Tag Archives: Reading

Helping Students Read Between the Lines: Graphic Novels, Inferences, & Close Reading

Students have been reading three specific graphic novels this month that are historically based on people who dedicated their life work to speak out against injustice. The three titles are The Faithful Spy by John Hendrix, They Called Us Enemy by George Takei, and Run by John Lewis and Andrew Aydin. Now students might be thinking, how cool, what an easy book to read, and there is so little words but really this is a deeper reading unit that others.

Graphic novels have depth of plot, character development, theme, and lots of literary elements found in a prose text. It also has the elements of film we study with students, allowing them to develop literacy in the interpretation of image for meaning. When students combine both aspects to investigate a text’s effect on readers, they develop varied insights into how meaning is communicated and interpreted. It makes for a very rich literature study.

What started as a mini lesson on inferring, because a rich discussion about the messages the authors and illustrators made balancing the words and images to help convey a particular message.

Looking closer at the page from Faithful Spy together the students were able to recognize the double-page spread symbolically represents Germany’s decline from the stability of the early 20th century through the disaster of the Great War, then into the postwar years when Germany tried to gain her feet and reassert herself on the world stage.  It gives the reader a literal picture of how an opportunist like Hitler was able to take advantage of his country’s instability to seize power. Both Germany and Hitler are represented by the wolf which is ripping off its collar to represent Germany would no longer be following the key provisions of the Treaty of Versailles. History.com cites Article 231, commonly called the war guilt clause, which required Germany to accept responsibility for causing “all the loss and damage” inflicted on the Allies in WWI.

Additionally, students pointed out how the wolf’s eyes are white providing a lifeless, vicious animal that is driven by aggression. It is eating its prey represents Hitler’s desire to eat up all surrounding countries to accumulate power and anyone getting in his way.

To encourage students to go back into their graphic novels and look closer at specific panels and sections, I created task cards to help direct them to specific parts of the book and begin developing theories about their reading. This was followed up with a lesson on symbolism and possible theme ideas in the text. You can grab a copy of these materials here.

*They Called Us Enemy Questions are not my own but were found on this website.
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Literacy Call to Action

This week I started reading Forged by Reading by Kyleen Beers & Bob Probst.  

These authors are mentors to me and all of their book have shaped my teaching and learning. Kylene Beers, author and educator, is a past-President of the National Council of Teachers of English. She received an NCTE Leadership Award, held a reading research position in the Comer School Development Program at Yale University School of Medicine, and has most recently served as the Senior Reading Advisor to the Reading and Writing Project at Teachers College, Columbia University. Robert E. Probst is an author and consultant to schools nationally and internationally. He speaks to administrators and teachers on literacy improvement, particularly issues surrounding struggling readers and meeting standards. Bob is Professor Emeritus of English Education at Georgia State University and has served as a research fellow for Florida International University.  

In their newest book, Forged by Reading they explore historic and timely topics through the context of literacy— literacy is the gateway to power and privilege. The book serves as  a call to action. Educators have a critical role empowering readers to think; to seek curiosity and skepticism; to shape themselves and their ideas through evidence and reason, vision, and imagination and; in doing so, to forge themselves and our world through reading.

As more and more students lose interest in reading visual and print text, there is space for misinformation and manipulation. In PART II of the text Beers and Probst explore power and how throughout history, reading and writing was used as a form of control and suppression. Discussing slavery, first nations people, Latino-Americans and education the reader looks throughout history to see how literacy was used as a tool to control and oppress.

Kylene and Bob help us understand that reading is a transaction between the author and the reader (Rosenblatt, 1995). Every time we enter a text, there is always the possibility that we will emerge somewhat changed by the encounter—with new insights, ideas, and understandings. And this is as true of fiction as it is of nonfiction. We want our children to read with open minds and hearts, alert to the possibility of learning something new that might sharpen and deepen their understanding—leading, perhaps, to questions that might, in turn, show the way to additional learning.

