Hameray Classroom Literacy Blog!

Writing About the Self Leads to Learning About Others

Posted by Susan Weaver Jones on Sep 6, 2017 11:18:00 AM

susan-weaver-jones.jpgToday's guest blogger is Susan Weaver Jones, an elementary educator from Orlando, Florida, who currently works as an ESL teacher in Knoxville, Tennessee. She has taught students in Kindergarten through Eighth Grade as a Classroom Teacher, Reading Specialist, Reading Recovery Teacher, and Literacy Coach. She is also the author of three leveled readers in Hameray's Kaleidoscope Collection.

 

As a child, I eagerly read biographies about historical figures, especially those that featured women. I was fascinated to learn about the lives of women, such as Sacagawea, Phillis Wheatley, Maria Mitchell, and Liliuokalani, and their significance in United States history. I was especially interested in the life of Susan B. Anthony, since we shared the same first name! My understanding of our country's past was enriched through reading about many remarkable women and men and their contributions.

Unfortunately, many students today might not be familiar with the names and stories of those who lived long ago, despite their place in history. With a few exceptions, our predecessors often lack the name recognition of contemporary celebrities. The background and importance of our forebears may seem distant and irrelevant to our students. How can we as teachers help our students build meaningful connections between the past and the present?

One way to spark students' interest in biographies links the familiar with the unfamiliar. In this case, the known information involves the people the students know best: the students themselves! As an introductory activity to biographies, have students focus on autobiographical information. With the spotlight turned inward, students can use their vast amounts of expert knowledge about themselves.

To that end, I have modified a Bio Poem format intended for persons whose life histories and accomplishments are well known. The resulting Autobiographical Poem format works well for students whose adult lives and notable achievements are yet to come. You may want to prepare a sample Autobiographical Poem about yourself as a model for your students. Discuss with students possible ways of addressing the details needed to complete their own poems.  

Autobiography396.jpg

Once students have worked through creating and sharing autobiographical poems about themselves, help them shift their focus to friends or family members. Students can interview their selected subjects to learn what information could be included when they write Biographical Poems about the other persons.

The Biographical Poem template shown below was adapted from the Autobiographical Poem format. Since both poems describe living persons, the descriptors are phrased in present tense.

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After students experience writing autobiographically about themselves and biographically about people they know, turn their attention to biographies about people they don't know. Choose a biography of a person likely to be unfamiliar to most, possibly all, of the students, and read it aloud to provide a common experience and basis for discussion. One source, the Hameray Biography Series, includes 30 different inspirational individuals who could be of interest to your students.

Once you have read and discussed the chosen biography with your students, guide them through the process of completing Biographical Poems about the person. You may opt to allow some differences between students' poems, as long as the information included in their poems is accurate.

An example of a Biographical Poem about Eleanor Roosevelt is shown below. The details in the poem reflect the content included in Eleanor Roosevelt: A Modern First Lady by Dvora Klein, which is part of the Hameray Biography Series.

Roosevelt Example Biography396.jpg 

After students have finished listening to the read-aloud biography and have written their Biographical Poems about the subject, provide them with the opportunity to work individually or in small groups. Use multiple biographies on different reading levels about several other historical figures to accommodate students' interests and reading proficiencies. Students who read different biographies about the same person can work together to share information.

>> CLICK HERE TO SEE THIS BOOK <<

To follow up reading and learning about other well-known individuals, students can begin working on Biographical Poems independently or with students working on the same person. Using their familiarity with the Biographical Poem format, students can locate pertinent details to complete poems about their current subjects. (A past tense Biographical Poem template for persons who are no longer living can be downloaded.)

Historical Biography396.jpg

            By the time students finish their last Biographical Poem, they will have participated in several opportunities to develop appreciation for, interest in, and understanding of the genre of biography. Writing about themselves first allowed them to make connections to other people through Biographical Poems.   

eleanor-roosevelt245.jpg              martin-luther-king-jr245.jpg

         

walt-disney245.jpg               sacagawea245.jpg

  

 

 

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To download Susan's activity, or an information sheet with key features about the Hameray Biography Series, which contains the books mentioned in this post, click the images below.

 

     Biography Series Highlights     Bio Poems Packet

 

 

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Topics: Teaching Writing, Biography Series, Poetry, Writing Activity

FREE Zoozoo Into the Wild Teacher's Guide!

Posted by Sally Hosokawa on May 9, 2017 3:56:00 PM

Long-time fans of Zoozoo Into the Wild will be elated to learn about a FREE Teacher’s Guide for the series! The comprehensive guide offers various classroom activities for the nonfiction, fiction, wordless books, and poetry cards that are included in the Zoozoo Into the Wild series. 

