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Sunday, May 11, 2014

End of Year Letter to Next Year's Students

At the end of each school year, I have the students write a letter summarizing their experiences.  I put them out on the desks for next year's students on Back to School Night.  It's a fun project for this year's kiddos, and I always like seeing the looks on the faces of next year's kiddos as they read about what's in store for them.

First, I print several copies of the outline (see the first page example below).  I make sure there's at least one copy for every two students to share.  Students do NOT write on these.  Instead, they will copy the sentences on notebook paper to make the letter.  I will allow students to write on the outline if they need that differentiation, but most do just fine with copying it onto paper.

For those students needing a challenge, I included the following activity.  They love drawing their favorite parts of our room!

I also included a rubric because I find that students need clear expectations of how to complete the assignment and it helps with self-editing.

You can pick up a copy by clicking here.

 This customizable PowerPoint includes:
-A letter outline with fill in the blanks. This can be used as an organizer or as the letter itself. I have students copy the outline onto notebook paper unless they need differentiation.

-A rubric for students to use for self-editing and teacher grading

-A challenge assignment for early finishers           

Do you do an end of year letter?  If so, I'd love to hear what you include!

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Literature Circles and Book Clubs

Toward the end of the school year, I break up the small guided reading groups. Instead of grouping based on reading level, I let them group themselves based on interest in reading a book. I put out several chapter books and have students rank them from favorite to least favorite. I then create groups of students with the same or similar reading interest.

Several of these books are those from my author study (author of the month). I rarely finish these books when I read them aloud to the students. I read enough to pique their interest and leave it as a teaser to encourage them to read more on their own.  All of them have read at least some part of these books as a class and now it's time to finish a book of their choice in a small group. 

After they've chosen their book, it's time to get in their groups and assign their jobs. A great way to do this is to use the spinner worksheet (part of my Literature Circles/Book Clubs packet). With a simple spin students are randomly, and most importantly quickly, assigned their role.  I will elaborate on the job descriptions later in this post, but I go into more detail in my Literature Circles/Book Clubs packet. 


While they read, all students use sticky notes to mark their thinking with the symbols on the sheet below (in the packet).  ALL students are expected to do this while reading, but the students with the assigned the job check to make sure that particular part is completed by each student during the wrap up.


For example, the Word Detective checks to make sure everyone has at least one cloudy or don't know word written and then makes sure each student has defined their word in their vocabulary notebook. 

To hold them accountable for time on task, preparedness, and teamwork I use my Small Group or Literature Circle/Book Club Accountability Sheet (part of the packet). You can pick up a copy by clicking hereThe student with the "leader/facilitator" job is responsible for filling out the sheet for their group and making sure the group works cooperatively.  If a group member is absent, the leader does that person's job for that meeting. 

Captain Answer makes sure everyone came up with and wrote a question that starts with the Question Starters (part of the packet). Each  student shares their question and the group tries to answer it. Captain Answer may ask the teacher for help if a question cannot be answered by the group. 

The Connector checks to make sure that each member of the group has made at least one connection between the book and other things (books, movies, personal experiences, world news)

The Summarizer checks to make sure everyone has given a short summary of the text using the summary bookmarks (part of the packet).  They use the "somebody, wanted, but, so, then" summary style. They are also responsible for sharing summaries of any missed reading with group members who have been absent.


A great post reading activity is to watch the movie that corresponds to the book and compare and contrast. I have a Book vs. Movie Activity (part of the packet). 

Below are some of the books we have read or will read that have movies appropriate for fourth grade. 

The Lorax
This one is usually read during our ecosystems unit. 

Horton Hears a Who
I usually do a Dr. Seuss themed unit at the end of the year but this one's great for talking about respecting everyone at the beginning of the year, too. 

The Tale of Despereaux
Kate Dicamillo is one of our authors of the month. 

Charlotte's Web

Ramona and Beezus
Beverly Cleary is also an author of the month. 

The Mouse and the Motorcycle
Another favorite of Beverly Cleary. 

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
Roald Dahl is another of our authors. Speaking of Dahl ...

The Witches

James and the Giant Peach

The Velveteen Rabbit

The Wish Giver

Do you use literature circles in your classroom?  How about comparing books to movies?  Do you have any books that are also movies to add?  I'd love to hear your ideas!