Friday, August 24, 2012

Using Anticipation Guides as a Pre-Reading Activity

Several months back, I posted some activities used with the novel Ender's Game.  One of the activities listed is an "anticipation guide," and I always wanted to follow-up with more details on this particular pre-reading strategy.

I first heard about anticipation guides when I was reading Kylene Beers' excellent Resource When Kids Can't Read: What Teachers Can Do, which gives details about what anticipation guides are and the best way to use them.  They work best as a pre-reading activity to help students activate prior knowledge before reading a text, and engage with some themes and issues they will deal with in the reading (which builds anticipation).

To make an anticipation guide, you start with a set of generalizations based on themes found in the reading (you can use fiction or nonfiction).  Before reading the text, students decide whether they agree or disagree with those generalizations.  The class can then discuss their reasonings, read the text, and then revisit the anticipation guide to see whether or not their thinking has changed.

Beers explains that the point is not to change the students' minds, but to encourage them to think deeply about their beliefs.  Good anticipation guide statements should provoke thought and discussion amongst students.  In her example, the students reading a sample guide called the statements "tough" because it was hard to know what contexts in which the statement was agreeable or not.  They responded to a lot of the statements by saying, "It depends."  That's what you want to hear!  It's not about right or wrong answers; it's about students beliefs and their explanations for them.

That's what I like about the activity.  You get students' minds involved and engaged before they even approach the text.  When I looked online for examples of guides to go with stories, I think a lot of people make the mistake of having their generalizations and statements be too cut and dry, not challenging enough to provoke deep thought.  For instance, if you're about to read The Outsiders and one of your statements reads, "Having good friends can help you endure tough situations," how can that be challenged?  Who would disagree with that?  Though it tells you something about a theme in the story, it doesn't really work well in an anticipation guide.  How can your generalizations challenge students' thoughts, preconceptions and expectations in the story?  The answers shouldn't be clear-cut, black-and-white responses.  If yours are, go back and see how you can reword the statement to better build anticipation.  

Beers recommends using words like "always," "never" and other nonnegotiable words in your statements.  Play on students' usual line of thinking.  Examples I wrote:

  • "Murder is never right."  (How would reading To Kill A Mockingbird or Julius Caesar challenge this idea?)
  • "It is never justifiable to break the law."  (Would The Diary of Anne Frank or The Hunger Games add a twist to this idea?)
  • "There is always a better way to solve problems than using violence."  (What about in Ender's Game?)
Again, the concept is not for students to eventually change their mind; each statement should at least make students think, "It depends."  After reading the story, their minds could change or be even more convinced of their original belief, but they've now been able to consider different contexts and viewpoints.

Beers also recommends students analyzing characters post-reading by having them respond to the guide statements from the point of view of different characters.  

You can read more about anticipation guides here and here (which also includes templates and a video).

Here are some good anticipation guides I found online:
The activity also works for different grade levels and subjects.  Check out this video from ReadingRockets.

Use Old Magazines for A Science Activity About Animals

Head over to TheFifthGradeDugout to see how one teacher came up with an innovative way to use old pages full of information on animals.  Instead of tossing the decades-old sheets, she saw a valuable resource for her students.

The "Animal Fact Files" she enjoyed as a kid are full of info about different species around the world.  They include vivid pictures as well as text features to help kids learn all about each creature.

She decided to compile these pages for the class and use them when they finish their work early.  She posts one sheet a week for students to read when they get a chance, and they fill out a pre-made questionnaire to show their newfound knowledge.  The student who does the best job gets their picture posted as "Zoologist of the Week."

I thought this was an inventive way to both make use of discarded magazines and give curious readers something to do when they finish their work early.  Even if you don't have the "Animal Fact File" sheets she used, you can still mimic this same idea with any magazines with animal features, like Ranger Rick or Ask (click here for a full list of recommended classroom magazines).  Ask the school and public libraries for any old copies of magazines you can use.  Click on TheDugout's link to use her questionnaire in your version of this activity.

You can likely even adapt this to fit whatever kind of magazine features you want.  Students could become "Scientist of the Week" for science articles, "Historian of the Week" for articles on historical figures, etc.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Write Stories Using Kerpoof!

Turn your next creative writing activity into a fantastic publishing opportunity for your students.  All that's needed is Kerpoof, which allows them to create virtual storybooks.

Peruse the site to see how easy the navigation is.  All students have to do is choose a genre, characters and setting.  They have a wide variety of enjoyable options, like science fiction with aliens, fantasy with wizards and princesse, or rock stars in concerts.  Students can get pretty creative with all the selections available.

Once they make their choices, they click and drag them to the digital storybook pages, where they can add text and dialogue.  You can encourage your students to include story elements or specific topics of study.  Once finished, students can save and print their stories, or publish them on the site for other readers to view.

Kerpoof helpfully provided a step-by-step guide to using their storybook feature.  Their site also includes good activity suggestions, such as having students create the story pages with empty dialogue bubbles so that other students can fill in the words.  

Kerpoof has many other cool aspects of their site, but the digital stories are my favorite.  Consider this as a computer/writing center option, or a fun writing project.  Check out the lesson plan page for more suggestions.  It's free!

                         Used With the Permission of Disney/Kerpoof

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Two Activities for the First Day of School

Wow, August is already here!  It's almost time for the new school year to begin.  Are you ready?

If you're looking for some beginning of the year activities, take a look at these two:

  • TravelingTogether's Treasure Hunt, which is a neat way to help get students acquainted with their new classroom.  She shows you how to create a cool-looking "old" map with clues for students to find small treasures at each location, really exotic places like the pencil sharpener and the homework tray.  :-)  I really like this!
  • MrsRobinson'sClassroomBlog has "6 Questions" to write on chart paper for students to answer on sticky notes and post themselves.  This way, students contribute to the expectations set for the year, and help them think about how they can excel.  She then read and talked to her students about their answers.
What are you going to do to open up the school year?

Using Discovery Bottles

Have you made use of discovery bottles in your classroom?  Consider doing so if you want to add some simple manipulatives for centers or a science station.  Earlier, I posted about how teachers use empty water bottles for activities, and discovery bottles accomplish the same thing by adding different types of materials for students to shake around and observe.  They can do work with these at their desks or in small groups.  Just add a printable to the center where they can record what they see, and you can turn plastic bottles into a world of discovery for your students.

Some examples found on TurnstallTimes' post:

  • "Word bottles" are filled with pasta, sand or other materials, with words hidden inside.  Students shake the bottle around and read/record the sight words that are revealed.  She even included a sheet for students to record the words they find!
  • The "magnetic" bottle is full of tiny metal objects along with tons of confetti.  Students move a magnet along the outside of the bottle and watch the metal objects react.
  • The "ocean bottle" makes waves when the oil, water, and blue food coloring inside are shaken.

Familylicious also has several nice discovery bottle examples posted, like:

  • Vegetable oil mixed with powdered color and water mixed with food coloring can be shaken up to  create secondary colors, and then separate into two different colors when left still.
  • "Density bottles" are filled with different types of liquid, such as water in one and clear shampoo in another.  A marble is placed inside each and students shake the bottles to see how the marbles move differently.  This would be a great way to introduce the concept of density to the whole class.
  • A 'hidden objects" bottle is one of my favorites.  This would be great as a free-time activity!  Fill a bottle with material, such as sand or tissue paper.  Add 5-10 small objects and shake it so that they are hidden.  Include a sheet with pictures of the small objects so students can know what each item looks like, then challenge them to find them all.  

What other concepts can you showcase inside a discovery bottle?