Thursday, January 31, 2013

January OLW: CREATE-ing Anchor Charts

from Google Images
When I chose CREATE as my one little word, I knew that it would just add a spring in my step.  I had posted earlier on how CREATE-ing at home brought joy and comfort to my life.  The whole reason I chose "CREATE" was due to the realization that  I wanted to focus on bringing ideas, thoughts, possibilities, and seed ideas into existence...enjoying the process.

The other day, when I was envisioning an anchor chart for a lesson, I was reminded that the process of making an anchor chart should not only be a process, but that our focus should be about the process of making thinking visible.  I found myself going through a series of questions when visualizing what this chart might look like when we were done creating.

  • Will the chart remind my students of a "shared experience"?
  • Will the chart support the students in "thinking"and not just being told what to do? (Not just a set of directions)
  • Was the thinking on the chart grounded in a common text?
  • Will the chart make our thinking visible and promote a process of transferring to another reading experience? 

The final product...a main idea anchor chart.  I decided to display the text (common text) and create our chart interactively (shared experience).  The post-its showed the thinking that it takes to determine the main idea (promoting a process) and records their responses (their thinking) while working through the concept.  If something is going to be posted in the classroom, I wanted my students to CREATE a chart that they would have ownership of and would spotlight our thinking together.  Remembering that reading is thinking, not completing a set of directions.
Use this to guide PLANNING your lesson/chart...

Check out more One Little Word reflections:

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Valuing and Assessing Small Group Conversations

Book Talk Reflection Sheet
(click link above to download)
The Common Core addresses the value of conversations from first grade...
"Build on others' talk in conversations by responding to the comments of others through multiple exchanges."

to third grade...
"Come to discussions prepared, having read or studied to explicitly draw on that preparation and other information known about the topic to explore ideas under discussion."

to fifth grade...
"Come to discussions prepared, having read or studied to explicitly draw on that preparation and other information know about the topic to explore ideas under discussion. Review the key ideas expressed and draw conclusions in light of information and knowledge gained during discussion."

One of the ways I found to support students during conversation in small group instruction was to provide them with a Focus Book Talk Reflection sheet while reading.  This sheet was focused around one specific open-ended question that needed evidence to explain their thinking.   The question anchored our next discussion, but it also anchored their thinking while annotating while reading.  It pushed the students to think beyond the text.  After reading, students would answer the question/take notes/list evidence and color the stoplight to the right (green= good to go  yellow=anxious to talk because I am not sure  red=this was difficult and need to hear more from others).  When the students returned to their next small group, we would use this question to begin our conversation and use the writing as helpful hints to participate in the discussion.  The question would not be the only thing we would started the conversation with my teaching point.  Before the students would leave the group, each student would then add more thinking in writing that would combine their original thoughts with the conversation.  Then, after conversation, the students would color their level of confidence with the focus topic now.  This focused sheet helped to guide the readers through conversation and reading.  It provided me with each child's thinking...did the student demonstrate understanding prior to conversation when they were reading independently?  Did the student need conversation to further understanding?  And now...I had evidence of their thinking WHILE reading, AFTER reading, and AFTER discussion.  This tool provided an opportunity to notice, listen, and to determine what to support next.

Some examples of questions could be:

What kind of person is our main character?
Which event or character has impacted our main character's actions the most?
Who has the power in our story?
Evaluate a decision our character made.
Why is the character feeling the way they are?  Is this how you would feel?
What lesson did our character learn about __________?
How is the setting impacting our main character?
Using what you know about our character, how do you think the problem will be solved?
How does our character's situation mirror situations in your life or other character's lives?

What was your reading mostly about?
What caused ___________?
What was the purpose of our reading?
Why is this topic important?

Monday, January 21, 2013

CREATE-ing home

My daughter's mailbox...I love "Dale"
peeking in the background of this picture.
Every year I reflect on the message I am sending about writing in my writer's workshop.  Is there choice in writing? Is there purpose for writing? Is writing seen as a process?  Are writer's notebooks not only implemented at the start of the school year but utilized the whole year through?  I always give these questions a lot of thought and reconsider my structures.  But...what about in my home?

Since my children were little, they have been surrounded by books.  They have been read to, read with,  seen their parents read, seen their grandparents read, seen their mom's next stack by her bed, had books in the car, and have been falling into their own independent reading routines over the past few years.

