Tuck Everlasting….continued

In class, we have been doing a close reading of “Tuck Everlasting” for the last few days.  We re-read the Prologue and Chapter 1, annotating when necessary.  It is so amazing to hear my students say, “Wow!  I didn’t even realize that circle had meaning the first time I read it!”  I think they are starting to understand the need to sometimes re-read parts of a book, especially when you want to clarify certain points or respond to the book in writing.  This is a skill they will need to hone as they move through the middle school and high school and one they aren’t explicitly taught at any grade level.  I am having so much fun with it! 

Today, we read an excerpt from “Circling Tuck: An Interview with Natalie Babbitt” from Horn Book in 2000.  The interview is wonderful and Babbitt shares a lot of great information with the readers.  My students loved that fact that Babbitt admits that Man in the Yellow Suit only wears a yellow suit because she needed a two syllable word and “nobody wears purple”.  Throughout the book, my students could not figure out why Babbitt has the man wear a yellow suit when yellow usually symbolizes happiness or sunshine.  Needless to say, they think it is hysterical that there is such a practical reason for the color of his suit.

They also loved the fact that Babbitt chose the last name Tuck because in the past, tuck meant life.  This information gave a whole new perspective to the book and the themes that run through it.  Most students noted that this was their favorite fact in the interview.   They had no idea that words sometimes gain and lose meanings as time goes on, and tuck is a word they were previously familiar with. Hearing that an author put that much time and effort into choosing a character’s last name really fascinated them.

It was great sharing Babbitt’s interview with my class.  I could see their knowledge growing and they admitted that even though the book started slowly, they are so glad they gave it a chance because, “It really is an awesome book, Miss M.”!  YES!!!

Writing About Reading….Continued

I’ve spent the majority of the day working on my next unit of study for reading.  I am using Calkins’ Literary Essays unit of study in writing as the basis for my reading unit.  I had forgotten just how long it takes to write mini-lessons.  I’m on my fourth lesson and about 3 hours have gone by!  Of course, I am extending that time be even more just by coming to blog. Four minilessons down, so that covers me for the week, at least.  A lot of thinking going on over here, revising the plans I laid out over the summer.  It seems the best-laid plans never work out.  No matter how well I plan in July/August, each class brings new surprises and new information.  Inevitably, those plans are reworked, rearranged, and tweaked a lot.  Hey, at least teaching is never boring! 

Reflections on Writing about Reading

For the past two days, my 6th graders have been focusing on writing about their reading. Before this week, they have been using stickies for the past few weeks and then using those to help them with their book conversations. This week, we graduated to writing off post-its and growing our ideas.

Yesterday, I started by modeling off one of my post-its from Tuck Everlasting. I decided to use a stickie that discussed a quote where Babbitt compares life to a wheel, always turning. With the class watching, I grew my post-it into a 6 sentence paragraph about my thinking. We reviewed some of Nancie Atwell’s sentence openers for letter-essays and then I set them off. I had the students choose one of their Tuck stickies, place it at the top of their desk, and then grow that thinking into a paragraph in their notebook. I was so impressed with the results! There was a lot of deep thinking and some great connections made!

Today, I wrote off of a personal thinking stickie, from Ch. 10 in Tuck. Again, I modeled for the class but this time I wrote 9 sentences (a typical paragraph that I expect from my students). Like the day before, I set them off to choose a stickie of their own and write at least 9 sentences about it in their letter-essays section of their reading binder. I thought they might struggle a bit more today, due to the length, but boy was I wrong! Most of my students (in both classes) wrote well over 9 sentences. In fact, a few wrote an entire page! They were all dying to share their thinking and we listened to everyone read their thoughts aloud. Again, I was impressed! The thinking had gotten even deeper, and they were writing about things they noticed regarding author’s style, literary elements, symbols, motifs, and predictions they had for the remainder of the book! I was so proud!!!

