Frozen? Let it Go! (And teach symbolism!)

Still frozen? Wow, we got a lot of snow this week! Sonja got 20 inches and Dana got 15! With all that snow, why not embrace an old classic- “Let it Go!” This song, popular in 2013, was a huge hit with students. Why not use this well-known song to teach symbolism?  Students of all ages can do this rigorous work with a digital text like “Let it Go!” Similar to our post about using the commercial with the miniature horse, students can engage with this digital text in a new way. They can read through the lens of symbolism.

Symbolism– “Let it Go!” is incredible for teaching symbolism! Try these 3 exercises with your students:

Strategy #1- Read the text with purpose. Ask your students to notice important objects that are meaningful to the character while watching the clip.  (Glove, crown, staircase, snowflakes, cape etc.)

Strategy #2- Have students think about these objects. What is the function of a glove, a cape, a crown, a staircase? (Protection, royalty, a climb?)

Strategy #3- Ask your students about these objects and what they might symbolize. Think about their function first and then discuss what it might symbolize. For example, a staircase might symbolize a climb or journey: the crossing from one place to another. How might this relate to Elsa’s situation?

In the work sample below, you can see that the student is thinking about the objects in the clip. Next, she thinks about their characteristics. Last, she considers what they might represent. We’ve found great success using this digital text and graphic organizer with our students to teach symbolism. Let us know your thoughts.

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Originally from Pennsylvania, Dana Johansen is hoping that Punxsutawney Phil will not see his shadow on Feb. 2 and there will be an early spring. In the meantime, she spends her time teaching fifth grade in wintery Connecticut, sitting with her yellow lab on the couch reading YA Lit, and watching the tv show, The Big Bang Theory. She has taught elementary and middle school for fourteen years. Dana is a doctoral student at Teachers College, Columbia University where she studies blended learning in reading and writing workshop. She is the co-author of the books Teaching Interpretation and Flip Your Writing Workshop. 

Sonja Cherry-Paul is a member of the Jane Addams Children’s Book Award Committee. She has been immersed in reading wonderful books created by authors and illustrators who address themes related to social justice. The best part of this process is sharing these incredible books with her 6th graders and the insightful conversations they spark.  She is co-author of Teaching Interpretation: Using Text-Based Evidence to Construct Meaning and Flip Your Writing Workshop: A Blended Learning Approach. 

Great Books Featuring Diverse Characters

Yesterday was  multicultural book day. A wonderful chat took place last night on twitter. Be sure to search #ReadYourWorld to read about the great ideas and recommendations shared during this discussion. We know the important work of diversifying our classroom libraries and curriculum must extend beyond one day of the year. Therefore, to help raise awareness about wonderful books that are reflective of our diverse world, below are twenty must read titles. These books are terrific additions to classroom libraries featuring diverse characters, many of which are written and illustrated by diverse authors. Shout out your favorite from this list or another that you love. Let’s keep it going!

 

  • Drum Dream Girl by Margarita Engle
  • Ninth Ward by Jewell Parker Rhodes
  • Razia’s Ray of Hope: One Girl’s Dream of an Education by Elizabeth Suneby
  • Poems to Dream Together=Poemas Para So’ar Juntos by Francisco X. Alarcon

 

 

  • The Shepherd’s Granddaughter by Anne Laurel Carter
  • The Crossover by Kwame Alexander
  • Enchanted Air: Two Cultures, Two Wings by Margarita Engle
  • The Case for Loving: The Fight For Interracial Marriage by Selina Alko

 

 

  • The Thing About Luck by Cynthia Kadohata
  • Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson
  • When Tia Lola Came to Visit (Stay) by Julia Alvarez
  • Nasreen’s Secret School: A True Story from Afghanistan by Jeanette Winter

 

 

  • Sylvia & Aki by Winifred Conkling
  • Rickshaw Girl by Mitali Perkins
  • A Place Where Sunflowers Grow by Amy Lee Tai
  • Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans by Kadir Nelson

 

 

  • Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
  • Come On Rain by Karen Hesse
  • Honey I Love by Eloise Greenfield
  • Mama Where Are You From? by Marie Bradbury

 

Sonja Cherry-Paul is a member of the Jane Addams Children’s Book Award Committee. She has been immersed in reading wonderful books created by authors and illustrators who address themes related to social justice. The best part of this process is sharing these incredible books with her 6th graders and the insightful conversations they spark.  She is co-author of Teaching Interpretation: Using Text-Based Evidence to Construct Meaning and Flip Your Writing Workshop: A Blended Learning Approach. 

