Sunday, January 18, 2015

Fantasy Fun!

I absolutely LOVE teaching literacy! I absolutely LOVE the workshop model of instruction. I also LOVE how easily it lends itself to personalized learning! Students have so much "voice and choice" on book selection and application of skills. You can really drill down to exactly what each student/group needs through individual conferences or strategy groups! Bottom line...workshop is the BEST!

In our district, we are fortunate to be a Teacher's College district. We follow and utilize their Units of Study for reading and writing workshop. We even got to experience "Home Grown Institutes" as professional development in reading and writing over the last 2 summers! We truly are blessed to be in our district!

This year, Kate and I have been really reflective on the order that we teach units and are always looking for ways to connect different subjects to get the most "bang for our buck" in whole group instruction! We have rearranged some of the units to better meet our kids' needs. One of these rearrangements included my absolute favorite genre: FANTASY! 
Click to be taken to full product at our TpT store!
During our reflections on the needs/interests of our kiddos, we decided to move up our fantasy unit. This rearrangement allowed us to align our historical fiction units with social studies. We also decided to incorporate the Fantasy Writing unit from the "If...Then..." book in the Unit of Study kit.

We planned out a joint unit together that "married" the two subjects in a Google Doc. We pulled some lessons from reading and put them in writing, and vice versa! We linked all of the tools that we created right into the document, so the members of our 5th grade team, Special Ed, and ELL could all have access to the materials. was time to launch! I cannot even begin to describe the excitement in our room when we shared the upcoming unit with our kids. Even our kiddos that were a little apprehensive about the fantasy genre were buzzing with excitement! We began our unit launch by taking our kids on a "book tour."
Click to see the full tour in a Google Presentation
We compiled different series that would meet the wide range of needs in our space! We have kiddos reading from Level N to Level Z! We introduced each of the 15 series to our kids in whole group. We did leave it open to suggestion from our kiddos, as well! The students took notes in their reader's notebooks about series that interested them while we "toured." We talked about difficulty, appropriateness, and motivation to try harder books! We also discussed the different challenges that the fantasy genre can bring (made up words, confusion at the beginning as characters try to figure things out, etc.). This allowed them to make the best decision possible for themselves as a reader.

Then...we voted!! We used Google Forms. Kids needed to vote on their top 3 choices. They were guaranteed one of their top three.
Click to see the full Google Form
We LOVE using Google Forms for things like this, because it gives you the results in a spreadsheet that is easy to manipulate and work with. The best part....all of our kids made great book choices for themselves AND everyone got one of their top 3 choices!

We are now 2 weeks into the unit and everyone is LOVING IT (even our reluctant fantasy readers!) Kids are given 15 minutes a day for their book club discussions and 30 minutes a day for independent choice time. We, as teachers, meet with our lowest readers within their chosen groups daily. We meet with all other students twice a week. The thinking they are doing, the discussions they are having, and the connections they are making are blowing us away! There are a few groups that are having far more sophisticated conversations than my adult book club!

Our next stop...fantasy stories in WRITING WORKSHOP! Check it out to see how we are incorporating the great tool StoryJumper as a choice in publication!

Have you taught fantasy yet? What things worked well for you? Didn't go well? Feel free to sound off below!

~ Angela :)

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