Sunday, July 31, 2011

Need to make a decision about reader's notebooks!

Every time I see the commercial from Staples with the dad riding joyfully down the school supply aisle as his children trudge along behind him...I have to laugh!  Not sure if it is the connection to the father (I love getting school supplies and the idea of going back to school), the connection to the kids (uh-oh...Sunday nights are going to have a whole new meaning and I am going to have to start packing my lunch), or the music playing in the background (Christmas is my favorite holiday!).  All I know is right now school supplies are on sale, it is August, and I need to make a decision about how to set up my reader's notebooks this fall.

Here is what I am thinking right now...

The reader's notebook will have four sections and all four sections will be housed in a three ring binder.

1.  Spiral Notebook:  The first section will be a spiral notebook that is placed in the binder using the three rings.  The purpose of the spiral notebook will be to have a place where students can record their thinking about books before, during, and after their reading.  I have chosen a spiral notebook so the students can take it out of the binder and go anywhere in the classroom to jot about their reading.  The spiral notebook will also be a place where students can tape/glue their post-its from their reading after they complete a book.  I think of this section as "thinking on the go".

2.  My Reading: This will be the second section of the binder using a divider.  This will be where the students hold their completed book logs and reading graphs. (Refer to the earlier post on Looking closer at independent reading...)

3.  My Thinking:  This will be the third section of the binder using a divider.  This will be where students will hold letters to me about their reading, reflections on how one of their jottings impacted their reading of a book, book club thinking, etc...The purpose of this section is to hold thinking that has been developed through evidence, conversations, background knowledge and strategy lessons.

4.  My Thoughts:  This will be the fourth section of the binder using a divider.  This will be where students hold their reflections about their reading and reading behaviors.  It will be focused on their thoughts of themselves as a reader.  The students will store book log reflections, book club reflections, and interview answers in this section.

I am excited that at a moment's notice I can grab a binder and have a student's jottings (spiral notebook), their reading log and graph, their more developed thinking, and reflections at my finger tips.  This reader's notebook will hold the evidence I need to inform my instruction for each individual reader. deciding this now...maybe I can find the spiral notebook for ten cents, the dividers half off, and the binders for under a dollar!!!  Happy School Shopping!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Kicking off word study...

Word study has been on my mind a lot recently...I really am striving to create a classroom environment that supports students in becoming "word thinkers" and not just decoders.  I want the students to be thinking about a word's meaning, structure, and spelling patterns and not just "how to say it". I also want to encourage students to not only examine words, but phrases and moods created with words as well.  I have always had students do word observations of their names to start off word study for the year, but was looking for a way to transfer it to reading and writing.  Here it is!

While perusing the blog, Teaching in the 21st Century, Maria has a post on "Stretching Wonderopolis into the Summer." (Which by the way, if you have not used Wonderopolis, check it out!!!!! It has completely transformed what I think about inquiry in the classroom and how research can be embedded in our student's everyday reading workshop, not just a research project at the end of the year...but that is a post for another day :)  She refers us to one of Wonderopolis' posts titled, "How Did Dinosaurs Get Their Names?".  There it was!  A video to build background knowledge, an article to inform the students, and a list of root words to inspire the creation of your own dinosaur!  I can transfer our observations about our names to understanding the names of dinosaurs! I am going to do a mini-lesson on having your eyes open for word origins to determine the meaning of unknown words and do what Wonderopolis suggests...have the students create a dinosaur using the root words listed. During this activity they will see exactly how a root word and its origin impacts the meaning of words.  If students still have lingering questions or feel that their reading journey takes them to finding out more about word origins, I will have the following book available...


I am hoping that this activity will be just the right start toward encouraging students to look at the impact that origins, prefixes, and suffixes have on a word's meaning in their reading and writing.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Book is what?

Over the years I have always had this awkward moment when students finish a book club book or when the whole class would finish a read aloud novel.  It was the phrase, "now what?", repeating in my head.  The book is done.  Do we hurry and pick another book?  Do the students pick an extension that I created?  I never had the time to fully ponder this one because tomorrow was a new day and we had to keep moving.  I was always uncomfortable with this.  What would be the best way to celebrate the end of a book club book?  How do I make sure the book is not closed and forgotten but seen as having an impact on our reading life?  If I believe in authentic reading experiences and choice, how do I support students in seeing what is meaningful in their reading life and begin to inquire about future reading possibilities?  I think I have found the answer toward beginning to make those beliefs evident in my classroom.

