Tuesday, June 26, 2012

A wondering wish...

I have written in some of my earlier blogs about my inquiry block, or what our classroom called, Our Wonder Block.  I want students to feel the surprise of wonder when they encounter something that is unexpected, mysterious, unfamiliar or maybe just beautiful in their reading or personal life.  But beyond that feeling of wonder, I want to provide students with the opportunity to act on this feeling in the form of curiosity.  I am always trying to think of ways to provide our classroom with opportunities to turn that wonder into curiosity, act on it, and take that strong desire and go!

While on vacation, my fifth grade son was wondering away...question after question.  I found myself saying "I don't know" alot!  So we decided to take pictures of all of the things that he wondered about, so we could research them when we got home.  I know that traveling to a new location stems a lot of wonder.  But imagine (here is where my wish comes in), if we knew the students that were going to be in our classroom right now and could send them with a summer wondering assignment...capture pictures of the things you wonder about this summer.  Then, we could give them the gift of time to act on that wonder in our classrooms.  If every student could bring pictures in (newspaper articles, brochures, artifacts) and fill a board with questions that we are curious about and have a strong desire to understand.  How WONDERful would that be?  The best part is that each picture that would be brought in would have a story behind it...pictures of how something works at a local swimming pool, a flower on a walk, a particular breed of dog that just moved in with the neighbors next door, or a picture of an antique found at grandma's house. A way for the classroom community to get to know each student.  I am trying to think of a way to do this with the barrier of not knowing my students till about two days before school starts.  I want their "treasures" to be authentic and not something they scramble around the house trying to find.  I have to think more on this one.  But, as I keep thinking...enjoy the photos and questions my son would have brought in had he participated in capturing summer wonder!

The captain said that stone crab and blue crab blow bubbles when angry.  "Do the bubbles just tell other crabs that they are angry or do the bubbles somehow protect them?"

The osprey return each year to the nest at the top of the pole.  The duck at our school returns each year to lay her eggs in the same spot.  "Do all birds do this?  Do you know of any other birds that return?"
Each day at 4 PM we would go down for low tide and use our toes to feel for sand dollars.  "How do they know when low and high tide would be?" WONDEROPOLIS has the answer to this question!

A local was fishing for shrimp.  "I just realized that I only know what a shrimp looks like on a plate!  What does a live shrimp look like?"

What does "harass" mean?

"How does putting the lights out save sea turtles?"
At low tide we would find live sand dollars...they are brown, give you a yellow stain on your toes as you feel for them, and have hairs along the outside.  Not as pretty as the white fragile sand dollars that you often see.  They are considered "live beach fauna".  "How are sand dollars alive?  How do they live?"

We learned from a local on the island that this tree is called a "Live Oak".  We even saw one that had a branch go underground and appear in another spot.  "How do live oaks grow?"

Sunday, June 24, 2012

A little of this...a little of that...

If you take a little sunscreen lotion, a little of the ocean smell, plus a LOT of blue skies....you get a whole lot of reading time!  Throw in a little laziness, waiters walking around the pool, and a tiki hut...and you get even more reading time!  I spent the last week soaking in the sun and soaking in a new genre for me...biographies.  I decided to read one that was appropriate for my students and one that  I would enjoy as an adult.  Both books did not disappoint.  

My ADULT biography choice...
if you have an ADULT sports fan in
your family...
this book does not disappoint.
I was laughing out loud!
What a wonderful biography for our students!
I had never heard this story and know that
the students will be able to relate to WWII during
this biography of the Chocolate Pilot!
This picture book was recommended at the end of the "Candy Bomber".  Can't wait to read it!  Amazon's "Look Inside" shows a quick section of background knowledge that will support young readers in understanding WWII!

 And finally...I read the two books that I have been wanting to read.  These two books have such strong characters, important themes, and are just AMAZING!  My son read Wonder the whole car ride home...could not put it down and finished it!  Anxious to experience these books with a class!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

And the #1 thing I learned this year...

#1  Reading is inter-dependent.

My classroom community of readers, my virtual community of bloggers, and my reading life all contain communities.  In each of these communities, no one reads alone.  Each particular community has members and the members within that community rely on each other to experience the joy that reading and conversations can bring.  As readers, we are free to choose what we read, but this choice is influenced by book recommendations, book trailers, and book previews.  As readers, we can "jot" and have conversations, but no one can control our own experience and thinking while reading a book.  As readers, we need guidance.  We need to see how everyone's thinking connects back to the same text that we just read, how it connects to other texts and experiences, and we need the care and support of other readers to try anything new or to understand a new perspective.

My classroom readers:  At the end of the year, 12 out of my 21 students listed book clubs/book partners as the number one component that they needed as a reader this year.  Their comments say it all...

"A part of reading workshop that has impacted me as a reader is book partners or book clubs.  It helps me to know that I have someone to talk to about the book.  They help pace me to read and that has helped me a lot this year when I tried new kinds of books."

