How To Help Your Students Become Awesome Summarizers!

With the start of  new school year and having students share their chapter summaries,  I decided I needed to explicitly teach my fifth graders how to summarize using the chapters in our novel, “Blood on the River”.  It’s an historical fiction novel about the founding of Jamestown.  Just an FYI,  it’s a great way to incorporate our Social Studies as we study early America.

In the past, won’t lie, I have sort of “guessed and by golly”‘d my way through summarizing.  It is not one of my stronger skills as a teacher.  Partly, I think, because it always seemed so subjective to me.  Well, last week I took the bull by the horns  and began to teach summarizing directly.

My students had summarized chapter 6 of the book as part of their homework.  It became very apparent quickly, that summarizing was needed to be taught explicitly.

As a teacher of 24 years, I am still tickled when my brain pulls out an idea that wasn’t part of my lesson!!!  After all the summaries were read, I went to the board and wrote:

Chapter 6 High Points

Then, as a class, I asked my students to review the chapter with a partner and come up with only six events or ideas that seemed to be very important.  I purposely avoided the words “main idea”.  That term always seemed to make students think there’s only one right answer.  Noooooo….not always!

As partners reported their “high points“,  many were simply supporting details, so as the students shared their ideas, I took their ideas and jotted them on the board.  Together, I helped them “see” the bigger picture of all their ideas. We worked together to put similar ideas into a more general sentence.

For example, in Ch. 6, there is a battle between a whale, thresher shark, and a swordfish that is observed by Captain Smith and Samuel, the main character.  All the students mentioned the battle as an important event, which it was, but the comment from Capt. Smith to Samuel was that no matter how big and powerful you think you are,  the less powerful can work together and bring you down!  That comment helped my kids see that high points in a chapter can be more than just an event.

After the kids and I wrote the six high points together, I had them use those points to create another summary in their reading journals.  I had them compare their first summary with the summary they had just written. The summaries were sooooo much more on point and the kids even remarked at the differences they saw.

It wasn’t me telling the kids what the high points or main ideas were, but all of us working together.  I did the same lesson two chapters later and the summaries showed more depth of thought and relied less on actual events of the chapter.

Give it a try and let me know if your students’ summaries have show growth as you work together!

PS

If you’d like to check out this fabulous novel and the  vocabulary activities and discussion questions I use with my students, just click Blood on the River

 

Growing Thinkers One Inspiring Quote At A Time

i’m just a level 2

With all the testing pressure we teachers have all felt, our students, themselves, feel that pressure even more, and too often their self-worth becomes tied to their test results…”I’m a Level 2″; “I’m not a Level 5”; and so on.  It REALLY bothered me when I heard my students talk like that!  I couldn’t seem to change their minds, so I started looking for a way to share with  my students inspiring words from other people and then have my students apply those encouraging words to their own life.

inspiration

I decided to create a collection of inspiring quotes from many different people.  I also decided my students needed to know a little about the person, especially if the person was not familiar to students.  So each person’s page has their quote and a short bio about the person.  I also decided that my students needed to do more than just look at the quote and read the biography.  Here’s one of my students responding to Henry Ford’s quote!

 

This became our Wednesday morning meeting!  Here’s what I did…first I had my students copy the quote into their writing journals.  Then my students read the biography.  Each page also had questions for my students to record their answers to go along with the person’s quote.  I didn’t leave it right there.  Once, everyone had finished writing their answers, the class then discussed both the quote and their answers to the questions on the page.

It really amazed me how so many of my students took the quotes to heart…it was what I had hoped for!  It’s Growth Mindset .  Check it out!

 

 

 

 

 

New Years Is A Time For Change

Promises, Promises!

I’ve never been one of those folks who sit down on Dec. 31 and make all kinds of “promises” about changes I planned to make in the coming New Year.  So why the title?  Wellll…I can explain

As some of you may know, I have a store, Susan Mescall, where I sell lesson ready products.    While I personally may not be making any changes, I have started looking at my store products and noticing that one of my earlier products needed a makeover…in other words…A CHANGE!

Who’s That?

I’m a fifth grade teacher and my students and I often share what books are being read out of school or during independent reading.  Somehow the subject of adventure books were being discussed and I mentioned Kidnapped.  One of my students wanted to know who the author was and when I replied with Robert Louis Stevenson,  no one in my class had any idea of who he was!  Kidnapped was my first experience with a “classic” adventure book when I was a kid and it bothered me that my students had no idea who he was.

What to do? What to do?

It really concerned me that my students had heard of the book, but had no idea about the author.  I decided to introduce my students to people who had impacted the world around them, but because to time, had been “forgotten”.

I began to search for people and their words of wisdom.  I have included such well-known people as Oprah Winfrey, and Mohammed Ali.  I have also included lesser known people as Jaime Escalante and Marva Collins.

Cha-Cha-Changes!

(apologies to David Bowie!)

Imagine my dismay, when I took another look at my early product and discovered errors in grammar and the fact I no longer liked the look of my product.  So I have spent time changing, and hopefully you’ll agree, improving my product.

I changed the name to “Journal Responses for Students”.  I have taken out the clip art and made the pages and font larger.  I have also enlarged the author’s picture and updated information.

  So I guess you can say that Change is in the air today!!!

                    Let me know of any other folks you think today’s students should know about!

Journal Prompts for Students

 

Signature

A Math Close Read!

Ever have one of those days where a random thought during your lesson plan suddenly causes the light bulb to go off with your students?  Well, it happened to me last week and it was amazing!  I wanted to share it with you all.

We were discussing  “What questions can be answered by using addition and subtraction?”  The students were struggling to come up with words that made them think of using addition and subtraction when reading word problems, when the idea of treating word problems as a mini-story with actions occurred to me!

I reminded the students that they were experts in reading short stories and able to see the action of the story. We used their close read skills to examine story problems.   I, then, had my students brainstorm actions that they had seen in addition problems and what a list they came up with:

ADDITION: earned, combined, combining, saving, growing, altogether, getting more, put together,received, build up, getting larger, gathered, bringing together, total, in all, brought together

We did the same for subtraction using those same close read skills and here’s what they found:

SUBTRACTION: separating, giving away, putting into groups, throw away, break apart, spend, eat, used, gave away, left,

I had the students use their lists to examine the word problems on their homework sheets.  They were so excited to be able to identify what operation was needed to solve the problem!  How often are students excited to read word problems…not very!  Hands flying into the air, excited to share what they thought was the action and operation of the problems.

So where do my students go from here?  My goad for the list is that my students will continue to add to their lists as we go through the year.

Next week, we will be examining multiplication and division word problems.  I’ll keep you posted!!

Sue

Thoughts on Paper

I was looking for a way to share the thoughts of some great writers and thinkers with my students.  Too often, the person behind the great thought is overlooked.  So I found 18 great quotes that I wanted to share with my fifth graders and at the same time I also wanted give my students a look at the folks behind the quotes.  I created “Thoughts On Paper” to that end.  It’s one of my newest products in my Teacherspayteachers store. Not only will your students have a chance to respond to questions about the quote but they will also learn a bit about the author or speaker.   Just click on the picture below.   Check it out and let me know what you think.  Be sure to download the preview!

Thoughts On Paper