Friday, December 16, 2011

Passing on Gratitude in 2011

I woke up really tired this morning and not ready for the last Friday of 2011 in my classroom, but then I realized why I was tired, and I was thankful for being tired. Typically every morning I log onto the computer and read my favorite blogs and check out twitter before I leave for school.  I read Mary Lee's post at A Year of Readin A wonderful reminder during the busy time of year. Sorry friend for linking to the wrong blog first-guess I did need a blogging break :)

Yesterday all the fifth graders in my school spent the afternoon on our annual "5th Graders Give Back." They had earned money over the past two weeks doing family chores which helped them give back to their families. After we collected the money, we purchased enough peanut butter & jelly to make sandwiches, bags of chips and cookies. The students made 100 brown bag dinners.  In addition, we collected toiletries and made 100 bags including soap, shampoo, cream rinse, toothpaste/toothbrush and deodorant.  We took all the bags to the Mid Ohio Food Bank to help our community.

 To help the students reach beyond our community, with the additional money, we collected we supported the Heifer Organization.  Here is a small excerpt from their website. Our goal is to  work with communities to end hunger and poverty and care for the earth. By giving families a hand-up, not just a hand-out, we empower them to turn lives of hunger and poverty into self-reliance and hope. With gifts of livestock and training, Heifer projects help families improve their nutrition and generate income in sustainable ways. We refer to the animals as "living loans" because in exchange for their livestock and training, families agree to give one of its animal's offspring to another family in need. This year we were able to purchase a water buffalo and a flock of chicks.  The students were very excited to reach out and help others. 

It was a very busy afternoon, the final two rotations included practicing singing holiday carols. A group of students with my marvelous teaching partner, Sarah, leading them went after school to a nursing home to sing carols during their dinner time. The last rotation, the students made cards for children who are patients at Children's Hospital. Our goal is to have the students spend 2 hours --giving back and paying it forward. This is a good tired-

Finally and most important I am thankful for my family: Tom, Anna and Marcus without their support and all our special family memories I would not be where I am today. I am excited to have a "full house" again now that they are home from college.  I am taking a blogging break until after New Years. Thanks for being on my journey and reading the blog and leaving comments-I am very thankful for my blogging community. Best wishes for a marvelous holiday season
and an amazing New Year-check back in 2012.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Wonder Wednesday: Connecting Wonder with Families

Anytime I can extend the school day into the evenings, (I learned at today's PD that it is called 24/7 school) I am very excited.  I continue to discuss the importance of STRONG comments on Wonderopolis. Those comments are so important because it extends my students learning beyond our classroom.  Every Wednesday, we discuss a wonder that connects to our standards but as important to me are the conversations that continue at home with the wonder.  As a parent, I often remember asking my own kids, "What's new?" and both of them would have the preverbal answer of "Nothing."  I was never sure what to ask besides what did you do in math, reading, writing? Even as a teacher, it was difficult for me have a conversation about their school day.  

With that said, getting back to Wonder comments.  Leah is in my class this year, and I suggested to the students to connect WONDER #428 Who Was St. Nick? with our class read aloud, Family Under the Bridge. Leah not only took me up on my suggestion and wrote an amazing comment. She took the suggestion of the WONDER and left her shoe out just in case St.Nick might visit that night.  Imagine the conversations with her family and what fun it was for them to start a new family tradition from reading the wonder as a family. Read her post below which she posted the next morning.     
Success = connecting family + school!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

You Have to Laugh!

Some days as teachers you just have to sit down or stand up and laugh at yourself.  Today was the day!  I officially "lost it" during math class.  We are in the middle of our hardest math unit for the whole year-every year I know this is going to one of the most difficult days in math.  The focus of the lesson was teaching 5th graders to measure and draw angles using protractors. This is where the humor comes into play.  (At least I hope you see the humor)  Every year I give the OAA 5th grade math test, every year the state requires us to use a certain size protractors, so of course we use those golden protractors to teach the lesson.  I passed out the golden protractors on Monday and told my class do not lose your protractor-begged them to not leave them at home also.  Well today, three students forgot their protractors so I had to give them another one out of the golden bag of protractors. In order to remember to get them back, I collected a shoe/boot for the math class.  Before my students left for specials, I got back their golden protractor back, and they got their shoe/boot.  Alright I officially lost it but on a side note the kids LOVED giving me their shoe.  Maybe I will have 16 shoes tomorrow :)

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

WONDERful Word Wednesday: Check out Wonderopolis

As a class we focused on Wonder  #407 What Does it Mean To Be a Native American?  I posed this question to the class prior to showing them the WONDER on the smart board.  It was interesting to me because the students really struggled with this question.  I only had one hand raised and his response was that Native Americans speak a different language. This connected with last week's Scholastic News article "Why Are These Kids so Excited?" After a little prompting, our list grew in this order.

