Friday, November 27, 2015

Heroes in Training

Two of my boys loved reading about the Greek gods and goddesses last year. The Lightening Thief was the Read Aloud in one of their classrooms, and my then-fourth grader read through the entire first 5 books by Rick Riordan. I purchased Percy Jackson's Greek Gods which we are just now reading aloud together, and I am now becoming familiar with the early stories. I need to find out this book on tape! I just outed myself as a middle-aged woman with that term, but I'll admit that I have no idea how to download a book on my IPHONE. Yes! I have an IPHONE. I just don't know how to use most of what it can do :(

My third grader's teacher chose Heroes in Training: Zeus and the Thuderbolt of Doom for his reading group and asked if I could produce some grammar worksheets to go along with it. I always draw the grammar from the story, so after a thorough reading, I saw the opportunity to review the simple present tense, the simple past tense with irregular and regular verbs and through those tenses, highlight simple predicates and compound predicates. I've done this with other stories and though it might seem "ESL-ish" to a regular elementary school teacher, it works. The terms are just different. Base form versus infinitive. Infinitives are the "to" form of the verb, and it's important to know all those terms because if you have English language learners in your class, they will see terms like "gerund" and "infinitive" in their textbooks. Certain verbs and verb expressions are followed by either a gerund or infinitive and others require one or the other. Consider the verb to like.

I like to swim. (infinitive)

I like swimming. (gerund)

The meaning doesn't change.

After pouring over the story for its verbs and finding those with CVC patterns with consonants that needed to be doubled in the simple past and verbs ending in -y which needed changing to -ie, I noticed that when Pythia, the Oracle of Delphi speaks in the beginning, there was an opportunity to introduce the verb to be. An oddball as my littlest calls it. Why? The verb to be doesn't follow the typical spelling patterns in the past tense (or the present). I am/was, you are/were, he, she, it is/was . . . . . .

Zeus keeps hearing "You are the one."

Pythia begins the story, "I am the Oracle of Delphi."

Therein, a good opportunity to review those very irregular forms.

I took the opportunity with all of the verb review to touch on adverbs. I highlighted only those that ended in -ly to simplify things since the review is geared for second and third grade. And I created a review of singular and possessive noun forms. The authors consistently use the 's after proper nouns ending in -s. Zeus's thunderbolt, King Cronus's belly. And there are several nice examples in the authentic text of plural noun forms and opportunities to review ones which I derived from the story itself.

And then there is the fact that King Cronus is the "baddest . . . " Well, just like with Ramona the Pest, I teased that out for students and reviewed comparatives and superlatives with various spelling patterns.

This book is the first in a series of 15 books which the authors wrote to retell the stories at a third-grade level. The story is full of expressions which need to be explained but provide a great opportunity for exploring language. The back and forth in time also requires explaining but the content will hopefully engage students enough to hold their interest. And who knows? Maybe your child will read through the entire series! I've got the collection on Santa's list this year for Matthew.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

The One and Only Stuey Lewis

by Jane Schoenberg.

Halloween and seasonal celebrations should tie in to the curriculum and not be an excuse for a party. Try something other than Halloween B-I-N-G-O this year. Read Aloud this story about Stuey's inventive caper and use the story to two important CCSS-Aligned Standards:

I think I came across this book at a school book fair when David was in second grade. There is one story, in particular, about Halloween. I think it is one of those perfect Read Alouds for second graders, even first graders, on Halloween. Stuey Lewis is the main character who comes up with an idea to collect as much candy as possible without breaking his mother's rules about not crossing the street. He plans to circle his block three times in three different costumes so none of his neighbor's catch on. However, he faces two surprises on Halloween night. The first is that his teacher, Ms. Curtis, is his new neighbor and the second is that Lilly, a girl in his class, thinks she recognizes him.

Early on in the story there is a reference to how adding -e to the end of the word makes a long vowel sound. The year before, Stuey misunderstood the note from Ms. Curtis to bring SNACKS to school and brought a SNAKE to school instead. This is a great place to stop and elicit examples from your students. Cover the board or cover a flip chart with examples. Give bonus points for students who come up with words related to Fall or to Halloween.

Worksheets should encourage students to reexamine the text. There are several great examples of compound words in the story as well as one or two which can be derived from the story. Halloween and its season also provide wonderful context for practicing compound words:

A Daily Language Review worksheet reviews the story and key grammar that students struggle with.

Even though part of me cringes when I read the word stupid in a children's book, the reference is realistic, and it is probably one of the parts of the story that my kids would laugh about. Brothers love to tease each other. I read it so long ago to David that I don't remember if he laughed. Let's see if Matthew will laugh at the Stuey-Stu-pid reference. This is a good place to pause and talk about teasing and hurt feelings.

Lastly, I always love a book that has a sequel. When you introduce a new story in class, you hope that on your children's next library visit, they pick something worthwhile to read. Make sure you've posted your Read Aloud titles (and their sequels) in your classroom newsletter so that if you students come home with yet another book about guinea pigs, parents can make a trip to the library with their children and choose something worthwhile.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Charlotte's Web

I've recently finished reading this story to my second grader who was just about to begin reading chapter books on his own. Though I showed him the movie too soon because I was so eager when I found out Julia Roberts was the voice of Charlotte, he let me read to the end of the story.

