Jul 18, 2018

Book study: From Striving to Thriving

This summer the bloggers over at Adventures in Literacy Land have been working hard to improve their literacy instruction with the book From Striving to Thriving.

 This book has been very eye-opening to me in some ways and also reassuring in other ways.  It is nice to know that you are doing some things correctly, but could improve on others.  Each blogger shares their take-aways from every chapter within this book.  Just click on the image above to learn more.  If you have read this book, I would love to hear what you thought of it!

Jul 12, 2018

Summer Book Giveaway

We have been excited to share some of the professional reading that we have been doing this year.  These two books have been the focus of our last few posts.

If you missed our posts, you can check them out here:
Each of these books have something to offer to a seasoned teacher and a new teacher.  We read a lot that confirmed what I am currently doing, but we also discovered some  ideas that we would like to try out this year.

You can have your own copy of one of these books for FREE!  (If you win the giveaway, of course).  Just pick a book you are interested in (or both) and follow the instructions below.  We will choose a winner on July 16th.

a Rafflecopter giveaway
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Jul 11, 2018

The Megabook for Fluency

 Maria and I have shared our thoughts on the professional read Responsive Literacy: A Comprehensive Framework.  We have also had the opportunity to review The Megabook of Fluency by Timothy Rasinski and Melissa Smith.  And I will just go ahead and admit it...I was a little nervous about writing a post about fluency lessons/interventions.  In recent years, fluency has had a pretty bad rap because of assessments that just analyze rate.  That has forced fluency to take on a meaning of speed versus a multi-dimensional word.

Taking a look at fluency and what it should really look like

But luckily, the authors address this misconception IMMEDIATELY.  Fluency is multi-dimensional and includes the following components:
  • Expression which includes prosody, intonation, tone, stress
  • Automatic word recognition which includes pace or rate
  • Rhythm and Phrasing which includes pausing
  • Smoothness which includes accuracy and ability to self correct
The authors acknowledge that fluency instruction has often taken the form of reading quickly, timings, and repeated readings with a target reading rate in mind.  Due to these routines, many children have seen fluency as a competition either with others or themselves.  Or due to these routines, teachers have dropped fluency instruction altogether.  Neither of these outcomes are good.

It is mentioned that expressive reading is hard to measure.  Everyone probably hears something a little different.  Due to this, it is often missing from our instruction of fluency.  This point really stuck out to me.  Just because we can't assess it (or it is difficult to), doesn't make it less important.

These lessons address all aspects of fluency instruction. Fluency is more than just speed.Rasinski and Smith recommend using "effective, engaging, and authentic [fluency instruction] methods  that build word recognition automaticity (not speed) and prosodic or expressive reading."  Due to this need, the rest of the book (literally 300 pages) is full of lessons to support effective fluency instruction.  There are lessonS for each of the following categories:

Begin Early: Fluency in Primary Grades
Expressive Fluency
Fluency Fun: poems, songs, chants
Social Fluency
Partner Texts
Famous Quotes
Family Involvement 

As I was reading, I really saw myself doing many of these lessons or even turning some of them into small group interventions to hone in on some of these skills for students.  I want to show you why I liked the set-up of these lessons:

First off...can I just say teaching fluency with wordless books!  Yes!!   I'll be honest.  I never thought of that.  But I can see it now because it ties right into language!

Lessons that address all aspects of fluency instruction.I love that the lesson highlights (on the left) exactly what fluency skill is being practiced.  I can see this being helpful to me when I am really looking for a lesson that will hit a specific need for a student. Sometimes they just need a "little something" to bring the point home.  I also liked that each lesson highlights the grade band that it would work best for.  It is a large band.  But it still provides me with an idea of when a student should be participating in that type of instruction.

Here is an example of another lesson  You can see that all the fluency skills are checked off for this lesson.  This lesson provides an example of something else I really liked about this book...the materials.  "Jump-Rope Chants" does provide a book idea for you to purchase but behind this lesson are jump rope chants that you can use right away with your students.
Thank you!

Overall, I was happy to see the authors of this book addressing the negative tones that have surrounded fluency.  It is an important skill but it entails so much more than speed and word counting.  And these lessons certainly hit upon all aspects of fluency instruction.

Check back for a giveaway! 

Jul 10, 2018

Resposive Literacy: A Comprehensive Framework Part 2

As the school year was coming to a close, Em and I were offered the opportunity to read Responsive Literacy: A Comprehensive Guide by editor Patricia L. Scharer.  Believe us, it IS just that!   This book hits on everything that is important for your ELA block.

When I started reading the writing portion of this book, I was immediately reminded of why I adore teaching writing because it affirmed things I already do in my writing classroom and helped me realize there are things I need to revisit.  If you are looking to jump start your writer's workshop or if you need a refresher, this section is a great reminder of all things writing.  From how to go about starting writer's workshop all the way to conferencing with students.
A few things I thought were awesome about this book is it offers you great tips, thought out ideas for lessons, and suggestions for professional development.  I can see myself sitting down with other writing teachers to discuss these points.