We will continue to work our way forward with our writing about reading, working our way up to 3+ paragraph letter-essays that they will write to me on a monthly basis. :)

Oh, and my students are LOVING “Tuck Everlasting”. I can’t get them to stop reading! Actually, their enthusiasm must be contagious, because I was never a huge fan of the novel before this year. However, I decided to do a close reading of the book, seeing as it is “the greatest children’s novel”. I was inspired by Monica over at Educating Alice, who was inspired when she read “Charlotte’s Web” critically for a children’s lit course. I went over the entire novel, writing in my book and responding in my own reader’s notebook. I also read every article, interview, and review of “Tuck Everlasting” that I could find through Ebscohost. I have a brand new appreciation for the novel and I absolutely love it!

Like Monica, I plan to spend the weeks after we finish “Tuck Everlasting” going back over the text with the entire class, looking with a critical eye, annotating and digging even deeper. From the response I am getting from my class so far, I know this will be a success. I will be sure to keep you all updated!

Great Moments in the Classroom

Today my students met with their reading partners for their first “Tuck Everlasting” book meetings. We have been doing a lot of minilessons on thick vs. thin questions, partnership talk, and focusing on a central idea in the text. I walked around, eavesdropping, as they were talking and I was so impressed! While their conversations were not perfect by any means, they were heads and tails above what I expected to hear! Most of the groups were completely focused on their thick questions and I even heard a few debates breaking out!

After listening in today, I have a good idea where we will be taking the unit next. My eventual goal is for the students to be able to respond to their literature both conversationally and in a written letter-essay (a la Nancie Atwell). This week, we will be working on focusing on a central idea from the text and writing about it. We will write about personal connections and text-to-text connections, in single paragraphs. I think we will use the idea of everlasting life as our central idea when we work together: Should we have the option of living forever? The kids seem to connect with the idea immediately and hopefully we can have fun writing off our class stickie note!

I’m under the gun here, because I need to finish Tuck Everlasting before Thanksgiving! However, after the Thanksgiving break I plan to go back through Tuck doing some annotations with the class. :)

Annotating Tuck Everlasting

After reading Monica’s post In the Classroom: Annotating Charlotte’s Web, I was inspired to do some annotating of my own. My class will be reading Natalie Babbitt’s “Tuck Everlasting” as our next class novel and I know I have never done the book justice. It is so beautifully written and almost poetic and I know my student’s can appreciate that. So here I am on a Sunday night, 3 chapters into re-reading the book (for the 10th time), annotating away.

Annotating is an amazing experience, because you are forced to pay attention to the whole experience of the book. I tend to be a fast reader. While this doesn’t mean I skim books, it does mean that I read very, very fast and usually miss a lot of the nuances. That’s why I am such as avid re-reader. But annotating takes re-reading to a whole new level. If you haven’t tried it, I highly recommend you do. I can’t wait to try this with my class!

Oh, and while annotating and trying to listen to music (to drown out the football game on in the other room), I remember a CD I loved in junior high. After searching high and low, I finally found the entire series on Amazon. Someone needs to stop me from buying the Set Your Life to Music cd’s from Amazon. I have 10 of them on my wishlist! I can imagine falling asleep to one, writing to another, reading with a third CD………

Interesting Book Projects

I am trying to come up with an interesting yet not overwhelming book project to assign. I know what I want my 6th graders to read- an award-winning book. I will let them choose ANY award-winning book, whether it be a Newbery, Printz, etc winner/honor book. However, I don’t know what I want them to do with the book once they complete it. I am leaning towards a paper bag book project, yet I hate book reports.

In the next few weeks, I will be modeling and assigning our first reader’s responses. I am thinking I might have my students write me a letter about their book (to serve as a jumping off point for their bi-monthly letter-essays) and design something artistic. Maybe a story quilt? That sounds like it could be fun. Well, at least not torturous!

Any ideas out there???

Donors Choose

After waffling for a bit, I just submitted my first proposal to Donorschoose.org. For those who don’t know, “DonorsChoose is a simple way to provide students in need with resources that our public schools often lack. At this not-for-profit web site, teachers submit project proposals for materials or experiences their students need to learn. These ideas become classroom reality when concerned individuals, whom we call Citizen Philanthropists, choose projects to fund.” Anyone can choose a project to fund, and you can fund with any amount you want. It’s really a great site and there are so many great proposals!

