Test Day #sol19

Test Day #sol19

April 23, 2019

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Today is state test day for the third graders.  I would like to say that it’s just one piece of data.  I would like to say that it’s insignificant to my work, our work.  I would like to say that I haven’t been thinking about how the students will do.  I cannot.

I’ve been thinking about test day for over a month.  Every literary essay we craft with the students makes me consider if we’ve helped them own the narrative tasks.  Every time they misstep in character work or parts of speech or planning for writing makes me consider every way I’ve coached teachers and students in literacy.

If you asked me outright,  I would say that what I see in student writing, in independent thinking, in character analysis by NINE YEAR OLDS has been nothing short of amazing. Yet, on the practice test, they asked the students to write a story from the perspective of a rat instead of a snake and they were thrown.  I understand the test creators may ask point of view questions for students to show how they understand character development in relationship to stories.  Perhaps the students are thrown because the stories are not as complicated as the ones they read every day.

As I arrived at school, I realized that we worry about the state tests a few days coming up to them, on the day as student ( and their parents) react to them, and on the day that the scores arrive.  These tests are our currently reality.  We should think about how questions are asked of students and how students respond to them.  We also should continue to teach literacy in the context of life skills and citizenship, connections and inferences,  deep thought and collaborative talk.

I hope that all we as a staff have facilitated for our students will shine in these assessments.  However,  if it doesn’t, perhaps we should consider not just our presentation, but the test design. Allowing ourself time to teach students how they will be tested now and throughout life.  Contemplating how to respond to tests and how to succeed.

For now,  I wish all of us a peaceful, productive day.

 

 

 

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Reflection: The Fuel #sol19

For the month of March , I will be participating in the Slice of Life Challenge (#sol19) sponsored by Two Writing Teachers. I will be slicing each day for 31 days inspired by my work as a literacy specialist and coach, my life, and my fellow bloggers.

Reflection:  The Fuel #sol19

March 27, 2019

Screen Shot 2019-03-26 at 8.59.58 PMFeeling a little tired after facilitating a curriculum meeting yesterday after school yesterday, reflecting on my retired colleagues’ happiness displayed over dinner last night, and three  problem solving meetings before ten,  I am definitely out of sorts.  Not an acceptable way to be in an elementary school.

Heading down the hall after missing a few groups this morning,  I stop by the door to pick up my 10:20 appointment.  His whole face lights up with a smile.

Here I am, he says.

After sending him back to fetch the book we are discussing together, we head off down the hall.  I haven’t noticed yet but my mood is already starting to lift.  We sit down head to head to catch up with Sugar and her chicken squad.

Chapter 6?  I say.

Chapter 7! my companion says assuredly.

I flip through the book pages, reading our thoughts from the preceding days. Sugar is the kind of chicken who likes to make plans that help herself.  Sugar is the kind of children who takes charge.  Sugar is the kind of chicken who has lots of ideas.  I remind him that we are the kind of readers who want to solve the mystery, but know our work for this book is to think about the character and how she changes.  We read another chapter together, whispering when the character whispers, being loud when she is loud.  Soon it is time for our final thoughts and back to class.

See you tomorrow, he says.

Can’t wait, I say.

Off then to another third grade where they are comparing two books,  Nerdy Birdy and A Bike Like Sergio’s.  One of our writers exclaims that he can’t possible write or remember all of our thinking…  Give it a try, says his teacher.  Practice with Mrs. Kennedy.  Soon my time with them is up,  then on to the next class, where we are tackling a story mountain considering Peter’s motivation for running away from home and returning.

By the time I return to the literacy center,  there is a spring in my step, happy thoughts fill my head and a smile graces my face.  The intervention teacher working in the center turns to me and smiles back.  Oh, I sign,  I need to remind myself that the cure for everything is a little while with the students.

Yes, she says, you do need to remember that.

Monday Bookshelf: Smaller Bite Books #sol19

For the month of March , I will be participating in the Slice of Life Challenge (#sol19) sponsored by Two Writing Teachers. I will be slicing each day for 31 days inspired by my work as a literacy specialist and coach, my life, and my fellow bloggers.