#1 homes are different based on climate and location, location location
#2  grow their own food (realized that NA don't just hunt)
#3  cultural differences
#4 different tribes-celebrate different events, religions, ceremonies
#5 clothing is different-deerskin-use animals (natural resources)

I believe this conversation hit every 5th grade state indicator from one WONDER question, but we kept on learning.  Next we watched the video which is amazing because the video totally broke the stereotype of my class when the caption stated:  2011 World Champion Hoop Dancer.  What an amazing way to discuss how we need to celebrate our cultural differences especially in today's world.

Finally, if anyone reads my blog regularly you know I LOVE words so we looked at the vocabulary words.  This activity also caught me off guard I asked the class to highlight the words they were not familiar with or better yet would not want to take on a test?  Here is our class results. The numbers represent the number of students who did not know that the word!!

So next the students went off with their paper copy of the wonder and located the words that they did not know in the article-highlighted them and used context clues to figure out the meaning.  They listed the new words in their social studies spiral with their best definition from using context.  Finally for homework, they left a SUPER comment to share with the world about their learning.  It was a WONDERFUL Wednesday.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Meeting My Students Right There

I am so thankful when I have a Saturday morning that I can just live on my computer.  During the school week, I try hard to keep up with my twitter and blog feeds but this year honestly it has been difficult.  I read my favorites, but I don't always have time to read everything that "perks" my interest.  Today was one of those mornings, I read this entry off a twitter feed "Cheating the Gifted" I don't agree with most of the article from this site however it did make me stop, think and reflect.  Not about gifted students and not about average students and not about special education students but about students.  The 23 students in my class this year-the 23 students that I am lucky enough to spend 6 1/2 hours a day with although not 6 1/2 hours teaching which is another whole blog post.  The 23 students who I want to teach about how a book can take them anywhere when you are having a bad day. I want them to think about how to do a science experiment differently so that they can learn about variables.   I want my students to learn that a writer's notebook is something treasured that can hold all of their personal thoughts and will never be graded. I want them to learn in math how to solve a problem 3 different ways and not just how to get the correct answer for our state test in May. In addition,  I want them to learn how to be problem solvers, high level thinkers and collaborators where their ideas and dreams matter and are valued.  Sometimes I just need to stop and realize why I am teaching----it's all about my students and where ever they fall on the spectrum of learning--- I will meet them right there.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

One Stop Clicking

During this busy time of year not only am I trying to do some of my shopping on line, but I am also trying to enhance my social studies unit on Native Americans. My goal is to integrate 21 Century skills along with extending the school day for my students.  This was easy for me--one stop shopping:  Wonderopolis. Let me show you, it's as easy as 1-2-3.

#1 Go the website and click on the Wonder of the Day

#2 Type in the right hand corner your topic in the box that says "search" From that you will get a list of Wonders that has something to do with your topic. For my topic, there were 9 Wonders that I can preview and choose which is most appropriate for my 5th grade indicators. 

#3 Book mark the wonders and watch your students get excited about the Wonder. 

The best success I have had with my class is to preview/hook the Wonder at school. This would include:  students making a prediction, watching the video and writing down new facts, and previewing the vocabulary list along with the links. Sometimes I give them 1-2 focus questions for their HW, and they go home to read the wonder, "play" with the links and focus on the specific assignment. However this time I asked them to leave a STRONG comment just read below everything they learned.  One stop clicking -priceless!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Digital Writing Comes to Life

How can you say no to digital storytelling?  When you get your first ever pink sparkly dress with red high heals and most important I looked like a valentine.  As I read this digital story, I was amazed at the writing, not only the creative aspects of her story which was titled Nothing Ever Happens in Room 228 but most important the use of strong vocabulary, use of figurative language, use of dialogue, and  how her presentation of text and pictures supported her story.  Finally read her own personal reflection on her story, she definitely spiced up her story and connected with developing a stronger character using her reading strategies. And to top it off, "I realized how important revision is and lifting from my writer's notebook to get the same storyline." Perhaps I might have to go out and purchase a pink sparkly dress to celebrate.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Marvelous News!

