Inferring with poetry

After a week off from school due to the snow storm, it was hard to get back into the swing of things this morning.  Then when I got to school I learned that the heat was not working and neither were our computers, projectors, document cameras, or smartboards...

Breathe, just breathe...

On the inside I was panicking as I thought about all of the things I use my computer, projector, document camera, and smartboard for... all the lessons I had ready to go for the smartboard today!  But there was nothing I could do about it and getting upset or frazzled would not help.

In adjusting my RTi lesson I went back to the books, Reading with Meaning by Debbie Miller, to be exact.  I skimmed through the chapter on "Inferring" and silently checked off the inferring we had already practiced:

*what does inferring mean
*Inferring word meanings
*Inferring character traits

And that brought me to Readers use their prior knowledge and textual clues to draw conclusions and form unique interpretations of text (page 111).  That sounded fun!  One of the teaching strategies for this was inferring with poetry.  I recreated a document shown in her book (Figure 8.6) and had my lesson ready to go!

Having the low group for this RTi skill means I have to work to really break things down into small and manageable parts.  So planning on spending an entire 30-minute lesson on one worksheet seems a little under-ambitious, but it was the perfect activity for our group.  We had enough time to read through the poem slowly, line by line, discussing the inferences my students came up with and determining together if it is a valid inference or not.  For example, one student inferred the animal in the poem was a lizard.  I asked why, he said because they jump in the air!  I then read the line I swim in the sea from the poem, and he smiled with an ohhhhhhhhhh look on his face :)  

Below is the wonderful list of animals my students came up with:

and one student even suggested a remipede (never heard of it before today!)

Every one of my eight students came to a valid inference with wonderful reasons why.  The best part was as I walked around and glued their worksheet and picture to a large piece of construction paper and I asked each student why he (all of my students are boys in my group) inferred the animal he did, they easily gave me the sentence from the poem that matched their chosen animal's characteristics. 

Overall this was a great lesson!  I really felt like every one of my student's completely understood what inferring meant.  We ended the lesson by talking about how there really isn't a perfect answer for what animal this poem is talking about, that there are lots of answers that we came up with today that fit!  And that is exactly what good readers do, we infer, we figure out what fits, and sometimes that means more than one answer.

 For tomorrow's lesson I will be using the smartboard again, YAY!!!  (my Smartboard became functional at about 1:30 pm today) I found two short poems, one about a monkey and the other about a snake.  I omitted the animal names in each poem and we will use our inferring skills to figure them out together.  

Then I have a special inferring activity that involves 5 things in my purse...

Celebrating Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

This post is a little late...we had a snow storm which closed down schools in our area of Washington for the entire week!

Helping my students understand the impact Dr. King had on our nation and the way we live our lives today is one of my absolute favorite parts of beginning a new year each January.  We began the new year reading books about this amazing man, discussing, writing, and working all while having fun learning about a man neither they nor myself were alive while he was but still feel his impact and can connect with his dream and message.

This is my favorite book to use to help my students better understand why MLKJr is such an amazing man!  It is perfect for my 2nd graders and offers many opportunities to stop and discuss how he felt, why things that happened to him as a child (like they are) were so unfair, and how he made a choice to make a change WITHOUT using his fists.  By the time we finish reading this book my students know his message: fight with words not with fists.  This resonates with them as they can connect to this with issues that happen at recess, with siblings, and with friends.

We wrote about our own dreams:

We read and colored the pictures in this great book:

We did word searches because we realized how powerful words can be--both negative and positive words:

We ended the week before we went on a 3-day vacation to celebrate this man by creating a class banner with our dreams.  I got this idea from Scholastic.com

My students were SOOOOOOO PROUD of the work they did creating this banner that they wanted to ask our principal, Mrs. Black,  if she would hang it up in our school some where.  Three students took the banner to her office.  They explained what the poster was, all of the learning and hard work that went into creating the poster, and she was more than willing to hang it up in our school's commons area :)  As we walked to Library later that day my students couldn't help but giggle with pride as they walked by their creation hanging for all students, staff and family to see!

I hope that as my students enjoy their day off from school today they think about Dr. King, his dream, and that they continue  to dream themselves!  


Let the inferring begin!

Thursday January 5, 2012 began our RTi lessons on inferring.  My RTi group is a small group of 8 students who scored the lowest on our inferring pretest--most students in my group got 0 - 2 questions correct out of 12 total questions.

