Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Read Like a Writer

We are sharing our love of the written word as a part of the Superb Writers’ Blogathon. In partnership with Grammarly grammar checker, this series is bringing helpful hints to all kinds of students.

CCSS Writing Anchor Standard 5 says that students should be able to “develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, and editing” with expectations for revision increasing with age.


Revision includes elaboration. One way to elaborate is to focus on getting your meaning across through the use of a variety of author's craft. Reading texts like a writer will help your students discover and use author's craft.

Katie Wood Ray in her book Wonderous Words says,
When we read with the eyes and ears of a writer, we focus less on what the writer is trying to say and more on how the writer is saying it. Specifically, we look at the craft moves the writer makes to get his or her message across and the way those moves affect us as readers.  When we notice an author’s intentional use of craft we have a window into the mind of the writer and we can begin to teach our students how to use these techniques in their own writing and stand on the shoulders of professional writers.
It is during close re-readings of texts that you can shift your instructional focus from what the piece is about to how the author wrote it. This type of reading will help students apprentice themselves to great writers, taking apart the writing to see what they can learn from it.  

Reading like a writer does not come naturally to everyone. In his book, LIVE Writing, Ralph Fletcher compares it to watching a magic trick.
Don't be surprised if this kind of reading feels new and awkward at first. It may be a kind of reading you've never done before. Then again, you may not respond to a piece of writing in the same way I do. That's okay. Writing is not an exact science. Each of us will learn something different from the same piece of writing. Reading like a writer is like watching a magic act. The magician cuts a rope into three pieces, puts it into a hat, wave the wand, and pulls it out:  Presto! The rope is back in one piece!  Our first reaction to a magic trick is: "Whoa! Awesome!" But that is quickly followed by a second reaction: "How did he do that?" And a split second later there is usually a third reaction:  "Do it again so I can figure out how to do it myself."
How do you teach students to read this way? Use the CCSS Language Arts standards to provide you and your students a focus for the close reading.

Here is an example. 

The focus of this series of lessons will be CCSS Anchor Standards W-5, RL-4 and L-5a, more specifically grade 5, with the goal of having students recognize and interpret figurative language and to then be able to elaborate in their writing using what they’ve learned. We are going to focus on metaphors, similes, and personification.

We chose the book Owl Moon because it is so rich in figurative language. If you haven’t read the book before, make sure that you first read it to your students for enjoyment. After the first read, ask "What did you think? Did you like it? What were you thinking about or wondering as I read it?" 

Explain to students that they will now be reading the story again but this time like a writer. During the first re-reading, ask students to highlight words and phrases that help them to  see, feel, and hear what is going on in the story.  "What are the words that helped you feel like you are right there, in the story?" Then ask students to turn and talk with a partner. "Tell your partner what the word/phrases were and tell him or her what the word/phrase did for you as a reader." This important step helps students to not only solidify their own understanding but to also gain another person’s perspective.

Introduce similes and metaphors as one of the techniques that authors use. Ask students to go back to their highlighted phrases and find metaphors or similes. Have them share whole class. Create a list of the metaphors and similes they've found. Explain to students that they will be creating a writing tool for the class writing center, a Similes and Metaphor book.

Using 8 1/2 x 11 paper, have students make a ¾ Book Foldable®.  On the inside of the left tab, students will write one of the similes or metaphors. (the snow below it was whiter than the milk in a cereal bowl ) On the outside of the upper right tab students will write the comparison (snow is being compared to milk in a cereal bowl), underneath the right tab, write the interpretation of the metaphor or simile (It means that the snow is very white and clean looking) and on the bottom of the right side, draw an image of the simile or metaphor. Glue all of the students ¾ books side by side to make the class Similes and Metaphors book.

Next, assign partners pages from a previously read chapter book. We like The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg, which is filled with rich figurative language. With a partner, they will locate more similes and metaphors, and create additional ¾ books of their favorites for the class side- by-side book. Be sure to provide time for students to share. 

Create a 2 Tab Foldable® for the last page of the book. Glue it side by side to the last 3/4 book. Label one tab similes and one tab metaphors. Tell students that they are going to find similes and metaphors in all of the great books that they are reading and that you'd like them to keep adding similes and metaphors to the class book. They can collect them under the tabs on this last page (or pages if you need more).

