Reflections from the All Write Institute — #5

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The Title of This Session Hooked Me and Reeled Me In: Reflections from the All Write Institute — #5

After finding out that Kylene (Beers) and Bob (Probst) were not going to make it to the institute, I quickly looked at my choices and found this: “Structuring Reading Workshop for the Magic That Might Go Down” with Christy Rush-Levine. I was hooked! Who wouldn’t want some magic in their reading workshop? I know I need some new sparks to start next year off right. I sat near the front of the auditorium and watched; the magic unfolded right before my very eyes! Christy reeled me in — showing me that a reading workshop classroom, even in middle school and above, can be a desirous, illuminating, and magical place.

Christy started with the WHY (the theme of the institute). Why? Why do I have to do this? (Read, write, etc.) She shows her students that thinking about their understandings, making connections, and gathering ideas for their own writing is important. She takes the standards (never mentioning “standards” or “testing”) and shows them HOW they can achieve. “In response to a text, write down thinking for your favorite part, questions you have, connections you made…” When I looked at the standards for my first scheduled reading workshop in the fall, I could “check off” almost all of them by following her plan for students! For example, Standard 6.RL.2.1 (and its RN version) want students to “Cite textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says and inferences drawn from the text.” By using metacognitive thinking to analyze and response writing to show  what they know about texts, I predict that my students will easily “pass” the formative assessments of the workshop.

Christy’s rules for response writing are simple: write (the whole time), write quickly (it’s not editing time), and relax, have fun, play! I love it! Relax, you can pass the standards! Have fun (I want to have fun in school again)! Play! More time to play and create leads to higher achievement. It’s true. (Administrators don’t look for that on their observations; they look for engagement. Same thing!)

Reading territories, assessments that follow students’ goals, reading ladders, and conferring with students kept the audience engaged. All the research — put into practical practice — helps students meet the goals. I learned that classroom teaching can be enjoyable and manageable again. Christy reminded me of what it was like to be a student; she told me that I can bring the joy of reading and writing back to my classroom. It’s not a trick — the MAGIC happens! So inspiring!

 

 

 

Reflections from the All Write Institute — #4

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To Lunch…and Beyond! Reflections from the All Write Institute — #4

The lunch session took me by surprise. I didn’t want to miss the session called “From Boring to Enjoying”, but I was hungry, so I ate some wonderful food catered by a local BBQ. After filling up and meeting with some blogging buddies in person (!), I headed off to see teachers from Fort Wayne, IN talk about how they used Notice and Note strategies (Beers/Probst) in their classrooms to make reading come alive. The speakers were wonderful, entertaining, and knowledgeable.  I loved hearing how they used journals, Edublogs, and stations to keep students interested in reading. “Tabletop Twitter” sounded engaging — a way to have kids respond to reading or writing — a way to collaborate and also have some fun.

One of my main goals next school year is to get students started with blogging. I have found blogs to be a fulfilling way to spend time with writing, and it’s social, academic, and fun! Students can write stories, poems, reflections, and share their views — all from the comforts of “home” (school classroom). Blogging also allows for differentiated instruction and small group work; I can have students easily save their work without losing papers, etc. as well. If there’s one thing I am learning as a veteran teacher, it’s that technology is available and useful, and I need to work with more technology in my classroom.

After lunch, it was time to talk books! This was my favorite part of the day! Tammy and Mary Helen were also wonderful, animated presenters that shared their favorite books for mini-lessons and read alouds.  Although many of the books were geared towards the primary grades, I know for sure I will be using many of them in my middle school classroom next year. Why? Because research (and my own experience) shows that reading aloud to students works. Many higher-level thinking skills are used in reading these books, yet they are easy to read (so students can focus on craft and not so much vocabulary), and teachers don’t have to use more time than a mini-lesson to make teaching points (time management). Plus, these books are engaging! (What administrator isn’t looking for that?)

For example, Pitter Patter by Martha Sullivan, shows different ways to say Hello (kids love “different ways to say…”), has information about the water cycle (meeting the standards), and provides extra activities with interactive apps (centers or at-home extension). I love books that include extras at the end. “For more reading, go to…” This keeps students engaged after the school day is over.  Another engaging book is I’m a Shark! by Bob Shea. This incredible author is a favorite in schools, and this book includes connections to life, grammar/spelling reminders, and figurative language (also meeting the standards!). One book I have not used before, but I will this fall, is Dragons Love Tacos by Adam Rubin. I learned about the “Power of 3” many years ago in writing workshop, and the students always love the lesson when I teach them this “magic”. This book has voice, which some students find difficult to write. Also, everyday happenings CAN be stories, which students learn quickly in writing workshop. We work on personal narratives first in our curriculum, and Dragons…can help us, I’m sure!

Sharing books and joy is an amazing way to spend time, not only in the classroom with students, but also during a summer PD institute! I was inspired; as I left the room, the only question I had was, “I wonder how much money we are allowed to spend this year on books?”