A few years ago, I thought about how to make writing more visible in our home.  It hit me as we were walking through Target.  In the wonderful dollar bargain section, there were mailboxes for a dollar.  We bought three.  One to put by each of our beds.  My daughter decorated hers and my son and I opted not to.  We bought several packets of notecards in the dollar section too.  The mailboxes were placed in our bedrooms and when you sent someone a put it in and raised the flag!  The best part was our writing had an audience.  They were discovering the power of communicating from writing.  My daughter was motivated by the process and element of surprise.  My son did not write as frequent, but became very good at understanding how to pick the most precise words to keep it...short, simple and to the point.  This is something I have always wanted to try in the change the meaning of "mailboxes".  Moving from a place that holds school flyers, graded papers, etc...and find an avenue in the room for this type of writing for each person.  At the start of every year I play with this idea, but have never found the right purpose or structure to fit it in.

My writing "Next Stack"

Now my children are growing up and realized... they have not seen me write other than typing blog posts, mailbox letters, or grocery lists.  So, one of the things I CREATEd this year was a journal next to my bed.  I have one for each child.  At night, before I go to bed, I jot down thoughts about each one of them....I am trying to avoid "retelling" the day, but thinking about those moments, life lessons, quotes or snapshots that they did not realize I thought, saw, or chose not to say.  Every morning they wake up and read what I wrote.  They add more details to the story and ask why I didn't write other things...and then the writing becomes storytelling, explaining a quote that I wrote, or why I chose that moment or feeling to write. I am so excited about the gift I will have to give each of them...a journal of my thoughts about them and creating memories of sharing my writing with them now.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Acts of Kindness (for a teacher...from a teacher)

It is that time of year.  That time of year when half of your curriculum has been taught, testing dates  are actually on "this year's calendar", time feels short and the list seems long, you reconsider how things are going, you celebrate things that are going well, and you begin to think that your classroom is the only classroom in the building...because you never leave it. (Especially if indoor recess looms...) You never leave it physically...or mentally.

So I began to teachers we are going through trying times.  As things do in education, things change and just when we think we have a "handle on it", there is a call to be more flexible, more diligent, and more purposeful than what we are already doing.   This is the time of the year when Random Acts of Kindness...from teacher to matter how small...can lift our passions, bring a smile, and hit things head on with gusto.

Below are some little acts of kindness that I have seen done...and no matter how small...they make a difference!  Try will feel the "lift" in your step to adjust to the demands of the second half of a school year.

1.  Fill the stapler with staples in the workroom.  :)  No one will try to find out who did it, but they will be so glad that someone did!
2.  Organize a different lunch for your team/bring in a crock pot of soup...change in lunch routines are always fun!
3.  Write a note/email to someone you barely see in the building and let them know that you have been thinking of them.
4.  Leave a supportive comment on a colleague's blog, twitter account, etc...
5.  Let someone "ditch" you in the line at the copy machine...this is one "ditching" time that tattling will not occur!
6.  Pass along an inspirational poem/book as the first email a colleague opens that day.  Check out a post from A Year of Reading written by Mary Lee...great post or book to share.
7.  Surprise someone in the morning with a coffee, a diet coke from McDonalds...
8.  Thank a teacher that one of your students had the year before...learning is a journey and many teachers are a part of it.
9.  Listen.  We often do not see colleagues, but only in the halls or before/after school...take time to listen to each other. Through can support each other.
10. Look around...random acts of kindness are everywhere!  (Maybe a student or colleague will inspire one!)

PS... This is my 100th post! :)  What a great topic for number 100...kindness!  Thank you for following my teaching journey.  Your comments and conversations help me to make time to reflect on the things I am most passionate about.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Reading conferences...using the student's preview to lead

After reading this weekend's Choice Literacy Big Fresh e-newsletter on previewing and reading Maria's post on having her students reflect on their class real aloud...the importance of previewing a text is still on my mind.  I blogged earlier this weekend about using a book preview for guiding a class read aloud, but as I keep previews have such an important role in so many components of a balanced literacy classroom.

One of the ways that I monitored book choice during independent reading was through book previews. When a student was ready to "go ahead" with a book, they would work their way through the preview process, record their thinking on our "Ready, Set, Go" sheet, and read one chapter/20 pages (whatever made them comfortable as a reader).  When they got to their benchmark point, the students would sign up for a "preview conference".  At the beginning of every reader's workshop, we would start with Status of the Class and just start reading!  This was time prior to our mini-lesson to conference with students.  My literacy workshop looked like this...