Celebrating Multicultural Books

each kindness  Tia Lola blackbird fly

Recently, I wrote about the need for more diverse books. I shared how I pulled books off of my shelves that feature main characters from diverse background and then looked to see which of these books are about contemporary characters and issues. The pile of books meeting these criteria was incredibly small.

Historical fiction is one of my favorite genres. I absolutely love the way authors of this genre work their magic to carry readers away in a time machine to experience and understand events of the past. These talented authors make it possible for readers to step in the shoes of characters to see the world through their eyes. This important work builds a foundation for students to understand how the past shapes the future and the ways that social injustices begin and still thrive today. We can never have too many of these books.

However, similar to some of the issues spotlighted by those supporting the #OscarsSoWhite protests, it seems as if publishers as well as the academy, are content to limit the types of stories that can be told featuring or about people of color to stories mainly about the historical past. We need realistic fiction books that feature the lives of characters from a wide variety of backgrounds. We need more stories about diverse characters and their contemporary lives. We need all students to see themselves reflected in the stories they read in order to feel valued and that their lives matter. Therefore, we need everyone – teachers, parents, and students – not just those from diverse groups, to speak up and out about the need for books that reflect ALL of us.

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As a long time classroom teacher and educator, I’ve found that my students, most of whom are White, are excited to read good stories, no matter who is featured on the cover and within the pages. My students are eager to learn about people from all backgrounds and experiences and to see the world through a variety of eyes. So what we have to ask ourselves is where does the resistance to multicultural books truly come from? And more importantly, how can we break down these barriers?

Wednesday, January 27 is multicultural book day. We can thank the great work the pioneers of this day are doing to bring attention to the importance of celebrating diversity in children’s literature. Let’s all join their efforts not just on this day, but also on the days following.

Here are some ways to help raise awareness:

  • Use the hashtag #ReadYourWorld  and #diversebooks to share the terrific multicultural books you and your students love. Let’s flood twitter with recommendations for great books that are reflective of our diverse world.
  • Tweet publishers who are publishing multicultural books and the work of diverse authors. Let’s show them that we are purchasing these books and that our students want to read them.
  • Use January 27 as an opportunity to evaluate your classroom libraries, reading units, and to actively think about the ways you can promote diverse books. Check multiculturalchildrensbookday.com for recommended titles and resources. Borrow these books from your school or local libraries to use immediately. Hold onto a list of your favorites to order for your classroom and/or ask your school librarian to order them for the school.
  • Our students’ voices are the most powerful influencing factor about books. Make students aware of the lack of multicultural books and ask them to join the campaign. Ask them to write about the books they’re reading featuring diverse characters and why they love them. Let’s send these letters to publishers so that we can begin to address this persistent gap in children’s literature.

In order to prepare students to responsibly and compassionately participate in a democratic society, reconceptualizing curriculum in ways that are inclusive of diversity is key. Multicultural books offer students  alternative ways of understanding issues and viewing the world.

 

Sonja Cherry-Paul is a member of the Jane Addams Children’s Book Award Committee. She has been immersed in reading wonderful books created by authors and illustrators who address themes related to social justice. The best part of this process is sharing these incredible books with her 6th graders and the insightful conversations they spark.  She is co-author of Teaching Interpretation: Using Text-Based Evidence to Construct Meaning and Flip Your Writing Workshop: A Blended Learning Approach. 

Celebrating Raina Telgemeier’s Graphic Novels

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Today is the big release of Raina Telgemeier’s book, Baby-Sitters Club Book #4 Claudia and Mean Janine. My students are so excited! They’ve been counting down the days.

