Showing posts with label Reading Workshop. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Reading Workshop. Show all posts

Friday, August 16, 2013

I Got One!

I am so glad to say I can enter into this next school year knowing that I passed on a love of reading to at least ONE student. And, as any teacher will tell you, even if she is the only one, I will retire happily knowing I did my part. 

As I opened up my email to search for the dreaded "Welcome Back" email and schedule (you know what I am talking about...teaching is great, but summer is sweet), I found an email written to me from one of my students from the past school year. It made me smile, and it took away the sting that accompanies the end of yet another restful summer break. She wrote:

"Hey, Mrs.Posey it is _________ ________! I was wondering how u have been. I hope u r doing well. I also wanted to tell u that I have continued to read Harry Potter. I am on book number 5! I now have all the books, plus Hermonie's replica wand. My room is filled up with Harry potter posters everywhere. I even have a Hedwig stuffed animal. I also wanted to say I really miss u. You know how I told you my mom would never read Harry Potter, well guess what I got my mom hooked now.Since I got her so hooked she even got me all the movies! Well hope u had an awesome summer!

*smile returning*

This is the power of Reader's Workshop. This is the power of allowing students to have choice in their reading and education. This is a power that I fear is going to be taken away in the upcoming school years with curriculum changes...but that's for another post. For now, I am going to hang on to the fact that all of my research, hard work, and stress of the past school year really did pay off :)

Tell me about a time you knew you had made an impact on a student in the comments below!

Friday, February 15, 2013

Grading Gripes

Whenever I tell people of my adventure into Reader's Workshop, I often feel like I am defending my choices rather than just sharing teaching strategies and techniques. The most common question (and usually one of the first three) that makes me feel like I am justifying my methods is: "But, what do you GRADE?" Never mind how much my students are growing and learning as readers and writers...

It makes me sad that education has been reduced to the first five letters of the alphabet (six if your district gives out "Fs"). I am more concerned about giving my kids meaningful feedback, rather than assigning their work points based on my own opinion. I recently started having my students grade some of their own writing, specifically their writing journals. After I gave them the power, I began noticing improvements. Students weren't comfortable giving themselves full credit when they knew they hadn't put in the effort to edit and "flex their writing muscles." I love this new method so much, that I am going to use it more often for class work, specifically with assignments that are of a subjective nature (writing pieces, response journal entries, written responses to reading, etc.). This way, we can have a discussion about their work, with them putting forth enough effort to prove they deserve they grade they have given themselves. I may be so bold as to have students create a portfolio of their best work and come up with their quarterly grades, as suggested by Joe Bower on his blog (click here for a list of his blog posts related to abolishing grades.). 

The only question is: will this be supported or seen and too radical? I am not a parent, so I can't speak for those who have children. However, logic tells me that most parents would rather a teacher spend his or her time guiding students, planning quality lessons, and providing feedback kids can use to actually improve upon their learning (a percentage and a smiley face do not good feedback make). But when I spend hours per evening as an intermediate reading and writing teacher grading close to 50 written responses multiple times a week, it's hard to do all three of those things and feel like I am doing them all well. If more teachers opposed the idea of grades and embraced the idea of feedback, would that help bring about the change we are anxiously awaiting for in education? What do you think?

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Spreading the Word About Reader's Workshop

This week I had the great fortune (I can say that now that it's done) to host a "fishbowl" observation for two days in my reading and writing classroom. Several teachers from another school in the county were interested in seeing how I implement Reader's Workshop in a county that has been using the same anthology for over a decade (that's a whole other blog post). Although I was hesitant (who likes being watched all day for two days straight?), I obliged for the good of the children. I figured, the more educators who embrace this individualized style of teaching, the better! 

It all started when a handful of teachers from my school, along with myself, went to their school to see Debbie Miller teach a model reading lesson (side note: I was in teacher heaven). During our debriefing session with Debbie, we discussed why she did what she did and where she would go next. Many of the teachers seemed to have a hard time understanding how they could apply this very foreign teaching style and still meet the requirements set forth by our district. When one of my colleagues chimed in that I was already implementing reading workshop, the questions began to be directed at me. "So, your kids are all reading different books?" and "How do you know they understand what they are reading?" were just a couple of inquiries. And thus, the idea to come to our school and see it all in the flesh was born.

