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Mme G.C. -Work in Progress

Instructional Consultant sharing my learning with others. Please scroll way down to follow me!!

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March 2012

Teaching Questioning in Kindergarten


We were working on the strategy of questioning. Here are the  two books I read to the kindergarten class. Snow by Uri Shulevitz was day one and Stella  Queen of the Snow by Marie Louise Gay was day two. Both books were fabulous. The children were really interested in the stories, the illustrations were captivating and there wasn’t an overload of text. They had so many questions and loved that their questions were being written down on the anchor chart we had made called before /during and after .Once we were finished each story, we checked off the questions that we had answered and then talked about the ones that weren’t answered directly. We talked about the fact that sometimes when we are reading, our questions aren’t answered and that’s ok. Sometimes it does matter and we have to go looking for the answer. This is more in informational text and we will go there next. Both books are  available in French for all you French Immersion teachers. La Neige and Stella, reine des neiges-souple

Here I am reading Snow to the kindergarten class. The chart paper beside me is the anchor chart we built together. When do we ask questions? Before, During and After Reading. I got most of my ideas for teaching questioning from Tanny McGregor’s Comprehension Connections and Debbie Miller Teaching Reading with Meaning.

On the floor beside me is the thought bubble I was using. When I thought of a question, I picked up the thought bubble, put my face in the hole and asked a question. I will admit I felt ridiculous at first…But the children loved it and it really was a great visual for them to distinguish between what I was reading and what questions I was asking about the story.

The second day, I read Stella Queen of the Snow This time, the children would put on the thought bubble and ask their questions. We practiced “I wonder…?, How…?, Why…? and what if…? They were so excited that their questions were important and that they got to use the thought bubble. We took a photo of each student, printed their question into the bubble  and posted  the photos on a bulletin board. We called it “We are asking questions…” Many of the older kids from other grades are coming by to read the kindergarten questions. Our next move is to do some questioning in non-fiction (informational) text.

Kindergarten Writing


So my question is-Kindergarten Writing -Can kids in kindergarten write? Should kids in kindergarten write?

For every yes response you will  probably encounter  a no – there is debate about this issue…

For me the answer is yes. Both of my children were writing and illustrating stories before they started school. Why wouldn’t I want them to? Why would I discourage that? I think our job as parents and educators is to let them soar as high as they can-not clip their wings by saying “you are too young for that…you aren’t ready for that.”

My daughter’s first real writing was when she was two. She scribbled all over the kitchen floor with markers-with a big grin on her face she said “Mummy! Read my story…” At three she wrote a eulogy for my mother’s funeral and asked me to read it. I had no idea what it said. She read it to me and then she read it to everyone else. I still remember every word.

My point is that she was ready to write, excited to write and was trying so hard to be a writer.

My son loved letters. He saw them in everything. He asked what the letter was and tried to spell as much as he could from street signs,the Christmas wish book, his name, books-he saw letters in shapes and the world around him.  I remember him screaming at me from his car seat ” S-T-O-P Mummy- that means you can’t go!!” (I had stopped-he just thought we could never move again…)

Research proves that kids who know their alphabet in kindergarten ,are consistently ahead of their peers who that didn’t  know the alphabet right though grade 12! If children are interested, and we encourage them, the sky is the limit for them. Why would we not throw open that thrilling door to literacy and let them soar.

I am so thankful that both my children had an amazing kindergarten who taught them with joy. The joy of reading, choosing books, writing about what they wanted and about science and social studies. She wasn’t worried about spelling or conventions just really loving literacy. She was enthusiastic and joyful about learning and literacy. What a great start. Thank you E.K.

Interested in some of  the research?

Catch Them Before They Fall-Joseph Torgesen

Matthew Effects in Reading-Stanovich and Siegel

Allington Richard

Ehri, L


“Literature duplicates the experience of living in a way that nothing else can, drawing you so fully into another life that you temporarily forget you have one of your own. That is why you read it, and might even sit up in bed till early dawn, throwing your whole tomorrow out of whack, simply to find out what happens to some people who, you know perfectly well, are made up.”

Barbara Kingsolver

L’aigle -The Eagle MIMI or PWIM en francais!!


I have been working on a PWIM cycle in a French Immersion grade two classroom. Special thanks to Mme B for all her hard work and sharing her classroom with me 🙂

The photograph we chose was fabulous. The children were engaged and enthusiastic for the entire cycle. It was great for tying in First Nation Content through the Eagle we learned about the 7 sacred teachings and the importance of the Eagle.

