Tougher standards are the new normal

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Dodge then had the students do an exercise where they related the author’s feelings about Saturdays to something in their own lives that they have mixed emotions about. The children took out their writing notebooks, and wrote pros and cons list.

She also asked her students to write either their own poem or a two-paragraph story, mimicking the style and emotion of “Saturdays.”

Dodge said the “close read” concept helps students develop their vocabulary, Often if a child doesn’t know a word, she said, they become discouraged. But close reading focuses on what they do know, and allows them to build up confidence to work through what they don’t know. “I see less kids give up when we do it this way,” she said.

Poetry is studied in Dodge’s classroom a few days per week. She said the way students approach poetry can be applied to other types of literature to help them gain a deeper understanding of the material.

Learning through similarities

Fifth-grade students in Andrea DiMango’s class at Dever have been reading “Esperanza Rising” by Pam Munoz Ryan for several months. The story is about a wealthy girl in Mexico who loses everything and has to adjust to a poor life.

Recently, her students spent an afternoon studying metaphors in the book. They had to write on post-it notes the metaphors they found, which students Jenna Campo and Angelina Somma said helped them gain a deeper understanding of the story.

During a class discussion, DiMango and cited a passage in “Esperanza Rising” about kittens, and students shared different perspectives on what they think the kittens represent. She wrote down their thoughts on a large piece of paper.

DiMango has also used book as a springboard to study other related topics such as the Great Depression and human rights. “It gives them pause and encourages them to work with something in great depth,” she said.
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