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The One and Only Ivan

The One and Only Ivan 


Writing about Reading (W.A.R.)

      I had the amazing opportunity to attend the Teachers College Reading & Writing Project August Institute on Writing.  I attended Kate Robert's session on W.A.R.- Writing about Reading.  This post is on how it's coming together in my class.  If you'd like to see the notes from her session, read my older posts from August.
       I have this book on the brain since we're reading it in class.   I read The One and Only Ivan aloud during Reader's Workshop and we discuss it.  We are working on using post-its to annotate our thinking.  I model how to use sentence starters depending on what our focus is.  Right now, we're focusing on applying reading strategies.  One week we did asking questions, the next we did inferring.  Kids have the option of reading Ivan or a book of their choice when reading independently.  We use post its to leave bread crumbs for our thoughts. If kids have a copy (uh, I only have one copy in my class- but it is signed by Katherine Applegate!), they put the post its in their book.  If they are reading it on the Kindles, they put them in their Reader's Workshop notebook- collected on one page. On Friday, they pull one post it to write long about.  It seems to be working well so far. On Tuesday, I'll take some pictures and include them.  I'm the worst at taking pictures.
      For our close reading work, we do that during our Reading Comprehension block.  When I do close reading, I provide the work sheet and model the first few lines.  What would I underline and what does it make me think?

       The focus question is already there for them and there is space for them to underline or highlight and write their thinking on the right side.  When they are underlining, they are noticing text.   They may see patterns, ideas and language.  Then they need to write about why that stuck out at them. When they finish their annotating, they need to go back and answer the focus question. My close reading unit can be found on TPT.  The unit has questions for every chapter and there are close reading worksheets with a gradual release lesson for the more pivotal parts.  So far, we have completed one close reading lesson so the operative word here is modeling but I hope they become as proficient as my students were last year!

     One thing I have not done yet with these students but Kate brought up was infographics. You can read more about them here. I need to think about them some more...

Effort and hard work: moving from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset

Effort and hard work: 

moving from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset

     So I think it's really important to teach kids that their effort is what will help them succeed in school and in life.  I have a wall filled with effort quotes in an attempt to inspire students to always try their best.  I started this after reading Robert Marzano's research on his Nine Instructional Strategies for Effective Teaching and Learning.  I particularly connected with his thoughts on effort.

    This summer, I started reading about moving students from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset. It's an idea discovered by world-renowned Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck.  It's the thought that a fixed mindset- things are the way they are and we can't change them- stands in our way of success.  A growth mindset is the belief that we can develop our brains and our talent through hard work and effort.  That's what I was trying to teach my kids with the effort quotes but I didn't have a name for it.  So my first step was to create posters on moving from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset. Adults (visitors) really liked them but I wasn't sure I was getting through to the kids.

    Then I discovered The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires! And I found this blog by Two Writing Teachers.  They had a convo with the author and really went into depth examining this book.  Read the blog.  It's amazing.  I then created a read aloud lesson plan on inferring that I used as a springboard for delving further into the idea of a growth mindset.  It worked beautifully.  I think the kids have a better grasp of what a growth mindset is. I heard a kid say "I am awe..." and then stop and rephrase his sentence to "I'm on the right track!"

Fourth Grade Teacher in California!

Twitter:  @Lisa_teacher


DonorsChoose grant! Developing the three C's through yoga.

Developing the three C's through Yoga! 

We just started school and do you know what they are most excited about during the school day? Yoga!
I have some amazing fourth grade students that live in a low socioeconomic suburb of Los Angeles. All students are eligible for free lunch and this is a Title 1 school. Our school is an amazing place where we teach students the qualities necessary to be outstanding world leaders.
It's all about the Arts and Creativity! My students are benefiting from yoga. Yoga helps build strength, flexibility and confidence. I want students to develop their skills of creativity, critical thinking and collaboration through yoga and the materials we are requesting. They can use the books to think critically and design a yoga plan. They can work collaboratively to use the ipods to take pictures of yoga positions and create a class book of the importance of exercise with the app, Story.
I hope this project allows my students to develop in the three competencies of critical thinking, creativity and collaboration through yoga and the use of technology to create a class book. Please consider supporting our project today! Any donation would be greatly appreciated. 
My students need an ipod to take control of their learning and develop their skills of critical thinking, creativity and collaboration and books about yoga.

