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Brainy Apples: June 2014
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Georgia Bloggers Blog Hop!

It's time to teach the country about yes ma'am and ya'll.
Down here in Georgia, we talk with a drawl.
We're bringing you some freebies as sweet as our tea.
Enter our contest, you might get some things free!

I moved to Georgia from Tennessee as a junior in high school. I can't believe it has been over 20 years! I met my husband coaching at the same high school south of Atlanta, and we have lived in Dawsonville for the past 6 years. I love north Georgia because it reminds me of my east Tennessee home. The only other place in Georgia I would love to live would be the coast! 

I do love Dawsonville a lot, though. I mean, where else does your city hall share the same building as the Georgia Racing Hall of Fame? AND have moonshine distillery right next door?! (that gives tours and free samples!)

Nascar was born in Dawson County. Learned that watching the History Channel :) And to top it off, I am pretty sure there was a knocked over home moonshine still in our backyard when we moved in. We salvaged the stone to create a nice backyard fire pit.

If you aren't a fan of racing or moonshine (Dawsonville does have an annual fall Moonshine Festival. Love going!), then you may enjoy Amicalola Falls, the tallest waterfall east of the Mississippi River.

These are just a few reasons I love living here. I love how close it is to the Blue Ridge Mountains and how close it is to Atlanta.

This weekend, we've paused from our peach picking to give you a taste of Georgia. Twenty-five teachers invite you to take a road trip through our southern state. Hop through our blogs to get freebies.

You can pick up mine just by clicking here.

We'd also like to give you a chance to win a bushel basket full of our products. Whoop whoop! To enter from my page, you just need to follow my Facebook page. You can enter once from each person's blog! The Rafflecopter is below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Goodness gracious, what are you waiting for sugar?! Time's a wastin'. Go get more free stuff and sign up to win!

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

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Notice & Note Book Study- Post 3

Welcome back to our 3rd post in this book study. I have really enjoyed reading others' thoughts on Close Reading. Today's post is hosted by Jenny at Luckeyfrog's Lilypad. Be sure to head on over to her blog later today for her thoughts on Question 5 (What is the Role of Talk?) & Question 6 (What is Close Reading?). Don't forget you  are more than welcome to link up your own post to our linky below! Or you can simply comment or ask a question :)

I am actually not going to go back over Question 5 (What is the Role of Talk?) because you can head HERE to read a blog post I did a while ago about student-led discourse. I actually based it on this portion of the book, so I hope you will head on over to read all about it! Feel free to leave a comment or question on that post or on this one. I will simply say that I FIRMLY believe in more discussion AMONG and BETWEEN students and less BY the teacher :)

Part 1
Question 6: What is Close Reading?
This is certainly a loaded question, isn't it?! I get asked this question A LOT, and I find myself asking this question A LOT. Honestly, I don't think there is a simple, clear cut answer. And I have found my own definition of Close Reading evolving over time. I can tell you that when I first started doing Close Reads, I was all about "the four corners of the text" meaning that I asked questions that could be answered ONLY by reading the words on the page. Questions that would not allow students to reflect on making personal connections to answer the questions. However, when I read this book, I realized why I was wrong to do this! Now, I am not saying that text dependent questions are wrong, because they are most certainly right! We want our students to go back and find evidence in the text for their answers. However, when this is the only type of interaction our students are having with the text, we are missing out on a golden opportunity to have our students feel the text, understand the author's point at an emotional level.

We all know that we can make a personal connection with a text, that book leaves a far greater footprint on us. How often have we read a book and afterwards we couldn't stop thinking about what happened? Or maybe we even cried? Why is that? Not because we analyzed every aspect of the text staying within the four corners. It was because something in that text struck a chord with us. We could relate to what was happening in the text or what was happening to someone in the book. We could feel those emotions as though they were our own. If we had removed our own experiences from the text, we wouldn't have been so moved by it. Do we want our students to have this same relationship with a text? Absolutely! So while I do agree that we need to ask students text dependent questions that require them to find evidence in the text, we also need to allow them the opportunity to relate to the text. And this means we have to model how to relate to a text for them.

I LOVE the example the authors of this book use with Anne Frank's diary. Our students can read this text and tell us how scared and lonely she was. But will they feel her loneliness? Will they feel her fear? If students are able to reflect back on and pull in a personal experience of when they felt alone or felt fear, then they will be able to better understand Anne, and they will read the text with the emotion that Anne felt while writing it.

