Tuesday, September 1, 2015

The First Days: What Do Our Classroom Libraries Say to Young Readers?

This is one section of a my classroom
library which displayed favorite
characters.  (This section was
developed with students after
the first day.) 
Since taking my position as a reading support teacher, there are many pieces I miss about having a classroom.  One of them is getting the classroom library ready for the first days with students.  There's something about touching all of the books, considering which would be best for us to begin, and finding spaces around the room for placement.  In the first days our library will help set the tone for our reading community.  

The first days with our library are just the beginning.  After the first days I'll want the students to grow the library.  I'll want them to consider the books we need, the categories for our baskets, and the best locations for particular collections, but from the first moment they walk into the classroom I want them to know literature is valued here.  In those first days I hope they'll discover books that will speak to them and see their reflection in the books that surround us each day.

My love for picture books in my classroom has carried over to my work with young readers in intervention.  Even in the reading room I work to create a library for readers.  Most often, I'm working with readers in their classrooms, but I want my reading room to have books available for students to browse.  My space is small; last year having books displayed was continually a challenge.  This year I decided to do an even deeper clean to make space for more book displays.  I wanted to be able to have baskets of books for students.  I wanted to be able to have picture books they'd love, but also a greater collection of picture books I thought they could read independently.  My first collections include books about reading and writing, wordless picture books, easy informational reads, and song books.  I have a space for authors which includes Todd Parr, Jan Thomas, and Mo Willems to begin.

Getting Our Library Started
In the first days, I hope my classroom library will say:

You're welcome here:  As students sit down to read in the first days, I want them to be able to see themselves in our library.  Over the years I've worked to include more diverse characters.  Though possibilities for diverse characters are growing, it's still hard work to find titles with strong characters.
    

All readers matter:  Working with young readers I want students to be able to come into the classroom and find a book they can read.  If books are all too challenging, a child may begin to see himself or herself as someone who can't read.  I want every basket of books to contain titles students will be able to read and enjoy.  This means thinking about where students are coming in at the beginning of the year instead of where I expect them to be or where they will finish the year as readers.


I already know you:  As I put my library together I consider titles students will remember from their previous year.  As a first grade teacher, I knew students would come in knowing Mo Willems characters, having read Mrs. Wishy-Washy and Dan the Flying Man.  I try to include books in our library I know students will remember from the previous year.  I also try to consider topics I think students will be interested in reading more about at the beginning of the year.  It seems I can't go wrong with books about pets, friends, and school in the first days.

 
Books are valued here:  When students walk into the classroom I want them to feel surrounded by books.  I place books around the room.  This not only helps in the first days of workshop as students learn to spend time reading books, but it also sends the message the reading is valued here.  My goal is for students to be able to sit most anywhere and reach a book.


We'll grow this together:  The first days require a delicate balance.  I want there to be enough books for students to get started reading, but I also want them to know we'll grow the library together.  For this reason, I leave out empty baskets and save space on shelves for the titles our new learning community would like to add.


Come read with me:  By arranging books in an appealing way our libraries will not only surround us, but will call to students.  Front covers facing out, picture books featured in spaces and placed within reach, will invite readers to sit down and spend some time reading.  Cozy spaces near book displays will also encourage students to pick up a book and read.


What do our classroom libraries say to young readers?  Share images of your favorite library spaces at the hashtag #classroomlibrary.


Sunday, August 30, 2015

DigiLit Sunday: Digital Tools Change What's Possible

We finally purchased a new iPad for my husband.  He still had the original first version which was working amazingly well, but it doesn't have a camera.  Let's face it, the camera changes everything.  We didn't really purchase it for personal reasons; we purchased it so he could use it at school.  Since purchasing my iPad five years ago, the way I work as an educator has changed in ways I still find hard to explain.  It's not just the iPad that makes the change, but it certainly makes it all so much easier.