Just click here!  When you donate, use the code INSPIRE on the payment page.  It will be matched by DonorsChoose.  If you donate by Sunday, it will be matched again by the Gates Foundation!  Thanks for your help!!!

Fourth Grade Teacher in California!

Twitter:  @Lisa_teacher


The First Days of School

The First Days of School

     So we have begun!  It was a little stressful because I was at the TCRWP Writing Institute last week (of which I loved every minute!) and I had no time to set up my room.  I only had a few hours on Monday and they kicked us out by 4:30!  But things have settled down and I feel better today.  The kids seem happy and have adjusted well.

     So we have begun reading The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Patterson.  If you have not read it, do so!  I'm using my Close Reading Guide to lead my students in their thinking.  Find it at my TPT store.  It's a beautiful story told from the point of Ivan, the gorilla, get his story here.  It was on NPR.

     We are going to start with Realistic Fiction for writing as suggested by TCRWP.  We started today by brainstorming ordinary moments.  As usual, kids wanted to write about days at Disneyland or fancy trips. I had to remind them to keep to ordinary moments, such as in the mentor text The Leaving Morning by Angela Johnson.  Her craft of stretching those ordinary moments into stories is amazing.  You can also use Miss Rumphius and use the example of Alice sitting with her grandfather listening to stories.
     So for math, our school is moving towards cognitively guided instruction.  I just had my PD on it this afternoon so I'm still trying to wrap my head around it.  I have to do some research!
     We have begun our project based learning.  We are starting our work on driving questions.  You can see my Edmodo post for more info on that.


  • Reading interest survey question: What did you read this summer? Student: "What if I didn't read anything?" Me: (clutching my chest) "What?! Don't ever say that! I think you injured my heart!"
  • During Math Student: "Can we work together for math?" Me: "If you need to talk about the work, you can work in pairs, triads, whatever you need." Student: "Really???"
  • Student: "Will we do yoga today?  Pleeaassse!" (We do yoga for 5-10 minutes at the end of the day.)
  • Reading The One and Only Ivan, Student: "How did Ivan get to live in a mall? That's just weird!"
     Thanks for stopping by!

Twitter: @Lisa_teacher




     So this is by no means an Edmodo primer...just wanted to give you my impressions and how I'm using it so far.  
     First of all, it's totally free.  It is also super easy to get your students in.  You make your account and then create the class. The website will assign you a group code.  When your students have their tech in front of them, have them go to "get Secure Student Account".  They put their group code in, their name and create a password.  No email required.  It automatically adds them to your class.  It's completely secure.
     So, the kids call it "Facebook for kids".  They can easily send each other messages, privately or to the whole group.  But here is one way I used it today... our school is a global studies school.  We study our continents through Project Based Learning.  For my class, I like students to think of their own driving questions. However, these are new fourth graders (essentially still third graders) and don't have much practice with project based learning or technology.  They voted to start their inquiry with France. Today, they used Edmodo and Google to spark their thinking.  I taught them how to have two open tabs: one for Google and one for Edmodo. They used the Google tab for research on whatever topic they were curious about.  The Edmodo tab was for collaboration.  They asked questions about France.  They were able to add pictures and links very easily.  Tomorrow, I'm going to compile the questions and we're going to separate them into "good" and "maybe not" questions for deep inquiry.  Here is an example of what they did:
     Looking at Ben's post (at the bottom), we need to talk about staying focused on the work at hand!      Next, I will introduce the icons of Depth and Complexity (to me, all kids are gifted!), and how to use them to create deep driving questions for their research on France.  For example, what details characterize parks in France? and What types of insects can be found in France that cannot be found in the US?  I liked Breanna's question: How is French baking similar to Mexican baking?  I just want them to be able to ask deeper questions that will spur more thinking and questioning.  It's a process that will take them awhile before they can do it on their own.  Lots of modeling required!
     I've also used Edmodo for small group work and to send tiered assignments.  My kids love the apps.  Subtext is a great app and is something I'll write about another time.


Wonder: A guide to close reading this book

Wonder by R.J. Palacio:
 Close Reading this Exceptional Story

By Lisa Robles

     Have you read this book?  If not, here's a video clip to introduce you to August.