 

 

“What Did She Say?” — My Answers to Twitter Chat Questions This Week

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What Did She Say? My responses to the Twitter chat, #titletalk

Hosted by Donalyn Miller and others on Twitter

September 7, 2014 at 7:00 pm EST

Q1: What is your definition of “uninspired reader?”

(A1: T.S. said, “ An “uninspired reader” is one who hasn’t had the chance to form a reading identity, feels no sense of ownership.)

My A1: Agree! Many students/people don’t have a chance yet to be inspired.

Q2: Considering your definitions of uninspired readers, what can we do to help Ss find reading personally inspiring?

A2: I make sure I allow my students to like and dislike – and share my likes and dislikes. Opens a door.

Q3: How can we negotiate academic and personal reading goals with our students, so they find reading personally inspiring?

A3: It’s hard to find time for everything. Reading is a non-negotiable. Even 15 minutes a day. Do it for you.

Q4. How can we engage a school/home community in the goal of inspiring more readers?

A4: Many families don’t have books or other reading in the home. Ss and P-T conferences help. Also ads for book clubs.

(E. S. said, “I have a future NBC post on this topic. My own children became uninspired readers because of AR.”)

I replied, “My 2nd daughter hated AR! Wouldn’t read at school. Is a wild reader at home!”

Q5. What books, series, authors have sparked uninspired young readers who you know?

A5: Scieszka’s KNUCKLEHEAD had the whole class rolling! Wild reading of wild stories! Also:

So many! Percy Jackson, Divergent, and 39 Clues, as well as Dork Diaries and Diary of a Wimpy Kid. Just starting…

(K said, “Several mentions of read aloud as powerful. It really helps level playing field for those who can’t quite access certain texts.”)

Q6. I just finished Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer. Intriguing connections to Plath’s Bell Jar.

(I didn’t respond here. I lost the conversation for a bit.)

Q7: Last minute BONUS question: What are you reading your students this week? 

(W.C. said, “Whatever they want!”)

A7: I agree. I said, “I agree with W. They choose. Class reading is The Tiger Rising. Studying setting etc.”

Thank you so much to Donalyn Miller and others who host these amazing Twitter chats! I had a great time becoming part of the conversation!

Curriculum Tip Tuesday! Calling All Parents, Students, Teachers …

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If you are a parent, a student, or a teacher, I would like to introduce you to a new site for reading and writing that I find worthwhile. Now, mind you, this site is owned by a friend of mine, Dr. T.P. Jagger, a former colleague and current children’s book author and professor, so I have a biased opinion. But…

Check this out! www.tpjagger.com.

I especially enjoy the original readers’ theater scripts and the “writing tips” video (more to come!) that Dr. Jagger created to help students read and write more fluently and creatively. Plus, his dynamic style is engaging and fun!

Parents: This site is easy to use at home! Just type the address, navigate, and enjoy helping your child to learn more; have a great time reading and writing.

Students: Check in with “Dr. J” personally, and he can help you to become a better reader and writer. He’s interesting to watch, too! Funny guy!

Teachers: I have used this site already in my classroom, as a center! While you are conferring, a few students can watch a video, practice a readers’ theater script together, or navigate the site for interesting (cool!) information. This may be a helpful “extra” lesson plan for you.

Thank you for your interest in education, and your continued support of all of our educational websites! Happy Teacher Appreciation Day! Have a great week.

Day 13: SOLSC Slice of Life Story Challenge

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Inspiration

In our Language Arts cross-grade level meeting this afternoon, we discussed the week’s standardized testing experience. One comment that stuck with me was this:  students who read a lot seemed to do well on the writing part of the test. I thought, “Yes, that simple idea makes so much sense.” One strategy that we want to keep in mind for next year’s curriculum is to use more mentor texts in the classroom. Immerse the students in different types of model texts, teaching them what we want them to understand using authentic means, and they will have a better opportunity to merge what they learn into their own writing.

I’ve used mentor texts for years. Each workshop or class I attend, I bring back ideas, check book list suggestions, and stock my shelves (at home and at school!) with reading that will model what I want the students to do when they write. My minilessons always spiral throughout the year: “Remember when we learned to use alliteration? Hey, look! Here’s another author who knows that trick!” (I make sure I identify my students as authors — they are!) Using mentor texts is a research-based, best-practice strategy for guiding students to write future best-sellers. Mentor authors help children build confidence. Mentors show children how the experts use the tools, tricks, and knowledge available to them when they write. Mentor writers are life-long readers and researchers themselves, the roles that we want children to take as they work through their writing.

Who hasn’t been inspired at one point or another by a painting, sculpture, musical score, or book? You know you have. You say to yourself, “I can do that.” Mentor texts inspire children to write like the experts. They can do that, too!

Disclaimer: This blogger does NOT using reading texts merely to teach reading or writing standards in the classroom. People should read for many reasons, not the least of which is to ENJOY reading!  Please do not tear apart mentor texts until students do not recognize them for what they truly are — wonderful reading material. My daughter and I once talked about author’s purpose. She said, “Authors don’t sit around and write to teach you about imagery (or making predictions, or identifying character traits, or anything else!). They just write, and you buy the book because you want to read it.