What can be done:  Pulling up our class Twitter account during a share session, for example, allows me to amplify our conversation by sharing it with others beyond our classroom.
Grows Our Connectedness:  Having access to a few computers and iPads certainly opened the door for students to connect more with one another.  Through blogging, sharing learning artifacts created or captured digitally, and utilizing digital spaces students began to connect more to the learning of their peers in our classroom community.  Additionally sites like Twitter, Padlet, and Weebly allowed us to grow our connections beyond our classroom.  Having an iPad in hand made it easy to say:
  • "Let's tweet that out to other classrooms to see what they think." 
  • "Let's ask this author about their thinking when writing this book." 
  • "Let's share that with our families."  
What can be done:  During reader's workshop a student is reading a nonfiction text.  He has used the picture initially to determine meaning, but as he reads he discovers the author intended something different.  I can snap a picture of the page, open up Airserver, and show students what their friend noticed that might also help them in their reading.    
Provides a Window into Process:  As a teacher it has always been possible to walk around a classroom and see process.  I've always been able to sit down with a student to confer and talk about their process.  Now with an iPad (or other device) it is possible to make process more immediately visible to students.  An iPad made it possible for me to quickly snap a picture, bring up a piece of digital writing, or share other artifacts that show next steps in a process or allow students to talk about the thinking behind their work.  Some examples of ways we can show process thanks to digital tools:
  • Kidblog makes it possible to show a post in the beginning stages and the most recent edits/revisions side by side.  Viewing these two pieces side by side can help students talk about the changes they made and the decisions behind revisions.
  • Using Educreations, Explain Everything, or other interactive whiteboard tools can allow students to share their process across content areas by taking pictures, adding text, and talking about their steps along the way.
  • Using audio and video tools on a device can allow students to share their decisions in learning with others.  
What can be done:  A student builds a lego design at home after much work.  She takes a picture of it and embeds it in a blog post explaining it to students.  I can then project the post the following day.   
Increased Authenticity:  Since beginning teaching many years ago, I worked to create authentic opportunities for students.  Digital tools have made these opportunities truly authentic.  Students have more ways to show their understanding, share their learning, and collaborate with others in authentic ways thanks to a variety of tools, applications, and spaces available -- and, yes, beyond our school day.  Some ways we more authentically work thanks to digital tools:

  • Often our class works to answer questions or solve problems shared by other classrooms on Twitter.  
  • Students now have a variety of ways to grow and share their thinking with others.
  • We talk often about places as we participate in learning with classrooms around the world.

What can be done:  A student spent days writing a picture book.  It's a story of his favorite space at home with drawn illustrations and carefully written text.  He'd like to share it with his family.  He snaps pictures in Educreations, adds his voice, and we send it in an email (or share it on Twitter or embed it in his Kidblog account).
Real Audience:  No matter how hard I tried, it seemed so much of our learning was between the student and the teacher.  Now, however, students have a real audience.  Their voice doesn't just matter tomorrow, but can be sent out into the world today.  Response and feedback from others can be shared easily with students.

  • Students receive comments from others on their personal blogs.  They soon discover ways to strengthen their message for readers.  Conversations around titles, information shared, images included, and other decisions to bring an audience to our work are a part of our work.
  • Twitter makes it easy to connect with a real audience.  It is also possible to quickly questions/comments to experts, companies, and friends who can help us discover more. 
  • Voicethread can make it possible for students to actually hear from their audience as people comment around the work they are sharing.  

What can be done:  During a reading conference, a student decides to change his reading goal.  We can quickly add the goal to the reader's goal book, and then snap a picture to send home to parents.  
Timely Communication:  Having an iPad makes it possible to share our learning with others in a click.  It's now possible to take a piece of learning and share it with parents, families, and other classrooms in just a snap.

  • Parents can be kept up-to-date with information shared on our class website.  Through shared blogging on our class site, students can work together to share important learning with others.
  • Learning conversations can be recorded in applications like Evernote and shared with parents.
  • Using whiteboard tools lessons can be recorded and shared with parents so they have an understanding of new concepts being taught.  