I had had a product up to practice coordinating conjunctions, an activity which could also be reinforced through homework. As I've been exploring Rachel Lynette's success with Task Cards, I decided to create Daily Language Review Task Cards which chronologically review this classic and help students practice their proofreading skills. I must admit that my obsession with finding the right clip art and making this product easy for teachers to prepare (i.e. cut easily on the lines with as few slides of that dreaded always uneven paper cutter) took over. Here is what the finished product looks like. I'm pretty proud :) and thank you to fellow TpT seller, Mae-Hates-Mondays, for the graphics.

The Courage of Sarah Noble

Such a perfect Read Aloud for advanced fourth graders or fifth graders. Pair this Newbery Honor book with your study of the native Americans and the colonization of America.

In 54 pages, Alice’s Dalgliesh tells the poignant story of eight-year-old Sarah Noble, who accompanied her father from Westfield, Massachusetts to the wilderness of Connecticut to build a home. As the only one of his daughters who likes to cook, Sarah is chosen for this journey. While her father builds the house, she plays with the Indian children. And when her father returns to Westfield to bring the rest of the family, Sarah lives with Tall John and his family.

It is a short enough story that it can be read quickly, and the story brings home for students the difficulty that families faced as they settled this country. Great discussion can follow as students read about Mr. Noble’s conflicted feelings about leaving Sarah and how Sarah takes what she heard about the Indians and makes her own decisions based on her own experiences.

By fourth and fifth grade, students should have begun to create compound sentences in their writing. Below is an example taken directly from the text which employs the coordinating conjunction FOR. Fourth and fifth graders will have begun to see FOR texts rather than the subordinating conjunction BECAUSE as it is more formal. 

Using REAL examples not only bring students back to the text for discussion (Who is speaking? What made Sarah impatient?), but it also gives credibility to your grammar teaching. Students can be given endless de-contextualized exercises on grammar, but try the following.

Sarah and her father slept in the forest                                there were no settlements nearby.

This is an original sentence that retells an important piece of Dalgliesh's story and directs a student to use the coordinating conjunction FOR. The student clearly identifies two independent clauses and physically places down a card in between. Students can work in groups on this type of activity to generate discussion about the relationship. The example above is part of this activity mat which gives students practice using other conjunctions. 

Students are given this mat and a "pile" of conjunctions cut from the page below.

This story can be followed up by a more in-depth read such as The Sign of the Beaver. Students would have the opportunity to make text-to-text connections and can complete a Comparison/Contrast map.

I hope you feel confident adding this wonderful story to your lessons and introducing the grammar that can authentically go along with it!


Friday, July 3, 2015

The Hundred Penny Box by Sharon Bell Mathis

A short read, The Hundred Penny Box relates the story of Michael, whose Aunt Dew has come to live with him. Michael loved to count the pennies in Aunt Dew's box. Each year has its own story when Aunt Dew can remember to tell it.

This is a wonderful Read Aloud to celebrate Presidents' Day when we honor Abraham Lincoln, our 16th President, whose image is on the penny. After the Read Aloud, students can visit the library and bring back to the classroom books about the life of Abraham Lincoln.

Students research a date in the life of Abraham Lincoln, record the year on their penny, and relate biographical information about our 16th President. This is a wonderful way to practice punctuating dates properly.

Here is the rule for using the comma when writing a date: CCSS: ELA-Literacy.L.1.2.C

The date can be written as follows.

February 12, 1809
12 February 1809
February 1809
February, 1809

If you begin a sentence with the date, you have a choice because it is optional whether or not to use a comma after one introduces a sentence. Typically, if the prepositional phrase is long, it is followed by a comma. If short, you do not need one, but it is not incorrect to use one.

Both sentences below are correct.

On February 12, 1809 Abraham Lincoln was born in a log cabin in Kentucky.
On February 12, 1809, Abraham Lincoln was born in a log cabin in Kentucky.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Freckle Juice & Coordinating Conjunctions

This is such a quick Read Aloud, and my boys loved it in second grade. Andrew Marcus, enthralled with the freckles on Nicky Lane, especially those on the back of his neck, tries to get some of his own. This is a great choice for a day that the substitute has your class. You can come in the next day after the reading and introduce the grammar. If your students have already been introduced to compound sentences, you can do some pair or group work with activity mats. As you walk around your classroom, you will be able to revisit the story and assess your students' comprehension in a more personal way. No need for a multiple choice worksheet or enough computers in your classroom to take an on-line quiz! Kids are engaged and participating immediately.

Aid students in understanding the sentence structure of a compound sentence. Consider the five examples below. They are original, but they derive from the story.

  • Miss Kelly asked Andrew to begin reading, he couldn't find the correct page.
  • Andrew was always thinking about freckles, he couldn't concentrate in Miss Kelly's class.
  • Andrew was the line leader for the boys, Sharon was assigned to lead the girls.
  • Andrew has to go back to school, his mother will make him take three baths a day.
  • Nicky Lane asked Miss Kelly for her magic formula, he wanted to get rid of his freckles.

