Giving Students Choice in their Writing

In writing workshop, I’ve been teaching an independent writing unit, where my students wrote a piece in the genre of their choice. My students enjoyed having this choice, since there were quite a few genres that we didn’t get to cover throughout the year such as historical fiction, mystery, and action/adventure. At the same time, many students chose to write stories or articles in genres that we did study this year. Even though the students had independence in choosing their genre, they went through a structured writing process together.

One interesting aspect about this unit was seeing how they naturally formed writing groups and partnerships. There were groups that wanted to write in a specific genre or write about the same topic. I had a few students wanting to write in partnerships. I did tell them that they could work together, but they had to be responsible to each write their own chapter or section. I saw students bouncing ideas, possible plots and characters with each other. I saw some groups form, and then disband once they realized their group would not work.

I gave my students choice in how they wanted to publish their writing piece as well. I had many students using ibooks author program to create booklets. My students really enjoyed making ibooks for our fantasy stories in the last unit. Then, they were able to put their ibook into flipsnack in order to post it on their blog! Here is a picture of a student’s ibook put online via flipsnack book. On the blog, you can actually flip through the pages of the book.

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One great book I recommend that you read is Independent Writing by Colleen Cruz. This is a great resource on how to teach students to be independent with their writing and she gives good outlines on how to teach an independent writing unit.

independent writing

Even though we had a limited amount of time for this unit (about 3 weeks), my students were able to produce solid pieces from varying genres. More importantly, they were really engaged and excited to work on their writing.

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Guest Read Aloud in Melody’s Class!

While I was in Korea, I had the chance to visit Melody’s kindergarten/1st grade classroom. I was really excited to meet her students and read to them. I read aloud the story Peter’s Chair by Ezra Jack Keats. Afterwards, we filled out this fun story map that Melody had made. On post-its I wrote down what the students shared. We went through the title, characters, setting, problems, solutions and theme. It was a great way to get them discuss the different elements of the story. I was so impressed that they were able to answer all these including the theme!

Afterwards, we did a quick question and answer session with them. They asked me about Singapore and my students. We had some time left before lunch so we played with some super cold play dough as well. I’ve never taught such young kids before, so it was a lot of fun to be in their class. I always have a lot of respect for teachers that teach the younger kids!  I’m not sure I would have the energy and patience. Thank you Melody for letting me visit your classroom! You have an amazing class and I could tell that  you are making an impact in their lives. 🙂

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                                         Photo credit to Melody.     

Read Aloud…is it worth it?

Yes, it is totally worth it! I had a chance to present with another amazing 2nd grade teacher, Elaine, at my school about the joy and importance of read aloud at the KORCOS conference on Friday. It was a pretty relaxed and hopefully informative session for the people that came. Here is the slide show that we presented. A lot of these nuggets of information we gained last summer at the Teacher’s College Summer Reading Institute.

We also modeled reading aloud two different picture books. Some of the strategies we modeled were stop & jot, turn & talk, allowing students to envision by not showing the pictures at first, and thinking aloud as you are reading as a mentor reader for your students.

Elaine & Me

Here is a link to the wiki site, where we put a list of books we recommend for read aloud, book clubs, poetry and mentor texts.

I absolutely love read aloud time with my students. I’m glad I could share some of this passion I have with other educators at the KORCOS conference. Again, if you have any questions about any of our posts or other education related questions, feel free to leave a comment.  We will do our best to respond to your questions. Or just let us know that you stopped by our site. 🙂 Like Melody mentioned in her post, we ❤ comments!

Celebrating Read Aloud

I still remember the Korean picture book my mom used to read to me when I was little, 101 Dalmations. I know it sounds so random, but I can still remember some of the pictures from the book and of course the story, everyone is familiar with. I used to love getting books read by my mom, don’t know why she stopped! 🙂

As I started teaching fifth grade here in Korea, I’ve really enjoyed being able to read aloud to my students. I try to spend a good chunk of time everyday reading aloud. Sometimes the read aloud might relate to what we’re learning in science. Other times we are reading through a chapter book that can last over a few weeks. I love reading picture books with great illustrations. Those are my absolute favorite.

Here is a really interesting article about the importance of read aloud by the Donalyn Miller. She’s the author of one of my favorite teacher books, The Book Whisperer.

Make Every Day Read Aloud Day Article by the Book Whisperer

Also, did you know that there’s a world read aloud day?? How cool is that.

World Read Aloud Day on March 7th

There’s also Read Across America every year, and this year it’s based on the book The Lorax by Dr. Seuss, just in time of when the movie comes out. Our school does something similar to this, but we pick our own theme that works. In the past, we’ve done Read Across Asia and Dr. Seuss theme. This year’s theme it’s Kevin Henkes. I’m sure either Melody or I will be post more about that later!

NEA- Read Across America

My friend and co-worker Elaine will be presenting at Korcos at Chadwick International School on March 7th about using read aloud in your classroom. We will be modeling and giving helpful tips! Please make sure to join us if you’re interested.

Some of my favorite read alouds!

What was your favorite book you got read to you?

What books do you like to read aloud to your students?

Tips for Successful Reading Buddies

This is our second year working together as reading buddies. It works out pretty well since I teach 5th grade and Melody teaches 2nd grade. Last year, for the first reading buddy activity, we had our students fill out Venn diagrams of their similarities and differences.

This year, we we wanted to try something different and incorporate our new IPADs. We had the students use the photo booth on the IPADs to take photos with their reading buddy. They had to take different photos, using each of the photo settings. We told them that both of them had to be in the photo. The students had a great time taking photos with each other.  The second activity we had our students do was create a list of their similarities using the notepad on the IPAD.

Students have fun using the photo booth options on the IPAD.

Students taking photos together.

Tips on Successful Reading Buddies:

1. Match up students carefully.

Take into account students’ personalities, behavior, and reading levels so that partnerships are successful.

2. Explicitly teach the older students how to read aloud.

 I will usually do a mini-lesson or demonstration with my students on strategies for reading aloud picture books before we read with our reading buddies.

3. Mix it up every week.

Sometimes we encourage the fifth graders to pick their favorite books in advance to bring to read. Other times, we go to the library together and students pick out books together and read. Some weeks, we do a hands-on activity together which helps deepen their relationships and allows them to get to know each other in another way. This is particular good for those students that are struggling readers, but excel in other areas like art.

4. Invite your reading buddy class to your class events.

Last year, we invited our reading buddies to come watch our poetry cafe. This year, we went into their class to share what we learned during our nonfiction unit in reading workshop.

5. Do a long term project together.

Last year, we had students create picture books for each other. It did take about 1-2 months to plan, draft, revise and publish their books. It was nice though because at the end, they gave their buddy the book they made. This year, they are creating a math picture book together.

6. Integrate the activity to your curriculum.

When our students were working on their poetry unit, we had them work on writing poetry together with their reading buddy. The fifth graders were good at teaching the second graders about poetry and they did a great job working together to create poems. Poetry is a great and easy unit to incorporate into your reading buddies and it’s part of the curriculum.