Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Archetypes: the Roles Characters Play~Minilesson Magic!

Minilesson Magic on a Wednesday? I must be ready for a break :) Good thing I held out though because I have a great reading minilesson to share with a freebie handout.

This week I want to share a lesson I did on archetypes. I am defining an archetype (on a 5th grade level) as a "character type that reoccurs in many stories." My students and I had already talked about archetypes last year, so this lesson was a review to remind them that it is a really good idea to be thinking about the roles that characters are playing. We are still on our journey of reading and analyzing holocaust-related historical fiction. (We took the time to read two book club books on this topic in order to target the Common Core anchor standard for comparing and contrasting). Although we will wrap this study up this week, I will come back to this lesson later in the quarter when we are in our realistic fiction book clubs.

To start this lesson, I reminded students that we know characters play roles in stories. We looked at Number the Stars and discussed how Peter played the role of the hero (and could also be called a martyr). Peter worked for the resistance and fought against the Nazi regime to help many Jewish people escape to Sweden for safety. In the end, we find out that Peter ended up dying because of his work with the resistance movement. You could also say that Anne-Marie, the main character is a heroine. (Then you could generalize that there were opportunities for many people to be a hero in their own way during the Holocaust--but save this for another minilesson or you will end up with a MAXILESSON. :)

I then pointed students to their handout and the list of roles I had identified. I made sure they understood what each one meant (mainly martyr, scapegoat, and outcast were new vocabulary for them).

Next, students listed the important characters from their books and tried to decide which role those characters played. I explained to students that they really shouldn't try to force a role on a character, but now that we are taking the time to think about the roles characters play in our books, the roles should be pretty obvious. If a character doesn't have an obvious role, maybe they don't have one but were still in the book for a reason. Again, we shouldn't force a role on a character just to label them.

I seriously had a kid ask "Is it okay if the character's role changes in the book?" Wow!!! That is minilesson magical! :)  This student was focused on Milkweed by Jerry Spinelli. Misha definitely plays a few of roles in the story. He is a hero in many ways for Janina, he is also a brother-figure, and to me, he is an underdog that we are rooting for through the whole book. In the beginning of the book, maybe he would be considered an innocent bystander because he is watching everything happen around him and not really understanding. (Have you read this book? It is one of my new favorites! :) Anything Jerry Spinelli PLEASE! <3)

For active engagement, I had students choose one of the characters and roles from their list and write about how the character was playing that role. Our grade level is REALLY focusing on Writing About Reading (or writing our thoughts about reading). Students wrote for about 10 minutes. For weeks, I have been encouraging students to use examples from the text and to try to elaborate on one idea instead of skipping from idea to idea and ending up with a list of ideas instead of a solid, elaborated idea.

I hope to take this lesson further by discussing how thinking about the roles characters play allow us to compare and contrast characters who played similar roles across different books. For example, how does Misha (Milkweed) being a hero compare to Bruno's (Boy in the Striped Pajamas) lack of heroism? We could also discuss why main characters need sidekicks and analyze how different sidekicks in different stories have supported the main character. So many exciting places to go with this lesson! I hope I have time to do it all :)

Click on the picture above for the student handout freebie. If you read about my Reader Response Journals, this sheet would go behind "Coach's Huddle" in our notebooks because it's a handout from me, the "Coach."

RL4.3: Describe in depth a character drawing on specific details in the text (e.g. a character's thoughts, words, or actions).
RL4.9: Compare and contrast the treatment of similar themes and topics and patterns of events (I think this objective fits because identifying archetypes allows you to compare/contrast and the archetype is highly connected to the themes of the story).
RL5.1: Quote accurately from the text when explaining what the text says explicitly and when drawing inferences from the text.
RL5.3: Compare and contrast two or more characters drawing on specific details in the text.
RL5.9: Compare and contrast stories in the same genre on their approaches to similar themes and topics.

You might not be reading Holocaust related books, but I hope your students can use a minilesson on the roles that characters play in books. If this is the first time you are teaching this lesson, you might start with the basics and just offer victim, innocent bystander, and agressor and maybe hero, sidekick, villain, and advisor/mentor as choices to discuss and apply to their own books.