Have students read a piece of writing that they’ve been working on to a peer. Together they will find places where the writer could elaborate with similes or metaphors and then add similes or metaphors to the piece.

After these introductory lessons, continue to observe your students' understanding and use of figurative language. Are they noticing similes and metaphors in the texts they read? Are they able to interpret what they mean and what impact they have on the reader? Are they using similes and metaphors in their own writing?

We've created a formative assessment tool to help you monitor the progress of your students and ensure the implementation of the targeted standards. We developed a progress map using the The National Center for the Improvement of Educational Assessment (NCIEA) Learning Progressions Frameworks. The Learning Progressions Frameworks was designed for use with the Common Core State Standards. They help you see your students along a continuum of learning, rather than simply seeing some students “behind” in their learning (Hess, 2008a). To use the assessment tool, look for evidence of your students demonstrating the descriptors/progress indicators. Jot down the evidence underneath the descriptors/progress indicator that is being demonstrated by the student on the progress map.  

The next step would be for students to repeat this process looking for the figurative language of personification.

Check out Dinah-Might Adventures for directions for the 3/4 Book Foldable® and other Foldable® ideas.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Unfolding the Common Core

These days we are expected to implement the Common Core State Standards. Well, at least forty-five states have adopted them so far. So, over the next series of blog posts, we will be focusing on a variety of Foldables® that can help you teach in ways that will bring your students to the the Common Core Standards' level of work in reading. There are 10 Common Core State Anchor Standards for Reading and they progress through the grades with the goal of ensuring that all students are college and career ready in literacy by the time they leave high school.  

The CCSS requires that:
“Students cite specific evidence when offering an oral or written presentation of a text. They use relevant evidence when supporting their own points in writing and speaking, making their reasoning clear to the reader or listener, and they constructively evaluate others’ use of evidence.” (CCSS for ELA and Literacy inHistory/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects, Introduction, p.7)

Therefore, the focus of each of our posts will be on CCSS Reading Anchor Standard 1, 
Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text, as it serves another Reading Anchor Standard. 

This post will target Anchor Standard 3, more specifically grades 3-5, with the goal of describing characters, drawing on specific details in the text which students will then use to support their thinking when writing or speaking.

We will show you how we did the lesson for grade 4 but depending on your focus at your grade level you can modify it to fit your needs.

But, before we begin, we want to share a quote that truly resonates with us.
“The ultimate purpose of reading literature is to explore what kind of person we want to be as well as how to become that kind of person and avoid becoming something else.  That’s why we love literature and find it such a powerful pursuit to undertake with the students. We think that the lessons on understanding character … help students experience something of the feelings about literature that we have.  That’s an important goal – one that’s well worth the effort to achieve.” (Smith &Wilhelm. Literary Elements. New York: Scholastic, 2010, p.59)

We used this quote because we couldn’t have said it any better ourselves.  The standard as it stands alone is an important reading skill and could easily be taught in isolation. But teaching students in a way that involves them in learning from the characters in stories and looking to books for insights about themselves and the lives of others gives them purpose for reading. We love the impact that literature can have on our own lives in that our own learning about life can be enhanced through our reading about the lives of the characters in books.

So, how can teachers help their students to understand the importance of really knowing the characters, learning about their own lives as they read about the lives of others?  Well, we hope that the strategies that we are providing in this post will be a good beginning.     

The following activity uses a Foldable® template found in Dinah Zike's Notebooking Central: Notebook Foldables®: Literature Response Including Literature Circles.

We used this lesson in a literature unit that uses the book Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, as an anchor text. Students explore the essential questions; How did I become who I am today? What will influence who I become? as they closely study the journey of fictional characters, keeping track of the effects that each significant encounter with an event or character has on him or her. It is critical in this unit that students understand the characters fully in the beginning of the story.

In this lesson, students begin by re-reading closely part of the story to find textual clues about the main characters. Then they use those clues to make inferences about the character's personalities, beliefs, values, and emotions.

