Literture Circle Building 101

Hello readers!

I am just wrapping up my student teaching experience and I have so much to share!

I started my student teaching experience this fall, which is the VERY LAST STEP towards my dream of graduating college with my degree. Of course, I still have a few other things to do to achieve my ultimate goal (have my own classroom), but this was a large accomplishment for me!

My student teaching experience was a total of 16 weeks. I was placed in a Kindergarten classroom for 8 weeks, and then I was moved to a 4th Grade classroom. I had the privilege to work with some great teachers during my experience and I learned SO much by participating, observing and teaching.

That being said…

One of the things that I was able to do in my 4th grade classroom was lead and plan my very own literature circle. When my cooperating teacher had asked me to do it, I was thrilled! I love reading and this was my chance to prove that I know some stuff about reading.

The book that the cooperating teacher and I had choose was Frindle by Andrew Clements.

Of course, this was my very first literature circle so I had things that worked out really well, but I  also had things that I wish I changed.

Here is a list of things that I found effective for my group of 5.

Post-It Notes:

I used post-it notes in multiple things. One of those ways was to have students write down vocabulary words that they didn’t know and find the definitions to teach the group. For every chapter we read, the students had to find one vocabulary word that they didn’t know or thought the group would not know, write it down on a post-it note, use a student dictionary to write the definition of the word, and place it on the poster for the group to view. The book we studied was based on words and using dictionaries so I wanted to include that interactive process as well. Every student also had a different color of post-it note.

Visual Aids:

As you can see, we used a variety of visuals to help with our books study. I made this poster before the literature circle started to not only teach with, but to keep the students and myself on track. The poster also was aligned with what the students were learning in class during those weeks.


Frindle Poster 4th Grade 2015


Final Project:

I wanted the students to have a final project for several reasons. The biggest reason was that it was my form of assessment to see who did benefit from the study and who needed more work. I also wanted students to have something to keep for our time together. Our final project was a interactive profile that included a character list for the main character, a summary, and a page for the students to explain to those who have not read the book why they should read it.

Book Talk:

I did not have enough time to have a lot of book talk with the students, but we did have time to discuss Nick (the main character) and what was happening to him throughout the story everyday for 5 minutes. I wanted the students to have a lot of time reading.

Google Docs:

I had the students use Google Docs for a couple of things. Every student in the school that I was student teaching in has a Google Docs account, so I was able to create my own through the district thanks to our tech guy, and I had students complete tasks online. I would give feedback to each student and they really looked forward to reading those comments the next day. The students really liked it, and they were able to do some quality work for me.

Task Cards:

I used task cards that I found on TeacherPayTeacher during my book talks to encourage students to think deeply into the text. Some books will have discussion questions in the back of the book. I used those as well.


I didn’t just read to the students during this time. I had the students practice a variety of reading methods such as popcorn reading, silent reading, whisper reading, and partner reading. I had a group of decent readers so this proved to be beneficial.

Of course, the group was not perfect and there are some things I would change:

  • Monitor the post-it note usage: Some of the students that I had got WAY to carried away with the post-its I gave them. I started to monitor when and how many they would need and only give the students that many post-its. For example, if they only needed one post-it for vocabulary, then the student only received one post-it. I should have started that earlier.
  • More time with book talk: I wish I would have given the students more time to discuss and share what they were thinking about the story. The students did not have a lot of time to do this with me. We dedicated 25 minutes to do all of these things.

This was a very quick, easy beginning to developing a literature circle and I I’m very proud of their efforts. Stay tuned to hear about the next book genre we studied during the time I was with them!

Until next time!


Bullying, when does it end? Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult

Hello all my wonderful readers!
I know it has been a while since I have blogged, but I am out of college for the summer of 2015, and I plan on getting back into the blogging world as well as completing my 2015 Summer Reading List that seems to be growing by the day!

With that said and done, let’s talk about what I have been reading.

After much delay with completing homework assignments and getting things ready for my student teaching experience in the Fall (which I am pretty excited for) I final finished the first book on my 2015 Summer Reading List. Jodi Picoult’s Nineteen Minutes was a book that I dreaded putting down and stayed up way to many nights during the week getting lost in the life of high school students who had their life flipped upside down in a matter of only 19 minutes.

