Thursday, February 13, 2014

Recap of Session 2: Using Read Alouds to Maximize Learning of CCSS Standards

With the implementation of the Common Core State Standards, we are in the midst of identifying best practices not just for teachers and their development, but also for helping students in areas such as understanding complex texts. There is so much concern about the challenges that these standards present, that we often forget how significant and exciting it is that educators across the country can now work collaboratively to meet this challenge. Today, I was fortunate to deliver the second session for the Common Core Café. The teachers that came to this session are not only curious, professional, driven, but also open to sharing their “tool kit” of strategies they currently have with the Café participants across the district. Listening to their engaged discussions gave validity to the work that we are trying to accomplish. That as teachers, we have a repertoire of strategies that will help our students master the Common Core standards.

Here is an overview of the material we covered.

You can access my PowerPoint HERE for this session

Reading Aloud to children, even after they know how to read, is such a valuable experience! Children of all ages love to gather around and hear a good story, told by a skillful reader. 


The anchor standards that we focused today on are: 




Here are a few reasons why reading to your class is such a relevant strategy to increase learning in your class:

  1. Reading aloud exposes children to complex language, which will help the children in all areas of their development, especially their reading development.  

  2. Reading aloud to children enhances a child's oral vocabulary. A strong oral vocabulary is essential to reading comprehension.

  3. Reading aloud teaches children about the world. It promotes lots of conversations about what is like in different parts of the world, for people who are different from themselves. They travel to faraway lands and they travel through time.  

  4. Reading aloud models reading fluency and good reading habits.

  5. Reading aloud models good reading strategies.  Most teachers "think aloud" while reading, modeling the types of thoughts readers have.  ("I wonder what happens next." or "I think he's going to..." are great conversation starters with children!)

  6. Reading aloud helps children learn how stories are structured.  They learn how stories typically begin by introducing the characters and setting, then things develop, a conflict arises, then a solution.

  7. Reading aloud helps children recognize and explore feelings through the characters in the stories read to them.  They develop empathy and compassion.

  8. Read alouds encourage thinking.

  9. Read alouds encourage imagination!

  10. Read alouds encourage children to express themselves more clearly and more confidently.

The CCSS Exemplar Texts

Should you only stick to these or explore others...? Yes! Explore! Tailor your own curriculum to meet the needs of students. 
One issue of  concern to educators is the grade-level lists of text exemplars that are included in Appendix B of the CCSS. Many schools and some states interpret these lists of stories, poems, and informational texts as core lists that all students should read and are attempting to purchase these sets and mandate them for classroom use. A close reading of the standards document indicates that the list and text excerpts are provided to help teachers explore the levels of complexity and quality of texts recommended for a particular grade level, so they can make their own informed selections. The lists are thus exemplars of text complexity, not a mandated reading list.

For lists of the CCSS Exemplar Texts for your grade click HERE.

After looking at all these books on, I'm aching to buy them all and read them to my kids!  They represent a variety of cultures, people, places, and topics that will inspire any child!  

Here are some of my favorite books to read aloud to my class. They also lend themselves to crafting Common Core Standards based lessons that enhance student learning and deepen student understanding. Sarah Perry

This is a rather interesting book about eccentric and preposterous suppositions stated in simple text but accompanied by surrealistic images, as the cover indicates with fish for leaves.

If... has very little text, but the content and illustrations are extremely powerful. The text and illustrations demand a response, both immediate and in imaginative "what if " type discussion. Interaction with the text is immediate...
If cats could fly..., If mice were hair..., If worms had wheels..., If toes were teeth..., If ugly were beautiful..., If music could be held, ... The book ends with If this is the end ... then dream up some more!
The front cover of the book shows a branch covered with green fish ("If leaves were fish"). Before the initiation the reading of the book, the children predicted what the book could possibly be about. Could this relate to the world we know? Why / why not? Could there be a time or situation where this could happen? How? What questions did they want to ask about the possibilities of "If.."? Why such a strange title? How could this fit with what we predict about the book?
This inquiry approach to the introduction to this book set the mood for imaginative thinking, a sense of fun in contributing ideas and listening to what children could suggest. As a class, we establish some ground rules for further sharing of opinion. I will refer the students to revisit our rules for academic class discussion.  I also teach artistic inquiry in my classroom and to also teach students how to draw conclusions.
Here is a great article on how to teach artistic inquiry: 

Fortunately by Remy Charlip

About This Book
Fortunately Ned was invited to a surprise party. Unfortunately the party was a thousand miles away. Fortunately he borrowed an airplane. Unfortunately the motor exploded. Good fortune follows bad through a hilarious series of cliff-hanging escapades that lead to a fortunate ending. 
My students and I love this book. Not only were my students able to make predictions, but they were also able to create funny predictions that were more elaborate than the story provided. They loved making their own cause/effect book. It was a great way to teach the concept, read fun literature that connected to their lives, and try a different type of writing. They loved sharing the books they created.

Additional literacy ideas to use with this book:

Story Pattern- this is a FUN story to imitate as a writer. Have your child write their own Fortunately story. They could narrate it to you, or they could make it in the form of a book complete with illustrations if that interests them. Alternatively, a student could predict what happens next and continue writing the story.
1st Grade Student practicing writing in a pattern (Cause and Effect)

Vocabulary- the words "Fortunately" and "Unfortunately" are repeated throughout the story. Does your child know what they mean? Complete shutterflap book.

