1980s Again (Or the Role of Choice in Reading)

Friday, December 30, 2016

     There I was, sitting in a very messy post-Christmas house.  Toys were everywhere, and I should have been cleaning.  However, I had just stopped in to a #LearnLAP Twitter chat, created by the talented Paul Solarz (@PaulSolarz) and guest moderated by Teresa Gross (@teresagross625), on Lit Circles and Book Clubs and had discovered something called #BookSnaps.  I have been a Snapchat holdout, until now.  In the name of literacy, I created an account.  I just needed a book to read to #BookSnap about.

     And then I remembered my book twin, and her quest to read books 1-40 of The Baby-Sitters Club in sequence by the end of the year.  We had agreed to both read #18 over the break.

     I was transported back to 1988 and found myself in New York City with the gang, exploring museums, walking through Central Park, and going to the theater.  Mix in a little middle school drama, 80's fashion, and old friends, and I was wishing I was actually there in New York.  Reading these books now, as a literacy coach, I am amazed at the craft work involved in the telling of her books.  Before CCSS Standard 6 was all the rage, point of view was on Ann M. Martin's radar.  Well done!  

     I finished the book, and really wanted to fly to New York.  Since that is not a realistic option, I remembered another book that I had upstairs in my waiting to be re-read pile.  Last summer, I had purchased From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler.  I received the book as a gift from my 4th grade teacher long, long ago but the box had been misplaced.  I bought a new copy, with the intention of reading it last summer, but never did.  My old copy has since been found (!!!), and I finally decided to re-read it.  

     Why now, might you ask?

     The story takes place in New York City.  They don't go to the American Museum of Natural History, like the BSC, but they do stay at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  The main character of Mixed-Up Files is named Claudia, just like one of the main BSC members.  And, after Mary Anne talked the whole book about tourism in New York City, I wanted to read more.  

     From page 1, I knew I had made the right choice.  Enter my #BookSnaps.  :)

     What a great read!  To be truthful, I think I might have had the Art Institute of Chicago in my head for most of the setting, but reading about New York in the 1960s, and comparing it to the description in the late 1980s, was interesting to do.  Claudia's development as a character, and her reasoning for running away, was a hidden bonus to the re-read.  To be honest, my comprehension has greatly improved since I was a 4th grader.  I was a fluent reader, but not a deep reader, back then.  I'm glad that is now part of our instructional goals.  :)

     I was sad the book ended, so I read the afterword from the newest copy of my book, because it had hit a 35th year anniversary since my 6th grade read.  Hearing from E.L. Konigsburg about how the city of New York would be in some ways both the same and different for Claudia and Jamie in 2002 only deepened the comparison to The Baby-Sitters Club setting connection.  It turned out that the Met had actually written about it in their Museum Kids newsletter, too.  I quickly googled it, and there it was!!! Here is the PDF if you are a Mixed-Up Files fan.  There is a whole section on Michelangelo, since the mystery of the book is based around him.  Suddenly, I kind of want to re-read The Davinci Code.

     What does all of this have to do with anything?

     At the #LearnLAP Twitter chat about book clubs, one of the questions asked about tools that would help kids be successful.  Here was my response:

     We often hear the complaint that kids are "just reading" during Reading Workshop.  That somehow, the act of reading a novel isn't enough.  Now, that is true if the kids are not actually reading.  If they are holding a book quietly in hopes the teacher won't notice them, then we have a problem.  But, if they choose a book (like BSC #18), finish it, choose another one (like Mixed-Up Files), finish it, then go to the internet and find a nonfiction article to follow up, then isn't that what we want?  That wasn't my intention when I opened up BSB #18.  I just wanted to try #BookSnaps, and keep a promise to my book twin.  But, since the books mattered to me, I finished both of them in 2 days.  Yes, I'm an adult.  But, I am also a READER.  Maybe we need to tell stories like this to our students, to help them see that the books they CHOOSE to read can make all the difference.

     On that note, my own reluctant yet fluent 2nd grader reader just got books 1-4 of the Princess in Black series.  Let's hope that this character speaks to him as much as "the Claudias" did to me!  Maybe we will even make #BookSnaps about her.  :)

   Thanks, Paul and Teresa, for a great #LearnLAP chat!

Serravallo Struck


     I would say I am starstruck, as I often am.  I'm a #fangirl by nature.  But this time, I was beyond starstruck.  I was #SerravalloStruck.