Nineteen Minutes by Joci PicoultBefore I start talking about the book, I feel the need to express the importance of reading it. If you have ever read any of Jodi Picoult’s  books, you know that she writes stories that are real, and she takes you into a reality that makes you question how you would handle the situation on every page. We see many examples of this, such as in “My Sister’s Keeper,” which was a personal favorite of mine along with “Change of Heart.” What I liked most about Jodi Picoult is that she takes these realities, these stories, and makes it feel as if the story is actually happening in your very own life. Her stories are real, they focus on real issues that most readers do not want to face.

Nineteen Minutes was a book recommended to me by a former classmate and friend, who is also on the path to becoming an Elementary Teacher. She told me that it was a book that every teacher should read, and after reading the first 50 pages I completely agree with her. Any individual who works with kids, whether it be a teacher, a counselor, a friend, and even a parent, should read this book.

Here’s why…

The book talks about Bullying.

Picoult paints a picture of the typical high school setting….different groups of friends (“nerds,” “jocks,” “cheer team,”), and brings focus to a particular student named Peter, who doesn’t really fit into any group and is bullied and teased for most of his educational career. Peter has a tough life, with very little friends and  a thousand enemies as he tries to figure out who exactly he is. The beginning of the book starts with the description of one of the most horrific events I think to ever happen in the United States.

A school shooting.

As Picoult describes this horrific event, she also takes you through the life of Peter who is pushed over the edge and decides to harm and kill many students in his high school. As you find out more about him and the details of his life, the reader becomes sympathetic in a way. Some readers may not be sympathetic towards Peter, yet other readers will see the side of Peter that was hidden away by pain, suffering, and the denial of “fitting in” with his peers.  At the end of the story, Picoult lets the reader decide: did Peter have the right to do what he did at his high school? Was he out of line?

Or my personal favorite..

How does one handle this issue before it becomes out of control?

Sadly, it seems that massive crimes on school grounds are becoming more frequent in this country, and there doesn’t seem to be one set solution on how to deal with a student who comes into a school with a gun planning on harming or killing others. How do kids get to that point? What drives them over the edge?

I believe that educating students on how to deal with emotions and conflict at a young age is a key to developing those skills infuture years. I think that in the public schools today, and even as parents at home, we stress the fact that all kids should like each other and get along. We forget that kids have distinct personalities that set them apart from others. We force kids to like each other instead of teaching them to respect everyone’s differences. We forget to tell our students and kids that it is okay to not like someone and it is okay to be angry or sad with someone as long as you can deal with the conflict in a positive manner. I don’t think that forcing kids to like each other works in a school setting anymore.

Are there other factors to the equation? Absolutely. Kids are a product of their environment. They absorb what they see and hear. Sometimes there are going to be answers to why kids would want to do something so destructive and harmful to other kids or themselves such as bring a weapon to school such as Peter…

Sometimes there are no answers.


Regardless on how you view conflict, or whether you agree with me or not, bullying and school violence continues to be an issue. Nineteen Minutes takes you inside a typical high school that is trying to rebuild itself from rock bottom. The words of Jodi Picoult ask you to listen to the story of Peter, and challenges you to find the answer to why or what causes a teenage boy with his whole life ahead of him, to make a life altering choice that leads to many injuries and too many young deaths.

How will you solve the problem before it is too late?

“As it turns out, kids are more like us than we think: damaged, through and through.” #jodipicoult #19minutes #teachacceptance

Who Teaches Who?

Listen is a verb that is defined by the following four criteria from Dictionary.com;

