Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Close Reading with Primary Children

Close Reading
As a teacher of reading, I work hard to keep my instruction balanced.  It is easy to get caught up in trends and lose the balance our readers need between developing efficient reading skills and strategies, being able to think and talk deeply about books, and growing their love of reading.  There has been much talk around close reading.  I work to keep a thoughtful ear on these educational conversations, but am often concerned these discussions may throw classrooms, teachers, and students out of balance if close reading is not implemented with care.

When the words "read closely" were added to the Common Core standards the buzz about "close reading" began.  I'm still trying to learn more.  It's a bit hard to imagine how these two words which are a small percentage of all the words used in our common core gained such a spotlight.  It wasn't long until I was receiving tweets asking what "close reading" might look like for primary students.  I'll be honest, these conversations for our youngest readers worried me a bit.  Emergent and beginning readers are taking their first steps into books and it seems to me if I don't connect their hearts to books I'll never be able to open their minds.  The hard work of close reading, if not carefully balanced in our reading instruction could easily turn off our more reluctant readers.

Close Reading with Our Youngest Readers
There are those who know and understand much more about close reading than I do, but it seems close reading should look different for a six year old than it does for a sixteen year old.  When I think about close reading for our youngest children, I want to be thoughtful and intentional about the decisions I make.  What do students understand?  What do they need as readers?  What is developmentally appropriate practice for young children taking their first steps into a literate world?

Our work as early literacy teachers is to nurture and grow the talk around books.  I want students to say/think, "I read ____ (part of text) so I _____ (think/wonder)."  I hope to foster curiosity, develop oral language, grow a love of books, and bring joy to these young readers.  These conversations carry across read aloud, shared reading, small group reading opportunities, and into independent reading.  For these reasons, I'm wondering if close reading for our youngest learners might mean:
  • Rereading when you are confused
  • Asking questions when you wonder
  • Stopping in the moments that surprise you
  • Noticing when something touches your heart
A New Lens
With interest, and a head full of questions, I've been fortunate to listen to Chris Lehman speak on different occasions.  Most recently, I have listened to him talk about close reading at the Dublin Literacy Conference (last February) and Ohio's Literacy Connection (on October 3rd).  I've read his work about close reading and have been thinking about it a lot.  After listening to him speak I can envision him with his students, bringing joy to reading as readers look closely at text and see things through a new lens.  You can see from the collection of tweets that his conversations around close reading have been inspiring.

His work, along with the work of others leading the close reading conversation, has had me doing a lot of thinking about our younger readers.  I still have a lot of questions about the developmental appropriateness of this practice, the frequency, the intention, the ownership, and the lens we would consider with our youngest literacy learners.  

Chris Lehman reminds us that close reading should be:
  • highly engaging and joyful
  • lead to student independence
  • part of a balanced diet of reading instruction
  • one method in our toolbox
I appreciated his suggestions for developing emergent habits for close reading.  He reminded us of the importance of supporting our youngest learners in purposeful focus.  For our youngest readers, close reading might be a way to have them look, point, and use information from the text to grow their thinking.  His examples of using this purposeful focus in looking at, not just text but, the world through the eyes of our students might help them to think about their world with a more thoughtful eye.  His examples of using songs, commercials, and favorite items to zoom in on a small part to think about it in a new way were helpful in thinking of how we can look closely and talk about our world together.  

I'm looking forward to the continued conversation across the year with Ohio's Literacy Connection colleagues --- and another day in April with Chris Lehman to hear more about his thinking.  

Sunday, October 4, 2015

DigiLit Sunday: The Global Read Aloud 2015

DigiLit Sunday seems the perfect day to talk about digital reading and connecting with other learning communities through the Global Read Aloud.  It all starts tomorrow!  I will be participating with students in the conversation around picture books by author, Amy Krouse Rosenthal.  I'm so excited she has been chosen for this year's event.  Of course, if you're not a primary teacher there are other titles featured for students at a variety of age ranges.

As a reading intervention teacher, my plan is to take one day each week to read the title being discussed with students I support whose classes aren't participating #gra15.  We will then likely take time to post on our blog and join the conversation with other classrooms via the hashtag #graAMY.  I'm never quite sure where the event will go so I just dive in and get started.  The connections and next steps seem to become obvious once we begin.  Across the years I've learned to trust the process.