"Book clubs helped me as a reader.  Book clubs have helped me because I can talk to someone and tell them what I think.  Sometimes we will agree and sometimes we won't.  When we did disagree, we combined our brains and came up with what we both thought."

"A part of reading workshop that I thought was important to me is book clubs because books aren't made to be easy so if I have trouble understanding a word I can talk about it or if I have trouble understanding what's going on I can have help from a group and then I can learn from what they are saying."

"Book partners has impacted my reading because if we hadn't done book partners then I wouldn't have been reading the Hatchet series with my friend for the WHOLE year.  I also had someone to share my thoughts with, its hard to share thoughts with yourself."

My blogging community:  Think about the way blogging is set up.  We give "blogs we follow" along the side...recommendations.  We have a "comments" section so we can virtually talk...conversations.  We have a "followers" section so we can see who else we can talk with about a blog....blog partners or blog clubs.  We have an "about me" section so we can understand the perspective of the writing.  I know that my blogging is inter-dependent as well.  I anxiously await comments because I feel I have "put it all out there" and want others to connect thinking back with me.  Also, without the care and support of other bloggers, I would not have tried blogging or wondered if I should join Twitter for virtual PD.

Thank you to my students and to the blogging community for helping me to realize that reading experiences matter and that when we share them...it is priceless.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Top 5 things I learned...#2...Harvard is right

#2 "Read with a pen in your hand and enter in a little book short hints of what you find that is curious or that might be useful; for this will be the best method of imprinting such particulars in your memory, where they will be ready on some future occasion to adorn and improve your conversation." -Benjamin Franklin

Harvard has posted on their website a page titled, "Six Reading Habits to Develop in Your First Year at Harvard."  What is their number 2?  My classroom calls it "jotting".  Harvard calls it "annotating." Benjamin Franklin calls it "short hints".  No matter what the name is...active engagement and interaction with a text will support students in comprehension, engagement, and prepare them for future conversations.  I remember how awkward some students felt at the beginning of the year...they were not use to actually "jotting" their thoughts, wonders, confusions, or "ah-ahs" on paper.  There was the feeling of "jotting" a right response.  After much, much, much modeling, students learned that jotting is more than post-its.  It is determining what you want to hold onto after previewing a book to support your understanding.  It is determining the point in which the student entered into engagement with the text.  It is noting points of confusion, new words, or monitoring comprehension.  

The key to "annotating" was letting the students see all of the tools they could use beyond a highlighter.  In fact, if you read the article, Harvard discourages highlighters.  Read the article to find out why! :)  From post-its, to charts, to diagrams, to line graph's for character feelings...the key is "choice" in the tool.  What do I need to hold onto to understand what I am reading?  What do I think?  And to realize that this thinking matters.  Students will find purpose in jotting if they use it for further conversations and it is connected back to the text.  I often hear..."wait, I jotted about that...let me find it".  Now a student has left a trail of thinking to support their conversation and the conversations are more focused on the text with confidence.

I knew annotating was important.  It is more than note taking.  It occurs with a purpose.  It occurs on a text.  It occurs simultaneously with other reading strategies.  The most important part...it records what the reading experience was like for you.  
"With jotting, it helped me put thoughts into my head and remember the story.  It helped me to think deeply."

"At the beginning of the year I disliked jotting, I felt like it slowed me down.  Now I can't live without jotting."
"I had the choice of when to pause, jot, and when to not."
 Here are some other posts on "jotting":

Monday, June 11, 2012

Top 5 things I learned...#3...eyes on print

#3: You are not smart because you can read, you become smart because you DO read.

The engaged reader, the avid reader, the dormant reader, and the "I am going to turn pages and act like I am reading but I am not really reading" reader...there are many types of readers in every classroom.  But what I learned most...if  students have choice, they will read.  Notice I am not calling it independent reading...it is more "eyes on print" time.  Students need time to read and students want time to read.

In, Pathways to the Common Core, it states...
Pathways to the Common Core
"Of course, in order for students to make the necessary progress, they need at least 45 minutes in school and more time at home to read books...Chances are good that students who are not making optimal progress as readers do not have time in school each day for 45 minutes of eyes-on print reading and similar to time at home." (page 18)

My belief is that students need time to read, they need choice, they need to collect information about their reading life so they can reflect on what type of reader they are and what they need, and they need a Next Stack of books.  Students also need to be encouraged to "think deeply" about this reading...wait till I post #2 tomorrow on that one! :)

Time to Read and Choice:

My Status record sheet.
Each day I would begin Reading Workshop with Status of the Class.  I kept track of their daily reading.  This is a great way for the whole class to hear titles, share their progress, and I can then tell if they are reading nightly.  My students do not fill out nightly homework reading logs, they do not have parents sign them, nor do I have them record minutes, pages, etc...  We write "read" in our planners each night.  I do not set a time limit, but there is always a kid who asks...."how long"...and my response is a goal of 20 minutes and I always refer to the quote at the top of the page.  When inquiry based learning and wondering is supported, students take the quote above about "doing" the reading to heart.  They know that to gain new knowledge, to confirm prior knowledge, or to inspire wondering...one must read.  They also know that "media" reading is a perfect match, exploring Wonderopolis, or continuing the book from Reading Workshop.  They have choice.

