On Programs, Broken Promises and Why We Aren’t Finland

On Programs, Broken Promises and Why We Aren’t Finland.

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L.O.V.E love your library!

The library is the heart of your classroom. The more books kids have in their classroom is the largest predictor of success. Kids should take pride in their library and become owners it. One of the things I was most proud of as a teacher, is when a colleague came into my room to borrow a book, the kids could tell the colleague where to find it, because they knew how to use the library so well. I had them help me make it. Our library also evolved as the year went on. My amazing co-teacher and I would hide books in the closet. When a new unit came up, we would bring out the new books and reinvigorate the library again. For example when the series unit in second grade came around, my secret stash of series books emerged.  Think of Barnes and Noble. Barnes and Noble always has some books out in front. In October they may be Halloween books, in September they are “back to school” books. You can always have the unit you are working on displayed front and center. Nonfiction time, think about where your nonfiction books are. During emergent story books, have them from and center etc… Guess what unit my friends at P.S. 280 are on, given their front book shelf…

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L.O.V.E. comes from an amazing literacy coach I am lucky to work with in Highland Creek Elementary school in Charlotte, NC (thanks Marcy).

L- labeled – Make the labels with the kids. Introduce them to baskets and have them decide  on the factors all the books have in common so what the basket should be labeled. Make sure the labels are visible (facing out) so the kids can see them.

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O- organized- Leveled books go together, nonfiction together, series etc… There should never be a question as the where to look for a book.

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V- visible – Make sure the labels face out, pictures help, especially for Kindergarten. Libraries deserve prime real estate! Make it the highlight of your classroom.

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E – easy to access – Think about eye level of the kids. Think about obstacles in the way. We want kids to be able to take and return books with ease, vertical limitations and all.

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If You’re Not Having Fun You’re Doing It Wrong

Teacher evaluations, Danielson, Common Core, State Tests, Quality Review, State Reviews, Common Core Curriculum…stressed yet? Everywhere I have been going the past few weeks, I can feel it in the air. Walking into a school building, I have literally felt the the knots in my back forming, the pressure is building on teachers. I was recently in a meeting with Kindergarten teachers and we were planning some shared reading, their QR was around the corner and running records were sprawled across the table, I think nobody in the room had any nails left from all the biting. I stopped myself for a second, we were planning shared reading in Kindergarten! If shared reading in Kindergarten isn’t fun, well then we have to be doing it wrong. I decided we needed to take a minute to have some fun with the kids. If reading loses joy in Kindergarten, what hope do the middle schoolers have?

We went into a classroom and made a book about hair, after all the kids commented on my wildly curly hair and asked me “how do you get your hair so wiggly?” (I was in Chinatown, where curly hair is not usually seen)

We had tons of fun making it interactive writing style, then did some shared reading with it, and ended by putting copies in kids book baggies for them to read over and over again. It was a blast, and I believe we also taught some reading.

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Please have fun today….and make a book!

Everybody Talks, Everybody Talks

Last week I presented on Talk at the Saturday Reunion. One of the most popular ideas from this day was the curriculum of talk, created with Cheryl Tyler, Principal turned Staff Developer! Here is what it looks like:

A Curriculum of Talk/Talk Now for Kindergarten

 

In the morning, when kids arrive, they are engaged in a “Talk Now’. The teacher selects a topic for the week based upon the child’s interests, passions, current events or unit. In Kindergarten it may be as simple as “What did you have for breakfast this morning?” or “What is your favorite piece of equipment on the playground?’ Upper grade students may propose topics (that they subsequently turn into essays) that have included “Animals shouldn’t be used for fur” or “Rents in the Bronx are too high”.

We use this talk to explicitly teach language structure and vocabulary.

Day 1 Talk to your “Talk Now” partner about the topic. While students are talking, the teacher is listening in and taking notes to assess language. Ex: full or incomplete sentences, few words, listening and responding to partner or each partner talking about themselves etc…
Day 2 Talk to your “Talk Now” partner (could be same or different partner) about the same topic. Teacher can listen in and coach to help students use higher level language and speaking skills.
Day 3 There will be a whole class conversation. They have had 2 days of practice saying ideas and sentences about the topic.
Day 4 The teacher will transcribe on a chart paper a syntactically correct and structurally complex synthesis of the ideas the kids have be talking about” Shared talk.
Day 5 The written piece made on Day 4 will be revised to include higher level vocabulary. For example you may change the word ‘ate” to “devoured’.

Read the piece created for shared reading, as much as you can.

Sample of what chart from student conversation may look like…

 The children of K-302 eat a lot of different variety of things for breakfast. Dylan thinks that pancakes are delicious and eats devours them. Caleb, Annie and Tyler prefer to have cereal and often put fruit on top.

Annies mom prefer her to eat cereal that doesn’t have too much sugar. Having large amounts of sugar for breakfast is bad unhealthy.

On day 5, they went over vocabulary including variety, devours, and unhealthy. Kids then read this piece many times for shared reading and was a favorite to come back to.

Accountable Talk Chart

Let's Talk (conversation) anchor chart

Small Group Work in Reading

Amanda Hartman (a small group work in reading genius) gave me some great ideas on types of small groups that really help to move students reading levels. Many of the teachers I work with have been finding them very useful to help especially with readers stuck at a level.

The first type of small group is really a hybrid between guided reading and a strategy group. The first thing we did is preview the text and pull out words that we predict the students would struggle with. We then place them on post-its. During the book introduction we had students using MSV. We supported them in using their decoding strategies to decode the words (visual), we had the students think about what the story may be about if these are the words in it (meaning), and then generate some sentences they predict to find in the book (syntax). After this book introduction students read the text in pairs. We found it best to use a text one or two levels above the students independent reading level. After they read in with their partners, we came back together. The students then revised some of their predictions from earlier in the text and some of the sentences they came up with. They also used the words on the post-its to help them retell. They then read the text again, this time independently. They then added these books to their book baggies to keep practicing. Kids really enjoyed it, and it really scaffolded a text that was above their reading level.

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Another type of small group work we have been trying that has been helping lift students comprehension level is one that is similar to guided reading. We gather the students with a text about one level above their independent reading level. We then do a book introduction and coach as the students read the text. (So far similar to guided reading) We then come back and retell the book. In the students books we have left post-its with questions they can ask themselves as they read, such as “how is the character feeling right now?” and “what is the author trying to tell us here?”. After the retell, the students will read the book again, this time stopping at the post-its and asking themselves the questions. The initial read they focused a lot on decoding. This second read they are asking and answering questions as they read. We even put in some blank post-its and students wrote their own questions. After the second read we came back together and the students retold the story again, this time the retelling was at a much higher level. We ended the group by asking the students to take the post-its out and put them into another book they were working on.

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A third type of small group we having been trying involved using writing to lift the level of reading. We had a B level text and gathered B readers. We then put a post-it on each page. Using shared writing we came up with additional labels, and sentences to add to the book. When we were done we turned a B level text into a C or D level text due to the words we added. Because we used shared writing, students were able to read their words. They then added these books to their book baggies, and upped the level of text complexity in their book baggies!

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Have fun trying out some of these small groups in reading and don’t be afraid to get creative!