Tuesday, July 30, 2013

My new "in-between" graphic novel...

While at the bookstore this week, my daughter was looking for a "quick read."  I asked her to define "quick read" and she said it was a book that was easy to follow, might be silly, and did not need a bookmark.  So there you have it...my future third grader's definition of a quick read.

My daughter loves books.  She loves to hear them read aloud and she chooses to read, but right now she is working through the picture book to chapter book phase.  She wants to read chapter books by herself but needs encouragement to work through a page with no pictures.  Sometimes she is frustrated to put the bookmark in so she can go back to the book the next time she reads.  Graphic novels are her "go-to" books.  She is attracted to the pictures but appreciates the numbers of pages and the humor of the series characters.

She began with the two voice style of Elephant and Piggie, but now feels that she needs more.

She then went to Babymouse.  The character and the idea of a series motivated her but she still needed support with some of the vocabulary and wanted to be more independent.

So..this week she found her new "in-between" graphic novel...Meet Bean Dog and Nugget!

Monday, July 29, 2013

Modeling the role of talk with our new classroom communities...

I was at the bookstore today and overheard a woman in the aisle next to me.  She was with a friend asking the bookseller, "Do you have any books, picture books, that I could read to promote community and respect?  Did I say...third grade?"  The woman had not found her match with the picture books on display titled, "Back to School."

So of course, if you know me, I jumped in.  I discussed several titles with the two women and let them be to decide #1 if I was crazy #2 to look for the titles we had discussed   Our paths met again in the check out line.  Two of the titles caught her interest and was buying both...Courage and Duck! Rabbit!  She saw the potential in the first book, but questioned the second title.  So...here it comes...how I used Duck!Rabbit! to model the importance of listening to one another respectfully, understanding each other's point of view, supporting thinking with evidence or own experiences, and talking to start the year.

1.  I paused the first scene from a YouTube reading of the book where it is just the character, no title.  The video is included below.  I asked students to silently look at the picture and write down what they thought the character was while sitting at their seats.  The students then came to the carpet and began sharing their responses.  (notice thoughts are left at their seats so they won't be changed) Right away students began discussing what they saw and pointing to evidence. Students learned quickly to appreciate what they did not notice at first and the value of listening while their peers are explaining.

2.  Then we watched the YouTube reading of the book, pausing at several points to discuss the new evidence we have seen...Has our thinking changed now?  What in the text made you think that?  Has my thinking been persuaded down a new path?  Do I see your point of view but I am still convinced that I was right?

3.  Then the students went back to their seats and wrote about what they thought the main character was now by supporting their thinking with evidence from conversations or text.  Students came to realize that conversation can lift your thinking or take you down a road that was not thought of initially.

Students were engaged and interested in this moment because they came to realize that there is no right or wrong answer.  They began to ask why or why not, determine importance, and realize that conversation leads to deeper understanding because the students are questioning.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Notice and Note...with whom?

I have now read Notice and Note...twice.  During my first read, the text was meeting my mind and awakening so many thoughts and experiences.  During my second read, I found myself thinking about all of the student novels I have read and trying to have a conversation (with myself) about certain signposts in certain books.  One line stood out like no other on page 12, "Now more than ever, reading seems to be a social act."  Whether it be words on paper or words on a screen, I realize more than ever that the demands of reading in each situation are different, but the social act is the same.  I could not stop thinking about, other than "turn and talk" or whole class read aloud, how to use these signposts in a more "social" action.  Here are some that come to mind:

1.  Two classrooms participate in the same whole class read aloud in their own classrooms, discovering signposts along the way.  At certain "rest stops", buddies from each class are formed to discuss the signposts.  Are the two classrooms finding the same responses?  The students take notes of their conversation, then report back to their classroom any new thinking or revised thinking from the buddy stop.
2.  Two book clubs in the same classroom read the same book, but meet only with their own group.  Then at certain "rest stops", a student from one book club meets with another book club and uses book club discussions to move conversation forward.  Are the two book clubs finding the same responses?  The students then report back to their book club any new thinking or revised thinking from the buddy stop.
3.  Two classrooms in different schools participate in the same whole class read aloud. At certain "rest stops", buddies from each class are formed to discuss the signposts in the media world (blogs, Skype, etc..).  Are the two classrooms in different schools finding the same signposts?  The students then reflect on how this social act triggered any new thinking.

In all of these social acts, the signposts act as text triggers.  These text triggers will support the students in using natural strategies, not forced ones.

Now I am going to read a student novel and look for the signposts myself.  Check out A Year of Reading...Mary Lee tried this with a book titled, Don't Feed the Boy.  I am thinking of trying it with Eye of the Storm by Kate Messner.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Using curiosity to get to know our new students...

At the start of the school year, we need to get to know our students....their likes, interests, favorite books...to build our communities and begin to move students forward.  There are activities out there that do just that...pre-made All About Me posters, filling paper bags with five objects that reveal more about us, interviewing a fellow classmate, just to name three.  But what if we also nudged our students to share what they think about and learn about in our intellectual community.  What do they wonder?  What has made them stop and question?  What type of thinking would make them act?  Is it animals? Events from history? Art?  What experiences in their lives have led them to situations that created wonder?  Was it a family vacation?  A tree seen on a nature walk?  A story from a weekend with grandparents?  A news clip seen on television? Or watching a rollercoaster twist and turn over and over again?