I wanted to keep things very visual for this group guessing that visual reminders and cues (colors, pictures, font types, interactive "stuff"...) would not only help them understand what it means to infer, but it would also hopefully keep their attention for the 30 minutes that I had them.

My guess was right :)


I am so lucky to be in a school that has a Smartboard in every classroom!  I have become almost dependent on it, in fact.  I use it throughout the day for EVERYTHING!  For RTi I created a simple Smartboard lesson using SMART Notebook with visual reminders that we can look at, discuss, come back to, write on, add to... the possibilities are nearly endless with this technology!

A slide from my Smartboard SMART Notebook lesson

I saw the above equation on pinterest and loved it!  My RTi group totally understood it, too!

A question from the PreTest.  We went over two PreTest questions underlining the clues and crossing out possible answers that definitely did not fit.  I took a picture of the test hard copy and inserted it into my SMART Notebook this way I did not have to transition from using the Smartboard to using the Document Camera, everything was all in one spot ready to go!

We finished up with some practice and interacting with the Smartboard--I wish I could upload this lesson so you could try popping the balloons!  My students just laughed and laughed about it :)  I will definitely be including more balloon-type inferring practice in future lesson!

This first day with inferring went by quickly!  I feel like we started in the perfect spot.  Since we do not have RTi on Fridays and then it's the weekend, I have planned a very similar lesson for Monday's RTi time.  We will quickly move on to inferring the meaning of new or interesting words and inferring character traits next week, too!

Happy Weekend!


Winter Break = Recharging my batteries

Two weeks off, after a mere 70-something days of school, is exactly what I need every December.  As my 2011 Winter Break is quickly coming to an end I am mentally beginning my countdown to Spring Break but am also feeling recharged and ready to see and learn with my students in this new year *sigh* Welcome 2012!

The biggest learning stretch for me this school year has been my District's newly adopted RTi (Response to intervention) teaching model.  This highly researched model has proven effective in helping students who are struggling to master a specific skill in many districts across the nation.

Our school, under wonderfully supportive leadership, has fully embraced this model.  We have a sacred RTi time that can not and will not be interrupted by anything (no assemblies, field trips, class parties...) and I love that sacredness.  It keeps things from magically popping up and disrupting our RTi flow.  So Monday, Tuesday and Thursday from 10:15 - 10:45 is blocked out for 2nd and 3rd grade classes--the other grade levels have their own special RTi times on the same days.

That being said, many teachers are feeling challenged and, to put it nicely, exhausted by the increase in work load RTi has brought.  With hard work comes great reward though. My RTi team (2nd and 3rd grade teachers and team assigned para-educators) reflected on our RTi work to-date (Demeber 2011) just before break and agreed on two three things:

1. we are learning how to work smarter (use each other's talents and resources!), not harder (working alone...)
2. our students love RTi time
3. and, our data shows that working smarter and student's love for RTi time is translating into an increase in the percentage of students meeting standard


So as we begin 2012 with RTi definitely on my mind, I am anxious--the good kind of anxious and the bad kind of anxious.  I am anxious to see those little invisible light bulbs continue to light above smiling 2nd and 3rd grade faces (=good anxious), and I am anxious to figure out engaging, meaningful, and purposeful activities for my students since we do not have an RTi guide or program or curriculum or anything to follow (=the bad kind of anxious).

January brings a new RTi focus skill--Inferring (with a mini focus on Author's purpose and fact/opinion to help teach inferring).

We have our 2nd and 3rd graders split up into nine small-groups.  This time around I have the students who scored the lowest on the pre-test we gave before Winter Break.  This will be my third time with the lowest group so I feel that I have a pretty good idea about where to start, how fast to go, and how to grasp and keep their attention for thirty minutes.

Day One we will start simply:
*What does inferring mean?
*Use the examples from the pretest to help students understand the definition.
*Inferring game I found on Strong Start, a blog run by an early childhood educator--I plan to create this game to work on the smartboard and become a sort of entry task to start my RTI group each time we meet.

Picture also from Strong Start Blog

After Day One I will spend some time reflecting on how things went, how my group worked together, overall feel of the group, and then plan my next three lessons (for the following Mon., Tues., and Thurs.).

Good thing my batteries are recharged!