Carl Anderson visits VA!!

Carl Anderson spoke at a nearby school in my district and my principal arranged for our staff to attend his two hour afternoon presentation. About 150 educators sat in the cafeteria and learned tips on conferring in Writing Workshop from Carl on our Early Release Monday.

Here are some of the highlights:
1. WHY do we confer? Carl reminded us that we can’t teach writing through whole-class instruction only. When we teach using the Writing Workshop structure, a teacher CAN confer because he or she is freed up to confer while all the students are working on their writing. Conferring allows for differentiation. The teacher can meet each student’s needs through a conference.

2. TEACH just ONE thing only during a conference.

3. Start the conference with an open-ended question to get them to talk. Then the teacher should SHUT UP and WAIT. Let there be silence and WAIT.
The teacher may need to teach students what the conference should sound like or use a video to show them.
* What do you want the reader to understand when they read your story?
*What part feels important to you? (uses this with younger kids)

4. Look at their writing, listen and then decide what to teach. To help decide, look at:
* what the student named that they are working on – find where they did that work to compliment
* what the mini-lesson was – they may have used the strategy
* look back at what was said at the last notes
* after experience, you will see PATTERNS – look for them

EX: Zane video – it is an ALL ABOUT story. After naming the important part, Carl guides Zane to be brave and write a 2nd draft to focus on just the important part.

EX: a story with LOTS of action; the student is over relying on including action. Carl guided the writer to at setting, dialogue, and inner feeling, too.

EX: a nonfiction story that over relies on action facts. Carl guides the writer to include description details and definition facts.

5. We need to give writers a sense of how a text goes so they can envision their piece. The teacher does this by showing a mentor text.

6. Once you teach a writer something, coach them. “Let’s try it.” Talk it out. Show using a mentor text. Act it out. Guide them orally so they can try it out with you.

7. Be kind to yourself as a writing teacher. Try ONE thing, just ONE and work on that. Then gradually work into getting better and better as a writing teacher who confers well.

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Oct 19 – TCRWP Saturday Reunion

This inspiring day started with Kate DiCamillo and ended with Tim Rasinski and in between I learned so much about Reading Logs, Notebooks, and Reading during SS time. Here is my attempt to highlight what was shared so graciously on this free day of learning at Teachers College!!

To a packed audience (estimated at 2000+) in the awesome Riverside Church nave:

Kate DiCamillo shared how the story of Flora & Ulysses came to be. As she spoke, I kept thinking that it really is SO important to gather our stories, only the stories we can tell, in our Writers Notebook. Her mother and her mother’s vacuum cleaner and that almost dead squirrel found on her front stoop were then used to create this new story. We must, as writers, be like Kate, and keep gathering our stories.Who knows when we might use them!! After hearing the backstory of this newest book of hers, I plan to buy it and read it to my class! You can read about it on her website: http://www.katedicamillo.com/

Trent DeBerry, a 5th grade teacher in Scarsdale, shared how he is using a Google Doc form as a reading log. First he started kids with a paper log (that’s where I am now) and then he told the kids to create their own form by adding a table. I loved that he empowered the students to create it themselves. Sometimes, as teachers, we do all the work. The kids created it and now at school and at home, they log. He also has them reflect monthly on their reading habits as shown on their log. And he uses a rubric to score the notebook.

My goal is to start student on-line logs in my room for 2nd quarter!! Thanks for the kick in the pants, Trent! As you said, this is an easy, efficient way of helping a student reflect on themselves as readers. I am ready for a valuable EASY tool!!

Jessica Stillman is a staff developer who returned to the classroom and is teaching 5th grade. She offered SO many practical ways to ensure that the Readers Notebook is a useful tool.
My major take-aways:
1. The teacher needs to have a Readers Notebook – duh! I have a Writing Notebook but why not a reading one?? NOW I will. She suggested for teaching purposes, to purchase an artist sketchbook. The bigger size will be good for showing during a mini-lesson.
2. Divide the notebook into 3 sections: Read-aloud, Independent Reading, and Goal Setting.
3. For Goal-setting, she suggested using the last 10 pages as a place to hold MONTHLY GOALS. They should state a BEHAVIOR GOAL and a COMPREHENSION goal. We are going to add this TOMORROW starting with Nov!!

Also, in the back, she suggested as a celebration at the end of a unit to ask the kids to MAKE a SKETCH of the one book that they read that changed them the most. “What book is sketched into your heart forever now?” Sketch it. They can also write about why this book is so important. “This book is important because…Reason 1, 2,3,.”
4. The Independent Part of the Notebook is where they hold onto their thinking about the book they read. She suggested modeling that they should only hold onto their BEST THINKING! It is OK to “crumble up the crap”!
Kathleen Tolan – Bringing SS to Life with embedded Literacy Work
I am sold now on the power of using CENTER WORK during Social Studies!! I have had my students analyze one primary source. But Kathleen suggested adding 2 or 3 and get a group (much like a book club) to analyze each and then start to compare and contract! Hold the CENTER in a pocket file folder and add directions / questions / sentence stems / vocabulary word banks. The critical thinking will soar!! 

