Friday, February 28, 2014

Tito Puente: Mambo King

So, I have another lesson I'm supposed to post before this one, but I'm riding the high of this last one and couldn't wait to write about it!

  Ms. Greene's ESL class came to the library to hear about another person for their biography notebook. We read Tito Puente: Mambo King by Monica Brown. One of her students, read the Spanish parts of the book for me.

 As before, the students took notes on the important parts of Tito's life. We then listened to Tito Puente's orchestra play Oye Como Va.

The kids were listening to the music, but didn't know what song it was until the singers yelled out "Oye como va" and some of the students yelled it out in surprise! It was such a wonderful moment!

 Next, we watched Tito and his percussionists perform Five Beat Mambo so the students could see him dance and play on stage. They found him very entertaining.

The students took a moment to write down some characteristics of Tito while I got out their surprise...I had asked our percussion teacher, Mr. Kath, for some instruments the students could experiment with for this lesson. After we passed them out, I let the students just have time to make some noise...

then we turned on the music and they REALLY got into it! It was so much fun! Students headed back to the classroom to write an original story of their meeting with Tito for our POTEET WRITES!

The best part, is that one of the girls has requested that I find a bilingual book in Arabic so she can read aloud with me next time! WooHoo!

Thursday, February 27, 2014

WRAD #3 -- My Reading Life

Yep, this is in lap, stacks of book playing...full digital library at my fingertips. I usually have four books going at once!

Friday, February 21, 2014

Preferences -- WRAD Blog Week #2

This week, we're supposed to answer five questions and have a student answer the same questions about reading aloud...

I chose one of my sophomores who is in the library EVERY DAY....I'm not exaggerating....she spends her lunch makes me happy to see her.

Here are the questions and answers color-coded for you (mine; hers):

1. I think everyone in the world should read... as much as they can; whatever suits them.
  •  Perfect response from her, she reads voraciously!

2. If I could listen to anyone in the world read aloud to me it would be...Mike Rowe (let's face it, he's not hard to look at either); Morgan Freeman.
  • Totally agree with the Morgan Freeman answer...he could read a cereal box and make it sound interesting!

3. When I read aloud, my favorite character to impersonate is...any Southern female (my grandmother was from Georgia); the ones I don't like so I can make their voices annoying.
  • This answer cracked me up because I feel the same way sometimes.

4. The genre or author that takes up the most room on my bookshelf (or e-reader) is...mystery (if there's a cop and a dead body, I want to read it); science/science fiction.
  • I wasn't surprised by this answer...she volunteers at the Perot Museum AND when she was working on her science fair project I think her question dealt with thermonuclear dynamics and black holes (What does that even mean?!)

5. My favorite part about reading aloud or being read to works for everyone (you're never too old or young to have a book read to you); I can do other things while I listen.
  • One of my favorite things is listening to an audio book while I drive, workout, clean house, etc.!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Alfred Nobel AND John F. Kennedy

As in my previous post for English Language Learners, I brought in two more books to help them learn about historical people they could use in their writings. Each lesson was a little different in the content, but the framework stayed the same...I read aloud, the students watched the teacher model note-taking on important information while taking their own notes, we discussed the book and then they wrote down the characteristic and qualities the person displayed in the story.

Alfred Nobel: The Man Behind the Peace Prize by Kathy-Jo Wargin is a beautifully illustrated story (by Zachary Pullen) about Nobel's dynamite invention and how/why he established the Peace Prize.  I gave each student a small color photo of the Peace Prize to paste in their writing journals.

After the reading, I shared a QR code with the students that took them to the Nobel Prize website where we learned about the different types of medals and recipients over the years. We then took the quiz about Alfred Nobel to see if our little picture book had given us enough information to really know who he was. With much discussion and inferencing, the students were able to get all but three of the questions correct even though most of the information was not blatantly written within the book. It was rewarding to hear the students work out the answers to the questions. Even when they were wrong, their arguments were sound based on the little knowledge we had.

The next book we read was Jack's Path to Courage: The Life of John F. Kennedy (which I've mentioned before). The difference with this class lesson was the focus on his character and also the prior knowledge the students had in reference to JFK. One of the students posed the question of why he was assassinated, so we talked about the theories and about Oswald for a few minutes. 

One of the quotes in the book is from JFK's television speech asking Congress to enact laws to help make everyone in the United States free during the struggle of the Civil Rights Movement. After the reading, we were able to show the students the exact footage from our NBC Learn
subscription and give them a printed transcript of the President's speech. What we all found interesting and discussed after the video was this quote:

"Therefore I am asking for your help in making it easier for us to move ahead and provide the kind of equality of treatment, which we would want ourselves. To give a chance for every child to be educated to the limit of his talents. As I've said before not every child has an equal talent or an equal ability or equal motivation. But they should have the equal right to develop their talent, and their ability and their motivation to make something of themselves." -- JFK June 11, 1963

It would do us all well to remember these words and act accordingly.

"President Kennedy Addresses the Nation on Civil Rights." NBC News. NBCUniversal Media. 11 June 1963. NBC Learn. Web. 22 June 2013.

