Monday, December 30, 2013

Learning from Lucy - Part One of Two

Our school was fortunate enough to be able to send our entire group of third and fourth grade writing teachers as well as our literacy coach to hear Lucy Calkins last month, here in Jacksonville, Florida.  She presented about the new Writing Units of Study and Implementing Rigorous, Coherent Writing Curriculum. 
Our photo with LUCY!!! 
     After much thought and gathering of notes from the teachers that attended I thought the best way to share what each of us walked away with by giving you the lens of the learner.... by grouping the third grade teacher take-aways, fourth grade teacher take-aways and mine (literacy coach).  I simply asked everyone to share the things that stuck out in their mind the most and what resonated most strongly with them. We had discussions in meetings about what we learned, but they did not read each other's notes.  I like that their "voice" comes through in what they shared.   Here are the teachers' thoughts:

From Jessica Shaffer:
I love Lucy !
Things I am excited about doing in my class…
Flash Draft-thought this was a great idea so they have a few options and can pick their strongest.
Have students try different leads each day and think if this is where my story goes how will it be?
Story tell their ideas-love this especially for my struggling kids-helps them get started
Mid-workshop-talk with partner-loved this idea because they get to share and they get a short break from their writing.
Bootcamp on Essay structure-I like ice cream because…
On Demand writing prompts
Write goal on every page-add stars/fireworks around goals!

From Carrie McLeod:
What an AMAZING opportunity it was to meet and hear Lucy live in person. Though I learned a million things to improve our classroom writing instruction, most are genre specific. Below I will list a few management things, learned from LC, that we want to implement across our day immediately:
1. No waiting! Our new goal is start our lessons right away and hold high standards of all learners being on the carpet ready and willing to learn ON TIME. This will include transitions within and outside of our classroom as well.
2. We want to address the wasted time at the start of our day. We are requesting that the pledge/song come on at 9:00 sharp so we can start our fluency song immediately afterward and then jump straight into Reading in the morning.
3. We always have mid-workshop teaching points, but have never thought about including a mid-workshop break to share with the learner next to you. We know peer learning is one of the most powerful, so this makes sense!
4. Since our Reading assessments are extremely lengthy, we love that Lucy gave us "permission" to just let the kids write "fast & furious" without a full lesson beforehand. The kids can now complete their assessments and immediately jump into their writing.
From Laurie Justo:
*When it comes to writing conferences, her tips were "Name what is WORKING for them as a writer and encourage it to move forward with momentum.  Then, name their next steps." This is so simple, especially when I want to fix 20 things, I will think of what she said!  Also, I saw the one of the demo lesson teachers read aloud a student's writing when conferring, so they could hear it too.  I so often, read it fast in my head to save time, but I loved watching the child listen to his teacher read his work aloud.

*She talked about how our student's writing is the best assessment of our teaching.  So true!

*I loved her idea of 'On Demand' writing before and after a genre.  Then you can really see the growth of their writing.  I have tried it before a genre but never after.  She said that it is easy for kids to add each mini lesson idea as you teach it day by day, but the true test is whether they can use what they learned and write a whole piece on their own (On Demand!).

*When she talked about time management, this really hit home for me since I feel like that is the theme of our year.  I love how she said 'if you are going to do it, do it well and in its entirety." -or something like that.  She said if you don't have time to write everyday, then take a month off and teach a genre when you can give it your all.  I know we know alot about implementing things with fidelity and consistency, but it is always a good reminder.  She mentioned how districts are so good at throwing a million little things at us that they want us to accomplish. We need to say 'if you would like for me to do that, then what would you like for me NOT to do anymore'.  This way, we can do fewer things, but do those few things in depth.

*One page of writing per day is what she recommended for building writing fluency.  She mentioned how writers need to write more VOLUME!  Writing is everywhere and a part of everything...blogging, texting, everything on the internet!

From Lindsay Hoffmann:
I left the TDE inspired and overwhelmed.  There were many reassurances that what we have done and are doing in our classroom is what our writers need, but there were also many new ideas that can be implemented to strengthen the structure and writing in our classroom.  I am eager to implement the on-demand writing assessments prior to each unit.  In the past, we had completed on-demand prompts for the county, but I really like the idea of a sample in each of the different units.  I like that it is a snapshot of a student's current skills and how Lucy said, their writing should be better than that sample everyday after.  It holds students accountable for pushing themselves as writers.  I'm also interested in the "flash drafting".  We are so used to brainstorming multiple ideas, but not actually drafting them.  Moving through several pieces will keep the work fresh and the kids inspired.  I can't wait to start our next unit!

From Jaclyn Earnest:
My biggest a-has from Friday were that we should do an on demand piece at the beginning of the unit and then again at the end of the unit to compare the two pieces of work. Also, the amount flash drafting that students should be doing in the beginning of every unit. I love both of these ideas and it did not occur to me before to try it this way. I also enjoyed watching the videos of her and her colleagues conferencing with students during the workshop. In regards to conferencing, I took away that it is not something that should happen right away. The students should all first be settled and you check in with students then start pulling to conference based on what you see. I like the way SHE read the student's piece and emphasized the parts that were on track and strategically noted the parts that needed improvement.