I am by no means an expert. I am continually refining my strategies in reading workshop to align with my personal teaching beliefs. My students are used to this, and they know that at any given moment, Mrs. P. could (and probably will) change her mind if something "just isn't working." I am so thankful to have the flexibility to do this, and that privilege comes from having a supportive administration that allows me to do what I know is best for my students. And this is exactly what I told my visitors. Reading workshop is a work in progress, but I was happy to model and answer questions because I wish I had had someone in either my building or my district to go to when I began Reader's Workshop this year.

I began by pointing my visitors in the direction of great resources to begin gathering ideas and information (I don't know if I could have done it without the inspiration of Donalyn Miller, Debbie Miller, Fountas and Pinnell, "The Two Sisters," and Franki Sibberson). I told them about Twitter and blogging. We chatted about the power of quality graphic novels (I got some sideways looks on that one at first) and staying current with the latest and greatest in children's literature. I showed them how I record my observations and assess my students daily. We talked about what gets graded, what doesn't, and why. I explained how we practice skills repeatedly before I assess whether or not they have been "mastered," and even when they have they are revisited constantly. I showed them my binder that I would be lost without, my students' notebooks, and that you really can teach a lot in 15 minutes. The listened in on our read aloud, one-on-one conferences, guided reading groups, and reteach lessons. And when they reluctantly walked up to me to ask a question (or 12), I smiled and told them I was there to help and give as much support as I could in my own rookie way.

When all was said and done, my principal and fellow coworkers told me what they had heard through the grapevine: those visiting teachers were excited about potentially starting reading workshop at their own school. As soon as I heard that, all the stress, all the anxiety of being center stage, all the questioning about why I had to put myself through it was worth it. If even one teacher in another school begins teaching Reader's Workshop, I will feel like I had a real impact. I sincerely hope that the power students making choices about what they read and how they learn spreads (and FAST) through our district. The kids need it.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Loving Our "Nooks"!

Some of you may know that last year I created a project on DonorsChoose to get "nooks" (aka cushions, pillows, etc.) for my kids to use during Reading Workshop. My project was successful thanks to family, friends, and Twitter followers! Here are some pictures of my students getting lost in the world of reading:

 The kids look forward to this time every day. It is the one thing I keep consistent no matter what unexpected schedule changes may arise. Thanks to my supporters I really feel like I am doing my part to create lifelong readers!

How do you encourage your students to get lost int heir reading in YOUR classrooms?

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Life's Been Great in 228!

If I could sum up the school year so far in one word, it would be...


This year I have committed to teaching reading and writing workshop and not using our county anthology. I am so fortunate to be able to have the freedom to make this decision, as I truly believe it is what is best for students. However, it is new territory for me (and many of my colleagues), so I have been up to my eyeballs in work. I know that many say reading and writing workshop seems like it would be easier to plan, but if you are doing it correctly it's really a lot more challenging (in my humble opinion). Although there are not as many worksheets/dittos/busy work, planning is based on the needs of the students and therefore requires frequent assessment and careful analysis of student work. So, not only am I grading my students' work but I am also frequently taking notes on it and comparing it to previous work. Despite the heavier workload for myself, I do love it. And the best part do they.

So, what exactly have we been up to? Keep on reading to find out!

One thing I did differently this year is change how I use my response journals. The way they are set up is the same (click here to see blog post about setup), but instead of the students writing about their independent reading, they write me letters about our read aloud. This year, I found a great idea on Pinterest to help me model how a well-written letter should look. As a class, we read The Junkyard Wonders by Patricia Polacco. (This was a great lead into R.J. Palacio's Wonder, by the way!) I wrote a letter to the students on chart paper, and then together we identified the components of the letter and discussed the expectations. This letter now hangs in the classroom as an example that they can refer to throughout the year.

