Three Ways to Help Students Use Text Features

Issue 6Getting students to read from a wide variety of texts is often a challenge in the classroom. Some of the challenges can be time, resources, and ways to help the students access all the different types of texts. Many teachers are using the Iowa Agriculture Literacy Foundation’s student magazine, Iowa Ag Today to offer rich non-fiction text into their learning.

Rich student discussions can occur about the author’s purpose in the nonfiction text of Ag Today. The most common purposes of this type of text are to explain, inform, to teach how to do something, to express an opinion, or to persuade readers to do or believe something. Knowing the differences between nonfiction and fictional text can truly help students understand the meaning better.

Ag Today is aesthetically pleasing to readers as it offers text features to help them understand the text. These text features include and are not limited to print features such as bold print, symbols and icons; graphic aids like maps, charts and timelines; illustrations including photographs, drawings, or cartoons. It is imperative for teachers to explicitly teach students about using these features to help them with their understanding of the information presented.  Here are three ways to do this:

1.  Model through a think aloud. Talk through how you as a reader would tackle the text and how you would use the text features to help understand the text. Look at each page and ask students how an illustration helps them in their reading, or look at a map and ask why the map was added to the text. Students need to have conversations on the importance of text features in their reading to help them use them to better understand their reading. Teachers can also use this time to have students make predictions about what the text may be about after looking at text features.

2. Create a quick reference for to students to access when using text features. Here is an example list students can insert into their working notebooks or turn into posters for the classroom wall:

  • Maps: Help a reader visualize where places are in the state, nation, or world.
  • Captions: Can help understand a picture or photograph.
  • Illustrations or photographs: Help to visualize the text and make it real. They may also help determine what is important within the text.
  • Special print: Look for bold, italics, or underlined words to determine key vocabulary.
  • Graphs: Can help understand important data within the text and assist in interpreting.
Issue 6 centerfold

In this example from Issue 6, text features are used to draw attention, provide additional information, and help students visualize and understand what they read.

3.  Using Ag Today in the classroom not only helps with reading of nonfiction texts, but it also offers opportunities for students to write. Teachers can preview the text with students and then have them write questions they may have about the text features they see. In addition, there are many think and discuss prompts within the text for students to talk with another student and to write their thoughts as well. This truly helps students realize the importance of discussing, reflecting, and writing about what they are reading.

Students reading Ag Today - Issue 2In conclusion, it is imperative for students to have access to multiple types of texts in the classroom. Ag Today is an excellent example to use for not only various content areas but also learning how to use text features for understanding. I would encourage teachers to start with a few strategies such as the ones shared here and slowly add more as you see students becoming more familiar with using text features. Happy reading in your classroom!

-Jody Still Herbold, Education Consultant, Northwest AEA

Put the Ag in TAG!

Talented and Gifted (TAG) students have a wide variety of strengths and interests, and Talented and Gifted programs have a lot of freedom in how to learn or what to learn about.

Some students are excelled in reading and need more challenging texts. Others find math simple and would benefit from different problems. Many TAG students could benefit from problem solving projects and research projects.

What’s unique about agriculture is that it can fit all of these needs. There are agriculture books written for pre-K levels all the way up to and past collegiate level texts. Agriculture business and economics provide real-world examples of math and can help motivate students when given those examples. And what better industry to study when looking to solve problems? Topics like conservation, genetic engineering, world hunger, and so many others can be great topics for research, debate, and presentations.

Here at IALF, we house lots of resources available for Iowa teachers to check out or use free of charge. Our Lending Library is stocked with books, games, kits, and DVDs of varying grade levels and topics. This can be a great place to start if students are looking for reference material for a research project. Many of our books are specific to a crop or livestock specie, but there are many other gems. For instance, the film Temple Grandin, outlines the life of one of the most brilliant animal scientists in history. The Man Who Fed the World, talks about Norman Borlaug and his great strides in plant pathology that saved over one billion lives!

TAG students, like all other students, also like to play games! Our Lending Library also houses games like Ag Cranium, which puts a fun agriculture spin on Cranium, and Plant Match, which teaches students about the developmental stages of plants, while playing a fun matching game!

