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Brainy Apples: October 2013
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My Truth Monday...Once Again on Tuesday!

Here is #2 in the My Truth Monday series...things that creep me out. If you are enjoying reading all about us, then you should totally head on over to Sunny Days in Second Grade and link up yourself! Just click on the button below and it will zip you right over!

Now, here is My Truth!

Thanks for stopping by to read My Truth Creepy Edition!
If you are looking for my favorite thing about fall, click here.

Thanks for reading!
**Please excuse any typos as I don't have the super power of being perfect :)

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My Favorite Time of Year Is Here!

I can't tell you how happy I am that fall is upon us! Living in Georgia I love how we have 4 distinct seasons, but there is something about fall that makes my heart do a happy dance. There are SO many things about fall I love, but the part I like best about Fall is football. Even though this means I rarely see my husband June through November because he is a football coach, and I am running around like a chicken with my head cut off August through November because both of my sons play football, I just love football. Even when my favorite team (Go Vols!) isn't playing, I still love watching. I think it's because every single game is so important. I mean, if you lose one game, just ONE game, it could potentially knock the team out of contention for a title. It isn't like in baseball where you can lose 20 or 30 games and still make the play-offs (baseball fans, please don't hate me for saying that!). Every football game has the potential to be a nail-biter because every game is critical. And after a weekend of football like last weekend, I can't WAIT for the remaining games!!!

And, in celebration of how wonderful fall is, I am participating in another giveaway this month! This time the giveaway is with my friends over at All Things Upper Elementary. Up for grabs are some TpT gift certificates! Yeah! If you don't know how to enter yet, you will need to head on over to ATUE's blog to find out! It's going to be a great giveaway, but you will have to put in a little leg work first ;)

Thanks for reading!
**Please excuse any typos as I don't have the super power of being perfect :)

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My Truth Monday....But This Time It's Tuesday

I am really excited to join Denise at Sunny Days in Second Grade's new linky party called "My Truth Monday". This will be a great way to get to know old bloggy friends better, and get to know new bloggy friends :) Plus it will help me stay on a regular blogging schedule of at least 1 day a week!

So here is My Truth about Fitness. Forgive me for the book I wrote, but fitness has been an emotional roller-coaster for me the last 6 months and it was hard to really convey my truth in fewer words.
Click on the logo below to head on over to Sunny Days in Second Grade's blog and link up your own Monday Truth about Fitness!

Thanks for reading!
**Please excuse any typos as I don't have the super power of being perfect :)

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Close Read Linky Party!

Welcome back! So glad you decided to join me for another Close Read linky party! If you haven't read the post from the last party, you can catch up here. I also wrote a post about how to use interactive notebooks to do Close Reading with your students in this post...we all know how popular interactive notebooks have become, and I wanted to be able to integrate these two strategies together. The last post I wrote about Close Reads is about what you do after you decide to give Close Reads a whirl. It's called "So You Decided to Give Close Reads a Try...Now What?" All right, ready to get this party started?

Watch out for that deer!
In my last linky party, I said this one would focus on what to do when your students have that deer in headlights look and they have no clue what to say, or they have a hard time elaborating on their answers.  I had this issue last year when I first started using Close Reads, and I am willing to bet that you will, too. I even found myself wondering if I just needed to give up on Close Reads because my students just weren't able to give me the answers I was looking for, when they did give me any answer at all. It was P.A.I.N.F.U.L! Then I had an aha moment...

Model, model, model!
Everything I do in my classroom, I always model first (part of the gradual release model). That is how students know what I expect. Close Reading is no different. I thought Close Reads would be different because we had been reading for a while, and students knew my expectations, but Close Reading is different than what we had been doing for reading in the past. Once I realized this, it was like the clouds parted and the sun came beaming down on me! Whew! Like I said, I was really close to scrapping Close Reads, but I am SO glad I didn't.

I realized that I needed to SHOW my students how to Close Read, so I began with read alouds. I thought aloud while I was reading what I wanted my students to be thinking in their own little heads. Then after I finished reading, I had a Close Read question waiting to be answered. I let my students take shots at it first, writing down their responses. The responses were OK, but not quite what I wanted. So, when they had finished, I piped in and thought aloud about the question, hoping my thoughts would guide my students to the answer I hoped they would have given in the first place. I know you all do this.....give little clues as to the answer, without giving the answer, guiding students to the answer so they are the ones answering the question (whoa, that was a lot of "answer"s!). If they didn't give me what I was looking for, I would finally say it and explain why. I found that explaining WHY I answered questions in a certain way really helped my students understand the thought process behind answering the Close Read questions.

