Monday, September 30, 2013

Update: We are Readers (Capital R)

Update on how the "We are Readers: Join the Movement" movement is going (see post with purple banner picture). 

Teaching is all about making decisions and making use of the limited time that we have for instruction. For example, we have 45 minutes per day for reading instruction and 45 minutes per day for writing instruction. How do we use that time wisely? 

How do we create a balanced literacy program? Is it possible to incorporate all of the skills, lessons, and elements of a "balanced" literacy diet in one day? The short answer is- no. It's impossible to incorporate every aspect of literacy instruction in a given day. Maybe it can be done over the long-term. But in the short-term I have 5 days and 45 minutes per day of reading instruction. So I am always coming back to basic questions:

What is best practice for reading instruction?
We value time spent reading above anything else. Research supports this. My CI and I are converts to the pleasure-reading, read-for-the-sake-of-enjoying-reading, read-good-fit-books, read-because-you-love-it, choose-books-you-love-to-read, spend-time-reading-independently reading program. 

How do you organize instruction to give students time to read independently?
1) We set aside time every day for students to read for enjoyment.
2) We encourage students to "steal minutes" of reading time throughout the day.
Kids love "stealing minutes" of reading. My students come up to me throughout the day and ask, "Ms. Cantrell, can I steal some minutes now?" And my answer is consistently "yes" (unless they are supposed to be engaged in a different instructional activity). This shows me that students are looking forward to curling up with a good book.  

What else do we do?

Reading mini-lessons.
The students have a chart glued into their "Book of Books" composition notebook that is titled: "What do good readers do?" Each time a lesson I have the students copy down the example of what good readers do in their chart. Simple. Organized. Easy to review.

Shared reading: SongFest!!
One of my first reading mini-lessons was "Good readers reread (when they don't understand something or when they zone out while reading)." The way that I reinforced the importance of rereading is by having them listen to a song they enjoy and try to sing along. Most students did not know the lyrics the first time we heard the song. I posted the lyrics on the ActiveBoard and had them read them once. Then we reread the lyrics while we listened to the song. And most kids could sing along.
So now we use read, reread, and reread and sing technique with LOTS of songs. I have a special folder where I keep multiple copies of the lyrics to the songs we are learning so students can choose to read song lyrics during "Be a Reader" time. This practice of rereading also supports fluency. On Fridays we have a Songfest where students practice rereading and singing the songs we have practiced. 

Thursday, September 12, 2013

We Skyped Chief Meteorologist Travis Koshko!

What an incredible day! 
We had our first classroom Skype visit with a local celebrity- 
Travis Koshko- chief meteorologist for the Charlottesville Newsplex. 

The children came up with a list of excellent questions for Mr. Koshko. 

We have been studying graphs in Ms. Straume's 3rd grade class. We wanted the children to see how useful graphs are in the real world. Mr. Koshko explained how he uses a variety of graphs and maps to help him predict the weather. Here is an example of a graph that our class created illustrating how many grams of sugar are in 1 serving of cereal:

We learned some amazing things about what it takes to be chief meteorologist. 
Mr. Koshko told us he wakes up at 2:30AM and gets to the station by 3:00AM! WOW! Someone needs to bring that man a Bodo's bagel at 6:00AM. :) 

Thanks again for Skyping with us Mr. Koshko!
For more information follow our Twitter feed: @Claireecantrell and @chalkrelic (Ms. Straume) 

Sunday, September 8, 2013

We are Readers... Join the Movement!

This poster says to me: We are readers. Reading is cool. Get on board the train. 
I later added photos of the students reading (which cannot be displayed for privacy reasons). It is displayed outside the classroom so everyone in the third, fourth, and fifth grade wing can get on board the reading movement. 

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Failure Is Not a Period, It's a Comma

This title is a quote from the article: "Five Lies That Every Twenty-something Needs to Stop Believing"   from Relevant Magazine. 

Failure is common in a classroom. I am uncomfortable with failure. I'm uncomfortable with the feeling of coming up short or not having the answer. But I am learning through student teaching that failure is an inevitable part of teaching and learning. 

Uncountable books, articles, quotes, and ideas have been written about the importance of failure and how to cope with failure. Brilliant thinkers always failed before they succeeded. Scientists fail for a living. Anyone who has become great has failed on his or her way to greatness. Failure is not an impediment to success but an important step on the road to success.

Failure Quotes from
Winston Churchill: "Success is not final. Failure is not fatal. It is the courage to continue that counts."

Abraham Lincoln, "My great concern is not whether you have failed but whether you are content with your failure." 

It's fine to celebrate success but it is more important to heed the lessons of failure. - Bill Gates

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Book Belts

We tie nail aprons to the back of our chairs so we can have our books with us at all times. Then if you want to take your books to lunch with you, untie your book belt and tie it around your waist.

20 Little Lessons Learned...

20 little lessons learned... from my first "formal" lesson

1.    Get their attention. Relate it to them personally.
2.     Exaggerate. Be dramatic. Be overdramatic.
3.    Translate everything into kid language. Ask them to make up the definitions. Write down their definitions.
a.     For example, When I was using the IPICK acronym some of the kids did not know what the words: “purpose”, “interest”, “comprehend”, and “know” meant. It’s important to translate this into words they undertand before moving on.
4.    Write down what you need to write down on your anchor chart ahead of time so you’re not wasting time looking at the chart. You lose the kids’ attention during that time.
5.     While the children are turning and talking to someone, listen to their conversations.
6.    Ask the children to repeat what their partner said. This improves listening skills.   
7.    Have the kids rephrase the question you asked in their own words.
8.    Differentiate for students who may not be able to read what you’re writing.
9.    Have an extension activity prepared for children who work more quickly.
10. Relate it to the real world! When and how do we do this in real life?
11. Get their attention at the beginning of the lesson. Get their attention again in the middle of the lesson. Keep their attention. Leave them with something concrete.
12. Assessment. If the students can’t write down the words they are thinking then they can tell me the answer in their own words.
13. Some students struggle to understand the question that is being asked on the exit slip. They don’t comprehend what is being asked. In this case, simplify the question. State it another way.
14. Review. Review again.
15. Have them apply what they are learning.
16. Students may work in partners. This is interactive support.
17. Give explicit directions for how the children are expected to behave when they  transition from one activity to another and one place to another.
18.Circulate to make sure they are on the right track.
19. Add physical movement whenever possible.

20. Smile. It spreads joy.