     This is such a wonderful read aloud for our fourth through sixth graders.  It's about Auggie Pullman who was born with a facial deformity.  For the first time in his life, he's going to attend school with his peers.  This book is about friendship, love, courage, empathy, character, bullying, perseverance and always being just a bit kinder than necessary.

     I created a close reading guide for the book.  Close reading will be an integral part of teaching with the Common Core. Students need to know how to be analytic when reading texts and poems. In the close reading guide, I have outlined the components of authentic literacy and what it looks like in the classroom. I formatted the unit as follows. It begins with an explanation of close reading and how to format a lesson. Then, there is a story summary, themes listed and character descriptions. After that, I created focus questions for each chapter. There are explicit gradual release formatted lessons sprinkled throughout. I included a close reading sheet for each of the explicit lessons. You could use the focus questions to create more close reading lessons using the blank templates or for class discussions. At the end, there is a blank sheet for planning and to use with close reading of different chapters. It's $9.99 for a great resource.  I hope your students enjoy it as much as my students did. This isn't a bunch of worksheets as I don't teach that way. This is for going deep with the literature!

          I found this great tumblr about it called choosekind.  It's got a list of R.J. Palacio's author tour dates.  Maybe she'll be coming to a city near you!  You can also send an ecard.  R. J. Palacio also has a website that you could use as a resource.  You could even buy The Julian Chapter to extend the book.  It's $1.99 on Amazon.

     I also made a multimedia text set.  It was my first attempt so it's a freebie for you!  It has a QR code and links to activities.  A new way to incorporate tech into your day and free you up to work with a small group that needs some extra attention.

     I hope you give Wonder a try.  It's a great book.  The close reading guide will help you incorporate the CCSS into your instruction.

Here are some comments I've gotten about my close reading guide:
"Fantastic resource to go along with an exquisite book."
"Very thought-provoking questions which is exactly what I was looking for. Thank you!!!"
"Perfect for close reading - Thanks!"
"What a great resources! My students are enjoying the lessons!"


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TCRWP August Institute: Writing Institute 2014-15 Day 5

TCRWP August Institute: Writing


Day 5

        I'm here at Teachers' College Reading and Writing Project! Waa!  It's the last day!  So sad.

Writing to intensify reading Kate Roberts

Lit Essays
What could it be?
When will out kids be ready to move on from the five paragraph essay.  The five paragraph essay shouldn't be a crutch.  Like any crutch, it's meant to be abandoned at some point.

Collecting for ideas and Thesis statements
  • Reflecting on Notebook work
  • Think on infographics
  • Evaluating "best' ideas
Craft a thesis statement
  • Use thought prompts to push thinking
  • Allowing infographics to be a jumping off point
  • Using post-its and categorizing them, looking for patterns
  • Taking quotes and labeling them (emotions, etc.)
  • Use grid to help thinking
  • Companion books as mentors
Plan or structure our essay -Boxes and bullets, Reasons or times in the book
  • Infographic
Choose evidence
  • Close reading work (choose evidence and route thinking)
  • Ranking (Best, Worst, Least, First...)
  • Microstory work - partner work
Draft >> Analyzing evidence
  • Look at notebook and set goals
  • Thought prompts
  • Elaborate on infographic
  • Code post-its for paragraphs
  • Long jots
  • Use grid to see how its falling and creating a powerful story
Using thought prompts:
I Think...
  • Consider that...
  • It is true that...
  • I believe...
  • I've come to understand...
  • One could say...
This is important because...
  • The heart of this...
  • The significance of this...
  • The author did this because...
  • The intention here is...
For example...
  • For instance
  • Take this example....
  • In addition...
This shows that...
  • This demonstrates...
  • Consequently...
  • This illustrates...
(How do I do the work of explaining the why of a trait or action?)

  • Use checklist independently, with a partner, a small group
  • Annotating with an eye towards close reading
  • Color coding
  • Cut it up and reorder to imagine different combinations
Bring some writers worksop work into our lit essays!

Brainstorm some ideas for a thesis statement for The Stolen Party
Does Luciana see Rosaura as a friend?
What were her intentions in inviting Rosaura? Friend or servant?
The real foe here is classism, not Senora Inez.
What makes a friendship?