Monday Bookshelf:  Smaller Bite Books  #sol19

March 25, 2019

If you are reading this, you might have the same problem I do.  Bookshelves bursting at the seams and an organization system that works one day, but not the next.  Welcome to my Monday bookshelf, where I will organize a stack of books within a category.  Hopefully this stack will resonate.

Living in Character Studies across the grades and working on book clubs.  Some novels take a lot to get through, a lot of reading, a lot of thinking, a lot of time.  We are also deep within pretest season where short and dense are definitely the stars.  How to teach deep into character, climax, solution, lesson, and story arc while keeping the reading and talk more management.  Denser picture books may be the answer.  I find myself returning to picture books more and more as a strong contender when I am looking for mentors both for teacher use to keep lessons short or student use to keep engagement and learning high.

When I sat down with one of the third grade teachers a few weeks ago,  we brainstormed books high in character work, perfect for considering in mini literary essays.  Now encouraging teachers to use familiar books seems right.

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Some of these book are well known for character work in third and in the lower grades.  Considering them for literary essay work when students are familiar, lightens the comprehension work and increases their ability to consider the story.

As an extra push, consider having the students make connections across books are to thinking about situations in their own experience that are similar in change or life lesson.  That makes for some really strong essays.   I also like narrative nonfiction biographies for this thinking, but I’ll leave that for another day.

Jabari Jumps, front and center, has become a go-to book for many grades.  I often carry it in my conferring bin.  If you are unfamiliar,  Jabari faces the dreaded high dive.  He thinks he is ready to jump, but is he?  The stretch out of the story heart with illustration elaboration will fit nicely to teach into how an author shows us what is important through craft, illustrations as a craft move, and the social emotional aspect is a wonderful bonus.  Screen Shot 2019-03-24 at 5.05.51 PM.png

The Rough Patch, a Caldecott honoree,  is an emotional wringer for adults, though I find students are pragmatic about the crushing blow our fox friend takes near the beginning of the story.  His reactions are great food for discussion and the turning point helps illustrate how authors teach us.  Be ready for a grand conversation with this book.

If the Shoe FitsThose ShoesA Bike Like Sergio’s , Stand Tall, Molly Lou MelonThe Invisible Boy are standard fare for whole class talk in character change and lesson learning.  Turning these familiar books back on the students for their consideration in small group shows them what they already know about this genre work.  They stand the test of time.Screen Shot 2019-03-24 at 5.32.34 PM

For students who deserve a challenge consider, Beekle, The Last Stop on Market Street, and Come On, Rain.  While story arc might be clear here,  lessons and character change require deeper thinking. For students that need a simpler text, consider No David.

Think about your class, students, or school focus,  books like Ruby the Copycat,  The Recess Queen, and The Bad Seed, The Good Egg, and There Might Be Lobsters have the lesson and the characters front and center to show clearly the work of the author we are considering.

Some of these books are shifting at this time of year from other earlier year bins.  Keeping a story across grades and across the year shows the students how the work weaves together and how we can look at craft with new eyes.

Notebook Saturday: Drop In #sol19

For the month of March , I will be participating in the Slice of Life Challenge (#sol19) sponsored by Two Writing Teachers. I will be slicing each day for 31 days inspired by my work as a literacy specialist and coach, my life, and my fellow bloggers.

Notebook Saturdays

Through my work as a literacy coach,  I have teachers that I meet and collaborate with throughout the week. Some teachers will come with questions, sometimes we plan out what we will work on the next week, sometimes I have a teaching technique or skill  I’ve noticed or a suggestion. I keep a journal entry of each meeting to keep me thinking. 

Notebook Saturday:  Drop In #sol19

March 23, 2019

She rushes in the book room, paper in hand. Do you have a few minutes? she asks.  I turn from my computer, my head full of other thinking.  I hesitate, only for seconds.  Sure, I say, What’s up?  

