Hello friends! We had an amazing surprise this morning and woke up to a few inches of snow and a phone call giving us a two hour delay. It's been a loooonnnnggggg first week back to school after winter break between everyone being so sleepy and teachers being stressed.
I couldn't be happier to have a nice weekend with nothing planned. I am linking up for one of my favorite posts...Five for Friday with Doodle Bugs Teaching.
In my last post, on Sunday, I blogged about my lesson plans for the week. I was shocked that I actually stuck to my lesson plans! Everything worked out SO well and I couldn't have been more proud of my students. We started off on Monday morning (after almost 17 days off for winter break) reading Pinduli, by Janell Cannon. While I read this amazing, vocabulary enriched book, my 24 students struggled to stay awake and pay attention. Yawns filled the room and class participation was low. In true teacher luck, the Principal and other admins came into my room for a "walk through" (observation). Instead of fighting my students and stopping after every page for a discussion, prediction, or share...I read straight through the book (something I rarely do). By the end, the students were finally waking up. They helped me create a chart displaying the nonfiction facts we learned about hyenas from reading Pinduli. We then went back to many pages in the book and really looked at the author's writing style, word choice, and vocabulary. I was thrilled that a few students pointed out some examples of author's craft and the amazing words that the author chose to use in the story. This led us to some rich discussions about why the author chose to write about a hyena. Couldn't she have written Pinduli about a skunk, horse, or even a cat? Would the story have turned out the same? Did the author portray the hyena the way other hyenas are portrayed in other books or movies? Day one was a slow success...well after the kids woke up.
On Tuesday, the kids were getting back into their routine and excited to learn. I had one of my favorite lessons planned out about sloths! The kids get excited when I am excited, so they were ready to learn about sloths. Together we read a nonfiction article about sloths. This is always fun because the students normally know NOTHING about this odd creature and the facts they find out are amazing. We looked at diagrams of the layers of trees in the rain forest where sloths live and even watched them fall out of trees into rivers on YouTube to help us visualize the animal better. Next, we took notes from the nonfiction article on the easel.
After taking the notes on Tuesday, we went over to the tech carpet to work on the Smart Board on Wednesday. Together we seamlessly incorporated the nonfiction facts into a poem about a sloth. I also wanted to students to be sure they were creative with their word choice and added multiple examples of figurative language. We talked about how poems can rhyme and how stanzas are set up. We read the poem OVER AND OVER and changed words and whole lines. I made sure they understood Pinduli was our mentor text and we were trying to write like Janell Cannon. We did not just want to make a list of nonfiction facts, we wanted to be subtle about incorporating the facts. We worked on editing and revising and making sure we portrayed the sloth as the true animal from the nonfiction facts we learned. I am no poet, but I LOVE how our class models came out. Since I have two classes, there are two poems.
On Thursday, the students were eager to write their own poems. I gave the students groups and each group had a different animal. Each group was given a differentiated nonfiction article to read and take notes on. The students were able to use chart paper, highlighters, and markers to mark up the text and take notes. I find this a huge motivator with my fourth graders. They love being able to write with markers and especially on giant chart paper. I think it is the best for group work so that everyone can see the paper clearly and it isn't just in front of one person's face. The students were SO engaged in this activity. Even my struggling readers were doing an amazing job collaborating with their group.
I know it is January, but my students have come SOOOOO far with their academic conversations. One of my favorite conversations during this lesson was with a group that included one girl and four boys. The boys wanted to make their poem funny and have their animal, a panda, fall from a tree and drown in the river below. (I know not funny, but these are 4th grade boys!) The girl said, "We just read and wrote down the fact that pandas are excellent swimmers. Why would we make him drown? That wouldn't portray the animal the correct way!" Halleluiah! She understood the essential question to this unit! How do authors potray animals in writing? When I hear the excitement in their voice over the content, lesson, or opinion they are sharing, I want to run over and hug them. When the groups finished their notes, they were able to start their poem on another piece of chart paper.
Friday was so much fun in my class. The groups were able to log on to the Chrome Books, open Google Docs and type their poem. They shared their poem via Google Docs with me and we edited, revised, and conversed digitally. The students always think it is amazing that we can have a conversation without talking. I also think it is funny as I silently type a sentence I hear it being read out loud on the other side of the room. Students then presented their poems to the class. The class gave feedback as to what facts they learned about the animal through their poem, if they understood the figurative language being used and about the word choice. As the authors of the poems, the students were able to answer questions about their writing and seriously the pride just radiated off of their faces. What an amazing week to be a teacher. Here are a few of my favorite poems.
Have a wonderful weekend!