Sunday, January 25, 2015

DigLit Sunday: Keeping Small Group Notes in Evernote

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 (today's link-up) to read, discover, and link.  

Evernote is my go-to app for keeping artifacts that tell the story of learning.  I record conference notes, capture pictures, and save student work using this application.  The ability to create notebooks, build stacks, and tag notes helps to make the tool useful in, not just keeping information but also, sorting, sifting, and planning next steps.

However, I've remained a bit stumped about how to keep small group records.  I've tried a variety of plans, but this year I seem to have stumbled upon a plan that has worked better than previous attempts.  Working with small groups all day long created a need for a workable solution.  This year, I have created a notebook for each small group.

I then made a chart in a note I use as a template each week.

  • I add the focus up at the top for the group.
  • Then record student names in the blanks to the left.
  • I then add individual considerations to stay focused as we work together.
  • Then each day I add notes and observations in the appropriate box. 
At the beginning of each week, I copy the template, tag it appropriately, plan my focus, make notes about individual considerations, and consider books for the week.

During the week, I then record notes of our time together.  Take a running record on paper?  Snap a picture in the space saved for the child.  Want to have an audio of student reading?  Record the audio from a familiar or new book.  Want a picture of a response to reading?  Snap a picture.  Want to take to remember the books sent home without writing all the titles?  Snap a picture.

This note can easily be sent to classroom teachers at the beginning of the week for their planning consideration or at the end of the week so they can see our focus.  Because my notes can be a bit cryptic on the run, I usually send more of a synthesis of our work to classroom teachers.

I'm sure there may be a better way to keep track of small group information but, for now, I seem to have stumbled upon a viable solution.

You Might Like 
On the Blog:  More posts about Evernote.
Evernote Resource:  Capturing Learning Journeys

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Can You Help? Rebuilding the Picture Book 10 for 10 Archives

Since 2010 Mandy Robek and I have been hosting a yearly picture book celebration.  We have been fortunate to have so many join each year to share their ten favorite picture books.  Across the years, participants have gotten crafty with their lists and found interesting ways to share their favorites --- or slide in more than ten titles.  The event is such fun each August that after a recommendation from Julie Balen we added a February nonfiction event which will be on February 19th.

Each year we carefully placed all of our lists into Jog the Web which gave us a magazine-like resource of all of the book recommendations made.  Unfortunately, Jog the Web is no longer available so we lost the event resources.  We're hoping you can help us to rebuild them.

Rebuilding Our Resource
When we first heard of the loss of Jog the Web we were devastated.  We started to wonder how the loss would impact our event and the valuable community resource that resulted each time.  After much debate we decided to move to a Google Community.  The thinking was that on the day of Picture Book 10 for 10 (August 10) or Nonfiction Picture Book 10 for 10 (February 19), participants could add their post to the community.  As we played with the community, we realized it might be easy for participants to add previous posts to rebuild our resources.

That's where we hope you can help.  Many have already joined the Picture Book 10 for 10 community and added their picture book posts from previous years.  We're hoping that as you have time, you will do the same.

Go to the Picture Book 10 for 10 Community and request to join (you can invite friends too).  Our community is already growing.

Then click the tab of the event you participated in and add your post to that page.  

That's it.  You're done.  

If you haven't participated in the past, we hope you will join us in the future.  Stop by to review this valuable picture book resource.  The new space will no longer require participants to have a blog to join the conversation.  Posts can be made directly on the event site.  Stop by and see what's new!  

Thursday, January 22, 2015

The Power and Problem with Routine

Across the years, I've found routine to be helpful in learning environments.  In my classroom, the routine freed children to do the work they needed to do.  We'd start our year learning the routine of a workshop.  Students knew we would start with a focus lesson, have time to work, and then come together to share.  Students knew that in that independent time I would be working beside students.  Most days followed a structured routine that helped students to know when they would have time to read, to write, and to learn across our day.

When I started reading intervention I worked to create predictable routines for us to learn within each day.  My thinking was that the routine would free us to do the important work we needed to do.  Routine helps us to be efficient with our time and takes some of the uncertainty away for students who aren't consistently trying to figure out new tasks, but instead focused on learning.  The readers I work with know we will start with familiar reading, do a bit of word work, read a new book, and then, most days, end with writing about our reading.  Knowing our routine helps keep the pace of our lessons moving and allows us to use the short time we have together effectively.