Reading Life:
Reading Graph...the "on pause" column is completely to the right,
 but I could not get it in my picture.
The one thing my students do collect are the titles of books that they complete and titles of books that they put "on pause".  This reading graph helps us to see what type of reader they are, what they need, and what we can celebrate.  As a class we determine the categories at the bottom and then I leave room for students to adjust the graph to their own needs.  At the end of each quarter, we reflect on our reading time.  It helps us to set a goal for the next 9 weeks, or just recently, the summer!

Next Stack:
We spend a week gathering books for our Next Stack.  Students store 5-6 books in their reading tubs.  They are not held to these titles, but it saves time and often is motivation, to go to the Next Stack when a book is completed.  At anytime a student can lose interest in a book, swap a book, add a book, etc...But the goal is that a stack of books are waiting for them and they have the choice to determine what is next.

One student said it best on her reflection form:
"I liked reading by myself.  I liked reading by myself because I love to sit down and read a book and I am into it and it makes me happy.  Another reason I liked it is when you are reading by yourself you can keep going on and on."

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Top 5 Things I learned...#4...the forgotten huddle

#4 "Whatever we possess becomes of double value when we have the opportunity of sharing it with others."- Jean-Nicolas Bouilly (writer, politician)

I have had many conversations about the set-up of a reading workshop.  Many conversations on how to keep a mini-lesson..."mini".  Often we refer to the mini-lesson like a football huddle...bringing the team together to review a plan that will help the team to be successful on the field.  Then...off we send them on the field not knowing what will happen as the coach stays on the sidelines.  But what about the meeting that occurs on the bench after the offense and defense have switched places?  Do we bring our team back to the benches and discuss what worked, what needed adjusted, and celebrate success?  Share time...or as my classroom calls it...celebration time...was something I was very conscious of this year.  It seems to be that one component of reading workshop or writing workshop that often does not occur because "we ran out of time" and the cafeteria was waiting on us for lunch or it was time for a class to get to the art room! :)

I think our "celebration" time was when I wrote down the most notes on my students.  With about ten minutes left, I would call for "celebrations."  Anyone who wanted to celebrate new learning or a new book would come to the carpet.  Sometimes I would have ten students...sometimes I would have two students.  Students would share examples of practicing our mini-lesson from their own books, some students would share the completion of a new loved book, some would share a jot or jotting plan that they had created, and some would just read us a line(s) from their book for laughter, wonder, mood, or language/words.  To me...I learned that this share time was the time for learning to come full circle.  Often, I would get an indication of what my mini-lesson should be the next day based on what I saw during celebration time.

I knew that this time was valuable to my teaching and to the students.  I was later confirmed when I read this reflection by one of my students after asking, "Name a part of Reading Workshop that impacted your reading this year.  Why was this component so special or important to your reading life?"...

"Celebrations.  Celebrations helped me as a reader because it helped me find new genres to read.  Also I could see books that I never heard of that when they talked about the book it made me want to read that book.  Celebrations also helped my thinking so when I heard some people jots I knew different ways to talk to the book and think."

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Top 5 Things I learned this year...#5...Common Core

So...I just completed my first year back in a fourth grade classroom after being a literacy coach for four years.  It was an amazing year!  June is going to be a reflection month for me. Ever since the last day of school, I have been reading the students' reflections, writing down my own thoughts about what went well, or what did not go so well.  I am not looking ahead.  I am looking back.  Taking time to really think about the year, my students, my instruction, and most of all, our reading community.  Here we go...

#5: "When in doubt, choose change." -Lily Leung

I don't know who Lily Leung is, but with all of the focus on the Common Core and changes to come, I think we need to choose change.  The Common Core is here.  Changes in what we have previously done are here.  Materials and resources will be new and different.  So not only am I choosing change, I am choosing to approach the new Common Core with gusto!  I look forward to the new conversations with colleagues.  I look forward to examining the new resources that our publishing companies are rushing to complete with the buzz word "Common Core".  I look forward to the opportunity to "rethink" my beliefs and the evidence of those beliefs in my classroom as I am asked to use the Common Core to guide my teaching.  Time to embrace change!

Over the past school year, I dabbled a little with the Common Core...
I featured my "myth" tub in our classroom library and used myths more than I ever have before.
I used a new resource for my writing and reading workshop.
I approached using evidence from the text with opinion writing.
I spent time thinking about rigor in math.
I found a professional book to challenge my thinking.
Looking through all of these past posts...Common Core was a big part of my first year back in the classroom.

Check out the latest Common Core app at www.masteryconnect.com
This is an app to manipulate the Common Core.  You can also embed it into blogs or have a sidetab on a blog.  Thanks www.inspiredtoread.blogspot.com for showing me this one!