I believe that students need an intellectual community that encourages wonder and promises a time to act on that curiosity,  Students need resources, technology, and time to have open inquiry and time to act on curricular inquiry.  Students also need opportunities for wonders to be shared and to have conversations with classmates that already have that known knowledge or clues to what we are wondering about.  I believe in supporting a community where known knowledge to new knowledge is just as important and valued as unknown knowledge to new knowledge.

One way to start the year is to have students bring in a picture of something that has made them wonder...something that has driven them to ask a question...want to know more.  Students would share their pictures and write a clue.  A clue that would give someone with "unknown" knowledge a starting point.

Here is the picture my son would bring in...
 His clue would be: Florida Panhandle

The picture and clue are then put on the following bulletin board...notice the computer right next to the interactive bulletin board?
During inquiry workshop, students can research more about the photograph.  There are no specific questions to answer and would pin what they learned on index cards next to the picture.  This is used for open inquiry, but could also open with curricular topics.

Directions: Once the board is filled with action and knowledge.  Repeat. :)

PS...No sea creatures were hurt in the photograph.  Just scooped up in a pink bucket and adored by many beach walkers.  They were released back to the Gulf within a few minutes.  Check out this site if you want to learn more about these creatures...Blue Button Jelly (link includes video of how they move...next thought...how were they impacted with the Gulf Oil Spill from a few years ago?)

His second place photograph.  Clue:  White line shows how high the Cumberland River was. (2010 Tennessee Cumberland River Flood)

Friday, July 5, 2013

Creating a classroom schedule...

It is this time of year when I have many conversations with teachers about creating their classroom schedules.  As a literacy coach, it is my role to listen, hear beliefs, see constraints, understand purposes, acknowledge promises, and support defining structures that are predictable and maintainable.

Here is a walk through of creating a classroom schedule that considers variables, illuminates beliefs, and makes promises.

1.  Plug in variables that you do not have control over...lunch, recess, specials, etc...
 2.  If your team has decided to have any common math or language arts blocks, this is the time to plug them in.  It is easy to see open spots as you discuss your common goal.  The team below needed a common math time so they could include the intervention teacher and the gifted intervention specialist.
 3.  Look for predictable, consecutive chunks of time.  Students need to feel the routine and promise of structures put into their day and for you...planning and responding to their needs the next day.

4.  List your priorities (your non-negotiables) that match your promises, beliefs, and visions.  Number one on this list was having read aloud at the end of the day.  The teacher wanted read aloud to be the last thing they did together, the last thing they remember doing, and a storyline that would leave them wondering, thinking, talking and longing to come back the next day as the students went to the buses.
 5.  Finding a reading workshop time that was open, consecutive, and was about an hour and a half.
 6.  Finding a time to put in an inquiry workshop that could connect to content area times.  With the way this schedule worked...planning inquiry workshop would have to be thought of as Friday, Monday, Tuesday so the lessons were consecutive.  This was the point that library and designated computer time was incorporated into the schedule.  Library for research and technology was needed to be a part of curricular inquiry circles.  Library had to bump read aloud on Mondays...but the read aloud book would be made as a possible mentor text for reading workshop on those days.
 7.  Needed to fill in word study and writing workshop.  Writing workshop won its spot because it lent itself to 50 minutes...four days in a row.
 8.  Define moments.  I always encourage teachers to "break it down.".  You will know if the times work based on how you define the moments within the larger chunk of time.  This is the time to plug in routines.  Defining moments is one step that is often skipped and can end up losing your way early in the year...teachers often want to see if the big blocks of times work before defining.  Defining is the most crucial step...it lets you see if the structures you need are maintainable.  Notice: morning work is not worksheets (a belief that was wanted in this schedule).  Morning work contains routines that are needed to make the year or day run smoothly.
The best bit of advice: create it with a colleague and think of schedules as a process. When you have someone listening through the process...they can help you discover and reflect on what is most important.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Independent reading vs. independent reader

I am a big believer in setting up a schedule in your classroom that illuminates your beliefs and promises
From Google Images
for your students.  Crafting a schedule of your school day is difficult...there are variables you can control and then there are variables that are out of your control.  Writing down that language arts is from 1-3 pm is too vague...structures, beliefs, and promises of what happens during that time need to be marked out...on purpose...promised.

Independent reading is one of those times often listed in one's schedule for the day. I have always had a strong belief of what independent reading time should be:
  • enough time for students to become engaged (30ish minutes)
  • full of choice and just right books
  • teacher confers during this time to monitor comprehension, engagement, book choices to support goal setting
  • accountability- I use Status of the Class
  • no writing assignments, no completing other assignments...the only writing that does occur is when a student feels the need to write random jots of "while reading thinking" for future conversations
  • recommendations, sharing books, and creating next stacks take place before this time so time is not lost randomly searching for books, wandering through the library...the next book is always ready so eyes on print time is not wasted!
Then I started reading, Notice and Note by Beers and Probst.  These authors have challenged me to not just think about the independent reading time but actually define an independent READER.  What is an independent reader?  I had always lumped my definition with this time and reader together...thinking about them separately has stretched my thinking.  These quotes from page 6 have me rereading, thinking, and rereading again...

"Independent reading is the ability to read a text on one's own with deep engagement, with attention to what might sway the reader's judgement or acceptance one way or the other."

"Independent readers are not only able to read without depending on the teacher to help them make sense of the text, but also are able to stand independent of the text itself, choosing on their own, with evidence from the text to justify the decision to agree or disagree, to accept the author's vision and thinking or reject it."

Here are some other posts on structuring an independent reading time so the independent reader has time to be thoughtful.