Making Inferences Through Picture Books

Our 5th grade recently spent some time in the library exploring places in texts where the reader must make an inference in order to know the full story. This is a standard that our 5th graders work on in the first quarter.

ELAGSE5RL1: Quotes accurately from a text when explaining what the text says explicitly and when drawing inferences from the text.

To prepare for this lesson, I spent some time reading several picture books as well as exploring what other educators have done with inferences. This post by Pernille Ripp was especially helpful.  Anytime we work on language arts standards, I want a good portion of our time to be spent actually reading rather than just practicing a specific skill.  With picture book month approaching, I thought this experience would be a good time to reiterate with our older readers that picture books are for all readers and to give them time to read at least 2-3 books during our time together.

Here are the books I decided to pull for this experience:

  • The Skunk by Mac Barnett
  • We Found a Hat by Jon Klassen
  • Shhh! We Have a Plan by Chris Haughton
  • Mr. Peabody’s Apples by Madonna
  • The Rough Patch by Brian Lies
  • Julian Is a Mermaid by Jessica Love
  • Rules of Summer by Shaun Tan
  • Voices in the Park by Anthony Browne
  • The Other Side by Jacqueline Woodson
  • After the Fall by Dan Santat
  • Duck! Rabbit! by Amy Krouse Rosenthal
  • My Lucky Day by Keiko Kasza
  • Boats for Papa by Jessixa Bagley
  • Unspoken by Henry Cole

For each book, I made a folder with instructions and a guiding question. Inside the folder, I placed some blank post-it notes.

As students entered the library, we began our time on the carpet. I launched right in to talking about a picture book author, Bethan Woollvin. I let students know about her subversive, fractured fairy tales and also that she leaves some of her story to the reader to figure out.  In each class, there was usually a handful of students who mentioned that this was an inference. If they didn’t then, we talked about how we would need to make inferences when we read her stories.

I read aloud Little Red.  We paused a few places to talk about inferences we must make as the reader:

  • When the wolf makes a plan
  • When the wolf climbs into Grandma’s bed looking completely ridiculous
  • When Little Red makes a plan
  • When Little Red is wearing a wolf costume at the end of the book

This whole read aloud experience was setting students up for their own task. With a partner, students chose one of the picture books I had pulled.  Their goal was to enjoy the book together. While they were reading, they were invited to think about places in the text and illustrations where the author/illustrator left the story up to the reader to figure out.  Any inferences could be written onto a post-it note to add to the folder for future readers to read and consider.  As more students read each book, more post-it notes appeared in the folders and readers could compare their own thoughts to those of others.

The teacher and I were able to sit with pairs of students and listen to their reading. Sometimes we read aloud with them as well and became a natural part of the conversation on inferences.  What I loved the most was looking around and seeing so many 5th grade readers engaged with a text and having a genuinely good time reading them.  The inference part was low key enough that the enjoyment of the book was the more central part of their time.

We closed our time by having any pairs of students who loved a book do a short book talk for others and highlight where that book could be found in the library.  My hope was that this would be a spark to our picture book month challenge where students are encouraged to read a picture book from each genre section of the library.

 

Using Two Truths and a Lie to Encourage Thorough Research

We’ve all been there. You’re in the midst of an informational writing project. You ask students to search for information. They do a quick Google search, choose the first thing they find, and say, “I’m done”. It’s frustrating, but in an age where information is so fast to find, it’s understandable that they would want an instant answer and be done.

This year, ahead of 5th grade’s informational writing unit, we decided to do an exercise in research by using the book series Two Truths and Lie by Ammi-Joan Paquette and Laurie Ann Thompson.  Each chapter in the book is made up of 3 stories.  Two are truths and one is a lie.  The books have a great opening that explains that all of the stories are pretty unbelievable and that it will be a challenge to figure out which is false. I chose a section out of each book to make a copy of.  I put them in groups of three so that every table would have two truths and a lie on the table.

For the opening of the lesson, I asked students if everything on the Internet was true.  They immediately said no, but I reminded them that even though we say that, so often, we fall victim to something that is actually false.  We looked at Jennifer LaGarde’s infographic about identifying fake news so that we could review the importance of knowing the author, domain, and especially triangulation.

I read the opening of Two Truths and a Lie and explained the task at hand.

  1. In pairs, students would choose one folder to sit at.
  2. Pairs would read the article in the folder.
  3. Pairs would use our trusted databases in Galileo as well as do an independent Google search to find evidence to prove that the article was a truth or a lie.
  4. When pairs felt like they had enough evidence, they could talk with me about what they found.

Things got off to a great start. Pairs opened up folders and read their article.  However, when computers opened, things went downhill (at first). Hands started going up immediately because students had found an image that matched an image in the book or they found a video that matched their article. Those pieces of evidence alone were enough to prove something true in several students’ eyes.

