Brown Girl Dreaming…

.

..catching up on some blog entries….

Brown Girl Dreaming, the award-winning novel by Jacqueline Woodson, is so many things to me. As a teacher, I see the countless possibilities for deep discussion, thoughtspots for writing, endless possibilities for visual and emotional expression. As a writer, I am invited into the genre of memoir in powerful ways.

I had recently purchased BGD when I was coincidentally asked to visit an Encountering Cultures class at the college, to share my thoughts on keeping writer’s notebooks. I’ve been writing snippets for several years about my two grandmothers; BGD quenched my thirst to continue my memoir piece on my grandmothers. I shared snippets of my memoir with the Encountering Cultures class and invited them to choose a powerful place in BGD and write. They did; their sharings were amazing. BGD is memoir at its best.

I assigned BGD to my preservice literacy students last semester. They met in book club groups to share the novel. They brought responses to their groups—an open-ended assignment for which I encouraged their imaginations to soar.

While you cannot enjoy their descriptions (so compelling) of their responses, you can view them below. Without question, they were as captivated by this wonderful novel as I.

 

Brown Girl Dreaming Animoto

No Words? No Problem!

images-8

Wordless picture books, believe me, are for ALL ages! In class, the preservice teachers shared wordless picture pictures in small groups. While it would seem a picture book without words would target early childhood or elementary, my students saw (and suggested!) the possibilities for middle grades and high school students. Here’s a short list of their thoughts:

Reading comprehension:

-Even without words, students sequence a story line…Great way to develop what is often referred to as a Story Mountain, where the plot is developed from problem through climax to solution…Inferencing possibilities-no limit!…the strategy of Synthesis!…Summary!…Monitoring Comprehension!  We worked all semester with Ellin Oliver Keene’s Mosaic of Thought, 2nd ED Unknown where seven reading comprehension strategies are presented. I like to save the Wordless Picture Books day for the end of the semester, after students have worked separately with each of the seven strategies (monitoring comprehension, activating schema, inference, questioning, visualizing, determining importance, synthesizing), so they see how each strategy is at work in comprehending the story line of a book with no words.

Writing:

-Students could work together to sketch out a story sequence…to sketch a character map…to add words to each page…the possibilities are endless–

What I enjoy best about this day in class is the conversations in the small groups. The swapping of thoughts, the AHA moments, the laughter, the questioning…IF you teach middle or high school, wordless picture books are a wonderful resource!

138070 images images-1 images-2 images-3 images-4 images-4 images-6 images-7images-2images-1

 

Read Works…for really good expository articles!!

My students (preservice teachers) use this website, as do I for quality short texts we use in class activities. The website lists informational articles by grade and Lexile levels. There are many options as well for locating what you need–search by topic, by units of study, and more. Reading research informs us, and the trend today, is to use short pieces of text when we wish to focus on comprehension. Read Works is an amazing site!!

http://www.readworks.org/rw/informational-articles-build-knowledge

Great current events (free) resource…

Read closely…Think critically..Be worldly...this is the message from an unlimited access new site–Newsela— that posts nonfiction current events articles that you can download for short text reading comprehension. Articles are even connected to standards. It’s worth taking a look!!

https://newsela.com

More “cake baking” with Synthesis strategy…

For my post of last semester, check out Baking a Synthesis Cake… on this blog.

This week my current group of preservice teachers revisited familiar texts to synthesize meanings they created from close, deep reading. Following the cake baking strategy, which requires the cook to know what kind of cake is desired before s/he can compile the ingredients, the teachers did the same with their meaning creations. They had rich discussions and decided as small groups at least one powerful meaning created from their chosen text–that was the “cake,”–and the “ingredients” became significant pieces lifted from the text that helped them create meaning. As always, the group work and the opportunity to “create” visuals added to the powerful engagement in the project. Here are their visuals and a list of the texts from which they chose.

“The Flowers,” by Alice Walker          “Salvador, Late or Early,” by Sandra Cisneros       “Eleven,” by Sandra Cisneros

IMG_1062 IMG_1063 IMG_1064 IMG_1065 IMG_1066 IMG_1067 IMG_1068 IMG_1069 IMG_1070

 

..just thoughts

As my classes leave the Unknowntext today we focus on the final of the seven strategies–Synthesis. I confess, as a former middle school teacher, that I really do not like the concept of “main idea,” and here is why….I find the following to be true:

…In the search for ONE big thing–ONE main idea, many important ideas are dismissed along the way…. I know we call them “details,” but why can they not also be main things?

…Looking for the main idea seems a “school thing” to kids–something they do for the teacher and not something they do when they plow into a self-selected book they love

I think we can ask kids to reveal meanings created from text, supported with text evidence. I would rather pose the questions: What’s Interesting/What’s Important? and What meaning did you create from this text? rather than What is the Main Idea….?

I like the quote below…and can relate it to comprehension…

No idea is isolated, but is only what it is among all ideas.  (Friedrich Von Schlegel)

I know students will meet “main idea” questions on standardized tests, but if they experience many opportunities to have good and targeted conversations about texts, if they read closely and deeply, I feel confident they will be able to choose ONE main idea of a passage presented on any standardized test.