I've found certain benefits to be true year after year:
  • Students get excited about the featured author.
  • Students begin to notice patterns in the author's work. 
  • Students find authentic ways to respond and talk about the featured titles.
  • Students learn to talk about books in connected conversations.
  • Twitter allows us to see what others are thinking about the titles featured.
  • Twitter allows us to connect with other classrooms around the world.
  • Students talk about the author across the year.  
I'm looking forward to joining the Global Read Aloud with my students.  You can sign up for the Global Read Aloud here.  Thanks to Pernille Ripp for getting us organized.  I hope you'll join the global conversation.  Who's in?

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.  

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Graphic Novel Celebration: Week 1 Mr. Pants

If you haven't heard, today and every Thursday in October is a day to celebrate graphic novels.  Thanks to Franki Sibberson and Mary Lee Hahn of A Year of ReadingAlyson Beecher of KidLit FrenzyTammy Mulligan and Clare Landrigan of Assessment in Perspective; and the Nerdy Book Club Community for bringing this community together.  

The celebration might have slipped right past me in these busy first days if Tammy and Clare hadn't brought it to my attention.

I have to admit that I still have a lot to learn about graphic novels.  I've read a few, but there are so many more I would like to get to know.  Additionally, I think there are considerations for making meaning in graphic novels that readers need to understand - and I'm still trying to figure out myself.  As a reading intervention teacher, I believe graphic novels are one way to provide new possibilities for my developing readers.  For this reason, I have been wanting to spend time reading graphic titles for my young readers.  The #gncelebration seemed the perfect motivation.

Graphic Novels for Young Readers 
This week, I am starting with Mr. Pants:  It's Go Time by Scott McCormick and illustrated by R. H. Lazzell.  Mr. Pants really wants to play laser tag.  He has cleaned his room --- according to him --- and should get his summer reward.  His mom isn't so sure.  She instead focuses her attention on the younger siblings.  Mr. Pants isn't happy.  How will he get his mom to take him to laser tag?

Students will enjoy the humor in the story as Mr. Pants works to get his way: playing with a box,  going to a Fairy Princess Dream Factory, trying to get even with his little sister.  Students will laugh over the antics of Mr. Pants.

Mr. Pants will make a great read for developing readers.  The way the book is divided into chapters helps to make the meaning clearer for young readers.  For the developing readers I support, having a "chapter book" helps them to fit into their reading communities.  Best of all, there is no short cut on making meaning in this book.  Readers will have to use chapter titles, character conversation, sequence of events, and illustrations to fully understand the story.  However, there is less text which makes it more manageable for students still working to gain stamina in reading.

I'm looking forward to spending Thursdays in October getting to know more about graphic novels.  I hope you'll share your favorites and join the conversation.  Join the #GNcelebration Google Community here.  

Sunday, September 27, 2015

DigiLit Sunday: Google Keep --- It's a Keeper!

Wowza!  I woke up this morning thinking I was writing a digital post about reading, but in waiting on my internet to cooperate this morning I began to read blogs.  I stumbled upon this post, Google Keep is Now Available on the iPad, from Educational Technology in my Feed.ly account.  Since my computer was in slow motion, I grabbed my phone and headed over to download the application for Google Keep....and I just LOVE IT!

Google Keep is an organizational tool that allows you take pictures, record audio, color code, add tags, sort, and view your lists in different ways.  I couldn't believe how easy it was to use.  In just a few minutes with Google Keep I was able to:

  • Take Pictures:  Google Keep allows you to snap images or get into your cameral roll to pull in pictures.  This is quite helpful in keeping writing ideas.  For me, an image can often help me to begin my writing so this is a huge plus.  
  • Record Audio:  The audio feature allows you to record to take notes.  What I really loved about this feature is it will store the recording and display your words in text.  What?!?!  That's really the bomb ditty.  I use Voice Recorder all of the time, but I have to sometimes play them back to see what they are about.  You can delete the audio file or keep it when you are finished.
  • Color Code:  For those of us that like to over-organize our lives this is perfect.  You could use it to level the importance of a list.  I used it to collect ideas/lists in different categories.  I used GREEN for writing I do for Choice Literacy, BLUE for this blog (it's blue), and ORANGE for writing ideas for my other blog.  I decided GRAY would be for household tasks --- because those are best on gray days.  RED = GET IT DONE, SISTER!  The great thing is you can just view a particular color and temporarily get rid of all of the other notes.  
  • Tag:  You know I love tagging.  Tagging makes it easier to sort and organize.  
  • View:  You can view in a list, in a grid, by color, by tag.  Shut.  The.  Front.  Door.  (Oops, I was a bit too excited.)  Thank heavens!  
Yep, I already love it.  You can also access it from a variety of devices.  The cloud...who knew I would grow to love it so?  It appears I will also be able to keep different lists for different accounts.  This means I will likely be able to keep my school and personal lists separate.  Cha-ching.  The only improvement I hope to see is the ability to audio record directly on an image.  I'm a dreamer.

