Sunday, November 22, 2015

Nonfiction Book List

Whipped up a short{ish} and sweet recommendation list for my nonfiction unit. I plan on Book Talking several of these books from now through Christmas Break. Although, I'm not having set "clubs," I'm encouraging students to create their own reading book clubs. Plus, I know I've struggled reading choosing nonfiction and so do some of my kiddos!

I think this list would be appropriate for 5th or 6th graders. A few titles could also be appropriate for 4th graders as well but some have upper level content or themes. As always, preview the books you share with your students!

Editable PowerPoint version or a PDF version available as a Google Drive download! 

What books would be on your must read nonfiction list? 

Share with me on Social Media @ MsAPlusTeacher
 #wecantputbooksdown #nonfiction


Saturday, November 21, 2015

Nonfiction for Big Kids!

I don't know about you but over the years I've really struggled finding "Just Right" nonfiction for my fifth graders. It seemed like a lot of nonfiction was either way too easy or way too hard. My students in the past have LOVED nonfiction but I was having trouble loving it myself. Until now!

I'm loving Lucy Calkins' new Units of Study for Reading. I'll admit it was not love at first sight with Lucy, but after having a few late nights with the teacher edition, love begin to bloom. The nonfiction portion is all about how reading gets harder as we become better readers. Main ideas get more complex and there may even be multiple main ideas {gasp!}. Text structures can also get more complicated and text features begin to disappear. Oh the horror!  However, I love that all my students are able to tackle some more complex texts finally because they have strategies to help them. With the help of Newsela and Scholastic News we've started getting into the unit but after break my students will need a nonfiction text in front of them daily. 

Here are a few of my favorites after putting over 16 books on hold at my local library for book talks... 

What are some nonfiction books you use to challenge your students?


Thursday, November 19, 2015

Thursday Thoughts: Benefits of Newsela

Our school was recently able to upgrade to NEWSELA Pro accounts. I've used NEWSELA in the past but more as a source for myself. Today, I dove in face first into NEWSELA as I needed articles for a nonfiction lesson. As we work toward harder texts, I felt like Scholastic News just wasn't cutting for some of my lesson's objectives. Plus, with need for annotations and differentiation, I was looking for a way to make my job easier. Today, NEWSELA did that for me!

I was about to assign all students via Google Classroom, a NEWSELA article to read and annotate. I was able to put directions at the top of the article and on the SMARTboard. The best thing was after students finished reading the article, I had instant feedback on their reading successes or failures! What?! I felt like reading the article digitally also helped my students be exposed to reading "differently" and allowed to practice using tech tools for annotations. I was nervous students wouldn't be engaged because even I have trouble with digital texts. BUT... My room was absolutely silent as students read and annotated.  I was also shocked and impressed by complexity of some of their annotations. 

Here's a snapshot of my day using NEWSELA: 

Another benefit is the ability to create text-sets for popular topics. I'm hoping to use these of our "research" portion of the nonfiction writing component to this unit. We usually write feature articles focused on space exploration and technology. There are also lots of sets that create an instant pairing with novels or social studies texts. 

Students can also "adjust" the reading level of articles as well. I made my students choose lexiles based on their Fountas and Pinnell and MAP data for their first read. I'm hoping the short quizzes and data points, will give me more information and feedback on my students as nonfiction readers. 

The free version is worth checking out as well! Today, I learned that sometimes you gotta be willing to jump off and take a risk. 

Do you use NEWSELA in your classroom? 
How do you promote digital literacy? 


Monday, November 9, 2015

Keeping up with Scholastic!

Forget the Jones! My #WildReaders are begging me to keep up with Scholastic! I've  previously blogged about how I manage my Scholastic Book Orders using Sign-Up Genius. You can check out that post{here}.

Since, I'm a visual learner, I thought I'd share what exactly goes home to my parents. This has been the perfect system to help me keep up with Scholastic. At the end of each month, I check the Sign-Up Genius (an email sent from Sign-Up Genius is also sent home to parents) and I make note of my two helpers for the month. Then by the first of the month, a new order goes home along with a short letter of books recommendations. Then parents create packets and send orders back to school!

As you can see this post was scheduled for October and then November sort of happened...

Grab my Scholastic Direction Sheet {here}.

