Table of Contents Structure: Part II

Sunday, May 24, 2015

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Last week, I shared how we began thinking of different types of structures for tables of contents. Now that we've figured out ways we could organize them, we have to make a decision!

Each of the ideas we came up with for setting up our tables of contents would give us a very different book. This was something that the students struggled to understand. I tried to help focus their writing by asking “what do you WANT to teach others about your topic?” I think I asked this question 235 times during my conferences. The set up that came the easiest to them ended up being the one they all chose to work with.

Here’s how it works: Students first need to decide what they want their book to focus on. They will use the parts, types, ways, or first to last graphic organizer to come up with a list (see last week's post for more info). They will choose the one that fits their topic the best to create their table of contents.  For example, I’m choosing a first to last structure about the Fujita Scale. That column will become my table of contents. Each of my bullet points will become my headings/chapter titles.

Authors want their table of contents follows a logical sequence. Continuing with my topic of tornadoes, I've organized the table of contents in the order of the Fujita Scale from least to greatest. I've chosen to add a chapter in the beginning explaining what the Fujita Scale is and its history. This will help readers understand the chapters that follow.

To keep readers engaged, authors also want to create chapter titles that align with the main idea of their book. Instead of just listing F0-F5, I chose to give a short phrase describing the damage at each level. Students may also want to set their chapters up as questions, with alliterations, or short descriptions.

The Power of Tornadoes
Chapter 1: Measuring Power - The Fujita Scale
Chapter 2: F0 – Broken Branches
Chapter 3: F1 – Snapped Tree Trunks
Chapter 4: F2 – Roofs Ripped Off
Chapter 5: F3 – Damaged Walls
Chapter 6: F4 – Houses Leveled
Chapter 7: F5 – Everything is Blown Away

The students and I created a table of contents about dogs as a guided practice. We chose the ways structure about taking care of a pet dog. Students wanted to set it up in question form. Another option I thought would be fun is to incorporate alliterative dog names into the chapter titles. 

Devoted Dog Owners
Chapter 1: Should I get a Pet Dog?
Chapter 2: Feeding Fido
Chapter 3: Walking Wally
Chapter 4: Playful Pal
Chapter 5: Cleaning Cooper
Chapter 6: Training Titus
Chapter 6: Obedient Otis

After the guided practice, students worked on their own topic. Once students narrowed their thinking and focused on what they wanted their book to teach readers, this came much more easily to them. We are loving our new tables of contents! 
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Table of Contents Structure - Part I

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Have you ever heard about the different ways you can structure a table of contents? Neither had I… at least not until I was asked to model a lesson in third grade. I looked everywhere for information, but didn't find much. All I had was Lucy. (I have an ongoing inner dialogue with Lucy Calkins. I start out asking her “why are you doing this to me?” and then I continue on, dive in, and I always end up telling her - in my head - “you’re a genius! I love you!”)

My third grade friends are coming to the end of their nonfiction unit. They’re beginning to use their expertise to write nonfiction books. In order to structure their books, they needed to make a plan. Creating a table of contents was a good place to start. It can be set up in a variety of ways: parts, types, ways, or first to last. Keep reading. I promise it’ll make sense!

Here’s our example for tornadoes. Tornadoes is such a HUGE umbrella topic, so this activity will help focus in on something more specific. In addition to the information on the anchor chart, I could have done a variety of other parts, ways, types (can also be called characteristics, which helped some of my students understand it better), and first to last categories! 

  • Parts of a Tornado (shown)
  • Tornado Alley: Information by state
  • Be Prepared (shown)
  • How a tornado is formed
  • Types of tornadoes (shown)
  • People (meteorologists, rescue workers, storm chasers, etc.)
First to last: anything on a scale
  • Fujita Scale (shown)
  • Famous tornadoes in history (time/biggest to smallest/most to least destructive)

After I talked them through my anchor chart, we made an anchor chart together (below.. don't judge. Real life anchor charts aren't pretty). The students picked animals as their topic. We brainstormed different subtopics within the category of animals and came up with dogs. The picture below is before we finished the chart, so first to last isn't there. The kids came up with a few ideas from first to last, you can see them below:

  • Body parts (shown)
  • Items needed to take care of a dog (shown)
Types (characteristics):
  • Dog breeds (shown) *could break it down even further!*
  • Kid friendly dogs
  • Hypoallergenic dogs
  • How to take care of a dog (shown).
First to Last:
  • Smallest to biggest dog breed
  • Famous TV and movie dogs in history
  • The life cycle: puppies to adult dogs
  • A day in the life of a dog from morning to night.

I had students practice with a partner on a very familiar, topic (not their actual topic) to see if they understood the process. Then we moved on to their area of expertise! They don’t have to fill out the entire chart, if there is a specific set up that works best for their topic, I let them go with it!

Want these graphic organizers? Download them for FREE on Google Drive. This is also an excellent companion to my nonfiction text features resource.

Don't forget to check back next week to find out where to go from here! 
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Book Theme: Be Yourself

Thursday, May 7, 2015

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May Theme of the Month: Be Yourself!

Last year, while teaching fifth grade, I found it important to revisit this theme throughout the year. At this age, students begin to worry what everyone thinks of them and about fitting in. I wanted them to think about how important it is to stay true to themselves. My favorite book with this theme is A Bad Case of Stripes by David Shannon (the author of the very popular David books).

A Bad Case of Stripes is about a girl, Camilla Cream, who loves lima beans. She is afraid to admit it because no one else in her class likes them and she wants so badly to fit in. It is a really funny story with great illustrations. I've read this every year and the kids always love it.

Even if you don’t have the book, your class can listen to a great reading of it on Storyline Online!

Activities and Resources for A Bad Case of Stripes:

Other books with the theme “be yourself”:

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Nonfiction Text Features

Monday, May 4, 2015

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Before I taught, I never understood the importance of text features while reading nonfiction. I would skip right over them because I didn't realize how much they would help me as a reader. I didn't want my students to miss out, because so much can be learned from text features!

We started by doing a text feature scavenger hunt. I set up a book walk in the classroom by organizing text sets and displaying them around the room (this was mainly so there wouldn't be a traffic jam in front of the classroom library!) Students were given time to explore all of the nonfiction books in the classroom, looking for different text features and describing them on their graphic organizers. 

After the students became acquainted with text features, they created text feature books. We used Time for Kids, but you can use anything kid-friendly that can be cut up! Students find examples of each text feature, cut them out, glue them into their book, and define each text feature or explain how each text feature helped them understand their reading. 

This was only part of a nonfiction unit being worked on by 3rd grade. Throughout the unit, students researched a specific topic, which they wrote about at the conclusion of the unit. They became expert authors and created their own books, complete with text features, to showcase the information they learned! 

If you're interested in these activities, check out my nonfiction text feature resource, available in my Teachers Pay Teachers store. It includes 14 posters (full page and quarter page) with examples of each text feature, text feature scavenger hunt, text feature book, and the become a nonfiction author performance task. This is perfect for an alternative book report, writing workshop project, or as a performance task in social studies or science!

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