Sweet Dreams are Made of These #sol17

Contents of my Bedside Table
March 31, 2017
IMG_8555Philosophy or Reading or philosophy of reading.     xxoo

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Thank you to Two Writing Teachers and the March Slice of Life Challenge Community for inspiration and encouragement.  Read their amazing blogs here.

This is Day 31 of 31.   Comments I’ll cherish are clipped into a folder.  My blog fodder journal remains in my handbag. My heart is full.  Read some of my inspiration here.

Where’s the Joy?

Assessment in Perspective

Reading to the Core

Midwest Heart in Dixie

Melanie Meehan

Cast of Characters

 

Writers are Readers #sol17

IMG_8534Reducing Cognitive Load by Pairing Reading/Writing Work

March 30, 2017

Lucy Calkins says in the The Art of Teaching Reading that reading and writing are like ‘running from one side of the boat to the other’.  Thinking about that movement from one side to the other and I’m searching for balance.  Previously, I thought that students were wonderful readers and then they became writers.  Perhaps it is because that is how I remember it for myself.  Reading, Reading, Reading.  Talking, Talking, talking.   Then struggling to write.   

What I’ve learned from a year of collaborating in writing and reading through the units of study is this.  Reading and writing should not be separated.  They are the peanut butter and jelly of learning.  I have upended my thinking and believe that writing is the easier craft, even if that might not be true for me.  What I’ve noticed is that writing work scaffolds the reading work.  When we teach into informational writing and then begin a unit in informational reading a few weeks later, we can teach into the strategies we are using to write and the style of the mentor texts we have examined as writers to teach into the reading strategies in informational reading.   I can say to a student, remember in writing we were working on text features to teach different aspects of our topic.  We can use what we know about writing text features to examine what the author is trying to tell us in our books.  If you are thinking about poetry these days,  this teaching move makes sense.  Teach into the writing of various types of poetry,  then give the mentor texts double duty  as readers,  read and reread those poems.  The more we write poetry, the more we understand the reading of it.  The more we read poetry, the better our writing is.

Writing provides a lot more room for error.  It’s slower paced.  We can edit and revise to our heart’s content.  In writing,  the pressure is less.  So while I still have student who are doodling on the paper,  they are getting the sentences written as well.  They have wait time and think time.  They are constructing as constructivists.  Writing scaffolds reading in so many ways that we knew.  Practicing phonics skills while spelling during writing strengthens decoding skills in reading.  Deeply studying a genre of writing strengthens predictive skills needed when reading particularly genres which are unfamiliar.

Studying reading and writing in the same genres keeps underlying truths in the same zip code.  As in our biography study where we used our narrative arc writing structure to describe the composition of the subject’s story,  using our writing structures explains new or different reading structures to students.  After we have taught text structures in second grade writing, when these students read informational text, they notice the text structures and anticipate the author’s meaning and purpose.  We apply the narrative writing structure to clarify theme, purpose, and determine importance.

As when I am looking for connections  I see them everywhere,  we have connected not just reading and writing in a grade level, but now see connections across grade.  Creating those connections across grade, content, and genre provides a platform for students to move to deeper thinking, richer work, and increasing confidence.

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Thank you to Two Writing Teachers and the March Slice of Life Challenge Community for inspiration and encouragement.  Read their amazing blogs here.

Brain Friendly #sol17

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Reducing Cognitive Load in the Workshop

March 28, 2017

One of my students is having difficulty learning to spell high frequency words.  She reads them with ease, but when it comes to spelling, she still struggles.  After thinking and talking and trying lots of things, it was so simple.  I took the word solving strategies that we had applied to reading to our spelling with a few twists: see the word in your head,  give it a go,  does it look right?  It’s not rocket science, but it is brain research.  

Our working memory can only keep 6-7 things at a time.  As David Souza points out in How the Brain Learns,  this might not be a bad thing.  Having a small amount of items in your brain may allow things to be more easily associated with other things. So if I am teaching steps in a process in writing, reading, spelling, or even math,  I had better keep the steps down to 5 or less. Our visual memory is stronger than any other memory and current research show that visual memory is getting stronger.  So those simple strategies  help our young speller use a technique but where else in literacy learning is brain research facilitating.  

