Today went swimmingly (I feel like I’ve stepped out of the 50’s when I use that word). We did an imagery exercise using Robert Frost’s, After Apple-Picking. I read it aloud and they made a check mark each time one of the five senses was evoked. Then we tried writing using imagery, in prose not poetry. Both Adam and Franklin had no prior knowledge of Imagery but understood it easily enough and came up with good reasons why an author would use it (make it more interesting, get the reader involved).
Franklin chose Shackleton’s Way, as our read aloud. I was surprised, I guess I talked it up pretty well. I knew that some parts were going to be dry and was prepared to skip over them, but it just wasn’t enough of a narrative to hold our attention. I told Franklin that we’d skip to the good parts today and give it a second try but look to choose another book if it wasn’t working out.
“This book is boring” stopped us and, because we were outside, I started reading When You Reach Me. When I finished I asked him what he thought and he said he liked it, I think we will check out the library on Monday to make a better fit. When Adam and Franklin switched and Franklin went to read independently I noticed that seemed to be falling asleep. I knew he was into the book so there must be a good reason, which I learned was that he didn’t go to sleep until 3AM! I’m not sure if that was an exaggeration or true but either way he didn’t get enough sleep last night.
One of my favorite brainstorming activities for topics to write about is to draw a place you know well, your neighborhood, camp, etc. Then as you draw mark places where things have happened that you might write about. I’ve used this before with great success, it was modeled to by Tomasen C during an in-service workshop. I modeled this for Franklin and Adam first. Franklin kept interrupting to ask if we’d heard of some southern food or store but I gave him a yes or no answer and continued on. Then I had the boys draw their memories map. What I’ve found with modeling this is that I hurt myself often as a kid, so all my stories involve me breaking an arm or leg or finger or toe or something. I always say that their stories don’t have to be about them getting hurt but they usually are. This activity went really well too. Before they started writing I reminded them about the imagery work and encouraged them to write detailed pieces that will bring the reader into the story. Adam’s writing was very short, but, like usual, he added to it orally as he read it. I need to work in how to add detail, maybe using this piece. Franklin’s piece was called “Based on a True Story” and involved a paintball war that ended when someone showed up with a real gun and shot his friend. They went to the hospital and found out he would be fine but he died two days later. Adam and I were floored. I asked “So your friend died?” and Franklin said no that part wasn’t real only the first part.
This really threw me, I’m sure that he did see violence, as he was drawing he talked about how dangerous some of the neighborhoods are, but I’m not sure if this was real and he didn’t want to talk about it or it really was fictional. This “based on a true story” has turned into a running joke now and Franklin started telling these made up stories on the way down to get picked up that all ended with ‘based on a true story’. As a teacher I never know how to react when presented with something as serious as this. It isn’t something that I’m good at, even with other adults, so when faced with a student I feel that inadequacy even sharper because I feel they are looking to me to know what to say or do – and I don’t.
After we finished sharing I talked about leads, changing the opening of their story to make it more interesting by using dialogue, onomatopoeia, or a question. This turned into a good modeling exercise because I couldn’t come up with a good lead, I shared what I came up with but said I wasn’t really happy with it. I like it when I struggle with what I’m asking them to do and they can see that it can be difficult and how I try to approach it.
They really liked the Poetry Warp activity that Renee shared in our small group.
We read the following poem by William Carlos Williams
This Is Just to Say (link takes you to poets.org)
I have eaten
that were in
you were probably
they were delicious
and so cold
Then we followed this protocol orally: 1. First Read (just a normal read through) 2. Speed up (as fast as you can) 3. Slow down (this can be awkward and excruciating) 4. Whisper 5. Yell (people will look at you) 6. Question? 7. Exclaim! 8. Purposeful Read (using/combining some/all those ways of reading how do you think it should be read?) I modeled each step and then the students did. Franklin did a very good job with this, putting on a very dramatic persona and voice. When we started this Adam was hesitant and said that he had trouble reading aloud. This let me know that I was right in thinking this was a good exercise for both students. We laughed a lot during this activity. Franklin was all over this and when it came time for the purposeful reading he gave it a shot. Adam tried to get out of it by saying that he would read it the same exact way. What I didn’t do was ask why the thought it should be read that way. I’ll be sure to ask that question in the future.
This moved us right into Cinquain poems (click the link to download a pdf of the examples. graphic organizer, and reflection sheet that I found online). They had no trouble with this. As Franklin was reading he added words to make the lines be more sentence-like rather than a list of words. He also noticed when he read it that one of the gerunds he chose didn’t sound right and he took it out right then. I was impressed by his ability to hear the pattern and realize a change needed to happen.
Today I learned that I can use poetry effectively, this is one of my weak areas so it was nice to put one in the win column.
I’m still a little confounded by Franklin. I have decided to take out the vocabulary goal and work on filling in some of the holes in his toolbox of strategies. I talked to Susan in the library and she hooked me up with a wordless picture book called, A Circle of Friends, by Giora Carmi, that I think will provide Franklin with a fantastic opportunity to practice predicting. The format of the book is really cool, it is in black and white with the exception of one element on each page that becomes the focus for the reader. I’m really excited to use this on Monday. I’ll let you know how it goes!
One complaint – since Franklin and Adam have different read aloud books I read aloud opposite SSR; this means I don’t get to read 😦
- Day seven – Another Student, Another IRI (talesofan8thgradenothing.wordpress.com)
- In the style of Robert Frost (lizbethsgarden.wordpress.com)
- Research-Based Read Aloud Activities — Work Great in Any Classroom (brighthub.com)
- Day five – successes and ‘other’ (talesofan8thgradenothing.wordpress.com)
- Using Photographs to Dwell in Poems (theunquietlibrarian.wordpress.com)