 I have received a $500 mini-grant from the National Center for Family Literacy and Better World Books.  I am one of only 20 winners nationwide to receive the award, which will promote creative ideas for using Wonderopolis with families. was created by NCFL in 2010 to provide free, family friendly content that is practical, easy to use and designed to engage children's natural curiosity. It was one of only five family websites that Time Magazine named the 50 best websites in 2011.  I will be using the funding to continue to build wonder in my classroom but also begin to work in smaller groups with students who need additional help with their reading. In addition, I will continue to build professional development within my building and share about the wide variety of ways to use Wonderopolis with non fiction reading.
Wonderopolis is a free resource for families and schools, so hundreds of educators across the country already are using it to generate excitement for learning in schools, libraries and homes across the country. But this mini-grant will help my students magnify and reach towards the 21st century online learning tool. Other communities will learn from my journey including the world of blogging and twitter on how they can maximize the use of Wonderopolis.  I am very thankful and excited as I continue my journey with NCFL and Better World Books.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Published Authors of Story Kit!

Every trimester we celebrate authors in our class!  It is one of our favorite days in our classroom.  The students work so hard on the writing process and finally they share their stories with their parents along with their friends.  We celebrated last week and once again it was wonderful to see the students excitement and the parents were so impressed with their hard work.  It never fails every year at least one parent says, "Thank you for doing this other wise I might not have seen their finished story."  This year the celebration was really important because the students published only digitally. This year Mr. Mark helped me to link all the stories on our class web page. I did not print their stories because the stories live two places on their iPods and most exciting on our class web page. This is so powerful for so many reasons. First every students can ready every story.  I can use these stories later as mentor text for great leads, dialogue, strong vocabulary etc. Finally next year, I have 24 stories ready to share as student models.  This is so exciting because the students audience increased to the world web-which means anyone including grandparents in Florida, India and Spain can read their grandchild's story.  This is amazing to me and to be honest it is really special because now the students can read their story on the phone as their grandparents look at the story all the way across the world. Digital Literacy is amazing.

Sharing their story with both digital tools!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Follow Your Heart!

Sometime in teaching you just have to follow your heart!  I read James Preller blog all the time for many reasons.  First of all I was able to meet him a few years ago when he visited our school for an author visit.  I was lucky enough to have a few minutes to discuss the idea about starting my blog and he gave me a few words of wisdom that I never will forget.  Next I love the connection he has with his readers and how he constantly writes about his books but more important to me about his readers.  I really like fan mail Wednesday and have shared many of those posts with students in my class during reading workshop.  Finally the part that touches me most are when he shares about his own family.  We both have a passion for baseball and so many of our experiences have been very similar. This week he posted about his daughter, Maggie, Post-It Note Binder.  As a fifth grade teacher and mom it touched my heart so the next day I shared the post with my class.  We talked about how our writer's notebooks should be personal and how it is a place to hold our thinking and treasures.  I asked my students to choose their favorite quote off of Maggie's binder and write about it but then share the quote with the family.  I even suggested to have a family member write about what the quote means to them-all I have to say is WOW!  I read these posts in awe and most important I can't imagine the conversations that happened at home when my students were sharing their quote.

Love the analogy that the parent connected for the child!

I love the way this parent shared their own favorite quote.

This parent connected the quote to a saying in Chinese celebrating their culture.


Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Wonderopolis is WONDERful Science HW

Thanks to Google Images
We just started our life science unit, and I wanted the students to learn about food chains and most important some key vocabulary.  Every Wednesday, we do WONDER homework and last week's homework was fantastic.  The students continued to focus on writing STRONG comments and had a choice to leave a comment or complete the Still Wondering activity. 19 out of 23 students left a comment, and the comments were excellent but more important the transfer into our class the next few days was HUGE!!!

I value wonderopolis for many reasons but one of the most important parts is the integration of school and home.  I am focused on extending the school day allowing my students to integrate 21 Century skills with my science curriculum. Also the connection between the parents and the students and their discussions at home are so important to my students as learners.  In addition to have instant feedback is such a positive experience for the students as well as me.

