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Brainy Apples: February 2014
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Close Read Linky Party!

It has been a couple of months since my last Close Reads linky party…sorry about that! The holidays swooped in and took me off my feet for a bit. Now that the holidays are over and my house is (mostly) in order, I am super excited to host my monthly linky party once again. I hope you have found my previous blog posts and the blog posts of those who have linked up in the past helpful. My purpose with hosting this linky party is to help those of you out there along your journey of implementing Close Reads in your classroom.

I would love it if you linked up a blog post of yours about how you use Close Reads in your classroom. All I ask is that your post be linked back to this one and you keep it mostly product free (meaning that your post should not be product-centered. A small plug is fine, but the intent of this linky party is to give teachers tips, suggestions, ideas, etc. that they can use in their classroom without having to make a purchase). There is a link below that you can use to put the linky party on your blog post, or you can simply just link your blog post back to mine. Be sure to link up your blog post to the linky below, though. Feel free to grab the logo above to put on your blog post!

This month I want to discuss a topic that my colleagues and I debated a bit when we began implementing Close Reads. Everyone has their own thoughts, but I am going to present mine on this topic: student independent reading of a text vs. teacher read aloud of a text.

Independently Read Text vs. Read Aloud Text
I am on the team of balancing both. Some people believe very firmly in students independently reading a text every time during Close Reads, but I respectfully disagree, and I will explain why.

I had a student (several, actually) in my class who did not read on grade level. His independent reading level was a Fountas and Pinnell I. He was in 3rd grade. This reading level placed him on a beginning  2nd grade level. A full year behind where he needed to be. We as teachers must be diagnosticians. Figuring out our students' strengths and weaknesses. I wanted to know if this student's lack of reading ability stemmed from decoding or comprehension. So I chose an exemplar text for 3rd grade according to Appendix B, Tales from the Odyssey: Part One by Mary Pope Osborne. I found this book to be the perfect accompaniment to our ancient Greece unit for my boys while my girls fell in love with the Goddess Girls series. I read aloud the excerpt included in Appendix B (Chapter 5), but I continued reading and ended with the sentence, "But wisdom stopped him." I also gave each student a copy of the excerpt because I didn't have enough copies of the book so they were able to follow along with me and have the text in front of them to refer to when we had our Close Read discussion.

(I prefer discussion instead of questions because I have found that Close Reads involve digging deep, and when students actively discuss a text, they are able to dig deeper and walk away with a greater understanding than when they just answer the questions I pose to them. When one student answers the question, I open the floor for confirmation or debate from other students.)

This portion of text is about how Polyphemus (a cyclops) finds Odysseus and his men shipwrecked on the cyclops' island. and hiding in Polyphemus' cave. Polyphemus is a brutal monster, and keeps the entrance to his cave closed off with a huge boulder. Even though Polyphemus ate 2 of Odysseus' men, Odysseus did not take the opportunity to kill him while he was sleeping. "But wisdom stopped him." I asked my students what that last sentence meant. One of my students, who was an on-grade level reader, said that one of Odysseus' men stopped him and that his name was wisdom…..I asked the other students what they thought. The boy who was a full year below grade level said that it wasn't one of his men. He said that it was a voice inside Odysseus' head telling him not to kill Polyphemus. I asked him why and he said that because if he killed Polyphemus, they would all die, too, because they could never move the boulder by themselves. If I had this student read this portion of text by himself, he never would have gleaned that from the text. He wouldn't have made it past the first paragraph. Clearly he could make inferences on an on-grade level text, so comprehension skills were not his weakness. It was decoding. If I had not read that aloud and had him read it and asked him the same question, he most likely would not have been able to answer it and I would have thought he was not able to make inferences, which he clearly can.

I was able to focus my small group lessons with him on decoding, but I also made sure I read aloud text to him that was on or above grade level to help strengthen his comprehension skills. I did not want to ignore his strengths to focus on his weakness, because eventually his strengths would weaken.

This is just one example of why I balance independently read text with Close Reads and read aloud text with Close Reads. Both have a place in the classroom depending on your purpose. It always depends on your purpose. Close Reads can be used to assess, but they can also be use as a diagnostic tool. I chose texts that would be too difficult for my students to read independently and read these aloud so we could have a Close Read discussion using more difficult text. Students have to encounter difficulty and require support in order to advance their ability. When students struggle (with an appropriate amount of support) is when they can grow.