It was a great teaching moment because I was able to go back to our infographic and repeat the questions about domain, author, and triangulation.  Students often didn’t know who made the video or where the picture came from, so we could dig around and look for that info. It was easier to send students back into our databases or Google because they simply didn’t have enough evidence to prove.  Many of them got serious after the conversations and started matching text in the article to text they found in sources. They began showing me that they weren’t just looking at Wikipedia as their only source and were instead using trusted news sites and museum sites.

By the end of our time, most groups had found enough evidence to make their case, and I revealed the truths and lies, which are found at the back of the book.  This is definitely not a one time lesson that will solve all of our research problems, but I loved that so many students were receptive to the idea of digging through multiple sources to prove something right or wrong. Now, my hope is that the momentum we gained from this experience will lead us into our informational writing.

 

Two-Voice Poetry

5th grade spent two days reading and creating two voice poetry. This project came about after I met with Mrs. Freeman to brainstorm ideas for her ELA classes.  We were looking at this standard:

ELAGSE5RL6  Describe how a narrator’s or speaker’s point of view influences how events are described.

During our planning, we looked at books and poetry that featured multiple perspectives and decided that we would focus on poetry.  I found several books to serve as mentor texts.

  • Messing Around the Monkey Bars by Betsy Franco
  • Can I Touch Your Hair? Poems of Race, Mistakes, and Friendship by Irene Lathan & Charles Waters
  • Seeds, Bees, Butterflies, & More by Carole Gerber
  • Joyful Noise by Paul Fleischman
  • The Friendly Four by Eloise Greenfield
  • This is Just to Say by Joyce Sidman

During the 2-day project, the students, Mrs. Freeman, and I read aloud examples of poems from each book and talked about the perspectives and style of the poem.  Some were funny.  Some were serious or about historical events. Some were sarcastic. We tried to showcase examples that would appeal to many different interests.  Then, we set students up for their work session.

In pairs, students continued to read mentor poems from the featured books to get more familiar with how two voices could work together from two different perspectives.

When they felt ready, they moved to a brainstorming sheet. On the sheet, they thought of possible topics along with what two perspectives could talk about that topic in the poem.  We encouraged students to choose two perspectives that would offer a different take on the chosen topic.  We tried not to give too many examples, but if students were stuck, we made suggestions that might spark their own ideas: hot cheetos/hot takis, cell phone/landline, nintendo/xbox, school/home, twitter/instagram, etc.

Once they decided on the topic and perspectives they liked, they started trying out some lines of their poem.  Many students looked back to the mentor poems for a structure or style of writing.  Others picked topics like politics, where they needed to do some additional research in order to truly take on the perspective they were attempting.

Mrs. Freeman, Mr. Kinnaird (student teacher), Mrs. Mullins (collaborative spectrum teacher), Mrs. Kelley (special education teacher) and I all walked around and conferenced with writing pairs.  We nudged them to expand their voice, use descriptive language, and practice their poem before publishing.

The work session spanned both days.  Once students were ready to publish, they used their computers to record their poem on Flipgrid.  This is a piece of the project that will continue in the coming days as students finish their poetry.

There were several moments where I paused and looked around at the whole group of students working. What amazed me was how engaged each pair of students was.  Yes, students worked at different paces and some needed more support than others, but no student sat back and did nothing. They were focused on the task, and it made me wonder about this particular experience and what made all students engaged.  Was it the choice? Was it the partnership? Was it the freedom of poetry? Was it interest? Was it the authentic audience on Flipgrid?  I don’t have the answer, but what I do know is that I loved this experience and I hope I can continue to create these kinds of projects with teachers and students in the future.

Please take time to listen to the many student voices on this Flipgrid.  You can leave students comments on this post or use the emoji reactions on each video to let them know how their poetry made you feel.

The Meaning of Home: A 5th Grade Art Project

For the past month of our 5th graders have been exploring the meaning of home through art. They began their journey by reading Home by Carson Ellis and watching a video of Carson in her home.

They brainstormed what symbolized home for each of them. It is more than the physical building. It’s what you miss when you leave. It’s what comforts you.  It’s what makes you feel at home.

Using a variety of materials such as tissue paper, cardboard, construction paper, paint, and more, they began to construct a scene.  A portion of every student’s scene was made using a 3Doodler pen. These pens warm filament into a steady flow of material to 3D design in a freeform style. It took some tinkering to get used to these pens, but once students figured out the best strategies, they were designing swings, trampolines, bedrooms, trees, and more objects that symbolized home.  This work began in the library and continued in art until students finished.

As students finished their work, we began to construct an exhibit on the shelves of the library. Students filled out an artist statement to accompany each piece so that people touring the exhibit could learn more about each representation of home.  They also took time to record a Flipgrid to show and talk about their art.  This allowed people who aren’t at our school to also take a tour and meet the artists.