From Gerri Smith:
Highlights- Narrative Writing:  Seed ideas:  a person who matters, make it one time, use small moments and write it long.
                   Opinion Writing:   Think out the outline, Pick a topic, give three reason (use parts, kinds and times) to show the three reasons.
To get students to elaborate more use one of these Points:  in other words
                                                                                              that is  
                                                                                              as I say this I'm realizing
                                                                                              so all in all I'm trying to say
                                                                                              for example
                                                                                              this shows
                                                                                              another example is
                                                                                              I use to think but now realizes
                                                                                              from this day forward I'm going to
                                                                                              the surprising thing about this
Last thought is conferencing:  When kids are left trying to think of something to write pull a small group with those students.

From Cheryl Chascin:
·         Students need to know the genre they are writing.  What am I being asked to write?
·         Students need to look at the work of others in that genre.  What does this look like?  What do I know about writing this well?
·         Students need to be aware of their audience/reader.
·         The relationship between the teacher and student is one of the most important things.  The student is aware that their teacher believes they are capable of producing dramatically good work.
·         When conferencing, notice what the student is doing well, then give them a crystal clear goal as a next step, providing individualized instruction, if needed, to reach that goal.

From Jenny Nash:
You can judge a school by how many elephants are in the room.
           We’re blessed to be working at one of the best elementary schools in the nation.  But, we’re not perfect.  And for every issue we’re talking about in our classrooms, in partnerships and behind closed doors, there’s an elephant walking the halls.  Let’s make sure our writing instruction doesn’t wear a trunk and a tail, shall we?
           Let’s talk writing fluency: our writers are falling behind.  Common Core State Standards expect a level of writing fluency that the majority of our writers are not meeting.  Lucy Calkins explicitly defined writing fluency as the result of how much you write.   This means our mini-lessons need to stay mini, so our writers can hold a pen or pencil in their hand and write strong and long for thirty minutes or more every single day, reliably.  Never again should any student utter the words, “Are we going to write today?”  As teachers, we need to anticipate stamina and fluency struggles, and be prepared with strategies – mid-workshop teaching points or shares are just a few – to help our young writers stretch and push themselves and write more.
           This is a lofty goal, and it brings to mind a certain four-letter word:  TIME.  I’ve been struggling with time for years.  We have a long-standing love-hate relationship, time and I.  To this, Calkins scoffed slightly and said, “Time is life.”  We’re never going to get enough, are we?  Resource two, three, or four days a week – makes no matter.  There will never be “enough” time.  So, we need to choose, carefully and wisely, how we spend it.  Stop and reflect.  Where is your time going?  How can I run my classroom more efficiently?  How can I wrestle these ticking hands to the ground and pin them to the sticking places that I choose?  Is it in the transitions?  Am I talking too much?  Do I allow my students to interrupt my mini-lessons?  Do I need to reorganize materials routines?  It might be as simple as taking the time to talk openly with your students about these things, enlisting their help in making the classroom run more efficiently.
           “Time on task” is a basic principle of best teaching practices, but it’s more than just that.  It’s essential to a young writer.  Without time to wield their pencils and weave their own words, writers will not improve.  Not in fluency and not in craft.  Like riding a bike, playing a musical instrument, or reading a book, writing is a skill that requires doing it over and over again to “get good”.
           If that’s all writers needed, our jobs sure would be easy.  Wouldn’t they?  But, of course, that’s not all.  Another big idea Mrs. Calkins instilled in those of us in the audience was feedback.  Feedback takes many forms.  First and foremost, writing feedback comes in the form of writing conferences.  It’s easy for us to get so wrapped up in planning fantastic mini-lessons, reinventing active engagement strategies, and finding fantabulous writing tips and techniques, that we lose sight of perhaps the most powerful tool we have – writing conferences.  Calkins’s basic conferring structure has not changed since her earlier work – compliment and teach.  Begin by noticing how the writer has changed for the better and point this out to them explicitly and with great fanfare.  Celebrating even the tiniest successes with specificity and enthusiasm is essential.  Then, quickly and strategically teach them in a way that leaves them with a crystal clear goal for their writing.  Your concise instruction should be a “how-to” for their next step.
           But feedback also comes in other forms.  One of the biggest new opportunities I see in the new Units of Study kits is the assessment process.  In Writing Pathways, Calkins and her team outline an on-demand writing assessment process that will measure students’ writing by comparing their products to sets of exemplar texts, yielding a sort of developmental level for the writer.  Using on-demand prompt assessments as bookends to each unit of study, we can share with each student and their family a writers’ growth over the course of each unit and the year as a whole.  Calkins explained that adding just this one new piece to the schools with which she works has made profound impacts on both student performance and motivation.
           But feedback is only one of two major factors that affect student achievement.  The other is relationships.  Students learn best from someone they perceive as someone to be someone who truly cares about them AND has faith that they will make immense gains.  On a daily basis, we need to instill our faith in our young writers in them.  We need them to feel safe enough in our gentle, admiring hands for them to pour their heart out onto their pages.  I’ve long noticed that teaching writing workshop teaches me more about my students than any other subject.  We must make it a priority to create an environment in which our students wouldn’t think twice about writing stories about wetting their beds, having bad dreams, cutting off all their bangs, telling a lie, or their very special blanket that they still can’t sleep without, even now that they’re such a “big kid”.  Writers need to know their teachers fully expect them to meet every single standard – exceed them in fact!  Writers should all be taught to believe that they are amazing writers and whole-heartedly loved, through and through.  Calkins referenced Avi when she said, “If you’re going to teach me to write, you first need to love me.”
           Throughout the day, Calkins reminded us that writing is as essential to a child’s education as math or reading.  It should be a part of the Students’ Bill of Rights.  We can protect their right to write by carving out half an hour or more each and every day for “their turn” - the work period - to write, providing frequent, high quality feedback through our conferences and writing assessments, and building strong relationships with every single writer in our care.  There was so much more learning to the day – unit bends, writing cycles, finding a teaching focus, using mentor texts, point of view, text organization, and more – but I’m working hardest on these three goals first.  It is these three goals that I’m carrying with me in my back pocket, every step I take, every lesson I teach, and every time I sit down next to a big-eyed, young writer, and say, “How’s your writing going today?”

