Time Well Spent #sol18

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Time Well Spent #sol18

July 17, 2018

One day last week,  I spent the day in a classroom with a teacher reorganizing her classroom library.

 

LOTS of Books

There were lots of books there.  I estimate that this teacher had 800-1000 books in her collection acquired from inherited books left in her classroom by the previous teacher, her childhood or friend’s childhood books, recent acquisitions, and gifts.  Her books had been leveled into general themes and reading levels.

Game Plan

Make a gathering place for each reading level band:  A/B,  C/D, E,  F/G,  H/I,  J/K,  L,M, and above. Then possibly sort into narrative and information books.  Finally group in loose themes to create book bins of twenty or so books.

 

Begin at the Beginning?

This is my sixth or so library overhaul with a classroom teacher in the last two years.  My goal is to have some ideas but to give the teacher lots of room to think through her collection his or herself.  I initially try to start in the middle of the collection.  As a first grade teacher, that would have been around a F/G level  using Fountas and Pinnell’s Guided Reading Level by Month Chart. She had many unleveled picture books in subject categories, so we began there.  That project was four hours in this classroom.  Two things contributed to its length.  She was evaluating texts as she went.  What to keep and what to purge. I might have kept all but the most glaringly obvious mismatches and then weeded at the book bin sort.  Eventually we developed a rhythm going along that she looked quickly through and made a brutal cut and then I leveled and reread some books suggesting uses for a few such as mentor text for certain aspects of reading or writing and book progressions.

Interestingly in this sort,  our ages became an obvious difference in selection.  There were many books in her collection that I had used as a teacher or parent.  Of course these books are twenty-some years old now.  For her, they all seemed ancient.  She cut nearly all of them.  While jarring at the time, it might not have been a bad move.  Many things have changed about our teaching,  our read aloud, and the way books draw students.  Unless I saw some emergent storybook potential in these books,  her decisions stood.

Picture Book Sort Tip

Think who will read?  Why read?  What is this books potential use?

End of Stage 1

At the end of stage one,  all the books were divided into reading levels.

Reading Level Tip

You might not sort all of the books into reading levels.  Some might be freeform in a very appealing sort of their own perhaps series or topic.

General Library Regroup Procedure

  1. Divide all the books into Reading Level.   Some you won’t be able to, in that case, approximate.  Use a strategy here, either pitch as you go or create a pile to look at later.  Don’t let that pile get too big, twenty books no more.
  2. Categorize those leveled books into subsets.  She used narrative and information.  In the bins I made for the book room,  I just used general feel of going together.  The teacher says I’m loose with those categories.  I might be.  It’s nice here to start thinking about categories that are going to go across levels for partner reading, leveling up, or whatnot.  Some categories that work might be: pets, dinosaurs, problems, favorite characters, or funny.  This is a good place to consider mentor texts at levels and emergent storybooks.
  3. Make a decision about how high your library should go.  As is common,  her library skewed high.  She had many books in the above level M category and very few at Level A/B.  Perhaps she won’t need those kinder levels in her class, but it’s something to consider.  She ultimately decided to offer to upper grade colleagues high level books that she didn’t think held an appeal to first grade.
  4. Notice what is amazing about your collection.  This about book progressions.  A student wants to read Diary of a Wimpy Kid.  Would Diary of a Worm be a first step? What books are glaringly missing?  I definitely need more Fly Guy.  This may take some thinking.  This doesn’t have to happen today.  You can look at a level a week during the year as your kiddos use them and adjust or make a buying/finding plan.
  5. Create sort system.  This could be bins of certain colors, color dots, bin numbers, labels or names.  The point here is to make the subject the focal point, not the book level.  However at first grade,  book level will be important.
  6. This is the tricky level.  Live in the library.  Watch how the students select or don’t select books.  Notice what draws them, what books they request.  Find a way to let students create book bins of their own with their partner or as a group.
  7. Resist the urge to buy a lot now.  Borrow library books.  Try out new series or characters.  Scouring blogs and bookstores.  Ask colleagues.

 

So in the end,  these 1,000 books took about six hours to sort, categorize, and weed.  She had some glaring gaps in her library.  Information books, some series,  book pairs, book club offerings, some levels.  Knowing that she can borrow some from the book room, the library,  and begin her acquisition plan.  My assistance is available for the next teacher, but I believe hers is as well.  I did pocket the Icky Bug Alphabet book from the rubbish pile and saved Mossy from oblivion by comparing it to A House for Hermit Crab.