Click to hear the voices of our artists

We also wanted to inspire our youngest artists with our project, so once the project was on full display, we invited Kindergarten classes to come to art class with each 5th grade class.  The 5th graders were in charge of the lesson and tour (with the facilitation of Ms. Foretich, art teacher).

The Kindergarten classes started on the carpet. A 5th grader read Home by Carson Ellis and students viewed a few of the Flipgrid videos. Ms. Foretich invited students to think about some questions they might ask the artists as they toured the exhibit. During this time, the rest of the 5th grade class was making sure their art pieces were ready and waited on the Kindergarten to begin touring.

Classes began wandering through the exhibit and listening to 5th graders talk about the process and materials of their art. One of the special things was when a student would make a connection to a piece of art and share a special moment about “home” from their own life.

The Kindergarten students left the library buzzing with excitement and talking about a project that they hoped they got to do in 5th grade. I’m sure Ms. Foretich is already brainstorming what these students might do next year so they don’t have to wait until 5th grade to do a project like this one.

This project was filled with student voice and ownership, and we learned something about each student that we might not know. It was also filled with perseverance and creativity. We were so impressed with what the students created. When we take time to get to know our students, it leads to connection, understanding, and new conversations. I would love to think about more opportunities to make these connections, especially earlier in students’ elementary years so that we can grow together through the year.

What represents home for you?

Students as Teachers: Exploring Text Structure with Flipgrid

text-structure-17

At the beginning of the year, I started talking with Melissa Freeman, 5th grade teacher, about exploring text structure in the library.  The very 1st unit in 5th grade language arts starts with text structure which explores the following standard.

ELAGSE5RI5  Compare and contrast the overall structure (e.g., chronology, comparison, cause/effect, problem/solution) of events,ideas, concepts, or information in two or more texts.

Melissa was wondering how to make the topic more engaging and wondered about the possibility of a library scavenger hunt.  We really weren’t sure where to go with the idea so we kept bouncing around possibilities over email and in person. She even came to the library and worked with me to pull books out of the nonfiction section and start sorting them into stacks.

text-structure-16 text-structure-15

I continued this process so that we knew we had examples of compare/contrast, description, sequence/order, cause/effect, and problem/solution.  Then, I mixed them all up.  We knew that even though we personally picked a book for a specific structure that students might find other examples of text structure within the book.  We were also excited that students would have some one-on-one time looking through some nonfiction books that they might not know that the library has.

text-structure-14 text-structure-13

In one of our brainstorms, I thought about the possibility of students recording their findings in a digital way that could be shared with one another and also other grade levels. I originally thought it would be a good way for them to agree or disagree with examples that were discovered, but we expanded the idea to be a way that students could teach other students in our school and other schools about ways text can be organized.

We decided to use Flipgrid for this task.  I created 5 separate questions: one for each type of text structure.  Then, I linked them all on a Symbaloo that Ms. Freeman could share with her students via Google Classroom.

In class, Ms. Freeman introduced each kind of text structure and students started exploring books on Tumblebooks for each structure.

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Each class came to the library for a 50-minute session.  We did a quick mini-lesson to review the structures, show how to use Flipgrid, and share what we hoped students would include in their video. This included things like the book title, author, text structure, and a concrete example from the text to justify the structure chosen.  We also setup the idea that these videos could be a teaching tool for the rest of 5th grade, the school, and other schools.

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I spread the books out at tables and students worked in partners to browse the tables for a book to start with. As they discovered one of the 5 text structures, they prepared to make a video.  Students used their own computers to record a Flipgrid, and then continued exploring for their next book example.

Ms. Freeman, Ms. Mullins (gifted teacher), and I all walked around and chatted with students as they searched through books.  One of our immediate noticings was that students were guessing the structure simply based on the title, topic, or cover of the book.

They weren’t even opening the book to read the text.  While this was a great predictor of what kind of structure might be inside, students were missing the point about looking at the organization. We clarified this in conferences and adjusted our mini-lesson with each class to put a stronger emphasis on explaining.

To close each class, we showed a few of the videos and had student offer noticings about what they heard. I love that in the new Flipgrid, you can actually respond to each video response.  I showed students how the comments they were making could actually be added right onto our Flipgrid.  I also encouraged each person who made a video to think about how they might add to their original video by posting a new video as a response.

The plan is for students to continue using these Flipgrids in class to post additional examples and respond to one another. We hope that eventually there will be some strong examples that can be shared with other classes in our school as well as with schools we collaborate with.

In the meantime, it’s a work in progress.

