Sunday, July 31, 2016

Technology for Authentic Writing

I have been thinking a lot about what is lacking in the classroom when it comes to writing and for me it comes down to writing for a purpose and for a real reason. My students are gifted 5th and 6th graders who can create some of the most beautiful stories and poems when given freedom, choice, and time. With standardized tests has unfortunately come standardized writing. Rigid expectations and formulas to create essays about information, to argue points and to write about reading without a real audience aside from other students and me, the teacher. What is missing is the audience. Creative and authentic writing can be paired when the writing has real meaning and purpose. This year I am creating a blog for my students to share read aloud comments and feelings, to share news from our classroom and community with other classes, our parents, and more, and to share independent reading book talks, and projects. I have hooked up with pen pals in California and Arkansas to share writing with, as well. I am excited to see how this new authentic approach to writing benefits our morale and enjoyment of writing and benefits all of my students as writers! We are using Blogger to showcase our authentic writing. I hope to create a monthly newsletter using Smore and video-taped news using Ipads, a greenscreen, and written transcripts. Authentic writing is powerful for students and powerful for teachers. I look forward to writing for a purpose this year along with my students, sharing excellent writing through read alouds, and becoming authors who take risks and write for a reason!

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

DIY Literacy: Microprogressions

So today my micro-progression charts I made came from Vistaprint. I am thrilled with them. I incorporated Pokemon Go and leveling up with my micro-progression. In my classroom I will hang 4 charts I had made and can add post it notes to the progressions as we create them in class together, or through student examples as they apply skills we learn in class to move us forward in our learning and to keep us leveling up. I tried out a lesson on group discussions. We have book clubs in my room and often I hear students quickly reading through their work and moving form one to another without authentic conversation about the reading. This lesson will help show them how to share in conversations around the information each of them bring to the group discussion.

Here is my goal for the lesson which I would teach as a mini lesson and then create a chart: Tips for Active Listening with examples.

Here is the micro-progression I created for the skill. On my cabinets where these 4 charts will hang I have a headline "Level Up." I need to laminate the charts so that they will last longer. I have several versions of the charts. 
Here is my micro-progression chart with the post its. 
I am excited my charts can stay up and my post its and skills can change. I hope this encourages me to create micro-progressions to help my students level up and keep growing and learning this year! 

Monday, July 25, 2016

Reading Nonfiction Notice and Note: Signposts 3,4,and 5

Summer is slipping away! I am continuing my book study of Nonfiction Signposts. Today I am focusing on summarizing my reading and my take-aways from signposts 3, 4 and 5.

Signpost 3 Numbers and Statistics

In this section I learned that noticing numbers and stats can help students with many skills including:
Make comparisons
Draw conclusions
Make generalizations
Make inferences
Differentiate facts and opinions
Identify details
Recognize evidence
Understand author's purpose/bias

Question for middle schoolers when the signpost shows up: Why did the author use these numbers or amounts?

Numbers and statistics provide precision. They help students see the point the author is trying to make if they take the time to really stop and think about the numbers. Often in class when we are sharing nonfiction I stop at numbers or statistics naturally and ask things like: Can you believe 12, is a large number...etc. Students, however, are so ready to read for completion that they often overlook the significance of numbers and statistics in nonfiction. This signpost helps them to pause and think as they read. They are able to soak in the amount and after soaking in the number, the text may mean more to the student. Numbers can help students visualize what is being read and analyze it further. Analyzing numbers and statistics can lead students to question the author and not simply accept all nonfiction as fact as well. I see this as a great signpost to pull readers further into nonfiction text.
Numbers and statistics help students relate nonfiction to visuals and make text visible for students in a deeper way.

Signpost 4 Quoted Words

Here I saw that quoted words help students with:
Recognizing author's purpose and bias
Make inferences
Draw conclusions
Identify point of view
See cause/effect relationships
Identify facts and opinions
Compare and contrast

Quotes offer personal perspective, other's words, or a voice of authority for text.

Question for middle schooler when the signpost shows up: Why did the author quote or cite this person and what did it add?

Personal perspective can give a first-hand account of an event. This can help a reader connect to the text as it helps build empathy around the event and makes the event relatable for the student. Voice of authority gives an expert view of a topic or event. It can be shown with personal perspective to balance the writing. Other's words shows that the author is not alone in a view. It often occurs to show others agree with the author. This is found in persuasive and argument writing.

I love how the anchor question causes students to generalize, infer, and draw conclusions. This is where students use deep thinking to connect the quote to the topic and truly dig into the text! This will lead to deep conversations in nonfiction discussions in the classroom. I look forward to using this signpost.
Quotes offer ways of being in a moment, share other perspectives on a topic or idea, and give expert information about what is being read. All of these things will help students to read closely and question what they think/read.

