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.

 

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We All Have a Story to Tell #IMWAYR

We All Have a Story to Tell

September 25, 2017

I have been thinking a great deal lately about what we ask our students to do daily.  Particularly what we ask them to do that would be stressful, difficult, or embarrassing (see future for Tom Newkirk’s amazing book Embarrassment).  This week and last, this thinking centered around the launch of the writing workshop and everything about new teacher/ new expectations/new peers.  How can we help students (and their teachers) bridge that chasm.  The beginning is the hardest part for so many.

Three books come to mind that ease that chasm in the elementary classroom.  Use these liberally with a healthy dose of “giving it a go yourself.”

In A Squiggly Story,  Andrew Larson explores a early learner’s journey as a writer.  So often students are searching or expecting that stories (for others) just magically come out of the end of our writing tools.  With some excellent peer coaching from his sister, our young author explores the writing process from idea to lead, to peer editing.  A wonderful book for kindergarten and first grade writers.

 

IMG_9872Ralph Tells A Story centers around the problem many writers young and old have… “AHHH! I have no story!”  Ralph looks around and EVERYONE especially the girl next to him is writing away.  He looks everywhere for a story.  When given ideas,  he can’t think how to develop them.  When the teacher calls on him in share,  he tentatively starts…”I was at the park.  An inchworm crawled on my knee.”  Then the questions begin rolling in, and Ralph realizes that he does, indeed, have a story to tell.

Recently in the third grade in a school near here,  a teacher read this book and produced this wonderful anchor chart. IMG_9871

I can’t wait to see what happens next in that class.

The last book,  Bear Has a Story to Tell leads to my favorite advice for writers and other learners in response to “I don’t know”.  It answers the age old response,  I forgot,  with what would you say if you remembered.  It’s important in all story generation to have the conversation first.  As Lucy Calkins and others so beautifully state in the Crafting True Stories unit for third grade writing,  we should help our students visualize possibilities, instead of initiating writing,  we should initiate dreaming.

Dream away,  writers.  Dream away.  bear has a story to tell

Launching Books #IMWAYR

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Mentor Texts for the Beginning and the Long Haul

July 17, 2017

Every summer  I find a back to school mentor text.  Usually,  this text is a uplifting mentor about mindset for learning.  This year’s choices are no exception to that.  It’s the right way to go for the first few days.

Being a teacher for a number of years,  there are a lot of first days books in my library.  This year,  the hunt is different.  Let’s make these books go the long haul.  I want to return to them for meaning work, construction work, beginnings, endings, author’s moves, and theme.  That’s a lot to ask of one book.  However, the more familiar the story,  the more meaningful it is as a mentor tool.

the thing lou couldn't do Many of you will already be familiar with The Thing Lou Couldn’t Do and by its author,  Ashley Spires, author of the amazing, The Most Magnificent Thing, another well-used mentor text.  Without reading,  we can already do so much work on the cover,

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right?  Essential Questions, Predictions, Foreshadowing.  This book doesn’t hold back,  Lou knows she can do the thing.  She avoids it.  She negotiates with it.  The best part is that (spoiler alert),  it doesn’t all work out in the end. It has a perfect Carol Dweck moment.  Read to find out.  Ok, all well and good but what else.  Taking just three ideas from Calkins UOS Reading 2nd Grade Authors Have Intentions, we can talk about theme.  (this will work for any grade)

Here’s where my practice is shifting.  I don’t have to have these questions answered to ask them.  The students often have better, deeper, richer ideas.  I think I know, but that’s not important.

jabari jumps cover

I couldn’t wait for my next title to arrive, Jabari Jumps by Gaia Cornwall.  Reviews were awesome and LOOK at that cover.  So much to talk about after summer break!

But then there’s the first page,  and we can talk about Screen Shot 2017-07-17 at 8.30.37 AM.pngor  details in the story or crafting an ending. We can use dialogue.  I can use the preview of the book video to notice, and wonder with the class.

 

My last book is purposeful.  I’m committed to add an Amy Krouse Rosenthal book to as many lists and as

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many demonstrations as I can.  This book isn’t new like my other two choices and honestly,  I may have used it for back to school before.  The video of The OK book will be how Literacy Bootcamp  begins this year.

 

 

Because in the world of must be amazing,  it’s ok to be ok while you’re figuring it out.  Illustrations, simple repetitive text, a thoughtful ending.  One great mentor.

inside the ok book

Happy hunting for your mentors.  Remember to make them go the distance.

