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Teaching Visualization, Vocabulary, and Sequencing with The Curious Garden

I'm so glad you've stopped by!  Today I am going to share how I teach with mentor texts to grow readers and writers in my classroom...

Being a visual person myself, I think in metaphors :o)  I view comprehension as a room that can be accessed by many doors.  While some of us comprehend best by listening, by re-reading, or by any other strategies, there are many of us who learn by linking the text to visual images.

Connecting text to images - whether that be present on the page (book-provided illustration), created on the page (student-generated illustration), or in the mind (visualization) - is a valuable strategy to strengthen comprehension.

The reality is that our children live in a visual world.  Connecting text to visual images honors that reality and builds on what our students are already used to.  This strategy also taps into the preferred modalities of our Visual-Spatial thinkers and helps them to strengthen their Verbal-Linguistic intelligence.  To top it all off, using visuals in reading can deepen understanding.

The book I've chosen to focus on today is The Curious Garden by Peter Brown because we are in the middle of our ecology unit!  This lushly illustrated picture book packs a lot of thematic value - the gardening subject matter is seasonal perfection during springtime months but also applies during any study of plants or ecology, the stewardship theme is timely around Earth Day and all that it represents, and the initiative and perseverance demonstrated by the main character provide the bonus application of character education all year long.  This is the story of a young boy who lives in a rather colorless city; when he happens upon a struggling tangle of plants, he acts on his desire to help them live... and out of his caring grows a ripple effect that impacts his entire community in a very beautiful way.

Whether reading a novel or a picture book, I typically introduce a mentor text lesson by activating background knowledge.  With this book, I have my students share what they know about gardening.  Next, we discuss vocabulary that students will need to understand the book.  This can be a quick conversation or lengthier word work, depending on how long you plan to spend on this book.

Because I share The Curious Garden with my students over several days, I created more opportunities for them to work with the vocabulary words.  I begin by introducing the words and discussing the part of speech and definition for each - download this freebie for the vocabulary slide and two activities!

Next, students create a foldable that organizes the words' definitions and challenges the student to come up with a "quick draw" for each.  When I first started this type of activity many years ago, I had my students carefully draw each picture, coloring each... and effectively wiling away our reading block with arts and crafts.  Because my goal here is to have students access meaning visually, I came up with the "quick draw" method: using only one color (usually pencil, but I let students pick - if they prefer a colored pencil or marker or crayon, it doesn't matter - I just limit it to one color to keep the pace lively and the focus on the vocabulary development), the student draws a picture that reflects the word.  I usually recommend that students use stick figures, because this makes clear the level of artistry I'm looking for with this activity (which is not much!).

We continue to connect text with visual images throughout our work with the book. For instance, after I have activated background knowledge and introduced vocabulary - but before I actually read the story aloud - I distribute this sequencing and vocabulary graphic organizer (also included in the freebie) and have student "quick draw" what they notice in the illustrations at the beginning, middle, and end of the book. After students have a few minutes to sketch their observations, they share with their elbow partner what they've noticed and predictions they've made. Now we are ready to read the story. After our first read, students do a bit of word work on the same graphic organizer. Under each plot point that they've sketched, they write a noun that will remind them of that part of the story; finally, they generate five adjectives to describe each noun. Now equipped with rich vocabulary, students are ready to meaningfully discuss and write about the book.

https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/FREEBIE-The-Curious-Garden-Mentor-Text-Intermediate-Grades-2453193To download the pages I've shared with you today, click on this link:

Thank you so much for reading!  I'm working on lots more posts that feature ideas and activities to teach literacy through mentor texts, so please be sure to check back often!  Happy teaching!

Quilts in Code: Using Mentor Texts to Understand the Civil War

Thanks so much for stopping by!  I'm very excited to be part of our Reading Crew Spring Mentor Text Link Up.  Please be sure to visit all of our blogs where will you find tons of literacy lessons and free resources!

Today I am going to share how I use mentor texts to teach about inference in my Gifted third grade classroom.  This is part of a much larger "Quilts in Code" unit that I am creating to support my students in their study of the Civil War.  The unit isn't done yet, so in the meantime I am offering this portion as a freebie!

ideas of how to use mentor texts to teach elementary students about inference

The idea of codes being woven into quilts is a wonderful one indeed.  Whether it is true is a subject of debate.  Nevertheless, coded quilts can start an engaging discussion that pulls in beautiful literature and provides a springboard to deeper understanding of the many complex issues, historical events, and courageous people of the Civil War era.