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Secrets and Songs of Text

Secrets and Songs
I had the absolute pleasure of learning from Mary Ehrenworth at Teachers College Reading Institute. 

Her session was entitled:  Secrets and Songs:  Deepening What Children See in the Texts They Read

What are some ways to teach close reading so that kids will love reading?
Seeing more and being alert to the secrets and songs of text. 

Secrets and Songs of Close Reading
How can we teach students to see more in the texts they encounter?  You get out of reading what you bring into reading.  You need to know about the things the text is talking about (the nuances it’s referring to)
How can we innovate so that this teaching is engaging, intellectual and joyful?
What methods increase transference?  The highest level of instruction is sometimes your read aloud but there is low transference.
What kinds of texts might we incorporate?  If they do it then it will be rewarding... That’s increasing the likelihood of transference.
One example activity:
I immediately took note that Mary referred to this as visual text.  Read this visual text and see what story it tells. 

Guernica by Pablo Picasso

Mary Ehrenworth
While looking at this Picasso painting she spoke about why Picasso painted it ( “Guernica” was painted in response to a bombing in northern Spain by German and Italian warplanes during the Spanish Civil War.  It is a mural sized painting that represented the horrors of war.)  Teach kids to notice what there is to be noticed.  Turn to partner and speak about what you see.

The next thing would be using words to describe these things you see and back it up with evidence. Make sure to teach kids to be specific but kind of literary. (Lots of times kids skip the hard part of text- make sure they stop and look at every little thing)
Is the painting sad or what?  desperate? Not hurt, desolate?  What specific word would describe these characters or one of these characters rather than just any character in any book?  She asked us to try that with a partner by saying, “Your idea, then your evidence.” Either one character, all characters or compare/contrast characters.

After we spoke for a minute she interrupted us with a mid-teaching point. “Let me tell you what I notice with some nice reading work I see going on here: I heard readers saying the characters seem ____ because______.  There is no one right answer when texts are complex so it’s about seeing all the sides of something and telling why you see that or read that.  Then synthesize it to what is this starting to be about.  “What in the text makes you say that? ”Complex texts are about more than one thing and why do you see what you see?”  Teach kids not to say the characters ARE, say the characters SEEM....

So we talked about what is happening in this text, what is happening with the characters and then what is this text starting to be about...  message, underlying theme....chances are with complex text there are more than one.  So get in the habit of saying: possible idea, evidence and then your partners should be saying, “What makes you say that?”  Ask them to point to the part that demonstrates what you are saying.  So Close Reading is about wanting to see more in the text. 

As another example activity:  She then gave us the lyrics to the Mackelmore song: “Wings”  Equally complex but different kind of visual text.  She suggested we read it with our partner because one of the ways to increase your comprehension and help you see complexity in text is to compare your thinking with someone else. 
Read it and think about who is in this story and what does it seem to be about. 

