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Navigating Digital Texts With Skitch

28 Feb

Navigating Digital Texts with Skitch - Blog Post by MsJordanReads

This month, as I continue my journey toward a more paperless classroom, I’ve been exploring a collection of new apps for interacting with digital text. As many of you know, Notability has been my app of choice lately (check out my latest post), but I was looking for an app to implement with an entire class of third graders for text annotating, using our building set of iPads. Notability will most likely be our next tool, but I wanted to start off simple with a “stepping stone” app, to teach this larger group of students the foundations of how to annotate text. Enter my new favorite app (drumroll)… Skitch!

skitch

Skitch is fabulous. It is a FREE app from Evernote (available on most devices) that allows students to draw, mark, and annotate images. I don’t actually use with app with Evernote, but apparently the two apps work well together. With this app, students can sketch ideas, mark-up photos, make diagrams, create/label maps, and even annotate text. Really, the possibilities are limitless, and I have more ideas for integration than I know what to do with! (See some of these ideas below.)

Introducing Skitch: 

The Skitch app, which is very user-friendly, enables students to snap their own photos or upload images/screenshots from the web. Personally, I found it easier to start with the camera feature, even if their images were sometimes extremely blurry, cut-off, and not-so-fabulous. Eventually, I will show them how to take screenshots, upload files, and access shared assignments from Dropbox, but for now… simple is better. 🙂

Before jumping into digital texts, I spent some time introducing the students to the app itself. We went over the annotating tools and spent a solid two days just exploring. We practiced taking photos using the camera and practiced using all the tools. We talked about appropriate tools for specific tasks and how not every tool will work for every assignment (as much as I’m sure they’d just love to doodle and draw on everything!).

Download my step-by-step Intro PDF slideshow below to introduce and guide students through capturing images and annotating them. You can display these slides during your introductory lesson and even print student handouts (under “printer preferences,” just select four-to-a-page!).

Slide01

For the “Introduction to Skitch” 2-day lesson, I gave the students a choice board of activities. The students had fun creating treasure maps, Skitch selfies, classroom maps. They also went on word hunts within their “Read to Self” books. I modeled each activity and referred to it as “Skitch Tic-Tac-Toe.” Like with many choice boards, the middle square was the must-do activity. I saved that activity for later in the week and used it for our ELA unit lesson of using non-fiction text features to help us understand texts more deeply.

Download this choice board for free by clicking the image below!

Skitch Choice Board_MsJordanReads 2:28:2015

Slide1

Introducing Skitch for Text Annotating:

As much as making treasure maps and taking Skitch selfies were fun, we were ready to take Skitch to the next level and use the tool with non-fiction texts. We started with a lesson on labeling non-fiction text features.

Navigating Digital Texts With Skitch (MsJordanReads)

(CREDIT: The image above is from the Scholastic article “Leading the Way” from Scholastic News, Weekly Reader, Edition 3, March 2015 issue.)  

Screen Shot 2015-02-28 at 11.11.48 AM

After labeling all the non-fiction text features, the students used their Skitch-labeled texts to respond to comprehension questions. The idea was for the students to actually use the text features as evidence in their responses. Students also had to make a connection between each text feature they labeled and how it helped them understand the text more deeply.

Download my step-by-step Text Annotating PDF slideshow below to guide students through capturing text images and annotating them. You can display these slides during your lesson and even print student handouts (under “printer preferences,” just select four-to-a-page!).