1. to give attention with the ear; attend closely for the purpose of hearing; give ear.
2. to pay attention; heed; obey (often followed by to  ): Children don’t always listen to their parents.
3. to wait attentively for a sound (usually followed by for  ): to listen for sounds of their return.
4. Informal. to convey a particular impression to the hearer; sound: The new recording doesn’t listen as well as the old one.
Let’s examine the first two:
1. to give attention with the ear; attend closely for the purpose of hearing; give ear.
2. to pay attention; head; obey.
A teacher, and really anyone who has had experience working with a child or group of children knows how hard it is to grab their attention. Whether you are trying to show a child something, or teach them a basic formula for the Math test on Friday, children and teens struggle with the ability to pay attention. This is not something that has just developed, but rather it is something that has been going on in the schools for years. Teachers often ask; “why aren’t my students paying attention to my awesome lesson plan?” or “why aren’t my students interested in what I am saying?”
4005631298_50241b41abThere is a big problem that is occurring in our schools today and the problem is listening.  The students however, are not the only ones guilty of the crime. Sadly, the teachers also share some of the guilt. If you are a teacher or have had some experience working with a children or teens in a school setting I want you to ask yourself, do you listen to your students? If the answer is yes, then I am sure you have no difficulties in your classroom and should probably stop reading this post. If you’re not sure of the answer, consider this. If you aren’t listening to the wants and needs of your students, why should they listen to you? Teachers are paid to stand in front of the room and deliver lectures and present lessons to the entire class, but the students aren’t getting paid to go to school. Why would they listen to someone who doesn’t take the time to understand their educational needs and desires? Why listen to someone who doesn’t take the time to get to know them?
This my friends, is what I want to fix in my classroom, and I might have a solution to the problem.
I believe that learning is an individualized process for every student, and not all students learn the same way. Even though I am eventually going to be paid for standing in front of my own classroom and talk about my lesson plans, I will be talking to a brick wall if my students have no interest or desire to learn anything from me because there is no teacher-student connection and they are doing the same exact things over and over again every year. Once that occurs, why teach? What is the point of teaching if all we do is follow in our ancestors foot steps having them complete the same assignments, and delivering the same lectures?
Last time I checked, brick walls don’t have ears,
Through all the lesson plans that I have built, the units I have put together and all ideas that flash through my head at night before bed, one question remains the most important. How do I get my students to like me and the way I teach? How do I get them to like learning? The answer: choice, encouragement, acceptance, and a developed professional relationship with each student in my classroom. If my students are able to choose what that want to learn, and are given a variety of options on how to learn that material, who knows what they will be capable of.
Writing Inspiration, Sheet 1

Writing Inspiration, Sheet 1

This is why I value the ideas and structures of a Writing Workshop when it comes to teaching my students about writing and English. When talking about the “terms and conditions” of teaching writing, there is no set rulebook on how to make all your students the best writers in the world (although how awesome would that be!). Teachers think on their feet, know who their students are, and teach at the level that their students would benefit the most from, in all areas of education. We are not going to create a world where everyone loves English and Literature and Writing; this would be unreal. What we can create is a world full of medical doctors who were able to complete medical school because their medical essays got them the degree, or we can create lawyers who can read case files four hours, making detailed notes as they go along. Writing is not just for English, it is a skill that can be used in all areas of life.
I want my students to have the skills that will provide them with the ability to be flexible writers. Having my students write numerous amounts of book reports, and maybe a biography about themselves and calling that good does not meet Ms. Becca’s teaching standards. If we want our students to be successful writers, then we must give them conditions to where they are writing for a variety of purposes. The book reports, the essays, the letters, poems, journal entries, etc. are all important types of writing that I want to explore with my students in workshop, but those are not the only reasons someone would want to write. The purposes of writing are large; why not take advantage of that and search for those purposes with my students?
Our students are tired of writing poems and essays and book reports. The purposes of writing are becoming so narrow that as teachers, we are not listening to our students and forcing them to have a negative relationship with writing and with learning. I want to avoid this problem in my classroom.
Mr. Becca’s classroom will recognize that learning is fun because I will make it fun! Routine is necessary, and the content will remain somewhat similar, but how I choose to teach the content can be something both new and exciting for my Elementary students. Book reports can become short, fictional stories, analysis papers can become poems, and research papers can become letters if we so desire. Learning doesn’t have to be a negative, boring journey. Learning can be fun, exciting and thrilling if we as teachers can make it happen!

Persuasion is Power– Understanding Rhetoric

I recently went to one of my favorite clothing stores to pick out a new dress for my friend’s wedding that is coming up, and me being who I am, I have to make sure that I have the perfect outfit for this specific occasion. When I go to Maurices, I’m usually the one you see taking a few dresses, a couple nice shirts, four or five pairs of pants and maybe a pair of shoes to the dressing room.

I firmly believe in taking as many items as you want into the dressing room–you don’t have to buy all the items you take in, but you can sure try them on for free!