(feat. Ryan Lewis)

I was seven years old, when I got my first pair
And I stepped outside
And I was like, momma, this air bubble right here, it's gonna make me fly
I hit that court, and when I jumped, I jumped, I swear I got so high
I touched the net, momma I touched the net, this is the best day of my life
Air Max's were next,
That air bubble, that mesh
The box, the smell, the stuffin', the tread, in school
I was so cool
I knew that I couldn't crease 'em
My friends couldn't afford 'em
Four stripes on their Adidas
On the court I wasn't the best, but my kicks were like the pros
Yo, I stick out my tongue so everyone could see that logo
Nike Air Flight, but bad was so dope
And then my friend Carlos' brother got murdered for his Fours*, whoa

See he just wanted a jump shot, but they wanted to start a cult though
Didn't wanna get caught, from Genesee Park to Othello
You could clown for those Pro Wings, with the Velcro
Those were not tight
I was trying to fly without leaving the ground,
Cause I wanted to be like Mike, right
Wanted to be him, I wanted to be that guy, I wanted to touch the rim
I wanted to be cool, and I wanted to fit in,
I wanted what he had, America, it begins

I want to fly
Can you take me far away
Give me a star to reach for
Tell me what it takes
And I'll go so high
I'll go so high
My feet won't touch the ground
Stitch my wings
And pull the strings
I bought these dreams
That all fall down

We want what we can't have, commodity makes us want it
So expensive, damn, I just got to flaunt it
Got to show 'em, so exclusive, this that new shit
A hundred dollars for a pair of shoes I would never hoop in
Look at me, look at me, I'm a cool kid
I'm an individual, yea, but I'm part of a movement
My movement told me be a consumer and I consumed it
They told me to just do it, I listened to what that swoosh said
Look at what that swoosh did
See it consumed my thoughts
Are you stupid, don't crease 'em, just leave 'em in that box
Strangled by these laces, laces I can barely talk
That's my air bubble and I'm lost, if it pops
We are what we wear, we wear what we are
But see I look inside the mirror and think Phil Knight tricked us all
Will I stand for change, or stay in my box
These Nikes help me define me, but I'm trying to take mine, off

I want to fly
Can you take me far away
Give me a star to reach for
Tell me what it takes
And I'll go so high
I'll go so high
My feet won't touch the ground
Stitch my wings
And pull the strings
I bought these dreams
That all fall down

It started out, with what I wear to school
That first day, like these are what make you cool
And this pair, this would be my parachute
So much more than just a pair of shoes
Nah, this is what I am
What I wore, this is the source of my youth
This dream that they sold to you
For a hundred dollars and some change
Consumption is in the veins
And now I see it's just another pair of shoes

So what happens in this story? A boy who wants a pair of shoes, a specific kind?  And then? Dark moment, friend’s brother killed for shoes?  Why wear them?  And then?  Chorus is like inner thinking of fly, what do they mean?  Get away?  Then he gives like a mini lecture and a plea for change? 

What is really hard about this is this is what is expected of our kids on state tests. The tests are normed on a minute a page and a minute a question.  And the kids are really being asked to do close reading, which involves rereading.  They have to go back and ponder and linger and think.  So you have to give them opportunities in your class to know that the first thing you have to do is ask yourself do I even know what this is saying?  Often our kids basically comprehend but they have to be trained to say to themselves, “What am I really noticing?”  When you are doing this work what is helpful to kids is being introduced to technical vocabulary. 

Here are some words you might use in technical vocabulary of looking at music verses text from a book:

Watch the video:

What did you notice after the chorus in the imagery and tone?  Speak to the people for a minute in your group about the lens you were using.  You don't always have to explain it out.  What they saw, or heard, or thought is ok.  One of the things that kids struggle with in state tests is tone. In this video, the tone switches with male voice then kids voices.  Why do you think the performer did that?
 What was happening with his tone when he got angry?

Here are some insructional methods for this:

 Do you see yourself using visual text as a tool to teach text complexity in your clasroom?  This got my mind turning with ideas!  What do you see yourself doing?

Cross posted on ONCE UPON A TEACHER

Sunday, September 22, 2013

From Post Its to Theories in the Reader's Notebook

Here in Florida, we have been talking a lot about how important it will be for our students to learn to write in response to their reading to meet the common core standards but we are still learning what that "looks like" and how to get the students there.

I was very interested to see what Cynthia Satterlee, from Teacher's College Reading Institute had to say during her session entitled:  From Post-its to Theories to Writing Literary Essays:  Help Students Write Quick Literary Essays in the Reading and Writing Workshop

The first question Cynthia posed to us was, "What do you do with all those post its that the kids are stopping and jotting on while reading?" <As I think of how I threw them away when students were done reading so they could start a new book> Thankfully she didn't really require an answer before she said, "Don't throw them away!  Have the kids use them to build theories and essays."  It's a gradual process.  They move from inference to interpretation.  They take the good work they are doing on those post its and make it a little better as they move to writing about their ideas together.

There are so many ways to use the stop and jot:  as an active engagement activity during the mini lesson, as an exit ticket before they leave for independent work in workshop, during their reading in their books...but for when it is used as a quick picture for the teacher to see their thinking such as the morning bellringer thought, active engagement or exit ticket try using it with a JOT LOT.  On the poster each student has an empty square with their "student number" and they leave their thoughts there.  Imagine how much more thought they will put into it knowing their peers with see!  This will also give you a quick look at who you need to meet with or form a small group for during the workshop.