 

Special thanks to Clare and Tammy and their amazing book, It’s All about the Books for inspiring this teacher and myself to rethink libraries.

 

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What I Took Away from It’s All About the Books #IMWAYR

9780325098135 Ten Things I Took Away from It’s All About The Books

April 20, 2018

Tammy Mulligan and Clare Landrigan’s new book, It’s All about the Books is a wake up call to every elementary classroom, school book room, literacy specialist, and administrator.  Buy more books and figure out how to redistribute the books you have so that every book is getting into the hands of students.

Here are some lessons I’ve learned or been reminded of by this amazing book.

 How many guided reading sets do we need? 

Break up the guided reading sets and make them into more interesting groupings. Keep the sets that will help teachers teach specific genres or specific skills in strategy groups.

Level, but don’t make it about the level 

It’s true at the beginning reading levels, students should and need to be reading at level.  However, making the level how we identify books,  identifies readers too.  Those kiddos don’t want to read an ____ level book,  they want to read a book about tarantulas or dolphins or whatever.   Make those groups be fun and funny and interesting.  Some book bin labels from our revolving bin collection:  Fun, Fun, Fun,  We Go Out,  99 Problems, I Got a Dog.   Our books are leveled A/B,  C/D, E, F/G,  H/I, but those level aren’t how we identify them.  IMG_1182

 

Move those books around!

Bring them to faculty meetings.  Make a bin swap date once a month for K-2.   As a coach, tote them to collaboration meetings, PLC, and whenever you meet with teachers.

 

Involve everyone in the DIY

Just because I live in the literacy center,  I don’t own it.  Involve everyone.  Ask questions:  What do we need?  What do we have?  What organization would help? What’s hot?

Find out what is out there in the building

Do a complete inventory.  Find out what you have to work with.  Include classroom libraries that were purchased by the district, mentor texts, classroom sets, EVERYTHING.

Organize a book swap 

Organize a book swap for teachers.  What books do you have in your room that your students consistently can’t read, don’t read, are too high,  too low,  ready to move on.  Maybe those books are just what someone else is looking for.

Organize a book swap for students

Have student bring in outgrown books.  Set up shopping tables by general grade level or interest.  Have kids take however many you can spread out.

Create a shared document 

Create a shared document for recommendations, for groupings, for books.  What would be a good next purchase?  What should a classroom teacher build up?  What is a must own?

Start in one place to organize

Let’s say your teachers all want to work on folk and fairy tales.  Create a section in your book room that is especially for those titles.  Same with animals.  These are always needed and popular.  Think about what you need organized as a group and start there.

Encourage everyone to switch up their offerings 

A good time to switch is over breaks or at the end of units.  Keep some from the last that didn’t quite get around to everyone or to use for transition.  Another good time to switch is after assessment time when you want to match readers with books that are more right for them.

School favorites

Think about vertical focus.  Is there a title that wants to move from grade to grade.  Picture books are not just for kindergarten and first grade.

Help Given

Hang a sign in the door of the book room, Help Given.  Have kiddos come by to discuss book groupings with you and help put away.  Have PLCs meet where the books are.

 

These are just a few of the amazing ideas inside Clare and Tammy’s great book, It’s All About the Books.  This is a must read for all teachers of reading because it really is all about the books.

 

 

Writers’ Workshop Live #sol18

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Here am I trying to nudge students into their ideas rather than summaries in literary essays by sharing some peer craft moves.  Alongside,  my assistance conduct their own writing conferences.

Writers’ Workshop Live

March 28, 2018

As part of my role as literacy specialist in an elementary building,  I co-teach in several classrooms in either reading or writing workshop. My primary role is to support fragile learners, but as all teachers,  I support whomever comes along.  This bunch of third grade learners have known me since their kindergarten days and their teacher and I have worked together often, though not in this consistent role until this year.  The teacher and I meet weekly to discuss assessments, student progress, planning, resources, and all things related to third grade literacy.  I join the student during their writing block in the afternoons for 40-45 minutes a day.  As all classes,  it is a mixed bag.  

Chapter 1

One day a few weeks ago,  I was away at a meeting in the afternoon and wasn’t able to go to third grade writers’ workshop.  This conversation ensued in my absence.

Protester #1:  This is the worst 15 minutes of my life. 

Patient Teacher:  The worst?  Really? 

Protester #1:  Ok, Top Three.   Stitches,  Waiting for Stitches and This. 15. Minutes. Right. Now.  (dramatic sigh, head on desk)

Protester #2:  Who invented writing anyway?