Close Reading:  Minli Characterization Clues 

Begin by showing students how to fold, glue, and cut the Characterization Clues Foldable®. First, cut out the Foldable® along the outer solid double lines. The “Clues” column on the left is the anchor tab to be glued down into their notebooks. After gluing into their notebooks, show students how to fold along the dotted line and cut the rows up to the dotted line. 

Pass out packets made up of pages 2-4 and pages 8-15 from the book. We chose these pages from the beginning of the story because there are many character clues about Minli. Students will need a pink highlighter. Introduce the activity by asking students how well do they think they know Minli so far? Say, "Did you realize that the better you know the characters in the story the more you will get out of the book? Really knowing the characters not only helps you better understand the story but it also makes it more enjoyable." Tell students that authors leave clues in the story that help readers get to know their characters. Say “Today we are going to get to know Minli by being reading detectives. We are going to find the character clues that the author has left.” 

Begin to closely read the first page together. Project the story either  using a document camera, overhead or SMART Board so students can follow as you model. Ask students to help you look for clues that the author leaves that reveal information about Minli. Refer to the headings on the left of the Characterization Clues Foldable®. Begin by looking for those clues about the character that the the writer tells us directly, then move onto the other clues;  the writer tells us the words the character speaks, the writer tells us the character’s thoughts and feelings, the writer tells us the character’s actions, and the writer tells us how others react to the character. 

As you look for clues, first model as students follow along and highlight the clues you’ve found, then gradually release responsibility to the students. For example, ask students to read the next paragraph to themselves or with a partner, highlighting the clues they found and then have them share with the class. 

Sort the Characterization Clues. 

Work with the students to sort the highlighted information found during their Close Reading under the appropriate clue types on the Characterization Clues Foldable®. There is room for only two examples for each type of clue. Have students individually decide which clues they think are the most important to put under the tabs and explain why. As they sort, discuss what they are learning about Minli from the clues. 

Partners: Ma and Ba Characterization Clues 

Assign partners for either Ma or Ba. Have students use yellow for Ma and green for Ba. Their task is to highlight clues and sort them into another Characterization Clues Foldable® that they’ve cut, folded and glued into their notebooks. When finished, have groups report out.

Make the Characterization Bulletin Board. 

To make the bulletin board display, ask for volunteers to draw the main characters they have encountered in the story so far, Minli, Ma, and Ba.  Arrange the characters on a bulletin board.

Create an Envelope Foldable® for each character. You can find directions for how to make an Envelope Foldable® in any of Dinah Zike's books. Label each tab on the Envelope Foldables® with the following: Feelings, Character Traits, What He/She Believes, What He/She Cares About. Staple the Envelope Foldables® next to the pictures of the characters on the bulletin board. Depending on your goals, you can use this board in a variety of ways. You can use it to display the characterization of each of the main characters, to keep track of the relationships between the characters, to compare and contrast characters, or as in our case, to follow the characters' journeys in the story, noting the impact that significant people and events have on them.

Character Envelope Foldables®  

Together, discuss and fill in under the tabs on the Envelope Foldable® for Minli, using the textual evidence that the students have collected in their notebook Characterization Clues Foldable®. Be sure students can support their ideas with evidence from the text. 

Divide students into groups of four, made up of two students who have collected clues about Ma and two students who have collected clues about Ba. In their groups, have them create two Envelope Foldables® like the ones on the board, one for Ma and one for Ba. Give the group about 15 minutes to fill in the information under the tabs, using the evidence they collected in the Characterization Clues Foldables®. After groups have completed their Foldables®, share whole class and combine their ideas into the Ma and Ba Foldables® on the bulletin board. 

Later in the story, students will encounter the Dragon, another main character. Use this as an assessment opportunity and have students individually find evidence, fill out a Characterization Clues Foldable® and make an Envelope Foldable®

A Note About the Text

Where the Mountain Meets the MoonWhere the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin is one of the 4-5 text exemplars list in Appendix B  of the CCSS. Be sure to read our earlier post about this book, Hero's Quest Shutterfold  Foldable® Project.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Why We Love Patricia Polacco

It is important for students to not only recognize how a character learns and grows, but to also understand how the story's unfolding events affected those changes. This Foldable® has students consider the underlying reasons of why a main character changed, supporting their ideas and inferences with evidence from the text.