Google owns me!!  

Organizational junkie?  Slightly obsessive?  Life out of control?  Run to your devices, head to your app stores, and download Google Keep now.  You won't regret it.

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.  

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Shared Reading in the First Days --- and ALWAYS

Walking into one of our first grade classrooms, the teacher has a Keep Book projected on the large whiteboard.  Students are gathered side-by-side on the carpet, their eyes focused on the text as the teacher points and reads.  Their voices chime in and out with hers as they enjoy the story.  None of them notice I have entered the room as they are so engaged in the story.  As I watch I can't help but think about the ways shared reading has changed since my first years of teaching.  In those days, shared reading truly was limited to the big books you had in your classroom --- and big books were pricey.

We are nearing our sixth week of school.  We've spent much time getting to know our students as we watch them interact and work in our learning spaces.  We've completed assessments.  We've build up our communities.  As we begin to look closely at the information we have gathered in our first weeks of school, we pause to celebrate all the strengths of our students and we begin to plan next steps.  In looking at information we've collected, we've noticed our students need support in solidifying concepts of print.  We need to help these young readers begin to build their reading strategies.  Of course, we also want to begin to open up new possibilities in reading to them.  As we've talked and planned we have spent much time talking about the power of shared experience.  Our conversations have started to focus on the possibilities through shared reading to help these students get started.

Gathering to read a text together through shared reading allows us to scaffold young learners and set the stage for the next steps in their reading.  This highly supportive learning context also helps students to feel safe in taking risks and making new discoveries.  It also provides opportunities for the teacher to put strategies and language in place that will support reading instruction in other contexts in the days and weeks to come.

Possibilites in Shared Reading:
  • Build Community:  In the first days of school, shared reading provides a shared context for learning together.  This connected experience can continue to hold a group together across the year.
  • Create a Common Language:  As we start our year, and as we introduce new strategies and concepts, shared reading provides a context for creating a common language across our learning community.  
  • Master Concepts of Print:  With our youngest of readers, shared reading provides opportunities for us to develop concepts of print including:  directionality, return sweep, one-to-one matching, concepts of letter and word, and other important book handling skills.  
  • Develop Reading Strategies:  Shared reading can allow us to teach and model reading strategies that young readers can use to sustain reading.  These strategies include using pictures, utilizing visual cues, thinking about meaning, rereading, reading on, and other strategies to help readers successfully read new text.  Shared reading also allows us to help students learn strategies to help them monitor and self-correct as they read.  It can help with strategies for improving fluency as well.   
  • Support Word Study and Word Explorations:  As young readers develop the knowledge to utilize more visual information, shared reading can help them look at words in new ways.  Moving from using known words, beginning sounds, checking endings, using more efficient chunks, and looking through words, toward flexible utilization of visual information in reading can be supported in this context.  Word explorations and word study work can also be discussed in shared reading opportunities.  
  • Grow Comprehension Conversations:  Of course, reading is always about meaning.  Understanding the author's message is essential.  Continued comprehension conversations can be developed through shared reading.  Comprehension strategies such as connecting, predicting, inferring, synthesizing, determining importance, and visualizing can be taught through careful text selection in shared reading.  
  • Foster a Love of Reading:  Yes, this one maybe should have been first!  There's something enjoyable about shared reading.  Chiming in together as words flow with ease from our mouths and pour gently into our ears.  These rhythms, patterns, words, and stories shared together, often quickly find their way into our story telling and writing.  Being able to revisit our shared reading titles independently in other parts of our day can help students to grow in independence.  
Considerations for Shared Reading:
  • Shared reading can occur with an entire classroom community or a small group.
  • Choose texts that are just above where students can read independently, but will allow readers to successfully revisit these texts independently at a later date.
  • Texts selected need to have the characteristics of the texts students will be reading independently. 
  • Choose shared reading texts that fit student need and work toward your focus of instruction.  
  • Have shared texts available for independent reading opportunities.
The possibilities for shared reading have certainly changed in our digital age.  No longer are big books our only option.  Digital texts, picture books, magazine articles, poems, songs, and so much more can now be used for shared reading.  This shared experience provides a high level of support for helping our readers take next steps.  By having individual copies (or links) to shared texts, students can continue to revisit their favorites for continued practice and enjoyment.  No matter the grade level or time of year, shared reading is a strong first step in learning together.  