In addition I am excited for the different learners in my classroom.  I have had the opportunity to learn about my students.  I am so pleased with Harshitha's comments because she is working on learning English. Her family just moved to the United States 5 months, and she is helping her parents also with learning English through Wonderopolis.  How exciting :)

Next is a comment that reinforces the connection with the wonder and a conversation with her mom about horses.  Connecting learning with a student's life is a so important!

Next the connection with our Word Study (WS) and integrating new vocabulary into all writing..

Finally, the highest level of learning the transfer of learning to someone else or better yet to another life experience.  Read this comment and see how the learning transferred.

If you haven't used Wonderopolis for HW I would encourage you to try it-it is WONDERful!!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

100 Decisions a Day

It must be that time of the school year-finally falling into a routine and I write this with a smile on my face.  I know my students as readers, writers, word smiths,  mathematicians, scientists and historians.  So now I have to make a 100 decisions a day that are not written in my lesson plans and most of them I have about 2-4 seconds to decide.  This is our life as teachers and as the years move on notice I am not typing and I get older :) I am finding these decisions to be more difficult and harder to make.  Life was simpler in the classroom 10 years ago, maybe even 5 years ago.  I had more control of my classroom and how I was going to teach the curriculum, but not now which brings me to the 100 decisions a day.

Today was one of those days where I made a 101 decisions in one day.  Let me tell you about a few of them.  Let's start with the routine of my day.

In math, we are working on prime, composite, factor trees and prime factorization.  I knew these are all new concepts for my students so I did 4 simple warm up problems on the board and had my class try them.  We call this "entrance cards."  Decision #1:  3 students got all four correct. Decision #2 5 students only missed 2 so they need 1/2 of instruction. Decision #3 9 students missed three or four of them.  The point:  I needed 3 teachers for the best teaching and it was only me so I made the decision to group the 14 students together-teach them and send the 3 off for enrichment.  Old days: teach all of them the same thing New day: differentiate and make more decisions-better teaching yes-harder decisions yes.

In Writing Workshop, we were working on our iPod digital stories and every student needed help typically with a technology question but also learning how to edit their story.  The hard part for me in these decisions included:  When do I stop the whole group to learn a new technology skill that not everyone is ready for? Do I teach a few students and make them an expert but then how will they get their story done if they become the "teachers?"  How do I help the struggling students who are still composing their story in their writer's notebook?  You know the situation 23 writers in 23 different places and at least 30 decisions in 30 minutes.

Finally in life science, I am lucky enough to open our wall and team teach with Sarah, who is an amazing teacher.  I was leading the lesson today and Sarah was working with a small group modifying the whole group lesson.  During this time, we have "pull outs" including reading services, English Second Language services, and resource room services which brings me back to my next 28 decisions-what do you teach when you know these 8 students are going to miss class time?  This is a life long dilemma for me because I know they need those pull out services, but I know they need the life science content also.  If anyone has any suggestions, hints or ideas please leave me a comment.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Let Kids be Kids

Caplin Family Pumpkin
Our school had their "Harvest Party" today and yes our students still dress up in costumes and yes we had a wonderful parade throughout the school and ended up outside on the playground to tons of parents taking pictures (it is similar to the red carpet experience).  Yes we had great food (peanut free of course) and finally yes we played many fun games including Mad Libs!  Oh yea, and YES I am tired, but I have to say sometimes in education we just need to allow students to be students or better yet: kids to be kids!

Today was a GREAT example. We had a normal Monday morning and my class did wonderful with prime and composite numbers in math, shortened library with Mr. Prosser where they are playing the Amazing Race with QR Codes and right before lunch we talked about Letters to the Editors.

On to the "Harvest Party" the students loved it! Almost all of my students dressed up in costumes and some of them got together to make their costumes.  A group of four girls were different colors of nail polish and a group of boys were the Blue Men Group including Poppa Smurf!  They had a wonderful time, laughed, enjoyed being kids and most of all just had fun!  Our staff dressed up as farmers and I of course was very excited about that choice and was ready to go with jeans, flannel shirt and pigtails.  It was a wonderful day!!

Random Thoughts:  I was not excited for the party and in fact I don't like Halloween and never have.  Ask my own kids, thank goodness for my mom because she made their costumes every year when they were young!  However, in this world of high stakes testing, pushing learning from all angles, and taking the fluff out of learning I have to say today was awesome!  Kids were kids and that is what school should be about.  PS:  I didn't assign any homework so I hope all of them are outside right now Trick or Treating and going to remember to bring me a Take 5 or Almond Joy tomorrow-then all will be perfect.