While the routine often stays the same, the work within the time has to continually change and grow.  The trick in a routine is to stay on our toes, to not become complacent in what we are doing.  Working with Justin today I was reminded of this.  In the last few weeks, Justin's progress has slowed.  I have moved him into a different group to better match where he is as a reader.  Justin set a goal to use the first part of tricky words to help with the longer words he is seeing in new books, but I'm not sure that really is his next step.

Justin has been a bit of a puzzle.  Even though he was behind his peers at the beginning of the year, I noticed some strong strategies.  He stayed balanced in meaning and visual information as he read new texts.  He would reread at difficulty for meaning.  He looked closely when something didn't look right, and often returned to self-correct.  At the beginning of the year, his fluency was limited and his comprehension was satisfactory as he didn't always answer questions directly.  His fluency has improved and he has learned to stay to the point during our discussions about our reading.  However, as we've moved up into longer books with more complicated text structures, he has hit a bit of a bump.

Today as I listened to Justin read I noticed he would stop to look closely at the word (his goal), but still be unable to figure it out.  My first inclination was to have him look even more closely at the word.  Reminding myself that he had already tried to look (several times as a matter-of-fact), I asked him what has been happening in the story as meaning might help him.  It was hard for him to talk about the story. I had noticed the words he struggled with were often unfamiliar to him and not a part of his vocabulary, but I hadn't really thought about the fact that he might not be really considering meaning along the way in these more detailed texts.  In the coming days, we will be working to stop and think as we read to see if this maybe helps him to get over this hurdle.

It would be easy in the routine of our lesson to go through the routine of our learning.  I have to continually remind myself to look past what I think I know to notice new steps the learner is trying to make.  I have to remind myself that though we have a routine for our time together the learning itself should never be routine.

Monday, January 19, 2015

It's Coming: Nonfiction Picture Book 10 for 10 #nf10for10

#pb10for10Google Community
(image created on Canva.com
A New Home
We're moving!  Yes, for years we have hosted our picture book events using Jog the Web to collect posts to make a resource.  It seems Jog the Web is gone so we're moving to a new home.  You can find our event hosted in our new Google Community page.

Our February Nonfiction Event
It's that time of year!  Time to dig through your nonfiction picture book collections to find the 10 titles you just can't live without.  This is our 3rd annual nonfiction event.  I know I'm excited to see the selections and posts about favorite nonfiction titles.  The event will be Thursday, February 19th (because 1 + 9 is 10...yes, I know the one is in the tens place, but let's play along with it).

In 2010 Mandy Robek and I hosted our first picture book event.  In 2013, Julie Balen suggested we add a nonfiction picture book event that worked the same.  Participants choose 10 - well, usually 10 (they're a crafty bunch) - nonfiction picture books to share.  In the past we have rounded up the posts into a magazine-like jog at Jog the Web.  This year, on the day of the event, we'll ask that you visit the Google Community site to add your nonfiction link to the 2015 #nf10for10 tab.  We will also suggest that you leave the link on one of our blogs in the comment section, just in case we have to move again.

  • What:  10 nonfiction picture books you can't live without.
  • Hashtag:  #nf10for10
  • Who:  Anyone interested --- educators, media specialists, librarians, parents, and book lovers.  
  • When:  Thursday, February 19th
  • Where:  All posts will be linked on the 2015 #nf10for10 page of our Picture Book 10 for 10 Google Community Site.  
Start sorting through your collections to find your favorite titles and join us in one month as we share 10 nonfiction picture books we just can't live without.  Feel free to grab the #nf10for10 button and spread the word.  

In the meantime, please feel free to browse our new home.  Send a request to join our community.  If you have participated in the past, we'd love it if you would add your old posts to the correct tab in the community.  We are hoping to recreate the resources the best we can.  

