Wednesday, January 8, 2014

I got the Eye of the Tiger!

"Mrs. DiBartolo!! I know! I know! I want to tell you, Mack is a jerk! Mack is a mean man who is abusive! Come over here and let me show you what I wrote- what I circled!" .....

All this from a boy in an ELA class that has the reputation of being a behavior problem and not available for learning. The strategies from Falling in Love with Close Reading have changed not only my teaching, but the learning of my students. 

I have completed three days of my reading lab "Strategies in Action" in a colleagues classroom- and it has been truly amazing! Not only am I learning more as a teacher than I thought I ever would- it is the students that have made this experience of being in the classroom remarkable. 

My first lesson was closely reading for text evidence using the song "ROAR"- and boy did the students show they have "the eye of the tiger"! The students took the song to a whole new level- and walked away with a deeper meaning. Not only that, they stopped me in the halls and in  class to tell me the new songs they are listening too and trying to understand. Students are asking to continue to read lyrics to music. They took the extra music lyrics I printed off from popular songs like, "Home" by Phillip Phillips, "Demons" by Imagine Dragons and "Firework" by Katy Perry and brought them home to read over and annotate for a deeper meaning. I want to point out that this is a class that requires a lot of emotional and academic support through a special education teacher, classroom teacher and paraprofessional- yet they were engaged and motivated to learn. They questioned each other, they extended each others thinking and wrote and wrote!  I couldn't have been more proud!  Here is a snap shot of their work with "ROAR". 


 From this lesson we moved into closely reading an excerpt from The One and Only Ivan. I realized as I was planning out this lesson, that I couldn't really predict which lens the students were going to chose to read through. By having the students start off by making observations about the characters, it gives them the freedom to decide what is important to know about the characters. Students are all going to have different responses, and I realized that I would have to look for those common patterns within the observations  in order to help them understand the idea of reading with a specific lens. I could plan it one way, and the students ideas could take the lesson in a totally different direction. Being such a type A personality and knowing other teachers were going to be watching, it made me nervous- but then I realized it isn't about me- it's about the students. It is my job as their teacher to facilitate their learning and lead them to a deeper understanding of the characters. If I told them what lens to read through- I have done the work and not them!

The students rose to the occasion! They immediately saw they focused in on the characters actions and dug deeper into the text to locate further evidence of the characters actions. This is really where their learning took off! Even without introducing the ideas of patterns and grouping our evidence, through their discussions the students began to make inferences about the characters. They began to see the characters motivations and relationships. By color coding the patterns, it only strengthened their thoughts! I heard students say, " Wait- I agree with you because Stella rushes to Ruby even though she is in pain!" and " Ivan is so caring just by the way he tells Stella it will be ok!" The biggest Aha moment came when the students realized the relationship between Stella and Ruby- Stella was going to care for Ruby like Ruby was her daughter. All this through the close analysis of the actions of Stella and Ruby. They saw how Stella defends Ruby against Mack, the awful zoo owner. And how Stella risks her life!




Nothing compares to seeing the success of the students. I informed them they are scholars and reminded them that this was hard work and they accomplished it! So many times, students are described as having trouble connecting their reading and ideas into their writing. But not today! Students I had planned on needing to provide extra support during the written response didn't need it. Honestly, I have never seen a group of students work so diligently and persevere through the lesson.

 Before we started our lesson today, I played the song "Best Day of my Life" by American Authors. I explained to the students that when I hear this song, it energizes me and gets me ready for the day at work. I told them I considered being in their class over the next few days to be the "Best Days of my Life" and I hoped that when they read and learn with each other they are having the "Best Days of their Life" just like the song. ( I know kind of corny- but their reaction was priceless- They ate it up!) I want them to know I value them as students, readers and children.

I have about 5 more classes left to teach with this group of students. I plan on taking them through a journey of reading informational text about elephants to strengthen their understanding of Stella and Ruby in The One and Only Ivan. I want them to continue their work of closely reading for text evidence to make connections between the fiction and nonfiction and to gain an understanding of the central idea of the informational text.

And as a request by a student, I better find a way to incorporate the song "Radioactive" into my lessons! Guess I have my work cut out for me!







9 comments:

  1. Kara,
    So wonderful to read of the connections you and the students were making! It always amazes me how the level of engagement goes up when their interests and tapped. You've hooked them in so well and then added the awesome One and Only Ivan! Thanks for sharing your success story!

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  2. This is such a good sharing post, and I love how you used song lyrics to engage your students. That's just what Chris and Kate advise us to do, right? Tap into pop culture for the things our students care about.
    Kevin

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    1. Hi Kevin! I have finally had time to go back and really read the comments from followers! Using songs in my lessons have had such an amazing impact on the students. It brings engagement and learning to a whole new level. I encourage everyone to use songs and just watch what happens!! Thanks for your comment!

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  3. This is my favorite kind of lesson. Kids come so alive and reading becomes so simple. The cross texts connections are so incredibly powerful. This is a great idea. Lets just hope Pop music can give us more songs to work with. Roar is a treat because is has a message and doesn't have alot of the other stuff. So very glad you tried this type of lesson and told us all about it!

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  4. So elated that my students are in the hands of the wonderful Mrs. D. while I"m 'on the mend!' Sounds like you are learning so much together and I can't wait to return to my classroom and learn from all of you! Please tell them I'm so proud of their work and that I can tell they are 'kicking it up a notch with Mrs. D.!' and tell them I miss them! Thanks for all you do, Kara!

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  5. Yay for you! I'm happy you had such great success this weeks with the kids. I'm also proud of Liz for figuring out how to comment on the blog! ;)

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  6. So happy for your students' success with close reading! I love that you were brave enough to let your students set the agenda for learning, especially with your colleagues in the room.

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    1. Thank you! The Superintendent of Schools is coming to watch on Monday when I teach using informational text. Students really take the lead on that lesson- so I am nervous- but hoping it goes well!!

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  7. Just out of curiosity, what pages did you use from The One and Only Ivan. I love that book, and would love to read the whole thing with my class, but unfortunately, don't have enough copies. Thanks for your help! I am reading Falling in Love with Close Reading right now and am definitely falling in love!

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