Thursday, April 21, 2016

A Carnival of Stories

Excitement pulses through every hallway and classroom today as visions of the Woodland Carnival delight children and adults alike. This year's event will not disappoint. There will be armfuls of fun, food, and friendship all evening long. I look forward to seeing many happy faces this evening.

There's excitement to be had in Room 223 as well. We are digging into our study of Cynthia Rylant's work in big ways. Every student has chosen some of her books to research and explore. As a class we are examining the writing and illustrating in her books with careful eyes. We are noticing the finer details about how this author and these illustrators crafted the books. We are wondering about how the stories were constructed, the decisions Cynthia made, the decisions the illustrators made, the order in which the books were published, the lessons we might learn from the characters, and more. Each group is recording what they notice and will decide how to publish their findings and share out their learning with the rest of the class.

While we are thinking about Ms. Rylant's stories, we are also working to publish our own pieces of writing. Publishing demands a lot from us as writers. We continue to create, but we also polish. The polishing requires us to think about our readers. What might they enjoy and be interested in? What might we have to add to our writing so they understand? How do we handle spelling and punctuation out of respect for the reader? As one student observed, if Cynthia Rylant didn't think about these things, no one would like her books. Well said. If it's good enough for Cynthia, it's good enough for us.

These creating and editing tasks are not as easy as they sound. Sometimes it's pretty simple to get a word right on a weekly Word Study check but way harder to spell it correctly in our daily work. Day to day, it's the daily spelling work that really matters. Also, we find that those tricky punctuation marks are, well, kind of tricky. And what about capital letters? WOW! Yeah, it's a lot, but it's the work that we, as authors, do.

So here's to the Carnival; here's to the authors and illustrators, and here's to Seconds!

Friday, April 8, 2016

All of Our Classroom is a Stage

While we did not have lights, curtains, costumes, or make-up, we did produce a little theatrical magic in our room this week. Sliding back into our routines after spring break, we split into small groups for a little work on readers' theater scripts. Readers' theater experiences are built around familiar stories turned into scripts. Instead of cast members memorizing their lines, they learn to read them with fluency and expression and share the readings with others.

To embed readers' theater in our classroom, we read a number of fun folktales, became familiar with the story and characters, chose parts, practiced reading those parts to each other, and then took turns reading the play versions aloud. Throughout the days last week, we learned more about characterization, story plots and problems, and reading with increased fluency to better capture the authors' meaning.

 This week we turned the page and began a new author/illustrator study. We are taking a closer look at the works of Cynthia Rylant. So far we have started to wonder about what Ms. Rylant does as an author to capture our interest. We will also look at how the many different contributing illustrators add artwork to her books to enhance the meaning and mood of Ms. Rylant's stories.

Like many authors, Ms. Rylant draws on her own experiences for ideas. Already we have noticed she includes mountains and pets in her books. Shhh. That's because she grew up in the mountains of West Virginia and loves animals. In the coming weeks, we hope to learn more about the themes in her books and how Ms. Rylant and her illustrators help us understand the big ideas and big messages in the stories.

By the way, our furry friends learned a thing or two today as well. Bringing a favorite stuffed animal to school was the perfect way to end the week and the perfect way to celebrate the good work being done in our classroom. What a treat! There's lots to think about and lots to enjoy. So here's to animal friends; here's to interesting stories, and here's to Seconds!