What does this look like in the classroom? Kylene and Bob (2021) suggest that the ideal reading environment for our children would reflect the following:

• “A rich diversity of literature that acts as the ‘mirrors, windows, and sliding glass doors’ that scholar Rudine Sims Bishop wrote of decades ago.

• A rich diversity of response that promotes questioning more than answering and leads to a sharper understanding of ourselves, our students, and of the text itself.

• The acceptance of the student’s uniqueness, to allow each student to feel welcomed in the classroom, to be more fully present and, perhaps more fully engaged.

• A welcoming of a range of opinion and interpretation, providing an opportunity
to learn how to deal with differences and how to bring evidence and reason to bear upon assumptions and beliefs.

• And, perhaps most important, inviting students to see the act of reading as an opportunity to grow and change.”

Educator Kate Roberts reminds us, “Literacy is an essential element of freedom.” Too often, traditional, mind-numbing instructional practices diminish the robust power of literacy for our students. Too many children experience reading in the classroom as little more than extracting and recording information from the text, rather than a freeing intellectual exploration—reading as an invigorating and deeply satisfying cognitive and empathy workout that makes possible the joy of new learning.

Throughout the book a central idea is that we need to be both Responsive and Responsible Readers. In the simplest of terms, we have to be open to the idea that reading can impact us, lead us to think, create a sense of urgency to act and then we must act. We spend so much time teaching kids to read for information that we inadvertently teach them to ignore the feelings they encounter. Students are focused on completing tasks asking irrelevant questions at time to prepare for a standardized test and not recognizing the thoughts and feelings that we have around a text. I am reminded of a scene in the movie A View From the Top:

This is exactly what teachers have been doing when teaching reading: emphasizing accuracy, lexile levels, classical canon over critical thinking and personal reactions to the text. Bob and Kylene include multiple examples of interactions with readers that make us cringe because the teaching points at that moment ignored the student, what they can do, what they felt, how to support them as readers, thinkers, and someone with feelings.

In Forged by Reading Bob and Kylene expand on a great Framework that they gave us in Disrupting Thinking to increase the role of responsibility in reading. The Book-Head-Heart Framework is an amazing tool to help readers be more responsive, providing a structure to responsibly organize their thinking around a text and reflect on the importance to them. In Forged by Reading it goes a step further asking what we can DO. BHH-D asks us to take that next step and our students are ready for it when the opportunity is provided because our students want to talk about and work to make better the problems of the world.

The revised “BHHD” strategy, first introduced in their book, Disrupting Thinking, where students are asked:

  1. “What’s in the book?
  2. What’s in your head?
  3. What’s in your heart?
  4. What will you do now?” (p. 178)

Beers and Probst end with a call to action: “You, our nation’s teachers, have the power to help students become empowered readers and thinkers. You can help each student forge his or her life through reading. And so again, dear teachers, we turn to you” (p. 193).

As a middle school English teacher in a suburban school 25 minutes outside of New York City, I am seeing more and more parents challenge the work that I am doing in my classroom. Questioning literature choices and my agenda to provide contemporary young adult fiction alongside classical text that raise issues relevant today, so that my students have mirrors, windows, sliding glass doors, and even telescopes in the fictional texts they read. My agenda is to support my students as critical thinkers of information and to promote kindness. When my students read I want them to “to think again and anew about significant issues, so they may see the world and themselves more clearly,” (pg. 16) and have the courage to realize their potential to help make a positive difference in the world.

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Intentional Word Work

I have written about teaching vocabulary often on this blog and share different ways to help students become word learners. Recently, my eighth grade students started reading nonfiction historical graphic novels with social justice themes and there are two dozen words that my students might not know. Some are specific the to historical events like legions, furor, and internment. Whereas other words provide vivid vocabulary like scrupulous and flabbergasted. In order to be more intention with student’s vocabulary building, I created a hyperdoc to help bring word work to forefront of the classroom.

When students do not understand an author’s vocabulary, they cannot fully understand the text.