On our website, we also have a database of lesson plans that are ready to download and put directly into use. There, you can find things like GMO Decisions, which is a lesson that discusses the differences in types of genetic engineering and allows for debate and deeper understanding of a complex and modern issue. Our Watershed Decisions and Whey Waste lesson plans also allow for discussion, debate, and creativity to solve real problems that people today face.

The National Association for Gifted Children has a set of six standards that can be used to align to TAG efforts. Within these standards, you find phrases like culturally relevant curriculum, cultural competence, communication competence, collaboration, career pathways, and ethics. The world of agriculture is never short of career possibilities, or the need to solve culturally relevant issues together, while discussing ethical implications.

TAG provides a unique opportunity for students to go above and beyond in any subject the student is excelling in. Agriculture provides countless outlets for these students to learn, interact, discuss, and discover a wide variety of important and relevant topics.

For a full list of IALF’s resources, please visit our website at www.iowaagliteracy.org. If you are looking for a specific resource (like books on Henry A. Wallace, the byproducts of pigs, or how combines work), send us an email or call us at info@iowaagliteracy.org or 515-331-4181. We know there is something here that you can use!

 

–Chrissy

Summer 2016 Professional Development

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This summer, our staff assisted in hosting eight different professional development workshops across the state. Each workshop consisted of one tour day and one day in the classroom. The tours visited a wide variety of farms and agribusinesses, which helped teachers learn more about agriculture concepts, how they tie to other subject areas, and the potential career opportunities for their students.

The tours ranged from dairy farms and beef cattle farms, to a tomato and aquaculture farm, children’s museum, grain cooperatives, ethanol refineries, implement dealerships, grocery warehouses, a wind farm, implement factory, greenhouses and even a genetics laboratory. At ethanol refineries, we were able to talk about chemistry, biochemistry, marketing, and energy issues. At the various farm operations, we were able to discuss biology, biosecurity, health, safety, logistics, and marketing. At implement dealerships and factories, we were able to discuss engineering, science, and the challenges that farmers face that agriculture engineers work to solve.

The second day of the workshops focused on tying the concepts from the first day into subject areas like science, social studies, language arts, and math. Teachers got to walk through hands-on activities and lesson plans that bridge these concepts.

During these workshops, we documented our experiences. Check out our Storify story to see some social media posts.

We also documented the workshops with a short video. Give it a few minutes and learn about what we did this summer!

-Chrissy

Nothing Compares to Agriculture and Learning at the Iowa State Fair

Summer is here…agriculture is happening everywhere around in the great state of Iowa. As I drive the highways across the state, I see field after field in all their glory. Whether the field is brimming with corn for as far as the eye can see or with cows grazing and soaking in the sun. During the many teacher workshops we have visited dairy farms or beef farms and learned all there was to learn from the farmers. It’s been a great time to get out and see what’s growing and happening in Iowa. It is also a sign that the 2016 Iowa State Fair is just around the corner.  We at the Iowa Agriculture Literacy Foundation are anxiously preparing for another fair of agriculture learning!

This year we are focusing on teaching agriculture in new and exciting ways. It is so IMG_1306important for all Iowans to understand the role that agriculture has in their lives. We strive to educate all Iowans so that they can communicate the value and need of agriculture in daily living. A day does not pass by without being touched by agriculture in some way. If you had orange juice, toast and eggs this morning you were touched by agriculture. If you wore clothing with cotton in it, you were touched by agriculture. If you drove a vehicle that used ethanol, you were touched by agriculture.  We have several events planned for the Iowa State Fair help to make learning full of fun! We are bringing Ag Bingo back to the Animal Learning Center for the second year. Ag Bingo is a fast paced bingo game that teaches on many different agriculture facts and ideas. Ag Bingo is very similar to a regular bingo game, but the twist is that the bingo cards are filled with answers to agriculture questions instead of numbers.   Be the first to yell bingo, and you will win a prize! Everyone will walk away with a better understanding of the significance of agriculture and will learn lots of cool and interesting facts to share. Agriculture is such a big part of our lives.

CalIMG_2401ling all Minute-to-Win-It: Agriculture Edition contestants to the IMG_2407Animal Learning Center!  Contestants compete with 60-second challenges using household objects. This agriculture edition puts a unique twist on the popular game and incorporates agriculture related objects like corn, soybeans and dairy products into the game. It’s lots of fun to play and watch, but there is a ton of Iowa agriculture being taught as the game is played. Many players will have the chance to experience the excitement, fun, and prizes.