Signpost 5 Word Gaps

In this section, I learned that recognizing word gaps can help students when they struggle with nonfiction comprehension because of vocabulary and unknown words.

Anchor questions for word gaps include: Do I know this word from some place else? Does this seem like technical talk for this topic? or...Can I find clues in the sentence to help me understand the word?

Tools for confusion due to vocabulary:
"When you don't know anything about what you don't know, then realizing you don't know it doesn't actually help you know it."
They discuss 4 distinct areas of word confusion: 
Descriptive Language
Comparisons like similes and metaphors or other figurative language can confuse students, especially when they don't understand the content or what or how it is being compared. The descriptive language adds to the confusion. Read around the figurative language to see if meaning can be found.
Students know one meaning of a word but the word is used differently in context.
-Need a dictionary or  to use context clues to determine this meaning if the meaning a reader knows does not seem to work.
Distant References (Can I find clues in the sentence to help me understand the word?)
Students only read the sentence to find a word meaning rather than thinking further back due to textbook "help" which makes them dependent readers.Students can get the gist and move on, or look back further for possible references or read more to see if it helps with meaning.
Rare Words and Technical Talk (Does this seem like technical talk for this topic?)
Words known as Tier III words. These can confuse readers as well. These are often defined in textbooks, but they are not the only things that confuse readers when they don't understand text! Use a dictionary, textbook, friend, teacher, etc. to find the meaning.

Most confusing words are not the words we have never seen before, but the words used in varied ways, words involving figurative language, and multiple meaning words! The best way to understand more words is to read more!

Steps to figure out a word that is unknown:
1 Identify the problem. 
2. Look for what is familiar. (Is part of a word familiar?) prefix, root, multiple meaning word....
3. Look for concrete examples of the concept that is not understood...images, sidebars, examples...
4. Go for the gist (syntax surgery, sketch to stretch)
5. Use a dictionary or thesaurus.

Learn the concept first and then the technical term.
If a text does not give any clues as to the meanings of particular words, define the words real life reading students need to have fixes for what to do when these problem words arise.
Students need to find word gaps and find ways to bridge those gaps.

Vocabulary can add confusion to textual understanding. Giving students the tools to navigate vocabulary and all of the problems that occur when unknown words are met in a text and cause confusion will help students with independent reading. It will take many tools and much time to overcome all of the different needs students have when it comes to word gaps! With persistence, we can give students the tools they need and prepare them to take on nonfiction independently, understand what they read in a deeper way, and bridge the gaps.

Finishing the signposts I see these being implemented after the 3 stance questions. I will introduce a few at a time with shorter texts and we will implement them as the year goes on. I look forward to discovering how these signposts impact conversation, engagement, and understanding of nonfiction.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

DIY Literacy Ch. 5-6: Breakout-Independence!

So this past week I got a chance to go with some great friends to a "Breakout Room" in Cincinnati. If you have not heard of these, you need to check into some in your area! Basically, you get one hour to escape from a room using pieces of evidence you analyze and  use to lead you from task to task closer and closer to your goal as the time ticks away. We went in super confident we would break out. We thought ourselves intelligent, innovative and logical, but what we found was that the task proved far too difficult for us-we did not break out in our one-hour time frame. Sure, our picture says we were "so close" to breaking out, but we were at least 20 minutes from breaking out of this 1-hour task. We used 3 "extra" clues given over a loud-speaker along the way as needed, and still, we did not meet our goal. We all felt we must try this again (we even begged to buy a little more time to no avail.) I share this because it reminds  me a lot of my students. Students are excited to "break out" in our classroom as high achievers as our year begins. They work hard, use our tips, and still fail to meet their goals. If they are motivated and energized in their learning, they too will look forward to the next chance to work towards that goal. (They may even beg for a little or a lot more time to work.) That always makes us smile, too. If we show them learning is a journey, and guide them on their own path, then they will be willing to spend the year taking steps toward the final destination.

What I learned in Ch. 5 and 6 of this book is the importance of the teacher as a facilitator of learning.  By coaching, observing, guiding and giving more and more clues over the loud-speaker to each of our students when they need them, I can help them meet their goals, help them to celebrate their learning along the way even when it includes failures, and help them to go even further than they imagined. When my students are taught something in a whole group mini-lesson,  it is the beginning of the journey to make that learning sticky. My job is to simply keep sharing the tools and keep showing my students all of the different pathways to achieve their goal over time as needed. If I want learners who are driven, independent, engaged, and excited about learning, I need to show them what that looks like and help guide them to achieve that desire to love learning and always grow one step at a time.