What can be done:  After each student in our small group finishes reading the selected text we write about our thinking.  Ava grabs her reader's notebook, a pencil, and some thin markers.  Ry picks up a device and goes to his Kidblog account.  Tommy grabs an iPad and opens Pixie. He begins to draw and add audio to share his thinking.  
Differentiation:  Technology gives students new possibilities for learning.  Choices are no longer only paper or pencil, but students can write on blogs, create videos, write infographics, make sketch notes, and have choice in the way they like to learn.  In many ways, this is the game changer.  Students have a variety of options that can change the way they work.

  • Younger students transitioning to written storytelling can use audio tools to record stories first as a method for prewriting.  Telling and listening to the story as they work can make it easier to move from story to paper.  
  • Audio books can provide another way for students to read and think about new literature.
  • Students who have much to share and enjoy thinking during lessons can utilize tools like Padlet, Corkulous, Today's Meet, and other writing/drawing applications to track thinking across lessons.  

What can be done:  Students are working to determine how many chairs are in our classroom.  Most students are walking around trying to count and recount to solve.  Dani picks up a container of math tools and begins to set up a visual representation that will allow her to solve.  She's quietly tucked in a corner so I stop by to see what she is doing.  We decide to share her strategy with students.  I pause the group, snap a picture of her work, and project it on the group.  Dani shares her thinking with the students.  
Proximity Changes:  Having an iPad that can connect to my computer has allowed me to move more  freely around the room.  I no longer have to be right beside my computer to share sites and digital information with students.  I can snap a picture from the back of the room and show it to students.  I move in our share circle to other locations and still be able to move quickly between digital artifacts.  Students also have these same opportunities to project from a variety of spaces in our classroom.

  • Students can learn and share from places outside of our classroom.
  • I can project digital artifacts from a variety of spots around the room which gives me the freedom to sit in circles with students, stand in the back of the room, move to the corners, and be beside students as we learn together.
  • While sitting in our classroom students can learn with other students located in other places in our building, learning from schools all around our district, or reach out to learners around the globe.  

What can be done:  Our class is working to create stronger visual images in our writing.  Some students have added words and lines that strengthen the visual images for readers.  I take pictures of pages of student writing that show these attempts.  During share we project them on the screen and underline the words and lines we notice using Skitch.  
Create More Visual Opportunities for Learners:  Since first starting to teach, I've really learned the power of having visual reminders for students.  As a community we often create charts to follow inquiries, track conversations, and provide references for students.  Having quick access to the internet opens the door to new opportunities to make learning visual for students.  If we are reading a book by Todd Parr, I can quickly pull up his site so students can see what he looks like and learn more about him.  Students can also show their learning new ways.  Having an iPad allows me to:

  • Pull up a video that will illustrate a concept we are learning about in our class.
  • Create charts (or snap pictures of charts created) to return to as we are learning.
  • Use tools for written response that allow students to not just hear what friends are thinking, but to see it as well --- and return to it later.  

What can be done:  In a conversation I can quickly create a Padlet or open a Today's Meet room for students to share their thinking.  If we are talking about a topic and want to learn more we can seamlessly pull up sites.  If we want to ask groups a question in a snap we can send it out on Twitter.  
Spontaneity:  It's so much easier to follow a conversation and take it new places now.  It used to be if we wanted to know more I had to follow up the next day.  I had to go to the library and find the right books.  I had to figure out how we could contact an expert.  Now much of this ability is at my fingertips as we talk.  Having an iPad allows me to say:

  • "Let's take a picture of that so we can share it with others."
  • "Let's see if we can find more information about that topic." 
  • "Let's ask that question and see what others think."  
Technology has made many changes in the way I support learning in our classroom.  Being connected exponentially increases the power of what we can accomplish and makes our learning more authentic.  Tracking our learning journey is much easier as is highlighting important next steps.  Of course, most of all there is a much greater is ease in the flow of our work.  I'm excited about the new opportunities my husband will soon find as he uses his iPad in daily instruction.  

The examples above are attempts to illustrate new possibilities.  For every example, there are many more ways digital learning has changed our daily work.  What are the possibilities you've discovered?