What would we do without Raina Telgemeier’s graphic novels?! My middle school students LOVE her books. My students read and reread them constantly. Here are 5 ways Raina Telgemeier’s books are helping my students become better readers:

  1. All readers adore them. They create enthusiasm for reading! Raina Telgemeier can do no wrong. Each of her books are gold! My middle schoolers adore them and are so excited that the new Baby-Sitters Club book is coming out today.
  2. My reluctant readers pour through them. I make a stack of books on my desk every Monday morning for students who need book recommendations. Smile and Sisters are my go-to books for my reluctant readers and they are on the top of my stack each Monday.
  3. These stories resonate with students. Each book has realistic characters who go through real-life troubles. Whether it is friendship challenges, family troubles, or difficulties at school, these stories feel very real and familiar to readers.
  4. Rebooting Baby-Sitters Club. Enough said. I remember pouring through the Baby-Sitters Club books when I was a kid. I couldn’t wait for the next installment by Ann M. Martin. Now, I am so excited to see my students take up these books- both the graphic novels and the originals.
  5. Illustrations! Raina Telgemeier’s graphic novels are not only inspiring my students to read, they are inspiring them to draw. I love seeing my students draw their own graphic novel characters.

Raina Telgemeier’s new book, Claudia and Mean Janine comes out today! Yippppeee! Her new graphic novel, Ghosts, comes out September 13! I pre-ordered it on Amazon! Yahoo!

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Originally from Pennsylvania, Dana Johansen is hoping that Punxsutawney Phil will not see his shadow on Feb. 2 and there will be an early spring. In the meantime, she spends her time teaching fifth grade in wintery Connecticut, sitting with her yellow lab on the couch reading YA Lit, and watching the tv show, The Big Bang Theory. She has taught elementary and middle school for fourteen years. Dana is a doctoral student at Teachers College, Columbia University where she studies blended learning in reading and writing workshop. She is the co-author of the books Teaching Interpretation and Flip Your Writing Workshop. 

Coming Soon Bulletin Board

coming soon

There are many ways to create buzz about books in the classroom, and one of my favorite ways is to have a “Coming Soon!” bulletin board about new releases. I want my students to develop good reading habits, and one of those habits is learning how to make plans about what to read next. As adults we refer to many sources when looking for new books. We check our favorite blogs, newspapers, journals, and Goodreads. We ask friends for recommendations and we join book clubs. We plan our reading in advance of vacations, plane trips, and cozy weekends. Our students need to learn how to plan too. One way we can help them plan is by teaching them to find books in our classroom libraries and in the school library. Another is to help them find out what’s coming soon.

How do I find these books?

1) I talk to my students. When I’m conferring with them during reading workshop, I find out what they’re reading. We look up the series that they’re reading and the authors’ names on Amazon. For example, if they’re in the middle of reading the Amulet series, we look it up on Amazon in order to find out when the next Amulet book will be released. We make sticky notes with the dates, so my students can make plans for future reading.

2) I also find titles of the new releases by reading the Nerdy Book Club blog. This is an incredible resource! Colby Sharp just had a terrific post about upcoming reads.

3) Goodreads! I google “Goodreads 2016 books for middle grades” or “Goodreads Picture books of 2016.” I look through the new book titles and talk to my students about which books might appeal to them. It takes a bit of time and searching but it’s all worth it. My students cheer when new books go up on the board. (Please let me know if there are other ways to find new releases. I am always looking for new ideas.)

Last, I print out the book covers and short summaries from Amazon.com. I make little stars that say the date that the book will be released. Sometimes I choose not to post a summary. I choose this if my students are familiar with the books in the series (Amulet, Baby-Sitters Club) and I don’t want the summary to give away any spoilers.

The books I have posted right now are:

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What I love about the “Coming Soon!” board is that it is a community effort and it strengthens us as a community of readers. Students recommend books and we look up new reads together. My hope is that they are learning a lifelong reading skill- how to make plans as readers.

 

Originally from Pennsylvania, Dana Johansen is hoping that Punxsutawney Phil will not see his shadow on Feb. 2 and there will be an early spring. In the meantime, she spends her time teaching fifth grade in wintery Connecticut, sitting with her yellow lab on the couch reading YA Lit, and watching the tv show, The Big Bang Theory. She has taught elementary and middle school for fourteen years. Dana is a doctoral student at Teachers College, Columbia University where she studies blended learning in reading and writing workshop. She is the co-author of the books Teaching Interpretation and Flip Your Writing Workshop. 

Why I Chose to Flip

The day I discovered that my interactive whiteboard could record my lessons was the day I began creating flipped lessons. At that time I was teaching fourth grade and I wanted my students to have access to math lessons during math centers. I began to create two kinds of lessons- ones that reviewed previously-taught concepts and ones that previewed new material. My students loved the lessons, and I was excited. Flipped learning was helping my students review and move ahead at their own pace.