Our Farm to Fork cooking demonstrations take preparing a dish to a new level for IMG_1282agricultural learning. Each ingredient used in the dish is traced backed to the farm so the audience can see how it was grown and produced. Help prepare this delicious recipe and stick around for the free taste testing. Enjoy the other food displays in the Elwell Family Food Building and see if you can guess what kind of farms all of the ingredients come from.

It’s exciting to learn about agriculture. Did you know that IMG_1224students can experience being on the farm, out in the field or even inside the dairy farm without leaving classroom? FarmChat is a unique program that utilizes technology (Skype, FaceTime and other software platforms) to bring the farm experience directly into school classrooms.  Using a laptop at the school and a mobile device at the farm, FarmChat-GHV-Feb.2016students connect with and directly speak with the farmer. Students can see the farm and ask the farmer questions. They can even virtually ride along in the combine or 1557446_363540820494691_1018578113170134466_ntour a livestock barn all from the safety and security of their classroom.  FarmChat is a great way to teach kids about agriculture in a safe environment without the cost of transportation or loss of time in the classroom. For the first time, FarmChat is coming to the Animal Learning Center at the Iowa State Fair!  You will be able to visit two farms without leaving the fairgrounds. FarmChat will take us to visit a turkey farm in Story County and a pork farm in Polk County.

Do you enjoy creating in the kitchen? Do you have a knack for baking awesome edible treats? Submit your dish to Iowa’s Big 4 – Corn, Soy, Pork and Eggs cooking contest. Create a sweet or savory dish using one or more of the Big 4 and you just might win a monetary prize. We will have four expert judges to judge the contest and chose the winners. Agriculture definitely is used in the kitchen and we are looking for individuals that like to share their love for cooking and agriculture. Iowa ranks number 1 in production of the corn, soybeans, pork and eggs. Iowa’s also ranks within the top ten for many other agriculture commodities.

Agriculture plays such a vital role in our daily lives. We hope you can join us this year as we participate in a lot of fun and a lot of learning. Agriculture is all around you! It’s a team effort and we all need to be involved in the game.

– Sheri

Great Teachers Create Great Students

Research shows that an inspiring and informed teacher is the most important school-related factor influencing student achievement. It is increasingly critical for new and experienced educators to be trained so they can relay those experiences to their students.

Teachers can take advantage of a number of different professional development opportunities to learn from each other and learn from other experts in the field. This ongoing learning keeps teachers up-to-date on new research on how children learn, emerging technology tools, new curriculum resources, and much more. The best professional development is experiential and collaborative. It should be connected to working with students, understanding their culture, and making learning real and relevant.

IMG_2063Through a series of workshops this summer, teachers across Iowa get the chance to participate in experiential and student focused professional development. These workshops use agriculture as the context to teach science, social studies, language arts, and other subject.

Each two-day workshop is set up with one field day and one classroom day. The field days take teachers to see firsthand farms, feedlots, dairies, co-ops, ethanol production plants, and other agribusinesses. Many of these businesses are hallmarks for the community yet we don’t understand what they do. The classroom day helps teachers break down what they saw on the tours into manageable lessons and activities that they can take back and implement in their classrooms.

Integrating Science

IMG_2052One of the stops of the workshop hosted in Tabor, Iowa was to a beef cattle feedlot that recently installed a monoslope barn. Monoslope barns might not be much to look at, but they utilize a number of different scientific concepts to provide a comfortable environment for the cattle. The building is built with an east-west alignment. This alignment keeps the cattle cool and shaded during the summer months and allows for maximum sunlight during the winter months. The pitch of the roof allows for heat to rise and be siphoned off very efficiently. Even though it is open air, there can be as much as a 15-degree temperature difference between the inside of the building and the outside of the building. The narrow opening on the north side of the building also takes advantage of the Venturi effect and promotes a lot of air flow through the building.

