No, David! Yes, Kindergarten!!!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

     It was a proud mother moment, for sure.  Mrs. Carrera was so proud of the 1.5 minutes of stamina that her kindergartners had today that she left me a message to see if I could come celebrate it.  Of course as soon as I heard the message, I ran right in there.  She was so proud of her little guys, as was I, but I was soon distracted by the anchor chart in the back of the room.  It was David!  I love David.  I walked over to take a closer look...  and saw PBIS expectations.  I suddenly realized something big.

No, David is a mentor text!

     Think about it... If you start to think about all the things that, throughout the year, David can teach us, you will soon see it as one of the well loved books that keeps coming back, again and again and again.  Let me list a few mini lessons off the top of my head:

  • Fluency lessons:  Just imagine the fluency you can model with all the yelling, text sizes, and punctuation in that book.
  • Inferring character's feelings:  Our little friend David goes through quite the emotional changes through the course of the book.  Just look at his face and body language- they say so much!
  • Themes:  There are few books that teach the theme of compassion and forgiveness like No, David.  Just think about the end of the book when David's teacher gives him a gold star, even after his naughtiness.  Or perhaps when his friends are waiting to play with him, despite his behavior in school.  What a great lesson for our kids.
  • Character Development:  Read a few of the David books together, and you have a character study.  
  • Personal Narrative Genre:  This is an excellent example of a personal narrative.  David Shannon wrote the stories about himself as a child.  What a great way to get kids writing stories that are true about them!
  • Vocabulary:  The reading level for the book is in the first grade band, but there are a few good words that could be vocabulary words.  "NO! It's not my fault! I didn't mean to! It was an accident!"  Ask any young kid to define "accident" and you have a good discussion.  :)
  • 3 Ways to Read a Book:  The text is nice and simple to read, the pictures practically tell the story all on their own, and the kids love to retell this one!  
  • Rereading Text:  Kids are always so hesitant to read texts more than once, but for some reason David allows them to do that.  The David books are often the ones that fall apart due to overuse.
  • Voice:  One of our 6 Traits of good writing is found abundantly in the words of the No, David! books.  
     I walked into their rooms and just saw all the possibilities that lay ahead this year by using that book, over and over again.  Mentor texts can be books that are short and simple, but have enough heart to make them unforgettable to our students.  When picking books for your read alouds this year, think about what they can offer during your mini lessons during Reading/ Writing Workshop.  

     One other nice touch?  Mrs. Surma made her anchor chart with the 3 Ways to Read a Book, and around the three she put a picture of each of her kids WHILE READING.  What a great way to hit home that they are all readers, right from the start.

    Yes, Kindergarten!!!  

Launching Writing Workshop

Saturday, August 24, 2013

     We have been preparing ourselves for Reading Workshop for the past few years at Hiawatha.  With the use of Guided Reading and the Daily 5, we have set ourselves up for an easier transition to Reading Workshop.  When it comes to writing, we are not as close, but there are some things that will help us tremendously.

1.  Use what we know about reading stamina! 
Before you launch into Writing Workshop, do the same things to prepare that we used in reading.  Create an I Chart with the kids so that they know exactly what they are supposed to do during writing, and what you are eventually going to be doing as well.  Then, build stamina.  Time them.  With my second graders, I always started with 7 minutes, because they are mostly 7 years old.  Challenge them to write independently for 7 minutes, and then every day add another minute to the challenge.  Prove to them that they can write by themselves.  If you don't, you will never have uninterrupted groups or conferences.  While they are writing, write yourself. Show them that you are a writer, too.

2. When stamina is low, teach mini lessons that will be useful all year long.
At the beginning of the year, we teach reading strategies that will anchor our block for the year.  Why not for writing, too?  Teach them how to choose their own topics, what to do when they need help, what to do if they think they are done, how to re-read their papers, and how to begin to edit. Christina Betz shared some resources (on Hiawatha Literacy google site) that will certainly help with these things.  Mini lessons on getting ideas are critical.  Have students create an expert list, a ME chart, a know/care/feel chart, a heart map- whatever it takes to help them generate topics that are interesting to them.

3.  Consider using the 6 Traits
When their stamina is low, and you have trouble filling the hour long workshop, doing mini lessons on the 6 Traits might be a very nice use of time.  Not only will it help them see the components of good writing, but it will give your future editing and revising lessons some help.  Plus, it might help you give structure to your individual conferences with kids, and help their future goal setting.  You don't need to follow the entire 6 Traits program to teach the terms Ideas, Organization, Voice, Word Choice, Sentence Fluency, Conventions and Presentation, nor do you need to teach them all the first week.  But, using them will enhance your Writing Workshop.  

4.  Learn about your Students
While they are building stamina for writing, use their samples to start seeing them as writers.  What do they do well?  What do they struggle with?  What might help them move to the next level?  Use everything they write to help you start to understand what they need as writers.  Their samples give so much information if we look at them a little closely.  

5.  Calkins Units
When your students are able to write independently for a chunk of time, and they are able to come up with their own ideas to write about, then they are probably ready to start the official Calkins units.  Before you start the units, doing some On Demand samples to gather information might be a good idea.      She has an On Demand prompt for each of her units, so don't forget to do that as a pre-assessment when you are ready to begin.

Have fun, and write on!

Off and Running with Anchor Charts

Thursday, August 22, 2013

     While walking around the building this week, I have been so amazed at all the learning that goes on right from the start.  Everything is a "teachable moment" it seems that first week of school.  Everything we do as teachers sets the stage for learning, and watching you all set that stage has been quite a blessing for me.  I have been walking in and out of rooms, getting to see the kids back in action, and seeing you set that stage for the year.  One of the biggest factors in that seems to be the creation of anchor charts.  I wanted to share a few that I think will really make an impact on student performance.