Our working memory is also temporary.  Most reports say less than 20 minutes.  If I am trying to maximize brain use,  I am switching activities every 15-20 minutes.  Think of a 15 minute mini-lesson, 15 minute small group,  15 minutes increments of independent practice.   When we write focus phrases, as outlined by Terry Thompson in The Construction Zone,  I am creating short kid-friendly mantras with students that they can repeat to themselves during the scaffolding process.  Check over my spelling.  Circle words that don’t look right.  Then go back and correct the spelling.

If I know students have enhanced visual memory,  I may start a lesson with a short video of the subject or review with BrainPop, Kahoot,  a drawing or picture.  I also am thinking about reducing the visual load in my classroom.  I read once that after a very short time (one week) anchor charts become visual wallpaper to students.  Using them through the I do and We do phases and then moving them to a student size chart or a photo on an iPad for students who still need the scaffold during independent work, is an effective strategy.

Other things to keep in mind.  Routines reduce cognitive clutter.  If the structure of our routines stays relatively constant that frees up cognitive space for critical thinking and deeper learning. Practice matters.  Moving from listen, watch, to perform helps move concepts from working memory to long term storage.  How do we get thinking from working memory to long term storage?  Two questions seem critical.  Does this make sense?  Does this have meaning?  

My final thought is to think about the depth of the stairs.  If those stairs are steep, carrying the groceries is really difficult.  Making the moves from concepts easier by bridging ideas.  Take care in moving through the gradual release, lingering in shared practice.  This is not just for primary students.  Finally,  give wait, think, processing, and practice time.  

To think is to practice brain chemistry– Deepak Chopra

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Thank you, Two Writing Teachers for the March Slice of Life Challenge. This is day 28 of 31. Read more slices here.

My Five… Coaching Resources #SOL17

stackbooksilaMy Five…. Coaching Resources #SOL17

March 13, 2017

Here are my go-to resources to glean resources,  loan out,  reread to deepen collaboration, growth, and work with teachers and students.  The order and use change situationally.

Fountas and Pinnell Continuum of Literacy Learning 3rd Edition

I’ve used this resource for years and could only love it more when the Fountas and Pinnell team produced the 3rd edition.  This book has grade level goals, reading level behaviors for work in all the areas of literacy, technology, listening/ speaking,  writing,  whole and small group work.  When thinking about conferring, goal setting, lesson planning, and formative assessment, this resource does not fail.  I especially recommend the expanded information on interactive read aloud.  There is a webinar to familiarize users with the tool that is very helpful

The Daily Five

The Daily Five helps teachers develop a structure for independence in the reading workshop by outlining the steps to scaffold learning in reading to self, reading with others, listening to reading, word work, and writing about reading.  There are detailed ideas for maintaining balance across all the areas of literacy. Especially for newer teachers and large or challenging classes.

A Guide to the Reading Workshop (2015)  Both K-2 and 3-5 editions

A comprehensive guide to systematically planning for reading workshop including timing, share reading, conferring, small group work, and general work in constructing the focus lesson.  Individual chapters and components are excellent for discussions on scaffolding learning and student agency.  Also recommended Reading Pathways.

Assessment in Perspective

Assessment in Perspective is wonderful in its entirety moving from why we collect data to how to use data effectively, to involving students with their own data.  Especially helpful to teachers are their helpful suggestions on mining data and organizing thinking around small group work with students.  Their blog,  Assessment in Perspective, is a fresh, up to date resource of theory meets practice  written in teacher friendly language.  

Teaching Reading in Small Groups

Teaching Reading in Small Groups goes beyond traditional guided reading to authentic, timely, practical instruction in flexible small groups.  This book contains ideas for forming small groups, conferring in small groups, and so much more.  Jennifer Serravallo has produced many video supports to this work.  Also recommended by Serravallo, Reading Strategies Book and Writing Strategies Book.  These books are particularly helpful when using the If/Then Units within the Calkins Units of Study.  

Other than the Writing Strategies Book,  these aren’t particularly new resources, however, each is so strong in recent thinking in pedagogy and theory in literacy.  All are easy to read and easy to use.  

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I am participating in the Slice of Life challenge to write and publish a post every day in March.

Slice of Life is hosted by Two Writing Teachers. I thank them for the community they provide. Read more slices here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Poetry Sunday: Yardstick Haiku #SOL17

IMG_3688Poetry Sunday~  #yardstickhaiku

March 12, 2017

 

Kindergarten kids

Time for play

Everything’s new

 

First graders ready

For reading

And writing ideas

 

Second grade learning

New techniques

Characters and plot

 

Third grade curious

About world

Opinions abound

 

Fourth grade noticing

How things work

Showing what you know

 

Inspired by  Mary Lee Hahn in  A Year of Reading, #haikuforhealing

and my dear friend, Anna Martin, for always keeping Yardsticks on my mind.  