As part of a continuous collaboration among educators interested in digital learningMargaret Simon hosts a weekly Digital Learning round-up on her blog:  DigiLit Sunday.  Stop by Reflections on the Teche.  


Monday, August 17, 2015

Before They Arrive

As soon as the calendar turns to August, we can't help but begin to shift into back to school gear.  In the blink of an eye our reading turns from pleasure to professional.  We walk through public spaces with an eye toward classroom design.  That favorite coffee shop has some spaces we'd like to recreate in our classroom.  The library's magnetic wall surely would have some uses for our students.  The book arrangements at the local book store might help us with our own libraries.

Before students arrive we work to create an inviting space for the first steps of our learning community.  We know arrangements might change as students share their learning preferences.  We know the books, tools, and spaces will grow as we discover more about our students and begin to take the first steps in learning together.  We know the room will grow, but we want it to be inviting in those first days of building our learning communities.

I always enjoy walking through classrooms before the year begins.  It is helpful for me to think about the ways other teachers consider using space, plan for tools, and start their libraries in the first days.  The way tables are arranged, the location of meeting areas, the selection of tools, and the books available all help me to think about those first days in our learning community.

Before students arrive I like to think about:
Meeting Area:  Where will we gather together as a community?  I want the space to be large enough for the group to meet and talk.  The space will host our discussions, read aloud, shared reading, shared writing, interactive writing, shared inquiry, connecting with other classrooms and so much more.  I have found it helpful to create visible boundaries to this space.  The space needs enough room for us to sit facing the same direction and to be able to make a circle.  For me, having technology, chart paper, writing tools, and other items needed for whole group instruction at my fingertips is essential in being able to quickly make instructional decisions that follow the groups conversation.  

Cozy Spaces:  Are there a variety of spaces for students to engage in learning?  In addition to the meeting area, I like to have spaces where students can gather in small groups, pairs, and as individuals.  These spaces need to work for literacy workshops, math explorations, science inquiries, and inside recess.  The more students can spread out around the room the more likely everyone is to be comfortable in learning.  Having a variety of types of seating can also be beneficial to students.

Classroom Library:  Do books surround the room?  I've always been someone who prefers my library to stretch around the room.  This helps during reader's workshop as students can move to a variety of spaces to read.  Additionally, moving books around the room can create physical reminders of ways to think about genres, characters, and themes of books.  I've always felt like a room full of books feels inviting and speaks to the importance of reading in our lives.

Books:  Are the books that are accessible to students a good match for the developmental stage of the readers coming into my classroom?  In elementary school a year of growth can be quite significant.  The books available to my students at the beginning of the year are very different from the books that will be on our shelves at the end of the school year.  I try to consider books I know students would have read the year before.  In addition to considering complexity of the text, I try to consider authors, topics, and genres students might already know.  I also try to consider the diversity of my collection, the range in genres, and the different levels of readers that will be coming into my classroom.

Tools:  Are the tools we'll need to get started accessible (or ready to be accessible)?  In the first days of school I am never really sure of the learning preferences of my students so I like to have a variety of types of paper, tools for writing, art supplies, and other materials available for students.  Additionally I try have a variety of tools ready for math explorations and science investigations.

Technology:  Is technology quickly accessible?  In the classroom I have to consider where technology will be located for use.  For me, this has meant making sure technology can be easily accessed during whole group lessons and class sharing opportunities.  It also means finding spaces for the technology that will be available to students.  This means considering the space for the technology and ease of plugging devices in for charging or sharing.

Digital Spaces:  How will we connect beyond our classroom?  More and more I consider the digital space we will live in as well.  I've found having a common space, what I like to a call a hub, for students to use to get to our digital spaces, for parents to access for information, and for other classroom to see our work to be helpful.  Sites like Twitter, Weebly, Symbaloo, Kidblog, Voicethread, and Shelfari are among the sites we will use to connect in our classroom.