She places a carefully constructed sheet on my table.  I scan for a moment.  Oh,  new strategy goals…  She has been very careful.  I wish I remembered her carefully constructed titles for the groupings.  In my mind I was already translating them… word solving, ok.  Two word solving groups.  (Middle word)   Now I’m remembering… Mind Movies,  Dialogue.  I called one Fluency.  Oh yes,  she called it sound like talking.   There’s one cryptic group that I’ve called LL.  Hope she remembers who and what.

Looks like you’ve got it thought out. 

I don’t know how I’m going to fit it all in.  

(Sigh) (This is a talk I can do on the fly)  Let’s talk it out.  Let me get a piece of paper.  Legal pad sheet ripped off the pad.  Stickies.  Pencil.  Let’s go. Ok,  how many groups can you fit in a workshop?  Two? 

I think I can fit three, she says.  Hmmm.  I quickly draw a grid, talking as I go.  Let’s plan for four days and then you can have an extra for things you notice that week or just whip around conferring.  I pause…  Let’s start with your word solvers.  

We begin working through groups talking strategic times, timing, configuration, methods as we go. My paper begins to look like a football play book.  (As if I’ve seen one of those)

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Quickly we work through the groups. Perhaps start the week with Word Solvers.  Maybe this word solving group can be seen by your partner teacher and you can just do table conferences.  

On we go.  Four days a week for the word solvers. She’s been running a shared reading group with them.  I suggest a gradual release. 2 minute teach, 8 minute watch and coach.  Then later in the week, run both groups at the same time, centering herself and going back and forth.

She’s ready for a stretch in technique.

Her Mind Movie group and Dialogue group perhaps two days each.  That might be a good try for Shared Reading.  Interactive Read Aloud, she says.

Mind Movie group?  What level?  Lish?   You could teach into story mountain.  Time line? she asks.   Four squares.   Maybe a little higher level character work.  Iris is the kind of person who…character trait.   

We talked through book club ideas quickly.  Double partnerships, book club talk.

We include a bonus slot for research or teaching into current unit lessons.  I draw a poorly executed trash can fire.  She looks up.  Sometimes fires happen.  You need space for that.  

Then I say something off the cuff in closing. That’s a mantra, she says.  Write it down. 

IMG_3800 (1) Laughing,  I write it down as I say it again.

Off you go.  

 

My apologies to Jennifer Serravallo for my fast edit of a technique I learned from her.  You can read more about this grid planning technique in Teaching Reading in Small Groups.  

Monday Bookshelf: (Un)Flat Characters #sol19

For the month of March , I will be participating in the Slice of Life Challenge (#sol19) sponsored by Two Writing Teachers. I will be slicing each day for 31 days inspired by my work as a literacy specialist and coach, my life, and my fellow bloggers.

Monday Bookshelf:  Character Study in Intermediate Edition #sol19

March 18, 2019

If you are reading this, you might have the same problem I do.  Bookshelves bursting at the seams and an organization system that works one day, but not the next.  Welcome to my Monday bookshelf, where I will organize a stack of books within a category.  Hopefully this stack will resonate.

We meet up on Friday mornings at 7:30 and co-teach with each other through the reading (writing) block each day.  Sometimes we chat on the fly before I go to my first class at the beginning of her planning.  Sometimes she stops me on my way down the hall.  Sometimes I drop in as I am walking by.  We talk a lot.

Screen Shot 2019-03-17 at 8.50.31 PMThis week we are talking about what it means to be in a book club and the dreaded flat characters.  I won’t mention the flat characters.  You know who they are.  They lurk around in easier chapter books or series where the author keeps that main character as flat as a pancake. When you say something brilliant like

develop a theory about a trait of your main character and use evidence to grow that idea, 

that darn old flat character really won’t give up one single thing.  He or she just sits there on the pages moving forward with not a real emotion one.

Help me!  I have some real emotions. 