**Let me say really quickly, because I know some of you who have done Close Reads for a while will say, "You shouldn't have an expectation of what students should answer. The beauty of Close Reads is that students come up with thoughts that you never would have imagined them thinking. You aren't supposed to have a predetermined answer." I totally agree! However, in the beginning, I found it helpful for me to have a predetermined answer because that way I could guide my students to that answer, and it helped me think about HOW I would guide them there. Close Reads have to be thoughtful but also planned out. While I love to fly by the seat of my pants, I also realized that with Close Reading, you want your students to really answer those higher-level questions with deep thinking, so you have to have an idea yourself of what those answers could be so if they become a deer in headlights, you have a path to lead them down to hopefully get them out of the headlights and back into their own heads so they can contribute to the discussion. As students become more proficient at Close Reads, I have to do less guiding, so their answers do become more genuine and I found myself planning less for how I was I going to guide them.

OK, back to modeling. It is hard to walk that fine line between telling students the answer and guiding them to the answer, so here is an example of one Close Reading I did with my 2nd graders. The text excerpt was from the informational book "Pocahontas Powhaten Princess by Dian Shaughnessy (c) 1997, PowerKids Press (in case you want to check out the book yourself). I can't type the excerpt from the book because of copyright laws, but I will tell you how our discussion went that day.

The focus of this lesson was understanding a historical text to describe a cause and effect relationship. The text excerpt described John Smith attempting to capture a Powhaten man during the settlers' first winter in America. The question I asked my students was, "Why did John Smith try to take a Powhaten man captive?" My students immediately wanted to tell me because they were enemies and John Smith wanted to beat the Powhatens in a battle. They weren't thinking at a deeper level. They were seeing the surface of the text. The settlers were starving, and John Smith thought that he could convince the Powhaten to give them food and in turn he would give the Powhaten man back. So I guided my students by asking them what was going on with the settlers (they were starving and dying), and I asked if the Powhatens were suffering, too (no, because they knew how to get food and stay warm in the winter). So I probed their little minds by asking if they were a settler how they might get food (by asking the Powhatens), and what they might do if the Powhatens said no (they would think of things to trade them). And I asked, "What if the Powhatens didn't want what you had to offer them? Then what might you do?" One student said fight them, but another student chimed in and said, "But they are starving, so they don't have enough energy to fight the Powhatens. They would easily lose." After much discussion, a student said maybe John Smith tried to capture the Powhaten man so he would have something the Powhatens would want: a member of their tribe. BINGO! It took about 15 minutes to get here, but I guided, and they discussed, and finally they stumbled across the answer I was looking for! (I totally know I ended that sentence with a preposition, please forgive me!). Many of you are already experts at guiding your students to answers. Close Reading is no different!

**Let me also add that Close Reads should be a social event. Discussions among students should be occurring. Close Reading shouldn't always be an independent activity. You will want to assess your students sometimes, which would mean independent Close Reading, but as your students become masters of Close Reads, THEY will become the guides that help lead other students down the path to the answers instead of YOU being the guide. This is a really beautiful thing!

Silence shouldn't always be painful...
Usually when we think of silence after asking a question, we think, "Uh oh. They don't understand!" But what I have learned through Close Reading, is that if we want our students to think deeply, we have to give them the TIME to think deeply. We don't want our students to blurt out their first thoughts. We want them to think about their thoughts first. See if their thoughts make sense. Can they find evidence in the text to support their thoughts? When I first started doing Close Reads, I found it painful and stressful when silence fell over my classroom. At first my students weren't thinking about the question because it was hard! They wanted me to rescue them. And after a couple of minutes, I would give them a hint...I would guide them a bit. But I never just gave them the answer. Soon they realized that I was not going to save them, and if they wanted to finish the Close Read, THEY would have to save discussing the text, by answering the questions. When my students had this aha moment, they began using that silent time to think about the question, to think about the evidence in the text, to think about how they were going to word their answers. My students realized that I was giving them time to think, and that I was very patient :) I had been observed a couple of times doing a Close Read. The first time was when I first started doing Close Reads. Let me tell you, when silence fell over my students, I was panicking inside! What would my administrator think! My kids had NOTHING to say! This was NOT GOOD! My administrator would think I had not taught my students the tools they needed to answer the question! NOT GOOD AT ALL! I had to fight every instinct in me to NOT bail them out and move on to an easier question that I knew they could answer. I stood in the silent classroom for a couple of minutes, then I gave a hint, and stood in silence even longer. Finally a student piped up with a comment. Then another student found the courage to speak up, too. Yes! Voices were slowly taking over my classroom! Eventually we were in a deep discussion about the text. Yes, I had to help them out, but they rocked it out! The next time I was observed, when silence fell, I didn't panic because I knew that silence can be golden.