Please share your considerations and questions you think about before students arrive.  Looking forward to another great year.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Picture Book 10 for 10: Into the Night

I'm beyond excited!  Today is the 6th Annual Picture Book 10 for 10 event (#pb10for10).  It's the perfect back to school kickoff.  Stop by the Picture Book 10 for 10 Google Community where over 200 picture book lovers have joined to share their favorites.  In the first days of the event the idea was to share ten picture books you just couldn't live without.  Over the years participants have gotten creative with themed lists, crafty ways around the ten book limit, and fun posts about their favorites.  This is our first year to host this event in the Google community which means you don't need a blog to join us as you can share and/or link directly in your community post.  I suggest you disable your Amazon one click buttons, open your library tab, and plan a visit to your local Indie bookstore because there will be titles you won't be able to resist.

My Past 10 Collections
2014: 10 Books About Being Brave
2013: 10 Newer Authors/Illustrators I Love
2012: 10 Mentor Texts for Young Writers
2011: 10 Authors I Can't Live Without
2010: 10 Must-Have Picture Books

This Year:  Ten Books About the Night 
This year I have struggled with my ten for ten list.  I've changed my mind at least ten times.  I'd love to tell you about the ideas I decided not to choose, but I might need them in the future.  ;o)  (Thanks to Carrie Gelson, I now have a future #pb10for10 list.)  Since today's the day, I have to decide.  It's a bit like being at a restaurant when the waitress arrives to take your order, you just have to make a decision.

So...

This year I'll be sharing ten picture books about the night.  Young children are fascinated - and often fearful - of the night.  Sharing books about the night can provide opportunities for children to talk about these fears and share ways they have worked to overcome them.  Additionally, there are a lot of great books about the night so here are my favorites:

Night Animals by Gianna Marino (2015):  It's true.  I think Gianna Marino's books are all worth a space on your family or classroom shelves.  I have enjoyed each with their delightful stories and beautiful illustrations.  Night Animals is no exception.  How can you not love a book where the night animals are afraid of night animals?  It's quick lively pace makes it perfect for read aloud.  Young readers will laugh out loud as these animals all try to hide from the night animals.  Scary noises and dark pictures set the mood of the book as the animals worry together until bat sets them straight.  The speech bubbles and easy text will make this a book emergent readers will be able to reread after hearing it read aloud.

Nighttime Ninja by Barbara DaCosta and illustrated by Ed Young (2012).  In the beginning it seems certain that a ninja is creeping through the night and into the house.  Danger fills the night air --- until....I just can't give it away.  Young readers enjoy the anticipation in this book as they try to figure out what is going to happen.  The illustrations are dark and full of shadows keeping readers on the edge of their seats.

A Beasty Story by Bill Martin Jr. and Steven Kellogg (2002).  I can't help it.  I still just love this book.  With it's intricate illustrations through a dark and scary house at night, readers will be on the edge of their seat wondering what creepy beast awaits.  The pictures support the text as the characters move from room to room following the beast.

Blackout by John Rocco (2011).  The electricity going out can be a scary event for young children.  It's a normal night in the city until the lights go out.  Then Mom and Dad can no longer work.  What can the family do?  It turns out there are many things to do when the lights go out.  I'm sure young readers would have many stories to share after reading this book.  Rocco uses several boxed illustrations on each page to show the passage of time and the ways this family tries to cope with the electricity outage.  Many pictures are black and white with just splashes of color to help set the mood in this book.

I Need My Monster by Amanda Noll and Howard McWilliam (2009).  I just can't get enough of this story.  When his monster takes a vacation, Ethan can't sleep.  Several substitute monsters arrive, but none are as scary and perfect as Ethan's monster.  Kids' imaginations will run wild in this funny story about monsters under the bed.

Psssst!  It's Me...the Bogeyman by Barbara Park and illustrated by Steven Kroninger (2001).  My friend, Deb Frazier, first handed me this book.  I return year after year to borrow it from her classroom, and wonder why I don't have a copy.  This bogeyman is tired of all of the false stories about him.  He's good at scaring kids.  That's his job.  It's all he wants in life.  There is a secret that will get rid of him.  This book is a book students always want read over and over again.

