Wednesday, October 29, 2014

How Writer's Workshop Functions

My Infographic for Writer's Workshop

Children's Fantasy Literature

With fantasy being one of my favorite genres, I could really connect with the author's view on fantasy literature. However, I never thought about it this way. 

"Fantasies allow the reader to consider and speculate about central and sometimes painfully realistic themes in a way that is more palatable than in realistic fiction or fact."
 -Kurkjian, C., Livingston, N., & Young, T. (2006). Children's Books: Worlds of Fantasy. The Reading Teacher, 59(5), 492-503.Emotional 

They allow the reader to keep an emotional distance from the reality of the book and to form an objective view on the events that occur it it. Therefore, it seems to be a gentle, nonthreatening, yet effective way of understanding reality.
For this reason, I think that fantasy is an essential part of literature curriculum in schools. There are many parts of life that are difficult and complicated, or even painful. Fantasy literature can introduce these things to an audience that is not quite ready for the real thing yet. 
Fantasy literture also offers a form of escapism. Being able to go into a completely new world where your problems seemly don't exist can be a tremendous coping mechanism, especially for children with rough home situations.

Characteristics of Fantasy
There are slight differences between traditional and modern fantasy. Traditional fantasy was passed down orally. It has a very vague setting and symbolic characters that do not grow. In contrast, modern fantasy is associated with a particular author. It has a detailed setting and developing characters.
However, all fantasy literature has certain characteristics in common including: a fantastic world, time shifts, fantastic characters, talking animals, magic, multiple interpretations, a call to the quest, guides and helpers, quest challenges, a goal of the quest, and the journey home.

Read the full Article:

Monday, October 27, 2014

Literature Circle Video Reflections

This Literature circle video effectively lays out the method in which literature circles should function and gives great examples of student discussion.

1. Read 

Students independently read their group book.

2. Question & Note Take

Students can take note of specific quotes that back up their ideas and think of questions they want to ask or have their peers think about. This can even include making a chart. During this time, I think the main focus is for students to independently reflect.

3. Discuss

I think this is kind of the meat of the literature circle activity. Students are divided into groups to discuss what they have read. This video showed some great examples of what students should be discussing during this time.

  • Critiquing of the author
  • Character discusion
  • Character to self comparison
  • Using quotes to back up their argument
  • Asking questions and asking for more detail after they answer a question.
  • Critiquent a charter
  • Relating to the character
  • Making predictions

4. Reflect & Response

During this time the students write in their notebooks about what they discussed

5. Profess

I thought this part of the literature circle was great. The kids in this particular video stood on the table and would: summarize, say what they realized, question, or even talk about their favorite part. I think this activity is great because it gives each student the opportunity to freely say what they think. I thought it was really creative of the teacher to have them stand on the table. It acts as an stage, making their words have relevance and giving them the attention of the entire class.'

This video was clearly scripted, but ti was a cute production of how literature circles work in this classroom.
In these literature circles everyone has a specific role
-Makes 3 connection (self, world, another book and explains why)
-Draws a picture that is important to the story
-Offers 2 questions an their answers
-Makes a prediction
Word Wizard
-Shares important terms in the text.

I feel theses role have their benefits and downfalls. I like that each student has a purpose and they are forced to practice different skills as the roles with off. However, I don't like that it kind of hinders discussion. Someone would have better questions to ask or more relevant connections, but thats not their job. Also, I feel that word wizard and illustrator don't have much importance. Not all kids like drawing and I think the group should take note of and discuss the words any of the group don't know since they are all at different reading levels.

Like the previous video, this one also  the same roles. I definitely preferred this over the scripted previous one. My issue with these roles is that discussion should be as natural as possible. However, the discussion does go well in this video. I love that the students continuously back up what they are saying with evidence from the text.
If I were to do this in my own classroom I would not divide up roles. I would ask students to think of at least one question, make one prediction, and take notes of words they don't know. I do like how when someone asks a question about the story or a word they ask their peers what they think. This is great opportunity to reflect on the the text and use their deductive skills.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Reciprocal Teaching Video Reflections

I absolutely loved the way reciprocal teaching was used in this lesson. It got the kids involved, on topic and kept them interested in what was going on. This way of reciprocal teaching was especially great for kindergarteners because it counteracted their short attention spans. I also thought it was a good idea that the child went up to the front of the classroom to hold the item and answer the question. I felt that this probably prevented disruptions and distractions. It teaches these skills in a simple and fun way that makes the kids feel like they aren't being forced to learn.

