Mme G.C. -Work in Progress

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Children’s books

A Fish In Foreign Waters

by Laura Caputo-Wickham

I love this book.

Having grown up bilingually in another country and raised my children to be bilingual, I really could relate to it.

Now however,  I think about all the children in our classrooms who come to us speaking multiple languages and I think they too could relate to this book.

As the author states: “You cannot waste precious time looking for the right words, so you pick the first words that come to your head regardless of language.Or the “secret language” that you share with your parent, often used to gossip about people standing next to you assuming they don’t understand (and sometimes your assumption is wrong!).Other common aspects are less amusing, though – like the feeling of awkwardness for being different, especially as a child.”





Descriptive Writing

Brian Wildsmith has a wonderfully descriptive passage about squirrels in his book Squirrels. I used to love using it as a mentor text springboard with children. Unfortunately the book is out of print. Link to a video reading of Squirrels which you can use if you cannot find the book. If you have suggestions for newer books with excellent descriptive passages please share them with me!

I like the passage because the author starts with “It is easy to recognize a squirrel…” which students can use to start their own paragraph about an animal of their choice.

I usually read the story and we discuss it and I list what the author did that we liked.

I then share my own descriptive writing starting with the same introduction about an animal they might not be aware of.

After I have read my model,we look at the list of attributes to see if I followed the structure of this experienced author. Next we  write a group piece but at this point some children are ready to write on their own. Once all students have written their paragraph we create a class book entitled-It Is Easy to Recognize a...

Teaching with Graphic Novels

Love this display in our Curriculum Materials CenterIMG_2656.JPG


I have been thinking a lot lately about our students that don’t have it easy. The ones who just don’t feel they belong, because of circumstances far beyond their control. My thoughts this week, have gone to the homeless children. Sometimes we aren’t even aware they are homeless. It’s not something kids want to talk about!

So how can we make a difference? What if we got started just by reading aloud? A story shared  to make these children feel they are not alone, that there are other kids in a similar situation. Teaching students to have empathy and understanding for others is never wrong. We see homeless people around our cities. I feel that learning to be kind and compassionate is far better than ignoring what makes us uncomfortable.

These are some of the books I have looked at this week.

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This article talks about how teacher beliefs influence everything:

This article addresses the pedagogy of poverty:

Other books about homelessness:

Octopus’s Garden by Ringo Starr Grade 1/2 Creative Writing


This is an engaging book with beautiful,entertaining artwork. If you haven’t already read it I encourage you to do so.

 We read the story and studied the pictures. Then we read it again and sang along with the cd that came with it. We then added the lyrics to the student’s songbooks for future reference and fluency practice.

After we had read it a few times, we brainstormed with the children-who would you like to be under the sea with? Students wrote their paragraphs and illustrated them with chalk pastels. We created a bulletin board to share the variety of thinking.

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IMG_6605 (2) IMG_6604 (2) IMG_6603 (2) IMG_6602 (2)

By composing a short creative descriptive paragraph about a fictitious  undersea community, we were meeting the grade 1 Saskatchewan Curriculum outcomes for  ELA CC1.1as well as deepening an understanding of the writing process as laid out in  ELA CC1.4. In grade 2 we met CC2.1, CC2.2

Comprehension with Jingle Dancer Grade 1-3

All in one comprehension with JINGLE DANCER by Cynthia Leitich Smith


I always start my Comprehension All in One by carefully choosing a picture book which connects to the curriculum and which my students will find engaging. Once I have a book I like, I peruse it carefully. I put sticky notes on the cover with the titles of I want to be addressing with my students-visualizing, making connections, questioning etc. Once I have decided if the book will help me address all the strategies I want it to, I start planning what I will put on my anchor charts. stickies Because I have already taught all the comprehension strategies through the Think Aloud process, we often refer back to those co-constructed anchor charts. I never use prefab materials as I feel it is essential to build this knowledge  with students. Current research also tells us not to teach the strategies in separate silos, but rather have the students know how to access the strategy when they need it. “How does this help me as a reader?” I then prepare parts of these anchor charts ahead of time. Most of the details are filled in with the students. I make sure to teach the difficult vocabulary ahead of time. In this case I took words from the glossary at the back and added a few that I felt students would have trouble with. Students then chose to illustrate the words.

VocabularyVocabulary Jingle Dancer (2)

I always start my process with questioning-we look at the cover of the book and I print some of their questions on the chart. I find this can go on and on so I am careful to remind them to ask BIG Questions, and I do not take too many. Once I have the before questions, I remind students that we might not always find answers to our questions and as long as that does not stop us from understanding the story, that’s ok. We read the story asking questions as we go. I record student’s initials beside their questions so that I have a record of who is asking questions, and what kinds of questions they are asking.


I then move on to Making Connections. Some teachers call this Schema, others call it background knowledge. The term is not important if you are consistent, the metacognitive action of the student is what matters. In this situation the anchor chart just indicates what we are doing. This is a totally oral activity. I have a feather for the students to pass and hold when they are speaking. For my assessment, I record if the students were on topic, if they passed or if they were off topic. It is a great opportunity to work on manners and respectful listening and sharing.