Protester #3:  I don’t know.  Mrs. Kennedy?

Chapter 2

Last week in writers’ workshop, the third graders were working on persuasive pieces as the lead up to their baby literary essay unit.  They brainstormed some ideas together, but around six students decided to write their persuasive essay about how we shouldn’t have writing at 2 p.m.  Their basic arguments were that they were smarter in the morning, their brains were less full, and an “easy subject” like reading could be moved to the afternoon.  They became quite vocal about it and I think began to believe that we could change writing time.  Because of the specialist schedules in her room (not mine),  the teacher has to have writing at this time which she has explained.  Finally on Monday, she told the kiddos,  “I’m just not going to listen to this anymore.  Get to work.”

We read the book, Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon and began the work of growing an idea  about a character and supporting in with three details from the text.

Chapter 3

Today in writers workshop, the teacher did the introduction and most of the kiddos stayed on the carpet to finish their second paragraph or move into their third.  I moved a stool onto the rug and began rehearsing sentences with protester #1.  Writers came up to have me read their work and approve it. Why do they do that?  Because I keep letting them.  I say,  what’s up?  Can you read this?  Sure.  I read it and hand it back. What do you think you might do now?  Is it good?  What do you think?  Have your writing partner confer with you.  or I’m done.  Sure, did you use some of our expert sentences?  Did you use some evidence?  Do you have a full paragraph?  Student slowly backs up. Hey kiddos,  remember, we are writing our fresh ideas, not the ideas of our character or summarizing.   But then,  I started reading some fresh thinking.  I send those kiddos off with the line that’s forming and they become the assistance.  misspell and pun intended.  

Toward the end of workshop I say to the teacher, I’m not sure I want to say this out loud, but it’s going pretty good.  Did you check out some work?   She says, yes,  good.   The assistants are into it.  But I have to tell you something.  I told them you were sad and you wouldn’t come back to workshop unless they worked hard.  

I guffawed.  How did that work? 

What really worked most likely is lean prompts, loose scaffolds, and mentors, both the book itself, and essays shaping up about book along with other students sharing ideas.  There were four adults in the room.  A para-educator working with student who have writing support plans.  A therapist working on ‘writing in the wild’,  the classroom teacher, and me.  We are currently teaching an If/Then Unit in Calkins’ Writing,  Baby Literary Essay.  We are on week 2, having taught a week of persuasion.  This unit is timely, as state testing is coming up. We keep it real knowing this is the type of writing these students will be doing the rest of their academic careers.  We find picture books great prompts.  The classroom teacher was using No David as an alternative text for a fragile learner.  She has a basket of great mentors for character change at the ready.  If you use the Calkins’ Units,  this unit has been reworked just this past fall and is available in the general information section of the third grade writing units online resources on Heinemann.com.  

My response to the classroom teacher’s tweet.

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Though now that I think about it,  I’d rather be Patricia Heaton.  She plays a convincing midwesterner in The Middle.

img_1405  Just your average writing teacher,  slicing every day for 31 days.  This is day 28 of a 31 day writing streak as part of the Slice of Life Story Challenge.  Read some fascinating blogs here at Two Writing Teachers.

Simple Tool Hall of Fame #sol18

uc1923.jpgSimple Tool Hall of Fame #sol18

Elementary Literacy Edition  Part 1

March 22, 2018

In our age of media peddled teacher tools and instagram worthy sights,  I rely on a few simple tools to get me through the day.

 

Here is my Elementary Literacy Simple Tool Kit Part 1

(in no particular order)

  1. IMG_09041×1 sticky notes.  Simple right, but have you cut a square into the middle of them so a student (or you) can highlight a word in a text,  book, or writing sample.  These words could be snap words, high frequency words,  content or domain specific words, or repeated words.  Though I don’t usually teach math,  they also work to highlight numbers on a 100 chart.
  2. IMG_0905 (1)Thinking/Writing Organizer #1  Informational   Box and Bullets.  This tool is not usually taught in the lower primary grades but the idea is strong .  Box for thesis (main idea) or heading,  3  bullets for details or subheadings,  bottom box for conclusion.  Can be drawn on anything, anywhere,  anytime.  Sometimes I just use my palm and fingers.
  3. Thinking/Writing Organizer #2  Narrative  Any size paper past 5×8 folded into fourths.  Top Left- Trouble the story,  two boxes for story arc,  bottom right-resolution.  Great for retell and especially planning.  Simple but can even get an intermediate student going.  I suggest no initial labels, but students can draw and/or write in boxes if necessary.  IMG_0907
  4. Writing implements:  Frixon erasable highlighters and plain old number 2 pencils (heavily sharpened)  Truth be told I usually carry a eraser for those kiddos that just have to keep on erasing.
  5. Paper(ish):  index cards, aforementioned stickies, conferring notebook/composition book that I use to write example, draw a simple diagram, teach first graders to draw an elephant, or whatever comes along.

