Monday, March 31, 2014

Freebies and Followers

I am excited to say that my Teachers Pay Teachers venture is still going very well!  If you haven’t checked out this website yet, you really should.  Even if you aren’t interested in selling your own work, it’s a great place to purchase products to enhance your classroom that truly will be worth more than you pay for them.  Furthermore, there are SO many free products on TPT; I check this website first now every time I plan a new unit. 

Speaking of freebies, I just added a few more freebies to my TPT store.  My store is linked as “Shop (TPT)” at the top of this page.  My first freebie (a Comprehension Packet for the novel Sarah, Plain and Tall) has been downloaded more than 800 times so I decided it was well worth it to create another, this time for the novel Esio Trot by Roald Dahl.  If you are a teacher or homeschool mom, definitely check these out and if you are parent just looking for ways to keep your child busy over spring break or this summer, check them out as well.  “Follow” me on TPT to get the latest information on my new products including freebies, as creating these Comprehension Packets and related products has become somewhat of an obsession to me, so more are being added all the time.  

I really do use these products in my own classroom daily, so I also wanted to share a little bit about how that works for me.  Sometimes the whole class reads the same novel; other times, I split the class into two groups.  I’ve done this a couple of different ways.  For example, in the fall, I ran two “Titanic” reading groups.   My “at” or “below” grade level students read I Survived the Sinking of the Titanic, 1812 by Lauren Tarshis, while I worked with a small group of “above” grade level readers on Titanic: Unsinkable, the first book in a trilogy by Gordon Korman.  Just recently, I worked this in the opposite way instead.  My “at” or “above” grade level readers read Ribsy by Beverly Cleary and my below grade level readers read Socks by Beverly Cleary.  While these books are written at about the same level and are the same number of chapters, Ribsy is longer and it gave my more advanced readers a chance to work on their stamina independently and in pairs while I worked with my “below” grade level readers on the shorter novel in a small group.

Whether we are working as a whole class or in groups, we begin each chapter by looking up the vocabulary words using the Vocabulary Powerpoint.  Students make vocabulary flashcards for the words, with the word and page number on the front and the definition on the back.  I cut 3x5 index cards in half for these cards and provided my students with word boxes at the beginning of the year (the penny pencil boxes from Staples).  These cards are used later for review games.  Once they’ve made their cards, they look up the words and we read the sentences containing the words and discuss their part of speech and meaning, using context clues.  After that, we preview the worksheet from the Comprehension Packet so we know what to look for as we read.

We mix up how we read the chapter each day.  Sometimes I have the book on CD and sometimes I read to the students.  When I read out loud, I pause once in a while and expect the students to say the next word out loud so I’ll know that they’re “with me.”  Other times, they buddy read, read round-robin style at their table or read independently.  I try to use a variety of methods for each book, as different methods yield different benefits.  After reading the chapter, students complete their Comprehension Packet worksheet for the day.  I have these stapled in packets according to quizzes.  For example, if there is a quiz after the first 5 chapters, I staple the first 5 pages together as a packet.  After the quiz, students will receive a packet with Chapters 6-10.  Students receive a grade on the each packet of 3-5 worksheets.  Grading each worksheet individually would be overwhelming.

Finally, my favorite part of this process involves a product that I did NOT create but that can be purchased on Teachers Pay Teachers for a nominal cost.  At the end of class, I put students in groups of 3-5 to discuss that day’s Comprehension Packet sheet.  We use a method called “Talking Sticks” created by Laura Candler.  This strategy gets all students involved in the discussion and forces them to take turns speaking intelligently with one another about what they have read.  We also have a “house” rule that no one can begin their statement with the words “I put…” This activity helps students achieve the Speaking and Listening objectives for Common Core.

If you have questions about the products in my TPT store or if you have suggestions, feedback, or requests for future Novel Units, please let me know.   I love the way technology allows us all to share resources and teaching ideas.  The possibilities are endless!

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