Thursday, November 26, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving!

I am fortunate to spend this Thanksgiving at my in-laws home. Waking up to their beautiful view of the lake is always a treat. Those close to me know that my life has not always been easy, but I have always tried to have an attitude of thankfulness despite my circumstances. Some days it is harder than others. Today it is easy.

As I reflect on the people in my life, I am truly grateful for the most amazing co-teacher. Cathy is one of the most intelligent people I know. She cares deeply for her students and works so hard to make sure she is reaching each one. Cathy keeps me grounded, while giving me the support to fly into any crazy, new idea I may have. I know that seems impossible that one person could do both things, but that is just how incredible she is. Without her wisdom and support, I wouldn't be half the teacher I am.

In an effort to be more efficient with instructional time and increase student engagement, Cathy and I try to design our reading lessons around novel studies. We choose novels that tie into our social studies and science curriculum. For instance, during our study of Ancient Rome in social studies our students learn about Simple Machines in science. We discuss how the Ancient Greeks invented catapults, but the Romans used levers and wheels to improve on the design. The students read either The Time Warp Trio: See You Later, Gladiator, I Survived The Destruction of Pompeii, or Moving Target by Christina Diaz Gonzalez. 

It is difficult to manage three different novel studies at one time. We usually rotate back and forth between a whole class novel study and differentiated groups. After the break, we will all read The Best Christmas Pageant Ever. It is so much easier for the teacher to have the whole class reading the same book. It just isn't always best practice for us. Every year, we seem to have a big gap between our readers' abilities. This gap generally closes to some extent by the end of the year. I had an incoming third grader's mother tell me she read the entire Harry Potter series and the Hobbit over the summer. She took the Accelerated Reader test on all of them at the beginning of the year and passed. I can't have that child reading Magic Tree House books all year! 

So Cathy and I are always trying to find a way to differentiate our reading in a way that we can manage. The novel studies offered on TeachersPayTeachers have been a huge help. For more popular books, there are many different ones to choose from. Unfortunately, I fell in love with Moving Target before I realized it was a recently released book.  There were no novel studies available, so I created one for us to use. It is available on TeachersPayTeachers

How do you differentiate your novel studies? Has someone figured out a manageable way? Please share! Cathy and I are always looking for a better and more efficient way to reach our rowdy kids.
I hope all of you have a wonderful Thanksgiving and are able to take a few moments to reflect on the wonderful people in your life who help you be your best. 
Happy Thanksgiving!