Saturday, February 6, 2016

Launching Historical Fiction

We are entering into our first book club unit, and we couldn't be more excited! Historical Fiction is not my personal favorite genre to read on my own time (Confession: I'm a die-hard fantasy girl!), but I absolutely LOVE exposing it to kiddos! They are fascinated by the different time periods. They are wowed by how different things were "back then." They are sickened by cruelty. Kids cannot hide their emotions well, and it is one of my favorite things about being a teacher--they are raw with compassion and questions. The discussions these children have would put adult book clubs to shame! Needless to say, this unit is FUN!

Kate and I were recently introduced to a fantastic new tool: PEARDECK! Friends, this tool is AMAZING! It is transforming the way we do mini-lessons! It is a digital tool that allows all kids to interact with your lessons. No need for whiteboards or markers anymore! Kids can log in and view the lesson on their device (Chromebook, ipad, etc.), and respond to your questions during your lesson! I no longer have to call on only 3 kiddos before I move on. EVERYONE can respond! I can show their responses (anonymously) on the screen, or I can view the exact answers on my own device while they are responding! Our good friend, Mike Mohammad introduced us to it when his AP Physics students came to work with our littles. We were blown away. He does a great job explaining how it works in his blogpost HERE. We do use the PAID subscription, but it is totally worth it! We got ourselves hooked up with Peardeck, and the customer service was AMAZING! So, we have been using it whenever we can in our classroom! We chose to use it to launch our historical fiction unit, allowing us to activate prior knowledge and encourage discussion about the different eras.

We first created a Google Slide presentation about the different eras we were introducing the kiddos to. We had LOTS of books on these different eras, so it made sense to use them. We know there are MANY more, but this is what worked for us!

Next, we uploaded the completed Google Slide presentation into Peardeck! From there, we were able to add whatever interactions we wanted. You can do short response, drawing, dragging shapes, multiple choice, and more! 

Our kiddos were able to respond with their own background knowledge about each era and get a brief overview along the way. We shared their ideas on our projector (without names), and Kate and I could see the exact child's name on our own screen (private from the kids!)

Once they were introduced, we had them VOTE on which eras interested them the most! We used a simple Google Form for that:
Then, we viewed their responses, and put them into era-alike groups based off of their interests. Each child was able to research one of their top 3 choices! We tried to keep them in similar reading bands, to help access content, but each group did have multiple levels within it.
At this point, we wanted them to get a better understanding of their era. This background knowledge building stage was incredibly important! It allowed our kiddos to understand allusions and references made in their historical fiction texts. When a book mentions Gettysburg, the kids instantly recognized it as a real place/event, and knew the context or its importance!

Within their book clubs, kids began researching their eras using sites, books, and articles. They were furiously jotting notes down and sharing their "ah-ha's" with their peers! Our room was extremely loud, but completely engaged in meaningful discussions. Once they had a firmer understanding of their era (after about 2 reading periods of research), we had them write a large sticky note. We posed the question: "If you had to tell your friend about the most IMPORTANT thing(s) to remember about your era, what would you tell them?". They collaborated to create one, long & strong. They, then, put this long and strong on our class timeline of eras!
Now, came the most exciting part...they got to PICK THEIR BOOK CLUB BOOKS! Clubs had to come to consensus and use what they knew about their book bands to self-select a book to read together. The buzz in our room was electric! It absolutely warms my heart every time I see kids SO excited about books that they are literally bouncing! Then, they had to write "norms" that they would follow within their club!
My favorite part...almost every group wrote "Have fun!" as one of their norms! {she sighs with a happy heart}.

Our clubs are up and running! We will update you soon on how it is going! How do you run book clubs? We'd love to hear from you!


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