Literature Circles Explained

This week we began our first true to form literature circles.  Literature circles are similar to book clubs.  Each member of the group is reading the same section of the book and comes to the discussion time ready to share their take on what they read.  To facilitate this at the elementary level, students are given a role to complete each night.  The roles vary every night so that each day they come to class with a fresh take on the previous night’s reading.  We meet and each student shares his contribution with the group.  By the end of the session, everyone has a chance to share insights and  connections about the characters (Casting Director Role), review the chapter (Summarizer Role), ask and answer clarifying questions (Discussion Director Role), identify and define new and interesting words (Wordsmith Role), and even visualize what they read about thanks to the groups illustrator (Illustrator Role).  For more on each role’s responsibility for completing thier assigned role sheet, please visit my Literature Circle Roles page .

Now lets walk through how the steps to having a successful literature circle session.  We begin with our Summarizer who recaps the chapter or pages read the previous night.   Once our summarizer has completed his/her task, our Discussion Director takes over to facilitate the conversation.  He/she will ask a couple of questions to get the group started and then invite the Illustrator to share his/her drawing with the group to help everyone put a picture to the story.  After the illustration is shared with the group, the Casting Director discusses the characters- who they are, what they think they look like, how the act and interact with the other characters.  This role is omitted in non fiction based books.  Finally our Wordsmith shares any new or interesting words he/she found with the group so they can define them for future reference.  This is also a great time to talk about pronunciation of names and places. 

As the teacher in a literature circle it is imperative that you too read the chapters and are familiar with their content each night.  This task can be daunting, so in the beginning you may want to assign your whole class the same book to work with to ease your load as you are getting used to this new style of teaching comprehension.  Also, I suggest you teach each role in isolation.  We spent a couple of days with everyone in the class completing each role sheet one at a time.  Once everyone knows every role, it is easier to assign different roles to each group member.  As your groups are discussing, be a facilitator not a dictator of the discussion.  Add when it is appropriate to ensure that main points are not being missed, but let them discover the literature on their own as much as possible.  It is amazing to see and hear their insights when left to work together. 

I leave you with one way I like to contribute.  When possible, I like to bring in artifacts or tangible items that correlate with the books by groups are reading.  This week one of my groups is ready Out of Darkness The Story of Louis Braille.   This biography is near and dear to my heart as my step son, Tyler, is being educated to use braille due to his low vision capabilities.  Tyler helped me braille each group members name on his Perkins Braille Writer along with the braille alphabet.  The students love having that tangible piece and can now better connect with the story of this amazing individual.

Weekly Objectives- November 26-30

Well hello again!  We are back from break, back from conferences, back from a much needed technology shut down on my part!  Thank you all for bearing with me as I took a break from the blog in order to interact face to face with the parents who attended conferences and my own family over Thanksgiving.  I must say I was tempted at times to post, but in the end I’m glad I held off. 

We are back though.  It is a full, UNINTERUPTED week of instruction on our plates!  Woo hoo!  Please take a peek at the new Literature Circle page to help you and your child navigate through our new reading homework assignments.  Each night you child will have a different literature circle role they must complete along with reading the assigned chapter in their book.  It is VERY IMPORTANT that they complete both the reading and the role sheet.  When one person comes to a literature circle unprepared, we all lose out.  My goal is 100% participation everyday so we can learn to discuss literature in depth.

Here are our learning goals for this week:

Reading– We will be starting new novels and literature circles this week.  Every day we will hold a “book club” discussion about the previous night’s reading assignment.

Grammar– we are working with pronouns this week, both common pronouns and asking pronouns.

Common pronouns– I, me, he, she, it, they, them, we, ours, hers, his, its, theirs

Asking pronouns– who, what, which

Vocabulary– This week we will be working with 20 words instead of our normal 15, but they are synonyms.  So really it is like learning 2 ways to say the same thing.

Writing– we are distinguishing between fact and opinion this week. 

Math– This week we are extending our knowledge of multiplication and multiplying 2, 3, and 4 digit numbers by 1 digit.  Parents feel free to teach your child “the old way” of how to do this. 

Social Studies– we will be using political, physical, road, and product maps to learn information.

Science- We are learning about invertebrates (animals with out a back bone) and vertebrates (animals with a back bone)

Thank You for Your Generosity and Kindness

My favorite holiday is Thanksgiving.  I love that it is a day dedicated to sharing your gratitude for what and who you have in your life.  I am saddened each year that the focus on this day is diminished more and more by that other holiday that follows it about a month later.  While I enjoy the winter holidays too, I love the sincerity and lack of commercialism that Thanksgiving embodies. 