Making Connections

After making connections I move  on to  visualizing. If children were unable to make a connection they will not be able to visualize. They will need more support. We spend a lot of time practicing the sharing process. Knee to knee, eye to eye, listen, talk and discuss. I reinforce the suggestions of Debbie Miller to be respectful listeners and never complain about who they are partnered with. I assess visualizing by listening to their conversations, looking at their drawings and having them explain their visualizations. I don’t get to each child each time, but I start with the ones I have concerns about from my previous checklists.


Click here to see some of the art the children created. Some of the boys were able to visualize themselves as girls doing the Jingle Dance, but others chose to do other dances they were familiar with such as Hoop Dancing and Hip Hop.

After visualizing we move to inferring. I find that the more we have worked on the strategies, the harder it is to separate them. Sometimes the students are having me add to different charts at the same time.


Next we move to Synthesizing. My version of synthesizing is quite  simple. When we are dealing with very young readers, I want them to take all the ideas in the story and be able to synthesize that. I don’t want it to be so hard for them that they don’t even try. As they become more adept at synthesizing I add more detail to it. It is essential to have students be able to explain why or why not. Sometimes I do that orally, sometimes on paper, sometimes with a partner. Without being able to explain their reasoning they are not synthesizing. Once they are able we move on to adding new knowledge and adding that in.


Finally we end by a class discussion. Usually students are so comfortable with the book that it is a pretty easy conversation. We then return to our questions to make sure we have answered them. If we can’t we talk about where we might find the answers.

Big idea (2)

Tip: There is no room to store all of the anchor charts in your classroom. Take photos of them and keep the photos in a binder that is easy for students to access. They will refer back to the binder as they work on their metacognitive skills.

Jingle dancer has some strong verbs and great onomatopoeia as well. I would use the verbs in body breaks to get the moving and thinking. I would use the Onomatopoeia to springboard into more in other books.

onomotopaiastrong v erbs

Further information on Jingle Dancer A non-fiction book I used to build knowledge at student level.

Jingle Dancer Book


Kindergarten Visualizing with CHALK

Chalk by Bill Thomson


I love everything about this book. The illustrations are amazing. I have used it in many classrooms at many grade levels. This particular lesson was for kindergarten visualizing, but I would recommend it for any elementary grade you want to engage in an adventure.

I talked to the students about what good readers do. We talked about how important it is to stop and think and try to get a picture in your head as you read. I  introduced my Visualization Wizard and told the children  that when we visualize we conjure up some or all of our senses to help us.Chalk

I introduced Adrienne Gear’s poem from her book Reading Power:

“You don’t close your eyes when you visualize,

You don’t close your eyes when you visualize,

You don’t close your eyes when you visualize,

You use your brain! yeah!” (we added in some snapping,clapping dancing…)


I said “visualize “ice cream” and think about it quietly.” Then we shared-I asked “what would you see,smell,taste,feel or hear? ” Everyone laughed at “hearing” ice cream. After sharing we talked about how not everybody visualized the same ice cream, because we don’t all see things in the same way.

We continued with visualizing  “pizza” and ” a dog” . It really helps to do this orally, before trying to do it with a book.

I then proceeded to share the book Chalk stopping in key places to think and visualize…”get a picture in your head…” at the end of the book, students drew a picture with coloured chalk to show what they would draw if they had magic chalk.

Finally, we sat in a circle and shared our drawings and talked about what it would be like if the drawings came alive.

My next step will be to go to Adrienne Gear’s book and do the activity about Lollipops in her visualization chapter.

I will do this lesson again!!


Other books for visualizing :read more

Leo the Late Bloomer

I have had several requests to share other books I have used for my “comprehension all in one book” strategy. Here is my latest set of lessons for Leo the Late Bloomer, by Robert Kraus.


I do one strategy a day, ending the week  by asking children to think about and share which strategy helped them the most. The objective is for them to see that not every strategy helps all the time. They must learn to pick and choose which strategy they need, as they are reading. Naming the strategies is not the goal-being able to use them is. Assessment should be ongoing as you check which students are participating and demonstrating an understanding of the tasks assigned.

I like to start with questioning and then move to making connections and visualizing. Here are my  anchor charts that I start with. They are then filled in with student responses.




There is not enough room in any classroom to keep all the anchor charts up. I take photographs each anchor chart when we are finished with the book. I keep the photos in plastic sheets covers, in a binder,along with a copy of the book, for the students to refer to at any time.

All In One Comprehension With No, David! Determining Importance

Determining ImportanceOn the last day, everyone was reading along as we read the book together for the final time. I asked the children the key question on the anchor chart. This resulted in a very long conversation because the children were more focused on small details. (This will require practice!)The conversation took quite a bit of guidance. Eventually everyone agreed with one child’s opinion-

We talked about how when we write, we use specific language and changed “bees” to “are”. We again kept a checklist for assessment to see if students had understood the main idea. Almost every child had shared a detail so we knew this would require more work on main idea!!

After we finished we took a look at all of the anchor charts. I asked the children to think about which one helped them understand the best. We have talked a lot about “Thinking about our thinking…”

Obviously you can’t put this much work into every book you read, but regular modelling, while you read aloud to your class will help. “I’m visualizing…Is anyone making a connection? What did the author want us to know…”

Introduction   Day One Day Two    Day Three   Day Four   Day Five

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