Sunday, October 26, 2014

Mystery Genre

We've started an in-depth study of the mystery genre by discussing what we already know about mysteries. We also examined the elements of a short story or novel through our reading of the mysterious story, Shadows, by Richard Peck.  Is it a mystery, we asked ourselves?

In this genre study, we will:
• Learn what makes a mystery by defining and identifying characteristics
• Investigate to answer “Whodunit?” through use of reading strategies and close reading skills
• Solve mysteries through logical thinking and drawing conclusions
• Learn the literary techniques that authors use to craft mysteries and engage readers

The unit will involve reading poems, short stories, and nonfiction texts, acting out plays by classic mystery writers, taking part in an interactive whodunit mystery, and much, much more!  We are planning on a guest speaker to talk with students about the scientific side of being an investigator, and some of our students may even decide to write mystery stories themselves!

Word Detectives

The kick-off of our mystery genre study began with a fun and engaging word activity.  Played much like the popular HedBanz board game, students had a word from our reading taped to their foreheads and traveled around the classroom to ask their classmates a series of questions.  The clues (about syllables, part of speech, antonyms, examples, etc.) led students to draw conclusions about which mystery word they had.  Students kept coming back for more words!  They had a fantastic time while learning not just more words, but more about words.

Project Word

Several weeks ago we started a word study unit that will take us through the whole year.  The goal of "Project Word" is to:

1) learn more words
2) learn more about words
3) become a life-long and passionate learner of words

Students began the year-long unit by making a list of their favorite words-- words they love, words that describe them, and words that describe the things they love.  This helped to build our excitement around the study and use of words.  Just recently, we read aloud the tall tale, The Boy Who Loved Words, by Roni Schotter.  In this award-winning book, Selig collects words that sound good to his ears, stir his heart, make him laugh, and inspire others.  Like Selig, we have displayed our favorite and newly-learned words on tree branches to share with other readers and writers.

Monday, October 13, 2014

The Selfie Project

To kick-start our ELA class this year we asked our students to write about five things they thought we should know about them. We then asked them to take five different selfies that illustrate these five things.  Some of the images captured were of students in their favorite locations, with a beloved pet or family member, or holding an object to represent their favorite hobby.  We started the lesson by reading an informational text about the history of the selfie as part of a discussion about the things that skilled readers before, during, and after reading.  Did you know that one of the first selfie's taken by a teenager was in 1914? Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna, at the age of 13, used the Kodak Brownie Box and a mirror to catch this image. The very first known selfie, however, was taken in 1839 by Robert Cornelius, an American pioneer in photography. Those large clunky, cameras have now been replaced by the cell phone, so a selfie is a simple button push away! Grab your phone, a friend, or a favorite object and start snapping photos! Don't forget - you need to be in the photo too!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Aargh Me Mateys... It's Talk Like A Pirate Day!

Ms. Parkes led our middle level teachers in organizing a treasure hunt for our fourth through eighth grader learners for International Talk Like a Pirate Day! We sent our buccaneers off with a map leading them to different math, social studies, grammar, and reading comprehension challenges and a chance to win some pirate booty!

Rule of Thumb

Skilled readers use a variety of strategies when choosing the right book. The Rule of Thumb is a quick and easy way to determine if a book might be a holiday, a just right, or a challenge. When using this strategy students open to any page in a new book and begin reading. They keep a count of the number of words they struggle to read with the fingers on one hand. If they reach five words the book might be a challenge for them. We understand, however, that this is just one way to choose a book! We must also consider genre, plot structure, theme, and more!

Recipes for Success

At the start of our school year our students engaged in a great conversation centered around classroom expectations and student behavior. To demonstrate their understanding and feelings about what it takes to be a successful learner, groups of students created recipes for success. Students were placed in small groups where they brainstormed the qualities of a successful learner, decided how much of each trait a student needed, and what these traits, when combined, would create. They then put this all together in a recipe for success. Based on what they came up with, they are well on their way to a successful year!


Which team was the first to finish? At the beginning of the school year we challenged our sixth, seventh, and eighth grade students to complete a 100 piece puzzle as fast as they could. This required each team to come up with a plan and work together to build their puzzle. Each team did an amazing job! We had some fast finishers! One team was done in under ten minutes!