I want to thank the parents and families of my students.  Thank you for sharing your children with me.  Especially this year, I want to express my gratitude for the this class in particular.  I have spent the last year and 3 months working with an amazing group of kids.  Looping with them from 3rd to 4th grade was the best decision I have made professionally.  I have learned so much about myself as a teacher and created such a enriching and close knit classroom family with these kids.  I am truly going to be a wreck at the end of the year when they move on 🙁 . 

We created a movie dedicated to our families and friends to share our gratitude for the love and support you have given us.  The song in the background is Generosity and Kindness by Natalie Merchant.   In doing this we also used American Sign Language.  This is near and dear to our hearts here in room 11.  We love learning to communicate in new ways.  Please watch the video and enjoy.  Thank You! Thank You! Thank You!


Be an Explorer!

I came across this poster idea on Pinterest last night and fell in love with it immediately.  We need to encourage our students to become explorers.  What better way to learn, then to be aware of our environment, be curious about it, investigate it, and learn from it?  Just think of all of the FREE lessons that are literally under our feet and all around us.  Encourage them to literally smell the roses!

How to Be an Explorer

1.  Always be looking (notice the ground beneath your feet)

2.  Consider everything alive and animate

3.  Everything is interesting- LOOK CLOSER!

4.  Alter your course often

5.  Observe for long durations (and short ones too)

6.  Notice the stories going on around you

7.  Notice the patterns and make connections

8.  Document your findings in a variety of ways (drawings, notes, pictures)

9.  Observe movement

10.  Create a dialogue with your environment- talk to it!  Talk about it!

11.  Trace things back to their origins

12.  Use all of your senses in your investigations (sight, touch, smell, hearing)


Weekly Objectives 11/12-11/16

This week is going to be HUGE!  It is one of only 2 full weeks we have for learning in the month of November, so as you can imagine I’m packing it to the gills!  We will start off our week with World Run Day on Monday.  Remember to wear your sneakers and dress in layers so we can get our fitness on together and raise money for a great cause, the Big Brother/Big Sisters club of Cumberland County.  We will be partaking in our annual Thanksgiving Feast on Thursday.  Fourth graders are responsible for contributing boxes of instant mashed potatoes for our celebration.  I especially look forward to this activity and sharing Thanksgiving with “my kids.”  Finally remember that parent/teacher conferences start on Friday.  Students will have an early dismissal at 1:45 and conferences begin at 2:15.  I look forward to sharing your child’s progress with you during this time.

On our agenda this week:

Reading: This week we will be introducing our Literature Circle Roles.  Once all of the roles are learned, each night your child will read an assigned section and complete their assigned role.  The goal is that since everyone in each group is reading the same section, yet looking at it a slightly different way it will provide a lively and deep discussion about the material.  For the next 2 weeks, all students will be doing the same role sheet each night so that we can learn the responsibilities of each role together.  This week we are focusing on the following roles:

Summarizer- this role includes reading the section, writing a 1 paragraph summary of what happened answering the following questions- who, what, when, where, why, and how.  This person also lists any key pieces of information that are learned in the section.

Illustrator- this role includes reading the section and drawing a picture that best represents what happened in the section.  Illustrations are not judged on artistic ability but relevance to the content read.

Discussion Director- this role includes reading the section and formulating 5 questions about this section only to guide our discussion the next day in class.

Word Worm- this role includes reading the section and listing any new, powerful, or interesting words as well as defining them based on context clues.

Vocabulary: Students will define this weeks words and use them correctly in context.  This week’s words are words with multiple meanings.  Students are responsible for knowing all definitions for each word.

Grammar:We are beginning Unit 2 this week.  We will be focusing our efforts on identifying nouns, classifying them as proper or common, singular or plural, and identifying unique spelling changes for plural nouns.  For your reference see the information below to help your child at home:

Nouns- words that name a person, place, thing, or idea (ex. girl, teacher, house, school, dog, cat, cup, love, hope)

Proper nouns- name specific people, places, or things.  They begin with capital letters.  (ex. Mrs. Sinone, Millvile, White House, Statue of Liberty)

Common nouns- name common people, places, or things.  They are not capitalized unless they are the first word in the sentence.

Plural nouns- name more than one person, place, or thing (ex. bushes, cities, people)

Singular nouns- name one person, place, or thing (ex. student, fish, city)

Writing: This week we will be beginning working on persuasive/argumentative writing.  We will be focusing on choosing a side of an argument and writing to support our opinion with facts. 