Slide01

TUTORIAL NOTES: I included slides at the end of both slideshow files (“Intro” & “Text Annotating” tutorials) for how to upload Skitch files to Dropbox. This will only be helpful if you have a Dropbox account already linked with your iPads. If you don’t have a Dropbox account yet, you may want to set one up for students to share files.

dropbox-logo-4

Be sure to follow my student directions for uploading to Dropbox because Skitch doesn’t let you rename files, and all the student files will have the SAME file name (definitely a HUGE glitch on their part). I’ve been having an issue with Dropbox overwriting all my Skitch files because Dropbox doesn’t allow two files with the same name in the same folder. Students will need their own folders in Dropbox so that every file can save otherwise it will only save the most recent file uploaded. If this happens, don’t panic like I did — you can still find the files (within 30 days) by clicking on the ONE file and selecting view “previous versions.”(See screenshot below.) You’ll just have to tediously right-click and save each image one-by-one via a desktop computer. {Feel free to email me at msjordanreads@gmail.com if you have this issue. I’d be happy to help, especially since I’ve already ripped my hair out over how to work around this issue!} 🙂

Screen Shot 2015-02-28 at 10.52.37 AM

Additional Ideas for Using Skitch in the Classroom: 

Maps/Diagrams:

  • Create diagrams (e.g., parts of a flower, stages of a life cycle, planets in a solar system, layers of the rainforest, etc.)
  • Create a map of your classroom/school
  • Create a treasure map using all the features of a map (i.e., key, scale, symbols, routes, geographical features, etc.)
  • Label of blank map of the continents or a map of the country

Text Annotating: 

  • Take a screenshot of non-fiction articles (e.g., Scholastic News, Time for Kids, etc.) or snap a photo of text from a newspaper, magazine, or book to annotate for active reading (e.g., thinking tracks, text coding, close reading annotations, etc.)
  • Take a photo of student writing to mark-up (i.e., label parts of a paragraph, highlight writing conventions, locate text-based evidence, etc.) — great for self-assessment!
  • Label fiction story elements
  • Label non-fiction text features (see my lesson above)
  • Highlight key words that show non-fiction text structure

Vocabulary: 

  • Capture examples and make content vocabulary come to life (snap pictures, sketch, label, etc.)
  • Use with your ELL students for building English vocabulary

Math: 

  • Deconstructing word problems (snap a photo & mark it up!)
  • Showing work for constructed response math questions (you can use Skitch as a whiteboard)

Additional Resources for Skitch:

I would love to hear how YOU use Skitch in the classroom! Please comment below or send me an email (msjordanreads@gmail.com). I’m excited to explore new ways to use this app and would love to do a follow-up post on a few of the ideas!

Happy Skitching!

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“Project QR Code” — QR Code Summary Posters

19 Mar

SumatranTigerPoster1_MsJordanReads

For most of my RTI students, summarizing is a challenge, especially when it comes to identifying key details and boiling our summaries down to the most important information.  More often than not, text summaries become text retells, and students lose focus of what’s important. So how do students “boil it down,” and more importantly, how can we make it FUN?

Becoming “Summarizing Superstars” doesn’t happen overnight,  so it’s always a challenge to come up with motivating tasks to practice summarizing – tasks that can potentially keep students motivated over the course of a few weeks!  High-interest texts are a start, but I try to make the actual tasks fun and engaging, as well. How? Insert: TECHNOLOGY. 🙂 

Project QR Code” continues with this next technology integration activity.

I gave my students a challenge — we would be creating QR Code chapter summaries for a non-fiction text about mysterious Sumatran tigers, BUT each summary would have to fit on a post-it note and would have to include the five most important key words from the chapter. We would then turn our post-it notes into QR codes and create a summary collage. The students seemed hesitant, but excited with the idea of creating their own QR code summary posters!

“Sum It Up!” Comprehension Strategy

To help students identify what’s most important in the text, I use the “Sum It Up!” strategy. As always, I model the strategy, guide (guide, guide, guide some more), and THEN see if they can do it on their own. It’s the typical “I Do/We Do/You Do” model with a gradual release of responsibility. My RTI students need a lot of hand-holding at first, especially when they realize they’re choosing the incorrect words nine times out of ten. It’s a slow process, but their beautiful summaries and sense of accomplishment in the end makes it all worth it!