      Miss Ravenhorst has these charts, plus three or so more like it, all in her meeting area.  These charts are interactive, with all students' individual responses posted on the chart.  The purpose for all the charts  in the area were to create a literate and trusting environment.  The charts pictured here are:
"Our classroom should be _____ everyday."
"School is important because ________."
"What do YOU need to do to be successful?"
The power in these charts is amazing, because it is setting a purpose for school.  Summer is over!  :)

     The ever important I chart.  Reading Workshop is nothing without stamina and independence, and one of the best ways to build those is to create and I chart for Read to Self.  At the beginning of the year, there are differences in that across the grade levels.  The first chart was found in 4BEBL.  It was in their meeting area, still on the easel where they created it, not far from their individual book baskets.  Since it is the first week and numbers have not yet been assigned, they marked their book boxes with a post it with names on it. What a great way to get the boxes started while they wait for their numbers to stabilize!  The second 2 charts were found in 1ME.  Mrs. Meyer was creating the I chart with the class, and at this particular moment all they were ready to write was "Sit by themselves."  Quite honestly, that takes quite some discussion all on its own in first grade.  What an important starting point!  Fill it in as the needs of the class allow, and just have them reflect on it as you go.  You can always keep coming back to your charts.

     The last 2 charts came from 3ROWA.  The one was something I had never seen before.  My Reading Life was the title, and the 2 columns are "Worst Reading Times" and "Best Reading Times."  They got it from the Lucy Calkins Building a Readerly Life unit.  The honesty in the chart was what struck me.  We all know that the kids need to know that reading is important, but being honest in saying that reading isn't always easy is quite the statement.  Reading is something that sometimes requires perseverance.
     Their second chart is actually for math!  Mrs. Waszak had created a Math Talks routine anchor chart.  I liked the visuals she put on the chart to help the kids remember the process.  I know that this blog is supposed to be for literacy, but I made an exception for this anchor chart.

     As you create anchor charts with your class, remember what the purpose is behind it.  If you do that, those charts will really matter to those kids, and they will be more likely to use them on their learning journey this year.

First Week Shared Reading

Saturday, August 17, 2013

     Now that the first week has arrived, and now that we have clarified what shared reading could be, I am going to share 2 texts that you could use this week with your kids.  There is no pressure to officially do your daily shared reading activities this week, but if you find that you have some time they might be useful.

Click the Titles below to see the actual text!

What Readers Can Do
This text is a mini book by Douglas Wood.  It just talks about some of the wonderful things that reading allows us to do.  It would be a great motivator when trying to set an initial purpose for reading when building stamina.  It could also be starting points for various written responses.  You could have the kids find books in your library that fit the descriptions in the book, or you could use those descriptions to find books for your read alouds.  "You can go back in time to some long ago day, Be a king, be a queen, be a pirate, gang way!"  I bet there are many books in your library that would fit that description.  I scanned the book into a google presentation that can but used on your Smart board, but I do have a class set of them as well that you could borrow.

The First Day of School
This text is a wonderful poem by Judith Viorst.  I used it with my very first class, since I have always loved her books.  I just remembered how wonderful she is after we went to a play at Emerald City Theater 2 years ago to see Alexander.  I could see you using this text with the kids to discuss their fears, but also to write their own beginning of the year poems.  What were they worried about as the year began at Hiawatha?

2013-14 is going to be a great year!

Shared Reading

Friday, August 16, 2013

     This is a screenshot description from our SIP plan about shared reading at Hiawatha.  It calls for 15 minutes of daily shared reading experiences that use grade level text to close read.

     Shared reading was created by Don Holdaway in 1979 to recreate the storybook experience that kids get while reading with their parents at bedtime.  In the primary classroom, shared reading is often done with big books so that all students can see the text and participate in the reading.  Children often chime in when readings are repeated.  It can be done with whole group, as well as small groups.  Shared reading gives the students a safe environment to practice reading with behaviors of proficient readers.  The text is always supposed to be visible to the students, and with SMART Boards is now often shown in digital books.

     In shared reading experiences, the same text is often read for a number of days.  The first read is usually for enjoyment.  Subsequent reads can focus on chanting, predicting, vocabulary, echo reading, etc.  In the upper grades, the teacher should give a focus for reading, and then ask questions specific to that focus.  If you record a shared reading and share it, children will have a fluent model to listen to at another time.  One of the days, close reading is a good option to improve comprehension.

     Since we are following a guided reading model at Hiawatha, students are reading at their individual reading level most of the day.  The idea of shared reading came up as a way to expose children to grade level text in addition to their instructional level text.  The Common Core suggests that students need to move up levels of text complexity, and this is one way to increase their ability to do that.  The Common Core also suggests that students close read text, where they zoom in on small pieces of text and really "dig deep" for meaning.  Shared reading could give students an opportunity to do this, if they can hold the text in their hand while reading and possibly mark their thoughts as they read.

     In short, the 15 minutes of shared reading a day could look like a variety of things.  One bottom line is that all kids can SEE the text, with the best scenario of them having their own copy.  If you merge the two ideas of storybook reading and close reading, as our SIP plan does, there are many texts you can use.  Big books, poems, picture books, novels, short stories, articles, etc., somewhere within the grade level band.  Students could have the text on their computers, and if they use Preview they can mark the text on their screens.  If they use paper copies of text, they can mark their thinking using pencils or highlighters.

     We will be talking more about this as the year goes on, and examples and PD will follow!