We love to use Patricia Polacco's autobiographical books to teach this concept because she is able to express the feelings she experienced so vividly. It is obvious from reading her stories that she has been influenced by so many events and people in her life.

We used the book Mrs. Mack for our whole class model.

How a Character Changes Top-Tab Foldable®
Begin by having the students make a Top Pocket Foldable® with 11 X 17 card stock. Cut the left and right inside Shutterfolds® into 4-tabs. Label the tabs on each side with the following: What She Does, What She Says or Thinks, How She Looks, and How Others Respond to Her. On the outside cover of the left shutterfold, write At the Beginning and on the outside cover of the right Shutterfold®, write At the End. Write the name of the main character, in this case, Patricia on the front cover, too. We also glued illustrations from the beginning and end of the story, but you could have students draw their own illustrations.

In the middle of the inside of the Foldable®, glue a 2-tab made out of a half sheet of 8 1/2 X 11 paper. Label the upper tab "How the Main Character Changed" and "Why She Changed". 

Have students fold a sheet of paper into fourths, hot dog style, and then into fourth's , hamburger style, creating a 4x4 table.  Label the left column of the table with the following: Event, How Patricia Reacted, How Others Responded, and Why I Chose This Event. Have students fold the table so that it fits into the pocket of the Top Pocket Foldable®.

Introduce the whole class guided activity by discussing these questions, Think about yourself a year ago. Have you changed? How? How has your behavior changed? How have you as a person changed? Is there anything that you used to be nervous about and are not anymore? What made you change?

On an index card, ask students to respond to this question: "What makes people change?" Save as a pre-assessment. Tell students that they will be learning about why people change through characters in stories. This will help them better understand themselves, better understand others, and better understand the stories they read.

Read the first few pages of the story (to the second paragraph on page 14) and fill in the left side of Foldable® with evidence from the text. Using that information, discuss what it tells you about Patricia so far. What character traits does she have? What does she care about? What is her attitude? What is she feeling? How do you know?

Read the rest of the story. Go back and fill in the right side of the Foldable®, again using evidence from the story. Using that information, discuss Patricia at the end of the story. What character traits is she showing? What does she care about? What is her attitude? What are her feelings?

After filling in all of the information, open up the left and the right side tabs so that students can easily compare the character at the beginning of the story with the end of the story. Discuss, what has changed?

Ask, when did she change? Did she change all at once or did it happen over time? Which events do you think changed her? List those events on the board. Go back to the text and analyze the events. Discuss, which three events do you think made the most impact on Patricia's change? Why are those the most important? 

Have each student determine his/her three key events, and then fill in all the cells on his/her table, (event, how she reacted to the event, how others responded to the events and why this event was chosen). After completing their tables, have students discuss Patricia's changes using all of the evidence they collected. How did she change and why? Students then write about Patricia's changes under the tabs the 2-tab Foldable®.

To differentiate and provide guided and independent practice, choose from the following Patricia Polacco autobiographical books. Students can work with partners, small groups or individually, making and filling in a How Characters Change Top Pocket Foldable® and events table for the character in each book they read. 

Mrs. Mack

The Junkyard Wonders

Thunder Cake

Rotten Richie and the UltimateDare

My Rotten Redheaded Older Brother Story

Thank you, Mr. Falker

The finished Top Pocket Foldables® make a wonderful display as students share and discuss the comparisons and connections between the characters in the books they've read. An author study would be a natural extension, as students learn about Patricia Polacco's life, customs, beliefs, and values through her stories.

As a post assessment have students respond to the following questions:
How do people change?
Why do they change?
What does this tell you about people in general?
How does understanding characters and how they change teach you? How does it help you as a reader and a writer?

Check out any of Dinah Zike's Big Books of Foldables® at Dinah-Might Adventures for the directions for the Top Pocket Foldable®and other Foldable® ideas.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

The Forces That Move Us

Student teams in the process of creating their castles

I wanted to give my students an exciting science project to work on that would require them to apply all the team building skills they had developed during the year. My last unit in Science was Forces and Motion, so I decided that since my students are into fantasy, each team would need to create a castle, out of everyday "junk”, that uses forces, motion and six simple machines in its design.