Good vocabulary instruction emphasizes useful words (words students see frequently), important words (keywords that help students understand the text), and difficult words (words with more than one meaning).

In improving vocabulary instruction teachers can help students by:

  • Activating their prior knowledge
  • Defining words in multiple contexts
  • Helping students see context clues
  • Helping students understand the structure of words (Suffixes, Prefixes, and Roots — SPROOTS)
  • Teaching students how to use the dictionary and showing them the range of information it provides
  • Encouraging deep processing — integrating new words into working vocabularies
  • Giving multiple exposure
  • Focusing on a small number of important words

Janet Allen, author of Words, Words, Words(1999), states, “Children and adults need to see and hear a word in meaningful context multiple times in order to know the word, somewhere between 10 to 15 times.” And with middle school and high school, variety is the key. Teachers cannot teach vocabulary the same way every time.

Reading is perhaps the most important element in vocabulary instruction. 

So, how do I teach vocabulary in my English class?

I use interactive foldables with my students and early in the school year I give them a foldable to remind them of effective word detective strategies. These strategies include:

Context Clues – Read before and after words that might help explain the words

Word Parts (SPROOTS) – Look for word parts that are recognizable. Students can decode words by knowing prefixes, suffixes, and root words

Connotation & Tone – Take the word and apply it to the character and what the character is doing in order to understand the passage. Does this word offer a positive or negative tone?

Outside Connections – Have I heard this word in a song, movie, or maybe world language? Connect the word with what you already know. 

In addition to the foldable that students have in their notebooks to refer to throughout the school year, I mix up the different ways that I teach vocabulary. Here are five additional ideas to teach vocabulary in any content area classroom:

1. Take a Poll – Using an online polling website like Polleverywhere.com I poll my student about a definition of a word. Students use their mobile devices to select the best definition for a word.

2. Idea Completions – Instead of the traditional “write a sentence using a new word,” provide students with sentence stems that require them to integrate a word’s meaning into a context in order to explain a situation.

3. Questions, Reasons, Examples –

What is something you could do to impress your teacher (mother, friend)? Why?

What are some things that should be done cautiously? Why? 

Which one of these things might be extraordinary? Why or why not? 

-A shirt that was comfortable, or a shirt that washed itself? 

-A flower that kept blooming all year, or a flower that bloomed for 3 days?

-A person who has a library card, or a person who has read all the books in the library? 

4. Making Choices – Students show their understanding of vocabulary by saying the word when it applies, or remaining silent when it doesn’t. For example: “Say radiant if any of these things would make someone look radiant.”

-Winning a million dollars. 

-Earning a gold medal. 

-Walking to the post office. 

-Cleaning your room. 

-Having a picture you painted hung in the school library.

5. Act It Out – Add some theater in your classroom and have students present a scenario or tableau that represent the word.

There is no one method for teaching vocabulary. Rather teachers need to use a variety of methods for the best results, including intentional, explicit instruction of specific vocabulary words. Teachers can also encourage creative approaches to spark enthusiasm.

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Integrated Thematic Hyperdocs

Integrated Thematic Instruction offers students a chance to learn in an environment where lessons in all subjects are woven around compelling themes that are expanded and explored throughout the year. This method of learning helps students connect lessons to real-life experiences. For students to be fully engaged, the content must have an application and be meaningful to their world. The standards are presented in theme-based units that allow for frequent connections.

I am currently teaching a college course titled Literacy in the Content Areas with pre-service teachers and current teachers from all different content areas. ALL content area teachers must play an active role in teaching students disciplinary literacy skills. The purpose of this course is to help teachers and teaching candidates learn how to integrate literacy (reading, writing, viewing, and communication) into content area classrooms so students can construct meaning in discipline-specific ways. Emphasis is on helping candidates acquire an integrated and balanced approach using literacy as a discipline-specific tool –  for supporting reading, writing, speaking and doing – as defined by the New York State Next Generation Learning Standards. 