The series features eight different animals: Elephant, Frog, Giraffe, Hippo, Lion, Orangutan, Tiger, and Zebra. Each animal has a narrative, informational, and wordless book in which they are featured. By using these titles together, students can learn how to distinguish nonfiction from fictional texts, making them critical and active readers.

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The poetry cards include illustrations and a famous poem about animals. For example, the hippo poetry card features “One Hippo, Two Hippo” by Daniel Williams. The Teacher’s Guide suggest the following ways to introduce poetry into your literacy classroom:

“Listen to the Poem:

  • Read the poem to the children without showing the illustrations.
  • Ask them to listen carefully and try to picture what the hippos are doing in the poem.
  • Read the poem twice. Then ask the children to retell the poem in their own words.
  • Display the poetry card to the group and read the poem again” (12)

Reading the poem aloud allows the children to really focus on the semantic meanings of the words and boosts their visualization skills. After listening, the children can “Hear the Poem”:

  • “Read the first two lines of the hippo pome. Ask the children to identify any words that rhyme.
  • Reread the first two lines, leaving out one of the rhyming words. Ask the children to fill in the blanks.
  • Repeat this with the last two lines of the poem.
  • Read the whole poem to the group, leaving out some of the rhyming words. Ask the children to fill in the blanks” (12)

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For more tips on how to teach poetry and use Zoozoo Into the Wild with your students, look through the Flipbook and download the Zoozoo Into the Wild Teacher’s Guide for FREE!

 

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View the FREE Teacher's Guide at this link. To download information about Zoozoo Into the Wild, click the image below.

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Topics: Zoozoo Into the Wild, Poetry, Teacher's Guides

Five-Senses Poems: Expanding Students' Writing

Posted by Susan Weaver Jones on Jun 16, 2016 3:30:00 PM

susan-weaver-jones.jpgToday's guest blogger is Susan Weaver Jones, an elementary educator from Orlando, Florida, who currently works as an English as a Second Language (ESL) teacher in Knoxville, Tennessee.

What can teachers do when their students' writings have the bare bones of stories or paragraphs but not much else? How can educators encourage their students to expand their writing by adding more information? Simply instructing students to add interesting details to their writing will not help them understand how to incorporate such description. To assist students in expanding their writing, teachers may find a five-senses poem to be an appropriate place to start.

A “five-senses poem” is a non-rhyming poem that follows a certain format. Once the topic is determined, each of the five lines in the poem focuses on a particular characteristic of the topic using a different sense: seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, and feeling. You can download my reproducible poem template at the bottom of this page

Topic: ___________

It looks like _____________________.        

It sounds like ___________________.

It smells like ____________________.

It tastes like ____________________.

It feels like _____________________.

Modeling the development of a five-senses poem provides the initial support that many students require. Choosing familiar experiences as topics involves students in the thinking process, since many students have relevant background knowledge.

For instance, I have used the topic of recess to introduce five-senses poems to my elementary students. The topic has been successful because recess is an activity in which they all have personal experience, as shown below 

Recess

It looks like kids playing together.

It sounds like friends yelling to each other.

It smells like sweaty socks and shoes.

It tastes like dirt in my mouth.

It feels like my legs are tired from running.

Discussing additional possibilities for the senses as they relate to the topic can help students create their own versions of the poem. Subsequently, students can attempt other five-senses poems on topics such as birthdays, holidays, and seasons with teacher support, as appropriate. As students become proficient in using their senses to describe, they can be guided to include sensory description in their narratives, as well.

Once students have accessed their background knowledge to write five-senses poems about familiar topics, they can learn to use informational texts as resources to create fact-based poems. Depending upon their familiarity with the topic, they may be able to combine their prior knowledge with new information gathered from text, pictures, and discussions. Primary, ELL, special ed, and struggling students may be more dependent than other students on what they learn from teacher-led class discussions and pictures to supplement what they can read.

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For example, when using the book Bat by Lee Waters in the Zoozoo Animal World series, teachers can provide important information about bats' habitats through the talking points on the inside back cover of the book. The following five-senses poem could result from students' knowledge about bats, the text, and the talking points. 

A Bat’s Habitat

It looks like a dark cave.

It sounds like fluttering wings.

It smells like a rainy day.

It tastes like crunchy insects.

It feels like a safe place to sleep upside down.

After modeling and discussion, students could work individually or in pairs to choose animals to read about. Afterward, they could write and illustrate their own five-senses poems about the habitats for the animals they selected, using their texts for reference.

Later, teachers could guide students to use the research-based poems as the basis of paragraphs about the topic. Instead of writing only two or three sentences using their background knowledge or copying sentences from books, students could develop paragraphs using details from their five-senses poems. Consider the differences between the following paragraphs about bats:

Bats live in caves. The caves are dark. Bats fly a lot. 