I have used the roles of victim, bystander, and agressor with the book The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes. I have applied the roles of heroine, archenemy, sidekick, and advisor to A Friendship for Today by Patricia C. McKissack. You can also use the same roles with biographies as most biographies write the famous person as a hero (or an underdog) that has overcome obstacles, including "villains" or people that were against them. I came up with the idea of underdog as an archetype by thinking about Wilma Unlimited by Kathlene Krull. Wilma is an underdog because we don't expect her to be so successful and we are rooting for her the whole time.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Top 2 for Tuesday (Save 10%)

This week, my most downloaded product was:
(Wouldn't it be nice if I got the other products finished? :) I edited my Factors/Prime Factorization product this weekend and am working on the finishing touches). Make sure to follow my store to see when I upload a new Math Exploration.

This product contains over 33 pages to support your exploration of multiplying with whole numbers. The exploration contains teacher direction/lesson pages for display on the smartboard

and student pages for math journals
My second most downloaded product was my Within Word Pattern Word Study Word Searches.
Happy week! I'm hoping to get a Monday's Minilesson Magic in later this week. I have a great lesson to share with archetypes/character roles with a freebie. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Tuesday: Top 2 for 10% off

It's Tuesday and by now, you know what that means: Top 2 Products for 10% off. I hope you can benefit from these two products, one reading and one math product takes the spotlight this week. How exciting!

This week, my highest sold product was:
This packet contains 14 different nonfiction/informational templates, graphic organizers, reading strategies, and bookmarks for a total of 17 pgs worth of nonfiction supports. (This was also one of last week's top products, so I'm showing you two new images this week). Here's the BIG IDEA sticky graphic organizer:
A worksheet to help you scaffold students to deal with texts without subheadings:
 My second most downloaded product this week was: 
This product contains over 33 pages to support your exploration of multiplying with whole numbers. The exploration contains teacher direction/lesson pages for display on the smartboard
and student pages for math journals
If you love the Math Explorations, I have two more in the works and ideas for more, but haven't had time to get them finalized for TPT. Hopefully this weekend, I can upload my Exploration for Factors and Prime Factorization (it's almost ready!!!). I hope you have a great week! We are headed to DC Thursday and Friday for our 5th grade field trip. Meanwhile, I have Tues and Wed night to get the house in order, grab some cat food, and get my students' "History is Interesting!" Feature Articles edited, copied, and ready for our trip.  Send well wishes my way!!! :)

Monday, October 22, 2012

Monday's Minilesson Magic-Comparing and Contrasting Characters

Thanks for tuning in today! For today's Monday's Minilesson Magic, I'm focusing on:  
This week, I want to share ideas for books you can use to help students compare and contrast characters within a story. Each book is coded as a picturebook (pb) or chapter book (cb) to help you plan.
Compare Rose and Blanche (PB)
Compare Rob and Sistine (CB)
Compare Nyasha and Manyara (PB)
Compare Rosemary and Grace (CB)
To compare characters across books, you could look at:


Once again, it's important that students have a vocabulary that is developed enough for describing characters. I have posted a few times about my character trait cards that were developed for this very reason. After having a minilesson much like this one go bad because students could not get beyond simple words to describe the characters, I decided I would have appropriate words for describing the characters ready before the lesson. Giving students a quick definition of each word OR waiting until the end of the read aloud to define the words and decide if they describe the characters is a great strategy that will surely help students connect a new vocabulary word to the character in a book and their actions and therefore connecting with the definition. I have also printed the character trait cards (from the powerpoint) off in color and posted them in the room. Students constantly look up at these cards to try to find better words to describe the characters.

RL4.3 Describe in depth a character, drawing on specific details in the text (a character's thoughts, words, or actions).
RL5.3 Compare and contrast two or more characters drawing on specific details in the text.

What books do you use for comparing and contrasting characters or teaching character foils?