Helping students to think about supporting students as writers, add history and bring in aspects of sports, I created this hyperdoc to help students learn about the segregated history of baseball and then make connections to athletes as social activists today. Below you can see the different aspects of the hyperdoc to allow for cognitive skills such as reading, thinking and writing in the context of real life connections that also allows for creative exploration.

Integrated thematic units can result in a lot of thoughtful conversations about the interconnectedness of the disciplines we teach.  There are so many reasons why using integrated thematic units can benefit your learners.

  • Helps students engage with the content being taught
  • Allows students to apply content throughout curricula
  • Learners are able to make connections
  • Draws from past experiences and prior knowledge
  • Develops vocabulary and comprehension skills

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Reading Guides to Support Reading Comprehension

Reading guides help develop students’ comprehension. Teacher-created reading guides provide prompts as students read an assigned text. These Guides help students to comprehend the main points of the reading and understand the structure of a text. Reading guides do not just have to be questions about the events in the book but can incorporate reading strategies to help students practice the habits of proficient readers. For example, reading strategies include visualizing, activating schema, questioning, inferring, determining importance, monitoring for meaning and synthesizing. A student might stop and sketch a vivid image from a scene in the text or make an inference or prediction of what is going to happen next. Students can benefit from close reading strategies (involving slowing down and re-reading difficult passages) to help monitor comprehension.

Reading Rockets provides ways to differentiate reading guides for second language learners or students with disabilities:

  • Vary the difficulty of questions on the reading guide. Modify the quantity of questions.
  • If the student struggles as a reader, allow access to an audio copy of the text.
  • If the student has trouble with working memory, provide a note-catcher to highlight and or record the key information in the text, so they can refer back.
Ransom of the Red Chief Reading Guide
Reading Guide for O’Henry’s Short Story Ransom of the Red Chief

Reading guides are a strategy that allows students to read a text independently but with coaching that does not require the teacher to read alongside the student. Students can work with a peer to read and complete the steps in the reading guide.

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10 Books to Gift in 2020

Favorite YA Titles of 2020 . . . 

I fell in love with Daniel Nayeri’s book on the first page. Like Sheherizad and the one thousand tales who tells a story every night to help stay alive, a young Daniel tells the story of his journey to America to find safety with his family to keep his memories alive. His tale is one of intrigue, adventure, destruction, love and sadness that takes your breath away. Nayeri weaves Persian mythology and folklore as it parallels his own awakening and understanding of the complexities losing one’s home and family after leaving Iran, detour in Dubai and Italy before coming to Oklahoma. But most people are not welcoming towards him, his family or refugees. as you know. This story will have you laughing and crying all on the same page. His adolescent insight ranges from detailed imagery of Persian food, American culture, and even poop. His stories engage readers as well as his classmates in Oklahoma who see him as an outsider and bully him constantly. 

Penguin Random House writes about the The Black Friend: On Being a Better White Person, “Speaking directly to the reader, The Black Friend calls up race-related anecdotes from the author’s past, weaving in his thoughts on why they were hurtful and how he might handle things differently now. Each chapter features the voice of at least one artist or activist, including Angie Thomas, author of The Hate U Give; April Reign, creator of #OscarsSoWhite; Jemele Hill, sports journalist and podcast host; and eleven others. Touching on everything from cultural appropriation to power dynamics, “reverse racism” to white privilege, microaggressions to the tragic results of overt racism, this book serves as conversation starter, tool kit, and invaluable window into the life of a former “token Black kid” who now presents himself as the friend many readers need. This book also includes an encyclopedia of racism, providing details on relevant historical events, terminology, and more.” As a teacher in a predominantly white school, I want all my students to read this to help broaden their perspective and build empathy.