My Sketchnoting of Chapter 5 and 6
Chapter 5 Big Ideas:

  • The tools in this book can provide the support and inspiration our students need to succeed.
  • Representing ideas in drawings, shapes, icons, and words help solidify understanding.
  • Demonstration notebooks can extend a lesson for a small group ready for the next level of understanding.
  • If....then..charts help students to solve their own learning quandaries. 
  • "The Best of the Best" charts keep strategies available for choice and differentiation in units.
  • Bookmarks allow students to show and use what works for them and also to challenge themselves to try a more difficult strategy as they read/write. 

Chapter 6 Big Ideas:

  • Keep the spark lit for students: use pop culture, metaphors for life, sports, and humor to engage these tweens (and keep learning relevant, creative and fun!)
  • Get pop culture ideas from students themselves! They will love to share what is "in"...and "out". 
  • Build my classroom with and for my students and their needs.
  • Use tools that are effective and engaging for the unit and teach students to help create and use them.
  • Less is more with teaching tools... don't be wordy....keep tools fresh and student friendly! 
Quote from pg. 106, "We can place things in front of our students to lift them up and help them believe they can extend their reach, all the way to their dreams." 

I look forward to implementing these tools/ideas/strategies with my students this fall! 

Sunday, July 10, 2016

DIY Literacy Ch 3-4

I created a video to highlight my understanding from our reading. I created this by Sketchnoting the chapters and then using images from my Sketchnotes and attaching those images to Google Slides. I used Screencastify to record my screen and create the video!

DIY Literacy Digital Demonstration Notebook and Sketchnoting

So I decided to play around and create the beginnings of a Writing Demonstration Notebook. Here is my video with a little bit about it!

I feel like this is a work in progress. I have added some more pages for my narrative unit. Here is my example notebook as it stands right now!


I also have been playing around with Sketchnoting as a strategy to use with my students. This week I am hosting a book club with some of my soon to be 6th graders at Panera and we are discussing the book Echo by Pam Munoz Ryan.

Here are my Sketchnotes I created to lead my discussion! It was a great strategy to think deeply about the 3 plots that are connected in this novel.
I created the SketchNotes chart as a tool for my students as they experiment with Sketchnoting for themselves! 

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Reading Nonfiction Notice and Note Stance Signposts and Strategies

Reading Reflections: The Importance of Stance Part 2

Last school year I used these stance bookmarks with my 6th grade students. We concentrated mostly on What Surprised Me? as we read nonfiction. It was a real discussion starter my students enjoyed. I look forward to going further with this during the coming school year.

Nonfiction requires a skeptical stance as nonfiction invades our world and our thoughts and perceptions.
The big questions above can help our students to think more deeply about the nonfiction they read and read it with a critical eye.

What Surprised You?
Have students mark passages that surprise them
Students reflect on how this question affected their thinking
Expand with
What's New?
What's Odd?
What Seems Wrong?
What Makes Me Want to Know More?

What Did the Author Think I Already Knew?
Looking closely at What did the author think I already knew? can benefit my students in a big way. This question reminds students that when they don't get something, they must look for answers themselves. This empowers our students to be independent learners. Students learn what they are missing and how to acquire the prior knowledge on their own. They have a plethora of resources available, and we can empower them to research and learn what they need to understand in order to understand what they are reading. As teachers, we can lead our students to find the answers themselves by focusing them on this question when they don't get it or feel confused. They can learn to think about what they do not get, and why they don't get it.

What Challenged, Changed, or Confirmed What I Already Knew?
We read nonfiction to learn something
Learning involves changing the way we think about an idea or issue
We can change in several ways:
Confirm what we thought
Modify our thinking
Change our mind completely

This seems to really hit the bias and argument piece of our curriculum. It gives students a new lense as a reader. I see these 3 questions being impactful to begin our reading of nonfiction.

One question I have is how do you balance nonfiction with fiction in your classroom? Do you have weekly expectations for nonfiction or choice selections of nonfiction within a given month? Daily assignments? I am rethinking how I present our nonfiction this year and want to allow more choice for my students, but still have discussions, etc. Ideas?

What I am Reading This Summer

These are the professional books I am reading this summer! It has been a lot of fun and I have many ideas based on my reading!