The Dark by Jon Klassen and Lemony Snicket (2013).  Laszlo is afraid of the dark.  The dark lives in the basement.  Laszlo knows it is down there.  What happens when the dark decides to come into Laszlo's room?  What will Laszlo do?

Owl Babies by Martin Waddell and Patrick Benson (2002).  What do owl babies do when they wake to find their mother gone in the night?  Sarah, Percy, and Bill worry in the night as they wonder what happened to their mom.  Students always enjoy this read aloud --- especially Bill's repeated cries, "I want my mommy."

Chengdu by Barney Salzburg (2014).   We've all had those nights where we just can't fall asleep.  Chengdu tries everything, but he still is awake.  What will he do?

When the Sky is Like Lace by Elinor Lander Horowitz and illustrated by Barbara Cooney (1975).  I saw this book in the bookstore the other day and fell in love with its beautiful language.  Imagine my surprise to find it was first written in 1975.  It begins with the line "On a bimulous night," and offers much opportunity for rich discussion.


Saturday, August 1, 2015

Ten Days Until Picture Book 10 for 10 #pb10for10

I'm kind of excited because in just ten days the internet will be buzzing about books - picture books!  Yes, Monday, August 10th will be our annual Picture Book 10 for 10 event (#pb10for10).  Educators, librarians, parents, and picture book lovers from around the globe will be sharing their favorite ten picture books.

Six years ago, Mandy Robek and I were discussing the "must have" books for our classroom libraries.  We began to wonder which books other teachers just had to have on their shelves.  We decided we'd ask everyone and Picture Book 10 for 10 was born.  Since that time the event has grown.  The Picture Book 10 for 10 Community now hosts over one hundred members.  This year will be our first year to host the August event from our Google Community since Jog the Web shut down making it impossible to curate from there.  (Our February Nonfiction Picture Book 10 for 10 was hosted in the Google Community.)

Of course, I can't wait to see everyone's selections.  Many participants have already been talking about their lists, and I look forward to seeing their favorites or the interesting themes they've chosen to share this year.  It's going to be great!  Tell your friends and get ready to join the fun.

If you're new to the event, we're glad you will be joining us.

Here's how you can participate:

  1. Grab a Badge (just copy the URL address of the one above or take a screenshot)
  2. Join the #pb10for10 Google Community
  3. Choose Your Favorites:  All you need to do is choose ten picture books you cannot live without for whatever reason.  In the first days of this event, everyone shared their ten very favorite titles.  This still works.  You will notice, however, that many past participants choose some type of theme to determine their selections.  We'll leave this up to you.
  4. Narrow Your List to Ten:  It isn't easy, is it?  We've seen some crafty ways to get around that number.  
  5. Write Your August 10th Post:  Write a post about the ten books you cannot live without.  Share your post on August 10th and link it to the Picture Book 10 for 10 Community.  
  6. No Blog?  No Problem:  If you don't have a blog, this might be the perfect time to start one --- or there are a million digital ways to join (see post below).  Of course, now with the Google Community it is quite easy to just post your favorites directly into the community without a blog.  We will also be tweeting from the #pb10for10 hashtag.    
  7. Comment:  On August 10th (and maybe for a week --- there are a lot of posts) take some time to read posts from other participants.  Please comment on at least three. 
It's time!  Pull out your library cards, load up your Amazon accounts, or better yet - plan a trip to your local bookstore on August 11th because you're going to be unable to resist checking out (or purchasing) a few new picture books.  We hope to see you on the 10th!

Related Posts:




Thursday, July 30, 2015

Growing Readers in Digital Spaces

"We have found that when our students have lots of ways and reasons to connect, their stance as learners begins to change (p. 72)." Sibberson & Bass 
When the school year ended I had good intentions to stay connected with my students.  I had brought parents in for a discussion around keeping students reading across the summer, updated our reading hub, and talked with students about summer reading plans.  As the calendar turned from June to July, I was struggling to connect with readers I had served in intervention.  My students are too young to have their own accounts so all correspondence goes through their parents.  They don't see my updates on Twitter.  They don't read my emails.  The only way I stand a chance is if they stop by our hub, but that didn't seem to be happening.

