Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Inquiry Buddies...Part One

The big day arrived!  One of our cute first grade buddies (ok...I am bias...it was my daughter :), delivered their "wondering notebooks" to our classroom.  Notebooks were stacked up to her nose.  As I bent down to take the notebooks from her she whispered..."You have a lot of work to do" and bounced her way back down to her first grade classroom.

I turned to look at my fourth graders who were wide-eyed, eager, and full of anticipation to see all the questions that our first grade inquiry buddies had.  As we went through each buddy's notebook, I was hearing comments such as...
"What a good question!"
"I think I know the answer but I don't know how to say it."
"I remember seeing a section in the library that had books on cats."
"I wonder if Wonderopolis would have this question."

And...what were some of the questions...
"Why do frogs have long tongues?"
"Why do dogs shed their fur?
"Why do teeth fall out?"

Off to the library we went to find the answer to their questions!  Wonderful lessons occurred for my fourth graders.  We talked about pulling a topic out of a question and using the library database to search for books.  We practiced using the table of contents and index to look for keywords before skimming through a book.  But...I think the biggest lesson we learned was patience!  In a world where "Google" is at our fingertips, we realized that the answer might not be in the first book we look in.  The answer may not be directly stated...we may need to infer the answer to our question and collect several pieces of evidence.  We realized the importance of photographs/diagrams/text features and how they support our explanation of something new.  By the end of the forty minutes in the library, we had worked independently and moved to supporting partners with finding the answers in books.  Whew!  All answers were found!

As the facilitator, what did I notice the most?  I noticed the students were engaged with a purpose.  My fourth graders were motivated by the idea that they needed to confirm their thinking or find an answer for an audience.  The library was buzzing with the research process.  And once again...it was all about patience.  As Edmund Burke once said, "Our patience will achieve more than our force."

Monday, October 17, 2011

100 Pageviews!

I can not believe that one of my posts has already hit 100 pageviews!  Blogging has been an adventure for me.  I am intrigued how a world so big can feel so small.  I am amazed how virtual friendships and connections can be made at all hours of the day.  Most of all, each day I am rejuvenated by the professional thinking that goes on around me both in the school setting and in the blogging world.  I hope you have found my blog as a place to reflect, think, and wonder about all that we do and all that we hope for.

Wow!  Check out the audience!
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Friday, October 14, 2011

"In the book of life, the answers aren't in the back of the book." -Charlie Brown

The answers may not be in the back of the book but...INQUIRY BUDDIES can help!  Check out how a fourth and first grade classroom are developing a partnership and implementing INQUIRY BUDDIES!

Reading with curiosity and wonder is one of my greatest wishes for my fourth grade readers.  As a teacher, I know that my responsibility is to provide students with the opportunity to act on their wonders in the form of curiosity...to show the readers how to take their wonder and go!  Go find a book that might reveal the answer, find a website that might confirm their thinking, and have the opportunity to appreciate their new knowledge and act on it.  What a beautiful cycle full of authentic reading experiences and choice!

So...inquiry it is!  Inquiry is one of my constant wonders that I have for teaching in the classroom.  All of the professional reading I have read on inquiry, especially the book Comprehension and Collaboration: Inquiry Circles in Action by Stephanie Harvey and Harvey Daniels, has sparked the creation of an inquiry workshop.  I am fortunate to have a colleague who has become intrigued with inquiry as much as I am.  We are constantly discussing what that process would like, how to incorporate Wonderopolis, picture books that would inspire, connections to our content areas...the list goes on!  The best part of the conversation is that she teaches first grade and I teach fourth grade.  It is interesting to me to see the foundation in the early grades and how it is built upon in the intermediate grades.  Through these conversations, INQUIRY BUDDIES were formed!

