Monday, July 28, 2014

Summer Reading for Teachers: Part II (Chart Sense by Linder)

I do not like saying that I am not an artist in front of my kids...I guess deep inside (really deep) I believe that even though I can only draw stick people decently, I am an artist at heart!

Chart Sense by Linder

Author: Rozlyn Linder
Paperback: 182 pages
Publisher: Literacy Initiative, The (February 2, 2014)
Language: English
ISBN-13: 978-0988950511
Available thru Amazon

I came across this book (and I believe I was a victim of Amazon's marketing strategies) as I was checking out the book Notice and Note by Beers and Probst. This came up as a suggested title, and well, two clicks was mine.

If you have been following my blog for a while, you may already know that I LOVE anchor charts. I strongly believe they are helpful in the classroom as students can refer to them as often as needed. When used and created intentionally (with a purpose in mind), they are a really valuable tool (I have a problem with charts that simply decorate...a.k.a store bought just because they are cute). 

When I go thru Pinterest to find some inspiration, I am often left without much breath as I explore the extremely beautiful charts - full of color, artistic illustrations, magnificent name it. To be honest, I have come a long way and my charts are somewhat decent nowadays, still I have ways to go.

As I received Chart Sense, I was amazed at how easy it was to read the book. Simple lessons were suggested for EACH anchor chart and more importantly: the charts were REALLY USER FRIENDLY (easy to make, to read, & to use them in the classroom). But gets even better. The book is divided into chapters and each chapter addresses one of the 9 anchor strands under the Common Core. 

For example, under standards 1"CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.1 Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text" the author offers plenty of child-friendly examples free of fluffiness (if you like fluffy...go for it). Do not expect rainbows or unicorns, rather 'no no-sense' charts full of graphics that aid readers to better understand what is being explained.

Take inference for example, there are over 5 charts on this skill alone. You can use them all, scaffold, or pick and choose. I was pleasantly surprised by what I saw and read. Again, each chart comes with suggestions as to how to introduce the chart and even extended activities to further "squeeze the juice out of them."

I give this book 5 starts for practicality, visuals, and ready-to-use approaches. Remember, no - I am not compensated in any shape or form if you buy the book. If you can borrow it from a friend...go ahead and enjoy it. are your anchor charts? Do you create them with your students or make them ahead of time? Where do you get your ideas from?

*The opinions expressed in this post are completely my own. I have not been compensated by anyone including the publisher or any other distribution channel.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Amazing Book Find in Spanish (Part IV)

Thursday Time to share another amazing book is coming a day late, yet I am sure you will find the book I am presenting here hilarious. I usually introduce or share books that are written for audiences in the upper grades (3rd and up), but the truth is...any age will find ¡Qué cosas dice mi abuela! very entertaining.

Author: Ana Galán
Illustrator: Pablo Pino
Age Range: 4 - 8 years
Grade Level: Preschool - 3
Paperback: 32 pages
Publisher: Scholastic en Espanol (June 25, 2013)
Language: Spanish
ISBN-13: 978-0545328630
Sold by: Amazon, Barnes & Noble & Scholastic

What about a book that infuses humor and good manners? ¡Qué cosas dice my abuela? does just that. Weaved throughout the great story line are good lessons about manners together with idioms (dichos/refranes o frases idiomaticas).

As a dual language teacher, explaining idioms can be quite tricky in Spanish...but with this book, I have my bases covered. The book is written in Spanish that will be very easy to understand even for those who may be just starting to learn the language. I would say that it is ideal for the little ones.

                                            Mis amigos siempre quieren venir
                                            a casa a comer ¡porque mi abuela 
                                            cocita tan rico!
                                            -Quien comparte su comida
                                            no pasa solo la vida - dice.

What is your favorite refrán en español? Mine is A la cama no te irás sin saber una cosa más.

