That is, until Mrs. Wood shows up on the morning to get Perky and they can’t find her anywhere!  Finally, Arthur discovers her under his bed and she’s had puppies.  Mrs. Wood and Arthur’s parents agree that he can have one of Perky’s puppies.

5. We examined two “bad” retellings:

Retelling 2: Arthur and D.W. look at puppies through a store window.  He wants one and his parents say he can have one, if he can show that he is responsible enough.  All week, he takes care of Mrs. Wood’s dog, Perky.  On Sunday, he takes care of a canary.  On Tuesday, he takes care of an ant farm.  On Wednesday, he takes care of Brain’s frogs.  And on Thursday, he takes care of a trained boa constrictor.  Arthur finally proves that he is responsible enough to own a pet and when Perky has puppies, he gets to keep one of them!

(Retelling 2 focuses too much on the small details and completely leaves out the climax of the story.)

Retelling 3: Arthur wants a puppy.  He takes care of other people’s pets to see what it’s like to have a pet of his own.  He keeps a dog named Perky.  He took her on walks, tried to fix her favorite foods, and brushed her everyday.  He started to like Perky a little.  Perky’s owner comes back to get her and finds her under his bed; and she’s had puppies.  Arthur gets to keep one of them and that makes Arthur very happy.

(Retelling 3 does not include accurate information regarding the problem of the story.  It also makes light of his struggle to solve the problem & the climax.)

 6.  Homework for practice: She was given Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse by Kevin Henkes to read, write in the blank structure template, then retell the story to her mom or another adult; making sure she included all the important parts in order.

It took all of my students a few weeks to get this new step down; so I did more modeling of good & bad retellings and we would examine them together.

Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 of this mini-series have been focused on texts that have a clearly defined plot.  Some fiction texts do not.  I am planning on posting a few activities I’ve done with these types of fiction soon. 

I hope this mini-series has been helpful for you and your young reader(s).  I’d love to hear feedback from you if you try any of these activities or create your own!

Fiction Text Structure: Part Two

  READ AND SORT the Text Structure

After my student had shown that she could identify the parts of a narrative fiction text structure, we moved onto reading, then sorting the parts of the structure.  I could tell she was ready to take on more responsibility.

1.  We reviewed the fiction text structure chart I had adapted and talked about each part again.  She re-read The Stray Dog (see yesterday’s post) out loud and showed me where she stuck her labels and why.

2. We shared the reading of Dr. DeSoto by William Steig.  As we read, we identified the text structure parts together, but we didn’t spend too much time with this so as not to affect comprehension.  After reading, I showed her some plot phrases from the book that I had typed up & cut out: Dr DeSoto sort.  We worked together to place a few of them in the Blank Fiction Text Structure.  I wanted to see if she could identify the problem, climax, and other structures before I had her sort all of them on her own for homework.

3. For homework, I had her re-read Dr. DeSoto and sort all the phrases from the book into the correct part of the plot.  I asked her to glue them down in the chart and be ready to show it to me next time.

More than one exposure will be necessary!  You can create a READ AND SORT for other books that share the same text structure.  For example, another student did a read and sort with a Cam Jansen chapter book after finishing the entire text and yet another did one with Hatchet by Gary Paulsen.  It was a great way to review what happened and help with retelling.

READ AND WRITE the Text Structure

The book I used for this activity was Arthur’s Pet Business by Marc Brown (Level M-2nd grade level), but any book that has a similar plot structure as this one will work.

1. BEFORE READING:  I had her briefly tell me in her own words about fiction plot structure-what happens in the introduction, rise of action, climax and fall of action.   I assisted where needed.  She showed me her chart from Dr. DeSoto that she did for homework and told me why she sorted them as she did.

2. DURING READING:

My tutee read the text (Arthur’s Pet Business), and we discussed which part of the plot we were reading about as she read along; referring to Fiction Text Structure and Scholastic’s Plot Diagram.  I lead this conversation initially, but began to release the responsibility to her as the story progressed.  We did this initially without recording our thoughts on the blank text structure chart (link above).  Many times, taking time out to write things down will have a negative impact on comprehension, especially for a struggling reader, because it takes too much time and interrupts the flow of the story.

3. AFTER READING:

We began to fill out the blank fiction text structure chart (I wrote what she said).  We started with the introduction and jotted down the important characters, the setting, etc.  I left the rest to her.  For homework, she was to re-read the text and finish filling out the blank fiction text structure chart.

Notice I am gradually moving from me doing all the modeling and work to my student doing all the work.  This is called scaffolding.  Click here for a more in-depth description.

Fiction Text Structure: Part One

READ AND IDENTIFY the Text Structure

Before Reading:

1. We briefly talked about Scooby Doo (she was very familiar with this show/movie) and how there is always a mystery to solve; a problem to figure out.  We, as the viewer, are introduced to the problem early on in the show and the characters spend much of the show trying to figure out a solution.  There’s usually a part where it gets scary and you think the bad guys are going to win.  But in the end, they always solve the problem and the bad guy loses.

(http://blog.media-freaks.com/sarah-connor-scooby-doo-dvdbluray/)

A clip of a favorite Disney show or another current movie would work just as well.  Since we don’t have full cable, I’m not familiar with what is currently out there.  The older shows such as Lassie, Saved by the Bell, or Full House would also work, as they share the same narrative fiction text structure.  Many of these shows can be found on youtube.