I also gave the students "Thinking Stems" that I found in a blog post by Nancy at Teaching My Friends.   to help them discuss their thoughts about our reading. These are glued onto the very first two sheets of their notebooks. In addition, the students take notes in the back half of their notebooks that they then refer to as they write their letters. Not only is the note taking helpful to their writing, but they also use their notes to drive discussion about what we have read.

Character Study Anchor Chart
During the first part of the year, the students and I have been focusing on characters in our reading. I have taught many minilessons about the complexities of characters, beyond just character traits, feelings, and relationships. We have kept an anchor chart about all of the thinking we have done about characters so that the students may refer to it during their reading workshop time. It has been so amazing to hear their conversation about characters and see their thinking deepen in their work. I am so proud of how far they have come! The best part is now they are making tons of text-to-text connections because they have been studying their characters so closely across texts. 

Our growing list of character trait words!
A favorite activity of mine that we did was coming up with more precise language to describe characters. For this lesson, I started out by discussing the common words I see students use when discussing character traits (e.g. mean, nice, caring, kind, etc.) Then, I gave them new words and in groups they came up with synonyms, examples of character actions that would fit with each trait, and names of characters from books we have read that fit each trait. Then, as a class we grouped each trait into one of three categories: Positive Connotation, Negative Connotation, or Neutral. Now my students have access to words that are much more meaningful when they write and discuss their thinking about characters. And, as we come across new "precise language" about character, we add to our list!

 What has been going well in your classrooms so far this year? I would love to hear from you!

Saturday, October 6, 2012

#WONDERschools Blog Tour

Have you heard of it? Better yet, have you read it? Do you know the wonder that is Wonder by R.J. Palacio?

Wonder is one of 2012's hottest novels by first-time author R.J. Palacio. Teachers, students, librarians, and kid's lit lovers alike are singing the praises of this WONDERful book. Don't believe me? Try following some of the many hashtags that have popped up all over Twitter (# WonderofWONDER, #WONDERschools, to name a few) and you will find hundreds of people chatting about this powerful book.

I first read Wonder as an Advanced Reader's Copy that I obtained form NetGalley. I was hooked. I read it in two days, barely able to pull myself away from the computer screen on which I was reading it. As soon as I read the last sentence on the last page, I knew that this book HAD to be shared with as many children as I could reach. It was the last novel I read to both of my reading and language arts classes last year. It was the perfect way to end the year before I sent them out into the world beyond elementary school. We made wonderful memories as we discussed the book using a mixture of the questions my students came up with, some of my own, and the ones provided on R.J. Palacio's website. We wrote about it. We cried over it. We loved it.

(**Spoiler Alert** Below is the "flipchart" I used with my students. Some of the questions reveal key events in the story and may spoil it for you if you haven't read it yet...which you need to!)
Wonder Questions

This year, I decided to read Wonder with my kids at the beginning of the year. My hope was that it would help build up our classroom community. I decided that by reading it at the beginning of the year, the impact would not only carry into their lives outside of school, but inside as well. Typically I allow my students to vote for their read aloud, but this year I decided this one was too important to potentially pass up.

Every day my students eagerly enter the classroom after specials, grab their response journals, and form a circle on the carpet. I decided to sit with my students on the floor, not above them on my "teacher chair," this year. I can see them, hear them, and look at what they are writing/sketching in their notebooks. We reserved the back half of the students' journals for notes. After previewing Wonder (using the front and back covers, inside flap, and first chapter), the kids thought about what they wanted to focus on as we read. Some chose how the song quotes connected to each character's part, others were interested in tracking how August (the main character) dealt with being in school for the first time. The students then designed their own note-taking sheets, which they use and refer to when writing letters to me about our read aloud. I have been so amazed at my students' honesty and empathy as I read their entries.

I love sharing this book with my students. It brings us together as a community and helps them understand the effect their actions, both good and bad, can have on others. They see connections between the characters we are reading about, and characters in their independent reading. Wonder is a great tool for teaching empathy, but it is also great literature. I use it to model skills and strategies I want my students to use in their own reading and writing. I am so grateful to R.j. Palacio for giving me such an invaluable resource to use in my classroom. I know Auggie will stay with all of us forever.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

What a Year So Far!