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Morning Meeting Routine

Do you have a morning meeting? This year, I decided to commit to morning meeting. I was reluctant to add it to our schedule because we are always pressed for time but this year, I thought it would be the perfect way to start the day. School officially starts at 7:55 and we try to have our morning meeting from 8-8:10.

To lead morning meeting, I elect a "Speaker of the House." I choose this student strategically (a child who would benefit from the spotlight of leading the meeting and is someone who does not typically take on leadership roles.) Morning meeting provides an easy structure for the Speaker of the House to follow and a way to engage in appropriate conversations with their classmates.

First quarter, we used morning meeting to go over the classroom goals we are working on. At the beginning of the year, we were working on 1-walking down the hall quietly and 2-making sure that no one in the class felt like a "Big Al" (Have you read Andrew Clements book Big Al? Big Al didn't fit in with the other fish, but he wanted to. The book taught us to reach out to others to make sure everyone felt included.) I tried my best to make it seem like students had negotiated these goals all on their own. I gave the Speaker of the House sentence starters to help them lead the conversation. They say "We are working on.....How do you think we did yesterday? Anything we could do better?" We post our goals on index cards on this file cabinet:
We also use morning meeting as the time to reflect on our behavior from the day before. I started using a marble jar system with my students because negative reinforcement wasn't working and I felt like I was constantly issuing empty threats (because my students are so nice, wonderful, and well-behaved in general, it's hard to punish them--and I am not a softy!). So, I decided they might respond better to starting the day with 10 marbles and trying to hold on to them. I simply write "10 Marbles" on the board and subtract as necessary. Each morning, we add the number of marbles from the previous day to the marble jar. It's an understood rule that if they maintain less than 7 marbles, they don't earn any marbles for that day.

Now that these routines are in place (it's second quarter), we can spice it up a little. Here's my new daily routine for morning meeting.

Monday: Smile Moments: Pictures that make us smile or a funny video to start off "grumpy Monday" with some smiles and laughter (follow my pinterest board to find some Smile Moment pictures) We squeezed in quite a few "smile moments" last quarter.

Tuesday: Student Goal Setting Reflections: During report card conferences, students set a few goals. Now, they will make them a reality by reflecting on how they are doing each week. Here's my template:
My hope is that just like we go over our classroom goals ("We are working on..."), students will become comfortable enough to share what they are working on with the rest of the class. I would love for students to use this meeting time to increase accountability, to show support for one another, and to share strategies. This is the only day of morning meeting that I lead, rather than the Speaker.

Wednesday: Classroom Goals reflection: Now that we have our routines for morning meeting down, we can start reflecting on our classroom goals weekly instead of daily. If we have a day where we lose too many marbles, of course we will reflect on why. Our current classroom goals are: 1) persevering through challenges, 2) listening and following directions, and 3) making our transitions faster.

Thursday: Appreciations: Share appreciations for someone else in the classroom

Friday: Building Background Knowledge Videos: Last quarter, we were alternating "Smile Moments" and educational videos. I pull up videos from (If you haven't used this site, check it out! They have a daily wonder video with a follow-up nonfiction article. You can check out the archives and quickly find things that relate to your curriculum or that you just think your kids would find interesting.) Sometimes I see something on the news that I think would be good to share with students. For example, when the Chinese Olympic badminton team threw the game, I thought it would spark an interesting conversation about winning and sportsmanship.

I have also used Teachers Domain. They have some really great videos on Algebraic Thinking that we watched last quarter. This quarter, I also plan to use some of the School House Rock government video clips from youtube and a few youtube songs that related to what we are learning. Using this time strategically, I can squeeze in something that we might not get to during our content time.

Lastly, we use our morning meetings to resolve any conflicts that have come up. Two examples from our year that were serious conversations I needed to have with my students included: a really bad behavior report from Spanish and arguing and screaming at each other during recess.