12:40-12:45 Status of the Class
12:45-1:10   Independent Reading and individual conferences
1:10-1:25     Mini-lesson
1:25-2:05     Differentiated Small Group Instruction 
                    (Students not in groups went back to independent reading/annotating/inquiry)
2:05-2:15     Share

The first conference I would meet with were all of the students who had signed up for a preview conference.  What is a preview conference? Students would bring their book and their Big Questions to the group.  Each person would share a passage to read to the group and what they were wondering about in the form of their three Big Questions.  These Big Questions were a thinking stem to use to monitor their comprehension while reading the book.  This conference revealed our true reading community.  Students who had already read a person's book would encourage..." are going to find out the answer to that question."  Students who had not read the book were hooked..."That sounds exciting! Can I have the book next?"  Students would sometimes come with the same book and a reading partner was established.  The most important part...this process created a vulnerable reading life.  For me?  The Big Questions gave insight into the level of thinking that the student needed to understand the text and the questions came from the reader, not me.  I was also able to listen to a discussion lead by the students... the students were in charge, engaged, and motivated to get to their own choice reading.    

Questions to ask:
* What happened in the text to inspire your question?
* Do you have any predictions to what the answer to one of your questions might be?
* Which question do you think is driving your reading through this book?

*Once a student was done with their book, they would answer one of their big questions in writing and share the answer during our Share Time to celebrate another book being added to their reading graph.
** Students did not do this with every book they read.  They went through this process with four to five books, of their choosing, based on their goals each quarter.
*** This recording sheet was the heart of our held helpful notes and thinking to adorn future conversations.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Using your preview to lead your classroom read aloud...

After reading today's Choice Literacy Big Fresh e-newsletter on previewing and reading Maria's post on having her students reflect on their class real aloud...preview and class read aloud reflections have been on my mind.  The class read aloud has so many possibilities to develop community and conversations around a text experience that we all have in common.  I loved reading and reflecting at the end of the day with my fourth was the last thing I wanted them to remember that we did as they left school.  Reading, language flowing, listening, sharing...anxious to experience the text together the next day.

The one moment that anchored my class read aloud through the whole novel was the preview of the text.  I would copy the cover, the blurb, the title page and the first two pages for every student.  We would then "annotate" right on the paper.  We would discuss what we learned from this information and what we wondered.  Then we would develop three Big Questions that we wanted to reflect on after reading each chapter.  We would share with turn and talk but I would also use these three Big Questions for reflection writing...after the first third, second third, and last third of the novel.    Our conversations and feedback were right on because although we entered with different levels of engagement in thinking...we had one thing in common...the text.

Below is an example of our anchor chart for our preview of the book, The Gollywhopper Games. The blank space in the middle was the jacket of the cover of the book.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

New Year...New Reading Logs...

In the spirit of the New Year and resolutions being set, this was a perfect time for me to "create" a new look for classroom reading logs.  Sometimes a new form or a new way to organize can rejuvenate a routine that has been established in your reading workshop.  Ask colleagues around your school how they encourage reading logs in their classroom and you will discover many different beliefs...students write down how many minutes they read, students write down titles within a set number of minutes, parents sign that the reading was completed, parents don't sign that the reading was completed, students have choice for nightly reading, students are assigned a specific reading each night...and so it goes...

I am a firm believer that every teacher is on a journey and our beliefs are based on the moments, people,  experiments, and books that have been encountered along the way.  My journey has led to a reading graph approach.  Students record books that have been read or put "on pause" on a reading graph.  The titles of each column are determined by the class and individual students with input from other students, the teacher, the librarian, and the parents.  My journey has led to no parent signatures, instead...before packing up for the day...students discuss their reading life for that night and ask questions...Do I need to take a bookclub book home?  Am I going to embark on digital media reading at Wonderopolis tonight on my parent's Nook because I will be waiting at soccer practice?  Am I excited to continue a book I am almost done with from reading workshop today?  Do I just want a quick read tonight because I am watching my little sister and need to grab a book from our classroom library? This reading log is not just for home and not just for is a graph that shows the home-school connection of a student's reading life.

I have chosen a graph format so my students (and myself) can visually see a student's reading life at a glance and begin to analyze for themes and comparisons.  For myself, looking at a list is difficult to process in an one-on-one conference or strategy group.

With the end of the quarter coming...this is a good time to have students give their reading logs a "face lift" or completely hand the creation of the logs over to the students.

