Summer Greetings!

My name is Kim Grocholski.  I am a third grade teacher and pursuing my master’s degree as a literacy specialist.  I hope everyone is having a relaxing, enjoyable summer! I don’t know about you, but I am getting geared up for another fun school year (yes, the school supplies are back in stores).    Over the years, I have developed a love of reading, but I know that sometimes that love (or even like) takes time.  This is especially true for at-risk readers.  That is where this blog comes into play. After reading about student blogging, I think it is such a wonderful resource and tool to both share books with children and to allow students to share their ideas and responses to various texts.  This blog in particular is being created for parents, teachers, and at-risk readers as a resource for getting students, especially at-risk students excited about reading.  I will be providing information about paired/twin texts, reader responses, and I will also be sharing a couple of books to get you started.  Even though this blog is not created for certain students in particular, I think that designing one for students is important and something I will incorporate into the upcoming year.  

Why blog?

So, why create a blog for students to share books and responses to books?  There are several reasons, but the number one reason in my mind is to keep students engaged, interested, and excited.  In my experience, technology is very motivating for students.  In her Hello Literacy blog, Jennifer Jones (2012) writes about several reasons to include blogging in your classroom.  Among them being that it integrates ELA and technology, promotes critical thinking, and creates a community of learners.  With so much shift toward technology, students need to be aware of and able to use media such as blogs to not only find information, but share information.  Teachers have a huge responsibility to get through curriculum and using blogs can incorporates some of that curriculum together.  Using a blog can also make parents feel more connected to the curriculum as stated by Jenny Luca in Tina Barseghian’s (2011) Mind/Shift blog.  It creates transparency in the curriculum.  Parents would have access to what the students are learning and students would have access at home as well as school.  Luca also notes that blogging gives students pride in their work.

George Couros states in The Principal of Change blog that “giving students a space to share their voice is extremely important.”  He suggests that students should not only blog about school related topics, but what their interests are and what they are passionate about.  Allowing students to share their opinions and responses via blog seems a less threatening way to share ideas to some students.  One way students can use blogs and share their voice is via reader response questions.  Teachers can create blogs to discuss books that students are reading as a class, in small groups, or on their own.  These reader response questions are created to facilitate online discussion and encourage critical thinking.  Michelle Lampinen (2013) in the Edutopia blog shares her experience and some reasons why she started using and appreciating blogging in her classroom.  She states that her students’ blogs are “mature, insightful, funny, and engaging” and that “student writing is improving by leaps and bounds.”  She also mentions that most students are enthusiastic about sharing via blogging.  Why not use blogs for reader response questions?  It sounds like a great idea to me.  

Encouraging readers to share through blogs

To encourage at-risk readers and their families to use blogs for sharing reader response the first important idea is that the blog has to be user friendly.  If students are not shown how to use the blog and given time and practice in school, then most likely they will not use it.  Parents also need to be informed about how to use the blog.  This could be done through online tutorials or a session in which parents come in and learn first-hand how to use it.  At-risk readers can also be encouraged to use blogs by giving them choice in what they read and respond to and providing books that are of interest to them.  Teachers should start small and model with picture books and work their way up to more challenging texts.  The questions should also be scaffolded so that students don’t give up right away.  Blogging should be a classroom activity, not just something for at-risk students to single them out further.  I believe that the challenging part for at-risk readers is not getting them to blog, but getting them to read.  For that reason, teachers need to tune into students’ passions and interests and encourage, encourage, encourage!!

Twin Texts

Twin texts, also known as paired texts, are a pairing of fiction and nonfiction (informational) texts about the same subject.  These text pairings are used to create interest in a topic and can be used to introduce topics in math, science, and social studies.  In her article, It takes two: Teaching with Twin Texts of fact and fiction, Deanne Camp (2000) states that “pairing fiction and nonfiction books on the same topic, along with interactive class strategies, can boost students’ understanding and enjoyment.”  Some students have a passion for just fiction or just nonfiction.  These pairings can encourage them to read something outside of their comfort zone.  They can also give students different information or perspectives on the same topic. 

There are several activities and strategies you can use while working with twin texts.  Camp suggests a few such as Venn Diagrams, K-W-L, DR-TA, and other graphic organizers.  Depending on the books and the topics, there are several other things that you can do with twin texts. 

Finding twin texts can be difficult and time consuming; however it is worth it to engage students.  When I was trying to find texts for this assignment, I narrowed it down to a topic that we learn about in third grade.  Then I searched for both fiction and nonfiction books about that topic.  The time spent is worth the engagement of students.  

Book One: The Web at Dragonfly Pond

Image

 

The Web at Dragonfly Pond

Author: Brian “Fox” Ellis

Illustrator: Michael S. Maydak

Published by Dawn Publications

Copyright 2006

http://www.dawnpub.com/our-authorsillustrators/brian-fox-ellis/

 

I would recommend this book for ages 7 and up.  I think that it would fit well in classrooms from second grade to about fifth grade.  I think that in second and third grade it may need to be read as a read aloud due to the content specific and difficult vocabulary, but above that could be read independently by students.  I picked this book for my third grade classroom specifically because we discuss different habitats, life cycles, and food chains in our Science curriculum. 

The Web at Dragonfly Pond is the story of a young boy who goes fishing with his dad.  Along the way they talk and think about all the animals they see and what is going on around them.  It all starts with a mosquito bite.  The boy realizes that the mosquito along with all the other insects and animals in the pond are just doing their job and surviving like they know how.  This book has beautiful word choice and illustrations.

Reader response questions are questions designed to get students to think critically about the text they read.  Using these questions can help facilitate discussion about a book.  They get students thinking and taking different perspectives.  Using a blog to share reader responses can create a non-threatening online discussion that can be accessed at any time. 

Reader response questions for The Web at Dragonfly Pond:

Why do you think the author chose this topic?

What does the title The Web at Dragonfly Pond mean?

The author uses italics when writing some parts of the story.  Why do you think he does this? 

How does this book relate to our Science discussion? (would have had previous discussion about food chains, pond life, etc.)

What connections can you make to the boy in this story?

Poll

Book Two: Life in a Pond

Image  

Life in a Pond

Author: Adam Hibbert

Published by Gareth Stevens

Copyright 2010

http://garethstevens.com/expand.asp?ProductCode=978-1-4339-3411-7

Life in a Pond is a book about the organisms that live and interact in a pond ecosystem.  It includes clear descriptions of plants and animals with wonderful pictures and captions.  Headings like “Creepers and Crawlers” drag the reader in.  This book is full of interesting facts sure to fascinate its readers.  Life in a Pond is a great pair to The Web at Dragonfly Pond because they both portray pond ecosystems and life cycles.