Elaboration is key.
Elaboration is something my students struggled with. All to often in the past, they were allowed to give their answer, state where they found it in the text, and move on to the next question. With Close Reading, it isn't about quantity, it's about quality. I would rather us discuss and answer 2 questions and dive deep than answer 10 questions superficially. So how did I get my students to elaborate? I realized that by asking them, "Why do you think that?" or "How do you know that?" were helpful starters. "What did the author/character say or do that led you to that conclusion?" is another favorite of mine is, "What does the author mean when he/she says ______?" I LOVE how and why questions. And another way to help my students learn how to elaborate? Encouraging group discussions of the text. If a student doesn't know how to elaborate, chances are another student does. Listening to peers elaborate can help students learn how to elaborate themselves. I tell my students all the time during writing time that they need to find an author they love, and mimic that author in their own writing. I tell them that elaborating during a Close Read is no different. If they like how a classmate discusses a text, mimic that student. If they like how I discuss a text, mimic me. Elaboration is something that is difficult for some students, but when you make discussions a social event, students learn how to play off one another and you will find some of the most though-provoking discussions can take place in your classroom. If you are concerned that they need to be able to do this independently, I will tell you that they will learn how. With a lot of practice and a lot of time using the gradual release model. As time passes, instead of always having a whole group Close Read discussion, split students into small groups and wander the classroom listening to the small group discussions taking place (but ONLY after you are getting some outstanding whole group discussions!), popping in when needed to help guide them. Then try partner Close Reads, and finally you will get to independent Close Reads. Remember that some students will be ready for independent Close Reading well before other students are. This is OK. When students are ready, let them go independently. Keep the others whole group, small group, or partners.

In Closing...
I hope you are able to gain something from this post about how to get your students past the deer in headlights glazed look, or how to get your students to elaborate on their answers. I would love to hear your thoughts, suggestions, or questions! Is there something you would like me to discuss during my next Close Read linky party? Leave a comment below!

**If you want to show the blog hop on your blog, get the InLinkz code. If not, just link up using the link below :)**

***If you liked what you read please consider subscribing to my email list. You will receive free goodies, blog posts, and updates right to your inbox! Just click here to join.
I do have some EXCITING news! I am going to be offering a free LIVE webinar next week! I will offer one training on Wednesday, July 27, and one more on Thursday, July 28. Both will be at 8pm EST. You can sign up {here} or the image below to save your seat. I hope to see you there!

Thanks for reading!
**Please excuse any typos as I don't have the super power of being perfect :)

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Spooktacular Giveaway!!!

OK, I am finally ready! I have been wanting to host a giveaway for quite some time now, and for a variety of reasons, NOW is the time! I love fall, heart football, October is my birthday month, I am 23 followers away from 1,000 on TpT, and my 1 year anniversary on TpT is this month, so it just feels right! 

I have several lovely bloggers and TpT sellers who have graciously donated products in grades K-8 for you all to possibly win. There are 4 bundles of products to win. You can earn several entries a day, so be sure to stop by every day for multiple chances to win! The Rafflecopter is set to run from today until Sunday, Oct. 20, at midnight EST. A winner will be chosen the following Monday. Good luck!

In addition to all the fabulous prizes below, each winner will win up to $15 to spend in my store, 2 Brainy Apples!