Sorry about rambling on about this topic, but it is something that I just had an "AHA" moment with, and I wanted to share why I realized I was doing my students a disservice by not allowing them to bring in past experiences ever.

Another point in this section that I totally agree with is the length of the text you select to read with students. If we want our students to pay close attention to the text, to read it deeply, then we need to select a text that is not too long. Otherwise it becomes very taxing on the student and they are not going to be enjoying reading it. Not to say they will enjoy reading every text we give them, but to expect them to read an entire novel closely will most likely backfire in our students not wanting to read because closely reading a text takes time. And how often do we want to stop reading a book to analyze every aspect of it? Yes, we must teach our students how to do this, but not with every book, and not with an entire book.

This brings up text selection, and the portion of the text you want to focus on with students. You have to have a set purpose before you select the text. If you want to focus on character development, then choose a portion of text that showcases character development. You want your purpose to be clearly in the portion of text you are using. I referenced Appendix B a lot when I first began using Close Reads for the text exemplars. It helped me see the length of text I could be using as well as specific portions of books. I would highly suggest looking at this resource if you haven't seen it before. One big takeaway I had with Appendix B is that is it OK to not have your students read the entire book from which you take the selection. You can have your students read a portion of a book and that be all.

The last point the authors bring up is rereading the text. Students need to be able to reread a text to understand it at a deeper level. Skilled readers do this all the time. We want our students to do this on their own. As we read, if there is something we don't understand, we ask a question in our head and then we reread to find the answer. We have to model this skill for our students. A lot. And then some more. Focusing on the "asking questions" part. Less skilled readers will reread a text, but they have no focus for rereading and, therefore, they will walk away with nothing more than they did the first time they read it. Some teachers like to have students read the same text all week, choosing a different focus each day. Using the text differently each day. That is fine. I don't personally do this because to me it is going back to the basal idea of a "story of the week" which I never agreed with. I want my students to participate in authentic reading. How many times do we as adults pick up a book and reread the same part every day for several days? We don't. And some might debate that kids need to do this so they become better readers when they are adults, but I still disagree. I might have my students visit the same text selection for 2 days, but not multiple days in a row or all week long. I can't think of very many text selections that are an amazing example of several characteristics we would want to focus on with our students for several days. I might use the same book for several days, but not the exact same selection from the book. I may get tomatoes thrown at my head for saying this, but even with my low kiddos, I saw no benefit from reading the exact same selection over and over again with a different focus each day. Yes, my kids would do great on the reading comprehension quiz, but, honestly, they should because we have focused on it all week long. I would rather be intent with my purpose and choose text selections that are prime examples of what I want my students to look for. It takes more time because you have to have multiple selections ready, but I believe it is worth it.

I would love to hear your thoughts/questions on this portion of our book study! Also feel free to link up below if you have a post to share :)

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

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Notice & Note Book Study- Post 2

Welcome to the 2nd post of our book study of Notice & Note by Beers and Probst. I hope you were able to read the first post over at DillyDabbles blog. Every Tuesday and Thursday now through July we will tackle sections of this book providing our thoughts and experiences, and we certainly hope you will chime in, too! There is a link-up at the end of each post so you can either read others' posts about the sections, comment with your own thoughts or questions, or link up your own post about the sections. Check out this page for our schedule. I absolutely LOVE this book. In fact, I love it so much I am reading it again! I read it last summer, but there are so many goodies contained I have to jump back in. So, without further adieu, let's dive into Part 1, Questions 3 and 4 (pages 20-26)!

2014 Notice and Note Book Study

Part 1
Question 3: Where Does Rigor Fit?
I am really glad the authors spent a little bit of time discussing rigor because I think this term is used very loosely, and, depending on who is using it, the meaning tends to vary greatly. The authors did a really good job at defining rigor not as how hard a text is or by the difficulty level of the questions we ask, but rather as the type of interaction taking place between the reader and the text. They describe rigor as the energy and attention we put into a text to understand it. Increased rigor does not mean harder. I think this is crucial to understanding how to provide rigorous activities in our classrooms. If we give students a hard text, they are going to be spending WAY more time trying to decode the words and understanding what is going on at the surface level. Rigorous reading takes place when students are authentically engaged with the text. What does that mean? Well, it means that students are committed to comprehending a text at a deeper level. You can start out by giving your students easier texts to read until their confidence grows and they have a firm understanding of your expectations. Over time you can increase the complexity of the text (which text complexity will be covered in a future post).

