When new teacher Ms. Lane came to us and said, “I’ve noticed that my students don’t know genres. Can you help me with that?,” we did triple somersaults in our heads while doing the happy dance then calmly responded, “We’d love to help.”
We started with the Standards,
RL.9.5–Compare and contrast stories in the same genre (e.g., mysteries and adventure stories) on their approaches to similar themes and topics.
BPS–Share information about authors and books using various formats.
BPS–Read independently from different genres of literature and stories.
- BPS–Suggest technology tools to accomplish a particular task.
- BPS–Use technology devices and applications to create visually pleasing and well-organized presentations.
We put our heads together and decided that we would let the students teach each other about five major genres: Realistic Fiction, Historical Fiction, Fantasy, Mysteries, and Adventure/Action.
I showed samples of book trailers from the five genres to help students figure out which genre they wanted to study.
I book talked a handful of books from each genre then let the students choose which book they wanted to read.
We asked the students to find the characteristics of their genre and had a discussion about how characteristics are similar to the ingredients of ethnic foods. For example, the ingredients of Italian food would be pasta, tomatoes, garlic, and cheese. When these ingredients are present we know we are eating Italian food.
We assigned the project using Smore and linked to the Planning Sheet, Citation Worksheet, Rubric, and Reflection Sheet that the students would use for this project. Students used Notability, one of our core iPad apps, to fill in their sheets and keep track of their progress.
Once the books were read and students took notes on the “ingredients” from the story, students worked in genre groups to create a presentation that would teach the rest of the class about their genre. We love giving students choices so they brainstormed which tools they would use to create a presentation.
We assessed their knowledge of the characteristics of their genre, their level of collaboration, citing their sources (for quick practice of citing print books), and the effectiveness of their presentation regardless of the tools they chose.
Here are just a few of the presentations that were created in iMovie.
Some students also chose to use the Explain Everything app.
To put their new knowledge to the test, I pulled 40 or so books from my fiction collection in the library and asked the students to figure out which genre each one belongs to. Since I will be changing my fiction collection soon from being shelved by author to being shelved by genre this was a real and authentic task for the students.
At Pine Glen, we want our students to learn to communicate responsibly in both their real and digital lives. Skyping is a free and easy way to practice this skill while having lots of fun!
To celebrate Picture Book Month, Ms. Varrell’s second grade class shared reading Skippyjon Jones with their friends in Mrs. McDonald’s first grade library class in Burlington, VT. That’s right, Burlington was reading a picture book with Burlington! Using Skype allowed us to share our favorite stories and the love of reading beyond the walls of our school because real readers share what they read.
Mrs. Visocchi’s fourth grade class read The Orphan of Ellis Island written by Elvira Woodruff as part of their immigration unit. Then, the fourth graders Skyped with Ms. Woodruff to find out where she got her ideas and how she did her research before writing the book. The students asked great questions like, “Will you write a sequel?,” “Who was your favorite character in the book?,” and “What do you do when you get writer’s block?” We even found out that Ms. Woodruff loves to write at home because she can wear her slippers! Thank you Pine Glen PTO for making the Author Skype Visit possible!
Mrs. Parnell’s Kindergarten class studied animal families for one of their science units. The LTC got involved this year to give students an opportunity to learn about research. Mrs. Parnell wanted her students to be able to identify the different animal families by their characteristics such as mammals have hair and insects have no backbone. The LTC wanted the students to be able to build an argument using evidence from research (Common Core anyone?).
In order for students to apply their understanding of animal families in a new setting, we created a mysterious animal that has many characteristics from different animal families.
After Mrs. Parnell and Mrs. Hoyt spent lots of time teaching the students about the different animal families (over 100 beanie babies!), students were introduced to this challenge by a video plea from Dr. Curious (a.k.a. Mr. Musselman of the Burlington Science Center) asking the students to help him figure out what kind of animal it was.
He let us borrow his scientific journal so we could read all about his observations of this mysterious animal and take notes of all the important facts that we wanted to use as evidence. Keep scrolling through the document to find more of the notes!
Then, we reviewed everything we knew about the characteristics of the animal families and used our notes to make a decision.
We videotaped our arguments and sent them to Dr. Curious and drew a picture of what we thought the animal looked like. Was this animal a bird or a reptile? The students wanted to know!
What a surprise it was to see Dr. Curious show up in the classroom to review the students’ findings, just like real scientists do!
This week in LTC classes, fourth and fifth grade students are learning about BrainHive–an online ebook library where Pine Glen students can “check out” ebooks to read online or on their iPads. Every time a book is checked out, it charges the LTC $1. I asked the students, “What can you get for $1?” and most of the answers were things like candy and other stuff at the dollar store. But with Brain Hive, students can read a book for $1! That’s a great value. We watch movies On Demand and now students can read ebooks On Demand! This is a great way for the LTC to provide ebooks without paying for access to the entire collection up front. Click on the bee above for more information about logins and passwords.