Here is a thumbnail of some of the prizes you can win in the K-1 bundle.
In addition to the above products, the following sellers have offered a Winner's Choice: Melissa Machan (up to $10), Teaching Ever After, Whimsy Workshop (2 sets of clip art), Ms. Makinson, Sight and Sound (any Sight word book), Little Miss Edugator, Brittani Black, Melissa Moran, Class of Kinders, Adapting for Autism (up to $10), and Yara's Sea of Knowledge. 
K-1 Giveaway Entry

Here is a thumbnail of some of the prizes you can win in the 2-3 bundle.
In addition to the above products, the following sellers have offered a Winner's Choice: Gina Coniglio, Luckeyfrog, Teach NC, Sara J (up to $10), LMN Tree, Zanah, McCauley (up to $10), Green Grubs Garden Club, Janet Rainey, and 2nd Grade Snickerdoodles (up to $10).
2-3 Giveaway Entry
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Here is a thumbnail of some of the prizes you can win in the 4-5 bundle.
In addition to the above products, the following sellers have offered a Winner's Choice: Joy of Teaching (up to $10), Fourth Grade Studio, MrHughes (up to $5), Rick's Resources, and Katie Orr.
4-5 Giveaway Entry
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Here is a thumbnail of some of the prizes you can win in the 6-8 bundle.
In addition to the above products, the following sellers have offered a Winner's Choice: Miss Math Dork, Maneuvering the Middle (up to $10), and Misty Miller.
6-8 Giveaway Entry

**Please excuse any typos as I don't have the super power of being perfect :)

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So You Decided to Give Close Reads a Try....Now What?

I hope that after reading my last 2 posts about Close Reads (you can check them out here and here), or my initial post on ATUE that you can check out here, you are excited to implement Close Reads in your classroom. Last year when Close Reads was new to my colleagues and myself, we found ourselves wondering, "OK, so how do I get started?" There isn't a manual of how to implement Close Reads, so I began to play around with different strategies and techniques. What I am going to share with you all is what I found to work for me, and I shared with my colleagues and it also worked for some of them. A few colleagues varied up how they implement Close Reads, but the point is that you will have to just give it a try, take notes on what worked and what didn't work, and then tweak until you have found a fit that is perfect for you. I hope that I can give you a starting point at which to begin, so you aren't having to start from scratch, blindfolded in a dark room :)

The reason why I started hosting a monthly Close Reads linky party is because I want to help you implement Close Reads, and I also want to invite others who use Close Reads to share what has worked, and in some cases did not work, for them. True collaboration is how we all improve our instructional practices, and hosting linky parties allows educators from around the world to collaborate with one another. It is so exciting to think about! My Close Reads linky party will be held on the 18th of every month, so be sure to check back on that date to read up on Close Reads. I also provide a Close Reading Tip of the Day a couple of times a week on my Facebook page. These will help you on your journey of implementing Close Reads. You can click on my photo album to see previous tips in case you missed them.

In addition to my linky party, I will also be writing additional posts about Close Reads...including this one! So let's get on with it, shall we?!

So my last post was about Close Reads versus leveled reading groups. I firmly believe in incorporating BOTH into my classroom EVERY single day. You will have to make your own decision about where you stand on that line, but I am going to approach this post, and all future posts, from my belief that both should be done every day. And I should have included strategy groups in that post, too, because some days I meet with small groups based on their level, and other days I meet with small groups based on a strategy they need to practice. I should have called it small reading groups instead of leveled to include strategy-based groups. So, in my classroom, Close Reads and small reading groups makes an appearance every single day.

Getting Started
How Often and When?
I suggest begin implementing Close Reads with your entire class. This way you can lay the foundation of expectations and procedures of how you will do Close Reads as a whole group. When I first begin implementing Close Reads, I made my goal of doing Close Reads 3 times a week. I felt like that was manageable, so you will need to figure out how many times a week will be manageable for you. I aimed for Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, during my science/social studies time. Why during that time block? I don't have a whole group reading block, and I teach reading skills during my science and social studies block, so it was easy for me to implement Close Reads during this time. You may have a whole group reading block, and that may be when you decide to start implementing Close Reads.