First have them grow their surface thinking on the stop and jots.  Elaboration on thoughts:
character feeling...... to......character feeling with evidence
character trait with evidence
interpretation of through character

Be ready for quality conversations with your students and for them to have thoughts on their own and with each other by making sure they are reading quality literature.  By starting with their thoughts on characters they have someone to "get to know" to build theories on.  "How is your theory of this character changing?  Why" 

In 4th grade students need to make inferences about characters, develop theories about character and find big themes in the story. In 5th grade students need to make inferences about characters interacting with other characters in the setting, notice that author sets the story up in a certain way to reveal theme.

How to make worthwhile post-its to bring to conversation in book clubs:
Don’t come to book club or conversation club without post its to talk about
Boxes and bullets can work on post-its
Use those to build ideas about characters

If there a lot of post its with one idea on each, work with them to see how to make a big idea (How are these post its related - do theory work with them)
When they are ready to start "talking like an essayist" then they can use that language to build their essay.

Post its are important, it helps the teacher understanding your thinking, it helps you form big ideas

Don’t worry about essay structure first, get ideas.

Here's how they can see the structure with the stop in jots:
This will be a big move for us in writing this year.  I would love to hear tips and tricks from others that are successfully doing this with their students. 

Cross posted on ONCE UPON A TEACHER

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Conferring with Readers

During the Reading Institute last month,  I learned some new ways to look at conferring with readers.

Kathleen Tolen had this to share:  You need to prepare ahead of time, not just conferencing on the
Kathleen Tolan
fly.  Keep notes and follow up on something they were struggling with, look at artifacts (post its) in what they are currently reading ahead of time, study data on this child, have the child tour you through the work they are doing with their reading.  Find a way to lift their thinking a level.  There are lots of ways a mini lesson is a lot like a conference.

What do you do in a conference if you don’t know the kid’s books?  Try to read as many books in your classroom as you can.  If you have a series and you read one you will have an idea about the others. In the beginning of the year have the books out in your libraries that you know.  Also, at certain levels there is a way the story goes basically.  We are holding kids too accountable for comprehending everything.  Do you comprehend every single thing you read in a book or every single part of a movie?  Sometimes when you are just enjoying something you don’t comprehend everything.  It’s ok.  Also, don’t hold a child to the accountability level of comprehension that you have.  An 8 year old will comprehend something differently than an adult.  Tour their post its in their book of stop and jots.  Pick a portion and have them read it to you.  You need to hear your kids read aloud to you at times you aren’t assessing.  If a child is reading a non-fiction text then you can look at questions they may have and say:  I see you have a lot of questions about alligators.  You can take these question post its and put them on the cover of your next alligator book and see if you find the answers to your questions there.  USE post its.  Their work will be better.

The important thing to do at the end of a conference is to leave a LINK.  Just like you do in a mini lesson.  What will the student do when you leave them on their own.  In a mini lesson you end with a link and that is how they go into work session. In a teacher/student conference you end your conversation with what they should do or where they should go next with their reading.  (Not necessarily an “assignment”, but more like a habit or action)  You should see evidence that the student is interpreting their reading.  Noticing, comparing and all reading strategies get them there but their goal is to interpret their reading. 

One thing that is important for us is to have reflection time about what we need to get better at when conferring.  Breaking habits is hard so you have to put it in the forefront of your mind.  You need to “hear” what you are saying after it is over.  Audio record your next conference with the student.  This is easy to do with a smarthphone!  Continue doing it until you are doing what you want.  Kathleen did this for weeks and realized she was doing too much of the talking and not enough of the listening.  At first she put a sticky note on her clipboard that said “Shut Up” until a student saw it and asked her why she had that written down.  So she ended up telling the class was she working hard on being a better listener than talker.  They all decided to have a code sign for Ms. Tolan is talking too much which was rubbing their nose with one finger.  It really helped her.  Finally one day after a conference a student said, “Good job!” and she said, “Oh, good, I taught you something?”  and she said, “No, good job not talking too much!”  LOL

A reflecting conference shows how your work is improving or maybe they are in a place they need to reflect and see why things are growing and improving.  The kids need to be involved in the learning.  Let them reflect and SEE what their next step forward will be. 
fly.   Keep notes and follow up on something they were struggling with, look at artifacts (post its) in what they are currently reading ahead of time, study data on this child, have the child tour you through the work they are doing with their reading.  Find a way to lift their thinking a level.  There are lots of ways a mini lesson is a lot like a conference.

Alexis Czeterko, staff developer for TCRWP,  had us reading chapter books and jotting our thoughts throughout so that she could model conferring with us.  
Can I just say this freaked me out?!?  What would she think when she read my thinking as a reader?  Was what I was writing "enough"?  Where should I stop and write? Wow, I wonder if this is how my students feel?  Well, the answer to that was probably no.  My students probably didn't worry about what I thought because I didn't spend much time reading their stop and jots or hold them accountable to deepening their thinking.  Hmmm....  I'm going to remember that.