What's the prep?
I set my Sign-Up Genius at the start of the school year and I did have to purchase two Stars Wars bags from Target $1 spot. After 10 minutes and $2, I'm able to keep up with Scholastic for the ENTIRE year and keep my dear readers happy!

If you're new to Scholastic and want to snag some extra bonus points use the code: 50237 at the checkout! You'll earn 250 bonus points which add up to new books for your readers!   

Happy Reading, 


Sunday, November 8, 2015

Teacher Playbook: Integrating Reading & Writing

I'm big a proponent of integration to help save time and make connections to kids. Kids need to see that reading and writing are not isolated skills but skills we can use together along with content areas like Science and Social Studies.

With my Bengals on an 8-0 winning streak, I thought I'd break out the playbook and share my upcoming plans for teaching nonfiction reading and writing.

We do a lot of work with teachers across the entire grade level, so I'm super lucky I have a district that supports collaboration and integration. However, I know that's not the case for all teachers or districts. Hopefully, even with out some of our districts resources, you can pull together a great integrated unit.

The first set for me before thinking about how I can integrate my reading and writing and thus not teach both workshops at the simultaneously but instead sort of switch the focus, is for me to look at my resources.

Knowing what resources are out there to help you is the BEST thing you can do to help yourself! We're lucking to have Lucy Calkin's newest Units of Study for Reading and Writing at our school along with several trade book packs.

However, you don't need to necessarily buy the kits to put together a great Reading and Writing Workshop plan. Lots of districts have their outlines available online so you can see how it all works without dropping the money right away. Portland Public Schools has the old version of the units of study and an outline available through their website. You can see an outline of teaching points and how to set up a workshop lesson using their link.

Other schools also have links to the online versions of the old units of study. You can find Grade 4, Grade 5, and Grade 6 all online with a simple Google search. Even though Lucy has changed some of her grade level requirements and suggestions, these are still solid units if you do not have access to her "new" program. They still align well to the Common Core at each level and are engaging for kids.

The Columbia Reading and Writing Project also offer an entire page of FREE resources to teachers and schools. They have text sets by topics, videos of reading and writing lessons, and book lists based on your unit of study. This is a great resource to explore if you're trying to pull together your own integrated unit!

After you understand your resources, you need to start pulling things together.

Here's the core questions I ask myself: 

  • What will be your key teaching points?
  • What is the mentor text(s) you will use?
  • What will students be reading?
  • What will students be writing?
What am I using?

I will be using Lucy's Units of Study. We'll be using the recommended mentor texts When Lunch Fights Back: Wickedly Clever Animal Defenses & Alien Deep. I also checked out several other high interest nonfiction books from my local library: Zombie Makers: True Stories of Nature's Undead and Journey Into the Deep

It's important to know your readers. I used my MAP score breakdown report to get an idea of my students and their readiness for nonfiction. Knowing your kids that excel and kids that need that extra help will help you get your students oriented to the unit. I prepared some text students for readers that aren't quite on grade level as well as found some ways to front load nonfiction using resources like Scholastic News that I receive each week. 

An eye opener for me was knowing that one of my students needs to be able to find captions in a nonfiction text and know how to use them. She had no idea how to use them or their purpose! 

Ways to get to know your team?
  • Give a pretest
  • Using testing data like MAP
  • Use a paired nonfiction text with a read aloud
  • Pull out a magazine and have students "walk" you through an article

I also know that if I start with great models and read deeply read our nonfiction mentor texts that my students will be able to really pull together their nonfiction writing pieces. 

For the writing portion of the unit, students will be doing some research with their nonfiction reading materials to write a feature article. We're upping the game by saying that all articles will need to have a point of view or stance. To score that additional touchdown, we're having our students focus on the science topic of space exploration. This would include NASA missions, space race, NASA failures, aliens, etc. For some of these topics text sets have already been created to help with research! Check out the alien text set here.

This will help our fifth grade science teachers out tremendously. Students will be doing some personal front loading and background building in Language Arts and then be able to bring that research and reading with them to their new science unit! 

You don't need to perform the the triple threat but there are lots of science and social studies topics that lend themselves to reading and writing while still offering lots of choice within the topic. 

How do you support integration in the classroom?

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