The Book
The Patchwork Path
Written by Bettye Stroud
Illustrated by Erin Susanne Bennett

Grades  1 - 4
Age Range  5 - 10
Lexile Measure 680L
Pages  32
Publisher  Candlewick Press
Copyright  2005

Hannah is a 10-year-old girl through whose point of view young students can learn about the perilous road so many slaves traveled from bondage to freedom.  Not only did Hannah's mother teach her how to sew, she also whispered how quilts held the key to freedom.  After Hannah's mother dies, she and her father escape slavery using those very clues.

What is Inference?
The first thing I do with my students is remind them what an inference is... and what it isn't.  In literary analysis, an inference is a conclusion that the reader draws from background knowledge coupled with evidence in the text.

I created this anchor chart to illustrate the process visually:

ideas to teach elementary students the difference between infer and predict

Students often confuse inferring with predicting, so I clarify with this distinction:
A prediction is an attempt to anticipate what will happen in the future.
An inference is an attempt to interpret what you are reading now.

The Standard
Anchor Literacy Standard 1 = Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text.

The Lesson
After we clarify what an inference is, we discuss the many times we infer each and every day.  I often find that showing photos of people dressed a certain way or in a particular situation supports students in making this connection between inferring and the conclusions that they draw on a regular basis.  (For instance, a person dressed in ballet slippers, tights, and a leotard is probably on her way to dance class or perhaps getting ready to perform on stage.)

Next, I set a purpose for reading with a guiding question:
Would Hannah be someone that you would want to have for a friend?

I find that gathering clues about a character's qualities as a friend helps younger readers to connect more naturally with the text.  Again, this is an inferential activity (judging if somebody is someone they want as a friend) that children participate in often enough to qualify them as experts.

I remind my students that "yes" or "no" will not be an adequate answer.  If they feel that Hannah would be a good friend, they need to tell me what in the book indicates this.  I provide a worksheet that supports this work; you can download it here:  The Patchwork Path FREEBIE.

Once students have gathered their evidence, I challenge them to use it to support their inferences in a paragraph.

Sentence Stems
As students begin their prewriting, I find that it is helpful to brainstorm sentence stems that we can use when supporting our inferences with evidence.  A few include:
On page _____, I saw that _____
For example, _____
I know this because _____
When the character ______, I could tell she _____

To download the anchor chart as well as the printable handout, please visit here.

Have fun as you visit all of the Reading Crew posts!   Thank you so much for joining us!

Word Work as Word Play

Today I am going to share with you three ways I make sure my students are jumping into literacy with playful excitement!

Buddy work is a natural fit for any time of year.  It's especially critical in those first few days when we're trying to facilitate friendships in our new classroom community, and it supports teamwork and cooperative skills all year long.  Today I had buddies working on fluency by reading aloud together, and yesterday pairs were laughing their way through a game of Scoot.  (I love activities that get my students up and out of their seats - it's like rolling a brain break right into whatever's on my lesson plan!)

One of my most popular resources, Buddy Up!, challenges buddies to come up with irregular plural nouns to complete nursery rhymes in a silly Mad Lib format.  You can download everything you need to use in your classroom immediately - two versions of the play sheet and cards, a list of books to read with your class or keep in your classroom library to introduce and reinforce understanding of irregular plural nouns, and full instructions.  To download it for FREE just click on this image!

Word Work as Word PLAY - Engaging literacy activities and freebies for Back to School (or any time of year!)

Team-building activities set the stage for the rest of the year, especially if you are looking for ways to increase student independence and peer-to-peer collaboration.  One way that I use literacy in team-building is through explicit instruction of collaborative discussion procedures.  First, we discuss expectations for behavior, participation, and outcomes as a class.  Next, I have students all read the same piece closely, preparing for the discussion with a graphic organizer as they read.  When it's time to actually discuss the piece, each student records interesting facts and questions for further research on a discussion notes page.

I'm sharing a second FREEBIE today!  This includes the preparation and notes organizers described above, as well as an article I wrote about how classroom rules enhance learning through their effect on the brain.  You can download it by clicking on this image:

Word Work as Word PLAY - Engaging literacy activities and freebies for Back to School (or any time of year!)
There are so many fun literacy activities out there!  (Of course, my favorite place to turn is Teachers Pay Teachers - be sure to enter our drawing for a TpT gift card at the end of this post!)

Have you ever played Word Mines?  This is where you write down a (usually kind of longish) word or brief phrase, then "mine" its letters to create new words.  I started using this game as a word work activity with my students several years ago, and it's a class favorite every year!  I've got quite a few in my store, but click here for a FREEBIE if you would like to sample it!

Happy Back to School and have a wonderful year with your kiddos!