You can download the reflection document for free by clicking on the image. I would love to hear more about your morning meetings and suggestions of how you make them work.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

2 for Tuesday 10% Off

This past week, my two best sellers were:

My Character Traits Definition Cards--for the third week in a row. Can you believe it? (I can! This has been my best-seller by far) :) In this product, you get more than the 48 character trait cards. You get these in a word doc as you see below, you get a powerpoint file with one word/definition/clip art per page (perfect for pulling up on a smartboard or for printing on cardstock to post in the room), and you get a handy 9-paged activities packet where you can have students sort the words into negative/positive adjectives, describe the character of their book, use the words to describe themselves, sort the words into "describes my character/does not describe my character," and more.
Great Feedback!

I love this feedback! How nice!
My second most downloaded product is....

This packet contains 14 different nonfiction/informational templates, graphic organizers, reading strategies, and bookmarks for a total of 17 pgs worth of nonfiction supports. Here's a snapshot of the big idea house that shows students how to build the main idea from the ground up...details, details, details, then main idea. 

Have a LOVELY Tuesday. And if you want, pick up these two products for 10% off today only!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Minilesson Magic: Coaching Our Reading Life

As promised, this Monday's Minilesson Magic focuses on my lessons for "Coaching Your Own Reading Life." To get this unit (and really our year) in reading started,  I talked to students about how a coach anticipates the challenges their team will have during a game and designs strategies to overcome those challenges. As readers, we can anticipate challenges that we might face in a book, and we can use many strategies that we already know to overcome those challenges. I wanted this unit to challenge my students to PUSH themselves as readers and to rely on themselves for the challenges they encounter.

My first lesson focused on how to use the book jacket to anticipate and predict the challenges we might face. I used The Seekers: the Quest Begins by Erin Hunter.I typed up the description from the book jacket on half sheets for students to place behind "Practice Time" in their reader response notebooks.
From this book summary, we could see that the number of characters was going to be a challenge and the different character names could be challenging if we didn't have a strategy for helping ourselves remember them. Another challenge is that it appears 3 different stories are actually going on in the book--three different settings, three different families, three different problems.

For each of these problems, we can decide on a strategy to use to help us overcome it. (It is assumed/understood that students are choosing just right books, but this lesson asks them to "up the ante." Rather than quickly deciding that a book is too challenging, students identify strategies that can help them persevere through the book.) Our strategy for keeping up with character names was to create a list of characters. In this case, we needed to keep them grouped by families. We then decided to create a chart of the three sets of characters, three settings, and the three sets of problems they are facing. We organized this so that we could keep up with each storyline. Keep in mind, this book did not turn into a read-aloud, but the book jacket information was perfect for the minilesson. (I also had a student in the class reading the book--and these strategies were perfect for helping that child be successful).

I also taught how to preview well enough that we figure out the structure of a book. I used The Seekers again. As we flipped through the book, we noticed that each chapter had a title of one of the character's names. We figured out that the story would flip back and forth between the characters. If we had not figured this out from the beginning, we might have been confused for a while, but since we were prepared for that before we started to read, we would probably be pretty successful. We could look back at our character/setting/problem chart each time we start a new chapter to help us remember what's going on with that character.

I used Schooled by Gordon Korman as another anchor text for analyzing the text structure. Basically, this story is also told by MANY characters in the book, so students need to be ready to read each chapter through that character's voice.

This may seem like an obvious thing, but I have a number of students who are great at reading words but struggle with comprehension. I have found that identifying the way an author has structured the book is one of their biggest pitfalls.  These students usually do not spend enough time previewing and specifically trying to figure out how the book is going to go before they start to read.

If you are teaching students to "coach" themselves in the lower grades, strategies like IPICK or the "3 finger check" for choosing just right books, identifying the genre and thinking about how stories like that usually go, previewing to predict what the book is going to be about, and keeping up with character names would also be appropriate. Teaching students how to use story structure to their advantage would also fit into this unit. Really, you can modify "Coaching Your Reading Life" to target any strategies you find students are not using independently that you think they should be. 

Have a happy week creating literate lives!

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Turn your Students into Spy Reporters

Hi bloggy friends,

Yay! My computer is back and thankfully all of my files are intact--sigh of relief!