She also shared an idea of relating history to storytelling. She had 6 pictures related to Paul Revere’s Ride and started telling us the story, pointing to each picture as she told her story. I can see modeling this for my students. Then, giving groups of students a topic and ask them to create a storyboard. Then we can take turned telling each other our stories!!
Mary Ehrenworth – Raising the Level of Reading Notebooks
We must remind students WHY we use a notebook. We can only hold onto something in our short-term memory when we listen, watch or read. However, we can transfer it to our long-term memory by writing, sketching, acting it out, or talking about it. By using a notebook, we can remember what we read and use what we put into our notebooks to deepen our relationships with books. (We do NOT use a RN to prove to the teacher we read something).
Mary pointed out that innovation is valued in the work force. We need to work at giving kids the chance to play and innovate to prepare them for the future. She modeled this with her students by sharing several ways she was adding ideas to her RN and telling the kids that at the end of the week, they must have 2 pages added to their RN. Then at the end of the week, all opened to their 2 pages and off they went to take a MUSEUM WALK. On the walk, they got ideas from others. She xeroxed the 15 best and hung these up as ideas. This pushed all to be even more innovated the next week! She was creating a culture of innovation and collaboration. She was helping them to independently think about how to best represent their thinking about a book in their RN and not to just obediently do an assignment given by a teacher to the whole class.
Some of the ideas she shared to get the kids’ RN going were:
1. Make an emotional timeline and plot the ups and downs of a character
2. Give a poem to a character
3. Make a list of all the characters and what you want to hold onto about each
4. Add a map and clip art to show where the book is taking place
Tim Rasinski – Whatever Happened to the ART of Reading? 
First, Tim was introduced in such a clever way!! To the tune of Hey, Jude, a Staff Developer sang “Hey, TIm” and gave the audience a summary of his background through song. How fun that the church nave filled with “Na-na- na, na-ah-na-na, Hey Tim!”  This was the perfect intro for a speaker who continued to teach us using song!
Singing is FUN. Lyrics are getting read but it doesn’t feel like hard work at all. He shared how he is working with kids to perform on Veteran’s Day. They have been practicing the theme songs of each of the Armed Forces. (Lots of reading of lyrics!!) So Tim had us try this. We sang and honored each branch of our military, those standing when they had a personal or family connection. Along with being fun, it was so moving AND required loads of reading!!
He is also working with kids to celebrate the bicentennial of Lincoln’s birth. Kids are preparing to perform read-alouds of his inaugural speeches and the Gettysburg Address. He found a song called Our Abe Lincoln. He found a Civil War letter and a poem. All these the students are reading and rereading which will improve their fluency as readers. And it’s FUN!!
Thank, Tim for reminding me to add FUN songs, poems, readers theaters, etc to my classroom. Reading CAN be an art form, as well as the science related to reading score data.

Oct 18 – visit to PS59 – Kristi Marz’s K class!!

I BIG thank you to my friend Grace who is interning with Kristi Marz in her K class at PS59! (Kristi is co-author of Better Charts and the chartchum blog: http://chartchums.wordpress.com/). Grace arranged for me to tag along with her on Friday morning. In the one hour, I learned SO much about the importance of guiding the students to think about how they are going to act during workshop, as well as what they would do during workshop. It was Writing Workshop time and Kristi had each student already decide how they would act during this time and all day long on a Learning Plan. Here is one student’s Learning Plan and her chart showing what each symbol represents:

Then in small groups, the students made a writing goal to follow during their Sign-Making Writing Unit of Study. They chose to either: to make clear letters, to make symbols or “no” symbols, to put spaces between words, or to add pictures with actions.

Grace guided a small group to circle their goal and tape it to their goal sheet in their writing tray. Then off they went to work on writing. I observed one friend make many “No Ghost” signs. He told me he needed lots because his house was big. Another friend was busy making a “No Spills” sign to hang in the cafeteria. 

As workshop was ending, I got to see the power of the habits of mind. One friend didn’t want to stop. Kristi patiently reminded him to be flexible. Now he had to stop and put away his writing tray and then at Choice Time, he could return to his writing. Another friend wrote many signs during workshop and Kristi got him a “Persistence Hat” to wear! As Grace was fitting him for the hat, he told me the story of the worm on his hat. “The cat knocked the worm’s blocks over. But he persisted and built it again. Then the rat knocked it down but he persisted…” I loved how the hat gave him a chance to retell a story, as well as place the spotlight on him for acting strong during writing workshop.  
Once all Writing Workshop materials were put away, the kindergarteners gathered back on the rug. Kristi told them that she was trying to work on being persistent in helping students. On her work plan she gave herself a check and then sketch herself helping a student. I watched a friend, who wanted to be safe, write that he was “being safe by not hitting.”

I left PS 59 thinking if these Kindergarten students can be guided to think about their behavior, as well as, learning content, then so can my 4th graders!! I can’t wait to introduce them to the habits of mind. They probably won’t get excited to wear a hat so instead, I’ll give out stickers!

Thank you Grace and Kristi for teaching me so much in an hour of Writing Workshop!!

1st Reading Notebook Check

I’ve been telling my 4th graders that the skill of reading is INVISIBLE. However, if we LOG, STOP&JOT, and IDENTIFY CHARACTER TRAITS, then they can make their reading VISIBLE to me. While reading-aloud My Name is Maria Isabel, I modeled how to log, jot, and name character traits that match Maria Isabel and her mom, dad, teacher, and brother. SO last weekend, I collected all 27 students’ Reading Notebooks so I could look closely at the work they have done so far.

The rubric I used looked like this:

This is what one logged looked like:

This is what stop and jots looked like:

This is what Character Trait Work looked like (using these free paint samples from Home Depot, it seems to motivate the reader to push to name at least 4 character traits!)

Overall, 12 students received a 12/12 on this rubric!! This shows me they are reading independently, logging, and jotting about what they read! 12 received scored between 5-11, showing that something was missing but the score on the rubric also helped to make it more visible for them what the Reading Workshop expectation is. Only 3 scored under a 4 and these 3 I am working with closely as they aren’t able, due to different factors, to work independently yet. 
I think we are off to a good start!!