Hi followers! It's been a long time! This school year is off to a great start so far...but it has been busy busy busy! I am currently in the throws of a full fledged reading and writing workshop. I have been doing a lot of reading and research to help guide me, but I am still trying to figure out so much. 

I am enjoying tailoring my teaching to my students' needs based on what I am seeing in their work, and I have found that this new model for teaching is giving me a lot more time for conferring with students. In the past four weeks, I have gotten to know my students' strengths and weaknesses and am already planning on how to better meet their needs through small groups and one-on-one teaching. 

The best part is that I have the full support of my principal, who is very excited about me trying out this new teaching style. I am the first person in my school to completely abandon the anthology. It's sort of scary to not have the assurance of a pre-planned curriculum, but I feel like I have found a lot of support via Twitter. 

Last school year, I implemented some pieces of the reading and writing workshop and saw so much growth in my students. I can only imagine what I will see by the end of this school year. For those of you who are interested in looking into the reading and writing workshop, here are some resources I have found the most helpful:

Guiding Readers and Writers by Fountas and Pinnell has a ton of information about implementing the reading and writing workshop. The book includes mini-lessons to help guide beginners in launching the workshop, along with images of anchor charts that I have found very helpful.

Day-to-Day Assessment in the Reading Workshop by Franki Sibberson helped ease many of my fears when deciding to venture into the world of reading and writing workshop. Franki explains how to use student work, class discussions, and conferences to drive instruction. Reading this book helped me see all the different methods I could use to assess my students and gather data. There are student work samples and forms to help get you started, too!

I also downloaded a digital book by Lucy Calkins called A Curricular Plan for the Reading Workshop from the Heinemann website. This is a great tool to help provide a scope and sequence for the year. One of the most intimidating factors for making the switch to reading workshop was not knowing what units to teach and how to teach them. Let's face it, that's what makes anthologies so convenient. They tell you what stories to teach, and what skills to teach with them. This book Gives you a month by month sequence you can use to plan instruction. Calkins also provides teaching points to cover within each unit of study. There are not any actual "lesson plans," but I like that. It is up to me to figure out what is best for my students, but I like having a resource that will help provide some structure. Heinemann also has the same type of resource for writing workshop, and both resources can be found for any grade level. 

Well, that's all for now. I am still fine tuning and researching. This is going to be quite a big year for me, but I am feeling very excited and energized about this new adventure. I can't wait to see my students grow and thrive in an environment that is catered to each of their individual needs. 

Who else is using this structure for teaching language arts? What are some of your favorite resources that you use? I can't wait to hear from you all!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Guest Blog Post from David Etkin

I am SUPER excited about today's post. My new Twitter buddy, David Etkin (@davidaetkin), generously agreed to share a post about Reading Partnerships and Clubs once I hit 100 followers.

This is a fantastic idea for making reading in the classroom feel more authentic, as well as making it much more motivating for students than your traditional whole-class novel set up. Thank you, David, for sharing this WONDERful idea and inspiring me to break out of the box and try new things in my own classroom. This is definitely something I will be implementing in the 2012-2013 school year!

The Case for Reading Partnerships and Clubs

Forming reading partnerships and book clubs with young students is challenging. How do I partner the students—By interest? Reading level? Friend requests? And once they are in these groups, how do I help them to set reasonable goals? How can I keep their conversations moving forward? What do I do about the student who doesn’t do his reading?

Surely, there are many questions. But I’m persevering in my book clubs plan because this I believe: Some of the most powerful reading we do is partner reading.

(These pictures are the students reading on the first day after they choose their books. After this first day, reading and preparation is done independently.)

I read for myself all the time. Oftentimes my reading is to find that next great book I can recommend to a student at just the right time. (And with the Nerdy Book Club, there are so many options.) But the books that are most memorable to me are the books I’ve had the opportunity to discuss.

