Tuesday, June 30, 2015

#5BookFriday and It's Monday, What Are You Reading?

So if you are looking for a way to build a lot of excitement in your classroom around reading, try #5BookFriday and a weekly rendition of It's Monday, What Are You Reading? These are two literacy ideas that I saw this year from reading literacy blogs and looking at Twitter. I learned about both of these ideas from the blog https://innovateigniteinspire.wordpress.com/ by Kristin Ziemke and Katie Muhtaris. I tried both of these ideas in the classroom in January and they sure have evolved!


One of our 1st weeks of #5BookFriday!

My students LOVED #5BookFriday so much that they would eagerly anticipate Friday afternoon just to hear about the latest 5 books! I would pick out 5 books that I wanted to share with the class and motivate them to read. I would pull either new books that I had ordered through Scholastic, new books from our school library, old favorites of mine that I felt needed a special "look at" from the students,  or a theme of books around a certain topic or genre. After about 6 weeks of sharing books, students started asking if they could share 5 books on #5BookFriday. I made a schedule for the rest of the year and they would eagerly await their turn. Some weeks I didn't assign anyone the task so that I could share books with the class. I kind of missed sharing my favorites every week! 
The excitement that was built around this activity was amazing.  After 5 students were chosen to read the books, I would take a picture of the students with their "new reads" and post it on Twitter with 

So many new titles were shared, 
so many students received some great book recommendations for future reads, 
so many students thought about their "Top 5" books that they would share, 
so many students sat in anticipation of what books would be pulled out of the bag,
so many students would have to decide if they wanted to read that book or wait for maybe a better one to come out of the bag, 
so many students heard the excitement around these books and it helped them as readers, 
so many students wanted to share and be part of #5BookFriday,
so many more books were read because of #5BookFriday,
so....I deemed it a classroom success!  

How to do it...
1. Choose 5 books(sometimes I did 6 because I JUST couldn't decide...)
2. Put the books in a bag(easy)
3. Share out each book to your students(with lots of excitement)
4. Pick someone in the class to read each book(often the book has a line of students wanting it when they are done reading it)
5. Take a picture of the students with their books(students can do this as well)
6. Tweet a picture of the students with #5BookFriday

It's Monday, What Are You Reading?

If you are a blogger, you probably know about "It's Monday, What Are You Reading?" 
I used to participate in "IMWAYR" for some of my blog posts. I enjoyed reading the different blogs and seeing what others were reading both in the classroom and professionally. I decided this fall to start a classroom version of "IMWAYR" and this is what it looked like...
Pretty simple...they wrote it up on chart paper in the morning.

Over time, this started to evolve. I saw a post about doing this activity on Padlet in the classroom and I thought it was a brilliant idea! Since we are a 1-1 iPad classrom, we could easily do this using padlet. This was one of our first tries. 

It was a decent first effort, but with anything we have learned a lot and improved our posts. I started asking for more specifics and pushing for higher quality posts since anyone could view them on Twitter, in our newsletter, or on our blog! 

 Here is an example from the end of February...

The students really enjoyed posting to Padlet each week and sharing their book. They also were able to get some great book recommendations from reading each other's posts. There were many times when they posted their first post and then I made them go back to revise their work and improve it. As a teacher, you can also go in and delete any extraneous posts or posts that do not represent the expectations of the classroom. 

We then got a little crazy at the end of the year and tried to go global! We would complete our Padlet and then send it out via Twitter around the world. We asked classrooms to add to the Padlet to share their reading. We were pretty excited to see other students from as far away as Canada adding to our Padlet. 

We will definitely continue this next year and try to have others add to it as well in order to foster collaboration and connection across the country and even farther. This was an activity that we did in class that really added to our learning and helped to foster a love of reading and a strong culture of reading in our classroom! 

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Reflections on ANOTHER Year!

ANOTHER year is in the books! I think that this is the end of year 14 for me! Between staying home with my girls and moving, I lose track of the years each year!  It's the end of June and I finally have some time to sit down and write down my thoughts about the past school year. Reflection is always important for me because it helps me to figure out...
 -what to keep doing 
-what to stop doing 
- what to tweak and improve upon for the following year

This year, I know for sure that I want to keep the following...

-Genius Hour
-Personalized Learning opportunities 
-a Balanced Literacy approach to reading and writing
-End of the Year Writing Contest in my classroom
-Student Data Binders
-Goal Setting and Reflection
-Voice and Choice
-Global Read Aloud and World Read Aloud Day
-using Padlet in the classroom for collaboration and communication
-#5BookFriday(I NEED to do a blog post on this!) 
-engaging, hands-on STEM activities

This year, I want to stop the following...
-students talking over each other or not actively listening to each other
-students not being purposeful with their talk in the classroom
-students questioning the need to reflect on their work in the classroom
-students not being appropriately challenged in math when they are 2 or 3 grade levels ahead of our gifted math program
-wasted time
-letting writing time fall to the wayside 

Of course, I have grand ideas for all of the above and a stack of books to help with the above, but these are things that I seem to always struggle with each year.  I make a list about how I can be more intentional in my teaching around these things and how I can seek out help in these areas. If you have any suggestions...shoot them my way! 