I was looking through my teacherspayteachers store last night with the goal of cleaning it up a little and deciding if I had any outdated/less than quality things that could be taken down. I thought my Spy Reports Community Building Assignment would definitely be one of those. Then I opened the document and started reviewing it and changed my mind. Wow! I love spy reporting. I did not do spy reports with my first looping group (say year 5-6 of teaching), but I implemented Star of the Week or Spy Reports during student teaching and my first 4 years of teaching, so with 5 years of experience, I have tweaked some of the issues of implementing the Star of the Week/Spy Reports.

During student teaching and my first year of teaching, we had a "star of the week." I think many people do star of the weeks where the star brings in personal items, maybe has some bulletin board space for pictures, and tells the class about themselves. Our star of the week meant that every person in the class wrote a "Star of the Week" paper to the star of the week. Then, we would sit in a circle at our scheduled sharing time and read our reports about that person.

Wow! What a great day for the kid that got to celebrate him/herself that week. But...I thought that system also had it's issues. Was it fair that some students had to wait until the end of the year for this day of accolades and appreciation? For me, the goal of Star of the Week/Spy Reporting is to build community and to realize that every classmate has value and brings something unique to our classroom environment. So, shouldn't every child get to hear great things about themselves every week? I thought, YES! So, I changed my star of the week to "Spy Reports." Each student has another classmate that they are "spying on" for a week (and the teacher is always included as a spy reporter---so we get a spy report about us each week, but we also write a spy report about a student.)

Second Nine weeks is the perfect time to start "Spy Reporting" because the kids have had a quarter to get to know one another (and will have a week to spy on students that they aren't so sure what to write about) and 2nd nine weeks gives you enough time to get them done by the end of the year. If you have 20 students, you need 20 weeks to work on and share the spy reports. Some weeks are short, and therefore spy reports aren't assigned, and sometimes we get behind with our sharing time. In the first few weeks of spy reporting, make sure you have really set aside sharing time so that the routine builds momentum.

I love spy reporting because it's one of the best ways for creative writing to spread like wildfire! When one student comes up with a creative idea, many students follow the next week. The students also have a sharing space for their writing each week and hear the voice of 19+ other writers each week. I also love it because:
* Students write in different genres
* Students have to show appreciation for more than just their core group of friends
* Students' work shows progress across the year (for me, this is the only writing assignment that they do routinely, so it can be a place that shows growth)
* Often, reluctant writers respond to this creative assignment because they get positive feedback from their classmates when they read aloud their report

I LOVE spy reporting and really want to set aside the time  for it with my current class (looping babies again). I feel like the folder of spy reports that they get at the end of the year is such a gift. I would be the kid who would keep my spy reports for life. I feel like it is a way to affirm and the "good people" that my kids are and encourage that they continue to uphold those values and behaviors for life.

The download includes a 2 pg student handout that outlines the requirements and expectations of Spy Reporting (what it should SAY and what it should LOOK like) and two pages of teacher tips. What creative things do you do in your classroom to build community?

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Monday, October 8, 2012

Monday's Minilesson Magic: Character Change Analysis

So, in my last post about how I set up my reader response, I mentioned that I would talk more about my lessons for "Coaching a Reading Life." I'm going to table that post for next week, given the computer-failure-disaster I have the pleasure of dealing with this weekend. 

Anyway, on to Monday's Minlesson Magic: Have you ever stopped to ask your students how the main character in their book changed by the end of the story? You might be surprised when they tell you “He/She didn’t really change.” Once I realized students were not closely analyzing their books for character change, or even realizing that they should be, I began teaching a mini unit on character change.
Albert by Jo Donna Napoli is my favorite mentor book for a unit on character change. Albert is a precious story about an introvert who looks out his city window each day and sees something that scares him from leaving his apartment. One day when he sticks his hand out his window to check the weather, a cardinal starts building a nest in his hands, and soon he is holding a nest of eggs. While annoyed at first, Albert begins to see that the things outside that once scared him are not so scary. For example, he sees a man and woman arguing—something that would normally make him choose to close the window and stay inside. However, since he is stuck at the window, he also gets to see that later the man and woman make up, walking away happy. Albert learns that the world has good in it and finally has the courage to explore outside. While we wouldn't call Albert an extrovert at the end of the story, he is braver and more adventurous.
If you are interested in getting students into book clubs, I usually launch "character change" minilessons at the same time I launch Jerry Spinelli book clubs. The characters in Jerry Spinelli’s books (Stargirl, Crash, Eggs, Wringer, Loser, Fourth Grade Rats, etc) change so much throughout the text, I want to make sure students are really prepared to analyze how they have changed when they finish reading the books. You can even plan to hold these books clubs later in the year and spiral back to character change lessons you have taught earlier in the year.