Being Interactive Writers...

As I began my reading with chapter 15, I was quickly reminded about Interactive Writing. What a gem this can be to your writing classroom and I have used it in the past but over the last year or so I have moved more to modeling versus being interactive. This chapter reminded me of the importance of interactive writing in the development of young writers. It's important for them to see us write, but also to help us write alongside them.

Let's Refresh...

The book goes on to giving you tools you need in your writing classroom, basic plans for mini-lessons, and ideas for rubrics in chapter 16. I really loved the mini-lesson refresher because that's where a lot of great teaching can happen.
The next few chapters take you on a journey into Narrative Writing in the primary and elementary grades. One thing that was helpful for me was going back over the stages of writing development. It was a great refresher and I feel like I need to have examples of these stages available for my families when I sit down with them at conferences.

Word Work...

Section Five of this book revolves around Language starting off with phonics and spelling.  For me this chapter got my thoughts a rolling because for the last few years I've done spelling in my classroom and a pinch of phonics, but next year I'm responsible for most of the phonics instruction. This chapter walked you through the stages of spelling development and word study.  You will also find a helpful explanation on how to implement an explicit words study block in your classroom. What I also like is how Carla Steele, Patricia L. Scharer, and Denise Rowe give you ideas on how to embed word study opportunities throughout your ELA block as well as give you lists of resources that are needed in your classroom for word study.

 Don't Forget Vocab...

Next, I read about accelerating vocabulary development. When reading, I was reminded of how it's easier to pick out and be intentional with the words you want prior to sharing the text with your students. Again, not that "on a whim" isn't okay, but if you are planning ahead of time, you're looking for those words that are "tier-two", high utility words. After reading up on vocabulary, handwriting was on the list next. In this chapter you will find a valuable resource about the verbal paths you can use to help students with lower and uppercase letter formation. I am already starting to think about how I can incorporate these into my everyday instruction of letter formation in the beginning of the year.

A Learning Commmunity

The final section in this resource, section six, focuses on "A Learning Community".  We get started with a rundown of inquiry in the classroom. There are ideas for designing inquiry units using backward design.  This is where you identify your results desired, determine evidence, and plan the experiences and instruction your students will receive. The chapter goes on to give you ideas and several mentor texts you can use for different inquiry lessons. Finally, Sherry Kinzel, Wendy Sheets, and Carla Steele take you all they way through their 10 step recipe for an "Inquiry Approach to Studying Genre". Fantastic!!!
Finishing out this amazing resource is a section on the home-to-school bridge using KEEP Books, coaching, professional learning, and how to lead your school to a comprehensive literacy framework.

As a teacher for almost 20 years, this resource was one that would have been a great asset 20 years ago, if only it was written then. :)  This book was easy to read and is one that is a must have on your teacher shelf.

Jul 9, 2018

Responsive Literacy: A Comprehensive Framework Part 1

 This summer Maria and I were offered the opportunity to read Responsive Literacy: A Comprehensive Framework edited by Patricia L. Scharer.  The book is written by professionals that work within the Literacy Collaborative at The Ohio State University.  A few years back, I attended a training in this framework.  It is built around strong literacy practices and this book digs deep into that instruction.  While reading, I was reminded of the learnings that I took away from the training but also literacy practices that I could improve upon this upcoming year.

A look at a professional text to support the teaching of all things ELA.

 Let Them Talk...

a look at the importance of oral language in readingChapter 1 starts this book off strong because it is all about Oral Language!  Yes!!  This has been a HUGE game changer for us over the past several years.  We have included more and more intentional oral language into our literacy instruction. Because, as the author reinforces, although students come to school with language experience, they are rapidly continuing to develop this skill.  And so, we need to be intentional about the opportunities we provide during interactive read aloud, shared reading, guided reading, writer's workshop, and word study.  Gay Su Pinnell offers a buffet of ideas for each of these.  This chapter reminded me that children need to be given time to interact.  They need to talk.  We need to listen.

Literacy is Emotional

students must have the will to learn to have the skillAfter some great descriptions on a literacy framework, Carol A. Lyons takes a deeper look at the role emotion plays on memory and comprehension.  She explains that there is an inseparable connection between emotion and cognition.  This is important to note because we are supporting the learning of little humans.  And humans are emotional!  One thing that I found fascinating is that memories are stronger when emotions are connected to them.  What does this mean for our literacy instruction?  What emotions are we bringing out in our students?  And what emotions are they connecting to their learning of language, writing, and reading skills?
Wendy Sheets continues this discussion by examining how we foster literate identities.  The actions we take within our classroom tells stories to our students.  One point that she is makes during this chapter is that students are not a reading level. What stories and emotions are we bringing to the table when we limit them to a book level?   I don't believe positive ones (but that could be another post).  Wendy says, "The literate identities that our students take on affect their progress over time."

