April 18, 2014

Character Riddles

At the end of each unit I try to have a culminating celebration where the kiddos can share their learning. For reading units though, it's often hard to find something that wraps up our learning in a shareable way.  Fortunately, at the end of our character unit, we had the perfect way to display our learning -- the kiddos used everything they had discovered about their characters to create riddles. 

{For our bulletin board, I drew the Lilly and Owen mice.}

The kiddos were so excited to write riddle clues! They kept hiding their papers and giggling to themselves.  They had to use their character's appearance, actions, and traits to develop the questions so this was also an informal assessments to see if they could determine defining characteristics.  The kiddos' riddles turned out great!  They've been having a lot of fun flipping up the questions every time they walk through the hallway.  I'll probably keep the bulletin board up for another couple of weeks until they finally get tired of reading the same riddles again and again. :)

Lilly the Mouse

This year, our character/series reading unit corresponded with our "Authors as Mentors" writing unit, so we were able to use Kevin Henkes books as mentor texts for both!  In reading, I relied heavily on the Lilly books, including Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse, Lilly's Big Day, Julius, the Baby of the World, Chester's Way, and Lilly's Chocolate Heart.  Lilly is a complex character so she is great to consider across texts.
As I read each book aloud, the kiddos worked to identify Lilly's likes and dislikes, emotions, and traits. We noticed how many of her traits carried across multiple books.  For instance, Lilly demonstrates loyalty when she defends Chester and Wilson in Chester's Way, and when she stands up for Julius in Julius, Baby of the World.  Lilly is jealous of Julius in Baby of the World, and she's jealous of Ginger in Lilly's Big Day.  The kiddos recorded their own observations on this cute worksheet and then practiced identifying other characters' emotions and traits in their own books. 

The kiddos really loved the Lilly books!  Toward the end of the unit, after we had read each of the Lilly books, we took a vote on our favorite Lilly book. Lilly's Big Day was the big winner, but Chester's Way was the 2nd most popular among my avid readers.  I'm hoping to incorporate more graphing in to our thematic reading/writing units in the future!

April 16, 2014

If at first you don't succeed..

Our last reading unit focused on character series books. As part of this unit, the kiddos got to read together in "book clubs" on a particular series.  On the first day of the unit, I thought I was prepared -- I'd picked out guided reading books with series characters for each small groups and planned to have them add their new books to their individual book bins.  As I began handing out the books, however, I was met with a lot of, "I've read that," "I don't like that character," and "How many other books can I get?"

I didn't want to continue like this: I knew the kiddos had to be invested in this unit in order to make the growth I hoped they would. I wanted them to be excited about spending time with these characters because they would be working with one series for at least a week.  I also needed things to run smoothly so that I could focus on conferencing with my struggling readers.  I halted the whole process and decided to reconsider my next steps.

My next step was, of course, to consult my fabulous colleagues.  I gathered more books, empty bins, and some helpful advice.  I learned that each kid in the book club should have a bookmark to claim their copy of a book within the bin (I color coded the bookmarks to make it easy to assign roles to one partner in the group.)  I also labeled the bins and printed out a list of the kiddos assigned to each club.

The next day, we started fresh.  To build the excitement back up, I covered the bookshelf and added a sign: "Reading Series Book Clubs COMING SOON."  By the time reading began, the kiddos couldn't wait to jump in to their new books.

I revealed the new shelf, complete with mentor texts displayed on top.  The kiddos "oohed" and "ahhed."  I handed out their bookmarks and assigned them to their bins.  This time, I had really worked to select series that were not only at the correct reading level but also had characters that would appeal to individual kiddos.  The kiddos were thrilled!  They immediately began reading, looking for characters across the books in their series and noticing character traits.

Unfortunately, my classroom doesn't have much space for our library, so this is our main reading spot.  In order to add just a little bit more excitement and make sure the kiddos are comfortable reading here, I also added a rug and bean bag in front of the bookshelf.  Finally, this unit got off to a great start after all :)