My colleague, Brent Peterson, and I read Dead End in Norvelt in partnership. We kept a simple goal of about 100 pages a week (we were doing other reading, of course) and got together during a free period to discuss. These were awesome discussions.  [You can follow these links to see our conversations… if you’re really interested. Talk 1. Talk 2. Talk 3.] We came prepared with some Post-it notes and lists of things we wanted to talk about and off we went. The half hour was barely enough time. It was great how we each brought different ideas and insights to the conversation. Brent saw things that I never would have on my own. Discussing a book brought it to life and made it more interesting than it would have been had either of us read it independently.

Norvelt conversation #3

(Who else would have laughed with me about paraffin wax hands and deterring deer with bodily functions?)  I think these conversations are why, though the public response to Norvelt has been lukewarm, Brent and I liked it so much. You can get more of a summary of our conversation on our Nerdy Book Club Blog post.

Brent and I also read and discussed Wonder a lot. And then we started passing it along to others to read. My mom read it. Then my dad. Then my sister. Then her book club. Then other reading teachers at my school. Students and their parents. And we read it aloud to our students. (And finally my wife is reading it.) And it was like Wonder became part of the social fabric of my life. It was something I could talk about with anyone around me. Family dinners were filled with conversation of Auggie and Daisy and Via. Being able to then talk with the Maker of these characters and this WONDERworld was awesome.

And this---THIS---is why I want to persist in pushing my students into partnerships and clubs. As I’ve told them, book clubs are social opportunities wrapped around a book. (Hmmm… good pearl analogy there.) I want my students to experience the joy of a book coming to life. Of understanding a book better together because they talked about and cleared up confusions and saw things from different points of view. I want my students to know the richness of literature.

So I’m willing to spend an afternoon with the book partnership/club letters they’ve written to me (Name; why I would be a good partner to someone else; my approximate reading level [GRL]; five classmates who would be good partners for me and why) spread out all over the living room floor or dining room table. (“Dad, what are you doing?”)

I’m willing to deal with a slacker reader/partner who doesn’t come prepared with the reading complete or Post-it notes ready to discuss. Because I see so many other students benefiting from rich conversations and thought building that they wouldn’t have if they only read independently.

I’m looking forward to next year and getting these partnerships and clubs underway earlier in the year. We are already discussing how to scaffold them—giving students smaller texts with which to practice before diving into a novel. I can’t wait to see my students blossom in their book discussions.

We have a great year of book conversations behind us, a better one ahead—and the state of Book Clubs is Strong.

Your turn:

Have you experienced reading as part of a partnership or club? How did it add to your reading experience?

Planning bookmark for clubs:

  Evaluation form:

Thanks again to David for his great post. Maybe if we leave him lots of comments, he'll do it again for my blogiversary! *crosses fingers* Be sure to check out David's blog, Words Read & Words Written,  for more great posts like this one!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Thinking Ahead

Well, it's that time of year again! Summer is just around the corner and OF COURSE I am already thinking ahead to next year! At the end of every school year, I always reflect on what worked, what didn't, and what I wish I had done over the past ten months. At present, my "Ideas for 2012-2013" list is THREE PAGES LONG! In the past, I have found this list to be so helpful. It helps me to be a better, and less stressed out, teacher. Here are five of the things I am abolishing from my current teaching practices:

1. Spelling homework. I hate checking it, my students hate doing it, and it is (in my opinion) completely inauthentic. I would much rather focus on patterns and rules without a set list to memorize, and then assess their ability to apply those skills in their real, every day writing. Bye bye, spelling will NOT be missed!

2. Fluency Homework. I'm sorry, but do we really want to encourage our kids to race through a piece of reading, completely disregarding its meaning? I don't think this is helping the students become better readers, so sayonara! I will replace it with something more meaningful and interesting, like practicing how to be an interpretive and sharing a read aloud section with the class. 

3. Name tags. I know they are cute, but by December they look revolting. They are picked at, peeling off, and collecting eraser scraps underneath of them. Ew. Besides, I have two classes, so the desks aren't really the students' anyway. I will also really not miss how long it took to laminate, label, and adhere them to the desks with contact paper at the beginning of the year. 