I like how this video lays out the exact steps of reciprocal teaching and shows an effective way to do it in regard to time. Bringing up a group of kids easily solves this issue. The idea that one of the best ways to learn is to teach is reflected through this practice. The children are almost taught to be teachers and to ask questions that they think their teacher would ask them. I think this is a very effective strategy that the students can use for test preparation and memorization, while at the same time being a more effortless way to learn. Essentially, these kids are learning how to learn.

I like that this video shows how once reciprocal teaching as taught, it can be used for independent practice or in a group setting. Once this still is learned, it can be practiced with other students. The teacher could even put all the students into different groups and walk around the room observing and just making sure everything is running smoothly and properly.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

What's Wrong with our Literature Circles?

The issues presented with the literature circles in Clarke and Howlwaldel are ones that I have personally seen in with my own classrooms throughout my academic career and even now; how divides in race, gender and socioeconomic status can lead to a lot of conflict within the classroom. Though I have I seen this so prevalently in my own life, I have never thought about how it would impact my classroom. Relieving these divides and finding common ground is so essential to literature circles. The teacher in this particular classroom, Jennifer, uses multiple activities to minimize this divide.

Finding Common Ground

Jennifer's first attempt to relieve this involves the students discussing their favorite TV shows, songs, one item they would bring to a deserted island, etc. At first, these activities triggered more conflict. However, when it was explained that this activity was meant to bring them together and to find common ground, the students responded positively.


I think the mini lessons and activities had the greatest impact breaking the divide. One specific mini lesson focused on compliments. The students would write a poem and the other students would say something they liked about it. This was adapted to the literature circles by making a good literature chart with a list of things that make up a good literature response. The students would use this chart to respond to their peers in a positive manner.


I thought the activities done in Jennifer's classroom were innovative, and offered a huge opportunity for self evaluation which made students more aware of what they could do better in their literature circles. In one activity, students would be filmed and then watch back their literature circles. Students enjoyed doing this and watching themselves from an outside point of view really helped them to become self aware.
I also thought the poker chip idea was pretty awesome! Students would get a certain amount of poker chips, and every time they talked they would put one in. Once they ran out, they were out of the conversation. This prevented one student from dominating the conversation and made them think more about what they were going to say. I imagine this also drastically decreased the amount of arguing in the classroom.

Choosing the right books

I think choosing the right books can be a great step toward productive literature circles. Certain books facilitate better discussion. It's important to find books that kids can find interest in and relate to.


Tuesday, October 21, 2014

My View on Reciprocal Teaching

Reciprocal Teaching
is an instructional activity that takes the form of a dialogue between teachers and students regarding segments of text for the purpose of constructing the meaning of text. Reciprocal teaching is a reading technique which is thought to promote the teaching process.

After reading Palinscar and Brown, I actually really like the idea of reciprocal teaching. I like that it focuses on the individual student and can be accommodated based on each students needs. However, there are some obvious issues executing this in a classroom.

Reciprocal teaching can be very time consuming. Doing this over an extended time span with every student could take hours and teachers just don't have that amount of time to work on one skill. 
In addition, it can be frustrating for both the student and teacher because reciprocal teaching is such a slow process for some students. At times, it may seem like no progress in being made.

Despite these issues, I think that reciprocal teaching is well worth the effort. The benefits outweigh the challenges. The skills learned with reciprocal teaching are essential skills that can be used for the rest of the students' lives. In the long run, it will teach them how to better absorb and learn information. To absolve the issue of time, there can be a time limit set for how much is done each day and how often. I believe the long term skills are worth the accommodation.

Here's the full journal article:

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Handbook for Boys: Book Club Reflection Four

There was no a lot to talk about in the last book club meeting as the novel was imply coming to a close.

The Annoying Aunt
Or was is just some random nun? I thought Kevin was annoying, but she definitely rivaled him. I am all for sharing your belief with other people don't get me wrong, but she wouldn't acknowledge that Jimmy had something positive going on in his life. If and when he wants to incorporate God into that is up to him.