Bonus:  weird things that were originally for something else:  rings, excellent for holding index cards together;  unifix cubes or discs for phoneme segmentation;  phone for recording kiddos to watch later, taking photos in classrooms for twitter or blog, note application, and google for everything else.

 

These are the staples of my simple toolkit.  Used over and over again, day in and day out.

 

 

img_1716-1Day 22 of the 31 day Slice of Life Story Challenge.

One Little Word #sol18

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One Little Word #sol18

“In the first place, you can’t see anything from a car.”
― Edward Abbey

January 9, 2018

I had my first little word in 2010, the year I uprooted my life and landed in New England.  That year’s word was about optimism and pushing forward.  That word was possible.  Last year my word was based on personal growth and coaching and the vibe I hoped would emanate from me to all those around me-linger.  Relax in the current condition and know when you shouldn’t rush forward.  I didn’t want to let that word go.  that makes sense, doesn’t it?

I have had this word floating around in my head for a few months.  I think I really change words in September or August when school starts.  That is my New Year’s.  I tried to convince myself that it seemed too easy,  not a real stretch for me.  As people published their OLWs last week,  I didn’t read any of them afraid that I wouldn’t have an original thought.  That I would push away from where I thought I needed to be.

I worked on synonyms for my word.  It’s so plain.  But none of the synonyms seemed quite right either.  So,  I press on.  After lingering last year,  I realized that the success was not so much the linger as it was what happened in the lingering,  noticing.  Actually seeing acts,  individuals, artifacts, situations, problems, solutions, and the pieces that make up the whole shebang.

I like to think I’m already good at noticing,  pointing out growth and struggle,  intention and exasperation,  kindness and effort.   I could be better.  In lingering,  I was able to let go of that anticipation of what I was going to do next or say next.  When I let go of that,  I did notice others so much more.

I considered changing my notice word to observe, but observe doesn’t have the same feel to it that notice has.  When I observe,  I can be passive,  it doesn’t feel active.  Noticing feels active,  like it’s an action to notice.

The most successful detectives owe their success to noticing small signs. Scouts are natural detectives and never let the smallest detail escape them. These small things are called by Scouts ‘Sign.’ Robert Baden-Powell

So see me this year as a detective  noticing signs.  I hope to not let the smallest details escape me while I’m thinking about something else.  I hope to give many people a degree of attention or recognition.  I hope to be present in this lingering moment,  noticing.

no·tice
ˈnōdəs
verb
gerund or present participle: noticing
  1. become aware of.
    “he noticed the youths behaving suspiciously”
    synonyms:  observeperceivenoteseediscerndetectspotdistinguishmark
    remark
    “it was only last year that the singer really began to be noticed”
    2. archaic remark upon.
    “she looked so much better that Sir Charles noticed it to Lady Harriet
    3. treat (someone) with some degree of attention or recognition.
    mary-olivers-instructions
    Screen Shot 2017-02-28 at 9.10.00 PM  Thank you today and happy new year to two writing teachers and the slice of life community.  Read more amazing thought here.

Books to Spotlight Small Moments #IMWAYR

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Examining Small Moments and Personal Narratives in the Workshop

December 4, 2017

In our building, we have been spending some planning and instruction time examining small moments, both in reading and writing workshop.  Having a few small moments or personal narratives to examine in writing workshop was never a problem.  We have our favorites:  Shortcut, Fireflies, Come on, Rain.  Small moments are easier to find perhaps than personal narratives.  What if the personal narrative isn’t exactly personal?  Some of my favorites:  Roller Coaster, The Snowy Day, The Relatives Came aren’t really told in the first person.  Does that diminish their usefulness as a mentor texts to our aspiring writers?

Here are a few things to consider when teaching small moments and personal narrative. Remembering that the purpose of small moment writing is that the writing is finite.  This gives our younger authors the ability to write in detail showing character’s small actions, dialogue and internal thinking.  We are working on stories becoming more and more cohesive with greater and greater detail.