Next, I began flipping grammar lessons. This freed up a tremendous amount of time! I used my iPad to create these lessons using the app, Explain Everything. I created flipped lessons about prepositions, fragments, and commas. I found that my students and I had more time during class to do the type of word study work that Katie Wood Ray describes in her book, Wondrous Words. After this experience, I wanted to do more. I wanted to learn more about my software options and how I could bring the benefits of flipped learning into reading and writing workshop. I learned how to use different types of software such as Camtasia (love!), Screencastify from Google (convenient!), and Zaption (so fantastic!)

Flipped learning isn’t about homework. I realize that many people focus on the use of flipped lessons for homework; however, I’ve found that my students access the flipped lessons during the school day just as much as they do at home. It is about my students learning at their own pace and having more time for what really matters- reading and writing.

Here is a sample lesson that I used this year with my fifth graders. It helped my students understand how to use sticky notes in their book. This is a simple, quick lesson, and I used Explain Everything to create it. What I like about having this lesson in my collection of flipped lessons is that my students can refer to it at any time during the school year in case they need a refresher about annotating with sticky notes. I can also reuse it again next year. See what you think and leave me a comment with your thoughts.

Originally from Pennsylvania, Dana Johansen is hoping that Punxsutawney Phil will not see his shadow on Feb. 2 and there will be an early spring. In the meantime, she spends her time teaching fifth grade in wintery Connecticut, sitting with her yellow lab on the couch reading YA Lit, and watching the tv show, The Big Bang Theory. She has taught elementary and middle school for fourteen years. Dana is a doctoral student at Teachers College, Columbia University where she studies blended learning in reading and writing workshop. She is the co-author of the books Teaching Interpretation and Flip Your Writing Workshop. 

Using Commercials to Teach Perspective and Theme

Sonja and I talk and think a lot about ways to use digital texts in our classrooms. We are committed to balancing digital texts with print-based texts. In our blended-learning classrooms, we use digital texts as shared texts and mentor texts. We use these digital texts during our writing and reading minilessons in order to teach different concepts. For example, in writing workshop, I might show a portion of a classic Scooby Doo cartoon in order to teach “Creating Suspects” during my mystery fiction unit. In a fantasy fiction unit, I might use the prophecy scene in The Lego Movie to show students how prophecies are written and used in stories.

Digital texts, such as commercials, are also perfect for teaching reading concepts. They are terrific springboards for conversations about theme, perspective, and symbolism. The Amazon miniature horse commercial is perfect for teaching students how to make inferences, discuss multiple perspectives, or brainstorm themes. Here’s the ad:

5 Reading Minilessons Using This Digital Text: 

1. “Looking Closely at Characters’ Actions to Infer Their Feelings” – This text is terrific for teaching students to infer characters’ feelings based on their actions and body language. Students can cite text evidence from this clip about the actions of the horses and the woman, and then discuss how the animals and woman feel.

2. “Theme” – Students can brainstorm themes after watching this digital text. Many themes emerge from this digital text.

3. “Reading Across Texts”- Pair a print-based text with this digital text. Picture books such as The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi, Those Shoes by Maribeth Boelts, and Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson are just a few texts that might be paired with the “Miniature Horse” ad. Read across these texts for commonalities and what lessons and universal themes can be learned from these texts.

4. “Summary: Somebody Wants… But… So… Then…” – Students learning how to summarize or retell can practice using this quick, 60 sec text.

5. “Endings” – This digital text is perfect to use with a reading minilesson about endings. How do students feel about the ending to this ad? Why is this the ending to this ad? What is the perspective of the creators of this ad? Why might they create this ending? Do students hope to see a sequel? How would it go?

For more lessons using digital texts see:

Sample Mood Digital Bin

Friendship Digital Bin

 

Originally from Pennsylvania, Dana Johansen is hoping that Punxsutawney Phil will not see his shadow on Feb. 2 and there will be an early spring. In the meantime, she spends her time teaching fifth grade in wintery Connecticut, sitting with her yellow lab on the couch reading YA Lit, and watching the tv show, The Big Bang Theory. She has taught elementary and middle school for fourteen years. Dana is a doctoral student at Teachers College, Columbia University where she studies blended learning in reading and writing workshop. She is the co-author of the books Teaching Interpretation and Flip Your Writing Workshop.