I came across four lingering questions that Harvey Daniels and Stephanie Harvey recommend in, Comprehension and Collaboration: Inquiry Circles in Action (pg. 203), to support the change in us that occurs after reading a book, no matter how slight the change might be.  They suggest asking four lingering questions that encourage readers to dig dipper into their thinking and see where the book's impact, no matter how small, takes them next.

The predictable structure in which I am going to utilize these questions appears in two places.  The first one is during independent reading conferences.  I have decided to use the four questions as the heart of my conferences when students share they have completed a book.  I want to support the students in seeing how one book can impact your next choice and should not be viewed as another "check mark"of things completed.  It will also give students "permission" to leave their next stack of books and follow the journey this book urges them to take.

The second structure in which I will use the four questions is after a book club is complete.  I will have each student independently answer the four questions and then meet to discuss the book's impact on their reading life.   Then, I am going to support the students on the journey they have chosen.  I want students to hear others' responses and listen for similarities, differences, or a common theme that could encourage collaboration.  I tried this last year with a group of third graders who were reading the book, Who Stole the Wizard of Oz, by Avi.  The students surprised me, don't they always, with how this simple mystery book had impacted them.  Two of the students wanted to rush to the library to see what other books Avi had written and wanted to read a different one by this author right away since they had never heard of this author before.  Another student did not like the ending of the book and wanted to rewrite it. A different student was surprised by the ending and wanted to reread it and look for clues that they felt they had missed during the first read.  And yes...two students felt stumped by the questions.  Right there I knew the focus of my next individual reading conference!

So what are the four lingering questions?  All credit goes to page 203 of Comprehension and Collaboration: Inquiry Circles in Action.  Check it out on this example I am going to use this year.
The four lingering questions

Friday, July 15, 2011

Looking closer at independent reading...

I had read in Jennifer Serravallo's book, Teaching Reading in Small Groups, that "My very first job as a classroom teacher is to get children to feel that reading is for them and to help them identify themselves as "readers," (page 95).  This quote dug deep at thoughts I have been having this summer about independent reading time in the classroom.  I made a list of what I believe about independent reading.  The list contained the beliefs that independent reading should be on purpose and not a filler, it should contain choice and the students should really own what they are reading, it should occur in a predictable structure, the students will need to be engaged to develop plans that support their reading life, that the reading experiences should be authentic, and the students need to be aware of their reading life. So...where is the evidence of it going to be in my classroom?  Here is a new idea I am trying in the fall...

The predictable structure in which independent reading occurs will be a block of time (hopefully building their stamina to 30 minutes, but will start with whatever they can do) just prior to reading workshop. By having it right before reading workshop, the students will be focused on independent reading and they can go back to reading while I work with small groups (strategy groups, book clubs, guided reading, etc...)  after the mini-lesson.  The block will start with Status of the Class so I can hear the title of the book that the student chose and the page the student is starting on.  Then...the kids will read!  I will observe and participate in individual conferences focused on their reading behaviors and strategies.  At the end of the independent reading block, the students will ponder if they need to fill in two forms:

My Reading Log:  This is a log that students complete with the date the book was completed, title, author, and number of pages in the whole book.  The students will only fill in the log if the book was completed.  My status of the class information taken earlier will already tell me how much reading they accomplished that day.   I want the students to spend less time writing down what they are reading daily and spend that time reading! Example

Looking closer at my reading graph:  When a book has been completed, the student will use this graph to make their reading trends visible.  The students will read the categories at the bottom of the graph and write the title of the book in a box if it applies.  It is feasible that a child could write that title several times because it may fit in multiple categories.  The categories listed are the ones that I am currently focusing on for instruction.  The graph has three blank categories at the end for the student and I to set reading goals.  Any time the student and I feel that they need to collect information, we will make it their reading goal on the graph.  For example, right now I want to know the following, was the book a picture book, chapter book, fiction, non-fiction, and was it one they read before.  If I notice that the student mentions that they want to read more Andrew Clements books, we can make one of the blank categories an "Andrew Clements" column.  That way, every time the student completes a book the goal will be staring at them on the graph to remind them about their reading plan. Example