With the “Sum It Up!” strategy, students have to first identify key words (5 maximum). This is the hardest part, and we often start in our notebooks so we can brainstorm a list of words without the pressure of choosing just FIVE. To get started, the students first jot down any important words that pop into their head from the chapter. We then revisit the text and hunt for key words. Highlighting and marking up the text are great strategies for spotlighting important words, just as long as the students aren’t “highlighter happy.” In the beginning, I usually do this part with them, or just have them stay away from highlighters so the markings can be erased. (NOTE: If you do close reading with your students, you can make a connection to the “highlighter hunts” you do with close reads!)

I provide students with guiding questions to help them with identifying key words. Students ask themselves the following questions:

  • What is the chapter title? (This is a huge clue! Students discover that key words are often hidden inside title since authors create titles based on main ideas!)
  • What is this chapter mostly about?
  • What words do I see repeated throughout the chapter? 
  • What are the most important details (vs. the supporting details)?
  • Is there background information, extended examples, or author anecdotes that can be left out?
  • Is the word I found important to understanding this chapter?
  • Could I leave this word out and still understand the chapter?

Once we have a list of potential key words, we look at each one, discuss WHY we think it’s important (students have to defend their words), and then we slowly narrow it down by crossing words out. What’s left are the five most important ones that we can connect together to form a summary.

For the summary-writing stage, I always have students start in their notebooks so they can cross-out and shrink their summaries. The ultimate goal is for it to fit on a post-it note. The post-it note forces students to “boil down” their summaries down to the most important information. (Be patient… usually it takes many tries and a HUGE pile of post-its!)

After, the summaries are successfully recorded on post-it notes, I have my students underline the key words inside their summaries. Their post-it notes are sometimes a mess, so I may have students transfer their summaries (again) to “Sum It Up” graphic organizers (see pictures below). Underlining acts as a self-check to make sure they included all five. (It’s important to note that sometimes there will be less than five key words! It depends on the length of the text or chapter you’re summarizing.)

sumatrantiger

I often have my students create their own graphic organizers using blank paper so that they know how to develop graphic organizers on their own for future note-taking tasks.

SumItUpGraphicOrganizer

Download this FREE “Sum It Up!” graphic organizer to use with your students! (Click on image)

Eventually, students will be able to do many of these steps in their heads, but until then, it may take lots of step-by-step instruction, drafts, re-writes, and re-teaching. The big thing is for students not to get frustrated!

Creating QR Codes

The culminating QR code project was the “light at the end of the tunnel” for many of my students, so I made sure to leave plenty of time for students to create their QR codes and complete their poster collages.

My favorite QR creator to use with students is QR Code Generator (http://goqr.me/). There are a TON of QR code creator websites out there. Just find the one that works for you!

Using my teacher website, or a bookmark on the iPad, students go to the URL and follow the directions. I have students create the QR codes on the iPad.

Here’s a screenshot of the directions on my classroom website:

QRCodeSummaryDirections

Using PicCollage

Students love PicCollage. It’s extremely student-friendly, and it’s a fun way for students to show off their understanding! Students can add their QR codes, photos from the web, text captions, titles, and so much more. Each collage can be customized very easily by the students. Once they are happy with their collages, they can save, share, or email the files. Since my students can’t print from the iPads, they submit it to me via DROPitTOme. The collage can be saved to the iPad’s camera roll, so if you use the DropBox app on the iPad, you can save it there as well.

PicCollage

Looking for a PicCollage tutorial?

Final QR Code Summary Posters

Here are two more examples of posters my students made. Feel free to scan the QR codes to see their summaries. The chapter summaries are not perfect, but we’re definitely on our way to becoming “Summarizing Superstars.” 🙂

SumatranTigerPoster3_MsJordanReads

SumatranTigerPoster2_MsJordanReads

Happy Teaching! 

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QR Codes to Enhance Learning

24 Feb

Today, as I was gearing up for the first week back after a long break (sigh), I came across a great guest post by Nancy Alvarez (from Teaching with Nancy) on the blog FlapJack Educational Resources. Nancy’s post took me out of my end-of-vacation depressed state and truly excited me for the upcoming weeks ahead of teaching.