My classroom will be pairing with my colleague's first grade classroom.  Her students will be "wondering" and questioning from their content area studies and also their own six year old wonderings!  They will write down their wonderings and send them to us.  The fourth grader's job???? To find a text that reveals the answer to their wondering.  Once we have found the answers for all of the wonderings, we are going to meet as inquiry buddies.  The fourth grader and first grader will read the portion of the text that contains the answer.  They will celebrate the answer by writing it in their question notebooks and drawing an illustration of their new learning.  But does the process stop there???? Nope!  When we go back to our own nook in the school, the first graders will ask new wonderings developed from their new knowledge or the classroom.  My fourth graders will develop a new wondering off of "what they know now" and research their own wondering during inquiry workshop.  So...if a first grader asks, "Can penguins fly?" and together the inquiry buddies learn that penguins do not fly.  A fourth grader might come back to the classroom and wonder about Antarctic expeditions and how scientist study penguins.  

Our goal is not for the fourth graders to just find the answers, but for the fourth grader to be a partner in the first grader's first step of the journey to acting on their curiosity.  Also, for the fourth graders to act on the new information that they have gained.  This is where we are starting...not sure where this will go...but we are curious to see!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

The Homework Discussion...Nightly Reading

As I was preparing to go back to the classroom this summer, I spent a lot of time thinking about my beliefs.  One of the areas I spent a lot of time thinking about was homework and nightly reading.  I just read an article from ChoiceLiteracy that contains a script of a conversation between Franki Sibberson and Kathy Collins about literacy homework.  Kathy points out three main categories for homework: communication, exploration, and reflection. I also spent a lot of time reflecting on a blog post by Patrick Allen titled,"Repent...At Reading Homework Taketh Another Look..."

At the beginning of summer I had a post on taking a closer look at independent reading.  One of the areas I was excited to try was a reading graph approach to reading logs. I really wanted students to become more self-aware of their reading choices and trends.  I anticipated that the students would need support and a visual to sort through a traditional reading log and reflect on their reading.   So...I decided not to use the traditional log for home or school and use a graph.  I use Status of the Class to keep a tab on their daily reading, but that is something I record, not the students.

Now that it is almost, oh my gosh, the end of the first quarter, I wanted to reflect on how the graph approach was going and what I was noticing about my students' reading since I was not using a traditional reading log at school or home.  All I ask is that students read at night and then they are encouraged to bring the book in the next day.  Books are written on the graph only when they are completed, sometimes multiple times due to the categories at the bottom of the graph.  Here is what I have noticed...

1.  Without a home reading log and by doing Status of the Class, my students are communicating more and more about their reading....what they are reading, why they are reading the book they chose, listening for books to put in their Next Stack, and so on.  I feel like our room is always buzzing with conversations about our reading lives.

2.  When a child celebrates a completed book, they write the title on their graph and show the graph to the class.  Students are talking about what they notice about the trends in their reading and others reading.

3.  Midway through the quarter my students took their parents on a "Reading Tour" of their reader's notebooks.  Together, the parent and child, set a goal for their reading and put it on the graph.  I sure did learn a lot about each child as they shared the goals that they had set for themselves with their parents.  For example, some wrote..."to try a new series"...other families wrote "to try a mystery book or a book by Avi".  

4.  At the end of the day, I am constantly hearing a buzz about which book they are taking home.  As we write, "enjoy a book" in our planner, I am immediately swarmed with thoughts from students...EACH DAY :)  
"I am going to take my book home from school because I am going to be sitting at my brother's practice." 
"I want to take my reader's notebook home because I want to preview a book so I can just read during reader's workshop tomorrow."  
"Can I borrow Babymouse tonight because after ____ shared I am really interested in it." 
Reading plans, reading plans, reading plans!!!!!!

5.  As far as assessment, had to say it :), I can tell you right now what each child is reading and what their goal is because I can visualize the graph in my mind.  Half way through the quarter, I also put a new category on their graph.

So...so far...I am amazed at the impact of a simple graph!  I am currently trying to brainstorm the categories that I need to collect information on second quarter from everyone and I will be asking the students to decide which goal they are carrying over to second quarter.  Hmmmm...more thinking on that one!