Movement from Pride to Rage
Anecdote >>> Define pride and discuss its' affects >>>
Show a moment of Rosaura's pride >>> Her mother's pride stems from Senora Inez pride >>> XXX >>> XXX
Again try to get out of the five paragraph essay.  Th essay should be a journey of thought.
Things to consider
  • Word choice
  • Figurative language 
  • -metaphor/simile
  • -varying sentence length
What will you be applying to your work next year? Well for me, I will be concentrating on incorporating...
  • thought prompts
  • the grids
  • the bands of text complexity
Think about writing and engagement in our lives:
  • Post it your television watching
  • People in your lives (How can your mom be both wonderful and frustraing?
  • Use infographics
  • what parts of the text resonates with your heart

Strategies are great but make sure to connect it to the kids lives!

Conferring to move kids and generate curriculum       Carl Anderson

Tape yourself: It's hard but look back at conferring sessions and debrief with someone else:  First compliment (glow) and then suggest (grow)

Rapport with students is key to having good writing conferences

How much time do we spend on each conference move?
Teaching portion should be about 25%!!

Problems with "on the spot" conferring
anxiety, too long, on research, not accurate, not consistent

Note taking forms:
  • Help us keep track so we don't accidentally skip someone
  • We can keep notes on goals for students
  • Reflection on work
  • Gives us data to create mini-lessons
  • Allows specificity when speaking to admins and parents
  • Tool for self-reflection
Types (I use individual student forms, fyi):
There is no perfect form- use what works for you
  • Whole class at a glance (Grid or roster)
  • Individual forms 
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Companion Book for The One and Only Ivan

Companion Book for The One and Only Ivan

She Just Didn't Get It

By Mack

    I love him.  I really do.  He's great.  I can remember when I opened that crate and saw him for the first time.  It brought tears to my eyes, it did.  He was so cute and helpless.  I knew he'd make me a ton of money.
     We treated him just like he was our own baby.  Me and Helen, we never had kids so he was it.  The only problem was, he kept breakin' stuff.  Like all the time! And Helen, boy, she sure could yell.  She was so mad all the time.
     I tried to show her Ivan was a great addition to the family.  The people, they loved him.  I dressed him up and took him to the mall and they paid. Boy, did they pay!  They wanted pictures with the baby gorilla.  It was great except...
     Helen didn't care.  She yelled and screamed and screeched.  By golly, the whole neighborhood could hear.  Didn't matter what I said, she said, "It's me or the gorilla."  Well, I didn't say nuthin'.  She was being unreasonable and bad-tempered.  Come on, he was our money maker.  She couldn't take it, I guess.  It's just me and Ivan now...and a little booze now and then, just to take the edge off and help me forget.

Interactive video you can use BEFORE you read the book!  The choice the children make will give them a writing activity incorporating edtech.

First try...
The Hunters
    They are clumsy oafs always on the lookout.  They hunt feverishly, quickly, angrily.  How can I be related to these hunters?  They are actually quite dumb. They don't really see me or understand my art.  Did I tell you I was an artist? I have been an artist since I was a wee baby in my mother's arms.  
     Another thing about these hunters is that they are always here- watching, judging.  I do not understand these smelly hunters.  What do they want? Why do they watch me? How can I be related to them?  I am a gentle, majestic giant and they are clumsy oafs.  Sometimes I throw me-balls at them.  They just don't go away.
     I don't mean to throw me-balls at them.  I just get frustrated.  By nature, I am sweet and uncomplaining, a poet even!  These hunters are dirty and smelly. I just can't help myself.

^^^^Well, here is my first attempt at a companion book for Kate Roberts advanced session at TCRWP.  I wasn't happy with it so I tried again after looking at some on GoodReads.

     I wrote a close reading unit for Ivan.  It's on TPT.  If you're interested, click here.  Find me on Twitter @Lisa_teacher or Pinterest: lisarteacher!!

August Institute: Writing Institute 2014-15 Day 4

August Institute: Writing Institute

Day 4

        I'm here at Teachers' College Reading and Writing Project! It's day 4- oh. no, it's passing so fast!!