2. We looked at Scholastic’s plot diagram & compared it with my Fiction Text Structure and we briefly talked about each part and how it fit into Scooby Doo:

  • Introduction-where the author sets the stage: who is going to be in the story and when and where the story takes place & introduction of the problem– usually the main character faces some type of problem
  • Rise in Action– the main character tries to solve the problem, but usually faces other problems along the way
  • Climax-the character is confronted with the problem head-on
  • Fall in Action & Resolution-problem is solved and tension is gone

This is called a text structure: it’s how the author chooses to organize the story or information.

During Reading:

We shared a reading of The Stray Dog by Marc Simont.  I started with an easier text so that we could focus more upon comprehension.   As we read, I commented on how the author set up the storyline similar to our plot diagram.  I pointed out each part to her; but we also discussed that not all stories include all these parts.  This story, for example, does not have much meat in the Complication or  Crisis/Dilemna department.

After Reading/Review:

For homework, I had her re-read The Stray Dog and label the parts, Initial Set-Up, Big Event, Complications, Crisis/Dilemna, Climax, and Resolution, with sticky notes.  She had to be ready to defend her labeling to me the next time she came back (1 week in between tutoring sessions).

This lesson could be repeated multiple times with different books and/or videos until the child shows signs of readiness for the next step.

Fiction Text Structure Mini-Series

By far, the most visited place on my blog for the last couple of weeks has been fiction text features and structure.  I thought I’d take the lead from my readers and post a mini-series of activities on fiction text structure that I’ve used with several students in tutoring.  This is told as if I did all this with one student (to make it easier to read), but actually this is a combination of things I did with several readers-ranging from 2nd through 5th grades.

http://www.homepages.ucl.ac.uk

Here are a few things I observed with my student’s retellings:

  • She got caught up in the small details of the story
  • She left out important information to the story.
  • She would forget the order in which the events took place.
  • She had trouble organizing information to create a main idea of the story.

I decided she needed to take a close look at the typical narrative fiction text structure.  I thought this would help her organize the information in her head to make retelling easier.  She had outgrown the simple story maps of her younger years.  I needed something more robust.

So this reading mama set out, determined to find the “cure” for her retelling woes.  In all the reading textbooks I had lying around the house, I didn’t find much beyond the 1st grade level regarding fiction text structures!  I did come across a chapter in Improving Comprehension with Think-Aloud Strategies by Jeffrey D. Wilhelm.  In it, he talks about how reading achievement typically falls off as students get into the upper elementary grades.  He speaks directly to narrative texts and says,

“they become more sophisticated…straightforward become less straightforward, with unreliable narrators, implied main ideas and themes, the use of symbolism, flashbacks, and inference gaps….our students become disoriented when they are thrown into reading a new kind of text without assistance.” (pg. 138)

Although my student was only in the 3rd grade, I was already seeing signs of disorientation.  I became even more determined to figure this out!  I searched online and came across one website that had a structure chart for writing fiction and I adapted it to use when reading fiction: Fiction Text Structure .  This gave me a more sophisticated template for plot than the simple ones I had used in K and 1st grade.  I felt it would work for a more complicated storyline…even a chapter book.

I hope this mini-series of reading lessons will be helpful to you as much as they were for my student(s).

PLEASE post any questions or comments you have.  I don’t claim to have all the answers, but would love to share and hear from you regarding fiction text structure.

Tuesday’s Teaching Tip

Disclaimer: Before I knew much about blogging (and I’m still learning!), I filled many pages with info and organized it in my navigation bar.  Little did I know that my blog would and could be viewed in many different venues that don’t allow the reader to see or use the navigation bar.  So, I thought this page would also make a good teaching tip for today.  I hope you enjoy it!

Making It Tangible

One of the things teachers learn in our training is to make things tangible for students.  Many things in life are abstract and it helps to start with the concrete and build up from there.  I’ll never forget in a teacher training session, we were to put in order from concrete to abstract these 3 items: the word apple, a picture of an apple, and an actual apple.

CONCRETE: an actual apple–it can be felt, manipulated, cut into, eaten, observed

LESS CONCRETE: a picture of an apple

ABSTRACT: the word apple

If a child has not had experience with the real apple, the word apple will not mean too much to her. It is the same with reading unfamiliar vocabulary words and content.  Our kids need to be able to feel it, manipulate it, “cut into it”, “taste it”, and observe it to make understanding come easier.

Here are some ideas on making it tangible (these are also some ways to build your child’s background knoweldge):

FIELD TRIPS:  And they don’t have to cost any money!  Visit a local fire house, a grocery store (behind the scenes), daddy’s work, an apple orchard, a farm, a post office, your own backyard, etc.  I think a mistake that we can make with field trips is that we go after we’ve studied a certain subject to “wrap up” our study.  But going first would actually be better because it’s the tangible.

FAMILY TRIPS: Take a trip to the mountains.  The beach.  The state capital.  The zoo.  Anywhere you can see something new.  Feel the sand between your toes.  Breathe in that mountain air.  Watch a monkey pick bugs off another one…and talk about it together.

MEDIA: Books, DVDs, the internet, even cell phones these days can show kids things that they wouldn’t be able to see any other way, making it more tangible than simply talking about it.  Quite often when I’m trying to explain something to ALuv, such as a volcano, I’ll get on youtube or google images and see if I can find a tangible way to show him.  (Caution: As innocent as your search may be on the internet, sometimes images pop up that you don’t want little eyes to see. Searching beforehand, bookmarking it, then showing later is always a good idea!)

I’d love to hear ideas as to how you make things tangible for your child!  Please feel free to share.


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