So here we sat with this problem along with another problem… Harry Potter.  Now I love Harry Potter, not as much as the next person, but I do think he’s pretty special.  HOWEVER,

itsgoingtobenearlyimpossibleforthatnineyearoldtopickonecharactertraitandevidencefromaSEVENHUNDREDpagebook. 

First my recommendation for books with characters for third graders who love Harry Potter.  patentpending

Screen Shot 2019-03-17 at 8.49.30 PMBeastologist.   Ok, the actual title is Flight of the Phoenix (Nathanial Flood, Beastologist)  This book is short.  This book is easy.  This book is filled with villians and twists and surprises and magic and… an orphan.  I know,  WINNING.  Also a series.

Another similar short book is Spiderwick.

If you want something in the same vein, but a harder read,  Theodosia and the Serpents of Chaos will fit the bill.  Again a series.  Screen Shot 2019-03-17 at 8.49.13 PM.pngThese books are for your HP lovers.

The flat character lovers need something else.

Screen Shot 2019-03-17 at 8.49.00 PMFor Lovers of the flat character books,  perhaps Ellray Jakes is Not a Chicken.  The character isn’t much less flat, but he does learn something.   This is also a place where I might insert Alvin Ho or Calvin Coconut who seem much less flat.  I insert male protagonists here because I am thinking about certain flat characters.  If your flat characters are perhaps fairies,  I think Spiderwick might work or perhaps you could work in some strong girls like,  Lola Levine or  Dyamonde DanielsJasmine Toguchi, or Sofia MartinezScreen Shot 2019-03-17 at 8.47.35 PM

definitely a theme here

All these books are not expensive.  They are relatively easy to read and find.  They are part of a series.  And… we will be book tasting them very soon in a third grade near me.

So my teacher colleague and I read and talked about some books.  Some fresh books will come and be loved by her friends.  Some old flat friends will stay and we’ll work through those skills with short text and picture books.  We will pick up that story another time.

From My Notebook: Staying with the Hard Work #sol19

For the month of March , I will be participating in the Slice of Life Challenge (#sol19) sponsored by Two Writing Teachers. I will be slicing each day for 31 days inspired by my work as a literacy specialist and coach, my life, and my fellow bloggers.

Notebook Saturdays

Through my work as a literacy coach,  I have teachers that I meet and collaborate with throughout the week.  Usually these meetings are at 7:30 a.m. on a scheduled day of the week. I  meet with each teacher or team for 1/2 hour keeping notes of what we are working on.  Our school is an UOS of Study school following the work of Lucy Calkins and colleagues in this our first year of full implementation.  Most of our meetings are in their classrooms. Some teachers will come with questions, sometimes we plan out what we will work on the next week, sometimes I have a teaching technique or skill  I’ve noticed or a suggestion. I keep a journal entry of each meeting to keep me thinking. I am thankful to Tammy Mulligan, Teachers for Teachers, for assisting me in working on offering a menu of ideas during this coaching time.  This is still, after years, a work in progress.

Thinking about Writing about Reading:  Book Clubs, Literary Essay, & the Narrative Task #sol19

March 16, 2019

IMG_3575The afternoon before they warned me.  Be ready!  We’re bringing a lot to talk about tomorrow.  Maybe we need some extra time.  Sure, I say.  You know I’ll be here around 7.

Sure enough, around ten after 7,  the show up, arms full, already talking to each other.  I imagine all the way down from their rooms in  the other side of the building,  Anxious to see what they are thinking, the papers are quickly spread all over the table.  Waiting and listening for the kernel,  I take a sip of coffee and open my notebook.  This conversation had started the week before. The intersection of historical fiction book clubs, literary essays, and the looming state test tasks have been a hot topic.

Last week, after a free write about the the character trait of Fox in Fox, the students struggled to develop a thesis for Number the Stars and the books in their book clubs.  Having some personal theories, I wait for an opening and ask, point to the place where you lost them. There is a pause where these thoughtful teachers consider, then go back and look at their student work.  I wait.

