March 24, 2012
Friday mid day we had just finished writing our Slice of Life entries for the day and I had pulled the students together to review a test prep sheet they had worked on for homework the night before. I was not excited about the review but really felt if I was going to had out these sheets I had better review them with students and see if they understand what they are doing. ( The test prep sheets were not my idea and not made by me – but I am requires to hand them out as homework.)
This one was on identify genres – I am sure they had this. We had been talking genres all year with everything we read. We just finished making large posters that listed the genres, a definition and they a list books they had read from that genre. We have this down. Well, I was greatly surprised to see I was so wrong!
The passage was short – two girls going for a walk, they meet up with many squirrel going some place, they follow, they see hundreds of squirrels having a picnic and one squirrel asked them in they would like to join them. They decide they would because they like nuts.
Choices for genres were fiction, non fiction, poem or fable – easy right. Well, easy for some but confusing for many. They ruled out the poem right away. Good. They were stuck between fiction, non fiction and fable. Non fiction got votes because there were many details that could be true (although sitting right in the middle of the passage is talking squirrels). Fable can into play because the fables we had read earlier all had talking animals. They had bits and pieces of each genre but were missing the finer details.
This lead to an exciting lesson and great discussion for my class – believe it or not. I started by drawing two large umbrellas on the board – one fiction and one non fiction. We then talked about what could go in them and why. They began to clarify for themselves and construct once again what genres fit under the umbrella of fiction and what fit under non fiction.
We pulled out books again from the shelf and stacked them first under fiction and non fiction and then sorted those into others genres ( biography, autobiography, historical fiction, realistic fiction). They had a deep discussion about why Al Capon Does My Shirts had to stay in fiction even through Al Capon and other characters were real people. This discussion went on this book after book. (Note: some of my top students were gone – which left everyone else to discuss and sort without the aid of these students)
What I learned – again- was that my students had gone through the motions and repeated the information on genres we had shared and talked about but had not made it there own. It took this “real” problem for them to begin to sort out for themselves where do the books go and why.
The added surprise was that my students engaged in a deep conversation with themselves. I just ran around and pulled books for them to think about. I also had the joy of ND saying – “Oh can I check out Al Capon Does My Shirts again – I took that out at the beginning of the year when I came here but couldn’t really read it but I think I can now.” WOW – he said that in front of the class! We are indeed becoming readers, writers and understanding this thing we call literacy.
So yeah for test prep sheets!??? Well, not really but I am glad we got to this conversation.