*The opinions expressed in this post are completely my own. I have not been compensated by anyone including the publisher or any other distribution channel.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Summer Reading for Teachers: Part I (Notice and Note by Beers and Probst)

Notice and Note: Strategies for Close Reading

The term close reading has been popping up everywhere: at school, while talking to other teachers, on the web, etc. With the Common Core State Standards in full swing, I knew that I had to 'get on with the program' and educate myself. I did some research online and came across the book Notice and Note: Strategies for Close Reading by Beers and Probst which seemed like a good read (thank you Amazon for offering a preview of the book). 4 days later, the book arrived and I began reading it, applying what I had learned in my classroom and experimenting with the techniques presented in the book. Overall, the book has been an EXCELLENT read (I continue reading and re-reading some parts) - whether you are a new or veteran teacher. You will likely find answers to questions you did not even know you had. So, in this post I will try my best to highlight the things that stuck out and hope that you feel interested enough to give the book a try (no - I am not compensated in any shape or form if you buy the book. If you can borrow it from a friend...go ahead).

What is close reading? 
"Close reading occurs when the reader is deeply engaged with the text." (pg. 36)
Simple enough one must think, but close attention to the text is just one component of what close reading really is. Beers and Probst warn readers about the narrow interpretation many give to close reading and suggest a rather more holistic view: to take into account what the readers already know together with what the text is presenting.

How can students practice close reading effectively?
Beers and Probst suggest:
-Working with short passages (a paragraph or two from a book, a short poem, not an entire novel)
-Intense focus on the passage's words, sequence of events or ideas, relationships among characters in 'the passage'
-Extending from one passage to another part of the text (to allow students to make connections among those passages and draw inferences as well)
-Exploratory discussion among students (mostly) but with the teachers working as the lead at times. NOT a question/answer session but rather meaningful discussions.
-Intentional rereading to be able to both really understand the text and to even look at the text from a different lens

What can I expect from Notice and Note?
Notice and Note provides teachers/educators with a good overview of what close reading is and what is not. It gives readers a good overview of the famous TEST DEPENDENT questions and how to handle those in our classroom (since the CCSS are so big on them). Beers and Probst are not afraid of sharing what they think about close reading either. The book offers what it states: Strategies for Close Reading and how to help our students better 'close read' texts presented to them (that are 'hopefully' carefully selected by the teacher).

What are the strategies discussed in the book?
There are 6 major strategies which the authors call signposts:
  1. Contrasts and Contradictions
  2. Aha Moment
  3. Tough Questions
  4. Words of the Wiser
  5.  Again and Again
  6. Memory Moment

Each post has a dedicated chapter together with a suggested lesson and materials included. Honestly, the authors have made it really 'teacher-friendly' by including most of what you will need (you will still need some little prep time like making copies or gathering chart paper - not too bad). 

Contrast and Contradictions: "This signpost helps students recognize character development, internal conflict, and the relationship of setting to the plot." (Pg. 114). Learning and using this strategy helps students identify places in the story/plot where a character acts out of character and how this affects the story line overall. In other words, children/students learn to take a very close look at characters and their interactions with other characters as well - hence a way to close read.

Aha Moment: Just as the name states it, this is the post where a characters realizes or discovers something - an AHA moment! It was one of the easiest posts for my students to grasp and apply. It was really great to see many of my students apply the skill on their OWN reading even when 'close reading' was not the task. For this post, students grow awareness about a characters or characters and use this info to 'speculate' about what may happen next or how things in the story line will change.

Tough Questions: This signpost teaches students to to be alert for any questions the character asks himself/herself. The different questions the character(s) asks may reveal and even give us an insight  about the story (its development) and more importantly - conflict(s) the character may be experiencing. I was not able to introduce this post to my students.

Words of the Wiser: The purpose or goal of this post is to help students recognize the THEME in the book/story. "Students are taught to identify the scene (and occasionally scenes) in which a wiser and generally older, character offers the main character some critical advice." (Pg. 152)

Again and Again: This post teachers students to be alert to things that repeat over and over again and ask themselves a key question: Why does this happen over and over again? Answers to this questions will help students understand both the plot and characters better.

Memory Moment: I teach flashback to my students (even when I taught third grade), so teaching this post was not complicated at all. This signpost helps students understand the importance of moments/events that happened in the past and that without us (readers) knowing about them, meaning of the story would have/could have been missed.

The signposts are presented in a specific order in the book, but since I knew I was not going to be able to teach them all, I introduced Contrasts and Contradictions, Aha Moment, and Memory Moment. Beers and Probst suggest introducing the post in the order presented since (they argue) most books will definitely have several events where one could teach the first posts with more ease. 