Integrating Social Studies

Journey 2050 Final Logo Illustrated_HIGH_RGBOne of the new resources that teachers are learning about is Journey 2050. This online gaming platform explores what sustainable agriculture really means. It looks at farmers in Kenya, India, and Canada. By understanding how farmers in different parts of the world are different and how they are the same we can begin to apply different social studies concepts. We can discuss the geography of those regions that create limiting factors. We can discuss the economics of those regions that might lead to the success or failure of those farmers. And we can discuss all of the factors that contribute to sustainability including profits, jobs, community, food, education, health, infrastructure, soil, water, and greenhouse gases.

Integrating Language Arts

IMG_2186Teachers who attended the workshops were introduced to a variety of resources to help supplement language arts lessons including Iowa Ag Today and My Family’s Beef Farm. Using these resources, students can practice contextual reading and begin to understand farming. Using teaching strategies like close reading, context clues, visualization, fluency, self-questioning, and making tracks, teachers can teach language arts to their students. This can boost reading, writing, and speaking skills easily aligning to standards.

Learn more about these workshop and other upcoming workshops. Great teachers make great students! With ongoing education, we can ensure that our students have the best possible chance for future success. The workshops were made possible with support from the Iowa Energy Center, the CHS Foundation, and the Monsanto Fund.

-Will

Summer Adventures

It’s summertime and school’s out. What a great opportunity to teach a lovdr suesse for reading to the young people in your circle of influence. Grab a blanket, a book and your favorite young ones and treat them to reading retreat exclusively planned by you. Placing a strong value on literacy in the summer months will benefit all involved.

Research concludes that there is a definite loss for students that have no learning opportunities during the summer months when students are not in school receiving academic instruction. Kids tend to model what they see and what a better gift to give a child – model the love of reading. Make reading a family event by visiting your local library and help grow a love for reading.

Summer can be a time that helps to improve reading and language skills. We can keep kids motivated and learning all summer long, by making reading a part of everyday schedules. Try encouraging readers to have 30 minutes per day devoted to reading. Provide incentives for the reader to want to read, like offering other “wished for” activities if they commit to daily reading. Plan outings that young readers can find books to connect to and add to the learning experience, like visiting a zoo and allowing them to pick an animal to research and read about.

I have some excellent book ideas to share with you that are full of agriculture facts, information and are just plain fun to read. We have loads more book suggestions here too. Or check out the digital version of “My Family’s Beef Farm” by Katie Olthoff  where you can read about a family beef farm through the eyes of a young girl.

My granddaughters love peanut butter and jelly sandwiches so I am looking forwaCapturerd to sharing with them PB & J Hooray by Janet Nolan. This light hearted book is a fun exploration beginning with a finished sandwich and journeys backward to supermarkets, factories and the farmers field.

I love my job because we are honored to share agriculture with kids of all ages and I so often hear that most young children think food comes from the grocery store. Before We Eat from Farm to Fork by Pat Brisson explains what really must happen before the food we eat can get to our table. This book is a great choice to help young people understand what farms are all about and how farmers work diligently to produce healthy food for all of us to eat.A Seed is Sleepy

For the young gardeners and explorers, A Seed is Sleepy by Diane Hutts Aston is a beautiful introduction for children to a variety of seed and plant facts. This poetic book shares so many interesting facts about seeds and how they grow and what they need for proper care. I hope to pass on the love of watching things grow with my family and sharing this book will help them understand a little more about how the plants starts its growth in the soil.

If your family is like my family, I will bet they love pizza in any size and combination of toppings. Extra Cheese Please by Cris Peterson shares the story of turning milk from the family cow into mozzarella cheese. Kids see moments on the farm and a view of the cheese making process. You will even have a great recipe to try on that next pizza creatiothn.

Kids enjoy hearing about real people and real life stories. In the Garden with Dr. Carver by Susan Grigsby is a wonderful story that shares the message of Dr. Carver – hopefully creating a new generation of earth caretakers. This is a great way to share George Washington Carver and his love for the earth.

George Washington was the first president, but do your young readers know there’s much more to President Washington? Farmer George Plants a Nation by Peggy Thomas is a look at George Washington’s life through letters and excerpts from his diary telling of his journey as a leader, inventor, scientist and so much more. And Thomas Jefferson Grows a Nation by Peggy Thomas tells of how Thomas Jefferson another president loved to grow everything – even a nation!popcorn

When it’s really hot outside what better way to spend the afternoon than curled up with your kiddos, a big bowl of popcorn and a book to read. Popcorn by Elaine Landau shares everything that you ever wanted to know about popcorn. They can learn all about this awesome crunchy treat.