#IMWAYR Opening Day Edition

It’s Monday What are You Reading:  Opening Day Edition

April 3, 2017

I was raised on baseball and have lived in baseball towns most of my life.  The St. Louis Cardinals, Chicago Cubs and White Sox, and now  Boston Red Sox are dear to my heart.  As a teacher, I have yet to be at a opening day, though I have enjoyed  the ritual of spring training.  Here are some books to celebrate opening day wherever you are.  

Here are some terrific baseball books in no particular order.

Screen Shot 2017-04-03 at 8.04.54 PMBaseball Saved Us by Ken Mochizuk

A beloved book by teachers and students alike,  this book looks at baseball in a completely different light.  Baseball is the turning point in the poignant book.  Wonderful for character interplay and story arc discussions as well as its historic perspective.

 

Screen Shot 2017-04-03 at 8.25.05 PMZachary’s Ball by Matt Tavares

Every New England child’s dream,  catch a fly ball at Fenway Park… and something magical happens.

 

 

 

Screen Shot 2017-04-03 at 8.24.52 PMFenway Foul Up by David A. Kelly

 

I love all of the Ballpark Mysteries including  Wrigley Riddle.  This early chapter book is the beginning of a series about ballparks in the tradition of Ron Roy and Matt Christopher.

 

 

 

Screen Shot 2017-04-03 at 8.24.41 PMTeammates  by Peter Golenbock

 

Jackie Robinson and PeeWee Reece teach more than baseball in this beautifully illustrated picture book.  A mainstay in strategy work.

 

Screen Shot 2017-04-03 at 8.24.29 PMPoem Runs by Douglas Florian

 

Poetry, baseball, and Doug Florian- a winning team.  

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Screen Shot 2017-04-03 at 8.24.19 PMThe Littlest Leaguer by Syd Hoff


Syd Hoff,  the sentimental favorite and a really great book. Easily read by our youngest fans.

 

 

 

Screen Shot 2017-04-03 at 8.24.07 PMThe Field Beyond the Outfield by Mark Teague

Perhaps only available in my personal library, Mark Teague can do no wrong.  Aliens and baseball, a winning combo.  

Reading with Rigor: Teacher Edition #sol17

It’s Monday What Are You Reading?  Cognitive Load Edition

March 27, 2017

Recently,  I have been lingering over lessons and concepts, giving students time to understand more fully, considering the gradual release of responsibility in a more thoughtful way, scaffolding the ideas of something we have worked on into other areas.  Isn’t rigor something more than just difficult?  Note:  My links will send you to Heinemann and Stenhouse sites rather than Amazon.  It’s here that you will get more information, videos, and sample chapters.  sk

Disclaimer: This might seem like a crash course in literacy instruction.

 

Screen Shot 2017-03-26 at 7.28.52 PMPreventing Misguided Reading, Jan Miller Burkins and Melody Croft

The Next Generation of Reading Instruction

This book is a GPS for the driving purposes behind quality literacy instruction.

Through structures in place, we can provide students with the environment to think critically and read closely.  The authors strategically use preassessment to reduce cognitive load.  

From the author:

“As you read this book, you will feel like you are having a stimulating professional conversation. You will agree, disagree, question, but most importantly, you will reflect. And after that, you will want to talk. For teachers…looking to think hard about the quality of their guided reading instruction, Preventing Misguided Reading promises to be the perfect study group companion.” — Kim Yaris, Educational Consultant, Plainview, NY.

Screen Shot 2017-03-26 at 7.30.10 PMThe Construction Zone, Thompson

The subtitle says it all:  Building Scaffolds for Readers and Writers.  While I love this whole book, today I’m recommending Chapters 4 and 5 which focus on flexible design and flexible delivery.  We can get caught up on delivery curriculum and lose sight of the learners.  

In Thompson’s words,

If something isn’t working or if learners need more (or less) assistance, we counter by shifting our levels of support up or down as our scaffold moves closer and closer to its intended target.  In this way, scaffolding is alive and organic.  

 

Screen Shot 2017-03-26 at 7.29.31 PMTeaching Reading in Small Groups, Serravallo

In Serravallo’s own words:

We believe reading instruction should: ❏ match the individual reader ❏ teach toward independence ❏ teach strategies explicitly so that readers become proficient and skilled ❏ value time spent, volume, and variety of reading ❏ follow predictable structures and routines

We wrote that in a reader’s workshop classroom, we are reading mentors, and conferences are an opportunity for us to model the kinds of reading habits and skills we use to support student readers to do the same in their own reading.