After trying on outfit after outfit, I just could not decide what to wear, and if you have never been to Maurices, here are two things that you should know;

  1. You need to go and check it out
  2. The people who work there are very…persuasive.

If you have been to Maurices you will know that it didn’t take long for an associate to come and help me. I couldn’t decide what dress to buy, and I had narrowed my choices down to two. The associate, who was very nice, agreed that I had a tough decision to make, but that she liked both dresses. I explained to her my budget and how much I wanted to spend, and her response to me was something like this;

“Don’t worry, buying both dresses will keep you under your budget with this coupon that you have with you.”

Here is another thing you should also know about Maurices

       3. Always bring coupons.

As you can guess, I bought both dresses….and two shirts…and a new pair of shorts. When I got someone else’s opinion on how I looked when I was wearing these items, I was able to make a decision that benefited both the store and myself.

Sadly, my wallet was the only one who suffered.

DCF 1.0 My experience shopping at Maurices is a mild example of what the Greeks, Romans, and even the Americans in todays generation fear when talking about rhetoric. Starting all the way during the time of the Ancient Greece until now, rhetoric has been viewed as powerful, useful, necessary and dangerous. Rhetoric, defined by the Merriam-Webster online dictionary, has two definitions:

  1. : language that is intended to influence people and that may not be honest or reasonable
  2. : the art or skill of speaking or writing formally and effectively especially as a way to persuade or influence people

For the longest time, creating a persuasive argument, written or orally delivered was considered a highly desired skill. Even today, despite that there is time dedicated to studying language and grammar in the school systems, most students refer to public speaking, or being a good writer as a skill or talent. One of the first things that I have come to understand about learning language, proper grammar, and being able to create good quality writing involves much more than just skill or talent in the area. Being a good writer, understanding your language and being able to be a “persuader” involves exposure and practice; exposure to the content, and practice, practice, practice.

Like the Greeks who first held this belief, I agree that rhetoric has a large influence of one’s education. From the first couple of weeks in my Theory and Practice of Teaching Writing course, there are a few things that I have learned about writing, language, and rhetoric; CourtGavel

  • The power of public speaking has a large influence on the individual and the society that the individual is a part of.
  • Rhetoric can be both beneficial and dangerous—on one hand it can create an intelligent individual who fights for justice, or it can result in a one who fights for power instead of justice. THE COURTS —->
  • Knowing ones language, the rules of that language (grammar), and understanding rhetoric allows you to develop a deeper understanding of all other areas of study.

Above all of these things that I have learned in the best couple of weeks, I have grasped a better understanding of how rhetoric can shape the individual and a society. This has become one of the biggest things that I have discovered about rhetoric. Referring back to my shopping experience; I didn’t have to buy two dresses or anything at all for that matter. What was the deciding factor for my final purchases at the store results in several things (I really liked both of the dresses), but I probably would not have bought both if the associate who was helping told me that I looked good in both of the items. In other words, the associate told me what I wanted to hear so that I would get two nice dresses, and she would make money for her company.

TGreek philosophershis is how the art of persuasion works. What the Greeks hope to achieve was to have citizens who would deliver persuasive speeches that seek justice and explore moral truth, yet they soon discovered that sometimes that was not the case. Along with teaching language, grammar, public speaking and all other elements that come into educating others about rhetoric, there seems to be this necessary demand for teaching a values system among our students. The question is, how can we do that without causing problems, following state standards, and creating highly literate students?

With hopes of becoming a future elementary teacher, I want my students to not just be familiar with their language and the grammar involved, but to have the rules embedded in their deepest pools of knowledge and long term memory.  I think that the more our students practice getting to know their language, the better they will understand it. Plus, I need to prepare my students for the literature they will read in high school, and how will they be able to read and grow from the literature they read if they do not understand the history of their own language?

At the same time, teachers need to be more creative with the assignments that they are giving students. The typical written book report or essay is not something that promotes writing. Giving students options about how they learn and understand the content only enhances their ability to remember and store that new information in their minds.

Here are a few ideas that I want to use in my classroom;

  • Writing note books
  • Personal journals
  • Personalized Grammar resource book, hand made
  • Memorization games- tests grammar
  • Both oral and written exercises
  • Grammar puzzles and flash cards

Teach your students about rhetoric, about language, about writing and make them see why it is important. Having students who are know how to create a persuasive argument is rewarding to the teacher, unless of course you shop at Maurices and your students work there.

Final tip for your next shopping trip to Maurices:

4. Do not go into Maurices if your students work there and understand rhetoric.