I am anxious to see how this will work!  I think the graph will really support the students when reflecting on their reading choices, will individualize each student's reading life, and will support the student's metacognition.  Hopefully overtime, the graph may take form to other self-created reading logs, but I want to start supporting their authentic reading experiences with a tool that is visible and supports their individual reading journeys.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Greetings from Nowhere

This book had me from the moment our plane took off from Florida and landed in Ohio. (Yes, I finished it on that two hour and 20 minute plane ride while snacking on airplane pretzels and drinking diet coke:)  Greetings from Nowhere, by Barbara O'Connor, is a wonderful story centered around Aggie, a lady who is running the Sleepy Time Motel in the Great Smoky Mountains.  She has had only one visitor since her husband Harold died and spends her days with her cat, Ugly.  Aggie makes the decision to sell the motel and is surprised that her for sale ad is answered quickly by Clyde Dover, Willow's Dad. This event begins the journey of several unexpected characters finding their way to this motel in the middle of nowhere:
Loretta: who is on a trip with her adopted parents and they are following the charms on her mother's bracelet to remember Loretta's birth mother
Willow: whose dad is trying to buy the motel and start a new life for their family
Kirby: who is on his way to reform school when his mother's car breaks down
Each chapter is written from the point of view of a different character.  I personally fell in love with Aggie,  an older lady who is struggling with wonderful memories of the past, confronted with present decisions, and encounters relationships with all of the guests at the motel that will change her future.

Also, here is a link to a discussion guide that I found while perusing Barbara O'Connor's blog.
Teacher's Guide

Barbara O'Connor seems to be my "author of the summer".  I have read several books written by her.  All of her books have heartfelt stories with interesting characters and influential settings.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Engagement, Strategy Lessons, and Conversations...oh my!

No doubt that chapters 3, 4, and 5 have left us with numerous items to think about!  Although some of us are also reading chapters 5-8 in Jennifer Serravallo's other book titled, Conferring with Readers, one common theme from each book is the predictable structure for small group instruction and individual conferences.  During small group instruction, a structure of connect, teach, engage, and link is utilized.  During conferencing, the structure of research the reader, decide what to compliment and teach, and teach the reader is used.  Take a moment and think about why those two structures are different...what purpose does each structure have?

"Engagement in reading has been found to be the most powerful instructional activity for fostering reading growth," (page 70).  Thinking back to your you remember a student who appeared to be reading only when you looked at them, a student who was stuck on the same page for days, or a student who could read but just did not choose to read?  The following questions stem from myself and from our text on engaging readers, strategy lessons, and conversations:

  • What do you look for when you check to see if your students are engaged readers?  Any specific routines/methods that you use?
  • Do we know our classroom libraries and all of the numerous books that emerge each day well enough to support our students in finding their "home run" book?  That single book or series that gets a reader hooked on reading.
  • Do we have a sense of the characteristics of most reading levels so we can use book introductions to transition the reader as they grow?
  • When do children look at, evaluate, and reflect on their own reading logs, book bin choices, notebooks, and sticky notes to think about their skill work and process?
  • How do we move kids from conversations about their books to the place where they can talk openly about their work and ideas that they are generating as a reader?
  • What about the idea of "sign-up seminars"?
  • Often the author refers to "bringing their baggie of books" to small group/individual conferences which means all students are not using the same book for small group instruction.  How does that make you feel?  What do you think about that?
  • Instruction can occur in small group strategy lessons, small group engagement lessons, guided reading, and individual conferences...which structure do you use most often?  Is there one structure that you would like to focus on next school year?
  • The author talks about prioritizing time in our classrooms for more regular student talk about reading and that we need to also support conversation strategies.  Book clubs, partnerships, read-aloud book clubs, conferences, all support conversation.  How often do your students have opportunities to be social around books?
  • Notetaking (by the teacher) is a form of formative assessment during small group instruction and individual conferences.  How do you record your notes?  Do you bounce from skill to skill, or do you stick with a skill over several days? 
Now those are some thinking stems! :)