Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Nonfiction Studies (and Skype calls!)


We have jumped right in with our study of nonfiction reading and writing. We did some amazing work today, which I will share very soon (photos still on my "fancy" camera versus the iPhone or iPad, which I usually use). :-) Students are learning how instructional/nonfiction texts are different than fiction texts in that they are written for a different purpose (to teach) and often have many different features. The Common Core State Standards include rigorous expectations for students' understanding of both fiction and nonfiction texts. The bulk of the first trimester was dedicated to fiction, and we've now moved on to nonfiction texts. 

In writing, students are learning to write "teaching books," which are nonfiction books. Currently, they are choosing topics that they know well and writing what they know to teach others about their topic. Eventually, students will learn how to research a topic of interest and write reports about what they learned. We will conduct research in many ways, using both print and electronic texts. I'm eager to get started, as I know students will enjoy reading to learn something new!

To begin our nonfiction study, students looked through a big stack of books from the UMS library about weather (our current science topic) and sorted them into the categories Fiction and Nonfiction. We had interesting discussions as we did this, as students started to realize that we have to look inside the book and, in some cases, read excerpts in order to determine if a text is fiction of nonfiction. There were some books we decided were both fiction and nonfiction--blended books--because they include elements of both texts types (think Magic School Bus books). 

Number Sense and Mystery Number Skype

Last week, we had to honor of introducing two first grade classes in Sioux Falls, South Dakota to the world of Mystery Number Skype. One call we did on our own, and the second call we did with Mrs. Hughes' class next door. They are new to Mystery Number Skype, so we were helping them too. I have seen students' recognition and understanding of numbers grow as we continue to do this activity. For 20 minutes per call, it's a fun way to practice numeracy AND get to know more about other states (and Canada, too)!

Skyping with South Dakota--students have good conversations about numbers during this activity.
We have learned about "Skype Etiquette," which is a lot like our classroom listening rules--look at the speaker, one person speaks at a time, etc. We're getting better at this each time!

Today we had a Mystery Number Skype with a class in Beloit, Wisconsin. This call was special because we met up with a 2nd grade class--we had only done this activity with other 1st grade classes previously. We got some great new questions to add to our list, and we plan to use these in our next Skype session (with a school in Columbus, Ohio on Thursday).

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