Thursday, February 18, 2016

Vacation Time defines vacation as: "A period of suspension of work, study, or other activity, usually used for rest, recreation, or travel; recess or holiday."

I like the idea of suspending work or study.  I love the idea of rest, and I'm totally obsessed with the idea of recreation and travel. 

It's time to get away, or stay home if you prefer.  It's time to regroup, rejuvenate, relax. What will you do for YOU in the next ten days?  What will you accomplish that will make the rest of this winter (?) tolerable?  How will you refresh your mind, spirit, body and soul?  It doesn't matter how you do it, or with whom you do it.  What matters, is that you DO IT!  Take charge of you for a bit...regroup, rejuvenate, relax.  The possibilities are endless, the opportunities exciting, make it happen and enjoy every second!

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Keeping Narrative Alive~Writing from the Heart

This week in my Reading and Writing Connections class we did a wonderful pre-writing activity that was a sweet connection to Valentine's Day.  In our PD sessions we frequently talk about how we can keep narrative writing alive for our students.  "Writing from the Heart" would be a great way to do this.

If you google "Heart Mapping"  by Georgia Heard, a great tutorial/lesson plan and template will pop right up! Hooray for Google!   Even the template of a heart is ready to go!  If we take the opportunity for students to create a heart map they'll have it as a wonderful resource for narrative ideas throughout the year.  It can be used for a quick ten minute write or mini-story to complete narratives.  It might be fun to do a heart map at different times of the year so that students can compare their thinking and ideas over time.
Heart Mapping

When I created my own heart map in class this week, I loved the color coding of different life experiences. I color coded the following:

  • People I care about
  • Places I've lived
  • Things I do in my free time.
  • Favorite memories or events
  • Turning points in my life
  • Favorite places
  • Favorite possessions, artifacts, etc.
My heart is not complete yet, as there are many more things that I'm sure I'd like to add.  I think I could actually create multiple hearts, one for each of the bullets listed above.  I also think I could grow my list of things to include.  What I love the most is that each section of my heart is a story waiting to be told, now I just need the time to write.

Let me know if you've done a heart map before or you're going to give it a try with your students.  I'd love to see what your kids come up with, the possibilities are endless!

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Interactive Read Aloud

I'm currently taking a course, Reading and Writing Connections.  The class is based upon the Teacher's College Reading and Writing Project-Reading and Writing Units of Study.  (RUOS and WUOS).  It's all about the work we've been doing at EMES for the past three years.  For me it has been an opportunity to delve deeper into this work and learn more and more from the experts.  One of the things I've really enjoyed is thinking more deeply about Interactive Read Alouds and strategies to improve them.  Following are some tips I've gathered and synthesized.

Interactive Read Aloud

Big Ideas
  • Read aloud is important.
  • All read alouds are not the same.  
  • Read aloud can be tailored to fit time, need, and instructional goals.
  • Research readily supports reading aloud for students of all ages.
  • Students benefit from being read aloud to several times a week.
  • Thoughtful planning of Interactive Read Aloud is important for its success.
  • Thought-provoking questions and opportunities for active engagement are important pieces of interactive read aloud.
  • Explicit instruction and modeling teaches student HOW to work through a task, use strategies, and monitor their comprehension.
  • “ A read aloud accompanied by your out-loud thinking might serve as a great demonstration, but instruction requires the learner’s active involvement.” (Calkins-A Guide to The Reading Workshop-Intermediate Grades p. 121)
  • Give students three main invitations in the process:
    • An invitation to THINK~silent thinking is introspective
    • An invitation to TALK~an important social element, allows peers to model, imitate, or reinforce each other’s response to text
    • An invitation to WRITE~stop and jot is quick, capturing “in the moment” thoughts and ideas before going right back to the text.

Steps in Interactive Read Aloud

  1. Plan
  • Read the book
  • "Spy on Yourself as a Reader"-note what YOU do while reading the text
  • Choose the skills to teach-(Use the RUOS Learning Progressions as a great resource/guide)
  • Spy on yourself as a reader again, with particular skills in mind.
  • Create stopping points “Stop Marks” with sticky notes.
  • Focus on balance-stop, interactive, quiet response, sharing, etc..
  • Establish the Teaching Point or Focus

  2. Prep Students
  • Set up students for partner discussion
  • Set up students for writing response in their reader’s notebook
  • Set up where students will be, what will they need

  3. Read and proceed!

  4. Reflect/Debrief

  • Give students a chance to reflect on how the read aloud changes/monitors their reading habits.
  • How might they use the work done in the read aloud during their independent reading?
  • Teacher Self-Reflection

  • Frontload Meaning-provide any background connections or textual information students might need to engage with the text.

The more we frontload students’ knowledge of a text and help them become actively involved in constructing meaning prior to reading, the more engaged they are likely to be as they read the text.” (Beers, K. 2003,  When Kids Can’t Read, What Teachers Can Do, p. 101)

  • Preview the book
    • Title, author, pictures, make me think of
    • I’m guessing…
    • I bet…
    • I wonder..

  • Keep a BALANCE-don’t drive kids crazy with stops and starts, but also make sure you’re doing enough to engage with the teaching portion and your strategy/skill focus.  
  • Don’t make it too big, too broad or too much.  
  • Using the RUOS Learning Progressions can be really helpful in creating a focus.  
  • Big ideas and tips to consider.
  • Ongoing interaction-active discussion, turn and talk, writing response
  • Notice text structures of narrative or informational text.
  • Think Aloud Strategies and Skills you might address~remember don’t go overboard! :-)
    • Connections you are making
      • This reminds me of…
      • This is like...
    • Predicting
      • I’m guessing that ___ will happen next…
      • I bet that…
      • I wonder if…
      • I imagine the author believes…
      • Since this happened ___, then, I bet the next thing that is going to happen is…
    • Visualizing
      • I imagine…
      • I see...
    • Using Prior Knowledge
      • I need to know this ____ in order to understand this ____
      • It’s important to know ______
    • Summarizing
    • Synthesizing
      • When I put all this together I notice or know...
    • Monitoring comprehension
      • This is not making sense because…
      • This is confusing
      • No, I think it means…
      • At first I thought ___, but now I think ____ because…
      • I’ve got to go back, reread, think, and check because...
    • Demonstrating fix-up strategies
      • Maybe I better…
      • Something I could do is…
      • I don’t understand this word, a strategy I can try is…
      • I need to rethink this part…
      • I thought this __________, but now I think _______ because…

  • Give students an opportunity to respond in whole group, partner, or writing.
    • How will they take the ideas/strategies taught and discussed in the read aloud to their own independent reading, this is like the LINK in a mini-lesson so they can go out and now do the work independently that was taught in the read aloud
    • Support a whole class “grand” conversation (Calkins-A Guide to The Reading Workshop-Intermediate Grades p. 121)
      • Who’s got an idea to put on the table?
      • Who can get us started in a conversation?
      • Prompting questions for fiction
        • Is this a journey?  Is it an external or internal journey?
        • Why did the author decide to write it this particular way?
        • What takes on special importance in this book?  An object? A place? A name? A saying? How does it connect to what the book is really about?
        • What lessons were learned by the main character?  What did I learn alongside the character?
  • Debrief the read aloud.  How’d it go?  Likes and dislikes?
  • Review the read aloud yourself, your sticky notes, etc.