Mandatory Photo Credit : Flying With Eagles    
Louise Crandal, Courtesy of the Banff Photo Center 


Before choosing the words for the picture we read books about Eagles, birds of prey and parachuting in French. We spent a lot of time talking about the photograph and learning new French vocabulary before the children each chose a word.


The Children asked many questions! This is just one anchor chart of the many they had over the cycle.

It is important to have the children  notice attributes of  the words and learn to do daily word study inductively. Here we began to list what the children had noticed (Je vois) about the words they chose from the photograph. This list should continue to grow as students classify and work on their word study.

During the cycle, titles should be added. (titres) They don’t have to be added all at once. Paying attention to published books and actual titles is helpful. The students noticed titles with L’, ! , ?, one word , starting with Dans, and J’ai. Further work on other types of titles could continue in other cycles.

We have the students store their word cards and subsequent

 sentence cards in laminated envelopes. We are able to record their thinking during our conversations-that way we can push their thinking further each time .

Each child shakes out a sentence. They have sentences to manipulate and classify which are kept in their envelopes, a copy of  the sentences on an anchor chart to read together and this set is also  reduced into a running record so that the teacher can test their fluency during the cycle. It is a great way to ensure that  high frequency words are being learned during a cycle. Student names should be at the end of the sentence to remind students of ownership-the introduction to plagiarism. They are numbered for ease of classification and teacher modeling. The more children practice the sentences the more they have the opportunity to develop the rhythm of the language as well as comprehension skills. This running record is great evidence for report cards and interviews as well.

Students working on classifying their sentences into ideas for paragraphs.   Possible categories with sentence numbers brainstormed by the class.

After working on sentences and reading a variety of materials we reallized the ent ending was a challenge for many of the children. We spent some time studying picture books, looking at when and where to use the  ent ending and created a class book. These are some pages from the book. So much more relevant than memorising verbs!!!


We spent a lot of time discussing good sentence starters. We looked at books and how published  authors started their sentences. We brainstormed ideas and students practiced writing sentences. We built sentence cubes for the students to practice building sentences in the proper order.

We used the sentences to help us build paragraphs together.

Model anchor chart of class paragraph. A well used document about paragraph structure, vocabulary and correcting errors

Students used graphic organizers to help them write compare and contrast paragraphs about Eagles and other birds.

To further develop vocabulary we do Mystery Box (boite mystere) once a week. The students have to figure out which vocabulary item is in the box. They have to figure it out by asking questions that can only be answered by YES or NO.  Students discover details about the item’s location,use and other attributes. Once enough attributes are given students write a descriptive paragraph. We did a few together first. After group paragraphs students begin to write their own paragraphs. Here is one example

                                      

In order to include social studies in the photo study, we used the community in the photograph as our starting point to study communities.

The PWIM is an exciting way to teach. The key-understanding the process and moving away from worksheets and into inquiry!!


“In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”

Albert Einstein 

Nonfiction Mentor Texts (Dorfman and Cappelli)


This is an excellent book that really helps give teachers a clear idea of how to teach writing through modelling  with mentor texts. Dorfman and Cappelli demonstrate how teachers can use children’s literature to illustrate the key features of good writing. The authors provide the reader with important rationale as to  why teachers should use published  models to inspire good writing. It lists great children’s picture books to assist in  teaching persuasive writing, introductions and conclusions, writing to build content, writing in the real world, and many, many more topics. The authors take you through their lessons and explain the effectiveness of each step  in the writing process.  Using children’s books to improve writing supports any K-8 teacher of writing. Everything they say supports everything I believe about using Talk Alouds to teach writing. It is written in a way that is easy to read and implement in the classroom.

This is the model I follow for teaching talk alouds for writing:

Talk Aloud for Writing

Read a piece of text and then share what you liked that the author did to help you understand his message. (author’s craft) Share a piece of writing you have written, based on the attributes you appreciated in the author’s writing.
Purpose*same as read aloud*model how to use attributes found in good writing to share a message with the reader*build student awareness of writing structures they can use from mentor texts
Teacher *share own writing based on the attributes identified in a previous talk aloud for reading*explain how you used the attributes in your own writing to communicate with your reader
Student *listen to teacher’s model*use similar attributes to write a piece independently*explain how they used the attributes in their writing

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