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Let' them talk!! Collaboration in Reading and Writing

Welcome back!  Today I want continue the discussion of Essential Practice 1:

Essential Practice #1:  Deliberate, research-informed efforts to foster literacy motivation and engagement within and across lessons.

The third bullet of this practice states:

The teacher offers regular opportunities for children to collaborate with peers in reading and writing, such as through small-group discussion of texts of interest and opportunities to write within group projects.

Collaboration is a fancy term that means...LET THEM TALK!  As teachers, we love quiet classrooms, don't we?  We think our administrators are judging our classroom management skills based on how quiet our classroom is.  But in fact, it is the always-silent classroom that I really worry about.  Really, really worry.  Teacher - deep down in your heart you know that the most magical things happen when your students are having meaningful dialogue about their learning.  So, let them talk!


Relentless Book Matching

Essential Practice #1:  Deliberate, research-informed efforts to foster literacy motivation and engagement within and across lessons.

Do your students LOVE reading?  Do they beg to keep reading when reading time is over?  No?  If your students are struggling with stamina, they may not have "the right" books in their bins.  This post outlines some strategies to help your students to find books that will tickle their fancy and keep them reading long after the required "20 minutes" is up.

I AM A READER!! Creating Self-Efficacy in Young Readers

They show up in our classrooms every new school year.  You know the ones....they drag their feet to their reading spot, stopping to chat with four or five friends.  When they finally make it to their spot, they s-l-o-w-l-y start browsing through their selection of books, pausing frequently to look up at the ceiling, at the door, at their shoe.  When they finally choose a book, they randomly flip around, pretending to look at the pictures.  This is what DISENGAGEMENT looks like.  Some students are better at faking it than others.  Some quit faking it a year or two ago, and now just proclaim, "I hate reading!"

Nothing is quite as frustrating, or heartbreaking, as the student who does not yet see themselves as a reader, and has not yet experienced the life-changing magic of reading a really, really, really great book.  Our most important job as teachers (of any subject) is to ignite in our students a passion for reading that begins in our classroom and lasts a lifetime.  Before we can tackle strategy groups, conferring, close-reading, etc., we have to ENGAGE and MOTIVATE our students to read.  They have to WANT to do it, or we face an uphill a snow the dark....without a lot of hope for success.

Ten Essential Practices in Early and Elementary Literacy - A New Blog Series


I have been a teacher in Michigan since 1992.  Over the past several years, to my chagrin, reading achievement in our state (according the NAEP test) has plummeted, making our students some of the worst readers in the nation....and it has been getting worse and worse since 2003!  I absolutely hate admitting this, but it is one of the reasons that I took a position as an early literacy coach last fall.  I can't stand by and just watch this happen...I feel strongly about doing something to make things right here in Michigan!

Author's Craft: Leads, Endings and Details...OH MY!

Do you sometimes tell your students that they need a better start to their story or opinion letter, or that they need an ending with more pizzazz?  Do you tell them to add more details when they hand you their sparse informational piece?   Of course you do!!  Then why do your students have such a difficult time following through on this seemingly simple directive?  It is likely that they need a little more modeling and instruction on the SPECIFIC WAYS to write leads, endings and details.

Just as a woodworker uses many tools and techniques to CRAFT a piece of furniture, a skilled author uses tools and techniques of language and storytelling to CRAFT a piece of writing.  We, as teachers of writing, need to directly teach our students some of these tools and techniques.  Since we may not consider ourselves to be expert writers, this seems like an overwhelming task...but it need not be.  If we give our students some direct instruction on only a few different types of leads, endings and details, they will have the tools to drastically improve their writing in all three text types:  narrative, informational and opinion writing!

In this post I have created a quick and dirty reference for the different types of LEADS, ENDINGS AND DETAILS (listed by text type) that you can and SHOULD teach your students to use in their writing!

Guided Reading or Strategy Groups? - What to Know!

There is a lot of discussion in my school district around small group instruction.  We keep hearing that best practice includes "a variety of grouping strategies".   As a teacher, I would sometimes get confused about the different types of "reading groups" and when to use each type, so I thought I'd post about it today, and hopefully clear up some of the confusion!