What is our purpose for using a particular mentor text?  Are we working on watermelon/seed ideas?  Then texts like The Snowy Day, Blackout, and Roller Coaster are wonderful, inspiring text for our students to think about their own small moments.  I also use small books in their levels to tryout thinking.  In our Fountas and Pinnell  Leveled Literacy collection, The Muddy Mess is one book that are definitely about a small moment that many kids might have.  Soccer Game in Scholastic Hello Readers!  uses descriptive words to talk about just one soccer game.  This book is written in the first person and could be used as a interactive read aloud.

IMG_0424To pair a simple book like Soccer Game!  as a mentor text in small moment writing,  we could think about another game, perhaps one on the playground where we would use descriptions to go part by part through the game.

In Joy Cowley’s The New Cat,  the words are simple, describing the action in the pictures.  The pictures may help explain our younger readers and writers  thinking,  while the words describe a particular part.

Many other books might show real photos while explaining a child’s exploration of shopping, the aquarium or other places.  These books are wonderful for interactive read aloud or mentors for interactive writing so students can see themselves reading or writing themselves.

In a focus lesson, we can work with our students in a more difficult text.  One, where when we are the readers,  students can do the challenging thinking work.  In Owl Moon, a great text for 2nd grade, students can imagine why Jane Yolen chose to write this book while contemplating the small moment of going owling after dark.

In Sophie Was Really,  Really Angry or No David!,  students can use illustrations to think about the small moments along with strong feelings.  While No,David!  tells the story from the author’s point of view,  Sophie Was Really,  Really  Angry using third person.  Could we discuss with the students what words we might use if we were writing about feeling this way ourselves?

IMG_0421Sometimes,  books are long(ish),  after sharing the book in a read aloud, we might just use a page or a two-page spread to talk about a specific aspect of writing.  In The Relatives Came or Yard Sale,  we might stop at a page and talk about descriptions or stretching the moment, or making a picture in our minds.

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Sometimes,  we might use a completely different type of book, perhaps one that is a familiar read,  to focus on one aspect of an author’s craft:  clever endings,  strong leads,  rich details.  These books are endless and part of your natural library.  In my use, I try to limit these books to have human characters, thought it is particularly hard to avoid using the wonderful richness of Kevin Henkes’ and Lily’s Plastic Purse and others for small moments.

So,  my advice,  relax.  Sometimes we will have focus lessons and this won’t be work students are doing in their independent reading.  Sometimes,  we pair or double pair students up to do focus lesson work in picture books that we have chosen for the group. Sometimes, we won’t.  Perhaps, we will work through small moment, narrative arc work in interactive read aloud and we will have students look for a particular aspect, for example,  rich details, in all the text they are reading.  Whatever work we are doing,  it should be reflective our standards,  our formative assessments,  our student needs, and be an rich experience.

 

The Pigeon Lives Here #sol17

IMG_9903The Pigeon Lives Here #sol17

October 3, 2017

Over the course of the last week or so, as the first graders pass by the literacy center on their way to lunch,  I began to overhear one student after another mention “Pigeon”.  I didn’t think much about it, but then the first grade PLC leader dropped by the literacy center on her way back from specials one day.  Here’s her story.

The students noticed you have THE Pigeon in here, she said.  You have to start moving it every day.  

I was confused, but then I remembered that I had purchased Pigeon,  Piggie, and Gerard over the summer and they were gently tucked into the new book shelves surrounding my desk.  I thought they might be popular with the students at the time, but over weeks, they were just blending in for me.  She continued.

We told the first graders that Pigeon comes to check the libraries in our rooms at night and he leaves them all messages.  You have to move him around because now they think he lives in the Literacy Center. 

It makes sense.  The Literacy Center is one big library of teacher resources and leveled text.  I thought, why not?   That very afternoon,  I moved Pigeon to prominently display on the shelf right inside my door.  Do you know what happened next?

Pandemonium!   When the first graders came down the hall that day to go to lunch and the Pigeon- THE PIGEON -was right there looking at them,  the buzz went up and I’m not sure how anyone got to lunch that day.

So… here I am.  The Pigeon has become my own personal Elf on the Shelf.  I try to remember to move him each afternoon before I go home. There he is every morning waiting to be magical in the eyes of some very perceptive six year old.

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I’m grateful today for six year old magic, for first grade teachers who wanted to include me in the fun, for Mo Willems for creating such a wonderful character for children to relate to, and for the opportunity this and so many other days to be part of the world of elementary school.

 

 

 

Screen Shot 2017-02-28 at 9.10.00 PM I’m grateful to Two Writing Teachers for giving me a reason to think about the magic of my day and then write about it.  You can read more Slices here.