Where did I go wrong?

As the calendar turns from July to August, I'm still finding it difficult to connect with these readers.  I'm hoping they're still reading, but I miss hearing about the books they are discovering.  I miss hearing them make recommendations to one another.  When I had my own classroom we spent time together in digital spaces across our year.  We had a class Shelfari account.  We posted together in our class blog space.  We continually visited our Kidblog account to write, read, and respond.  We posted together using our class Twitter account.  We used our Symbaloo spaces to connect to sites for our learning.  Digital tools were embedded in the learning we did across our day.

Building Digital Habits
In thinking back to my last year working as an intervention teacher, I hadn't really developed those same digital habits in my students.  I had tried to incorporate greater use of digital tools.  We responded to reading using Pixie, Educreations, and Explain Everything.  We set goals and talked about our reading lives in Evernote.  We participated in the global read aloud.  We commented on the reading hub blog periodically.  The problem, as I think back, was that we didn't do anything regularly or in routine.  We didn't really talk through the purposes of digital work.  Digital work wasn't consistently an option for my students.  Limited time added to the challenge.  I found it easier to work with students digitally if their classrooms had set digital spaces and digital work was just part of the way they learned.

Having just finished Digital Reading:  What's Essential by Franki Sibberson and Bill Bass, I'm finding myself thinking more and more about the work I do supporting readers in classrooms.  As I step back into my role in August I know I want to be building habits that will help my students to grow as readers, both in traditional and digital ways.  I know that I want to find ways to make digital opportunities an intentional part of our lessons.  I know I want to grow their connectedness with their reading communities, books, and authors.  Most of all, I know I want to find ways for parents and students to be [digital] readers TOGETHER.

What changes will I make?
  • Build My Awareness:  Instead of creating new spaces, I want to work within classroom systems where they exist.  I want to be more aware of digital spaces students are using in their classrooms and weave these spaces into the work we are doing.  Students don't always need to respond in their notebooks.  I'm going to need to be more intentional about helping them to find times they want to share their response/thinking with others beyond our group.  If students have digital space to collect important work, I want to utilize this space more as a part of our normal routine.
  • Use Digital Spaces:  When students do not have digital opportunities in their classrooms, I need to be ready to grow spaces we can use.  Finding opportunities to use our community blog space, create spaces for personal blogging/response for students who do not have them, and taking them back to our hub to connect/link to spaces that support our learning as part of our routine will be essential.
  • Connect Parents to Our Learning:  I've spent a lot of time building our community hub. I need to find ways to bring parents into this space with greater intention.  I'm not sure yet how I will accomplish this. I think it will be combination of working to improve the content so parents want to go there, continually updating and reminding parents of information here through emails or consistent posting, and getting students to help guide parents into this space may be a start.  
  • Intentionally Embed Digital Possibilities:  Last year I had some students who would light up when digital tools/reading sites were used during our lessons.  I need to figure out who those students are early and provide them with opportunities that might help grow their interest in literacy.  I also need to make more of an effort to balance digital possibilities with traditional print possibilities in both reading and writing.  
  • Document Our Reading Stories:  Right now, I use Evernote to document our reading stories.  I'd like to find ways to turn this over to students.  One place I'd like to begin is in keeping track of the books we read (more on this in an upcoming post).  I'm also playing around with Seesaw, Google, and our new Canvas LMS to figure out how to make this work.  
Digital tools/sites provide new opportunities and space for genuine choice.  My lessons have to stay focused on literacy, but I could be doing more to open paths toward digital possibilities.  This year I want to work to build the authenticity, intention, and connectedness discussed by Franki and Bill into the way we learn so that when summer comes next year, these habits will be part of the way we work as citizens in our literate [digital] world.  