I love how Close Reads is a flexible strategy depending on how I need to use it. I love how I can have my students read a text independently for practicing fluency and comprehension on their reading level, but also how I can read aloud a more difficult text to stretch their critical thinking skills on what would otherwise be a text that they couldn't get through on their own. And I love how I can use Close Reads as a diagnostic tool to hone in on specific weaknesses and strengths so I can address both for each of my students.

How do you use Close Reads in your classroom? Solely independently read texts or a combo of independently read and read aloud texts?

Be sure to hop to the other blogs below for more tips, suggestions, and experiences with Close Reads!

If you want to put the linky on your blog, get the InLinkz code.
If you just want to link up your post and link back to mine, the link up is below.

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

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Math Is Real Life: February Edition

I am so excited to finally get my act together and join this really cool linky hosted by MissMathDork and a few of my other blogger friends, 4mulaFun, The Teacher Studio, and Teaching to Inspire in 5th.

When I was in the classroom, I loved helping my students find math in the world around them. As soon as they realized that they would be using measurement in their lives outside of school, they were more engaged in learning because they had made a personal connection. I think this linky is a grand idea!

So I love baking. And I love baking with my kids. I love how baking opens the door to mathematical discussions. One cold morning a few weekends ago, my kiddos wanted some homemade berry muffins for breakfast. They wanted me to use my step-mom's recipe because her blueberry muffins are the best I have ever had. The problem is that her recipe only makes a half dozen muffins. Problem! There are 5 people in my family, and we all like to eat more than 1 muffin. We also like to get the same number of muffins if possible, so I had to think about how many muffins I needed to make in order for us each to get the same number…..I felt some math coming on! Factors at its finest!

I didn't have muffin clip art, so I used cupcakes…just pretend they are muffins ;) Ok, so if a half dozen is 6, then I need to figure out the lowest common factor of 6 (for the muffins) and 5 (for my family). I don't have to use the lowest common factor, but I have limited ingredients :) 

So I needed to make 5 batches so we would all have the same amount. Which works out to be 6 muffins per person, which may seem like a lot, but like to eat!

So now that I knew I needed to multiply my ingredients by 5, I was ready to begin!
All the ingredients that were while numbers were pretty easy to adjust because whole numbers are easy to multiply in your head…usually ;)
The ingredients that were fractions or mixed numbers were a bit trickier, especially for my son Dominic.
He's ready to begin!
So the ingredients that were fractions or mixed numbers were the sugar and salt. Not too many, thank goodness. Actually the amount of berries was a mixed number, too, but we just throw in as many of those as we want without measuring!

So we needed ½ teaspoon of salt. Dominic doesn't know how to multiply fractions gets (he's just in 2nd grade), so I let him scoop out 5 one-half teaspoons of salt instead. 

Which ends up being 5 servings of ½ teaspoon of salt each is 2 ½ teaspoons of salt.
Equation: 5 servings x ½ teaspoons of salt each = 2 ½ teaspoons of salt  (I like to label the integers.)

The single recipe called for ½ cup of sugar. Well, we broke our ½ measuring cup, and our daughter took our 1 cup measuring cup to measure out our cats' food , so we had to us our ¼ measuring cup. I know that 2 one-fourth cups are in 1one-half cup. So instead of using 5 one-half cups, we had to use 10 one-fourth cups. 
Lots of scooping……... 

and dumping!
I love how he put the towel on his shoulder…just like mommy!

Which ends up being 5 servings of ½ cup of sugar each is 2 ½ cups of sugar.
Equation: 5 servings x ½ cups of sugar each = 2 ½ cups of sugar  

Dominic noticed that we needed 5 each of the ½ teaspoon and ½ cups :) 

I just wanted to include this picture because he was so excited to get to use a knife to cut the butter.

Here is the berry muffin batter. We used blueberries and raspberries.
I really meant to take a picture of our final muffins, but when the timer on the oven dings, it's every man, woman, and child for themselves!

How have you used math in the real world lately?