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Preparing and Reflecting on Our Immigration Simulation Via Flipgrid

immigration simulation (1)

Each year, our 5th grade studies immigration and Ellis Island as a part of their social studies standards. For these standards, the teachers work together to prepare students for an Ellis Island simulation experience that takes place across the first half of a school day. A lot of preparation goes into this event, and I’m excited that the library was able to be a part of the project.

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Before the actual simulation, each student was assigned an immigrant to become for the day. They received a folder with a short description of where their person was coming from, what he/she was bringing, and possibly a bit about why this person was traveling to America. This was all prepared by the Social Studies teacher, Ms. Olin.

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The teachers and I shared a Google Doc where we started putting links to sites that we thought would be helpful for students as they researched the immigrant experience for immigrants coming to America from their assigned country. I took these links and made a research Symbaloo for students to use.

In the library, I introduced students to this Symbaloo and they each received their folder from Ms. Olin. The Symbaloo link was shared with all students in Google Classroom so that they could easily find it again. In addition to a few details about the immigrant, the folder contained a graphic organizer with some details that students needed to gather in order to construct a letter of introduction for Ellis Island. Students used the organizer and Symbaloo for an hour in the library and then continued their research in social studies and language arts.

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In writing, students constructed their letters of introduction and Ms. Olin printed a copy of each letter to put in student folders. Students returned to the library a couple of days before the simulation. They had time to finish letters, and when they were ready, they  used Flipgrid to practice reading their letters. In the past, we’ve found that some students were a bit nervous on the day of the simulation or took some time to get into their character. Our hope was that the Flipgrid would give students a chance to get comfortable with their character and practice speaking from that perspective before being thrown into the simulation. The Flipgrid also gave them a chance to listen to one another’s stories and research since they don’t have a lot of time to do that on the simulation day.

Here’s a look at how their practice turned out:

On the day of the simulation students rotated through many experiences to take on the role of an immigrant coming to America. Many dressed in costume, carried props, and practiced talking in an accent. They carried their folders that we had worked on throughout the project. Parent and community volunteers came in to help lead the stations so that students were able to go through health inspections, written tests, and legal inspections. Many were questioned multiple times about their health or documents. Many students were sent away to search for missing pieces of their documentation or were held in quarantine for various reasons.

When students finally passed through all of the experiences, they took an oath and had a meager celebration of bread and cheese. During this time of eating, students once again used Flipgrid. We brought them back into this century and asked them to think about their experience. They didn’t have a script for this. We just wanted their initial reaction after completing the simulation. There are some interesting stories of how it felt to be questioned so much or be detained.  You can see their reactions here.

The addition of Flipgrid this  year really helped to prepare students for the simulation, to learn from one another’s stories, and also for us to hear a student perspective of going through the simulation that we might not normally here. Each student had a chance to share his/her voice and many spoke up when they might not have spoken up in front of the whole class.  I keep thinking of new ways to use Flipgrid in my teaching. I love how versatile it is and want to continue to push the limits of how the tool is used.

Celebrating International Dot Day with Google Drawing and Cells

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We love Dot Day at our school.  We connect with classrooms around the country across the whole week.  Our students love reading stories and creating dots in creative ways.

This year, our 5th graders are studying cells in science at about the same time as Dot Day, so we decided to connect the two.  Each class came to the library and we spent some time talking about “making our mark” and what that really means.  We gave examples of students who are already making their mark this school year.  I tried to emphasize that a big part of this is trying new things and just seeing where it goes.  We never know when we try something new if it is going to lead us to something awesome.

After this quick mini-lesson, students had a chance to tinker with Google Drawing.  I showed them where it was within Google Drive, but really gave no instruction on how to use it.  They had about 15-20 minutes just to click on everything they could find and see what it did.  Some students found a groove and actually created something they were excited about while others gave themselves permission not to worry about what the page looked like and just get messy clicking buttons.

During the tinkering time, there was a group of students who suddenly started using Google Drawing to make their own emoji.  When I started asking them about their work, they were a bit shy at first because they thought they were in trouble.  However, I told them that new emoji are being created all the time, and they never know when their ideas and creations might lead to the next emoji on our phones.  They were eager to carry on with their work.  I saw other students designing their own jewelry and another creating a building design.

Mrs. Freeman, the reading teacher, and I transitioned students from tinkering into using Google Drawing to make a cell for Dot Day.  We pulled up some examples of animal and plant cells and then students referenced those as they drew and labeled their cells.

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One of the things I loved was walking around and seeing how unique each student made his/her cell.  One student talked about how the organelles looked like bacon so he actually imported a picture of bacon into his cell drawing.  Awesome!

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As we neared the end of our time, we took a moment to highlight various student work.  It was selected for many reasons, not just because it had all of the parts of a cell labeled.

We closed by once again revisiting the idea that by trying a new tool, we are opening up possibilities for future projects and creations that might lead us to making our mark on the world in some fantastic way.

Happy Dot Week!