In order to be able to think about how the character changes, students need to be able to describe the character at the beginning, middle, and end of the book. (Sometimes this even means being able to describe the character before the book begins if the main events that change the character happen from the beginning). Often, students do not have a developed vocabulary for character-related adjectives to be able to describe the character meaningfully and deeply. For this reason, I created Character Trait Definition cards.

Another strategy that I have used before to help students access vocabulary for describing characters is to have a list of words ready that describe the characters in the book I plan to read and the antonyms of those words. I put those words on a 1/2 sheet of paper and have students research the definition, synonyms, and antonyms and then draw a picture to match. (This takes enough time that I do it the day before I plan to do the full minilesson and read aloud).

We use the following chart to analyze character change:



RL2.3 Describe how characters in a story respond to major events and challenges.

RL3.3 Describe characters in a story (traits, motivations, feelings) and explain how their actions contribute to the sequence of events. 


How do you teach students to analyze characters? What other minilesson ideas would you like for me to think about for Monday's Minilesson Magic? I would love to do some work for you and get my brain spinning! Please leave a comment :)

Happy Reading!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Technology Public Service Announcement

Huge sad-face :( Yesterday my computer got a virus.

First, I got one of those alerts that says a site is dangerous. How could that be? I had used that website a million times before to plan lessons.

Then, I got about 25 pop up windows. So as I'm trying to figure out whether or not this mess is serious and closing all of the pop up windows, I go to my email to attach a file that I will need for school tomorrow. All of a sudden, it looks like I have NO DOCUMENTS, no programs, no pictures. What in the world? At some point, my computer decided to shut itself down and then proceeded to get stuck on the black screen that comes after the dell logo at startup. Crap-crap-crap. My response to situations like this is to sit and wait, keep doing the same thing over and over crossing my fingers for a different result. Then, I got on my smartphone and googled the issues I was having. I was directed to hit F-12 a bunch of times at the dell logo. Cross fingers--no luck. Nothing changed. But of course my response was to turn the computer off and then try this again and again. Finally, I decided I needed an expert and headed to Best Buy for the Geek Squad. it my luck. Thursday I was just thinking about how it would probably be a good idea to back up my files...just in case....

The geek squad will be able to fix my computer, but I could potentially lose my files. (I think they tell everyone this because they try to push a $150 extra fee for backing up the files before they start to mess with the computer). Since I was already paying $200 for the Geek Squad, I decided I will take my chances. (But I do live in this fantasy world where my files will definitely still be there when they return my computer on Wednesday, so cross your fingers for me.)

I must say that although the inconvenience of not having computer access at home has been tough (no pinterest, no checking the bank account, no ease of responding to emails, no creating of classroom materials to use this week, no seeking out ideas for planning more, etc.), I did get quite a few things done around the house today and the kitchen is clean. It's kind of making me think about starting a "NO COMPUTER" day once a week where I just completely make myself unplug. Could you do it? No checking bloggy world, no pinteresting, no responding to email after leaving school, no checking TPT stats...

So, bear with me in bloggy world. I will have a Monday's Minilesson Magic for you tomorrow and Tuesday's Top 2. And, take it from me, BACK UP YOUR FILES NOW!!! and then make sure you are not a cheap-skate like me and go ahead and pay for anti-virus software. (Oh yeah, did I mention that? My antivirus software expired about 2 years ago and I just kept ignoring the command to update it...what a cheapo-can I say I will never do that again? And I will back up my files at least once a month?)



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