Monday, April 29, 2013

Inferring, Tadpole-ing, Reciting, Dragon-slaying

PreK 3 and 4: Guiding Question - How do frogs grow?

Our weekly theme was "frogs" and there are lots of fun stories to choose from for this.

Growing Frogs, by Vivian French, illustrated by Alison Bartlett

A girl and her mother experiment with growing frogs. They bring home some of the eggs from the pond, put them in a tank, and watch and talk about what they observe. 

The information in this narrative nonfiction story is just the right amount for toddlers, and the illustrations are clear and cheery.

DVD: Seasons (Weston Woods)
Polliwog and Caterpillar, by Jack Kent

Caterpillar brags about her upcoming metamorphosis, and Polliwog is very happy for her. He learns that he, too, will be changing, but he's not sure what he'll become. He cheerfully waits for her transformation and while he's waiting...oh look what happens!

Kindergarden: Guiding Question - How does inferring help us understand a story better?

Click, Clack, Moo, by Doreen Cronin

The cows learn to type and use their new skill to demand better treatment from the farmer. The farmer is not giving in to their demands, so they go on strike: no milk! Eventually a negotiation yields them some success, but what about the farmer? He's still in a pickle. 

Inference task: What happened that put him back where he started?

Another Brother, by Matthew Cordell

This story perfectly captures the complexities of being the oldest sibling. Davy is blissfully alone with his parents for four years, but then siblings strike. They're all brothers (12 of 'em) and all the time they copy him and follow him around. Will he ever get some peace? Adorable line drawings with lots of detail and expression add to our picture of Davey's plight.

Inference task: How does Davy really feel about being the oldest and most copied sibling?

Yo! Yes?, by Chris Raschka

Two boys navigate those first moments of a possible friendship: the "want to be my friend?" that's so hard to express. Raschka's illustrations capture the tension of the moment: one boy so outgoing and ready to take a risk, the other's body language showing his fear and self-doubt. This would make a good story for the beginning of the year in our school where one-third of our students are new each year.

Inference task: "read" the pictures and expressions to describe the boys' feelings.

Grade 1: Guiding Question - Who was Josef Albers?

An Eye for Color, by Natasha Wing, illustrated by Julia Breckenreid

We learned about Josef Albers, who grew up in a coal-mining town in Germany and was fascinated by art from an early age. He experiments with many media but eventually came to study colors and the effect of their interactions with each other.

Afterward, students looked at a website showing many of Albers' famous "color squares" and shared what they noticed about them.

Which colors "pop" or fade for you?

Grade 2: Guiding Question - What is the story of George and the Dragon?

Saint George and the Dragon, retold by Margaret Hodges, illustrated by Trina Schart Hymen

This tells the legend of St. George, the Red Cross Knight, and Una, the princess who finds him. She's been on a quest to find someone to save her village from a vicious dragon. The depth of description is powerful and story of how the dragon and George trade blows is intense.

Although longer than what we usually read in grade 2, the writing and illustrations are captivating, plus it's a bit gory. Beautiful use of border artwork and finely detailed faces make this story come alive. I was impressed with how well everyone followed the action of this classic tale.

Grade 3: Guiding Question - How can we read a poem with expression and show our understanding of rhyme and rhythm?

As a culminating activity, students came prepared to read a poem chosen for effective rhyme and rhythm. We talked about how to read with expression:

- follow the punctuation, not the line breaks to avoid a "sing-songy" feel.
- read for understanding, to communicate the ideas of the poem.
- use a variety of tones (vs. monotone)
- use an even volume
- use facial expressions (smile! frown!) to suit the poem.

As an example, I read "Doll", by Myra Cohn Livingston, two times: in a "regular" way, and then with expression that helped convey the story of the poem. 

Students practiced reading in pairs, wrote notes about the rhyme scheme and rhythm of their poem, and then recorded it all into Photo Booth. We used a "one take" rule since this was not meant to be a polished project, just a snapshot at the end of this mini-unit.

Here's an example of a student's "one take."

Grade 4 and 5 came to check out.

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