Category Archives: Nonfiction

Making the Most of the End of the Year: How to Make Sure the Last Months of School Have Big Payoff

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by Anna Gratz Cockerille

In classrooms across the country, a sense of celebration is building. The feelings of joy and pride that come at the culmination of an entire year of daily hard work and dedication are unmistakable. This is is a time for a slight loosening of the reins, a time to reflect upon how far you and your students have come. It’s a time to enjoy the ease of routines you worked so hard to put into place, to watch students putting into practice the skills you’ve helped them to hone over and over. 

To be sure, along with this spirit of celebration comes the sense that the work is done. Many students seem to move into summer mode weeks (or months) before the summer is actually upon them. As teachers, our job, then, is to infuse the spirit of celebration with a sense of purpose, a sense that there is work left to be done in order for each student to truly become the best selves they are capable of being before the year ends. 

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How to Support Student “Book Shopping” in Your Classroom

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Managing classroom libraries requires a delicate balance between organization, choice, behavior, and matching children with appropriate texts. Classroom libraries can be organized in many ways– by genre, series, or some other category. Susan Taberski (2000) suggests having bins of unleveled books from which students choose their independent reading selections and bins of books by level for when they need practice with something "just right." Other teachers label their books using the Fountas and Pinnell A through Z gradient. 

Because an "assessed" reading level doesn't always correspond with a student's level of comprehension, it is important that students spend time with more than just independent-level texts. To do this, it is necessary to spend time working with students on independent text selection that supports decoding development, fosters comprehension and thinking, and pique students' interests in reading.

"But How?" you might ask…

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How the Lessons in Short Nonfiction for American History Build Knowledge

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In this visual podcast ( this is the second in the series, the first can be viewed here) Anne Goudvis and Stephanie Harvey walk you through the structure and content of each of the ten lessons in the Short Nonfiction for American History series. This overview will show you exactly what students will learn with each lesson, and how these resources are developed around a gradual release of responsibility framework. 

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Tips and Tools for Student Research, Grades 3-5

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by Anna Gratz Cockerille​

To research well, students must draw upon an array of reading and writing skills, flexibly, simultaneously, and confidently. They must skim through texts to locate relevant parts, read across and integrate information from multiple texts, accumulate knowledge and grow ideas, and read critically, considering the authorial intent of their sources. They must organize their thinking and their writing to communicate their learning with others. 

When students research, then, the full range of their literacy skills is on display.  Further, engaging in research is essential preparation for the kind of reading and thinking students will need to do as secondary and college students, and as informed citizens, attempting to make sense of the world around them. The opportunity for students to engage in research projects of all shapes and sizes is crucial.

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Connecting Comprehension and Content: A Visual Podcast with Anne Goudvis and Stephanie Harvey

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Anne Goudvis and Stephanie Harvey have created the Short Nonfiction for American History Series in order to embed reading and thinking strategies into social studies and history instruction, so that comprehension and thinking strategies become tools for learning and understanding content. Throughout the series, Anne and Stephanie show that teaching historical literacy means merging thoughtful, foundational literacy practices with challenging, engaging resources to immerse students in historical ways of thinking. 

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The Resurgence of Inquiry-Based Instruction

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Because inquiry sometimes seems so hard to define, Steph Harvey and Smokey Daniels created the chart below to highlight the contrasts (2015) between it and a "coverage" approach. Notice that they do not label old-school teaching as “traditional.” That’s because progressive, student-centered, and inquiry-based learning is just as strong a strand in the American tradition (think John Dewey, Jerome Bruner, Francis Parker) as the skill-and-drill paradigm that has dominated the last three decades.

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