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January 18, 2018

Emotional Learning in Upper Elementary Grades

By Julie Ballew
Grades PreK–K, 1–2, 3–5

    Just like that, January is here! I love the opportunity to refresh and reset when the calendar turns to a new year. I often find myself rearranging my classroom and clearing walls for fresh anchor charts, and I like to choose a new professional growth area for the second half of the year. One area where I am choosing to focus this semester is intentionally planning for social and emotional learning opportunities in my read-alouds.

    My school community is very intentional about social and emotional learning in every grade, thanks to efforts spearheaded by our wonderful counselor. We have weekly sharing circles around a variety of topics: uniqueness, unity, integrity, and justice, to name just a few. I know that picture books can pack a powerful punch in this area, and I frequently refer to books we’ve read in our sharing circles. In order to help students make more meaningful connections during this time, I am working hard to make my planning more thorough in this area.

    I teach fifth grade, but I still frequently use picture books as mentor texts in writing and anchor texts for reading skills. My daily read-aloud is often a chapter book, but when I want to illustrate a specific reading strategy or model one type of writing, I tend to lean on high-quality picture books. This means that my lesson plans for reading aloud picture books are often centered on those reading strategies or on the author’s craft.

    When we talk about the lessons learned from the text, it’s often meaningful, but I would not say it’s necessarily intentional on my part. In an effort to change this, I created a new planning sheet, and I’m considering several possible lessons students might notice before I ever read the book aloud.

    Pictured below is a new planning sheet I created and am trying out. It’s important to note that this plan is not a checklist of everything I WILL do when reading a book aloud. If I tried to check off every single box in a given read-aloud session, it would likely take an hour, and the kids would probably forget what the story was even about. I see it as a menu — I am using it to think through all of the things I COULD teach in a given text. I may only focus on one thing at a time, but I always have the planning sheet to reference if I need to lean on that book again.

    (Click on image to download a PDF.)

    The refreshed part of this planning page is the top half. Those four boxes for possible lessons and the discussion questions are new. In the past, I have typically leaned on my instincts and the flow of the class discussion to talk about the lesson the author might be trying to teach us, but I am committed to being more intentional here. If I give it space on the planning sheet, I have to spend time thinking about it.

    Pictured below is a sample lesson plan for Three Hens and a Peacock by Lester Laminack. You’ll notice that I haven’t filled in every reading strategy box. On my latest read of this charming text, I filled in the boxes that were either examples that jumped right out or that I know I will need to reference soon.

    The good news is that I didn’t carve anything in stone. I can update this plan as often as I want to. I keep blank copies of this planning sheet on my clipboard, and I can handwrite the plans as needed. (I do try to type them when I have time so that I have a digital bank of plans from year to year. I am admittedly terrible at keeping up with hard copies.)

    (Click on image to download a PDF.)

    This renewed focus has already made me feel more confident in referring back to my favorite read-alouds, and there has been a great bonus side effect. This has forced me to see more possibilities in lessons that authors teach us. Even if I can only think of one, one of my students will inevitably have an interpretation that is different. I love nothing more than when a student sees something in a read-aloud that I didn’t originally see. Being more intentional about my plans means I’m opening up the possibilities even further. I can’t wait to see how our conversations continue to grow!

    For those of you who have read any of my posts before, you know I love teaching about lessons and themes in books. I have one more document to share with you that I have updated more times than I can count. I am constantly reworking it because I am constantly referring to it! It is a list of some of my personal favorite picture books, grouped by one lesson that they have in common. If you’re looking for a new favorite, or if you’re stuck looking for a book to illustrate a given lesson, I hope this will be helpful to you!

    (Click on image to download a PDF.)

    Fellow blogger, Genia Connell has corralled an impressive book list around subjects dealing with character. If you are looking for a quick reference for reading material covering everything from courage to fairness, check "100 Books That Build Character."

    Just like that, January is here! I love the opportunity to refresh and reset when the calendar turns to a new year. I often find myself rearranging my classroom and clearing walls for fresh anchor charts, and I like to choose a new professional growth area for the second half of the year. One area where I am choosing to focus this semester is intentionally planning for social and emotional learning opportunities in my read-alouds.

    My school community is very intentional about social and emotional learning in every grade, thanks to efforts spearheaded by our wonderful counselor. We have weekly sharing circles around a variety of topics: uniqueness, unity, integrity, and justice, to name just a few. I know that picture books can pack a powerful punch in this area, and I frequently refer to books we’ve read in our sharing circles. In order to help students make more meaningful connections during this time, I am working hard to make my planning more thorough in this area.

    I teach fifth grade, but I still frequently use picture books as mentor texts in writing and anchor texts for reading skills. My daily read-aloud is often a chapter book, but when I want to illustrate a specific reading strategy or model one type of writing, I tend to lean on high-quality picture books. This means that my lesson plans for reading aloud picture books are often centered on those reading strategies or on the author’s craft.

    When we talk about the lessons learned from the text, it’s often meaningful, but I would not say it’s necessarily intentional on my part. In an effort to change this, I created a new planning sheet, and I’m considering several possible lessons students might notice before I ever read the book aloud.

    Pictured below is a new planning sheet I created and am trying out. It’s important to note that this plan is not a checklist of everything I WILL do when reading a book aloud. If I tried to check off every single box in a given read-aloud session, it would likely take an hour, and the kids would probably forget what the story was even about. I see it as a menu — I am using it to think through all of the things I COULD teach in a given text. I may only focus on one thing at a time, but I always have the planning sheet to reference if I need to lean on that book again.

    (Click on image to download a PDF.)

    The refreshed part of this planning page is the top half. Those four boxes for possible lessons and the discussion questions are new. In the past, I have typically leaned on my instincts and the flow of the class discussion to talk about the lesson the author might be trying to teach us, but I am committed to being more intentional here. If I give it space on the planning sheet, I have to spend time thinking about it.

    Pictured below is a sample lesson plan for Three Hens and a Peacock by Lester Laminack. You’ll notice that I haven’t filled in every reading strategy box. On my latest read of this charming text, I filled in the boxes that were either examples that jumped right out or that I know I will need to reference soon.

    The good news is that I didn’t carve anything in stone. I can update this plan as often as I want to. I keep blank copies of this planning sheet on my clipboard, and I can handwrite the plans as needed. (I do try to type them when I have time so that I have a digital bank of plans from year to year. I am admittedly terrible at keeping up with hard copies.)

    (Click on image to download a PDF.)

    This renewed focus has already made me feel more confident in referring back to my favorite read-alouds, and there has been a great bonus side effect. This has forced me to see more possibilities in lessons that authors teach us. Even if I can only think of one, one of my students will inevitably have an interpretation that is different. I love nothing more than when a student sees something in a read-aloud that I didn’t originally see. Being more intentional about my plans means I’m opening up the possibilities even further. I can’t wait to see how our conversations continue to grow!

    For those of you who have read any of my posts before, you know I love teaching about lessons and themes in books. I have one more document to share with you that I have updated more times than I can count. I am constantly reworking it because I am constantly referring to it! It is a list of some of my personal favorite picture books, grouped by one lesson that they have in common. If you’re looking for a new favorite, or if you’re stuck looking for a book to illustrate a given lesson, I hope this will be helpful to you!

    (Click on image to download a PDF.)

    Fellow blogger, Genia Connell has corralled an impressive book list around subjects dealing with character. If you are looking for a quick reference for reading material covering everything from courage to fairness, check "100 Books That Build Character."

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