The Struggling Student
When Jimmy hears one of his teachers say to a classmate that the only way he wouldn't flunk is if he dropped out it makes him angry. In the beginning I think this would have gotten on his nerves, but I don't think he would have said anything to the student about it. While Jimmy still has his flaws he is becoming a mentor to those around him.
I think it is atrocious that teachers actually say things lim this to students and I don't understand how they even got their degree. I think teachers (and future ones) should be constantly working on their patience and be self aware of how their words can impact a student. If they do or say something wrong then they need to acknowledge it and apologize.

Another Mantra
Duke says something that I live by in this section of the book. He says, "If somebody doesn’t do their job and give you what you need, its still your life (169)." I have had people fail me in my own life and realized that you have to make things happen for yourself. We need to try our hardest and not expect everything in life to simply be handed to us. This mentality has enabled me to be successful in a many endeavors because if I fail, it's on me, and I expect better of myself.

Kevin's Sentence
As much as Kevin's character annoyed me, sending him off to jail was a sad ending to this story. He had it coming to him and no matter how many chance he had he wasn't learning. He got in trouble initially; got bailed old by Duke. He failed his drug test; there were no consequences or a change of heart. Finally, he says around a friend who buys drugs and now has to go to prison for it. Unfortunately, some people need that wakeup call. He wasn't learning from Duke or his second chances so the only thin that could snap him out of it was a real consequence.

My Review
This book is ultimately about making choices. Jimmy pretty much sums up all the lesson Duke was trying to teach him with, "Talk is easy, doing is hard." This book is immensely valuable to a young person. If they can grasp it's wise lessons, then it can change their lives. I thought it wrapped up well and will definitely recommend it to my students one day.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Handbook for Boys: Book Club Reflection Three

This weeks book club reading and discussion really hit home. 
So Much Potential
A central theme in this part of the book is the potential for so much more than what people actually achieve. Duke says, "Too many of them end up pushing a broom around some factory at night when they should have been running a business or practicing some profession (99). Even though being in America is like have a box of tools, so many people don't know how to use them. Kids don't know how to get their life together. They don't have the skills, so they resort to crimes (Lonnie G), hope the good comes their way, or pretend like nothing bad could happen to them (Tariq). They may not have the same background or advantages, but they are faced with the same choices as everyone else. They can take advantage of an opportunity that comes their way, as Peter did, or make the easiest choice that comes their way.

It can be so difficult to get this point across. I have watched people make the wrong decision or the easy decision over and over again, and it can be so frustrating to communicate why they are making a bad decision for themselves. This book is so great for young people because it shows this from a personal and anecdotal perspective. It understands and acknowledges the other side, but still shows why things could have been done differently. Ultimately, we "are either going to make the choice, or be a victim (140)."
My Mantra
Seeing the disadvantage in the lack of example or seemingly lack of choice many kids face is one of the factors that drives me to become a teacher. One day, I want to be able to reach out to my students and show them that they have so much potential. They can be successful if they work toward a goal in life and try to make good choices.
Character Reflections
Jimmy- I love Jimmy as a character because he grows, thinks, and is introspective.
Jimmy's mom- I'm really growing to like Jimmy's mom. You can tell she really loves her son and wants what's best for him. She seems like such a sweet character and reminds me a bit of my mom. She doesn't understand everything and just tries to get through life, but she works hard.
Kevin- Well... I have officially decided I hate Kevin. I decided this when Jimmy mentions his smirk on p136. He seems so self righteous in his own actions, and goes around thinking he is better than everyone else, including Jimmy.

Mini Lesson: Basic Parts of Speech

My Mini-Lesson Video

Mini-Lesson Writeup

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Handbook for Boys: Book Club Reflection Two

I actually really enjoyed this meeting, and prefer meeting in person over google hangouts (the lag can make it a little awkward). In this session, we talked about several different things that stood out to us.

First, we discussed what we think a person is entitled to, which was a central theme in this section of the book. We talked about how we are only entitled to privileges, and when we do something wrong we loose those. You don't work, you don't eat. If you committed a crime and are in prison, you have lost your freedom. These so called rights can be lost as a consequence to our actions. Provisions provided to an individual by the government or the people around them should only be a backup plan.

We also talked about Duke's opinion on what everyone should know, and the rules that everyone should follow to be successful. Even if they don't know these rule successful people follow them. If Duke were to write this book, he would call it Handbook for Boys, which is where we get our title. Some predictions came true as well. We found out that Duke went to college. Jimmy continues to grow as a character. He becomes more curious and starts to show up early for work to talk to Duke.
We learn more about Mr. M and how he is from Puerto Rico, worked his way from the bottom up and used to own a business.

