Sunday, September 21, 2014

Reading Salad: Making Sense of Reading

So. I'm going to get real for a minute. We follow Lucy Calkin's Readers and Writers Workshop. And it is a struggle. The language she uses and the strategies she suggests are just a little unattainable for my 3rd graders. This year over half of my class are ELs. Scaffolding is huge and necessary. And although the idea of her work seems great, I just don't find that it translates very well into my room... but I've gotta do it so I'm trying to do it well and modify along the way.

Ok confession over.

Now moving on.

We've started our workshop and I've been trying to balance the Lucy and Me. The plus sides: my students are feeling successful. I'm trying to praise the crap out of everything they do so that they want to keep doing it. And I have to say, it's working. I even had a parent at our first ever parent night say, "I don't know how you did it, but you turned this girl into an avid reader in less than 3 weeks. I couldn't even get her to open a book this summer without a struggle." That is music to my little teacher ears. So I'm doing something right. But- now that we have a start on some positive reading habits (which I do like how Lucy starts with that), now comes the complicated thinking, genre studies, and of course-preparation for the state test (sad face).

So when we were approaching our lesson on jotting and holding onto mean, I felt a little lost. Until this magical post popped up on my bloglovin' feed:

Before you read my post any further, I highly suggest you cruise over to Lori's blog (click either picture above) and read about her lesson. I adapted it to fit my needs but the concept pretty much remained the same.

Here's how I did it.

During our read aloud of Stone Fox, I told students that whenever they were really picturing something, to raise their hand and share. We had been talking a lot about envisioning, so that is why I went with this route. I also said that if they noticed they were thinking at all about the text, to raise their hand and share. At first, I don't think they realized how they naturally think during reading (which is why I like this lesson- it made their thinking "more concrete"). Once I modeled, they started to notice their own thinking more and bam, we came up with this after reading only 2 pages:

Don't judge my chicken scratch. When I'm scribing what the students say on the board during a lesson, I rush. Do as I say, not as I do, right kids??
They didn't know why I had a lettuce leaf and tomato slice yet. But after this, I grabbed my big salad bowl. And I made the connection. It went a little something like this:

Me: "Who likes to eat plain ol' lettuce?"

Students: Only one raised his hand. Many groaned.

Me: "But if we are making a salad, would you say lettuce is an important ingredient?"

Students: "Ya!!!"

Me: "I agree. But on my salad, I enjoy other toppings to really make it juicy and to make it taste good. Reading is the same way. We need the author's words (the text aka the lettuce) to tell the story. But our thoughts are what makes the reading so exciting... it makes the story juicy. Let's take a look at your thinking during our read aloud."

Me: "What type of thought was this first thought?" (note- the red words weren't on the board yet).

Students: New tricky word.

Me: I grabbed some ripped up brown paper and called them croutons and mixed them into our salad bowl with our lettuce.

We repeated this with each of their thoughts... I was so impressed that they naturally came up with different types of thinking while reading and we continued to add "cabbage, tomatoes, peppers, and ranch" to our salad.

They got it. They got the connection. We need the text to help create our juicy ideas. So we started with this chart

And they helped me build it to really hit it home.

Instead of saying lettuce is the text, we said it was what we envisioned. The text helps you envision, and it's important that you are able to picture what your book is about.

We came up with some other words that meant about the same thing. Those are supposed to be lettuce leaves. Did I tell you I kinda whipped this altogether over my lunch that day?

Then for our tomatoes, we wrote down the different types of thoughts we might have while reading the text.

Here's the best part. That day, I put out lettuce leaves and tomato slices on their desks at reading time and had students write what they were picturing on the lettuce leaves and any thoughts they had on a tomato slice. The last two years, whenever we started jotting on post-its all I got was retell moments. And it seemed to take forever for students to see the difference between the authors words and their thoughts. This helped nip that problem right in the butt. I looked over the lettuce and tomato jottings and sure enough, students used them in the correct way! And those that didn't, my amazing coteacher pulled right away and worked with them in a strategy group to clarify. I can't wait for out next lesson on merging the two... we're going to call them "letatoes"...onto a post-it (text evidence plus idea). I can't wait to see how it transfers over.

And the cherry on top- students were so proud when we "mixed" up their lettuce and tomatoes into the salad bowl after their reading that day and saw their awesome reading salad. They were so proud and asked if we could do it everyday. Lucky for them...

Thanks Lori for the perfect post at the perfect time to help make this concept more attainable for my kiddos (not to mention more fun)!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Keeping 'Em Engaged... Keeping Me Accountable

Today, I have a quick post on some things I have right up in my teaching space to not only keep students engaged during whole group lessons, but also to keep me accountable that I am being purposeful and thoughtful in my classroom management.