4. Preset consequences.Currently my clip chart (which I would get rid of completely if it wasn't school-wide) has  labels indicating a 5 minute loss of recess for "Warning," and all recess lost, plus filling out a reflection sheet, for "Consequence." This is nonsense. Losing recess a few hours after committing a "classroom crime," is not effective. Students nees immediate logical consequences that align with their infraction. Instead, there will be no more consequences for being on "Warning" (after IS a warning) and it will be "Teacher's Choice" when once earns a consequence. To me, this just makes more sense.

5. A while back, I posted about our current "Shoot for Three" system for BCRs. In theory, I guess it is a good idea. However, it becomes a hassle to keep up with and creates more competition than it improves BCRs. As promised, this blog is about what works and what doesn't...and I am letting you know that for me and my classroom, this idea is no longer working. 

And because I don't feel bad about getting rid of these things (and because I love the 80s!), this is my official goodbye to the stuff I won't be missing much!

There are a ton more, considering I am by no means a perfect teacher. But this is what I love about my job! I am constantly learning and striving to improve. More posts to come about what I will be adding and revamping, so stay tuned!

So, what things are you planning on canning for the 2012-2013 school year?

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Happy Bloggy Birthday, Jen and Kellee!

I am so excited to be a part of Jen and Kellee's blog birthday celebration! Teach Mentor Texts is a great blog for sharing books for both personal enjoyment and classroom use. I got to know both Jen and Kellee through Twitter (and if you don't already follow them, you should!). We have had lots of great "chats" about great books and reading/writing workshop. So, when I was invited to help them celebrate their blog's second birthday, I readily accepted the invitation!

My book choice is actually a newer book that I have found a lot of uses for this year. That book is (my new favorite!) The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate. If you have been on Twitter since the book was released, you know if has been getting a lot of love from teachers and students across the country. I used it as a read aloud in my class, but also to teach various skills in both reading and writing. 

First of all, this book totally hooked my kids. They loved the idea that it would be a quick read (there is a great deal of white space on the pages since it is a novel written verse). Also, the main characters are animals, which meant that almost every child could connect to the book. Finally, the language Katherine Applegate uses to tell Ivan's story is simply beautiful. She creates pictures with her words that are so vivid and detailed. That being said, it was a great book to revisit the important strategy of visualizing. My students were allowed to doodle what they pictured in their minds as they read. One student then took it a step further and added colors to her picture of Ivan's "domain. 

We also spent a lot of time talking about figurative language like similes and metaphors. This was a great way to discuss how interpret such language (we paraphrased the author's meaning into our own words), as well as how to use it in our own writing (we referred back to Ivan as we worked on poems in our poetry unit). 

Another great use for this book is discussing static and dynamic characters as there are examples of both in the story. This lead us to also discuss types on conflict (man vs. man, man vs. self, man vs. nature, etc.). Further more, we spent time identifying how the author shifted from the present to the past and the importance of using the past to help explain the story. Lots of great opportunities for digging deeper into story structure (beyond your basic characters, stetting, plot, blah blah blah...)

We also spent some time talking about author's viewpoint (or opinion). It is not difficult to figure out how Katherine Applegate feels about animals held in captivity, or how she feels about humans who mistreat animals. She uses her characters words and actions to make that clear. The students did such a great job pinpointing character words, actions, and story events that were examples of the author expressing her feelings without directly stating them to the reader. A lot of them began emulating this in their own opinion pieces about whether or not bubblegum should be allowed in school. 

What I found most fascinating was how the students were able to write about the story and recall information without even having the text directly in front of them. This was a great way for the students to practice summarizing and paraphrasing without them even knowing it! It also helped improve their listening comprehension.  There were just TONS of different mini lessons that were easily tied into this wonderful story. 

There are not words to describe how much I enjoyed Ivan, but I loved it even more after sharing it with my students and seeing them gain so much from it. We had rich discussions about human nature, society, animal rights, and character traits. I know this is a story that will stay with my students as they often refer back to it. In response journals about independent reading, I often come across sentences such as "This reminds of when ____ happened in The One and Only Ivan", or "I think ______ is a lot like Stella because..." It is fantastic to see the students hold on to a book and carry it with them long after our work with it is done. 