When I read Stamped back in May I knew that this book would be included in my curriculum. It was part of a summer book club with students and teachers in my middle school because it is a powerful nonfiction text. Reynolds states repeatedly throughout the book that is is not a history book but rather a “primer on the historical roots and present-day manifestations of antiblack racism in America. In five sections, Reynolds’s conversational text discusses the influential figures, movements, and events that have propagated racist ideas, beginning in 1415 with the publication of the infamous work that laid the groundwork for subsequent religious justifications of enslaving African peoples and continuing through the “war on drugs” and #BlackLivesMatter.” (Publishers Weekly) So many of my students spoke about how the information in the book was never taught to them before 8th grade and it made me audit the authors and texts students read prior to 8th grade so that we can provide students with more diverse voices.

Budding Chefs . . .

Milkbar: Kids Only is for families who have taken cooking in quarantine with gusto. I have been obsessed with Milkbar since I first saw their compost cookies on television with everything from potato chips to pretzels, chocolate chips and anything else that you have around the kitchen (You can access the recipe HERE) Tosi is a genius and whether you want to perfect dessert or your mouth begins to water with apple pie waffles, this is the cookbook to get for a budding chef. 

If we are going to talk about cookbooks, I would be remiss to not to nerd-out with these two geometry inspired cookbooks for the mathematicians in your life. Ko is not a trained chef but a self taught baker and created an Instagram account with her amazingly beautiful pies that led to a huge following due to the artistry she presented in color and geometric shapes. Kenedy, on the other hand, is a trained chef who provides insight into more than 300 different shapes of pasta based on the region in Italy and the perfect sauce to pair with the pasta. 

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The Geometry of Pasta by by Caz Hildebrand and Jacob Kenedy 

Picture Book Love . . . 

How to Solve a Problem by Ashima Shiraishi, illustrated by Yao Xiao – World-class rock climber Ashima Shiraishi shares her story of determination in this insightful picture book. She points out that a boulder is just like any other obstacle you might face in life. It takes patience and problem-solving to reach the top, but once you do, the reward is worth every ounce of effort you put in.
I Am Every Good Thing by Derrick Barnes, illustrated by Gordon C. James – This book is a fun and empowering read for adults and little readers alike, with a Black narrator that is 100% proud of who he is. He has big ideas and plans for his life; and while not everything goes his way, nothing will stop him as he always picks himself back up and starts again.

The Oldest Student: How Mary Walker Learned to Read by Rita Lorraine Hubbard – Thank you to Colby Sharp for this recommendation because my students loved listening to the story and learning about Mary Walker. Walker was born a slave and did not learn to read until she was 116. Yes, Mary Walker actually was a real person and her story shows perseverance and the power of literacy.

For Your Teacher Friends . . . 

A Perfect Blend by Michele Eaton

This book does not come at a more perfect time. Hyperdocs, choice boards, flipped lessons  – Oh My! Readers will  learn how to create effective blended learning experiences for their students. Rather than focusing on finding and implementing a specific established model, author Michele Eaton shows teachers how to embrace the flexibility of blended learning to take an active role as a designer of learning and, in the process, help students become advocates for their education.

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Carving Out Time In Our Classes For Reading Is Key

This week’s blog post is a guest blog post that I wrote for Classroom Q&A With Larry Ferlazzo – Education Week Teacher as part of a four part series: “Give Students Choice When It’s Time to Read” with additional insight from Laura Robb, Pam Allyn, and many more.

I have reposted the post I contributed below but you are going to want to read the entire blog series on teaching readers and reading on the Classroom Q&A With Larry Ferlazzo – Education Week Teacher webpage.

There is nothing like a great book to engross the reader, travel to another time or  place, offer a new perspective on  history, provide another  perspective, bring new awareness, and hold up a mirror to one’s  own life. As an English teacher, reading is a passion and pastime for me. But it wasn’t always this way. When I was in middle and high school, I was a reluctant reader. I disliked so many of the assigned books I read in my youth. The classics and canonical texts filled the reading lists.  I found myself procrastinating summer reading requirements until days before school would begin again only to be faced  with more required reading of people I did not connect with. 

