There are 22 third graders in my classroom at King/Robinson International Baccalaureate (IB) Magnet School in New Haven, Connecticut. Our school is a Pre K–8
school. We are an IB World School accredited in the Primary Years Program and Middle Years Program (PYP and MYP). IB World Schools are a non–profit organization that was founded in 1968 in Geneva, Switzerland. Originally developed for elite families and ambassadors who travel from country to country, IB schools can now be found all over the world. At first the intent of the program was started to support mobile students preparing to attend a university to receive a common curriculum. The PYP program is aimed towards students in grade K–5
grades. As teachers, we work very hard to align the IB philosophy and the Connecticut Common Core Standards in order to develop inquiry–based units and lessons for our students.
Some of the assessments that we use to drive our instruction are the Degrees of Reading Assessment (DRA2), oral language assessment, Degrees of Reading Power (DRP), District level assessments, formative assessments, summative assessments and writing assessments. The DRA2 levels in my classroom range from 14–40. There are many areas in comprehension, mostly reflection and interpretation, which the students fall short on. The students who are falling below grade level are often the students who exhibit low oral language scores as well. Another area that I find my students struggle year after year is with their narrative writing. We have a strong emphasis on the traits of writing especially elaboration. This is one of the traits that the students in grade 3 struggle with. We spend many hours in school discussing adjectives and the five senses to help the students create vivid snapshot. This is when we tell the students to show, not tell. Two areas where snapshots are very important is when describing characters and describing a setting.
The unit that I plan on creating will enhance our current comprehensive arts program, which gives the 3
graders the opportunity to visit the local Yale Art Gallery or the British Art Center twice per year. With each visit, the students are given a docent who guides the class to a few preselected images. The docents are familiar with the Nancy Boyles reading strategies (connecting, picturing, wondering, guessing, noticing and figuring out), which are used in the classroom when we build comprehension. These strategies work well when discussing the images because it guides the students with familiar language. The docents have copies of each strategy on hand and use them throughout the discussion of each image. In addition to the discussion, students are given the opportunity to recreate an image, usually by drawing what they see.
Throughout this unit, I plan on exploring various images that will allow a third grader to build their oral language and elaboration in writing. In order to do this we will use and practice purposeful talk in the classroom. This is when the students are given the chance to turn and talk with another student. They will use our sentence starter anchor chart to guide them in our discussion of the pictures that I have carefully chosen. In our discussion, the students will be required to use adjective to describe what they see. We will then categorize each idea according to our senses. This will give the students the opportunity to see their thoughts organized on paper. Later on they will be able to use these anchor charts when they are writing their stories.
During our reader's workshop, we will use the reading strategies to make interpretations and reflections based on what we see within the pictures. We will need to use images that are moderately complex with multiple people or an action of some sort. The more captivating the image is will result in a better feedback from the students.