Make to the start.  What’s the goal?  Grow an idea about a character using evidence.  Two overall problems emerge:  idea is weak or evidence doesn’t strongly support thesis.  The students seem to be heavily reliant on retell or prediction.  What’s next?  Go back.  Try again with a familiar text that they completed a lot of character work with in the fall, The Last Kiss by Ralph Fletcher available in the book Marshfield Dreams.

Our final decisions:  Limit choice to Complications A Character Has or Lesson Learned                                            Teach Back into the Skill                                                                                                                      Reexamine Results                                                                                                                                  Have student create a theory chart with evidence across text

They came back with the more notes and ideas the next week.  Stay tuned.

 

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theory chart

IMG_3599 Growing an ideaIMG_3686.jpgJot Menu

 

Monday Bookshelf: Fairy Tale(ish) Edition #sol19

For the month of March , I will be participating in the Slice of Life Challenge (#sol19) sponsored by Two Writing Teachers. I will be slicing each day for 31 days inspired by my work as a literacy specialist and coach, my life, and my fellow bloggers.

Monday Bookshelf:  Fairy Tale(ish) Edition #sol19

March 11, 2019

If you are reading this, you might have the same problem I do.  Bookshelves bursting at the seams and an organization system that works one day, but not the next.  Welcome to my Monday bookshelf, where I will organize a stack of books within a category.  Hopefully this stack will resonate.

Screen Shot 2019-03-10 at 4.31.28 PM.pngStack 2:  Fairy Tale, Folk Tale, Fable, Traditional Tale… Any Book with Strong Archetypes and a Lesson

Being a little tired of most fairy tales where the female character is at the whim of the male power character,  I branch out to other books that have a traditional tale feel without actually being one.  All except The Three Little Pigs, which could be either gender and seem to work with every demonstration lesson ever.  (Don’t believe me.  It’s Tammy Mulligan’s theory.  Give it a try)  For that story,  you don’t need a book.  Every single person knows what happens.  Here is a collection of books with a strong lesson, strong characters, and character change. 

 

Screen Shot 2019-03-10 at 3.28.17 PMA Camel in the Sun inspired by a retelling of a traditional Muslim hadith, or account of the words or actions of the Prophet,  this is the story of a camel whose owner only realizes his selfish ways when the Prophet appears and tends to the camel humanely.

 
Screen Shot 2019-03-10 at 3.27.05 PMThe Wolf, The Duck, and the Mouse   This is a crazy tale where the victims change the tables on the villain.  Who is the bad guy in this story?  Perfect for the student who loves a twist.

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Little Tree  The little tree stubbornly refuses to let go and faces the consequences.  There is a strong message here about change.   Very simple text and beautiful illustrations.

 

Screen Shot 2019-03-10 at 3.24.39 PMThe Uncorker of Ocean Bottles   I’m not sure what kept me from this book until now.  The Uncorker has the solitary job of retrieving bottles from the ocean and delivering them to the appropriate persons until one day…

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Horrible Bear   As in many of Ame Dyckman’s books,  the obvious bad guy just isn’t.  Misjudged,  the bear isn’t the one with the lesson to learn  See also  Wolfie the Bunny and Misunderstood Shark

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Chopsticks  I kind of want to include an AKR book into every category I make.  They can be used for so many.  Chopsticks think they can only work together, until… See also Spoon and Exclamation Mark.

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Bloom  is a fairy tale with an anti-hero.  She’s the solution that no one wants.  She doesn’t have to be the one to save the day,  she can give her powers away. Screen Shot 2019-03-10 at 3.20.31 PM

 

 

 

 

Also in the Stack:    Screen Shot 2019-03-10 at 3.58.55 PMThe Princess and the Pit Stop a delightful mashup of many tales where the heroine definitely makes things happen  Screen Shot 2019-03-10 at 3.59.55 PM

After the Fall    a familiar tale with a much more satisfying ending

 

 

and  Screen Shot 2019-03-10 at 4.01.26 PM.pngWe Don’t Eat our Classmates

I have never seen this problem in a classroom and yet, I think we can all relate