Again, I came across this book towards the end of the school year and introduced the few posts I was able to fit in. I honestly loved the texts that accompanied each one of the lessons - they were really engaging and my students really connected to them. My favorite remains Thank You, Ma'm by Langston Hughes (who can forget Mrs. Luella Bates Washington Jones and her 'half-Nelson'). 

I am still learning about close reading and would love to hear about your knowledge and what you use/do in your classroom. Please feel free to share in the comments section.

Happy reading!

*The opinions expressed in this post are completely my own. I have not been compensated by the publisher or any other distribution channel.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Amazing Book Find in Spanish (Part III)

Conoce a Pablo Neruda by Georgina Lázaro León

Author: Georgina Lázaro León
Illustrator: Valeria Cis
Series: Personajes Del Mundo Hispanico / Historical Figures of the Hispanic World (Spanish) 
Paperback: 32 pages 
Publisher: Alfaguara Infantil (June 30, 2012) 
Language: Spanish 
ISBN-13: 978-1614353416
Sold by Amazon - Click here to purchase the book via Amazon

I came across this book while browsing a bookstore here in Los Angeles. I was glad to see they had a Spanish selection that even though was small, it had great titles such as the one I am introducing here. Conoce a Pablo Neruda is one of the many books in this series of famous figures of Latin America. The series include titles such as: Conoce a Gabriela Mistral, Conoce a Miguel de Cervantes among others.

Conoce a Pablo Neruda is written following a poetry form (stanzas) and each couple of lines rhyme really nicely together. The story gives readers an inside peek at Pablo Neruda's life in Sri Lanka (where he served as an ambassador). Born in Parral, Chile, Pablo Neruda is known as one of Latin America's most gifted writers.

This book would be a GREAT addition to any classroom or home library. Did I mention that the book also includes a friendly glossary? Honestly, what a better way to share with our children a small piece of Latin American History.

Happy reading.

*The opinions expressed in this post are completely my own. I have not been compensated by anyone including the publisher or any other distribution channels. 

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Top 3 Summer Readings for Teachers: A Three-Part Series

Summer time is the perfect "time" to catch up on professional readings and here I am sharing 3 books that I have fallen in love reading. I have been reading these three books interchangeably - picking one book one day and another one the following day. I have been taking notes around the margins, adding sticky notes and jotting down a list of ideas for the upcoming school year.

In this post I am only sharing the books and giving a quick overview about them; however,  in the upcoming days I will be unpacking each one of them and giving you a really detailed insight.

Pick Number One: Notice and Note by Beers and Probst

With all the buzz about close reading and the Common Core State Standards, I had to get my hands into this book. The books does an amazing job explaining what close reading is and what IS NOT. Each chapter is full of ideas and step-by-step lessons to demonstrate the strategies (I even made some posters with my class to depict each one of them. I got the book towards the end of the school year, but this Summer I made it a priority to finish it).

Pick Number Two: Chart Sense by Linder

My love for anchor charts is NOT new, but I knew I had to refresh my knowledge and add more 'zing and kick' to what I was already doing. The author of this book presents plenty of charts with step-by-step guides (suggested lessons) to introduce them. I have to admit it, I am a very challenged artist, yet the charts in this books are easy to make, yet SO useful and purposeful. 

Pick Number Three: Word Nerds by Overturf, Montgomery and Smith

If we as teachers are expecting children to learn NEW and meaningful words (tier 2 and even tier 3), we need to redesign how we teach vocabulary. Asking children to look up words in the dictionary has little to no effect on long term learning. I am ENJOYING so much this book, that I am already full of ideas of how I am going to twist and approach vocabulary instruction.

Over the next three weeks, I will be sharing tons of tips and ideas from what I have been reading. The posts will be as follow:

Part I: Notice and Note by Beers and Probst
Part II: Chart Sense by Linder
Part III: Word Nerds by Overturf, Montgomery and Smith

So, what are you reading this Summer? What are your favorite professional development books?

*The opinions expressed in this post are completely my own. I have not been compensated by anyone including the publisher or any other distribution channels.  

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