Get Organized

The second section of this book dives into how to organize for independent readers.  Our ultimate goal as teachers, right!  We work so hard to help students to think, read, and write independently.  I love the way that it is broken down into sections about independent work, the second grade transition, and independent readers in grades 2-6 because we know that reading and writing look different throughout our lower grade levels.  One part that I really loved discussed how to make independent work more powerful.  As the year went on, I know that it could be easy for me to get into an independent work slump.  The authors suggest analyzing the following when organizing work that challenges each student:
  • create just right challenges
  • provide authentic problem solving activities
  • provide open activities for choice and inquiry
My brain immediately clung to the word "inquiry."  Fostering curiosity and the wonderment of children is something I do not believe I am tapping into enough.  It is definitely  a goal for this upcoming year.

Let's Read

Section three dissects all things reading!  Interactive read alouds, shared reading, guided reading, fluency, comp, and the use of data are all explored in great detail.  Whether a new teacher, an experienced teacher, or a teacher looking for a refresher...this book hits it all.
Over the years I have found that there are certain ways that I do things.  But when reading and growing throughout the summer, I am reminded that I am not stuck to these routines.  Lisa Pinkerton reminded me, in this section, that interactive read alouds do  not need a lengthy introduction.  It can even be as quick as, "I found a new book for you this weekend!  I am so excited to share it with you!" Yes!  What a great reminder.
But Mary D Fried goes on to examine how we are scaffolding the introductions of guided reading books.  When I first looked at this chapter, I was ready to skip it because this is what I do all...day...long.  But then I saw this:
traditional framework to introducing a book
Uh.Oh.  I may have some new things to learn!  The chapter really looks carefully at the differences between an emergent, early, and transitional reader.  The introduction is not going to be a "one size fits all" because these readers need different scaffolds based on where they are in their learning.  As facilitators of this learning we have to be very deliberate in the teaching decisions that we make.  The author does provide a guide for scaffolding a book introduction for emergent, early, and transitional readers.

Another point that I really took to heart was concerning data and the analysis of a reading record.  Since we began using LLI (Leveled Literacy Instruction) two years ago, my reading record analysis has been much stronger.  But Sherry Kinzel shared a chart that really opened my eyes to how I could strengthen what I am learning about the reader.  The chart is separated into three columns:
  • reading behaviors the reader uses successfully
  • reading behaviors the read can "almost do" or can use with support
  • reading behaviors the readers shows no evidence of using
This is just a different way for me to note what the student is doing and I think it would really help me to better plan for future instruction.

Check back as Maria dives deeper into sections about writing, language and a learning community!  Plus...we have some books to giveaway!

Jul 8, 2018

Summer Reading for ME

 Refresh, relax, rethink!  Summer provides these things for our teacher brains.  I certainly need to relax a busy year of failing, succeeding, drowning (at times), and dancing (at times).  This relaxation takes on many forms, but one way is through reading books that I enjoy.  Here are a few of my summer reads so far:


One thing I have learned about myself as a reader this summer...I can not do heavy, heavy, heavy.  I love a good book that is going to open me up to a different perspective or touch on something difficult that will challenge me to think beyond myself.  But I also need to balance that out with something lighter.  And that is okay.

Professionally, I am always looking to push myself.  But like Tammy said over at Forever in First, "..I need to know I'm doing a thing or two right sometimes..."  Yes!!  Sometimes I just need to know that I am on the right track.  This summer I have read the following books:

If you have not seen these books, you will need to check back for a more in-depth analysis.  From Striving to Thriving is actually under review over at Adventures in Literacy Land.  Each chapter is being discussed!   All three of these books validated what I am doing but also challenged me to try some new ideas.  

On the horizon...I still have more to learn this summer.  Here are two books that I hope to dive into soon.


What are some of your good reads this summer?  I am always looking for books that get me thinking, challenge me, or provide me with a good love story (guilty pleasure).
Happy reading!

Jun 10, 2018

No Year Is Created Equal

Every school year is completely different.  It is actually one of the things I love best about our career.  Each group of students brings their own set of strengths and challenges and we must change and grow with them.
This particular year brought many challenges.  I thought we were prepared.  My building had done a summer long trauma study.  We changed our thinking about behavior.  Created school wide expectations and even made t-shirts :)
We thought we were ready.  But as children always remind us...we do not have it all figured out.  We must grow and change with their individual needs.  So we do.

Although this year was rough, it is also over.  Time for me to reboot, rejuvenate, and sharpen my teaching brain.  Summer allows for this to occur.  I have taken walks in the early morning with crisp, cool air, the sun rising, and birds singing.  I have walked through the grass with no shoes on.  I have sat in the sun reading a book that I can't put down.  These small happy moments prepare me for the new year ahead and allow me to open my brain and heart to new challenges.

This summer I am reading several books to help me prepare for the year ahead.

What are reading this summer to prepare for your upcoming year?  Is there anything you do to clear your head and prepare for the children that you will meet in the fall?