Today,  it is the complete opposite in my own classroom. Students are given choices when it comes to school reading. Whether independent reading or working through our thematic units of instruction, students have book choice, and this leads to an increased motivation to read. To help them choose a book that piques their interest, I read aloud excerpts from books, share book trailers, and play audio selections of popular and poignant books I want to share with my students with the hope to match the right book at the right time with a reader. I share with my students books I am reading, listening to, and that comprise my ‘To Be Read List.’  Students have time to read every day in our English classroom. My classroom library is bursting with advanced-reader copies (ARCs) I collected at conferences like NCTE, ILA, and NerdCamp. Plus I am always purchasing books on Amazon after I read a new book review and get a recommendation from my professional learning community. 

Educator and author of BookLove (Heinemann, 2013), Penny Kittle states that to motivate readers, students need choices, book talks, time to read in class, book clubs, access to books, and to see teachers passionate about reading. Literacy is a schoolwide initiative.  When students see the adults in their life reading, talking about books, and share their reading life, they have positive reading role models. Similarly, carving out time in our classes for reading is key. When we flip reading time during class time rather than assigning reading outside of school, we allow students to practice reading in real time, promote discussion, and apply reading in the classroom. If we are going to help cultivate students who are avid readers of text—print, visual, digital, audio—then it means we are intentional about creating a culture of reading in our schools and classrooms. 

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12 Resources for Teaching Black Lives Matter

Many are looking for information and education regarding the current protests. Whether we are talking about police brutality, systematic racism, and culturally responsive education, we all play a role in to nurture a future of antiracism, equity, and justice. History is being made. Here are 12+ resources to help support your teaching and learning. 

Teaching Tolerance provides resources for teaching Black Lives Matter. These resources can help you talk with students about the historical context and mission behind Black Lives Matter and work toward making your school a more affirming, safer space for Black students.

We Are Teachers has resources on how teachers are talking with students about George Floyd, protests, and racism From check-ins to special lessons and 20 Ways to Bring More Equity to Your Literacy Instruction

CBS this morning showcased a video conversation by Emmanuel Acho, former NFL linebacker, who took it upon himself to provide some clear answers to questions posted by many white people.  In another morning news story NBC’s Hoda and Jenna interviewed writers Jason Reynolds and Brandon Kiely, co writers of the young adult novel All American Boys. The two authors address how to speak to kids about race relations in America. 

The National Museum of African American History and Culture is committed to inspiring a more tolerant and inclusive society. Their Talking About Race Web Portal provides tools and guidance to empower your journey and inspire conversation.

Continuing the work of anti-racism — which is active, daily work — is vital. This list of Anti-Racism Resources is a good place to start provided by American Writers Museum in Chicago. Ibram X. Kendi, author of How To Be An Anti-Racist, made this Anti-Racist Reading List which is a good launching point.

Looking for book lists for reading for young readers and adding to your classroom library? Many public libraries have compiled Black Lives Matter reading lists for children and families like Skokie Public Library and BCALA and the ALA Graphic Novels and Comics Black Lives Matter Reading List. Memorial Hall Library in Massachusetts provides a racial justice reading list online for secondary students and adults. School Library Journal has also compiled a #BlacklivesMatter reading list.

Epic Reads is offering books and videos that anyone can access for free for the next 30 days for elementary students. 

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The national Black Lives Matter At School Coalition’s Curriculum Committee worked this year to bring you lessons for every grade level that relate to the 13 principles of Black Lives Matter. Here is the 2020 Curriculum Resource Guidefree, downloadable lessons to challenge racism, oppression and build happy and healthy classrooms.

Share your lessons and resources in the comments section here.

 

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Poet of the Day Playlist

Educators are teaching remotely now that school are closed due to COVID-19. My focus for my students and children is staying healthy under this stress, fear, and anxiety of the current situation. Whereas grade are important, mental health is my primary focus. I do not want to cause more stress, fear or anxiety that children might already be feeling working from home, confined to their home, and away from their friends.

