Crafting Connections
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Notice and Note Nonfiction Signposts: FREE Resources

Wednesday, September 11, 2019
When I read Notice and Note: Strategies for Close Reading by Kylene Beers and Robert E. Probst a few years ago, I was spellbound. In that first signpost book, they explained how teachers can introduce six signposts to their students that will guide them in identifying and analyzing meaningful moments in fiction literature. I was such a huge fan of that book that I wrote a blog post about it and created a handful of free supplemental resources for teachers who had also read the book and wanted to implement the strategies into their instruction. (Click here to read the post that focuses on the six fiction signposts.)

At that time, I vowed to read their new nonfiction signpost book as soon as I had a chance, and to create supplemental free materials to accompany that book, as well. Needless to say, it took me a whole lot longer to get this done than I originally planned. Thanks to the teachers who emailed me over the past few years asking about these... a few weeks ago, I finally decided to make reading Reading Nonfiction: Notice and Note Stances, Signposts, and Strategies a priority! (I don't know about you, but for me, when it comes to reading professional books, I can always seem to think of something else that I "need" to do before I can make time to sit down and read the book.)

As I anticipated, I was very impressed with their nonfiction signpost book. I am convinced that teaching these signposts will result in students who go beyond a "read-once-and-discuss" approach, and they will acquire a much deeper understanding of that nonfiction text than their peers who are not exposed to these signposts.
FREE Notice and Note Nonfiction Posters and Task Cards! This blog post includes resources and passages to supplement the strategies outlined in the book Reading Nonfiction: Notice and Note by Beers and Probst.


Click on the image below (which includes an Amazon affiliate link) to check out the book. It is divided into four parts. Part 1 focuses on issues to consider when teaching students to read nonfiction. It includes research findings and addresses many challenges faced by teachers and students alike.
Reading Nonfiction: Notice and Note Stances, Signposts, and Strategies by Beers and Probst: This blog post contains free supplemental classroom resources to accompany these strategies!

Part 2 focuses on the importance of stance. The authors share three Big Questions that encourage an attentive stance when it comes to reading nonfiction:

  • What surprised me?
  • What did the author think I already knew?
  • What challenged, changed, or confirmed what I already knew?


Part 3 focuses on the five signposts. This is my favorite part, as it contains 5 well-crafted classroom-tested lessons that you can use to introduce the nonfiction signposts to your students.

  

Finally, Part 4 contains a treasure trove of seven unique strategies that students can use when reading nonfiction gets tough. Some of these were strategies that I have used with students many times in the past (like KWL 2.0), but the authors included some insightful thoughts on how to best use the strategies with nonfiction texts. Others were almost totally new to me (like Genre Reformulation).

If you decide to read the book and introduce these nonfiction signposts to your students, feel free to download the posters and task cards I created. (Just click on the cover image below to download them from my TpT store!) My intention is for the task cards to be used as a review activity after all of the signposts have been individually introduced.
FREE Notice and Note Nonfiction Posters and Task Cards! This blog post includes resources and passages to supplement the strategies outlined in the book Reading Nonfiction: Notice and Note by Beers and Probst.

I included an answer sheet, but please remember that the answers shown are only possible answers. As long as students write a plausible answer that refers back to the text, I would most likely accept it as correct. 

FREE Notice and Note Nonfiction Posters and Task Cards! These FREE resources and passages are designed to supplement the strategies outlined in the book Reading Nonfiction: Notice and Note by Beers and Probst.

I would love to hear about your experience with introducing signposts to your students. Feel free to comment below. Thanks for stopping by!



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FREE Notice and Note Nonfiction Posters and Task Cards! This blog post includes resources and passages to supplement the strategies outlined in the book Reading Nonfiction: Notice and Note by Beers and Probst.

Teaching Plot with a Picture Book... with a freebie!

Wednesday, August 28, 2019
What is the first ELA topic you address each school year? When I co-taught in 5th grade classrooms, we always began by teaching PLOT ELEMENTS. I would introduce the topic with my PowerPoint on the first day, but on the second day I would dig out a picture book!