The quote that really stood out to me in this chapter was when Duke talked about how, "That's why you hear so many young guys talking about going into the NBA. That's a success they can see, even if they can't play a lick of ball (81)." I thought this quote was so true, and you really do see this with many kids. If they aren't told they need a practical plan too, then that's what they aim for. That's why kids need someone in their life to be an example of someone who is successful. Every child needs to be shown a visible success.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Handbook for Boys: Book Club Reflection One

In this video chat Heather, Krista, and I discussed several topics regarding Handbook for Boys by Walter Dean Myers. It wasn't easy to come up with exactly what to all about in the video chat, and I think it would be more helpful if we had more specific questions to focus on.

Initial Reactions: We all agreed that this book was an easy read probably best suited for 5th and 6th graders. I think it would be amazing for inner city kids who could really relate to the characters in this novel. I honestly would love to use this in my classroom if possible.

Setting: Present day Harlem

Character Discussion: 
Jimmy is a 16 year old from Harlem who got into a fight and was almost sent to juvey for it. Instead, Duke takes him in to work at his barbershop. Jimmy is the generic adolescent from an inner city. He thinks to survive and has a laid back attitude about life, but we suspect that this will change the more time he spends with Duke.

Duke is a 68 year old barber in Harlem and Jimmy's mentor. When his wife passed away a few years ago he decided to sell he store and use the money to send some boys off to college. He is wise and knows a lot about life. I assumed that he has some form of education since he knows about the philosopher Descartes.

Kevin is Duke's other mentoree. He is the president of a bunch of clubs and does well in school. He only got in trouble because his mom got him arrested for possession of  marijuana. He is very different from Jimmy to the point where he doesn't even seem like he's from the inner city. I assume that his parents are probably very overprotective.

Cap is Duke's friend who hangs out at the barber shop and has the mentality of a pessimist. He thinks everyone's life is going down the tubes.

Mister M is a Hispanic immigrant who we don't know much about yet. But according to Heather we learn a lot more about him in the next chapter

Jimmy's Mother is a single mother and waitress who has the same 'we-can't-change-things' attitude that Duke is trying to get out of Jimmy

Jimmy's father is a character that we haven't met. His parents are divorced and his dad lives in New Jersey, yet he never sees him.

Author reflection: Walter Dean Myers comes from a similar background as his characters and wishes he had someone like Duke in his life. He has written other similar books like Monster.

Predictions: Jimmy's character will mature strongly and begin to want to make something of himself.
Duke went to college (I actually already know this is true since Heather read ahead).
Kevin's parents are overprotective.
We may meet Jimmy's dad.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Teacher Mini-Lessons & Reading Conference Videos

Rick's Reading Workshop: Mini-Lesson 
I loved the way Rick interacted with his students and got them to really think. As he reads the Wednesday Surprise, he models the exact behaviors the kids need to use in their own reading. I love how he really guides their thoughts by talking about his own and asking about the students. He creates his own theory as he reads the story and demonstrates to the students how his develops and asks the kids to form their own.  I also love how he really knows how to engage his students. These mini-lesson videos are very inspirational and are wonderful for ideas and examples to use in the classroom.

Reader's Workshop, Rena Norwood
In this video, Rena talks about why we would reread a book. One this I really liked about this teacher is how she treated her students in regards to classroom management. When students got distracted instead of telling them to be quiet, she tells them to look at her. When she had to call out an individual student, she didn't call their name in an annoyed voice and tell them to stop talking. Instead, she called his name kindly, and when he looked she would thank him for looking at her. She used positive reinforcement to manage her classroom instead of negative reinforcement. I think something she could have done though is to integrate some more of her ideas to keep the kids thinking instead of having them simply repeat the same ideas over and over about why we would reread a book.

A Reading Conference: Teaching Intertextuality to a Student (5-8)
I love the idea that reading conferences really differentiate students as individual reader and challenge them. This must be a really good student/school though because most people even in my high school didn't pick up on these themes in the text. I really like how the teacher works simply as a guide through these texts, but these student does most of the thinking.

Reading Conferences
This video demonstrates many of the difficulties teachers can have in regards to reading conferences. I think this problem applies more to the older grades, but can become an issue as soon as you get past picture books. When its functions properly conferences like this one can show a teacher that the student is engaged in the book, but also works to guide what the student should be think about while reading the book.