Thursday, September 24, 2015

What's Your Home Run Book?

I was recently reading an article in The Journal of Communication and Education entitled, "The Home Run Book Experience" (September 2015).  The authors Vinnie Henkin and Stephen Krashen identify a home run book simply as, "books that encourage students to become a dedicated reader." 

"The concept of the home run book was first introduced by Jim Trelease (2001), who hypothesized that one positive experience can be enough to create a permanent interest in reading. Many children have testified that the home run experience is real, that one book started them on the path to becoming dedicated readers." (Kim and Krashen, 2000; Von Sprecken, Kim, and Krashen, 2000; Ujiie and Krashen, 2002). The article goes on to include a case study of an ELL student who made vast improvements in reading due to his discovery of his own home run series of books.

The article made me reminisce, what were my home run books as a developing reader?  If you stop in my office you'll see some of my first home runs as an emerging reader, such as The Poky Little Puppy by Janette Sebring Lowrey, and The Little House by Virginia Lee Burton. These were books that quickly became best friends and encouraged me to become a dedicated young reader.  My home run books continued to change over time as my love for series books grew: The Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder, The Moffatts by Eleanor Estes, The Happy Hollisters by Jerry West. 

What home run books will we help students discover during this school year?  Will they be fiction, non-fiction, graphic novels, how to texts?  How will we make sure every student hits a home run?  First, they all need to come up to bat, then we as teachers, and family members need to throw the right pitch for every unique batter.  All of our kids need to find their home runs, we'll coach them and continue to help at batting practice until we get them all around the bases. I'm sure we're going to hit some grand slams!

Friday, September 18, 2015

What I'm Learning in Kindergarten

You know that old saying that goes something like this, "Everything I needed to learn I learned in kindergarten?"  Well, that has certainly held true for me this week!  I've been spending time getting to know our kindergarten students by completing phonological awareness screenings.

It's important to note, that I've never taught kindergarten or first grade.  I've had 33 years in the classroom, but the totality of my experience has been in grades 2-6,  the vast majority in 3rd grade. That being said, phonemic awareness has not been my strongest area of knowledge or instruction. Our kindergarten students have provided me with a wonderful glimpse into their world as they develop these skills as readers and writers.  This assessment work has been important to my learning curve, as well as very engaging and totally entertaining at moments!

I've also been gaining ground in first grade this week by observing and participating with students in phonological development instruction.  WHEW!  These teachers and their kids are working hard!

To support my learning in the area of phonemic awareness the Two Writing Teachers Blog, came to my rescue once again!  Elizabeth Moore had an excellent post today, (September, 18th) entitled "Phonemic Awareness!  Yeah!"  It very clearly, concisely outlines the following big ideas.

  • Phonological Awareness
  • Phonemic Awareness
  • Phonics
  • Correlations and Connections
  • Segmenting

Thanks, for this great post Elizabeth, my learning journey continues, and I look forward to the opportunities that will present themselves working with our teachers and students in K-1!

Friday, September 11, 2015

We're off and RUNNING!

WOW, what a great week of PD sessions!   I am truly amazed and in awe over the professionalism that lives and breathes right here at EMES!  This week's PD sessions were filled with thoughtful conversations about students. Each team brings their own expertise to the table.  It has been wonderful to add the U-Arts teachers into our mix this year.  Thank you all for your dedication and care of our students.
This week I've been working on Early Literacy Screenings in the K classrooms.  What a joy it has been for me to spend time with our youngest learners.  These bright eyed K students have given me great pause as I've listened to them rhyme, count out words in sentences, and remove segments from words.  What wonderful small people they are!   I look forward to watching them grow over the course of the year.
Next week we'll begin the challenging work of calibrating and scoring narrative pre-assessment pieces.  This week in PD we set the stage for this work.  Our process for next week will be:

  1. Review learning progressions for narrative writing.
  2. Examine benchmark pieces, TCRWP student samples, TCRWP annotated samples, EMES benchmark samples.
  3. Norm/Calibrate/score a piece together, working as a group score line item by line item.
  4. Score another piece individually, then discuss and come to consensus on the scoring as a group.
  5. Work alone to assess other pieces.

This will be challenging, important work. It will set the stage for our future work in this unit.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

What I'm Reading This Week

This week, I've been reading Colleen Cruz's new book, The Unstoppable Writing Teacher.  It's a fairly quick read with well organized chapters so you can find what you need for the moment.

As I've been reading, I've been thinking a lot about our WCSU Inservice Day and the theme of "rigor".  I  found Colleen's thoughts  from p. 27 thought provoking in regard to rigor and independence during writing workshop.

"If our young writers rarely get to experience that uncomfortable butt-in seat feeling, where writing is challenging and might not even work right, we are taking away an opportunity for them to learn that they can fail and still be okay.  In fact, in writing as it is with many other disciplines, often the best ideas come from failures.  By not letting them fail, we can ironically undermine the very self-confidence we are trying to protect." 

Sheila Paterson was lucky enough to spend a week with Colleen as one of her leaders at TCRWP this summer. I'm sure she can share many other tips regarding Colleen's insight and helpful advice on teaching reading and writing to our students.

Product Details
ISBN # 978-0-325-06248-8
The book is available to borrow in the EMES PD Office!