This year, I want to tweak and improve upon the following...
-Discovery Quests-how can they be more meaningful and still be an excellent source of public speaking practice?
-Math Workshop-how I can set this up to reach all of my different learners and challenge my students appropriately
-Writing Workshop-how can I include more authentic writing time into my already tight schedule?
-Goal Setting-how can I be more purposeful in following up on SMART goals and making sure that SMART goals are written appropriately?
-Reflection-how can I continue to teach the importance of reflection and how it transfers over to everyday life?
-Authentic Assessment-how can I create more authentic assessments that are purposeful and truly measure learning? 

As you can see, I have a lot to think about and a lot to plan out as I sit by the pool in July and August! I'll keep you posted on what I come up with as it develops! Feel free to shoot me any ideas or suggested resources. 

Sunday, June 21, 2015

The Power of Conferring

Conferring with students, conferencing one-on-one with students, individual conferences...whatever you want to call them...it can be so powerful when you take time to analyze and reflect on your work with the students. 

In January, I committed myself to ramp up my reading conferences. I wanted to make a concerted effort to meet with each student once a week. I had started off the year strong with conferences in September and October and then November and December were a bit more inconsistent. 

Since ramping up my conferences, I have had so many aha moments about the importance of conferring. I have conducted reading conferences since I started teaching in 1998. I had a wise friend who taught me (as a first-year teacher) to always point out a "praise point" and a "teaching point." She suggested I label it PP and TP while keeping anecdotal records and it is something I have done since 1998. I loved the idea of always praising a child for something, as well as finding a teaching point to focus on each time. Meaningful compliments or "praise points" are so important for building a trusting relationship with your students.  I usually only give out compliments for the first month of conferring, before I begin to give teaching points. Students are more receptive to the teaching points after you have built that safe and trusting relationship. I try to make our conferring sessions feel like a one-on-one laid back conversation about books. The students then WANT to come up and conference with you and will actually ask..."when is it my turn?"

An example of conferring notes
Over the years, I have experimented with many different ways of keeping track of my conferences. Post-it notes(no-way...they were all over the place), an anecdotal grid with each child's name in a box(this worked really well for me...but the papers would pile up over time), a whole class conferring binder(this ended up being a HUGE binder that was hard to carry around and would fall apart halfway through the year), and finally what I use now. Now I use 5 different colored binders, one for each day of the week with 5-6 names in each binder divided by tabs. I read about this idea from Steven Layne and his book, "Igniting a Passion for Reading." I love this idea because I can focus on a certain set of students each day. Inside these binders, I include certain reading assessments, my conferring notes, and other data that gives me a comprehensive picture of each reader. 

Color-coded binders for conferring

When meeting with the students, I love the conversations that we organically have around books. They share with me their thoughts about reading in 4th grade, how their reading lives have changed since the previous years, their thoughts about why they are loving their book, their thinking about their books, what they are wanting to read next, their feelings about themselves as readers, their passion for a certain genre or series....the list could go on! 

It's important to listen and to model "good listening" when conferring. (This can be hard with all that we have to manage and observe while conferring!) I usually only ask open-ended questions when I meet with my readers. I also will sit and wait for my students to respond or for them to elaborate on their thinking. I don't rush them through their thinking or through the conference. I sometimes need to paraphrase what they are saying to familiarize the student with academic language. I will name what the child is trying to say as inferencing or say that they are using their background knowledge and the text clues to help them make an inference. This helps the child recognize what they are doing as they are reading and reminds them about what an inference actually is. 
An example of my notes...I paraphrase in my notes.

There are so many possible ideas for teaching points and that is where you as the expert teacher gets to make the decision about what that child needs to work on next. Do they need to work on reading the punctuation, thinking deeper about the text by using strategies that you have given them, building their reading stamina, setting reading goals, slowing down to think about the book, tracking how a character changes throughout a text, or whatever else the child is ready for NEXT in their reading life!

When I sit and confer with my students, I have so many feelings of affirmation. It reminds me of why I teach reading the way I do (using the balanced literacy approach) and why I have the goal of teaching reading so that every child in my classroom LOVES to read and walks away with a lifelong love of reading. I want them to read the pages willingly, find phrases that resonate with them, stop and think about the author's writing, make connections to the text, reread pages that didn't make sense or are worth going back to reread, and think about how that book has enriched their reading life.