Monday, July 4, 2016

DIY Literacy Ch 1, 2, and Bonus Chapter Reflections

DIY Literacy by Kate Roberts and Maggie Beattie Roberts
Chapter 1, 2 and Bonus Summary of My Reading and My Personal Reflections
Chapter 1
I love the idea of creating DIY Warriors of their own learning. What teacher has not wanted to lead an army of warriors set on learning and growing? I have been thinking about gamification in my gifted literacy classroom  to engage my students and this analogy of all of us marching toward our learning goals as warriors might just be a start. Tools to help my warriors work harder,  smarter and on their own sound like some pretty powerful tools! I want to help lead my students to be reading and writing warriors this year.
I love the question presented in Chapter 1 and will remember to ask myself as I plan: Are the teaching tools I am sharing with my students really helping them to grow? I showing them how to use this tool on their own?
I create interactive notebooks with my students, but as I have reflected this summer, the notebooks are teacher driven. I want to create notebooks for my students that are student driven based on what they understand before, during and after my mini lessons. I have decided to create "thinkbooks" this year rather than interactive notebooks.  I want to share tools and show my students how to make the tools their own,  so that they will use the tool on their own! 
Memory, Rigor and differentiation can be obstacles to student learning. These things can get in the way of our warriors marching forward. Students need instruction that fits their needs, to have the motivation to work hard, and they need to remember and recycle what they have learned.
I love the idea from our reading that when we center our work on depth and impact and share and show our students how to use reading and writing tools independently, we can lead our students to  personal success. Our hopes can become our students' hopes when we teach with depth and help our students create the tools they need to remember and recycle what they learn for years to come.
I love the idea that as a teacher I can  demystify what it means to be a reader and writer.  If I  offer clear steps and describe my processes, my students can follow. By sharing tools like charts and student created bookmarks, my students will have a way to organize their own understanding. Student-created "thinkbooks" I will introduce to my students this fall might help in this way. I plan to have students keep record of their understanding and growth in their own way in this notebook. My hope is that by taking ownership of the organization of the notes, the style of the notes, and their understanding before, during and after applying a group of skills or unit, students will see where they are in their learning, take ownership of their learning, and celebrate their new understanding. With this Thinkbook students will have a flight plan when they veer off course. The great thing will be how the student will create the book in their way rather than in my way, so they will be more likely to refer back to this resource and be more likely to remember and recycle their learning. From our reading, I thought it was amazing that someone must do something simple 21 times to create a habit. Something more difficult can take 254 times to become a habit...that is a lot! Our students can use tools to stay on course when the skills have not had time to stick yet. The best part- the more they practice the closer they become to creating the habits they need to succeed as readers and writers.
Charts, Demonstration Notebooks, Micro-progressions, and Bookmarks are all tools to create reading and writing warriors.  Warriors can not succeed without a plan and necessary tools and neither can a student.
I love the quote that begins Ch. 2: You are never strong enough that you don't need help-Cesar Chavez
Traveling requires directions. It could be written directions, a GPS, a map...but we can all reach the same destination-different tools, same result...I love the idea of sharing tools and helping students discover how they might create and use the tools in their own reading and writing to grow.
Charts-The What and The How and The Why
My new understanding of charts-Charts give students instructional choices and independence.
Repertoire Chart: strategies to help students move toward a big skill.
Process Chart: takes a big skill and gives steps to break it down in a systematic way.
I have always felt like I created charts for my students, but now see I can create them to share and show my students what I know they are capable of. I can encourage my students to make their own charts in their thinknotes book in a way that will serve them as they work independently.
Demonstration Notebooks-The What and The How and The Why
I love the idea of creating a demonstration notebook of important ideas/strategies that I can use with groups of students throughout the year to share and show how a strategy may be used.  I will ask myself: What does the reader need to do? How might they go about doing it?
Watch me as I....notebook of strategies students need to have success
I love how the notebook is portable and can be used with groups of students, etc.
I can create this as we go through skills this year adding examples to my notebook. I love the idea of simply using this coming year to create a thinkbook of my own, but leaving a few spare pages for examples and for demonstrating and referring back to as the year progresses. I would be tempted to take my thinkbook digital, but feel like writing and drawing will add value to this tool, not just for me, but for my students. It will look like my students thinkbook looks and that will make it accessible to my students.  I know there is a time for digital work, but also a time for writing, drawing, and connecting ideas to enhance memory in my students.
Micro-progressions of Skills-The What and The How and The Why
I often show exemplar text examples from students, and show non-examples, but I love the idea of this micro-progression where students can see where and how their own work compares to examples at varied levels. This allows students to independently see how they can move to higher levels of work. It is like taking a rubric and adding actual examples for each area. What makes it more meaningful for a student is the fact that it is an actual example they can compare their own work to and use as a tool when needed. 
This will be a more tedious task, but can be created with student examples throughout our year this year.
Personalized Action Plans-The What and The How and The Why
I will have my students create "thinkmarks" as their bookmarks. It will be a way to review the important processes and ideas they may want/need as they work independently on a reading/writing task. I will also have my students record their own thinking as they read on the opposite side of the thinkmark. I have used thinkmarks in my class for several years, but we simply all write a word or phrase about our focus and use it to record important notes, etc. What I intend to change is that the thinkmark will have tools they need on one side and their examples, notes, etc. on the other side.
I have gained great ideas from this reading and look forward to adding to my thinking in the chapters that follow! On my way to creating reading and writing warriors this fall......