Writing to intensify reading Kate Roberts

Keeping students engaged and motivated for Reader's Notebook work

  • Talk to partners or book clubs. Watching a small group conversation on Vimeo.  Look at partner talk.
  • Technology>>blogs, video trailers, book reviews, Video Confessionals (like reality shows), Mission Impossible videos for small groups, GoodReads, Todays Meet , Uses her blog to teach and students use their blog as a reading notebook, WhiteBoard App (ShowMe, Explain Everything, Educreations) 
  • Flexibility  Talk to kids about what their reading responses should look like. Every student has different needs/abilities.
Which of these ideas/tools have you done?  Which of these ideas/tools are you thinking of trying?

Companion Books

A companion book is like a bonus to another book.  It might give readers more insight to issues, themes, characters or plot in the book.  Could be argument, informational or narrative. It's a flash draft project.  It's a multi-genre project.  You are leaning on your students knowledge of the different genres- Probably an end of the year project for third, fourth and fifth grades.  You can find companion book examples for most very popular books (e.g. Harry Potter, Percy Jackson etc.).  Also look for the bookshelf on GoodReads!

What goes into a companion book?

We need to create chapters- what are the most interesting, fascinating, or easiest things to write about?
Common structures for companion book chapters

  • Essays-idea based writing
  • Informational texts
  • Narratives
  • Problem-solution
  • Classify/sorting or ranking
  • Definition "What is the meaning of hunger in the hunger games?"
  • Trail of research
  • A combination of the above
A way to do this with A Stolen Party
Table of contents  
  • Rosaura and her mother-Lit essay
  • Role of money and how people see it?-Argumentation
  • What's up with the monkey?-Informational
  • Luciana's perspective-Narrative

A way to do this with The One and Only Ivan
Table of contents  
  • Relationship between Mack and Ivan-Lit essay
  • Are we taking care of the earth and the animals that depend on us-Argumentation
  • The physical and emotional needs of a gorilla-Informational
  • Bob's perspective-Narrative
Structures students can nuse to plan writing:
  • Can use "boxes and bullets" to structure draft
  • "Tell the story of their journey" linear structure
  • Problem >>> solution
  • Any structure you've taught your kids to plan their writing
Train kids to chink the text and then jot down words or phrases.  The group them together.  Emotions works well (Defensive, Rudeness affecting relationship, Anger)

My practice with The On and Only Ivan
Ivan's Image
Chapter I chose how I look
wild gorilla
shy gaze
sly smile
snowy saddle of fur
uniform of a silverback
gorilla's majestic shadow
test of themselves
fighting winds on the wind
mightier than any human
pure power
made for battle
great ape
distant and distrustful cousins

this is troubling

linking me to a race of ill-mannered clowns

Looking at my list, it could be be organized in how they look, who they are, how humans see them and how Ivan sees humans...

My flash draft... 

To Ivan, humans look bad.  We make faces at them as we pass.  We see them as large fearsome beasts that are "made for battle."  He knows we're "related" but he doesn't see how we could be.  He's actually troubled by how that could be when gorillas are gentle giants and humans clumsy oafs.

Homework!!  Finish up your chapter!

Companion books

  1. Research  Text box of information
  2. Infographics that represent the heart of your chapter
  3. Text features-Non ficytion headings
  4. Choose an audience/tone

  • Earnest fanboy
  • Just the facts, ma'am
  • Sarcastic critic
  • Intelligent professor

Conferring to move kids and generate curriculum  

  Carl Anderson

The teacher's role in a conference
In the first part of the conference:

  • Invite the child to set the agenda
  • Ask assessment questions
  • Look at the child's writing
  • Make a teaching decision
In a conference, be sure to stick to the point.  Good idea to keep a writer's notebook close by to use as a Mentor text.

Qualities of effective teaching in conferences

  • Cue the child that you're about to teach "There's something I want to teach you today..."
  • Name what you're teaching
  • Give an explanation of what you're teaching
  • When necessary, explain why the craft, strategy or convention is important for them.
  • Explain how to do what you're teaching.
Conferring cheating!   You're conferring with one kids but you know kids 2 and 3 need the same thing, bring them over too and have them listen in- it becomes an informal conference.

Coach the child as she "has a go" with what you taught

  • Have the child talk out how she can use what you taught in her writing
  • Katie Ray calls this writing in the air
  • Coach the child by prompting them with the questions writers ask themselves when they use the strategy, try the craft technique etc.
Remember-you are the coach, not the creator or the leader.  Kids should be doing most of the work.

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