How Much Time Will It Take?
This will depend on the grade level you teach. When I worked with Kindergarten and first grade students, I aimed for about 15-20 minutes. Second grade was able to maintain focus for about 20-25 minutes. Third grade we worked for about 30 minutes. Fourth and fifth grade were able to work for about 40-45 minutes. The first few times we did a Close Read, I marked the start time, the time at which a few began to get squirmy, and then the end time of when I felt like students were ready to end for the day. Close Reading is very taxing! It requires a high level of thinking, and it is very draining on students. I found that when they began to get tired, it was best to wrap up for the day, even if we weren't finished, and then pick up where we left off on the next day a Close Read was scheduled. As we did more Close Reads, I found their stamina increased and we could actually do a Close Read for a longer period of time that we were able to at the beginning of the year. Pay close attention to how long your students are able to maintain their focus, and be sure to wrap up when they begin to show signs of fatigue. At the beginning it was hard to get through a Close Read lesson, and many times we had to wrap up before we were finished. But that is OK! As you do Close Reads with your students, you will begin to know how long you will be able to do a Close Read, and you will be able to plan accordingly. After my students were in the groove of Close Reads, most of the time we were able to finish the lesson I had planned. It just takes some trial and error at first.

What Will My Students Read?
This is something that only you can answer. It will totally depend on the purpose for your Close Read. I like to select a text that goes with our science or social studies topic...remember, I like to multi-task :)
I select texts from the school library, public library, my own personal library, Appendix B, DocsTeach, or another on-line source such as the Smithsonian Archives. Appendix B is a great place to start if you aren't sure what type of text to select. It is full of example text excerpts for a variety of grade levels. I started here until I was able to discern the type of text I wanted my students to read for a Close Read.
Once you are able to select your own texts, you are no longer bound by a reading program or basal series. It is very invigorating! Yes, it takes more time, but you are able to have your students read a text that you know is right for them, for the purpose you selected.

Does Each Student Need a Copy of the Text?
This varies in my classroom. Sometimes all my students have a copy of the actual book. Sometimes I run copies of the excerpt for my students on the copy machine. Sometimes I put a copy on the Smartboard so they can all see it. Sometimes I use a read-aloud. While I do want my students to refer to the text, I don't always make them go back and highlight their evidence. Sometimes I have them use sticky notes to annotate unless they can write on the text itself, sometimes I just make them orally share the evidence. I have found that variety is best because it allows them to share in a multitude of ways.

Quality vs. Quantity
Ah, the age old question of quality versus quantity. I am a quality gal all the way. I believe in using a shorter, meatier text excerpt over an entire book or chapter. I also believe in asking 2-3 deep questions over several shallow questions. You have to have a text excerpt you can really dig into, and you need to be able to have your students elaborate on their answers. If you try to cram too much in, you will rush and neither of these things will occur.

Evidence-Based Responses & Explaining Their Thinking
Notice how I used the word "responses" and not "answers"? You don't want students to answer the question, quote the evidence from the text, and then just move on to the next question. This isn't diving deep. What you want is students to share a well-thought out response citing evidence from the text and explaining how they came to that conclusion. Of course students won't do this automatically, but I have found asking my students simple questions such as, "Why do you think that?" or "How did you come to that conclusion?" probes them to share their thinking out loud with the group. I then invite other students to join in by asking, "Does anyone think differently?" or "Who agrees and why?" You want Close Reading to be a social event. By having students answer, give evidence, and moving on, you are preventing them from discussing the book. You can't discuss a book when you are simply asking questions and receiving answers. By asking students to share their thinking and inviting other students to share their thinking, it opens up a deep discussion of the text. It also shows students that it's OK to disagree because maybe they found evidence that someone else did not. Or perhaps they read the text differently. Students can learn more from each other than from us sometimes. Don't let this opportunity slip away!

I hope I have given you a little food for thought as you begin thinking about how to get started with Close Reads. If you have any questions, feel free to fire away! I love to help others, and I would love to help you out! I also welcome all comments. Feel free to share below!

***If you liked what you read please consider subscribing to my email list. You will receive free goodies, blog posts, and updates right to your inbox! Just click here to join.

I do have some EXCITING news! I am going to be offering a free LIVE webinar next week! I will offer one training on Wednesday, July 27, and one more on Thursday, July 28. Both will be at 8pm EST. You can sign up {here} or the image below to save your seat. I hope to see you there!

Please excuse any typos as I don't have the super power of being perfect :)
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Breast Cancer Research Foundation Fundraiser!

During the month of October, several of us TpT sellers have contributed an item to multiple product bundles. ALL the profits from these bundles will be donated to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. Each bundle is only $25, and the total value of the bundles range from $60-$150. What a deal, and you will be helping the foundation find a cure for breast cancer! The bundles are housed in their own special TpT store you can visit by clicking here or on the button above.

Please, please, please spread the word about these bundles. The more people who know, the more people who will buy, which means more money for this great foundation.