Friday, September 6, 2013

Clicking and Clunking into the New School Year!

Well...I have now had my class for seven school days. What a huge change! Now I have matched names with faces and faces with handwriting. I know who likes to run errands, who loves our class catfish, and who takes the initiative to take a poll to name our fish. I feel much more settled.

Last time, I wrote about starting the year with clicks and clunks. It really worked out pretty well. What I like about the terminology is that it doesn't take much explaining--kids already know what the words mean.

There are many different books to model clicks and clunks. Over in third grade, my husband used Earthlets: As Explained by Professor Xargle to great effect. Some kids totally clunked the first time he read the story aloud--they just didn't realize that "Earthlets" are babies. After they talked about it and the kids adjusted their mental models, he reread the book. There was much more laughter the second time around as the kids turned their clunks into clicks.

I have two reading classes, both in the afternoon, and I like to change up the books to keep things interesting for myself. I used the document camera to share The Goldilocks Variations by Allan Ahlberg with the first class. Right away we had a clunk on the first page: What does the word cheeky mean?
In this case, I explained the meaning of the word, and the students quickly understood. The word cheeky is used repeatedly through the story. (And it is such a great word!) When we got to "Goldilocks and the Bliim", we really had the opportunity to discuss using context to solve words. And the author helpfully provides an English-Bliim picture glossary.

With my next class, I went right into the first chapter of Toys Go Out. I love this book so much for transitional readers! We had a great discussion about what they were visualizing. We also talked about how sometimes authors give us clunks on purpose. It's so tricky as a reader to figure out when we have to fix up a clunk right away, and when we can just relax and read on. Chapter Two is even better for visualizing--what is Plastic?--and will be a treat for next week.

I extended the thinking about clicks and clunks into independent reading. This year I have tried to move kids faster from the easy, fun books and into books that will take them several days or weeks to read. It's not always successful. I had them use the page "Keeping Track of Clicks and Clunks" to think about what they were understanding. What if a reader has no clunks? Then that book is too easy! (Or they're playing the Pretend Game.) This conversation is so important, but we just had the chance to get started with it before the end of the week.

Keeping track of clicks and clunks from Emily Kissner

I knew that it was working when a student brought up a science paper to me and said, "This part just clunks," pointing to a sentence. So he was able to find where he was having a problem and point it out...a first step to success!

Then at the end of the day we finished up with a game of Streets and Alleys outside over the hill. (It is so lovely to teach at a school that has space "over the hill"! It just sounds fun and exciting to say.) If you are not familiar with the game, you really should try it with your students: here are directions. The directions say it is a small space game, but we spread out quite a bit.

News and Notes
-It's not too late for the September reading homework--they don't actually say "September", so you can use them into the fall. I am working working working on an October set.

-If you have an intervention group, try out the Puppet Plays that I wrote for my husband's class last year. The kids loved them, and appreciated being able to go perform for kindergarteners! (Please note: Puppets are not included, but there are some awesome basic sets that you can purchase.)

-I'm about to pull out my Max Mission stories for another year. These are short texts that give kids practice in making text-based inferences.

-We're trying out using Daily Sentence exercises in writing class this year. Based on the work of Don and Jenny Killgallon, these exercises will (hopefully) help students to become more aware of how sentences are put together. Edit: These are now available here and here.

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