Alexis Czeterko
Alexis shared these points to remember:

Architecture of a Conference
Research the reader
    what will you compliment?
    what will you teach?
    how will you teach it?
Give a compliment
Teach the reader something and have them try it
Rearticulate what you’ve taught and encourage the student to do this often as she or she reads (LINK)

Alexis says to look through the stop and jots of their independent book before your conference.  If you notice the jottings on post its are not connected in any way that can be ok but try to get the student to connect their thoughts.  Get a theory about the story or character and continue to see where your thinking changes. Help them make that connection the first time if they are struggling with it. 

Documentation is important.  She logs a date under the students page in her data binder and writes her compliments on left of 2 sided paper and right she rights the teaching point.  Sometimes she will pull out the current read aloud or a mentor text to demonstrate what she is trying to teach the student to do in their book.  Go to the student where they are reading, don’t call them back to your space.  Meet them where they are and if other students are nearby hearing what you say it’s ok. They are actually learning too. When the student is done reading they need to do something with their post its.  They may take a few to a new text to build on their thinking. They may use some to tape in their reading notebook and write about their thinking.  They definintely shouldn’t throw them away, staple them in the reading notebook and grow more thinking!

What are your best tips or tricks for conferring?

Cross posted on Once Upon a Teacher

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Close Reading

So let's be honest here.  I do have a fundamental understanding of what close reading is but I have been avoiding speaking the words out loud in conversations for a reason.  I don't know if it's because I'm from the south, or because I got it confused with cloze reading in the beginning, but I didn't know if it was pronounced close (as in - close the door) or close (looking at something closely).  Well now I know for sure.  Look at that reading closely! 
Kelly Hohne

Kelly Hohne helped refine my thinking to seeing close reading as a way to see more in text than you did before to help you grow new thinking about it.  Use different lenses to do this.  Then they take these lenses to new texts.  It’s not about understanding the text only.  It's about learning to do something that you can do again on your own later.

When to do close reading?  You don’t want to do it all the time or you will never finish reading!  Do it purposefully.  Maybe look across the introduction of texts, or maybe kids in book clubs might make a decision to do a close reading of this part where they think it is really an important part.  Or maybe if there is a passage of text they think is not important, then why would the author choose to add it?

Think about why, what will kids get out of it, and how will this help my kids with other texts reading independently. 

Stop at the part you want to look at closely and talk about why that part is powerful. Point out which part they can look at to support their thinking about that part.  With informational text the author chooses illustrations, headings, subheadings and possibly even a word bank for a reason.  Does that support your thinking about this important part you are looking at closely? Is the word choice helping make this part important? 

Lenses to Use with Close Reading:

point of view - What is the perspective of the author on this topic?  What perspectives are included in this text?  Missing?
language author used - How has the author used language?  (Non-fiction - How have experts quoted in article used word choice?)  What words stand out?  Why jight the author have chosen these words?  What do they show?  Are the words creating a positive or negative tone?
text structure - How has the author organized the text?  Why might he/she have made these choices?
Go close with very small portions of text
You could do close reading with an except from an article using the lens: what does the author want you to think, then show them an opposing article or text.

As a teacher read the passage as a reader.  Stop  and then reread it and think what part do you want them to look at closely.  What part do I want them to see more in....look at the standards and see what they need to work on.  That’s the part you base the lesson on. 

You may have the students take that portion of reading and write a response connecting their new thinking with evidence from the text. 

Close reading can be used in a mini lesson, while conferring with students, in the closing of a workshop and during book clubs.  When do you use close reading?

Cross posted on Once Upon a Teacher

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Ramping Up Readers' Workshop

Most of us who are elementary teachers know we are going to have to teach readers to grapple with complex text in order to help them meet the more speedy growth that common core requires but we don't know yet what exactly that will look like in our classrooms.  We can't go faster or squeeze in more lessons so we need to be very prescriptive about what strategies we use to move our students through text levels and help them respond critically writing about what they read. 

Kathleen Tolan
On Day 2 of Teachers College Reading Institute, Kathleen Tolan reminded us about not forgetting to use the important metacognitive strategies in our lessons but showed us ideas to help students dig deeper for more complex work. 

*  Visualization and Envisionment help students be more engaged in their reading because they see it in their minds eye.  What you envision may be wrong until the text corrects you.  As a reader, you adjust to what the author is showing you with their words.  This is why reading fantasy can be so hard because you don’t have a schema for what something may look like.  You can practice this with kids by reading aloud and having them close their eyes while you read something.  They can sketch what they are see in their mind movie.  This is a whole part of reading that can be lost to some students.  Build the world of the story.  When you can do this and you really understand the character you can better make predictions.  Prediction engages students.  It makes them want to find out if they are right.  Kids can be unspecific about what they think “I think she will be able to do it”  Make them predict the steps that leads to their prediction.  When the prediction is wrong, then you have some work to do about why they predicted wrong. 