Bats like to sleep in dark caves. On rainy days, many bats hang upside down in the caves. They fly around at night to find crunchy insects to eat. Then they rest. When the bats wake up, the noisy sound of their wings fill the caves. 

Students can practice reading and writing about chosen topics through five-senses poems. Learning to write five-senses poems can help students include descriptive details and expand their writing, whether they are working on narrative stories or informational paragraphs!

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Susan Weaver Jones has taught students in kindergarten through eighth grade as a classroom teacher, reading specialist, Reading Recovery teacher, and literacy coach. She is also the author of three leveled readers in Hameray's Kaleidoscope Collection.

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To download Susan's activity, or an information sheet with key features about the series Zoozoo Animal World, which contain the books mentioned in this post, click the images below.

 

New Call-to-Action     Comparing and Contrasting Packet

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Topics: Teaching Writing, Animals, Zoozoo Animal World, Poetry, Writing Activity

Cinquain Poems: Transition to Expository Writing

Posted by Susan Weaver Jones on Mar 3, 2016 3:36:54 PM

susan-weaver-jones.jpgToday's guest blogger is Susan Weaver Jones, an elementary educator from Orlando, Florida, who currently works as an ESL teacher in Knoxville, Tennessee. She has taught students in Kindergarten through Eighth Grade as a Classroom Teacher, Reading Specialist, Reading Recovery Teacher, and Literacy Coach. She is also the author of three leveled readers in Hameray's Kaleidoscope Collection.

 

Teaching primary students how to read informational text is one thing. Teaching them how to write it is definitely something else! Then consider the challenge of working with intermediate students who struggle with writing or who are reluctant writers. What's a teacher to do?

With increasing emphasis on incorporating more expository text into literacy instruction, teachers may wonder how to best foster informational writing. Cinquain poems are one way to effectively link informational writing with description found in both narrative and expository writing.

Because cinquain poems do not rhyme and contain limited text within a specific format, they often appeal to students who prefer tasks with less writing. Cinquain poems are five-line poems that utilize different parts of speech, beginning with nouns. Though several variations exist, one version uses the following format. (Please see the reproducible cinquain template below.)

Noun
Adjective   Adjective
Verb with -ing   Verb with -ing   Verb with -ing
Descriptive phrase or short sentence
Synonym for noun

 For primary students who are not accustomed to using factual sources beyond themselves, the selection of nouns, adjectives, and verbs for the poems requires them to select key words that capture essential aspects of the subjects. Informational texts, such as Puffins by Lee Waters in the Zoozoo Arctic Animal World Collection, can provide important information about unfamiliar topics when students lack sufficient background knowledge and need additional resources. 

Consider this cinquain, based on the text and talking points in the early reader, Puffins.

Puffin
Colorful   Hungry
Flapping   Flying   Swimming
Likes to paddle in the water
Sea parrot

 Initially, teachers can model the process of writing cinquain poems by using topics with which the students are familiar. Familiar topics allow students to use their collective background knowledge as they experience the line-by-line creation of group cinquains. Later, students can experiment with less familiar topics once they have appropriate resources from which to gather needed information, as well as experience with the cinquain format. 

Here is a cinquain based on another bird, the bald eagle. Most primary students probably know more about eagles than puffins, so books, such as Bald Eagle by Lee Waters from the Zoozoo Forest Animal World Collection, can add to their knowledge. The text and talking points at the back of the book provide needed information.

Bald eagle
Fast   Light
Soaring   Grabbing   Eating
Builds big nests
National bird

 Cinquain poems are stand-alone, end products that can be illustrated and shared. However, they also provide students with key concepts that can become the basis for informational paragraphs. Read the following paragraph, which is based on details about bald eagles from the cinquain.

A bald eagle is a bird. It flies very fast. It is light, not heavy.
It soars in the air and grabs fish to eat. It can build a really big nest.
The bald eagle is the national bird for the U.S.A.

 

Here is another example of an informational paragraph written from the key concepts used in the cinquain about puffins.

Puffins are birds with colorful beaks and legs. They like
to swim in the ocean. They can catch 10 fish at one time. When
they paddle, they look like they're flying in the water. Some people
call them "sea parrots."

 

Teacher-led discussions about key concepts access students' background information from their own experiences and other resources. Those discussions are crucial for students, so they can verbalize different possibilities for the cinquains and the paragraphs, prior to recording their chosen information. In the paragraphs, the students can elaborate upon the key concepts.