     I became a literacy coach 4 years ago after teaching second grade for 15 years.  I knew second graders well, and they come in a wide range of ability, but I felt like I needed to up my game in knowing what readers at ALL levels do.  I learned by reading with kids for all those years in 2nd grade, so that is just what I did.  I went into rooms, sat next to kids, and conferred with them.  A lot.  At every free moment of the day, I would go into rooms across the school and read with kids, creating a staircase in my mind of behaviors that readers do.  4 years later, I am still building that staircase.  One of the ways some of those steps were built was reading with kids, and some were built learning from literacy experts.

     I found Jennifer Serravallo's book about conferring because that was my original goal for developing myself as a coach.  I read her work and watched a few of her videos, and I really liked what I saw.  I moved on to her small group instruction book after a few colleagues gave a PD and mentioned it.  The next summer, when the Playbooks were released, I read them with a coworker and we completely revamped our format for our formative assessment PD sessions for the summer.  Then, when I saw the Independent Reading Assessment, I begged my principal to buy them so that I could read the ladders and learn from her to reflect and continue to build the literacy staircase in my head.  And then... The Reading Strategies Book.  What a resource for our staff to use immediately, no matter the experience level!  I bring it with me to planning meetings so often that I even had a student look at me and say, "You look just like the lady on your book!"  I had become such a #fangirl that I think even the kids were noticing.  #twins

     In short, I have followed Jennifer very closely over the years, and today I finally got to see her in person.  The truth, however, is that I felt like I had already met her.  I have watcher her videos, and was part of her Digital Campus course, so I feel like I have been in a classroom with her.  I've watched her live on Facebook and read her tweets in chats.  But today, as I found myself face to face with her, I was suddenly so starstruck.

     And then I realized it was gratitude.

     Because of her work, I have put tools in my literacy toolbox, and hearing her speak today I was able to reflect on the impact they have had.  I flashbacked to myself sitting with teachers individually and making micro-progressions using the assessment kit as our guide.  I've gone into classrooms and done engagement inventories for teachers wanting help with readers.  I've modeled compliment conferences and talked about fluency records in building meetings and in planning sessions.  I've held PD sessions that focused on looking at student work, and asked teachers to bring student samples to our planning sessions.  We have completely revamped classroom conversations and book clubs after using her conversation records and TCRWP videos.  I could go on and on...  So many little nuggets of gold are hidden in her books.  Those nuggets, combined with my own knowledge, have been such a powerful combination.

     The thing that fills me with gratitude, though, is that by learning from Jennifer Serravallo and others, they have helped me develop into a confident coach.  Jennifer shares her knowledge with us freely, and that is a model for me to share with others as well.  If we don't see our fellow teachers as our dearest resource, I think we miss a huge opportunity.  Listening to Jennifer Serravallo talk, it is CLEAR that she is a product of all those she has learned from and alongside throughout the years.  She sees the impact others have had on her and recognizes it, and that is inspiring to me.

     It was also clear to me that the strategies and work that Jennifer has shared with us has come from real experiences with children.  She told us about her struggle to understand Nadia as a reader, and ended up creating the Independent Reading Assessment to get to know her reading habits better.  It isn't about using the "right" strategies created by others.  Sometimes, it is up to us to look to our students and create our own strategies to help them better.  

     I have had many conversations about professional development recently, and I am so filled with gratitude because I allowed myself to *want* to be a better teacher and admitted that I had things to learn, and it opened the door to so much more than I could have expected.  Watching her today, I realize that I still have so much to learn, and I looked around and saw myself surrounded by a table full of colleagues who I also learn from every day.

     It is up to us to see the value in learning from others.  Today, I got to see the impact it has had not only on me, but also on my school and our students.

    Here are my sketch notes from the day with Jennifer Serravallo.


(I wrote this weeks ago, and never hit publish.  Oops.  I am still filled with gratitude though!)


Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Follow her on Twitter! @MrsHorne1

    This post is part of the #LaunchBook series of #D100BloggerPD.  This post is written by Lori Horne, a 5th grade teacher at Hiawatha School.  She is a guest blogger today on Responsive Literacy as part of this series.  She has been using the book, Launch, with her students in a NGSS based unit on the Earth's spheres and the impact of humans within at least 2 spheres.  Click on the Thing Link above to catch up on previous posts.  

Chapter 6Understanding The Information

     "Every child deserves someone to be crazy about them!"  I first read this quote and thought "Yes! That's me!"  Then I realized at that moment I only read part of that quote and mistakenly processed "Every child deserves someone to be crazy..."  Eh, either quote applies.  Allow me to introduce myself.  Lori Horne- fifth grade teacher, 18 years teaching experience, and first time blogger.