* Character work is important because it helps us understand why characters do the things they do.  What are the traits of this character?  Help kids understand which traits might be positive or negative, what happened in the story that might change the character’s traits.  Find text evidence to support it or things that are evidence to the contrary.  Read over your jottings during reading and find out how they go together.  Group your jottings together to make new ideas.  Look at your jots through the eyes of another character.

*Theme in a book is not looking at what book is about.  It is about the aspect of that topic.  Example:  Book is about Friendship.  Theme is how friends can be there for you when you are going through a hard time.  Don't let kids get away with broad statements.  They should be used to you saying, "Say more...".

*Make a chart of sentence starters for students to dig deeper and tell more about their noticings and judgements after reading.
To add on...
This makes me realize...
My other theory is....
The bigger idea I am having now is....
In other words...

Digging Deeper
How do we help our children know that there is hard work that will have to be done for a book?  Tell them.  When you are modeling for your students you need to point out what you are doing specifically, because this is hard work and they need to know exactly the steps to do.  It is possible to over-scaffold or over-coach but you need to be honest about the hard work they are doing so they expect to struggle and reach for the answer.

Because reading is invisible, we have to make it more tangible for kids. There is not a reading skill that we don’t use in life.  Watch their actions and point out when they predict and infer and make connections when they are just living their lives as readers.

Cross posted on Once Upon a Teacher

Friday, August 16, 2013

Interactive Read Aloud

Alexis Czeterko
This week at the Teachers College Reading Institute I've had a School Leaders Group Session with Alexis Czerterko, staff developer for upper grades for TCRWP each day of the week.

Alexis has really pushed my thinking about things I thought I already knew how to do.  Some of those things I will share here on this blog and others I will share on my personal blog after I have had a chance to do the activities with you (Chets Creek Elementary School teachers) in person! 

One interesting thing about these sessions with Alexis each day is that we took the role of students in a Readers' Workshop.  Do you know how hard that is to do?  Let me tell you, as she goes conferring around the room your heartbeat starts going a little faster thinking, "Is she going to ask me a question?  Aaaccckkk!  What if I don't know the answer?"  You may be laughing but really it made me think about how students feel when they know they are going to be talking with a teacher about something they are not sure about.  So I guess what that taught me is I have confidence in my reading, but I don't have confidence that I am thinking deeply enough about my reading.  So what do I need to work on?  Because if I am not living my life as a growing reader than how can I teach my readers to grow?  More about that later...

The first important thing to do with an interactive read aloud is to choose a book carefully that aligns to the unit of study you are working on and the teaching points in that unit.  When Alexis modeled the interactive read aloud during our "Readers' Workshop" she had prepared the book ahead of time with sticky notes all through it to remind herself as a teacher the times she wanted to stop and model or help the readers draw meaning from envisioning, inferring and synthesizing.  You are to give kids
Interactive Read Aloud
an image of what proficient reading looks like.  She began by saying,"Look at the cover and get your mind ready".  Then she referenced a word bank that she had put on the document camera of words from the book we would encounter.  The word bank was separated by just new vocabulary and content vocabulary. She instructed, "Talk with your partner about words you don't reecognize."  After reading the first page in the book she walked the book over to the document camera and showed that first page and said, "Talk with your partner about words you see that were in the word bank.  When she did stop and model she gave us many opportunities to turn and talk.  If you don't prepare deliberately what you are going to talk about it would be hard to be focused about what the kids are learning from your modeling.  An example of this would be Teacher: "Given what just happened, I think the character is feeling and thinking " Then she would read a little more and stop and say: "Turn and tell your partner what the character is probably feeling now about this?  During turn and talk she circulated the room.  Her goal being for the kids to "grow" their thinking from the previous part.  After a few of the models that she did she stopped and pointed out implicitly her teaching point, "Did you see how I grew my ideas of the main character as we went along?

I loved hearing more about interactive read alouds.  I know that from now on I will prepare my teaching points more carefully and not be afraid to cover the book in sticky notes!  Even though I was comprehending the book just fine as a student the turn and talk points made me think deeper about the characters and text.  An essential as we prepare to ramp our kids up faster!

Cross posted on Once Upon a Teacher

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Helping Our Youngest Readers Move Up the Ladder of Text Complexity

Natalie Louis
This session was presented by Natalie Louis who is the co-author of Writing for Readers
(Heinemann, 2013) a unit of study for Kindergarten writers. 

The lower grade is potentially in danger with text complexity.  It's a huge learning curve from what we've been doing.  We need to find new ways to move readers forward faster.  Don’t abandon Fountas and Pinnell.  We still need reading levels, the progression of students has just been ramped up.

In kids book baskets, in the past the teacher would mostly have the students independent level.  We started to play around with the formula in the baggies.  Marie Clay says what most grows readers is the instructional level (stretch level). So already we aren’t putting the right thing in the book bags.  Reading Recovery studied and discovered kids grow one level every two weeks, so most of the instruction wasn’t at instructional level.
So we decided to get more instructional level texts in baggies - more shared reading with a small group, sometimes one to two levels above their grade level.