If you have not already shared this wonderful book with your students, I hope you decide to. I am more than happy to add some ideas for more uses in both reading and writing as I am STILL thinking of some that I would like to add in next year.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Great Twitter Chat!

My teacher buddy, David Etkin, shared something marvelous on Twitter the other day: 

Reading Partnerships

I was so intrigued by the idea, that together we cooked up the idea of a Twitter chat to discuss this innovative teaching tool. We came up with the hashtag #RdgPartners and jumped right in! 

Click here to see the Google document archive of our first ever #RdgPartners chat!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Update and Pinterest Finds

Hello bloggy world! My grad class just got a whole lot more involved, so... much of my free time has been devoted to that. I will still post as often as I can, but it may only be about once a week. I've been doing a lot of reading in addition to a LOT of school work, so stay tuned for a post about that tomorrow.

I want to say a big thank you to all of my new followers! I am so excited to be inching close to 100, and flattered that you all think enough of my blog to join!

In the meantime, I thought I would share some fun things I found on Pinterest that you all might enjoy!

Already use these but lost the website. Thanks, Pinterest!
 This site has writing prompts grouped by month. There is one for each day of each month, so you never run out! I already use these in my room and I like them a lot. I give the kids a choice of using the prompt or writing a free-write. 

This is a great homework idea from the author of "Conferring: The Keystone to Reader's Workshop." I am going to suggest this to my reading/writing counterparts next year. 

Students can't interrupt reading groups when the light is on! Great visual reminder! 
This is a great management idea from the Lesson Plan Diva. Use this touch light when you are working with small groups or having reading/writing conferences to let students know you don't want to be disturbed. Definitely implementing this ASAP!

Reader's Notebooks 
A great (and more organized ) to keep a reader's notebook (or in my case, a response journal) from Word from the Corner's blog. Next year, we are going to set these up at the very beginning. I may tweak it a bit, adding my own creations to them. 

And finally....
Fluency Study 
This is a fluency study that Life in 4B did with her fourth graders. I love the idea of teaching fluency this way to intermediate students. It's not just about reading fast! I proposed the idea of doing the "Interpretive Reading Contest" at our school, with the winner for the whole school reading aloud on our morning announcement for World Read Aloud Day next year. I can't wait!

There you have it! I hope you like these ideas as much as I do! Enjoy the rest of your weekend!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Reading & Writing Workshops, Oh My!

Okay, so I am going to be honest about something. I.Feel.Frustrated. 

When I first began writing this blog, I posted about how inspired I felt by Donalyn Miller's The Book Whisperer. I am still inspired by it, but inspiration in this case has let to frustration. As a relatively new teacher, I think I am tempted to cling to that which I am familiar with. Unfortuantely, what I am familiar with is teaching reading via an anthology (yuck!). I am so bored with the anthology, and I think know if I am bored then my kids are, too. 

Here is the problem: There are so many resources on teaching reading and writing workshop, but I still feel like there isn't a clear cut "Hey! Start Here!" to be found for those of us who want to venture into this unfamiliar territory. My head is constantly swimming with ideas of what I should be doing, but the how is still missing. I am not asking for premade, scripted lessons. Quite the contrary. I would just like a little more diretion than I have found. I don't think that reading and writing workshop only work in "ideal situations." I want to make it work in my classroom because I feel that it is best for my students. I've also read The Daily 5 and felt so overwhelmed that I had to table it for a while. Is there a way to use the anthology (my comfort zone) to transition slowly into this type of teaching?

There are so many great teachers out there...and I am reaching out to those of you have made this transition. How did you start? I know how the scheduling should look, it's the small details that I am unsure of. HOw do you decide what to teach for your whole group lesson? Is a mini lesson enough time for children to learn and understand a concept well enough to apply it independently?

I am hoping some of you will comment and help me out. Thank you so much in advance for your wisdom!