Saturday, 3 March 2012

Topic Studies: Non-Fiction Projects in the Reading and Writing Workshop

It seems every workshop I attend is about trying to put more into each lesson in order to "cover" all the objectives.  While this sounds like a good idea, I am not so sure it is effective. 

As overwhelmed as I am with the size of my class (27) and amount of expectations for my students, I tried to develop a literacy plan that includes traditional structured skill lessons in phonics and grammar in addition to a separate reading and writing workshop.  You might say I'm trying to please everyone.  (Humm?  Is that a character flaw? Another post for another day.) After implementation of this plan over the last three weeks, I have been a state of tweaking and "trusting the process," to quote my friend and pastor, Megan.

Here is my schedule before I go any further, so you teachers out there can get a hold on my literacy block.

8:50-9:00 Welcome / Morning Meeting and lunch choices

9:00-10:00 Houghton Mifflin Reading:  skill work in the context of text presented in the basal reading program (I've also been doing comprehension focus, but here is where I am getting overloaded)

10:00-11:00 Writer's Workshop (Lucy Calkins Writing Curriculum is the bulk of the time with supplemental lessons from Six Traits' Tools, MEAP writing instruction)

11:00-12:00 Reader's Workshop (Lucy Calkins Writing Curriculum, and Daily five/Cafe style lessons)

So obviously I have a lot going on here.  Word Study is usually integrated throughout the Houghton Mifflin block.  The last two years have been a journey through Cafe and Reading Workshop.  I'm not so sure they are similar enough in their philosophies.  Sometimes I feel as though they are competing with each other.

My thoughts today will center on the observations I have made in my student's work as a result of the non-fiction unit that has held this literacy block together and been woven through it as a common context.

"Topic Studies" is the name we have given to the learning posters the children are working on every week during writing workshop.  True Lucy supporters may frown upon the assignment of the type of writing. I'm still unclear about how much she supports choice of the types of writing children are doing during any given unit of instruction.  So, all students must go through this process during topic studies:

     1. Pick a topic of interest to read about
     2. Select one text within the "just right" reading level       
               (easier said than done, right?)
     3. Look through the book to preview non-fiction text          
              features to familiarize self with the focus of the      
     4.  Use the Table of Contents and/or the Index to                  
              select 3-5 main ideas offered in the text in detail
     5. Create headings on sticky notes for each main idea 
     6.  Place sticky notes on a piece of white paper to be   
              used a miniature planning paper for the topic study       
     7. Read each section of the main ideas, several times.
     8. Turn and talk to buddies and retell learning over 
              their fingers in sequential details that make sense
     9. Record learning underneath the heading on the     
              sticky notes, using page numbers to references the 

     10. (Spell check sticky notes?) I might put this new           
                step in here.

     11. Decide how to translate the written information on      
                sticky notes into a text feature.     

     12.  Map out the larger poster plan

     13. Finalize and create the finished poster 

     14. Present the poster to the class

I will try and upload some of the posters this week so there will be a visual to go along with this post.

Tomorrow's post will continue about "Topic Studies"

1 comment:

Darlene A. said...

Balancing everything, implementing new ideas and also using the programs and materials given to us is always a challenge. While your schedule is full, you seem to reflect on what works best for students.