This book is for anyone that is reconsidering their small group and perhaps whole class instruction, for teachers who wonder why their students aren’t making the progress they hope.

 

Screen Shot 2017-03-26 at 7.29.14 PMWho is Doing the Work?

In their follow up book to Reading Wellness,  Burkins and Yaris hit us right between the eyes.  In their words,

When we are mindful about allowing students to actively engage their reading processes, each of these instructional context contribute to children rich reading growth.

This book covers building agency in read aloud, shared reading, guided reading, and independent reading.  Caution:  They are tough on teachers, so be prepared to look closely at your practices and not take offense.  

 

Screen Shot 2017-03-26 at 7.29.46 PMNotice and Note- Strategies for Close Reading

Grade 3-8

I just can’t say it better than the authors themselves.  Here is a book that gives concrete systematic ways to reveal text to students.  Sidenote: follow Beers on Twitter @KyleneBeers and Facebook. She does not hold back.

Check out their Rigor and Talk Checklist.  

Just as rigor does not reside in the barbell but in the act of lifting it, rigor in reading is not an attribute of a text but rather of a reader’s behavior—engaged, observant, responsive, questioning, analytical. The close reading strategies in Notice and Note will help you cultivate those critical reading habits that will make your students more attentive, thoughtful, independent readers.”

—Kylene Beers and Robert E. Probst
Also,  Readers Front and Center,  reviewed here.

 

For Students:

 

Screen Shot 2017-03-26 at 7.28.40 PMStuck Oliver Jeffers

 

An amazing book for anyone who has been, well, stuck.  Problem solving abounds.

 

Screen Shot 2017-03-26 at 7.28.20 PMThe Most Magnificent Thing  Ashley Spires
Sometimes we can’t quite see where we are going until we look again with fresh eyes.

 

 

 

new-slicer-badgeThank you, Two Writing Teachers for the March Slice of Life Challenge. Read more slices here.

It’s Not Me, It’s Them #sol17

#IMWAYR  (It’s Monday,  What are You Reading?)

March 20, 2017

 

Screen Shot 2017-03-19 at 5.11.36 PMFor fans of What Readers Really Do? , you already know that Dorothy Barnhouse is nothing short of amazingly inspiring.  In What Readers Really Do,  Barnhouse taught us to be observers and listeners creating student agency with questions such as “What are you working on?” and “What are you thinking about here?”,  then naming their work in ways that give them power and truth and a foothold.   In  Readers Front and Center, Barnhouse brings us to intentionality, to in-your-face realization of the person doing the work is the one learning.  Through chapter after chapter entitled  Teaching Smarter,  Barnhouse shows us clearly how to do just that.  There is so much that is great here and I’ll be straight, it’s not a straight through kind of read.  Her description of the stairway to text complexity and how we don’t have to use a hard text and a hard task was an idea I go back to again and again, with colleagues, with administrators, with students, and with parents.  

Page 8

“Our students need to become the center of our teaching- not the texts, not the standards, and certainly not the assessments.”  

This isn’t a call to abandon all these things, but to teach in that place that includes them, but gives the standing they are due, behind the student.  

“Let’s think of a pebble through into a pond.  The pebble is the student and the pond is the text.  When that pebble hits the surface of the pond, we see ripples.  That’s the thinking the student is doing as he reads.  By paying attention to those ripples-and doing so by listening to the student-we can get a better understanding of how that text might be complex for that students… As teachers that’s what we need to see- our students interacting with texts.  That’s where our teaching needs to start.”

Our role is to help students take on identities of learners.

To pay attention is our endless and proper work.”  Maxine Greene

For Teachers Who:  Want to build agency,  strengthen conferencing

Screen Shot 2017-03-19 at 4.43.29 PMI also read The Tree Lady during my story arc biography work in fourth grade.   This book tells the story of Kate Sessions, the woman instrumental in establishing the diverse tree population in Balboa Park in San Diego.  It is a visually stunning book with a clear story arc and a repetitive pattern if you wanted to teach into craft moves or structure.  The story itself is amazing and would fit into curriculum studies in biomes, trees,  ecology, botany, or women as leaders.  The students are questioning my constantly choosing books with strong women.  I think it goes without saying what my purpose is.  

Teaching Use:  Mentor text for biography, story arc work, craft moves of repetitive lines

 

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Thank you to Unleashing Readers for the #IMWAYR inspiration.

Thank you, Two Writing Teachers for the March Slice of Life Challenge. Read more slices here.