As many of you know, I’m always looking for new ways to use my set of iPads with my intervention groups, and her post, QR Code Tips, was all about integrating QR codes into your everyday teaching. After reading her post, I realized that I don’t use QR codes enough. I know about them. I’ve used them from time to time, but just not enough. I have no excuse because they are SO incredibly simple to bring into the classroom and there are so many possibilities. 

qrcode

QR codes are a fun, engaging way for students to explore content and to share new learning with others, yet the idea of embedding them into my instruction never pops into my head when I’m writing my lesson plans. For example, a few weeks ago, I wrote a blog post about using a fantastic ReadWriteThink mobile app for teaching Non-Fiction Text Structures. One in particular was a digital timeline app to help students show their understanding of sequence & order (if you missed it, see the post here!). I thought the iPad app itself was engaging, and I was SO excited that I was able to share it with my students, but in Nancy’s blog post, she shared how some classrooms take this app one step further. Instead of students recording JUST the facts and information, students can make QR codes for each event on the timeline (see the example here). Really… wow! That thought didn’t even cross my mind when my students were using this app, but how fun would it be for students to learn from each other’s timelines using QR codes?!? It was one of those moments where I said, “Why didn’t I think of that?!”

Like Nancy, I’ve attended inspiring technology sessions about bringing technology into the classroom. I really like her acronym, T.I.M.E. (Technology Integration and Meaningful Engagement), and I agree that “it takes time to perfect the craft of embedding new technology seamlessly into our daily teaching.” It is my goal to really try and enhance my lessons with technology. I don’t want it to take over my lessons, and I don’t want to lose the purpose of my lessons, but perhaps it’s just the simple use of using QR codes on timelines.

How do you use QR codes in your classroom?

Please comment below! I would love to explore new ideas for QR ideas (and I’m sure I’ll once again think, “Duh! Why didn’t I think of that?!”). 🙂

Happy Teaching!

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Exploring Non-Fiction Text Structures Using iPads

11 Feb

Happy February! Hope everyone is having a great start to 2014! Since the holidays, my days have been filled with winter benchmark assessments, report cards, parent conferences, building data days, schedule changes, oh… and teaching! 🙂 Needless to say, I’m beyond ready for our school break coming up next week.

Anyway, I’ve been meaning to post this, and I finally found a few minutes to share! Throughout the year, I’ve been trying to find ways to integrate my set of iPads into my small intervention groups. I’ve been finding great apps for my decoding/fluency groups, but not a ton for my comprehension groups. However, I recently came across the (FREE) ReadWriteThink apps for mobile devices, and they’re amazing! These apps are perfect for supporting comprehension and your ELA curriculum. I used them as digital graphic organizers for exploring non-fiction text structures, but you can really use them across the content areas!

Getting Started

Once you download the apps, they’re very easy to use! I haven’t explored the Trading Cards, Acrostic Poem, or Alphabet apps, but I’ve used the Timeline and Venn Diagram apps (links below) with my non-fiction text structure unit (i.e., Sequence & Order, and Compare & Contrast).

All apps require students to create a username so that they can save their projects. It takes only a minute and is very easy for students to do. It’s worth having the students set up usernames, especially since multiple groups use my set of iPads. Plus, students can work on their digital projects throughout the week without having to start over each time.

Venn Diagrams

The Venn Diagram app is very user-friendly. My 4th & 5th graders used this app to record similarities and differences of hurricanes and tornadoes. We then used the graphic organizer to develop “Compare & Contrast” paragraph responses.

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You can print the Venn Diagrams, or you can save them as pictures on your iPad’s Camera Roll. If your school is like mine, we restrict student printing via the iPads, so I have my students send me their .jpg files using DropItToMe, which is linked to my Dropbox. I can then print it for them!

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I’ve only used the app for comparing topics within a text, but I’m looking forward to using it for other purposes as well. We’re comparing fictional characters in one of my 2nd grade groups, and I would love the students to compare the characters using this app. My decoding/fluency group is working on different vowel patterns, and I would love for my students to use the venn diagram to sort the words into the different vowel categories. Students could even use the digital venn diagram for sorting their spelling words!