Math:  Students will be working with multiplying with multiples (3×5, 3×50, 3×500), breaking apart factors to multiply(3×35= 3×30 +3×5), using mental math to multiply (3×19 is like 3×20 then subtracting 3), and using rounding to estimate multiplication ( 7×28 is estimated to 7×30)

Social Studies: Students will be working with geographical landforms and terms.

Science: Students will be able to determine between food chains and food webs.

‘Twas the End of the Marking Period- A Cautionary Tale

‘Twas the end of the marking period and all through the school, students and teachers were in a wrapping up mood.

Assignments were handed in completed with care, in hopes that their averages would show some repair.

Students all leave on that very last day, with sighs of relief, giving high fives on the way.

And teachers stay late, coffee cups full.  Preparing for and all-nighter to pull.  When what in the hall made such a racket? Someone has finished early and ran home donning a jacket!

Away to our windows the rest of us ran in flash. Begging for more coffee and tossing him cash.

The moon is now high.  We pack up to go.  How much longer we’ll be grading no one really does know. 

Home to our families, tired children, and cold meals, promising tomorrow more progress we’ll feel.

Monitors on for grades to input. Pop! Great! My computer just went kaput!  Frantic I call tech support STAT, “fix it” I plead, “do this then do that!”

A smooth steady hum finally returns.  Clickety, clackety typing a’til my eyes burn.  As the last grade is entered and the save button hit, a sigh of relief escapes from my lips.

I promise myself that for the next quarter, I’ll procrastinate less and do more with my daughters. 

Each prep period will to its fullest extent be used, so the night before grades are due I won’t be burning a fuse.

The lesson my friends both students and teachers, is don’t put off assignments, be hard working creatures!

Work in steady pieces, a little each day!  ‘Tis a much better, more productive way!

Fire Safety and Veteran’s Day- Weekly Objectives

This week is a shortened week due to the now canceled NJEA convention.  Due to Hurricane Sandy and the devastation it has left in its wake, the actual convention (a professional development opportunity for NJ teachers held in AC) has been canceled.   I encourage you to visit the following website to see how you can help the many people who’s lives have been destroyed by this storm.  Donations can be small, such as used clothing or toys you have lying around the house or even small monetary amounts.  Now matter how small your contribution it lets those effected know that they are not alone.  Here is the link to a site that is designated to helping Southern New Jersey residents:  Please consider donating or volunteering if you can.

We will be visiting with the local fire department this week.  Each year, they come to our school to discuss the importance of fire safety.  In addition to their talk about fire alarms and carbon monoxide alarms, students get to experience a smoke filled mock fire situation so they can truly understand the confusion a fire creates.  Please review your fire safety plan with your child including at least 2 exit routes from your house, a meeting place, and important phone numbers.  Also, be sure your child has turned in their fire safety house permission slip prior to our visit on Wednesday so that they can participate.

We will also be learning about Veteran’s Day this week.  Veteran’s Day is celebrated on November11th each year.  We will be discussing the origins of the day as well as ways we can show our appreciation to our local veterans.  Below is a link to a Veteran’s Day video I created on a trip to Washington D.C. a few years ago.  Please feel free to share it!


An Attitude of Gratitude

Wow!  It is November already!  I can not believe how quickly the year is flying by.  November is a very important month in many ways.  We will spend time in class being grateful for the many things and people we have in our lives.  This month, each students will  record 5 things they are grateful for each day in his or her agenda.  November is the perfect time to develop an attitude of gratitude.  Each night students will list five things or people they are grateful for having in their lives.  I would like for this to take on a very meaningful tone and to keep away from silly entries, but sometimes we really are grateful for a TV show or pizza!  At the beginning of each day, I will walk around and check to see that they have completed their assignment. and at the end of the month each student will be given a social studies project grade for completing this task.   This is to be done even over weekends and days off from school.  I am hoping that at the end of the month students will develop an appreciation for all the wonderful things and people in their lives.   

One of the ways we show our appreciation is by doing things for others.  On November 12th we will be participating in World Run Day.  On this day thousands of others will be running to express their gratitude for fitness and healthy living.  We are also collecting money to be donated to the Big Brothers/Big Sisters organization.  Collection sheets are due back on Wednesday, November 7th.  All students who raise $15 or more will receive a t-shirt and the top 10 collectors will participate in a pizza party.  Wear comfy clothes and running shoes on November 12th (our first day break after our long weekend) and be ready to run!  This event will take place outside so dressing in layers might be a good idea.  See the movie below for more information.  FYI in the movie it says World Run Day is the 11th, due to that being a Sunday we are participating on the 12th!