Click here for Reading Graph (It works best if printed on paper that is 11x17...hole punch on the left side and fold it in so it does not stick out the side of the binder. Students love opening this large piece of paper that holds all of their reading each quarter.)

Thursday, January 3, 2013

WONDERful Wednesday with Wonderopolis...part two

In December, we were fortunate to have Wonderopolis come to our school for a whole day!  The vision was to spread WONDER and learn Wonderopolis' writing process for informational text.  We now know that it does not just appear each day!  Here is how the day unfolded! (Check out Erin at Nerd Herd in Third for a classroom teacher's point of view of our day!)

Sara, Donna, and Jon appeared in their flamingo t-shirts to represent the first wonder on Wonderopolis...their shirts said, "I know why flamingos are pink."   
Donna led each session of students (6 times) through Wonderopolis.  We learned about where we can find wonder in our lives, how wonders are chosen, how facts are validated, the writing process that the writer goes through (of course all of the kids are surprised when you tell them how many times the writing is checked and rechecked), how many wonders are already prepared, and how their creative team works together.

 Our kindergarten and first grade classes presented wonders that were developed from their current study using the Common Core Curriculum standards.  Then, the second and third grade classes voted for their top 2 wonders that they would like to see on Wonderopolis.  Our fourth and fifth graders each narrowed the top 2 down to one wonder that they are going to research and present to the Wonderopolis team.  A co-author team!  Our wonders should appear on Wonderopolis soon.  Our Wonder Teams will begin the research process as soon as we come back to school this year.

Above are the final two from each session...the wonders with stars are the ones that we will be researching.  What instrument will we be using during our investigation process?  Of course, we will be using the tool that Wonderopolis left behind for each of our students...a color changing pencil!  When you grip the pencil and wait five seconds, the pencils change colors right before your eyes!  Hmmmm....I WONDER how that happens!  Thank you again to Wonderopolis for a WONDERful day that opened our eyes to wonder and all the possibilities of using Wonderopolis in the classroom setting.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

My OLW for 2013...

From Google Images

CREATE.  I often feel that I have ideas, thoughts, possibilities, the beginnings of seed ideas...always floating in my head.  My goal for 2013 is to change that thinking from a bunch of nouns to verbs.  2013 is going to be about "doing".  Anyone who knows me personally...I am a little type A.  Ok. A little more than just a little type A.  When I say create, I am sure many people think of getting out the scissors, glue, and paint.  Although my plan does entail some artistic means...I feel like I have been living in a "yet" world...and need to shift my thinking to what I want to do "next". (Can you feel the list forming in my type A world?)  While we were reading Opening Minds this summer, Cathy Mere left a comment that stuck with me on one of my posts (from all the way back in July):

You have me thinking about the word "next." The argument for embracing the word "yet" is a compelling one, but I know I will need to consider it with caution. For example, I've been saying I haven't cleaned my basement YET for well over two years. For years I've been saying I don't know how to do my taxes YET. In other words, YET without action or a plan really won't move us forward. It acknowledges where we are, what we know, and that we feel something can change, but it doesn't take us down the road. That's why I like your "NEXT." I don't know how to keep the bugs out of my garden YET, but I'm doing some research to see if I can find a natural way to deter them. That action step is important. 

The final sentence..."that action step is important" what struck me and has stayed with me.  So why did I not pick "action"? Action is something that is put in affect.  So what am I going to put in affect?  CREATING.  I chose the word CREATE because I want create to be my action.  I do not want something that can be checked off the list or even be just a product...I am ok with creating something that might not have a definite end to it.  This will hit my type A-ness head on! I want CREATE to be about bringing those ideas, thoughts, possibilities, and seed ideas into existence....enjoying the process.  I want to develop, build, design, produce, realize, establish, assemble, and maybe even "re-create".  Some of the things are personal...creating a life lessons journal (365 lessons a year), creating a book club , and creating more time for just my family to be together.  Some of the things are professional...creating a life lessons journal (180 lessons together) in the classroom, acting on some inquiry ideas, focusing on not just wondering but acting and creating with that curiosity, establishing a school wide pinterest page that focuses on holding current ideas from team conversations, and more...

After writing this post, I now think that I need to take a nap.  I need to thank Cathy for taking the two minutes to write a comment that has stuck with me for over 6 months.  I need to get ready to focus on bringing things into existence and acting...creating!

Want to join the One Little Word fun for a whole year?  Check out another blogger who does the same...Maria.