Saturday, February 21, 2015


Discover. Play. Build.

Every week,  people from all over the world meet at Ruth Ayres' place to celebrate happenings from their week. Usually I don't get my act together to celebrate, but yesterday I was invited to a huge celebration. In this age where rigor too often  seems synonymous with ridiculously difficult, and where engagement is forgotten way too often, there are still teachers who continue to do amazing work, and I just felt like this needed to be shared. 

In my district, each grade level does an author study. The fifth grade author is Roald Dahl, and for the past six weeks, our students have immersed themselves in his work. I recognize that some people do not believe in asking all students to study the same author, but that's part of our district curriculum, and we work really hard to make it meaningful and engaging for students. 

Each fifth grader has heard/read at least three Roald Dahl books (and many have read more). They've also read a biography, excerpts from BOY, and fractured fairy tales from Dahl's REVOLTING RHYMES. Yesterday they celebrated their expertise by inviting the fourth graders and a few adults to share their final products. I apologize that there are no students in these pictures- I took lots, but I'm not sure who has photo permissions and who doesn't. I wish you could have seen their smiles, but also how nervous they were, and how serious they were about sharing their work.  I'm not a photographer, but sometimes a picture really is worth a thousand words…

A banner welcomed the fourth graders to the fifth classroom. 

Desks were arranged in a big U around the outside of the classroom. Each student  displayed the books they had read, their research file, an author timeline, their pamphlet of book reviews,  
and a five paragraph literary analysis essay. 

Guiding questions for learning about Dahl's life, 
surrounded by some Roald Dahl timelines

Close reading of Roald Dahl biography. Sorry it's sideways!

Another timeline, close up


 Students compared two of Dahl's books to begin to identify commonalities.

They then used these characteristics to track the commonalities across other Dahl books. I'm not sure if you can read it but the boxes outlined in pink are related to language, those related to blue are related to plot. Book titles are listed down the left side, then students rated each book with a plus, check, or slash to indicate the presence of a particular characteristic. They totaled the columns to decide whether a characteristic always, usually, occasionally, or rarely appears in Dahl's books. 

Roald Dahl pamphlets. These included an introduction and three book reviews. The colored squares represent the results of the semantic feature analysis. Roald Dahl always, Roald Dahl usually, etc. …

The back side of the pamphlet, where students identified theme 
and cited the evidence that led them to draw their conclusions.

Students used Alphaboxes to gather interesting vocabulary.

 Finally, they wrote and revised five paragraph literary analysis essays. 

 Our kids just LOVE Roald Dahl.
I just love kids doing 
reading, writing and thinking!

Head over to Ruth Ayres blog for lots more celebrations. 


Linda B said...

Actually, being immersed in such a good and prolific author must have been fun, Carol. I admire all that they did-wow. Everything looks creative and thorough. I love those alpha boxes! Glad you celebrated the students-hope you share this with them & their teachers!

Tabatha said...

Wow, fantastic celebration! Roald Dahl has such a great body of work to study. They really made the most of it!

elsie said...

What awesome work your students engaged in! Dahl is a perfect author for fifth grade. They get his humor. I think it is great that each grade studies an author every year. So glad you shared this week!

Lee Ann Spillane said...

Looks like a fantastic showcase and celebration of students' learning. I had to chuckle at the line in the bio poem that said he accomplished writing and having kids. Too funny.

Mary Lee said...

WOW! Inspiring!