My little ones aren’t old enough to read chapter books yet, but I have three great books that tell wonderful stories about life on a farm. There is so much to learn and so much to share and these books are such a great way to open doors to all kinds of possibilities of the adventures of growing up on a farm.

  • The Beef Princess of Practical County by Michelle Houts is a story of growing up on a family farm and the legacy of showing prize winning steer for dad and entering a beauty pageant at the prompting of mom.
  • Little Joe by Sandra Neil Wallace is a story of Eli and the newest calf on the family farm. Dreams of winning a blue ribbon at the county fair and the friendship that grows between the two.
  • Heart of a Shepherd by Rosanne Parry is a beautiful and uplifting story of a boy growing up in the heartland where he calls home.

With Iowa having such a strong agriculture influence, we can mix reading and learning about the great state of Iowa and treat the young people in our lives to a summer full of adventure. Check these great books out at your local library or request to borrow them from our Lending Library. Read just for the fun of it!

 

-Sheri

Farmers & Families

This is the second installment of 6 blogs as we discover the many Partner Sites of the Silos & Smokestacks National Heritage Area and the themes explored by each.

Family may be defined differently among people. For me, families may consist of related individuals or it may not. A family faces life’s celebrations, hardships, and everyday moments together. On a farm, family is one core value that has not changed over generations. That might be one of the reasons farm life or country living is favored and sought. People look to feel connected to the land and each other.

Amana Heritage Society MuseumsThis connectedness may stem from the early days when survival on the harsh plains required everyone working together and pulling their weight. Survival or success was not determined by one, but by many. Perhaps this is where the phrases, “many hands make light work” or “a team is only as strong as its weakest link”, come from.

A Silos & Smokestacks National Heritage Area Partner Site that demonstrates this connectedness is the Amana Heritage Society Museums, also known as the Amana Colonies in southeast Iowa. Composed of seven villages, the Amana Colonies were settled by a German religious group in the 1850s. They established a communal village-based agricultural system where property and household resources were sAmana Oehlhared. Housing, medical care, meals, schooling and all household necessities were provided. As I visited, what had a lasting impression on me were the communal kitchens run by the women of the village and learning that money wasn’t needed. The villages were self-sufficient, whatever was needed was made in the village. I encourage you to stroll the sidewalks observing the historic brick and stone houses and step into the many stores and museums to learn more about this unique culture and Iowa family. http://www.amanacolonies.com/

Speaking of families, have you met the Hansen’s? In my opinion, the Hansen’s have the begirl-feeding-calfHansenTourCenter3st tasting cheese curds and ice cream anywhere! This family owned and operated dairy has been in the family for a 150 years. Hansen’s Dairy in Hudson provides tours so people can learn the process milk goes through from farm to table. Contact Jeanne and set up a tour so you can ride a trolley around the farm, see the calves, milking parlor and creamery.

With all the advancement and technology used on Hansen’s Dairy, it makes me wonder what the first reactions were when electricity and telephones came to the farm. These two advances changed life on the farm dramatically. These questions can be aHarriman-Nielsenanswered with a trip to Franklin County. Here, one can learn about and observe the very first REA plant west of the Mississippi River to generate electricity for rural areas from 1938 to 1950. The Franklin County Historical Society Museum shows some of the first telephones and how the switchboard was operated. Did you know, each farm had their own ring? Kind of like today, if you take time to select a specific ringtone for someone. Another stop in Franklin County is the Harriman-Nielsen Farm. At this site, Iowa’s Danish heritage comes to life. The house is restored and contains many antiques left by the Nielsen family. Over 2,000 letters were preserved telling the Nielsen’s immigration from Denmark, what life was like in Denmark and what life was like in Hampton, Iowa over a span of 100 years. A large festival is held every fall, I encourage you to participate.

Farmers and families are reflected differently at each of these sites and there are several more for you to discover. I encourage you to visit www.silosandsmokestacks.org

Until next time, Laura