I introduced the concept of forces and motion with the first chapter in the book, A Crash Course in Forces and Motion with Max Axiom, Super Scientist by Emily Sohn. The graphics and fast paced text kept my 4th graders engaged as we read about a superhero who uses the amusement park to explain the science behind forces and motion. I also purchased the Audible Audio Edition of the book for $2.95, which was used in a center, along with the book, as a way of reinforcing their learning.

Before listening to the first chapter, I asked my students, "Think about your favorite amusement park ride. What are some words to describe how you move when you are on that ride?" As they shared their responses, I asked, "What is the ride doing? What is happening to your body? How does it make you feel?"

The students were equipped with pencils, paper and clipboards. Their job was to write down science words as they were introduced in the story. I asked them to raise their hand when they heard a word and I would stop reading while we all jotted the words down on our paper.

We discussed our word list and narrowed it down to words that supported the concept of force and motion. Then, we counted up the number of words we had left and created a 3/4 Book Foldable® out of yellow copy paper for each word. Students wrote the word on the outside of the tab and we talked about what we remembered from the book. Students stored their 3/4 Books in Ziploc baggies.

Science instruction for the next few weeks focused on students gaining a deeper understanding of the concepts introduced through the Max Axiom book. Students learned about force, push, pull, gravity, friction, inertia, and acceleration as they hunted for examples around the school, performed simple physics experiments and used print and multimedia as resources. As students learned the concepts they filled in the remaining spaces on the 3/4 Book Foldables® with the following: Under the tab, a definition. Below the definition, real-life examples. To the left of the tab, a labeled picture.

After the students learned about the forces and motion concepts, we moved on to simple machines. Students had already been introduced to a few of the simple machines when they constructed force and motion science kits purchased from the Eli Whitney Museum website. They continued to learn about the six simple machines, the ramp, the inclined plane, the lever, the pulley, the screw, and the wheel and axle through a Bill Nye video, EdHeads, BrainPop and their favorite online game, Twitch. Using green copy paper, they made a 3/4 Book Foldable® for each simple machine, writing the name of the machine on the outside, a sentence underneath, examples, and a picture. All of the 3/4 Book Foldables®, the yellow forces and motion words and the green simple machine words, were glued side-by-side and bound together with a strip of scrap booking paper.

Finally it was time to do the culminating team project, the castles. Students referred to their 3/4 side-by-side Books as they created a castle that used all six simple machines.

Check out Dinah-Might Adventures for directions for the 3/4 Book Foldable®and other Foldable® ideas.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

A Few of Our Favorite Foldables®

Most of the time when it comes to what’s good for students, we only hear from adults. In this post, we decided that instead of hearing yet again from adults, we wanted to share some students’ thoughts on the subject of their favorite Foldables®. The students in the video were all volunteers who gave up their free time on the very last day of school when most students were already in “summer” mode. 

As you will see in the video, what the students say about why they like to use Foldables® only reinforces what we already know and believe about this powerful teaching strategy.

What are a few of your favorite Foldables®? Please share!

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Hero’s Quest Shutterfold Foldable® Project

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon
Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin, tells the beautiful tale of Minli, a "quick thinking" and "quick acting" girl, who has set out to change her family's fortune. On her brave journey to the Never Ending Mountain, Minli meets characters, each has a story to tell, imparting important lessons along the way.

This is an absolutely wonderful book containing a very complex quest with Chinese folktales and symbolism woven throughout the story, providing a cultural and historical context that deepens and enriches the reader's understanding of the characters and events. Also, you discover as you read that all of the characters in the story are connected in some way. Students used a Shutterfold Foldable® Project  to help keep track of the places, characters, and folktales that Minli encountered, the Chinese symbols found in the story, and the items that Minli chose to take on her journey.  Using the Foldable® was important because it provided students with a central location that they used to access information which helped them make sense of what was happening and better comprehend and enjoy this marvelous story.

The Shutterfold Foldable ® Project
Students first made a Shutterfold out of a 11 x 17 piece of cardstock. On the outside, they glued a copy of the cover of the book. This Shutterfold® became the place that held the 3 other Foldables® used in the project.