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Classroom Environments that Support Inclusive Intervention

Last year was my first year in reading intervention for quite some time.  It was the first time I had been completely out of my classroom and devoting my entire day to supporting readers.  My time is spent with primary students needing additional reading support.  I don't consider my readers to be struggling or deficit, but to be a different place than most of their peers.  My role, as I see it, is to help them to build bridges and make connections so they can be a part of their reading communities.  I still find myself thinking between my role as a classroom teacher and my role as someone providing reading support.  Both roles provide different advantages and challenges in supporting readers.

To support readers I prefer situations in which I am able to go into classrooms (some advantages here).  I'm not a big fan of the word push-in.  It sounds controlling.  It sounds forceful.  For me, I think of it more as working alongside.  There's something that feels more accommodating about going into a classroom.  I feel like it sends the message that the student is most important.  It seems to say, "I'll meet you where you are."  I also find that it helps me to make stronger connections to classroom instruction and help students with transitions between lessons and the work they do in their classrooms.

I am continually reminded of how lucky I am to have teachers who are willing to set up communities that make coming into their classrooms to support readers work.  Of course, for this type of situation to work classroom teachers and support staff must be willing to work together in the best interest of the children.  Communication has to be open and honest.  Time has to be respected on a daily basis.  These are some of the characteristics I find conducive to success:
  • Long Literacy Blocks:  Recently I was talking to a few friends who work in the same role I have in other districts.  They were asking how I managed to get into classrooms with schedules being the way they are.  As we talked I realized some of what makes my situation work is that teachers dedicate 120-150 minutes in literacy instruction.  In grade levels where teachers run similar schedules, it is also possible for me to flexibly move students between classrooms to better match lessons to student need without shaking up everyone's schedules.   
  • Consistent Routines and Schedules:  It's easier to go into classrooms that have consistent routines and schedules.  In these classrooms students know their role across learning times and teachers are freed up to meet with small groups and individuals.  Coming into classrooms works best in classrooms that are using a workshop model.  There's much flexibility within the structure of a workshop to meet with students.  
  • Timeliness:  Both teachers and support staff have to work to respect time.  If I say I am going to be in someone's classroom for a certain period of time it is important that I am there every day at that time.  Because the time of support staff is also limited, it is helpful when classroom teachers are keeping the class on schedule to help utilize the time available for specialists.  
  • Cooperative Learning Environment:  I find the best inclusive intervention happens when the tone in the room is one where everyone works together, problems are solved as a community, and each member is seen for the strengths they bring the others.  In these rooms the group understands they're stronger together.  The teacher isn't the only one solving problems, and students are connected to others beyond their classroom.  
  • Students Engaged in Self-Selected Work:  I have found I've had the most success in classrooms where students have choice and ownership in their work.  In these situations, students know they have time during workshops to complete projects as learning carries across days and isn't as full of deadlines.  Stepping away from their work for a bit doesn't mean they won't be able to finish.  Students given tasks to complete by the end of a literacy block worry they won't be able to finish on time.  Additionally, it is easier for me to connect our learning to the work they are doing when they are working on authentic tasks related to learning.  
  • Students Are Responsible for Their Time:  When all students in the classroom are responsible for their time and have ownership in their learning they are more likely to use their time effectively.  Interruptions are much less in these types of classrooms.  
  • A Hum of Learning Fills the Room:  Silence isn't necessary for me to go into a classroom.  As a matter of fact, our small group can sometimes be a distraction in a room expected to be silent.  However, in rooms where everyone respects the learning space it is much easier to meet.  In these rooms students and teachers move to one another to talk.  Voices are kept at a whisper and conversations are about learning.  There's conversation in these rooms, but it is purposeful conversation.  
  • Thoughtful Movement:  It isn't necessary for everyone to stay in their seats for small group work to happen, but it is easier when movement is limited to purpose.  In classrooms where students collect books, tools, and other items needed before finding a space to begin there is less movement during the time we work together.  
As the calendar turns to August I'm busy thinking of ways I can better support students in the coming year.  What worked?  What needs to change?  I know I couldn't do any of this without the help of the classroom teachers that support these students across the day.  I'm fortunate to be part of a community that believes in the power of literacy and putting students first.