Prefix- Un- for older students who are reading well, this would be a good time to introduce the concept of the prefix UN. Make a list of all the words you can think of that start with un-. Your older student may also enjoy finding other prefixes that are frequently used in the English language and making lists for each prefix.
Students come up with words that have the prefix "un"
We use our spiral notebooks to go over the prefix "un"

  The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt

The Day the Crayons Quit, Drew Daywalt’s clever story of a box of crayons gone rogue will get the whole family laughing at the letters written by the occupants of the ubiquitous yellow and green box. The combination of text and Oliver Jeffers' illustrations match the colors' personalities beautifully as the crayons share their concern, appreciation, or downright frustration: yellow and orange demand to know the true color of the sun, while green--clearly the people pleaser of the bunch--is happy with his workload of crocodiles, trees, and dinosaurs. Peach crayon wants to know why his wrapper was torn off, leaving him naked and in hiding; blue is exhausted and, well, worn out; and pink wants a little more paper time. The result of this letter writing campaign is colorful creativity and after reading this book I will never look at crayons the same way again--nor would I want to. -Seira Wilson,


This picture book is not only clever and charming, but it is a great mentor text.  
Here are a few of the possible things you can use it for with the writers in your workshop:
  1. Building Content Through Show, Not Tell (Using Illustrations): This idea comes from Dorfman and Cappelli’s book Mentor Texts: Teaching WritingThrough Children’s Literature, K-6 (pages 94-95). Each crayon’s mood or situation is reflected in each illustration that accompanies its letter. Students who are drawing and writing can study the illustrations in this text to help them better show what’s happening in their pieces through pictures and text.
  2. Commas in Lists: If your students need guidance, there are many examples of commas that appear in lists in this book.
  3. Ending Punctuation: The ending punctuation is varied in this text. Many sentences trail off (…), ask questions (?) or end in a declaration (!).
  4. Friendly Letter Format: Page after page, each crayon’s letter to Duncan begins with a salutation (e.g., Dear Duncan; Hi Duncan) and ends with a closing (e.g., Your overworked friend, Red Crayon; Your naked friend, Peach Crayon) that reflects each crayon’s voice.
  5. Lead:  The book begins with “One day in class, Duncan went to take out his crayons and found a stack of letters with his name on them.”  I don’t know about you, but I was wondering what was in those letters immediately!  While the book began like so many other books, with the words, “one day,” it immediately sucked me because of everything else in this powerful first sentence.
  6. Precise Words: Each crayon uses precise words (i.e., nouns, verbs, and adjectives) to describe his/her situation.  You can examine these author’s word choices alongside students and talk about the way precise language helps create a greater impact (than less specific words would have if they were used).
  7. Variations in Print: Some words are capitalized, some phrases are underlined, and some sentences are written slightly larger. You can ask students to consider why the author (and illustrator) did this so they can try it out in their own writing.
  8. Voice:  Each crayon has his/her own distinct voice. You might choose to examine the way each crayon writes with voice with each student.  In addition, you can have a conversation about the tone students use in letters by examining the way some crayons are  more respectful towards Duncan (with their persuasive arguments), while others are downright whiny

Oliver Jeffers: Picture Book Maker 

This video clip is poignant to the classroom teacher that appreciates the value illustrations bring to text. Every year I have one, maybe two (if we are lucky) artists that love to draw in the class. I say "we" because students in class always enjoy learning and appreciating the artwork of our classmates. Sometimes these students that are artist, only love to draw. They come to school with the hope that they will get to use their very talented skills during the day. I love to incorporate illustrations, artwork of all mediums, as a component of finalizing a project. I love to read books to the class that are rich not only in words but in illustrations. Hence, this video clip is about Oliver Jeffers, an illustrator.

Oliver Jeffers takes us through the process of writing and illustrating his picture books in this fascinating behind-the-scenes look at the artist. Oliver Jeffers has written the picture books This Moose Belongs to Me, Stuck, The Incredible Book-Eating Boy, Lost and Found, How to Catch a Star, The Great Paper Caper, Up and Down, The Heart and the Bottle, The Hueys and illustrated the upcoming The Day the Crayons Quit.

Use this video to show students that illustrators play a huge role in bringing words to life. 

Word Mover’s Word Mover mobile app can be used to supplement classroom instruction, reinforce concepts taught in class, offer increased student engagement, and promote out-of-school literacy through the use of tablet devices and their associated functionality.

Word Mover allows children and teens to create “found poetry” by choosing from word banks and  existing famous works; additionally, users can add new words to create a piece of poetry by moving/manipulating the text.

Today, I also discussed a great leadership opportunity: 

California Teachers Association (CTA), Leadership Cohort 2:

Be a part of an essential group of advocates for public education:

Imagine serving in important leadership roles and becoming a strong advocate for the teaching profession and for the students you serve. CTA is looking across the state for 24 teacher activists to join the CTA Teacher Leadership Cohort. 
Click HERE to read more about it and apply! 

Some pictures of our talented teachers collaborating: 

Feedback from our session 2

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