WRAD Raising Our Voices Blogging Challenge

The fact that I'm a week behind, doesn't mean that I didn't accept this challenge, it just means I've got too many sticks in the fire and can't remember what day it is if I don't look at the calendar! :)

With that in mind, I begin the "Week 1" Blog to answer this question:

What is your earliest or fondest memory in which someone read aloud to you?

When I was young, growing up in Tennessee and Alabama, my daddy would read the Disney versions of the Uncle Remus tales with Br'er Fox, Br'er Rabbit and Br'er Bear. These stories came alive because my daddy would do all the voices...he has a beautiful bass voice and Br'er Bear's voice was my favorite. It sounded like my daddy was speaking from a basement!

My brother and I laughed and laughed when Br'er Rabbit played his tricks on Br'er Fox and Br'er Bear. They never did learn their lesson when dealing with that crafty rabbit! My brother and I couldn't wait for Daddy to read them over and over again.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Helping Struggling Writers

One of my teachers works with students who need extra practice with their writing skills. She was looking for a way to expand their knowledge base so that they would have more people to write examples of in their essays. We know, as teachers, that students use the same examples over and over again. If you ask them to write about someone who has overcome adversity or shown courage, you get Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks and Michael Jordan. Nothing wrong with those stories, but the repetition is enough to have readers weeping with monotony. Our goal was to showcase others they may or may not know about and get them thinking beyond the elementary examples they've clung to for so many years.

We will be reading several books and making connections in a variety of ways....the first two books were 14 Cows for America by Carmen Agra Deedy and Jack's Path of Courage: The Life of John F. Kennedy by Doreen Rappaport.

Both of these books have beautifully illustrated pages and rich content throughout the stories. We discussed author's purpose and main idea after reading each story and then had the students explain how they could use the readings in their persuasive writings.  This wasn't easy. The students tend to be vague in their explanations and the teacher and I had to constantly remind the students to answer "why" or "how" or "give details about that situation". We used a Padlet to allow the kids to read each others ideas and allow the teacher to interact with their statements.

I think the thing the students enjoyed most was allowing them to sit in the "soft seating" at the front of the library while we worked. It was interesting to hear which book the students preferred and why. Some really liked the story from Kenya and others wanted more information about JFK when we were finished. It was a productive experience. The teacher has them filling out a chart back in the room so they can revisit the stories and remember what we've read before they take their next writing exam.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Inference Lesson

An English I teacher asked me to help her design a lesson using picture books to make inferences. Because of a busy week of teaching English II classes how to create a ThingLink   over To Kill a Mockingbird, I did the lesson with one class as a model for the teacher, and then she did the lesson with the rest of her classes without me. I think this works brilliantly, especially when librarians serve a large 5A campus.

I started the lesson by explaining the metacognition that goes into making an inference. I used the example of seeing a girl crying between classes (a common sight in most high school hallways). Here's how it went:

Me:  "Before first period, you see the girl smiling and holding hands with a boy. After second period, you see the girl in tears and no boy in sight. What happened?"

Student: "She got dumped by her boyfriend."

Me: "How do you know this? What's your evidence?"

Student: "She has tears on her face and her boyfriend isn't around. So that makes me think she got dumped."

Me: "You just made an inference and you weren't in an English class! And we don't know if this really happened, but you have very strong evidence to support your prediction."

I made sure to explain to the students that we make inferences ALL THE TIME. It's what smart people do, and it is a MUST for good readers:

We INFER when we take the FACTS from a piece of text (or from a situation) and we add our BACKGROUND KNOWLEDGE about the situation in order to come to a prediction, which is an inference.

The Inference Equation: 

The teacher wanted to break down this process for the students, so we used a wordless picture book to model this thought process with the class, and then the students worked in groups, each with a different book, to show how they make inferences while reading.

I shared Unspoken: A Story from the Underground Railroad by Henry Cole as the model.

Students folded a piece of colored paper into a tri-fold and labeled the three columns as follows:

  • FACTS about the pictures
I purposely did not tell the students about the second part of the title (A Story from the Underground Railroad) because I wanted them to get clues from the book to come to this conclusion. We "read" the entire book by analyzing the pictures and using this process to make inferences. I picked five key pages to write down the facts, thoughts, and inferences in the columns. If we had done this with the entire book, it might have been really tedious. Here's what our paper looked like:

The students LOVED the book, which is extremely powerful and thought-provoking. We discussed author's purpose (really illustrator's purpose in this case): Why did the author use pictures instead of words? Would the book have the same impact with words? The students all agreed that using only pictures made the book better because they had to THINK and MAKE INFERENCES themselves. (They really said this!)

We broke the students into groups of 3-4 students and gave each group one of the following wordless picture books. You can click on the image of each book if you would like to read more about it on 

The students turned their tri-fold over and did the same process for the book that was assigned to their group. They "read" through the book first as a group and then picked five pages that required them to THINK more than the others. They filled in the columns to show how they came up with their inferences. It was wonderful to walk around and here the conversations that were going on. All students were engaged. All students were thinking. All students seemed to be having fun with a book. In my opinion, that's a Teaching Trifecta. 

I asked one group if they liked reading picture books in class. Here's what they said, "I like picture books. They are not boring, not stressful, and FUN. And they kind of make me think." 

Picture books for the WIN.