Thursday, January 28, 2016

Close Reading: What's it all About?

Great post on how to incorporate close reading in the classroom. What it looks like, what it is, and why it's so important for beginning readers.

There's been a lot of buzz lately about close reading. Have you wondered-What's it all about? or How in the world am I possibly going to add ANOTHER thing in our already jam-packed day?

I get it.

I totally do.

I began implementing close reading in my classroom about 2 years ago and it has been a well worthwhile investment. I wouldn't say that I have to "make time for it" as much as it has become a natural and inclusive part of our learning- during reading, science, social studies and even math (as we learn how to solve addition/subtraction word problems).

So what IS close reading exactly?

Close Reading is a central focus of the Common Core Standards. It involves getting the reader to truly dig in deeper to the text. By doing so, the reader is to reach a deeper understanding of the text and to solidify their reading comprehension.

Sometimes I do close reading in small groups (guided reading groups) and sometimes we do it as a large group.

I project the text on our SMARTboard.

I read the text aloud and my students follow along.  We discuss any tricky words in the text and we place them in a pocket chart to determine what those tricky words are, what they mean, and what they represent.

Then we read the text again.  This time, I choose student volunteers to read one or two lines.  In the beginning, only my "high flyers" wanted to read aloud.  As the school year progresses more and more students want to participate which is so great to see!  I love their improving confidence!

We then read the text a third time, and this is the fun part- this is the part the kid's love!  This is when we pick apart the text and decide what is important information.  We highlight, underline, circle words, and draw boxes around words and phrases.

By the time we are done, our reading passage has definitely been closely read.

Close reading is the reading and re-reading of text to gather meaning. This is a crucial concept for growing readers.
I hear it all the time from parents - that their child is reading chapter books, that the books in their book boxes are too easy for them and they truly understand what they are reading? Students need to learn to pull key information from text to analyze, reflect, compare, and contrast.  They will needs these skills in their adult lives too as need to read for meaning and understanding, as well as for pleasure.
Close reading produces deeper understanding.  Here are some key things to keep in mind when implementing close reading in your classroom:
1. Use small reading passages. This is especially important
when you are looking to engage a larger audience at
varying reading levels. When reading in smaller groups,
differentiated text is helpful for targeting specific reading levels.
Also, you don't want to overwhelm students.  Analyzing
text deeply takes a lot of "brain work." The text doesn't
need to be lengthy to be valuable. 
2. Work for Independence. Scaffold the reading of the
text so that you are gradually releasing the reading
responsibility to the students.  You read, then they
read. By modeling for them first, they will learn
from you how to navigate difficult words and phrases,
fluency, and how to analyze the text.
3.Teach students to reflect upon the text. Encourage
them to dig deeper, ask questions, and infer. What
is the author trying to tell you?  What can you understand?
What are you confused about? Encourage students
to observe and analyze the text. What does the
author want you to understand in this passage?
What seems important here? Why?
4. Read the text multiple times. Too often students
think or say "I already read it." Teach them that
by reading and re-reading text you can often obtain
new information that you didn't catch the first time. 
Questions you originally may have had could be
answered and key details can be found. Also, many times
students are able to make a connection to text that they
have read more than once as they gain a deeper
understanding of what they have read.
Close reading skills start with beginning readers. This Close Reading MEGA Bundle has been reduced in price and it is a great resource for incorporating close reading in the classroom. 
Topics included in this bundle are:
     -Zoo and Safari Animals
     -American Symbols
     -Armed Forces
     -Martin Luther King
I always love hearing from you!  Are you using close reading in your classroom?  Are you going to start? Please leave me a comment. I'd love to know what you do in your classroom.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

How to Make a Lightbox for Less than $2

I am a little photography challenged. Ok...well, a lot challenged when it comes to taking good photos. My iPhone has about 24 pictures of my son my dog sleeping on the couch in an effort to get that perfect shot.

And doesn't happen.

I need help. I need an intervention.  My husband actually suggested I get a lightbox. I searched on Amazon but -holy smokes!  Lightboxes are expensive! 

Then I decided I could make it myself and I am thrilled with the results.

All you need is:
   -a cardboard box
   -an X-acto knife or box cutter
   -duct tape
   -white posterboard
   -white sheet, pillowcase, towel, or tissue paper.
   -2 light sources.

1.) Begin with a basic cardboard box. A square box with equal sides is best. Face the back of the box away from you.

2.) Use an X-acto knife to cut off the flaps on all but one side of the box.

3.) Cut a square hole in the left and right sides of the box. The holes should be roughly the same size as whatever light source you are using.
4.) Place a piece of white posterboard inside the box.  You can use duct tape to hold it in place. I only had one piece of posterboard on hand. I think 2 pieces would be ideal. Cover the holes on the side with a white sheet or tissue paper. I used thin white dish towels. The thinner the fabric the more light you will let in, the heavier the fabric the more likely you are to have shadows (as you are blocking more of the light). Place your a light source next to a hole on each side. I used desk lamps.  Don't tell my sons that I stole them from their room. They haven't noticed yet.
Look at this fine piece of art work, I tell you.
Well, it did the trick because my photos came out fantastic!
Get fancy and add some props...

And there you have it...

Taking photos like a photo a time.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Winter writing, math notebooks, and MLK

It was a busy short week!  Short week because the kiddos have no school but we do....Professional Development. It's time for Five for Friday with Doodle Bugs Teaching.

After taking down all the holiday hoopla my bulletin boards were looking a little naked so we were on a mission to do craftivities- I mean writing work.

These "Oh no, What's in my cocoa?" craftivities writing projects by SunnyDays (can I say projects?!) are adorable.  They look so cute displayed!
I love these Interactive Math Notebooks by Blair Turner! The kiddos love them too.  It's a nice break from the 4 page per lesson math workbook but that's a whole 'nother post. 

We have been working hard learning about Martin Luther King this week with my MLK close Read

We read Snowmen at Night and brainstormed ideas on how our snowman could melt. We wrote about how we made a snowmen, where it was, and how it melted.

Our classroom mascot, Charlie has been very busy this week reading with kids, cuddling, and helping settle some of my kiddos who have had some emotional struggles this week.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Martin Luther King Ideas and Activities

Do you need some idea, activities, and resources for Martin Luther King Day?  Help your students learn that Martin Luther King Day is not just a day off from school. 

Click on each picture to go to the original source.







And if you would like to incorporate Ruby Bridges into your curriculum this resource may be helpful:

I hope you found some great ideas and resources! 
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