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

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Bright Ideas Blog Hop

I am so excited to be participating in the first ever "Bright Ideas Blog Hop"! A bunch of us bloggers wanted to come together and give our wonderful readers a ton of tips, tricks, and ideas that we have found valuable in our classrooms, so you can add to your own bag. As teachers, we are always looking for that next great idea, which is why I am so excited about this "Bright Ideas Blog Hop"! Consider this your professional development for the next month, because you are going to get a TON of great ideas!

Today I'd like to share how to make your science time more exciting and engaging for your students… going through their tummies! If you haven't tried making your science edible, then read on!

Why Edible Science?
I love doing science experiments because science is all about exploring and discovering. But even with all the experiments and demonstrations my students did, I still wanted to take things up a notch. They still weren't grasping some of the concepts. Maybe the concepts were complex, or maybe they were just a little boring (like rocks and minerals). I began thinking about what I could add to science time to help them remember those concepts that seemed to be escaping them, or to make them more interested in learning about those boring concepts.

Every holiday I would create math, literacy, and science centers for my students to do that were related to that particular holiday. I quickly learned that their favorite centers involved food. What kid doesn't love food? So I decided to bring food into our science time. You will have to pay attention to food allergies, so make sure your parents know what foods you will be using and their kids will be eating beforehand. I had a great group of parents, so I could rely on them to send in donations of the supplies we needed. I hoped that if students were creating demonstrations or doing experiments with food they could actually eat afterwards, they might be able to make those connections with the harder to grasp (or boring) concepts.

An Edible Science Lesson: Layers of Soil & Rock
Some of the ideas I created on my own, others I found on the web. You can actually find a lot of resources on the web for edible science. I am going to share one that I found on the web that worked very well for my students when we were learning about soil and rocks. Soil. Rocks. Two of the most fascinating science concepts out there, right?

My students needed to learn about the layers of soil and rock in the Earth. Coloring and drawing the layers did zilch. Having my students create a model using different colors of play dough did nada. They still couldn't remember the layers, and if they were able to remember the layers, they weren't really able to describe how the layers were similar and different from one another. So I decided to have my students make a model of the layers of soil and rock within the Earth using different food items. I also had them sketch a diagram of it in their interactive science notebooks as a visual reminder of the activity. I had them label the diagram with the name of the layer and what food item we used. I hoped if they could connect the food to the layer, they would remember it. And they did! Tie in their taste buds, and it's amazing what they will remember!

Here is what you will need for each child. Of course, you can use any food item you want, though!
1 large clear plastic cup
a few Oreos
1 butterscotch pudding pack
1 chocolate pudding pack
shredded coconut colored green
a couple of gummy worms

1. Place 1 Oreo in the bottom of the cup. This represents the bedrock. (The Oreos also represent parent material because this is broken down bedrock and rock outcrops because rock outcrops are exposed bedrock.)
2. Crumble an Oreo and sprinkle it on top of the whole Oreo. This represents the parent material.
3. Spoon some of the butterscotch pudding on top of the bedrock. This represents the subsoil.
4. Spoon some of the chocolate pudding on top of the subsoil. This represents the topsoil. Topsoil is richer in organic matter than subsoil, so it is darker in color.
5. Place a gummy worm or two in the topsoil. Worms live in the topsoil and further break down rock and enrich the topsoil.
6. Place an Oreo sideways into the topsoil so that it sticks out to represent a rock outcrop.
7. Sprinkle the green shredded coconut on top to represent grass.
8. Sketch and label the diagram.
9. Eat up!

Disclaimer: This is not a photo of an example I created. I clean out my photos every summer, and since I am not teaching this year, I don't have any new photos of this lesson (sad face). But I did find this one on a web search so you can see how it could look when you are done, depending on which food items you use for the layers :) I give credit where credit is due, and I found the photo below here.

Do you use edible science in your classroom? I would love to hear about your favorite lesson!

Get Ready to Blog Hop!
If you are looking for more great ideas, please visit the next blog on this blog hop written by Danielle from Crayonbox Learning! She shares some great tips on how to create science centers using awesome finds from the Dollar Store. Alternatively, you may visit the link-up below and choose a topic that interests you.

Until next time!

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

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