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I am participating in the Slice of Life challenge to write and publish a post every day in March.

Slice of Life is hosted by Two Writing Teachers. I thank them for the community they provide. Read more slices here.

Using Story Arc to Explore Author’s Craft and Characters #SOL17

Using Story Arc to Explore Author’s Craft and Characters  #SOL17

March 10, 2017

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I have been taking a serendipitous journey with a fourth grade class.  After reading Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing together for a weeks and then realizing that no one in the class understood theme,  we regrouped… by taking a week off for February vacation.  When we returned from February vacation,  the magic began to happen.  We did a few days on finding theme in picture books.  See The Space Between  for more about this beginning.  

Then, we spent a few days writing a filler chapter for Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing.  ( See Units of Study For Teaching Reading,  Fourth Grade Unit 1,  Interpreting Character: The Heart of the Story.)  The first day,  their teacher read a chapter from the next book in the series,  Super Fudge.  I think we both thought the students might write from between Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing and Super Fudge.  Not one did that.  After the first day we noticed that the students writing lacked the classic elements of narrative and the central elements of Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing,  so we decided to review narrative structure in light of Chapter 3, The Family Dog.  After reading chapter 3,  their teacher reviewed the story arc and conducted a discussion of the elements in this chapter. For your benefit,  the story arc in this chapter includes:  review as hook,  micro-story to set up solution,  problem,  several attempts, climax, falling action, and solution.  IMG_8264 (9).jpg

Since it wasn’t my idea,  I can say that it really was genius.  She continued the great ideas by using her iPads to let students view the arc representation while they completed a revision of their chapter with the same style.

In the end,  her class had a wonderful understanding of theme in novel, a terrific review of the story arc using a novel example, and two days of quick narrative writing.
These ideas could be adapted to any novel study at the intermediate grades.

Thanks to Melissa Quimby,  Grade 4 for this collaboration.

 

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I am participating in the Slice of Life challenge to write and publish a post every day in March.

Slice of Life is hosted by Two Writing Teachers. I thank them for the community they provide. Read more slices here.

 

 

Book Snob #sol17

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Book Snob

March 7, 2017

I like to think that I believe all books to be created equal.  I mean,  I’ve read quite a few romance novels in my day, although you won’t find them on my Goodreads profile.  So I guess I don’t want you to know I read them.  Cat’s out of the bag.  

I’m a snob about children’s books too.  I’ll admit it.  I saw Dav Pilkey speak at the Teachers’ College reunion last spring.  I thought he was fantastic.  I thought his message was on point.  I thought his reasons for writing what he does were perfect.  I still couldn’t get through a single Captain Underpants book.  

Then I had a student.  A third grader who needed to be listened to.  A third grader who needed to be encouraged.  A third grader who didn’t need my sanctimonious rant about “good books”.  A third grader who needed me to remember when the going gets tough, the reading teacher reads romance.

So when this student told me that what he really wanted me to partner read with him was Dogman and that he couldn’t wait to show me the part where they handshake with poop on their hands,  I cringed.  ( I hope that cringe was on the inside.)  He was testing me.  He was wondering if I would say, “Oh, no,  let’s read something else.”

Ladies and Gentlemen,  I did not.  I read all 240 graphic pages of dog jokes, poop,  people make stupid by spray,  the world’s books being destroyed,  conflict ridden pages with him.  Sorry,  Dav Pilkey,  I did not love it, but I’m not your audience.  My young third grade friend not only loved it, but loved getting me to read it too.

Like Nelson Mandela,  I hope that the reading of comics (or graphic novels) will lead to the reading of ‘good’ books.  But really what I hope is that the reading of this book and any other book will just lead to more reading of any sort.  All reading is good. This book made my young friend think.  This book  gave us a chance to talk about reading and books… and dog poop.  That’s not so bad for a Monday or Tuesday or Wednesday or Thursday afternoon.

So thank you Dav Pilkey for writing books that many students want to read over and over and over again.  Thank you for explaining to me why you write them so I could tell my third grader about hearing you in person and what inspires you.  Mostly,  thank you my third grade friend for reading with me.  It’s good to read with friends. 

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I am participating in the Slice of Life challenge to write and publish a post every day in March.

Slice of Life is hosted by Two Writing Teachers. I thank them for the community they provide. Read more slices here.