Students can enjoy writing cinquain poems as they focus on informational text. Then they can learn how to expand their writing into sentences and paragraphs by using the cinquain poems as basis for discussion prior to further composing. Because the cinquains help students transition from outside sources to their own written expression, they are less likely to plagiarize source materials. Students can creatively demonstrate what they have learned about informational topics through poetry and expository writing. Happy writing!

 

puffin.jpg         bald-eagle.jpg

 

  

cinquain-template-2-1.jpg

 

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To download Susan's activity, or an information sheet with key features about the series Zoozoo Animal World, which contain the books mentioned in this post, click the images below.

 

New Call-to-Action     Cinquain Poems

 

 

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Topics: Teaching Writing, Animals, Zoozoo Animal World, Poetry, Writing Activity

Classic Post: Why Is Teaching Poetry Important?

Posted by Tara Rodriquez on Oct 29, 2015 3:30:00 PM

ITW-PC_Frog-150

This is a post on poetry and the Common Core that originally ran in March 2014. Check back frequently for more Common Core-related topics!

Today we're focusing on why it is important to teach poetry, introducing it to students in even the lowest grades. As the Common Core State Standards are implemented in more and more states, poetry becomes part of the curriculum beginning in kindergarten. Kindergarten students need to learn how to recognize poetry when they see it (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.K.5), and the best way to get them to that point is through lots of exposure!

Poetry can help children learn to read by developing pre-reading and reading skills. It can introduce new vocabulary, improve fluency through increased rhythm skills, and build phonetic knowledge through familiarity with rhyme.

Rhyming is an especially helpful aspect of poetry when it comes to learning to read. When students can recognize rhyming words (through activities that can be jumpstarted by poetry, such as creating lists of them), it improves their handle on which letters can correspond to which sounds, as well as which word "shapes" repeat in words that sound the same at the end. These skills become part of the basic framework off of which children learn to read.

ITW-PC_Tiger-150Poetry can also contribute to speaking and listening skills. Through reading poems aloud and hearing them read by others, students become more familiar with the cadence of the language. They naturally absorb the concepts of meter and beat, and tapping these things out also can be a fun way to incorporate physical learning.

Poems also tend to be shorter than most other types of written works, making them less daunting to read for struggling or easily intimidated students. Students who have never before finished reading something will be delighted to learn that they just read "a whole poem" by themselves!

Coming soon, we'll have poetry cards available as part of our Zoozoo Into the Wild series. This series currently contains three genres of books—fiction, informational, and wordless—with eight animals. There is one book from each genre for each animal. When the poetry cards are released, there will be a snippet of poetry on each card, with a card for one of each of the same animals. Pictured to the right are two sneak previews: the card for the frog, and the card for the tiger. Keep an eye out for these fun additions to your poetry collection!

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Topics: Poetry

Why Is Teaching Poetry Important?

Posted by Tara Rodriquez on Mar 31, 2014 8:00:00 AM

ITW-PC_Frog-150We're focusing today on why it is important to teach poetry, introducing it to students in even the lowest grades. As the Common Core State Standards are implemented in more and more states, poetry becomes part of the curriculum beginning in kindergarten. Kindergarten students need to learn how to recognize poetry when they see it (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.K.5), and the best way to get them to that point is through lots of exposure!

Poetry can help children learn to read by developing pre-reading and reading skills. It can introduce new vocabulary, improve fluency through increased rhythm skills, and build phonetic knowledge through familiarity with rhyme.

Rhyming is an especially helpful aspect of poetry when it comes to learning to read. When students can recognize rhyming words (through activities that can be jumpstarted by poetry, such as creating lists of them), it improves their handle on which letters can correspond to which sounds, as well as which word "shapes" repeat in words that sound the same at the end. These skills become part of the basic framework off of which children learn to read.

ITW-PC_Tiger-150Poetry can also contribute to speaking and listening skills. Through reading poems aloud and hearing them read by others, students become more familiar with the cadence of the language. They naturally absorb the concepts of meter and beat, and tapping these things out also can be a fun way to incorporate physical learning.

Poems also tend to be shorter than most other types of written works, making them less daunting to read for struggling or easily intimidated students. Students who have never before finished reading something will be delighted to learn that they just read "a whole poem" by themselves!

Coming soon, we'll have poetry cards available as part of our Zoozoo Into the Wild series. This series currently contains three genres of books—fiction, informational, and wordless—with eight animals. There is one book from each genre for each animal. When the poetry cards are released, there will be a snippet of poetry on each card, with a card for one of each of the same animals. Pictured to the right are two sneak previews: the card for the frog, and the card for the tiger. Keep an eye out for these fun additions to your poetry collection!

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Topics: Common Core, Zoozoo Into the Wild, Poetry

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