Question 4: What Do We Mean by Intellectual Communities?
Again, I really love that the authors took time to discuss the social aspect of school. Yes, we are all aware that test scores are important, but that isn't the end goal of school. Our end goal should be to facilitate students to become curious risk-takers who are life-long learners and problem solvers. How can we expect our students to become positive contributors to society if they don't know how to engage in conversations with peers? Discourse in your classroom helps students learn how to listen, communicate, and think critically about the ideas of others. How can we expect students to learn these skills if they are simply sitting and listening to the teacher?

These sections were pretty short but very concise. I would love to know your thoughts/questions about rigor and intellectual communities in your classroom. The authors are setting the stage for the role of Close Reading in the classroom and how to implement it. I can't wait to continue reading with you!

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

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Notice & Note Book Study- Post 1

I am so excited that today is the FIRST day in our summer book study of Notice and Note: Strategies for Close Reading by Beers and Probst. I read this book last summer, after I had been implementing Close Reads for a year in my classroom, and I wish I had read it sooner. It definitely changed some of my thoughts regarding Close Reading, and it brought up new points/ideas I had never thought of before. There were so many amazing suggestions in this book, I need to read it again so I can pick up new information. DillyDabbles is leading this post over at her blog today, so be sure to head on over to read her thoughts, and then at the bottom of her post is a linky where you can either link up your post about today's sections, you can comment on her post, you can jump and read the posts others have written in the linky, or you can be an overachiever and do all 3! :)

2014 Notice and Note Book Study

Part 1
Question 1: Is Reading Still Reading?
I am going to give my brief thoughts here about the first section. Today's section is in Part 1, Questions 1 and 2. I love the first question of "Is Reading Still Reading?" With today's technological boom, I think we can all agree that reading has changed from when we were in school. Whether you agree or disagree with the path reading is taking, as teachers, we have to adjust. And, honestly, when we think of ourselves as readers, I am sure most of us can say that some of what we read is paper and some is electronic. I, myself, prefer paper books to e-books (except when I am traveling…then carrying 6 chapter books becomes a task when you can just lug on iPad around!). I think I just like the smell of the pages, and it is nostalgic to remember when I began reading as a child. But, whatever your preference, we have to acknowledge the way our students and our own children are accessing information is changing. And I also like how the authors brought up how reading is becoming more of a social event. Think about adult book clubs, or the newest book-turned-movie. How many of us LOVE sitting around discussing the plot twists and turns? Our students are no different. And I know I get even more excited and passionate about a book when I converse with others, so why wouldn't our students have those same sentiments?

Question 2: What is the Role of Fiction?
Hmm…now this is a hot topic, especially with the "push" for the reading and understanding of non-fiction texts in schools today. But the authors still contend, as do I, for the importance of still including a good bit of narrative in your classroom. How boring would it be as adults to read JUST non-fiction (aside from people much like my own 11 year old son who ONLY wants to read non-fiction because he thinks reading fiction is a waste of his time because he isn't learning anything new). And think of those students who struggle with reading. Those struggling readers usually have an easier time reading fiction because they can use their imaginations and plots from other stories to help them understand it (yes, I know Close Reading is supposed to be "within the four corners of the text" and not draw on personal experiences…I will happily tackle that in a future post), but if we expect our kiddos to read rigorous text, how can we expect them to WANT to read it if they STRUGGLE reading it? We need our students to fall in LOVE with reading first. And, for me, if that means relying heavily on narratives at first, then that's what I will happily do. Needless to say, I was very happy and felt reassured that my stance on including narrative in my classroom was reinforced by Beers and Probst.

Today's post was pretty short, but still had 2 deep questions. What do you think about reading today and the role of fiction in the classroom? I would love to hear your thoughts! Don't forget to head over to DillyDabbles for more on today's section and hit up the linky at the bottom! :)

Be sure to come back here Thursday for when I lead the discussion over Question 3: Where Does Rigor Fit? and Question 4: What Do We Mean by Intellectual Communities?

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

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