BFF having a wonderful day!

Blue Men Group on their own terms!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Digital Storytelling part 1

Last year was the first time I used Story Kit-this year it is so much easier.  I worked out all of the kinks but the BEST part is I have 23 model stories to use with this class.  We started our story telling by reading and examining last year's stories and that was so powerful!  As we looked at their stories, I recorded what they liked about the stories.  This is so powerful because they had ownership of the indicators that we used on the rubric.  

As you read the rubric, I have decided to teach dialogue early in the year.  I know this may be a little crazy, but the students are really doing a nice job handling the challenge. The reason I chose to teach dialogue early is because the two mentor text that I am using had excellent examples of powerful dialogue.  We used: The Summer My Father was Ten and  Nothing Ever Happens on 90th Street. I highly recommend both of these books and I will use them all year as an anchor in my writer's workshop.

The next thing I changed was incorporating writing goals into their digital story telling. This year's class needs constant reminders that everything they learn builds in writing. After our first published piece, Summer Memories, I had my students write one goal for their next piece of published writing.  As you can see below, I added a section to the rubric to have the students' focus on their goal as well as the indicators listed above.

When I passed out the rubric, one students actually said out loud, "Mrs. Caplin you mean I still need to work on strong topic and closing sentences. I thought I was done with that." Oh the joys of learning..............check back later for an update on digital story telling.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Word Study Looks Different!

I love word study, and I would teach it all day if I could - oh wait I do teach word study all day!  This seems like an oxymoron but it isn't.  With our new program, I continue to focus in on how to weave word study throughout my day.  We are required to teach a short mini lessons daily 10-15 min.  I have not achieved that time yet typically I am way over, still focusing on that time element.  Here is what I have learned so far about word study (WS)  from our first 8 weeks of school.  I have a lot to learn!!

First I learned something new-totally new-light bulb moment new!  I decided to start the year with focusing on prefixes, base words, and suffixes.  I chose those indicators so that I could easily connect 4th grade WS to this year's WS.  Silly me I thought that would make the beginning lessons easier. My students had a pretty good understanding of these concepts until last week. Our focus was on prefix:  dis, di, dif.   This is where my learning started.  Thank goodness I prepared for this lesson because I had a lot to learn.  As I looked at the focus lesson, some the words included: distribute, dislocated, dispose, differ, direct, disturbance.   I felt comfortable with dislocated-I got it. However, the other words in this list-wow!  I will pause here if you would like to think about the base words or base meaning?

As I studied about the Greek and Latin bases I had to make a decision how do I shift my students thinking?  This was a difficult conversation but the thinking was huge.  Many students commented that it was fun to look for those parts of the word and then collect other words with the same base.  For example,  disturbance.  "turb" means shake or agitate so we discussed words like turbulence in plane or even a turbine engine.  The connections really started to happen and I was thrilled to see their light bulbs go off.

On a side note, I know you like to see our anchor charts well l need to start remembering that my anchor charts might be published so  apologies for the messy thinking.

This is our first lesson: Word Observation. We had a huge conversation about syllable boxes.

HW: students collected words in their WS spiral and then chose their favorite word and used it in a sentence.

Assessment: students wrote sentences showing meaning. Extra stars were BIG words from previous WS lessons

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Class Meetings & iPod Guidelines

You know when you are thinking about how to manage your time in classroom better?  You know when you are thinking how to create more time for instruction in your class?  You know when you think I could get rid of this and put in that?  Well I am so thankful that I did not give up class meetings.  It was on the chopping list at the beginning of the school year, but I believed it was too important for building of community.

Ever Monday, we start our week with a class meeting called "Weekend Share" every student gets to share their #1 favorite event of the weekend.  In fifth grade, that is not always easy to choose 1 event but it is another part of the communication indicators-choosing important information.  The students share about their families, sports, boy scout camp outs, visiting relatives and some even travel on the weekend.  I listen with open ears because I learn so much about them and more importantly I learn about their lives outside of school.  I can follow up later if someone shares they were at the hospital visiting their sick grandma or their dad did not get to come home from India.  Those are the connections that I believe are important and I want to build throughout the school year.

