October 4, 2016

A Little on The Littles

Great book deals!  I’m all about great book deals!  When my assistant principal shared last year that Scholastic was offering Dollar Deals I JUMPED on it!  One of the choices was The Littles.  I didn’t know much about the text, but I jumped right in.  For a $1 a book, why not!  Before I knew it, I had 20 hot off the press copies of The Littles in my hands.  I had every intention of reading it with my second graders, but, luckily, didn’t.  At the end of the year I found out I was teaching 3rd grade. 

That is when my personal debate began.  Should I read this book with my 3rd grade students?  Is the level of reading (J) appropriate for students at a much higher level?  This came down to a level of complexity.   Let’s take a look at why I decided to read this lower level book with my primarily M+ readers.  
This was the primary reason why I chose to start with this book.  Most of my students have never read a REAL book in their classrooms as a learning tool.  Readers are great, but the whole book experience is a totally different thing.  Students need to be trained across a text when using real literature.  Training requires time and focus.  If students are struggling with understanding the words and the events, then the training will be ineffective.  The reading level was perfect in this aspect. 

Let’s face it.  How in the WORLD are we supposed to teach some of these standards.  We have relied on the interpretations of  the book companies and other “experts” in the field.  Most of us don’t know these experts.  Plus, they are raising the Lexile levels to the point that students are struggling to understand the information.  I thought I would attack this in a different way.  I brought in the higher order thinking and paired it with the lower text level so that students can understand  what the standard is trying to teach.  With this text we focused on the structure of the novel, Standard 5.  We were able to track story events throughout the reading.  This would have been very difficult to do if I just handed them a plot diagram.  This would have been very difficult if we just read a single story from our text.  Instead,  we charted this “fever” with the use of a thermometer.  

We were able to discuss how “fevered” the chapter was, causing us to look deeply at how the text was building chapter by chapter.  We discovered when chapters were helping us to bridge or connect ideas instead of providing a dramatic plot event.  As a team, we worked through this process because a simpler texted provided us with the opportunity to examine complex standards. 

Here's how I used the chart to complete the plot diagram.  

This text also allowed for a quicker read, utilizing time to the positive.   Students could examine the text with depth and complexity, but also retain the information for comprehension reasons.  Honestly, I had some of the best written responses for examining a character across the scope of a book that I’ve ever had!  

These responses were well structured, covered the character changes, and were dead on!  This, I feel, was because time was used well.  Characters could be viewed clearly and in a time period that allowed students to understand who they were and how they changed. 

Overall, I’m very happy with how this study came out!  It was amazing to see students grab hold of this text and the skills and work through them in a way that will stay with them and allow them to grow even more as we examine more stories.  Yes, I have strugglers, but that is normal.  However, we now have a mentor text that I can refer to that all students understand and will remember!  After all, the all said, “NOOOOOOOO!” when we finished the story, together, as a class! 

What do you think?   Do you have any other ideas or suggestions to add to this idea?  I’d love to hear about them!

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