Foldables Inside the Shutterfold Foldable ®
Envelope Foldable ®: Minli's Blanket
When Minli left for her journey, she carefully packed a collection of objects into a blanket, tying the ends to use it as a carryall. In order for students to make predictions about how "quick thinking" Minli would use the items to get out of predicaments she encountered along her journey, they needed to have the names of those items close at hand. So, using a half sheet of  8 ½  x 11 colored paper, students made an Envelope Foldable® to represent Minli's blanket full of the items she brought on her journey. Inside the Envelope Foldable® they drew and labeled the items. This was glued to the left side of the cardstock Shutterfold Foldable®.

Shutterfold Foldable®: A Map of Minili's Journey          
I introduced the idea of creating a map of Minli's journey by asking my students if they’d ever encountered maps in any of the books they had read. We discussed these questions "What kind of books have maps in them? Why? Do you think maps help you better understand the book? How?" Then I asked “Do you think creating a map of Minli’s story might help us better understand this book?” The students all agreed that a map would be helpful. I projected a few maps from books onto my SMARTboard for the students to use as models and I asked them what they noticed about the maps. I compiled a chart of their responses which included map features such as a compass rose, symbols that represent a mountain, rivers, and forests, labels, arrows, and important places and things from the stories such as a rock, a cave, buildings, bridges, and cities.

Here are some examples of maps from books:
The Shadow Realm from The Other Side of Magic series
Camp Half-Blood from the Lightning Thief series
Mouse Island from Geronimo Stilton Series

Students made a Shutterfold® map out of a piece of 11 x 17 white paper. They glued the back of the middle section of this Shutterfold® to the inside middle section of the cardstock Shutterfold®.

Click on image to enlarge

8-Tab Foldable®: Chinese Symbols
Students used an 8-Tab Foldable, made out of a piece of 8 ½ x 11 of colored paper for the Chinese Symbols found in the story. This was glued to the right side of the cardstock Shutterfold®. On the outside of the tabs, they wrote the Chinese symbols and their meaning. The symbols are explained in the
Where the Mountain Meets the Moon activity book , which is available for download on Grace Lin's website. Under the tabs, students kept track of the places where they discovered hidden symbols in the story.

Using the Foldables®
As we read the story, students carefully drew their maps, adding important details. They recorded the places where the symbols appeared in the story on their 8-Tab Foldable®, drawing conclusions and making inferences. They referred to the items in the blanket to make predictions. The Foldables® gave students easy access to important details as we worked together to make meaning of the sometimes complex weaving of folktales within the story. They used the Foldable
® to help support their thinking as they discussed the story in class or on our discussion wiki, WikiTalks. 

This particular Shutterfold Foldable® can be easily adapted for use with any hero’s quest tale.

You can find directions for all of these Foldables® as well as many more ideas in Dinah Zike’s,
The Big Book of Projects.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Learning About State History with a Class Timeline

“What will you need to bring with you to the media center?” I peer down at the glowing faces of my 4th graders.

“Our pencils, scissors, glue, and the social studies book!” My students reply excitedly as we prepare to begin one of the favorite activities of the day, working on our On This Spot: A Timeline of Connecticut History project.

One of the focuses in our 4th grade Social studies curriculum is learning about the Connecticut people and events that contributed to the freedoms, rights, and quality of life, which benefit us today. Students are part of an online project entitled Connecticut: The Contribution State, where they each research a Connecticut contributor from history and they will publish their findings on the project wiki, sharing their learning through a variety of multimedia such as audio, images, hyperlinked text, digital stories, and video.

Setting the Stage
In order for students to really appreciate what people in history have accomplished, they need to also understand the times during which those people lived. Timelines are great visual tools for understanding the relationships between events and people in history.

I began this project by telling students that we would be learning about Connecticut History and asked them how we might go about doing that. The class brainstormed all kinds of ideas, including field trips, videos, books, the social studies textbook and guest speakers. I captured their ideas on chart paper. The students also brainstormed how they might be able to share their learning with others. Creative ideas such as creating books, videos, teaching other classes, webpages, podcasts, and timelines filled our chart.