Timelines

The Timeline app is perfect for exploring Sequence & Order in informational texts. To start, the app provides visual examples of three different ways you can organize your timeline: dates, times, or events. I had my students choose which they thought would be the best way to organize our timelines. They had to preview the text and then set up their timeline.

My 4th & 5th grade students created timelines from the Reading A-Z book The Story of the Statue. They highlighted the key details and organized their timelines by date. Even though there is a short description and long description option to go with each time/date/event you add, the short description is the only one that shows up on the printed timeline. I actually preferred the short description, because it had a character limit. It forced my students to “Sum It Up” and pick key words to go with each timeline entry.

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This app would be great for biography projects or for retelling story events in a fiction text. Students could also use it as a graphic organizer when writing personal narratives or memoirs. There are a ton of options!

I hope to explore more comprehension apps that are out there, and I’m really hoping ReadWriteThink continues to develop more student-friendly apps in the future! Do you know of any great apps for comprehension?  Please let me know if you come across any good ones. You can comment on this post or email me at msjordanreads@gmail.com. I’m hoping to eventually write a blog post to spotlight some of the great comprehension apps out there.

In the mean time, I would love to hear how you use these apps! Please leave a comment on this post if you have a great idea to share. 🙂

Happy Teaching! 

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Non-Fiction Text Structures

19 Apr
Non-Fiction Text Structures | A blog post about introducing and teaching Non-Fiction Text Structures. Includes lesson ideas, helpful websites, instructional activities, and free printables.

How are you doing with teaching non-fiction, informational texts? Do you feel you have a good grasp on expository text structures? With the Common Core ELA standards, students are expected to be proficient in reading complex informational texts. State assessments are also becoming more non-fiction focused, to evaluate student abilities in navigating these complex texts. So what can we do to help our students meet these standards?

The purpose of this post is to provide a few resources for teaching non-fiction, in preparation for the higher levels of achievement students are expected to reach! The ideas shared are perfect for upper primary grades, but can be easily adapted for earlier grade-levels. It is never to early to introduce non-fiction, so even if you are Kindergarten teacher you can start exploring the structures and helping your students build a foundation for content-area learning!

The Non-Fiction Text Structures:

What are text structures?

Non-fiction text structures refer to HOW an author organizes information in an expository text. When faced with a new text, students can observe the organizational pattern of the text and look for cues to differentiate and pinpoint which of the text structures was used by the author. Students can then organize their thinking to match the structure of the text, allowing for effective comprehension of the subject matter.

Why are the text structures important?

Understanding non-fiction text structures is critical for “Reading to Learn” (i.e., reading for information). Students should be familiar with the five most common text structures and should be able to identify each structure using signal words and key features. Understanding which text structure is used helps students monitor their understanding, while learning the specific content that is presented. These text structures need to be explicitly taught in the classroom.

Introducing & Reviewing Non Fiction:

It is important to note at this point that students need to understand the difference between fiction and non-fiction BEFORE jumping into learning about text structures. Please make sure your students have a good grasp of fiction/non-fiction features and can easily identify both!

Here are a few resources to introduce or review non-fiction with your students:

Introducing Non-Fiction:

Introducing the Text Structures: 

Description: 

  • Sensory and descriptive details help readers visualize information. It shares the who, what, where, when, why, and how of a topic/subject.

Sequence & Order:

  • Sequence of Events: Chronological texts present events in a sequence from beginning to end.
  • How-To: How-To texts organize the information in a series of directions.

Compare & Contrast:

  • Authors use comparisons to describe ideas to readers. Similarities and differences are shared.

Cause & Effect:

  • Informational texts often describe cause and effect relationships. The text describes events and identifies reasons (causes) for why the event happened.

Problem & Solution:

  • The text introduces and describes a problem and presents one or more solutions.