Teach strategically and they will surprise you…just saying

Visual/Emotional Responses x 2

Again, I had my preservice teachers collaborate to create visuals that portrayed emotional connections to “Eleven” by Sandra Cisneros–a short text about a young girl who experiences her eleventh birthday with hurt and pain as she is wrongly accused (by the teacher and a few classmates) of leaving a raggedy red sweater too long in the cloakroom. The short story is powerful–so much so that invariably a few of my students choose to use this short text with various strategic teaching lessons in their field classrooms.

Here are the visuals they created from “Eleven,” and the link below is to my post of last spring–amazing how art can reveal what words cannot.

IMG_1058 IMG_1057 IMG_1056 IMG_1053 IMG_1052 IMG_0866 IMG_0865 IMG_0864

When Visuals are Just Right…

The text, “Eleven,” can be found in the following collection of short stories by Sandra Cisneros..available on Amazon or BN, or your favorite online resource: Unknown

She also has a fabulous website http://www.sandracisneros.com

Enjoy!!

Learning from my students….

I love when one of my students gives me an idea that I had never before considered. I love when they teach me. In class one day last week we focused on the strategy of Inferring in our class text, Mosaic of Thought. Students keep a Double Entry Journal as they read chapters, to record their personal connections and responses to the text. My student lifted a quote from the text wherein the author stated that each time she read a particular piece of literature it took her to a different place.  My student response is as follows, with her unique and powerful idea inserted at the end of her response. I love her thinking!!

I chose this quote because it speaks to the power of literature to take us on journeys to different places. I think it is important to note that the number of times we read a texts does not necessarily affect the impact that it can have on us. I am always amazed at where a text can take me after the third, fourth, or fifth time I have read it. I think that is another way you can tell if a piece of literature is really great. If one keeps coming back to a specific text to dive deeper and deeper into it that is a sign of the quality of literature it is. Another sign is based on the numerous places literature can take you. I think this has a lot to do with what is going on in our lives during this time and how we feel like we relate to the book, as well as the number of inferences and connections we are able to make with the book. Every time we read something our response to it will be influenced by what is going on in life such as current events, what we are reading at the time, and how we are feeling. I think this is important to mention to students because they can read a text one time and not get much out of it or they may respond in a certain way, but when they read it again they are able to get much more out of it and may be able to respond to it in a unique way. When I was thinking about this quote I thought it would be cool to do something like this in a classroom someday where my class is given a piece of small literature to read at the beginning, middle, and end of the year. The piece would be the same for each period and then I would have them respond after each time. It would then be interesting to have them compare and contrast their responses after each time to see where the literature took them.

(thank you, J!!)

 

 

Use Popular Music to Improve Reading and Inspire Writing | Scholastic.com

…blog post of interest from a third grade teacher…I used music throughout the day when I taught my middle schoolers. Music was definitely a classroom tradition.

Use Popular Music to Improve Reading and Inspire Writing | Scholastic.com.

“Baking” a Synthesis cake…

 

cake analogy for synthesis strategy

So…we used the cake baking strategy (click link above to open) in class today. Students had choices of a few texts to use—texts we had previously used in class, texts even referred to on this blog: “Eleven,” and “Salvador, Late or Early” [Sandra Cisneros], and “The Flowers,” by Alice Walker. I try to model what I would have them do as teachers. So, for the synthesis activity, we worked backwards, as I would do with middle school students. We have followed Mosaic of Thought, 2nd ed this semester—by Ellin Oliver Keene and Susan Zimmerman. The text introduces seven strategies for teaching reading comprehension (monitoring your thinking, activating prior knowledge and experiences, inferring, sensory responses, determining what is important (as opposed to what is just plain interesting), asking good questions—for students be happy they ask any!, and lastly, synthesizing. Synthesis is the last strategy introduced because in essence, it really is a blending of all of the other six strategies. It is NOT summarization. It is more than a reporting of just the facts, ma’am. It’s the fact plus so much more. But that “so much more,” is difficult to retrieve for many students because it takes…work. Tenacity. And, lots of practice before it becomes second nature. And even then, the text makes all the difference. I can tell you for sure that there are some texts that leave me saying…huh??? I have to work hard at them. So, to introduce practice in synthesis as a strategy, I ask students to choose among three texts that they are already familiar with. This provides a comfort zone of sorts. No need to do a “first” read. In the cases of the three text choices, all students have participated, at a minimum, in a second reading as they used the texts for other purposes. They worked in teams. An option, for sure, and sometimes you will need to see what a student can do alone, but for this initial learning experience I wanted the students to collaborate and hash over their thinking. I wanted and they needed the dialogue. I suggested they begin at the end and work back. So, I asked them first to consider and agree upon what the author’s message, intent, purpose was for their chosen text. And, as a class, we agreed there could be more than one message, intent, purpose. This would be, as in the analogy: the cake.  They then had to decide what “ingredients” helped them to determine their author purpose. What in the text led them to understanding? Below are some team results. They got it. Not only did they get it, but I listened in on fabulous dialogue.  At close of class, they presented their “synthesis cakes.” What I think they found pretty compelling was that of the teams that chose like articles, every message was either different (but correct!), or if same message, arrived at uniquely. 
As a “writing” person, I do not mean to minimize the power of writing with my last few blog entries, but I cannot emphasize enough the power, as well, of visually representing and following up with oral presentation. If team work was involved, yet another language bonus.

IMG_9954    IMG_9956       IMG_9955

IMG_9958     IMG_9957 IMG_9959