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