I want to read that book with you!!!!!
Kindergarten teachers understand the power of shared reading.  How you know its a good shared reading - the kids are excited and UNRULY!  And its mostly implicit (just doing reading - don’t talk about it).  Less blah, blah, blah, more do, do, do.  It’s why they want to read.  They hear that model of you reading and want to sound just like it.  If your kids are all sitting still, hands folded -it’s not a good shared reading (all eyes on same text - 1 book).  More like a MOSH pit where kids want to surf toward the book.  That's what she wants to see in classrooms.  Excitement! 

You do the dance of shared reading.  As much as they need, until they DO back.  Gesture for them to try, don’t talk about it. Continue saying "Join me if you can." as you turn the page.  Just read it with them.  We are talking levels below I , J. 

Take guided reading books and use them for group shared reading.  Teacher is only one with copy.  All eyes on same text.  The idea is that at the end they might be able to read by themselves. 

Kids below benchmark get this burst schedule of shared reading instruction from you.

Example "Burst Group Schedule"
You would do two week cycles where you take one group and see them intensely and work with the instructional books in their baggie.  This won't take much time!  These are low level books you can shared read the entire book pretty quickly.

Day 1: Two or three instructional texts (meaning books 2 or 3 levels above their independent level)  in shared reading. Saying to the kids: Join me if you can.  The kids are shouting out things they notice and you just don’t respond.  Keep reading and stopping and saying “Join me if you can”
Day 2:  Two shared reading two above level
Day 3: Guided reading at their level
Day 4:  Two shared reading  two above level and decide how each is doing
Day 5:  Informal or Formal assess to see if their level moved unless they are totally lost still

This can help them “burst” ahead.  Even if you can move a few up faster the one behind can get more focused one on one help.

Partner Reading - There is no reason to have a reading partner unless there is trouble.  If things are don’t need help.  A partner is there for help.  Make sure kids know why they have a partner - so there’s someone else to help when there’s trouble or join the joy!  They need to understand the why of partner reading.

Every child has that one book they keep picking up that is WAAAAY above their level.  Maybe its a book they've seen an older sibling read, maybe it's a topic or popular character right now, but whatever it is - Let them have it!  I call this the child's northstar book - way above your level but you will LEARN to read for this book. They want to read this book so bad they try to sound these huge words out when they are really a C level reader!  Mark it with a post it and say this book is special because it is hard for you but we will give you a shot.  Guess which book they work on hardest?  If I say a book is "just right" and you struggle with it what are you saying in your head to yourself in your head?  "My teacher said this book is just right and I can't read some of these words - ugh I'm so dumb."   A hard book they know is hard  they say, "Oh, I don't know lots of these words but she said it was hard for me so no big deal."  but they work harder.  Let them have it but label it with a sticky note with a star so they know that is their special hard book they chose.

As an aside...I remember when my son was in Kindergarten and hanging at the C level for so long and desperate to read Star Wars easy readers.  I bought them anyway to keep at home and I would read them aloud to him at times but he sat in front of those books longer than any others trying to sound out "Obi Wan Kanobi".  I'm pretty sure "the force" (or his Northstar books) propelled him through those primary reading levels. :)

I think the Common Core Standards and text complexity will force us to continue looking for new and different ways to get those "bursts" in reading levels.  Do you have any tips or trick to share?

Cross posted on Once Upon a Teacher

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Write Around for Reading

Write Around
This strategy can be found in the Characters Unit of Study.  A “Write Around” is a strategy to engage students in silent conversation.  It helps students share their opinions, debate or discuss.  It also fosters critical thinking because they have to consider other opinions.       

We participated in one as a pre-reading activity.  A photo or image was put in the center of a piece of chart paper.  Groups of four are ideal but we had a few more.  Everyone uses a different color marker and takes turns responding to the image. You can write what you think about the photo, your questions, your inferences or theories.  Groups members are to start new ideas or respond to yours already written there.

She encouraged us to respond to what other people wrote by elaborating on their writing and taking turns as well.   Zoom in on one portion of the photograph and write about it.  What are you now noticing about just this part?  Move around the table or rotate the chart  Read what another reader has written and respond.

You could begin:
I agree with...
I disagree with..
One question I have is...
What have you learned in other parts of your life that you can relate to this?
What’s an idea you are now having?
I think...

The Babe & !
The activity we did was old black and white photographs during the depression era.  Then she went straight into reading aloud a picture book with us (The Babe and I) that had the Depression era as a setting.  It really gave a deeper level to the understanding of the book as she modeled interactive read aloud.

The "Write Around" strategy is a great pre-reading activity but it can also be used as a debate format about a controversial issue.  Sharing their ideas and building on others' ideas.  Or you can use it as an end of unit activity for a read aloud or content area.  Students take turns write and responding to each other about what they learned or how their thinking has changed at the beginning of the unit or read aloud.  Can you see using "Write Around" easily in your classroom?

Cross posted on Once Upon a Teacher