A Book Giveaway!

Have you run into the book Kizzy Ann Stamps by Jeri Watts yet?  It is a historical fiction book Kayla (my 5th grader) recommended to me. At the start of the book, 12-year-old Kizzy is preparing for her first year at an integrated school in the fall of 1963. She does not want to attend the new school, and she realizes that her white classmates probably don't want her there, either. (Amazon affiliate link follows.)
One of the features that makes this book especially interesting is that it is written in letter-format. Kizzy's previous teacher asked all of the students to write a letter to their new teachers. Kizzy completes this homework, and thereby begins to develop a relationship with her new teacher which blossoms as the school year begins and progresses.

Kizzy's letters are extremely heartfelt and honest, as she tells about the injustices she and her older brother (a high school students) are experiencing. I think it would be eye-opening for today's students to read about Kizzy's life. At one point, she was publicly switched and humiliated for talking crossly to a white boy.

As I read this book, I was constantly thinking about the powerful discussions that could occur if this book was being read in the classroom as a read aloud- or within a literature circle. Along with the racial issues she faces, Kizzy also has to deal with the large scar on her face that she cannot hide.  Furthermore, she has a very special relationship with her dog, Shag, that would rival Marty's relationship with Shiloh and Opal's bond with Winn-Dixie. I am nearly certain that students would identify several text-to-self, text-to-text, and text-to-world connections as they read this book.

Because I love this book so much, I decided to raffle a SET OF 6 paperback books to be delivered to an upper elementary or middle school classroom in early November!  Just enter the giveaway below for your chance to win!

According to Scholastic Book Wizard, Kizzy Ann Stamps is a Level T book. It's lexile measure is 920L. Also, I ran into this book on the shelves of our school's Scholastic Book Fair last week! If you don't win the giveaway, but are interested in buying the book, you might want to check out a Book Fair near you.
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(Due to the high cost of shipping, this giveaway is open to residents of the United States.)

Four-Star Reading Responses

When I was a 4th/5th grade reading teacher, I fell in love with the Say Something response assignment. Are you familiar with this reading response activity?  When students finish reading, they are given a Post-it note, and they get to choose whether they:

  • ask a question.
  • make a comment.
  • make a prediction.
  • clarify something.
  • make a connection.

When our guided reading group time was almost over, it was so simple to hand students a Post-it note (that could serve as a bookmark), tell students to finish reading a chapter, and, as an assignment, "say something" on the Post-it note that they will share the following day when the group meets again.

When I first tried this response with students, I quickly figured out that giving them the above list was not enough. As a teacher, you definitely need to model what a well-written Say Something Post-it note looks like!  If you don't model, you will definitely see minimal effort in the form of notes that look like the 1-star notes below.

Four-Star Reading Responses Anchor Chart. Use this anchor chart to show your students between a vague 1-star response and a detailed 4-star response!

Recently I ran across this blog post by Chartchums, where they created an anchor chart that showed the progression from a 1-star Post-it note to a 4-star Post-it note for their second graders. I thought it was such a great idea that I was inspired to create a similar anchor chart for upper elementary students based on the Say Something Post-it Note reading strategy.

The Post-it note examples on this chart are based on the book The Name of this Book Is Secret (The Secret Series) by Pseudonymous Bosch. (This book would make an excellent mystery read-aloud, by the way!) (Amazon affiliate link follows.)
I especially like the visual element- it is clearly and immediately evident to students that shorter responses are worth only 1-star because they lack details. In order to write a 4-star Post-it note, students must strive for higher-level thinking that includes details and thorough explanations. When I share this anchor chart with students in the future, I plan to show them the anchor chart on the first day, and discuss what makes each Post-it note deserve that number of stars. On the second day, after students have written their own independent Post-it note responses, I will have each student bring his or her note to the anchor chart and line it up with where they believe their Post-it note should be placed. For example, if a student wrote a prediction, I would have him look at the 4 prediction Post-it notes on the anchor chart and decide which most resembles the type of response that he wrote. After a few days of doing this, hopefully students will be writing 3- and 4- star Post-it note responses!

I was going to make my own Say Something bookmarks to attach to this blog post, but after doing a quick search on TpT, I found that some fabulous bookmarks already exist! Check out these freebies by Let's Geaux Teach!

Do you have any tricks for getting students to write detailed responses to what they've read?  I'd love to hear your ideas!

Finding a Partner Idea... with a FREE download!

If you have ELLs in your classroom, you understand the importance of giving them an opportunity to talk and converse with others while using academic vocabulary.  When students are allowed to formulate their own sentences using academic vocabulary based on what they have learned, they are more likely to retain that information. (By academic vocabulary, I am referring to the terms that do not usually come up in day-to-day conversation, but are vital for students for students who are working toward mastering subject area content... words like condensation, evaporation, and precipitation.) And, like the majority of ELL strategies, conversing with partners is not only beneficial for the ELLs in your classroom, but for ALL students.

As an ESL teacher who co-taught in upper elementary classrooms, you can bet that I was frequently telling students to "turn to a partner and discuss...". Think-Pair-Shares were an everyday occurrence. (Read more about Think-Pair-Shares HERE.) The one downside to this partnering idea is that students were limited to the classmates who were sitting directly beside them.

A few weeks ago, I was paging through Total Participation Techniques: Making Every Student an Active Learner by Persida and William Himmele (which is an excellent, teacher-friendly book, by the way!) and I found an intriguing idea! This would solve the problem of students always sharing with the same partners, and I am pretty sure kids would love the idea of the business-like atmosphere!  I had never heard of this activity, but it struck me as so clever that I just had to share it on my blog, in case there are others who are looking for a new "find-a-partner" activity.

You begin by taking 5 minutes and having students fill out the following appointment page. (Click on the image to download it.)
Looking for a new, exciting way for your students to pick a partner to work with? Check out this blog post and download this free printable!

Students simply walk around the classroom and set "appointments" with classmates. In order to do this, both students have to select a time that is open on both of their agendas, and write each other's name in the time slot. (If you have an odd number of students, one person may have to partner with you, or have that students join an existing pair to create a threesome- your choice.) Also, make it clear that students are not allowed to turn down a classmate's appointment request unless the time slot is already filled on their paper.

When everybody's agendas are filled in, voila!  You have a new pairing tool that gets students up and out of their seats and paired with different partners. Then, anytime you want students to discuss or share with a partner, you have the option of having everyone pull out their appointment sheet, find their 2:00 appointment, and share the response. I might have everyone tape it to the inside cover of a certain notebook for consistent, easy access.

If you decide to try this activity, I would love to hear how it goes!  Have a great week!