Sunday, January 18, 2015

DigiLit Sunday: The Problem with Being Digital

Well, I bet you didn't see that coming.  My title isn't my typical view of going digital.  I've found digital to make my life so much easier with apps to keep my grocery list and calendars, websites to collect links, spaces to create documents, and virtual notebooks for writing.  You know I'm a big fan of Evernote, Noteshelf, and Google.  I create in a variety of spaces including Google, Blogger, Canva, Shutterfly and many more.  I can't imagine my life without the connections I have been able to build and the resources I have discovered in these virtual spaces.

Though I love the convenience of being digital, more and more I'm thinking about the potential problem of working digitally --- losing everything.  You know I'm still recovering from the loss of data on my iPad after a recent factory reset.  Yesterday's news may have brought me right back to that place.  Yesterday, through conversations with Franki Sibberson, I realized Jog the Web is gone.  Yep, it appears to be gone.

I'm not a super sleuth and I don't remember any of the French I learned in high school (sorry Mrs. Hopkins) but, after digging around Twitter and putting French tweets into Google translator, I would guess the site has had financial issues and could no longer support its servers.  I loved Jog the Web.  I loved the way we could collect multiple sites around a topic and turn it into a magazine-like resource.  With the loss of Jog the Web, all of our collections of #cyberPD and #pb10for10 are gone.  Yep, gone.  So many resources just lost.

In this case, the challenge wasn't a cloud issue.  Jog the Web had "cloud space" on their servers, but instead an issue of closing of a site.  Now I don't want to go all Chicken Little on you today, but I can't help but wonder what happens if sites we save information on regularly just stop functioning?  How do we avoid losing all of our creations, documents, and collected links?  I suppose backing them up to other spaces is one time consuming solution, but it seems having paper copies is our only guarantee.  Doesn't that really take us backward instead of forward?

If you haven't been to Carl Sandburg's home, you should go.  When you step inside his house, after witnessing the beautiful view he enjoyed, you are immediately drawn into his bookshelves.  The house is just full of books, but that isn't the fascinating part either.  In each book there are small pieces of paper tabs sticking out where he found something interesting or wanted to get back to some thinking or return to revisit wonderful words.  We wouldn't be able to enjoy Sandburg's process in the same way if he were digital.  Would Emily Dickinson's work been discovered if it were digital?  (Well, I like to think it would have been discovered before she died if she lived in today's digital times, but who knows.)

I, for one, am starting to rethink the tools I use to create.  More and more I'm trying to stick with tools that have cloud capabilities, but I'm finding that just may not be THE answer either.  I'd love to hear your thoughts and ways you protect your digital work from disappearing.

See more digital posts by stopping by Reflections on the Teche.  

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Reader's Workshop: Independent Reading Time

The teacher is finishing her read aloud as I enter the room.  The class is spellbound by the story as all eyes expectantly watch her as she turns the page.  Glancing around the group, I quietly find a seat toward the back to listen to the story and conversation.  The class pauses every now and then to talk about the questions they have as they read. The teacher closes the book and a discussion follows about the story.  

The teacher then reminds students of their job today during reader’s workshop, “Think about the questions you have about your reading.”  Lowering her voice, she adds, “Find those places where you wonder why something happened or what might happen next. Remember you can bring your questions back to share with the group at the end of our workshop,” she reminds her readers. "You can write your questions or put them on VoiceThread or on your blog if you'd like," she finishes.  A chart rests on the easel with the class thinking about asking questions during reading.

Usually when I enter the room the students are already nestled into reading spots with a small stack of selected books for their independent reading time.  There’s always a soft hum to the room as readers quietly enjoy their books.  Today the lesson was running a bit late so I was able to see the moment the teacher set them up for the thinking they would be doing today in their workshop.  The lesson was part of a growing conversation this class has been having about asking questions about their reading.

There will be conversations that follow to help students to refine their questions, think more deeply about books, and learn strategies to help them to grow as readers.  By keeping her lesson before independent reading focused to her point, students now have a purpose as they go out into the classroom to read.  Whether the teaching point is asking questions, noticing character action, finding the turning point in a story, making predictions, or holding the thinking required in chapter books, setting up a purpose for independent reading time helps to set students up to engage in meaningful work.  

Considering Independent Reading
As teachers, we create elaborate systems so we can meet with small groups and individuals to differentiate instruction.  Growing as readers requires more than small group instruction and conferences peppered across our learning day.  It is necessary to consider what our readers are doing when they’re not sitting beside us.  Students spend more time in our reading blocks away from us than beside us.  How can we make this time more effective for readers?