I originally went to the site because I need supplies for my monarch butterfly unit for the rest of the year. I used to buy everything myself, but with a mortgage payment and bills now I can’t afford to do that! As it turns out, as a new member you can only request certain items from a preselected list on DonorsChoose. Well, I spoke to my class and they asked for books. Lots and lots of books, as they said! I took a survey and got a list of 25 books (fiction and non-fiction) they are dying to read and submitted a proposal. It is currently in review and I am anxious to see what happens. My students will be THRILLED to get new books for the classroom library and I will be thrilled to not have to spend my own money!

Now, I still need to find a way to get my monarch supplies funded. It’s only $100, but I honestly can’t justify spending my own money on it when I have so many bills to pay! This being a grown-up thing really has its downfalls! Before this year, I had gotten into the habit of buying everything for my classroom with my own money, because we don’t get any type of budget. I probably spent close to $2000 each year. I’ve already spent close to $300 on this year and I just can’t do it anymore. If you are feeling generous and want to help us, feel free. ;)

Click the link to donate to our classroom! You can enter any amount you like- we’ll take $0.50!

https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_xclick&business=evil_twin2327%40yahoo%2ecom&item_name=Help%20Us%20Raise%20Monarchs%21&buyer_credit_promo_code=&buyer_credit_product_category=&buyer_credit_shipping_method=&buyer_credit_user_address_change=&no_shipping=1&no_note=1&tax=0&currency_code=USD&lc=US&bn=PP%2dDonationsBF&charset=UTF%2d8

We need $100 to get the following (from LiveMonarch):
500 Mixed and Milkweed seeds for your region
Online tutorial “Adopt a Caterpillar” a 30 day personal learning experience for each child
One Sock Enclosure perfect for outdoor protection of your special critters
One Small Caterpillar Castle.
One Large Caterpillar Castle.
One Jumbo Caterpillar Castle.
Watering Floral Picks to keep field collected cuttings alive.
25 Rooted Milkweed Cuttings – certificate provided or request immediate shipment below.
Ten Monarch caterpillars – certificate provided, redeem when your plants are ready.
Four Monarch Pupae – certificate provided, redeem whenever you want them.
200+ Free Milkweed Seeds native to your region.
*Northern – Asclepias Speciosia – can survive a hard frost and long winter.
*Southern – Asclepias Curassavica – Fast growing favorite for egg laying and warmer climates.
Mini Posters: “Missing” Have you seen a Monarch?
Lifecycle sheet for all aspects of the Monarch Butterfly: basic quick review of all developmental stages.
Butterfly refuge garden sign
Adopt A Butterfly Handouts

Starting a new novel unit

This week my class will begin reading Jean Craighead George’s “The Talking Earth”. I spent a few weeks looking for a good novel with an environmental theme. I also wanted it to follow a survival or journey theme, as our first unit is usually based around a survival story. I stumbled upon a class set of “The Talking Earth” way in the back of my room, left over from a previous teacher. After a quick read, I realized it was exactly what I was looking for.

I wrote a 20 day unit plan, combining a independent reading (each student will read 50 pages/week), guided reading, survival activities, and a few monarch butterfly connections. One of my favorite activities will be their survival groups. My students will be put into groups of 4-5 students and told they have crashed on an island. First, they will discuss their strengths and weaknesses and then assign tasks and responsibilities within the group. Once a week, their group will be assigned a problem. This will be something like, “After fishing for the last week, the fish are becoming scarce. You need to come up with a way to continue eating and letting the fish reproduce”. After discussing the problem as a group and coming up with a solution, their homework will be to research a current environmental problem that they think is similar to their group’s problem. They will hand in a 1 paragraph paper detailing the environmental problem and a solution they believe will work. This will count as a 25-point quiz grade for the marking period.

I will be assigning the groups and the first problem this week. I can’t wait to see how this pans out!

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