When teaching students about plot elements, I highly recommend creating a plot diagram anchor chart for a picture book you've read with your students. This blog post contains a lesson idea and a free student printable!

Picture books are perfect for teaching plot elements in grades 4-6. As we all know, upper elementary and middle school students still love picture books. Another benefit is that they are short- in one class period you can read an entire picture book and plot the story on a plot diagram. As I have mentioned in previous blog posts, Margie Palatini is my go-to author when I am looking for picture books to use with my upper elementary students, so I chose one of her hilarious books to use in this plot lesson.


Before class, I draw a basic plot diagram on an anchor chart (the black line only). Then, as soon as class begins, I ask the students to recall what they learned yesterday to help me label the various parts of the plot diagram.

Next, I explain that I am going to read aloud a picture book to them, and when we are done, we are going to plot the story on our anchor chart. (This is also when I show them the book cover and tell them that Margie Palatini is my all-time favorite author of picture books because I am constantly laughing out loud when I read her books… which they are about to witness for themselves! I tell them that most kindergartners and first graders would enjoy this book, but a lot of the humor would “go over their heads”. As fifth graders, though, I think that they will really enjoy this book and fully appreciate the author’s humor. This usually causes my students to sit up a little taller and they become very good listeners! (Amazon affiliate link follows.)

After we finish the book, students help me write sentences that summarize the exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution of the book on the anchor chart.


Plot Diagram Anchor Chart: When teaching students about plot elements, I highly recommend creating a plot diagram anchor chart for a picture book you've read with your students. This blog post contains a lesson idea and a free student printable!


Finally, I give each student the exit ticket shown below. (Click HERE to download it for FREE!) I also set the anchor chart facedown on a table until all students have finished their exit tickets.

I ask students to independently label each box on the plot diagram with its formal name, and write a short definition to explain what typically happens during each part of the plot. After class, I scan the exit tickets to check for understanding. Students who completed the exit ticket activity with ease are allowed to tackle my plot task cards independently the next day, while the classroom teacher and I work with small groups of students who found the exit ticket more challenging. (Typically, the classroom teacher quickly meets with students who had one or two minor errors on the exit ticket, while I work with students who appear to need a higher level of support.) The plot tri-folds pictured at the end of this post is my go-to resource for working with a small group.

If you are looking for additional plot activities to use with your upper elementary and middle school students, I invite you to visit my TpT store and check out my resources for teaching students about plot. Click on any of the images below, or click HERE to view a complete list.

These plot task cards include four original short stories! Students complete a plot diagram for each narrative.

Use this plot PowerPoint to teach your students about plot elements. After being introduced to the elements of a plot diagram, students will read a short story and fill out a plot diagram. It includes a companion handout!

These four plot tri-folds target the skill of analyzing the plot progression in a book, story, or reading passage. Use these plot elements tri-folds over the course of 4 days to provide targeted instruction on this topic.


Thanks for stopping by!





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When teaching students about plot elements, I highly recommend creating a plot diagram anchor chart for a picture book you've read with your students. This blog post contains a lesson idea and a free student printable!

Building Writers with Mentor Texts: Focusing on Sentence Fluency

Thursday, February 28, 2019
A few weeks ago, when I was looking for a book that displayed strong examples of sentence fluency, I stumbled across the most amazing book! I had never seen it before, nor had I ever heard the remarkable true story of Irena Sendler. I am very excited to share it with you today! Besides having excellent examples of sentence fluency, it is truly an inspirational and unforgettable story. (Full disclosure: Amazon links follow.) Also, since sentence fluency is a rather advanced writing trait, this lesson was designed with 4th through 6th grade students in mind.
Sentence fluency is a challenging writing trait to teach. Check out this blog post that features a sentence fluency lesson complete with a mentor text Jars of Hope and a FREE handout!