My Control Center
I'm breaking this space down a bit to show you each of the roles these lil' tools play in keeping our lessons cruising and my students engaged. Some things to note in this above pictures:
My Partner Sticks, Dice, and Pick-a-Sticks
My Partner Sticks allow me to put kids into random groups easily. My dice have animal stickers on on them. Each student has an animal sticker on their name tag. These are great for when I'm dismissing students or having students collect materials by just rolling the dice and calling out the animal group. My Pick-a-Stick jar just has student names on them that I pull to answer questions or as a 'fair' way to choose someone for a task. 
This is one of my attention signals. I just play a little pattern and it instantly quiets them. I don't have a mallet, but my markers do the trick. It's the perfect size and hangs on the wall using a command hook.
Marker Holder
I'll never loose my markers again, as this perfect magnetic caddy holds different sized whiteboard markers, eraser and other response protocols we have introduced yet.

Response Protocols
One thing I am AWFUL at is letting my students know how I want them to respond to my questions. A lot of these strategies are from the CLR book we read last year as a building; others are things I've seen on Pinterest, through RC trainings or from other teachers in my building. It helps to have them all posted in one spot for me as a reminder for all the ways I could have students respond. Some are meant just for one or two to respond to a question while others are for whole group sharing (typically when there is only one right answer). I now point to the one I want them to respond with which keeps them on their toes. Kate (my teammate) used paint chips and that did the trick also!

Attention Signals
 The key to a good attention signal is to use it enough where kids are familiar with it, but not too often that it looses its effectiveness. To combat overusing signals, I record them onto this little chart I made so that I can easily glance throughout the day and be like, "Oh ya, I forgot about that one!" When we learn a new one, we add it to the chart. This is great also for other teachers who are in my room as they know what signals will get my students attention.

Morning Meeting Greetings and Activities
Ugh. I have a love-hate relationships with morning meetings. It's getting better, but I always dread deciding what activity and greeting to do. I have started to pass the responsibility to my Morning Meeting Leader on some days but these little charts have really helped me to keep track of things we've learned to make it a little less painful. I got this idea from my awesome teammate, Kate. It is also nice to walk into her room and see which ones she's taught her class because then it reminds me!

So this has become one of my favorite spaces in my room because it really helps keep my teaching fresh which helps my students be engaged. It's a win-win!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Reading Accountability through Book Logs

I'm really trying to instill a love for reading this year. Well, I obviously always try to do this, but I'm really trying to be extra enthusiastic and really put an immense sense of urgency when it's reading time to help students really buy into the importance of building healthy reading habits. Because of this, I did some thinking about my book log and I'm excited to see how it goes.

Now, I can't take credit for all the ideas in this post. My awesome team members came up with some great ideas to try this year, so I'll make sure I give them credit where credit's due.

Instilling a Sense of Urgency and Importance
#1Class Read Aloud Book Log
My teammate had the idea to record our class read alouds on a book log for a few reasons. 1) As a daily reminder on how to fill out the book log so that when students do it independently, it becomes very natural and clear. 2) It allows me to "practice what I preach" 3) It's fun to look at how we get through books and to reflect on our reading life as a class. So I created my own book log where we will record our reading of read alouds.

Our class log has the same features that they need to fill out on their individual one and in the same order to minimize confusion.

#2 Individual Book Logs
Not only did I change my layout of my book log for students this year, but also my attitude towards it. In the past, students had to turn in their book log every week on Fridays with parent initials. I found a lot of times that students either didn't turn it in or families just 'fudged' the minutes read because they didn't want their child to get in trouble. This goes against one of our ways to make reading the "best" it can be: be honest about your reading. So I took off parent initials and no longer require students to turn in their log on a weekly basis. I'm hoping that by doing this, students really decide to take their reading lives into their own hands and want to fill it out because they see value in it. Now, I'll still take notes on those who don't bring it to and from school (that's new too- I'm only having one log for both school and home as opposed to one for school and one for home) and those who don't do it, well then I need to find out why and help support them. But I'm hoping that this new approach will instill urgency within themselves as opposed to pressure from me or their families.

Here's my log for this first unit of study. They just got these last week so we'll see how the first week goes with them.

#3 Rubric
To really drive home the urgency and importance of this log, I created a visual rubric that I'm going to reference all the time.

When I showcased and explained this last week, they were so excited to become apple trees (you'll get it a little later). One of our PDs at the beginning of the school year was to create rubrics for different things introduced and assessed in this first unit and (for once) I remembered to pull that out and put it to use and am SO glad I did. I'm banking on this tool and my class book log to motivate students to fill theirs out. Since we are going with the "thriving and growing" theme this year, and the fact we study seeds in science, I used the seed analogy as a scale as opposed to numbers.

It's funny how after just one day logged, students thought they were a tree or apple tree already. So we talked a lot about what a "tree" log would look like vs. a "seedling" log or an "apple" log. We'll revisit it often and I hope to use our class log as an exemplar.

Call me hopeful (or maybe just plain crazy) but fingers crossed that this new approach to my book log will only help strengthen my students in their reading and begin to foster a love of it.