If you have favorite books or thoughts about shared reading, I hope you'll stop by to leave a comment and join the conversation.

Be sure to visit Elizabeth Moore's Post:  What is Shared Reading? for more information about shared reading.  You'll find this article and a few other links about shared reading here:  

Follow Cathy's board Shared Reading on Pinterest.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

DigiLit Sunday: Playing Along with Sway (Why Digital Literacy?)

This morning I woke up trying to decide what I would post for #DigiLitSunday.  As I was working my way around the internet, I received a tweet from Margaret Simon.  

Hmmmm.  Sway.  It wasn't the first time I had heard of it.  I had been wanting to play around with Sway since I heard Randall Sampson talking about a few weeks ago (here's his Personalized PD Sway).  I just hadn't found the time and then Lori Green was talking about it too.  So when I saw Margaret's tweet, I had to pop over to her blog to see what she had to say about Sway.  On her blog, Reflections on the Teché, she shared creations from Dot Day using Sway.  Stop over and check them out.  

What I needed to do seemed obvious.  It was time to play with Sway.  I returned to a post from Thursday, Why Digital Literacy?, that I shared on the #cyberPD blog discussing key considerations for digital literacy.  I decided to use the bullet points for content and give Sway a try.  Here's my first attempt: 

I'm looking forward to playing around a bit more with Sway.  I liked the ability to add photos, video, and links to the Sway.  The movement makes the presentation more appealing.  I could see myself using it in much the same way I use Smore for sharing information in user friendly ways.  I'm adding Sway to my go-to list of presentation applications.  Thanks, Margaret, for pushing me that one extra step.  

Today's post connects to a post I shared Thursday on the #cyberPD blog on Thursday, September 17th.  The blog was established to provide a space for #cyberPD community members to share their discoveries about last July's featured study title, Digital Reading:  What's Essential by Franki Sibberson and Bill Bass.  The site is currently looking for participants interested in posting for October.   On Tuesday, October 6th, at 8PM EST the community will be chatting on Twitter about their first steps in launching their workshops with a digital lens.  Hope you can join us!

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.  

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Reader's Workshop: Listening for the Gems

When I arrived in the classroom to sit beside readers in a second grade workshop the teacher was finishing her focus lesson.  The class was talking about buddy reading.  What would it look like? Students were all nestled tightly together around their teacher as she wrote their thinking on a piece of chart paper.  Students were full of ideas of what it should look like.  When they finished their chart contained many ideas for making sure that buddy reading looked and sounded as they hoped it would in their community.  

They wrapped up their discussion and were sent off to get started reading.  Buddies chose books.  Buddies selected spaces.  Buddies sat side by side with their book between them and began to read.  It was interesting to watch the different ways they worked.  Some took turns reading parts.  Some stopped often to talk about their reading.  Some asked questions.  Some talked about what was happening in the story.  Yes --- and occasionally one buddy took over.  

If we can find a place to start, our communities have a way of moving us forward.  It wasn't long until I started to notice the change in students as they moved from what buddy reading should look like to the thinking and making meaning reading requires.  While students had focused earlier on what it might look and sound like, they were quickly pushing the conversation to a new level as they started to work with their friend to understand their reading.  It wasn't long until we started to hear students saying:  

  • "We're helping each other when the reading gets tricky."
  • "We're comparing characters."
  • "We're stopping after each page to talk about what happened."
  • "We're stopping to talk about what we think will happen next."
  • "Can we get post-its to record our thinking?"
  • "I didn't think I would be interested in the book my friend chose, but he is teaching me to be interested in new things."

Sometimes we step into our lessons knowing what students need, but unsure how we will get there.  Sometimes we just need to get started.  Students have a way of helping us to find what is next.  If we slow down enough to listen all of the answers are right there.  When given time, opportunity, and a bit of room students will help guide us.  If we listen - really listen - the next steps are right there in the gems students share.  Our only task is look each over carefully and determine the gems we can use to move forward with our learning communities.