Book Summary

Irena Sendler was a 19-year-old girl living in Poland when the Nazis invaded her country and forced 500,000 Jewish people into the Warsaw Ghetto, a space less than 2 square miles. As a social worker, she was allowed to enter the ghetto. When she saw how the Jewish people were being treated inside the ghetto, she was determined to help as many as she could. She snuck food and medical supplies into the ghetto. Eventually, she realized that the Jews were being sent to death camps. She began to smuggle children out of the Warsaw Ghetto. She wrote down the names of each child and their parents, hoping that they'd someday be able to be reunited. She put the lists in jars and buried them in the ground. In all, she helped save the lives of 2500 children.
Sentence fluency is a challenging writing trait to teach. Check out this blog post that features a sentence fluency lesson complete with the mentor text Jars of Hope and a FREE handout!
Click here to check out this book.

First Reading: Identify the theme.

Because this book has such a powerful message, I recommend reading this book aloud to your students twice. First, read it with the purpose of teaching your students about the somber realities of the Holocaust in world history. After you have finished reading the book aloud and have discussed it, ask your students to identify a possible theme of the story. I believe the following two quotes from the book explicitly point to the overall themes:
  • "There are two kinds of people in this world, good and bad. It doesn't matter if they are rich or poor; what religion or race. What matters is if they are good or bad."  - page 3
  • "When someone is drowning... give them your hand." - page 5

Second Reading: Identify examples of sentence fluency.

Begin by telling your students that another reason you wanted to share this book with them is because you wanted to point out the author's superb use of sentence fluency. Ask if anyone noticed any patterns regarding the first sentence on each page. If necessary, page through the book and read a few of them. Students will quickly realize that almost every sentence is extremely short... anywhere from 2 to 6 words. Remind students that one way writers try to achieve sentence fluency is by varying the length of their sentences. In this book, the author uses these short sentences to impact the reader by stressing the importance of Irena's selfless actions.

At this point, I recommend distributing the sentence fluency handout. (Click here to download it for free!) As you can see, the top of the handout defines sentence fluency and lists some concrete strategies writers use to achieve sentence fluency. Before beginning your second reading of Jars of Hope, go over the top part of this handout with your students. Then tell your students that you will be reading Jars of Hope a second time with the distinct purpose of identifying how the author achieved sentence fluency.
Sentence fluency is a challenging writing trait to teach. Check out this blog post that features a sentence fluency lesson complete with a mentor text and this FREE handout!

Stop throughout the book and ask students to point out places where the author achieved sentence fluency in a unique way. The following images show places where you might consider stopping.
On page 3, the second to last sentence contains alliteration, which makes the sentence sound smooth and fluent.

Sentence fluency is a challenging writing trait to teach. Check out this blog post that features a sentence fluency lesson complete with a mentor text and a FREE handout!
On page 22, the final sentence shows an example of how the author began a sentence with the word "but". This breaks a grammar rule, but the author purposely did this to add an element of sentence fluency to the page.

Sentence fluency is a challenging writing trait to teach. Check out this blog post that features a sentence fluency lesson complete with a mentor text and a FREE handout!
Page 23 shows how the author began her sentences in different ways. The author could have begun each sentence with "she". (She worked 12 hours a day scrubbing laundry in prison. She was questioned and beaten... She got very little food. She couldn't get a good night's sleep. She was in prison for 3 months.) Instead, the author created sentence fluency by varying her sentences.



After finishing the second reading of the book, return to the handout. Model how to complete the bottom of the handout by picking out examples of sentence fluency from Jars of Hope and recording them on the handout.
Sentence fluency is a challenging writing trait to teach. Check out this blog post that features a sentence fluency lesson complete with a mentor text and a FREE handout!


For an assignment, you can instruct students to find strong examples of sentence fluency in other books, and record them on the handout. Then, the next day you can ask students to share their discoveries.

Finally, if you're interested in winning this book, enter the Rafflecopter below!


I would love to add a few more titles to my lists of mentor texts related to sentence fluency. In the comments below, please share some books you have found that exhibit sentence fluency! Also, don't forget to hop around to the other blogs in this link-up to read about additional mentor texts related to writing!






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Sentence fluency is a challenging writing trait to teach. Check out this blog post that features a sentence fluency lesson complete with a mentor text and a FREE handout!

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