On This Spot: An Expedition Back Through Time
Then, I introduced my students to the book On This Spot: An Expedition Through Time. This book shows the changes that have occurred on the spot of New York city, traveling back to the era of New Amsterdam and then the Native Americans to the age of the dinosaurs; then to cataclysmic geological upheavals, including volcanoes, mountains, oceans; and finally, only rock. The book answers the question, "What was here before us?", and helps make complex information immediate for children.  After reading and thoroughly enjoying the book, I asked, “What did you think? What did this book help you understand? Does this give you any ideas for how we might teach others about Connecticut history?”

Bubbling with enthusiasm, the students talked about how the book helped them really think about how one place has changed over time. They said that it made them imagine their own town and about the changes in people and the land. Of course, a many students said “We could make our own On This Spot book about Connecticut!”

"What a great idea. Could it be both a timeline like Jaclyn suggested and a book? What do you think?"  Of course you know their answer, and the rest is history…

The Accordion Foldable® Timeline
Directions for making the Accordion Foldable® 
are available in many of Dinah Zike’s books

The Accordion Foldable ® Timeline uses sheets of 11 X 18 tan tag board which many schools already have in their supply closet.
The solid black line running horizontally through the center of the timeline is black electrical tape.
Dates were printed using Microsoft Word and glued to each section.
The purpose of the line being in the center of the timeline is to split the timeline using the top half to display significant events and the bottom half is reserved for our state’s important people.

Getting the Most Out of our Social Studies Textbook

What memories do you have of your history or social studies textbooks? Do you remember what you read about? Did you ever get through the textbook? We are fortunate to have a wonderful textbook, The Connecticut Adventure. It’s wonderful because it is a great resource; full of information, images, maps, and primary source documents. However, the textbook’s reading level and concepts are too high for most of my students to read and understand on their own. And reading through the entire textbook as it was intended would take up too much time.

Regie Routman in her book, Reading Essentials: The Specifics You Need to Teach Reading Well , suggests that we use our textbooks for shared reading experiences, with the teacher reading, thinking aloud, inviting students to read parts and guiding whole class discussions that help students comprehend the concepts.

After reading a chapter in the textbook through shared reading, I assigned partners an event from the book to reread and summarize in their own words.  Each partner was given a slip of paper with the title and date of the event, and the page number in the textbook where they could find information about the event. Their job was to first reread the pages assigned, type up their summary in Microsoft Word, add a picture or two, and then glue the summary and pictures onto the class timeline in the appropriate location. Here is the Student Directions handout and an example of the assignment slips that were handed out to partners. Some students chose to find more information from books or the Internet before they wrote their summaries.

I supplemented a few of the chapters in the textbook, the one on the Revolutionary War for example, with additional resources. We first watched a couple of videos on Discovery Education about the Revolutionary War to help students gain an understanding of the bigger picture. Then, we read the chapter in the textbook, with a focus on Connecticut’s role during the war.

I chose not to read a couple of the chapters whole class at all. Instead we learned about that time in history through picture books or videos and students then used their textbooks to find specific information about their assigned Connecticut event.

Each time we finished one time period of the timeline, we would begin the next work session by first reading the student work on the timeline.
Not only did all of the students gain knowledge about each others' specific events, it was also a celebration of student work as students read their pieces and the rest of the class clapped and gave each other positive feedback.

Beautiful Oops!
Beautiful Oops!When creating the timeline, it seemed that marking dates at increments of 25 years would be fine, so it read 1700, 1725, 1750, 1775, 1800, etc. After starting the timeline, it became apparent that this was not going to give students enough room to glue all of their work. Students became very territorial over the timeline, and some conflicts emerged as students were all trying to glue their summaries in the same place on the timeline. This is when my mistake became a beautiful oops! Students were encouraged to think outside of the box. How could we fit the event in? Could we make a tab or a Shutterfold that would extend the space, ensuring that everyone’s work could fit it? Conflict quickly turned into collaboration as students worked together figuring out innovative solutions to the lack of space.

The day after this happened I read about the book Beautiful Oops! on the Responsive Classroom blog in the post entitled Fruitful Mistakes. Of course, I purchased the book and read it to my class making the connection to our timeline. We now refer to the book often when mistakes are turned into opportunities.

Students loved this project. They were excited every time they saw Work on Timeline listed on the daily schedule. Today you can find their timeline displayed in our school library.