(FREE Non-Fiction Text Structures Student Reference Sheet)

As with most concepts and skills, students benefit greatly from modeling and practice! Becoming familiar with text structures involves interaction with a variety of informational texts. Perhaps you can begin with a book pass or non-fiction literacy centers to build their schema of non-fiction text structures. With these activities, students preview texts, make observations, and share their findings. To prepare, you will need to select a variety of books ahead of time for each text structure to place among the chairs (book pass) or stations.

Here are a few resources to help you with these two activities:

Book Pass Resources:

Nonfiction Center Resources:

 

(FREE Building Schema with Non-Fiction Text Structures Student Graphic Organizer)

Once students have interacted with a variety of books exemplifying each of the non-fiction text structures and have had the opportunity to build their schema by making their own observations,  you should then explicitly teach the text structures individually!

Some teachers prefer to teach text structures as ELA units (one day/week/month per structure), whereas some teach these in conjunction with non-fiction writing. It is your choice, so customize the instruction to meet the needs of your classroom! Keep in mind… the resources shared here are resource alone, and do not provide a program for instruction.

Digging Deeper into Text Structures:

After students experience different text structures and organizational patterns, you should introduce one text structure at a time. Introduce each using a mentor text (a great list can be found here!) and by showing students how each text structure will guide them in collecting information. Through modeling and practice, students will learn which graphic organizers correspond to each text structure and how to complete them.

According to AdLit.org, teachers should teach text structures as a strategy for comprehension. A few ideas include:

  • Showing examples of different paragraphs/texts that correspond to each text structure
  • Examining topic sentences and key words that clue the reader in to a certain text structure
  • Modeling using text clues to identify text structure during a text preview
  • Model using graphic organizers to collect information
  • Students use graphic organizers for each text structure to collect information.
  • Model the writing of a paragraph that uses a specific text structure
  • Students write a paragraph using a specific text structure

Analyzing Text Structure:

The ultimate goal is for students to know how to analyze text to identify the text structure and choose the appropriate graphic organizer to go with it. Analyzing text involves previewing a text to observe the organization, features, key words, and any clues that may be helpful in determining text structure. A step-by-step guide may be helpful at first, to walk students through this process!

(FREE Analyzing Non-Fiction Text Structure Student Guide)

Students should also explore the common signal words and topic sentences that correspond with each text structure. Being able to identify signal words quickly during a quick scan of the text will help tremendously in preparing students for information collection. Use this reference sheet (same as above) to remind students of the signal words they may find for each text structure!

Extension — Writing with Text Structures:

To reinforce student understanding of non-fiction text structures, consider bringing an informational text writing unit into your Writing Workshop! Students can study non-fiction as a genre of writing, and use various mentor texts as models for good non-fiction writing. After studying the key features and vocabulary of each text structure, students can practice integrating the structures into their own writing.

Assessment:

Assess their knowledge of text structures using writing and informal assessment activities.

For example, students can complete a sort, matching the definition with the text structures to show their understanding of each of the five text structures. (An example is shared below!)

(FREE Scramble N’ Sort Student Practice/Assessment)

You could also have students complete an “I Can…” assessment in their reading logs or on an exit slip to assess their knowledge of applying text structures as a strategy!

(FREE “I Can…” Strategy/Skill Assessment)

Resources! Resources! Resources!

Here are a bunch of websites, blogs, and direct links to materials that may be of some help! Many are for upper grade-levels, but feel free to adapt materials to meet the needs of your students!

Websites:

Blogs:

Materials:

Florida Center for Reading Research (FCRR):

Professional Books:

Additional Resources:

If you are looking for additional materials to support your instruction of Non-Fiction Text Structures, check out the resources I have created for each! Each instructional packet includes student posters/reference sheets, an instructional poem, graphic organizers, and student prompt cards.

Happy Teaching!

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Teaching Non Fiction Text Structures | This blog post includes instructional tips, ideas, resources, and FREE printables for teaching informational, expository text in the classroom.

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