As educator and author Kelly Gallagher stated on his website, “The last thing I want to do with my home-bound students is to load them down with brain-numbing packet work. So this lesson plan was designed to honor student choice, student agency, student voice. This is not the time to give students chapter quizzes on their at-home reading of 1984.”

Similarly, I want to provide my students with opportunities to read, write, and reflect. I have created a poetry playlist for the next few weeks so that my students can read poetry, learn about different poets, and then write in response to the poem. I want to inspire them to write their own poetry.

Poetry Playlist

April in National Poetry month but these poems and poets can she shared any time of the year. I am sharing this three week poetry playlist with teachers to use and adapt for their own classroom.

I ask students to respond to each poem. Students are asked to write one page (or more) in their Battle of the Books Notebook or Writer’s Notebook,  capturing thoughts, questions, comments, and connections about the poem. The directions I provided are based on a poetry one-pager posted online by #NCTE:

  • Write the title of the poem and author’s full name
  • Quote a line from the poem and explain what you believe it means
  • Draw 5 images from the poem and caption the imagery that inspired each
  • Create a boarder using a key phrase
  • Select a main idea of the poem and relate it to your own life
  • Define 2 important words from the poem (Definitions should be in your own words)
  • Quote a phrase or line – make a personal connection to it
  • Explain why a friend might want to read this poem
  • Add color to all the images
  • On the page adjacent to your response,  write a poem or free write inspired by the poem

Poetry Response

Do you have a favorite poem or poet to include on the playlist? Share your thoughts in the comments section.

 

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Teaching Vocabulary in Context

In the picture book The Boy Who Loved Words by Roni Schotter, a boy named Selig collects interesting words, and I want students to become as excited about discovering new words as Selig becomes.

“An avid word-hoarder, Selig delights in discovering new terms, recording them on paper scraps, and stowing them in pockets…”

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The Boy Who Loved Words by Roni Schotter

I am often asked how I teach vocabulary.  Do I give students weekly word lists or front load challenging vocabulary from readings? Do I have students use any vocabulary building apps or games online?

Research shows that proficient readers use different strategies to help define words they do not know and determine whether the definition is pertinent to understanding the text. As word detectives, students use context clues, SPROOTs (Suffixes, Prefixes, and Roots), Connotation, and even outside connections to help them determine the meaning of words within a text. Additionally, teaching students how to use the dictionary and thesaurus, and showing them the range of information it provides is crucial to vocabulary development. 

Rather than teaching students to be word collectors and word wizards with vocabulary lists, I believe that reading is what helps develop vocabulary. Vocabulary instruction needs to go beyond basic definitions and students must be able to apply the words in context.

What that looks like in my classroom depends on the reading and writing unit that students are working on. When studying the Japanese Internment there are key vocabulary words needs need to know to understand the complexities of this time in our history. I use active learning stations help to build background knowledge and word knowledge.

When designing vocabulary “lessons,” keep in mind the following:

  1. Avoid presenting a long list of vocabulary words to be learned before students are able to read the text.
  2. Choose only those words that are important to the meaning and/or will be likely to actually enter your students’ vocabulary.
  3. Consider a way of involving students in identifying their own vocabulary words.
  4. Try to give your students experiences in figuring out words in context, rather than simply memorizing them.
  5. If possible, devise a way for students to locate and define their own words, rather than relying on your choices and definitions.
  6. Consider alternatives to students’ learning definitions of words individually. Think about creating collaborative learning experiences, if possible.
  7. Find a way to evaluate what your students have learned without relying on a traditional vocabulary test (multiple choice or fill in the blank).

Considering ENLs, ELLs, and students with IEPs, word banks are helpful to front load important academic vocabulary. Students can use any of the Quizlet activities (Learn, Flashcards, Live) to learn new vocabulary words.  Go beyond the traditional word wall posting definitions by creating walls displaying Wordart.com or sketch noting vocabulary words. 

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Looking for more ideas, check out these additional resources:

 

 

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