Have a routine:  Having a routine and structure for the time students are reading independently frees students to discover, think, and learn.  During reader’s workshop, I find it best to start with a focus lesson, provide time for independent practice, and then end with time to share.  During independent time students know they will choose books to read, find a spot for learning time, consider the focus lesson as they read, and be ready to share new understandings.  Together as a community we determine the way the room will sound during this time (different groups have different preferences) and the way we will work.  Across the year we build possibilities for thinking, talking, and responding to our reading.  

Provide uninterrupted reading time:  If we want students to grow as readers, they need to be reading.  Instead of rotations or assigned tasks, I’ve found it best to provide students with blocks of time to read and consider the new strategies we are learning in our community.  Developing readers need to read uninterrupted for extended periods of time to grow as readers.  Supporting students as they learn to make book choices and begin to consider deeper ways of thinking can help readers to progress.   

Set a purpose:  Young readers are using the time given to practice and develop the new strategies we are learning in our communities.  The focus lesson that begins the workshop, helps set a purpose for reading.  Students learn to consider this new thinking as they are reading and bring back new questions and discoveries to the community during the workshop share at the end of the reading block.  

Build possibility:  Notice the ways students use their time.  What are they reading?  What have they been thinking about?  How do they share their thinking with others?  Have students share what they are doing, and demonstrate new possibilities, so learners have many ways to grow their thinking during independent learning opportunities.  Across the year the options evolve providing students with a mental menu of options for developing their thinking and room to create new ways to share their questions, discoveries, and understandings.   

Teach students to make strong book selections:  The best book selections are not only those a student can read and think about, but those that help them to think more about the current study.  If we’re talking about character and a student uses the entire workshop to read nonfiction, she/he has little opportunity to think about new learning and join our community conversation. Teaching students to make strong book selections evolves across the school year as new genres are introduced, new ways of thinking are considered, and deeper reading strategies are mastered.  We talk a lot about balancing our reading choices so we have time to read what love and also set ourselves up for new learning.  Students learn to stretch as readers into new territories.  

Build student ownership:  When students own the book choice, own the type of thinking they will do, own their learning goals, and own the way they will share this thinking with others, our role changes.  We learn to listen, to notice new steps, and celebrate new understandings.  We watch for next steps and help students to cross new bridges.  We follow, coach, and work beside our readers.  

In her book, Reading in the Wild: The Book Whisperer’s Keys to Cultivating Lifelong Reading Habits, Donalyn Miller reminds us, “Our true obligations regarding children’s literacy: fostering their capacity to lead literate lives.”  Independent reading time gives children the space, support, and opportunity to create the habits of a reader while learning new ways to dig deeper into the understanding of the author’s message.  What are children doing while we meet with readers and work with small groups?  They’re taking new steps in a literate life.  

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Oops! Does That App Have a Cloud?

Some lessons are learned the hard way.  I remember when I first started using a computer and had to learn the stop and save lesson.  Now most programs automagically save as you go.  Of course, new problems.

Recently I had to take my iPad back to factory settings.  Yes, you all know where this is going.  All the way back to factory settings.  No problem, I thought.  I have my pictures backed up, my music is on iTunes, and my contacts live in the cloud.  You'd think this might have a happy ending, but it doesn't.

You know all of those applications.  All of those applications I love to play with every day.  They don't all have a cloud.  As the days and weeks pass I discover more and more that I lost forever.  My Photo365 calendar - gone.  The inventory of my picture books painstakingly typed into BooksApp.  Goodbye.  Yep, never to be found again.  Perhaps the worst loss, you guessed it, those digital notebooks in Noteshelf.

The moral of the story.  If you buy an app that is saving important information, make sure the information lives in the cloud.

Of course, I'm hoping someone will read this and tell me about some magical fix I have yet to find, but for now I'm reconsidering paper and giving more respect to "the cloud".

A side note:  It seems Photo365 has a cloud option so I'm trying to play with that.  Also, Noteshelf can be shared with Evernote by purchasing another application.  I'm giving that a try too.  Of course, I'd love any suggestions you have or applications that automagically back up.