  • These sentences are a typical example of student writing. You can call this a comma splice or a run-on sentence. There are many ways to correct this type of sentence. Of course, the simplest way is to divide them into two sentences. However, your third and fourth graders should be beginning to form compound sentences in their writing. A coordinating conjunction can show the relationship between the two sentences. Choose among AND, BUT, FOR, OR, SO for each of the five sentences above. Only one fits perfectly in each.

    After they understand these four examples, let them work in pairs to come up with original examples which relate to their own experience.

    For example, ask the following types of questions.

    Has your teacher ever asked you a question which you had trouble answering? What was the reason?

    Example of response: Mrs. Spencer asked me to look up the word, but I couldn't find my dictionary.

    What are you busy thinking about that makes it difficult to concentrate in class?

    I was busy thinking about recess, so I had trouble concentrating in Mrs. Spencer's class.

    Next, introduce the activity mats. Make sure each group has enough of the conjunctions to complete the activity. After they finish one mat, they can pass it along to the next group.

    Review as a class.

    If you are interested in purchasing this activity, click here: Freckle Juice: Novel Work. The digital download includes an additional 14 examples in worksheet format as well as on activity mats which give students the opportunity to place down the correct conjunction in between the two independent clauses.

    ~ Debby

    Sunday, March 22, 2015

    The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind

    I just began reading this to my 12 year old. I haven't read aloud to him since last summer when we began The Woods Runner with the exception of a few parts of the books he is reading in class this year. His science teacher offers extra credit if students read off of the "Science Shelf" in the school's library. Our wonderful librarian has compiled a variety of non-fiction and science fiction books. After Gregory flew through the Michael Vey series, I really couldn't get him to read anything else off of the shelf.

    However, the stars aligned and I happened up on this book, The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, at the school's book fair. A Malawian boy has written the story of how he brought electricity to his village by constructing a windmill out of old bicycle parts and junkyard scraps. Boy who loves physical science and electricity meet William Kambkambra. So each day during the week, I read 20 pages aloud from this incredible story.

    William Kamkwamba begins by detailing life in his village. He talks about the games he plays, the jobs he has, how his house is constructed, and how his family earns a living, his schooling, his friendships, his "business" fixing battery-operated radios, and finally he begins to inform the reader about why it is so difficult to get electricity to a village in Malawi and why if you do succeed in getting electricity, why it is so unreliable.

    Watch his interview on Jon Stewart.

    Check back to read more as I continue my Read Aloud with my son.

    Sunday, January 25, 2015

    By the Great Horn Spoon, The Ballad of Lucy Whipple and The California Gold Rush

    The Daily Language Review Task cards review the history and the stories while helping students practice their proofreading skills.

    Teachers will print the file on card stock and then laminate for use again and again. Students are grouped to identify the error on each card. One student records the error on a Student Worksheet using proofreading marks. This is a first step to peer editing. Here is the Student Worksheet. The character spacing has intentionally been increased to make it easier to use proofreading markers.

    Sunday, January 18, 2015

    Lunch Money

    I have been reworking and revising my Grammar & Vocabulary Reviews, adding in the Common Core State Standards, and have begun including Task Cards to my products. Lunch Money is a school story written by one of my favorite authors, Andrew Clements.

    You can read a synopsis elsewhere. Here I will show you what the Task Cards look like. I truly believe that students need to practice proofreading. Everyone makes simple mistakes, and learning that you must review your writing before "putting it out there" is a skill that must be taught in elementary schools. There is power in proofreading because you are putting your best foot forward. You are showing that you care about your work.

    Perhaps the first step is learning to find mistakes in others' work. It may be difficult to do peer editing in third or fourth grade. You can start with these Task Cards. Students can reflect on these errors. You will see what they know and don't know, all while discussing a likable story.

    1) There is no comma needed after chores. Commas separate items in a series (more than two) or precede and when it is a coordinating conjunction joining two independent clauses.
    2) Yes, there is an apostrophe needed after neighbors. That is a plural possessive noun. He shoveled the front walks of more than one neighbor. And the predicates are items in a series. A comma must separate walks and raked but the comma after leaves, called a serial comma, is optional.
    3) Some might call this a comma splice. Others call it a run-on. A comma is being used to separate two independent clauses. Yikes! There is more than one way to correct this sentence. A simple solution is to change the comma to a period. That, however, does not demonstrate the relationship between the two clauses. Another solution would be to join the two clauses using a coordinating conjunctions such as so. Greg's father explained how interest works and keeps money safe, so Greg decided opening a bank account was a good idea. A writer also could use a subordinating conjunction such as once to create a complex sentence. Once Greg's father explained how interest works and keeps money safe, Greg decided opened a bank account was a good idea.
    4) I think it was studying Spanish that finally taught me about verb tense. And then my ESL studies made clear the difference between the past perfect and the past perfect progressive. WHAT?!?

    Mr. Zenotopoulous had been teaching there for twelve years. Since he is still teaching there, had been teaching (past perfect progressive) is preferable to had taught (past perfect).