     I agreed to the journey of design thinking before knowing what it was.  Why?  Well, because I am crazy and crazy about my kids.  I love to see them authentically and organically learn.  Also, Jenny Lehotsky is a good sell.  She made the book Launch by John Spencer and A.J. Juliani sound like an epic journey.  I can't say I disagree.  I just know that I have some big shoes to fill.   So epic or not, I am sharing my thoughts during this #D100bloggerPD on Chapter 6.

    I'm a mom and a teacher.  So I see learning through multiple lenses.  My daughter, for example, LOVES basketball.  I mean the girl would sleep with her Jordan's on if I let her.  I questioned at first if this was her passion or did I somehow guide her to this.  Did I inadvertently use my Super Teacher powers of scaffolding to tell her that of all activities basketball was THE one?  Basketball was my sport growing up so naturally a sense of excitement was mixed with that concern.  But I decided that I would not make this a walk down memory lane for mom.  Instead, I found a basketball program for girls, signed Bella up and let someone else be the "expert."  This coach is intense.  My daughter is 8 and was taught and expected to execute drills I did in high school and even college ball.  I often wondered if I did the right thing.  There were tears.  But not for reasons I thought.  It was frustration. It was determination.  It was MANY hours on the driveway perfecting her shot and nights in the basement perfecting her ball handling.   It was watching YouTube videos and NBA games and many many questions.  All driven by her!  I had to let go AND be ok with it.  I now work for the basketball program.  Yep, on top of teaching, I told you I was crazy!  But I watch as my daughter grows and learns about a game she loves because she worked for it.  I offer suggestions and guidance ONLY when she asks for it.  Let me tell you, that is hard!  Why?  Well, because we have to admit that kids don't learn from only one source.  Even bigger than that, they can do this without us telling them everything.

     So what does that ultimately mean?  Make research fun!  Research doesn't have to be just about reading.  It's about discovery.  Furthermore, having the right attitude is key.  I had to step back and be ok knowing someone can teach my daughter basketball better than me.  I had to let her explore knowing she could fail.  But it's ok.  It really is.

     I brought this real life experience to my classroom while teaching the launch process to my students.  I will tell you, Phase 3: Understanding the Information, has been a challenge for my fifth graders.  Questioning is hard.  They are so used to us asking the questions and them just finding the answers.  So creating their own questions may take time and some reminders.  The kids should make sure that their questions are:

  • Connected to the main topic
  • Specific
  • Object and fact based
  • Going to help them find solutions and create products

     Once they make sure they have all that in place, they are ready to research.  This won't look like your "average" research.  This is student centered research.  They have to be allowed to explore.  So moving into this, you as a teacher should consider the following:

Make the Research Process Flexible

So far my students have used Notability, google forms, sketch noting and a plethora of organizational structures.

Pay Attention to Bias

This was a tough one to teach.  I found I constantly have conversations about the information about the information they find and how certain facts are conveniently omitted.

Start Early

I don't mean first thing in the morning.  I mean, early in the year.  We started this project early in November.  Without a doubt, I guarantee that when we do the Civil War nonfiction later in the year, these kids will be ready, to ask and answer questions.

Expand your Definition of Sources

Articles, web sites, books, and magazines.  Those are all wonderful.  But let them know there is more.  Reach out and find an expert to answer those hard hitting questions.  My students LOVED the fact that they could FaceTime my husband to ask about machines and mechanics.  Use social media to reach out to those who are experts in their field.

Provide Scaffolding... But Not Too Much

Ahhhhhh...  Sorry that was me letting go.  We are so used to feeling like we need to have everything planned out for our students.  So instead of telling them what they should or shouldn't do, provide them with options.  Begin scaffolding the lesson knowing that at some point you have to let go.  Let them decide what help they need and be there if they need you.

     Last but not least, allow for a bigger definition of a research.  While there will always be a need for a library, that should not be the only stop in their inquiry journey.  Therefore, think about these five key methods of research.
1.    Research through reading
2.    Multimedia research
3.    Exploring Data
4.    Interviews
5.    Hands on research

     Once they have all the information, they are ready to start navigating ideas.  To continue on this epic journey, join Hip Hooray in K as she navigates you through Chapter 7 on December 12th.  If you want to stay up to date with the entire book study, follow this link or click on the Thing Link above.