Every Friday, we end our week with our class meeting.  I have written about it before because this is where we choose our top ten events of the week.  But prior to this, we always have the QUESTIONS, COMPLIMENTS and CONCERNS.  This is a chance for the students to voice their thoughts in this area as well as for me to bring up concerns which brings me to last Friday's class meeting.  This year's group have been not focused during study hall, so we developed a T chart on the dry erase board.  On the left hand side, What should study hall look like and sound like? I wrote ideas down as they told me their list included:  finishing HW, getting extra help if needed, studying for tests, and if time play on the iPod.  "Playing on the iPod" was the interesting part of the conversation as you can see from the chart below. This list started in green with what does study hall look like is....

We set new guidelines for the  iPods this year.  I told them the "play" is all connected with their learning as well as the opportunity to review skills.  Look at the very bottom of the chart-people might take advantage.  That was great conversation about how they needed to make the correct choices for them and not always follow their friends-a life lesson from our class meeting.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Going to the "Other Side"

My friend, Bill @ Literate Lives posted about how busy September was for him and how he just didn't have much inspiration to blog.  I also felt this way and was extremely busy but now that the calendar says it is October which happens to be one my favorite months I am feeling a shift of energy.

But first I want to reflect on September because I sure learned important lessons about my life as a teacher.  First of all I learned that experience doesn't always make things easier in fact I learned it could hold you back.  For two years, I have been hearing about the D word-for those of you who read my blog who are not in education the D word is data.  The key to my last sentence is the verb (which itself is a little joke if you live at my school) the verb is: hearing.  My thinking shifted last week when I spent the whole day with my team members, principal, Mr. Mark and our instructional support teacher (IST). We spent the morning looking at 4th grade data since now they are my students, looking at OAA diagnostics that my students this year have completed as well as observations.  I was not thrilled walking into this  meeting however when I walked out--- I finally got it.

Here is what I got for those of you like me who just are not quite there yet.  OAA testing is here to stay, and I have to be accountable to it because I want my students to do well and have the skills they need to be successful on a 2 pt or 4 pt extended response question in addition to the multiple choice.  However most of our conversation was based on extended responses.  I want my students to have the opportunity to be successful on future high stake tests by building a strong positive environment about the state tests etc. Even this week, we discussed the ACT and SAT because in word study we were discussing the importance of building strong vocabulary. More about this in a future blog.

I have come over the the "other side" I continue to think about how to integrate test taking strategies and OAA text within our school day not everyday but more than I used to.  I am not willing to admit that there is a testing genre, but I am willing to admit I need to hold myself accountable to the tests by allowing my students the best opportunity in May to pass the Reading, Math and Science OAA with at least a year's growth which is another really long story.  Let me know where you are with your thinking-

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Read Our Amazinng Comments!!

The buzz in the room this morning was amazing!  Mrs. Caplin did you know?  Mrs. Caplin I never knew.... I was excited when I learned.... and the best of all THANKS for letting us choose our own wonder!  I am so proud of their progress with comments, and we can continue to build on these focus skills in our future WONDER Wednesday conversations!  

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

We Have to Teach Commenting

Most of my learning comes from extending my school day into conversations on twitter, and I enjoy when we just start tweeting a topic.  Last week, we were tweeting how to build stronger comments on a blog, and I tweeted about how I taught this skill in my class and a blog entry was born. Thanks Mary Lee, Karen, Franki and Gretchen for the conversations.

Having students leave comments on our class blog or on our favorite website Wonderopolis is a skill that I needed to teach my class.  I have to admit at the beginning I didn't even consider that I needed to teach this skill until I was reading their comments and honestly they were very weak. They were short and not reflective. I wasn't even sure if the students were reading their own comment let alone pulling new information from the WONDER article.

I have had the most success with using students' work as models, so we started looking at past comments on Wonderopolis and discussing which comments were strong and most important WHY?
From that point, we started a class chart about what makes a STRONG comment.  This chart really helped the students begin to focus their comments as well as evaluate their friend's comment. I was very excited to see that they are connecting the WONDER to our word study as well as our word wall.  Many students commented that the links from the WONDER created questions for them, so they thought they could post those questions back to the website. The student who suggested taking the new knowledge and transferring it to another area was very excited about learning about idioms and then using them in her writing.  How cool is that!!!  

Finally after creating our new chart this week, I typed it up and gave it to everyone to refer back to as their own personal anchor chart at home.  Tonight's HW was to go home, choose any WONDER and leave a thoughtful comment. I can't wait to read their comments and see how they applied the new anchor chart.