Tuesday, April 16, 2013


Third graders are poetic in their nature and I thought I should share a few poems my amazing third graders have written:

Plane by Josh

take me
to texas
all day
take me anywhere
take me anywhere
all day
i got a passport
so let me on
i'm going to
to see my grand ma

   A School Dog
                                                  By Sydney

                                              Marley is a fun dog
                                               a run dog
                                               a has to go again dog

                                              Marley is a sigh dog
                                                my dog
                                                a has to say good bye dog

                                               Marley is a hall dog
                                                 a ball dog
                                                 a bump into a wall dog

                                                Marley is a nook dog
                                                 a book dog
                                                 a take one more look dog
                                                 Marley is a stay dog
                                                 a play dog
                                                 a come another day dog

Egyptian Queen
By Elena
Cleopatra was her name,
Luring young men was her game.
Though the captain general's heart,
She was a lovely work of art.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Using Audio Boo and Creating Podcasts

This week has been our statewide testing. There have been several incidents of crying and after we've completed the test each day everyone is exhausted (myself, as well!). I wanted to do some creating and have fun in the afternoons and so I asked my students if they wanted to make podcasts.

Using the information from their animal research books, students wrote a fun podcast about their animal. The first student to finish (who is a gifted writer) decided to include sound effects for the rest of the class--couldn't have thought of that wonderful idea on my own! Having everyone participate in this way made it possible to record these with the whole class listening (and they were so excited to hear the podcast being made).

Here's an example of what we created:

Audio Boo is incredibly easy to use. You do have to create an account (I sign the kids in so that the account won't be accessed from home), but recording involves pressing a series of buttons. I use an external microphone as it records more clearly. If students' podcasts will be less than 30 seconds, Croak It allows students to record with out an account.

It's fun and it covers a few common core standards!
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.3.4 Report on a topic or text, tell a story, or recount an experience with appropriate facts and relevant, descriptive details, speaking clearly at an understandable pace.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.3.5 Create engaging audio recordings of stories or poems that demonstrate fluid reading at an understandable pace; add visual displays when appropriate to emphasize or enhance certain facts or details.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Non-Fiction Reading and Writing Unit

The Common Core Informational Text standards for third grade reading require students to be able to (I have paraphrased the standards):
  • Ask and answer questions about the text (and refer explicitly to the text)
  • Determine the main idea, as well as include key details and how they support the main idea
  • Use language that refers to chronological order/sequence text (historical events, scientific ideas, how to) and cause/effect
  • Determine the meaning of words and phrases in a text (I have interpreted this to mean being able to use context clues AND a glossary/dictionary)
  • Use text features and search tools
  • Distinguish their point of view from the author's
  • Use information and illustrations to answer the 5 Ws of a text (where, when, why, and how--I include who especially if students are reading a biography)
  • Compare and contrast, determine cause and effect, or sequence events (between sentences, paragraphs, and two texts)
For writing, students need to:
  • Write an informative text to convey ideas clearly
  • Introduce a topic and group related information together
  • Include illustrations to help explain topic
  • Include facts, definitions, and details
  • Use linking words
  • Provide a concluding statement/section
Now, how do we make this happen?

A Text Feature Chart

This year I spent a few months on informational text features and text structures. Each day for my mini-lessons I would pick a different text feature and we would examine how this feature was helpful to us as a reader. We would read articles in our Everyday Math Student Reference Book, the books that accompany our FOSS kits, and articles from Time for Kids. When reading from the math reference book students would first use the index or table of contents to find the article. While reading the article students would locate bolded words and look up the words in the glossary.

To introduce text structures I used this fantastic Text Structure PowerPoint from Emily Kissner (free on TeachersPayTeachers). I split up the text structures over many mini-lessons.

A Text Structure Chart

We then created text structure flip books. On each page students wrote a text structure and inside wrote a description of that text structure. We used several editions of Time for Kids and after reading the articles, identified the text structure they fit best under, cut the article out and pasted it on that page. (I saw this idea on someone's blog and need to give them credit--please pass it my way if you find it!).

Text Structure Flip Book

Would I do this the exact same way next year? No, I would probably create my text features and text structures chart and each time a new Time for Kids edition arrived I would take time to go through the text features and text structures present in that edition with my students. Time for Kids also work really well in Guided Reading groups and many of the standards could be covered in Guided Reading groups. Over time, I might create a "cheat sheet" of questions to ask during instruction based on the standards.

Selection of books students used for research

To put the writing standards into practice, as well as incorporate our knowledge of text features and text structures students undertook animal research projects. We used books from the library, KidRex.org, as well as Kid InfoBits (which was available through our school library) for our research. If you have access to Kid InfoBits I highly recommend using it because it shows the (relative) reading level of articles, as well as giving a citation on the bottom of each article.

Students used an Animal Research Packet I created to guide their research. After students completed their research, they outlined their books on plain paper (you might consider printing out a few templates from Power Point for students to use for their outlines). 

A student planning her animal research book
To create a professional looking book students created their books in Power Point. We learned many different "tricks" to add to our books including inserting page numbers, adding pictures, flipping text (useful for true/false answers), adding shapes, and changing the template of pages.

Here are two examples of finished products:

Text Structure Resources:

How have you taught informational texts in your classroom? What ideas do you have for informational text? What questions would you include in a "cheat sheet" of questions based on these standards?

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Non-Fiction Focus: Narrative Biography

As we look towards the Common Core and the additional emphasis on non-fiction I have been working on a non-fiction unit with my third graders. We've studied text features and text structures. Now they are researching an animal and will be creating their own non-fiction book about their animal!

One of my favorite non-fiction books I've read to my students is My Name is Georgia: A Portrait by Jeanette Winter. The book describes Georgia O'Keefe's life from a childhood, to her schooling in Chicago, to her experiences in New Mexico.

This book is quite complex (to use that favorite Common Core word!) as the author embeds quotes from Georgia O'Keefe throughout. If possible, this would be a wonderful book to read under a document camera so that students can see where the text switch from the narrator to quotes.

My students were familiar with Georgia O'Keefe from an art project where they made their own red poppies, which added a fun element to reading the book. Living in Chicago many of my students had seen Sky Above Clouds IV at the Art Institute and recognized the importance of the incorporation of clouds throughout the book. The art and social studies connections that could be made from this book are numerous.

If your students are going to be writing biographies this would be a wonderful mentor text for them as the narrative style is much more interesting (to me as a reader!) than the traditional elementary school biography.

If you're looking for more non-fiction suggestions (or amazing children's book suggestions, in general) you MUST visit:
http://www.kidlitfrenzy.com (they are doing a non-fiction Wednesday link up)
and http://teachmentortexts.com

Hopefully, you'll see more ways to incorporate non-fiction instruction in your classroom from me!

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