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A Continuum to Help Students Think About Their Reading

Today I went to a very inspiring staff development workshop on Reader's Workshop.  I am lucky to part of a group of teachers who are piloting some new reading units being designed to address the Common Core Standards.  More about that another time....

What really got me excited today was a video we watched from the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project (love those guys).  You can watch the video HERE.

The teacher in the video uses a continuum of thinking about themes in literature to help her students to reflect on their own thinking about a text. The continuum was a large piece of butcher paper with the continuum outlined on it.  To prepare for the discussion, the students had to make a claim about the theme of the book they were reading and write it down on a sticky note (she used very large sticky notes).  The students then decided where to place their sticky notes on the continuum.

Here is the continuum:

  It was a fantastic visual aid for students to see the different levels of thinking about theme that are possible.  Students were able to reflect upon and have a discussion about where their own personal thinking fell in the continuum and why they thought so.  Peer argument was strongly encouraged, as long as evidence and reasoning could be provided.  This resulted in a very rich discussion and higher level thinking.  It also gave students a place to go next with their learning and their thinking and they were able to set goals for themselves.  Finally, since the teacher listened in on their conversations (and did some facilitating) she was able to gather valuable information about the progress of her students. 

As I was watching this, my mind began swimming with the many, many ways I could use a continuum like this to help my students to think about their reading.  What an awesome self-reflection tool for them and a great road map for their learning.  Also, it is a great way to get students talking about their thinking...which we all know is not easy to do!  If I think about the common core standards for reading, listening and speaking, this strategy nails it on so many levels.  Its a strategy that could also be used for other subject areas as well, including math and writing. 

Where do you get these continua (I think that is the plural for continuum)?  I started thinking about that as well.  We have rubrics for everything nowadays, and I think you just create a continuum by pulling apart the pieces of your rubrics and making them a little more kid-friendly.

I really hope you have a chance to watch the video.  I think it is going to be a game-changer for me!!

Enjoy the tail-end of your week!!
Love and peace,

Getting Organized for Writing!!

There is a popular dance in my is called the Doing the Paper Shuffle.  It always happens at the beginning of our Writer's Workshop.  All my kids are doing it.  Heck, even I do it...every time I have a writing conference.  We get out our writing folders....shuffle, shuffle.  We look for the piece of writing we are currently working on....shuffle, shuffle.  We try to get our pages in order....shuffle, shuffle!  Then we go looking for that handy reference sheet or graphic organizer that we were given to help us...shuffle, shuffle!  I know this sounds like a lot of fun....but, quite frankly, I can't take it anymore!  Writing time is too precious in third grade!!  It's time to try something new!!

I used to give the kids composition notebooks for writing, but I didn't like this format. There is no place to put handouts (unless you add a folder to the mix), and I think revision is difficult when you're confined to bound pages in a notebook, especially if you want to add-on, or re-order things.

This year, I've had the kids use a folder....really just a folded piece of construction paper to keep all of their writing materials.   Pretty basic, I know...but cheap and easy to put away....just shove and go!  Plus, when I needed to take their writing home to look over...the whole pile of light-weight folders fit into my problemo!!  However, as you can imagine, it is not a very organized system, and creates "The Paper Shuffle" syndrome.  The drawbacks are beginning to outweigh the benefits.

I have successfully used binders for Reader's Workshop.  In the binder we keep our reading log, and lots of other reference sheets that we use for reading.  I use the half-inch kind that fits nicely into our book boxes.  The kids love having their own Reading Binder, and they are able to manage it pretty paper shuffle!!  So why not use a binder for writer's workshop as well?!!

So, come next week, I am going to pilot a new system of managing our writing in Room 19....a Writer's Notebook.  I've already purchased the binders and managed to find a spot where we can keep them.  I know my kiddos are going to be delighted to get some new stuff!!  It's perfect timing too since we are just beginning a new unit on Personal Essay Writing:

They will now be able to keep their ongoing writing work organized and in order without the paper shuffle.  Revising and editing will be easy, and they will have tabs in the binder for keeping all sorts of wonderful things to help them with their writing!!  I will post some photos when we are all "put together."

Of course this inspired a new TpT product:

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If you are also tired of doing the Paper Shuffle, check it out at my store!!  If you have any great ideas for how to organize for Writer's Workshop...I am all ears!!

I am looking forward to my day off on Monday....Thank you Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. You are always an inspiration!!

Click Here for an Audio Version of the Speech

I hope all my blogging buddies also get this day off.  If you get a chance listen to a little bit of Dr. King's speech....I try to do it every year and it never fails to give me goosies!!


Are Your Readers Engaged?

Well, the plague is passing...finally!!  I actually stayed up past 8:00 last night!  The bronchitis took the wind right out of my sail...coughing all night and drained of energy all day.  Every day after lunch last week, I felt like I could have curled up in a ball in our class reading corner and went right to sleep. energy is returning and I'm feeling like my old self!!

I have started reading a great new book by Jennifer Serravalo called Teaching Reading in Small Groups.  I am struggling with my guided reading groups and have been looking for a better way to move my readers forward in their learning.  I love conferring with kids one-on-one and I feel that this is the best way to make the biggest impact with kids.  However, finding the time to meet with kids one-on-one frequently enough is a big issue.  That is what attracted me to Jennifer Serravalo's book.  She proposes a method of doing conference-type work with students in a small group setting.  I have really just started the book, so I don't have all the "facts" on how it works yet, but it looks really interesting and seems like a way to be more effective in my reading instruction than a traditional guided reading group.

 Click here to buy the book!! (Also available on Kindle)

Anyhow, the second chapter of the book really got me thinking about student engagement in reading.  My class is pretty darn quiet during reader's workshop, so one would assume that I have a group of very engaged readers, right?  Wrong!  Jennifer Serravalo asks the question, "Are they really reading?"  In my heart I know I've got some "fakers" in the midst.  You know...those kids that can make a really good show of it when it comes time for reading, but seem to linger on that same page for a really, really long time.  Or, better yet, that one little darling that flips through the pages, one after another, humming a tune as they go.  So I set my denial aside and took a really good look at my readers and found that there were A LOT of them not really engaged at all.  This was serious!!  This has caused me to think about how I can "hook" those readers that haven't yet found their reading niche.  I want all my students to know what it feels like to get lost in a book.  I believe that its all about finding the one book that makes a person a reader for the rest of their life...Jim Trelease (The Read Aloud Handbook 2000) calls it a "home-run book."  Jennifer Serravalo's book offers many suggestion for how to increase student engagement in reading.  As a matter of fact, there's a whole chapter on it! 

So, if you're thinking to yourself...not my class..they don't fake it...try out an Engagement Inventory.  It is quick and easy and very, very telling.  Just sit and watch your students (inconspicuously) during your Reader's Workshop.  You will have to give up one day of conferencing or guided reading groups, but it will be worth it.  As you watch, keep a class list nearby and write down what students are doing.  Are they reading, or looking out the window?  Are they reacting to their reading by laughing or opening their mouth in surprise?  Or are they looking at you (danger, Will Robinson!)?  I whipped up a little freebie for you to make this even easier. Click HERE to get it!!  If you try it, please come back and visit me to let me know how it went.  Also, I would love to know what you do to help engage your students in reading.

 I have begun book clubs and partnership reading recently and have noticed a huge difference in the level of engagement of my young readers.  If you would like to try partnership reading, this guide makes it really easy to get started:

Check out some of my newest products...momma is so proud!!


Have a wonderful week!
Love and peace,