Monday, January 31, 2011

Literacy Sites for Families

Our school is having a literacy night.  I'm looking forward to talking with parents about websites young literacy learners may enjoy.  In today's digital world there are so many sites, it was hard to choose which sites to share in a limited time.  For that reason, I've added a Google doc for parents to continue to share their finds.    Feel free to add your favorites to our doc or to the comments below.  
View more presentations from Cathy Mere.

Friday, January 21, 2011

It's Been a Year. So What's Changed?

Happy Birthday, Dear Blog
I honestly can say I can't believe it has been a year since I pushed the orange publish button on this blog's very first post. Here's what I said a year ago:

For months I've been contemplating this leap of faith - blogging. I've written blog titles on post-its, chatted with friends about possibilities, and read posts by many bloggers trying to decide if jumping into the blogging world was really something I wanted to do. I've wondered if I will be able to keep up with blog posting or if this will be like my exercise programs - short lived. I've thought about what the focus for my blog should be, what
voice I'd want to write in, and what strengths I might have to share with readers. The truth is, I haven't figured any of that out. I'm going to trust the process and dive right into the madness.

It was actually a challenge in our writing group, shared by Julie at Raising Readers and Writers, that helped me make the final leap of faith. At the time, I really wasn't sure I could keep up with a blog. I set a goal of writing once a week and at 31 posts I think I will have to continue to work to post regularly. I could tell you the ways I think my professional world has changed since I started blogging. I could tell you about the reasons I have continued to blog. I could tell you about all I have learned as I've reflected on my practice and read the thoughtful comments of so many. Instead I want to tell you about what has been the most significant change since I began joining learning communities a little over a year ago.

A Peak Inside Our Classroom
The change really struck me today. I walked into my classroom with a busy day ahead of me. The assistant superintendent was coming to read to our class, we had a writing assessment to complete, and a parent literacy meeting was scheduled for the evening. The bell rang to begin the day and students began filtering into the room. Honestly, my head was full of all that needed to be accomplished, but somehow in the busyness of the morning I noticed these events.

As students settled into their day and began to read books at their tables, the computers quickly filled with students beginning the day on Kidblog. Two students were reading and commenting on friends' posts. The other student was finishing a post he had started the previous day.

After our morning meeting I pulled out Saturday and Teacakes to read to the class. We're talking about personal narratives and this story by Lester Laminack is a must read. After our read aloud and focus lesson students began to settle into their reading. Soon a student

came to me with Lester's book. She looked disappointed as she held the book out and said, "I thought he'd have the recipe for the teacakes in here." It wasn't long before a friend joined the conversation. As the two friends started to chat and search they found a note in the back of the book with a link to a website for the recipe. Before I could blink my eyes they were at the computer looking up the website and printing the recipe.

The computers filled again at Reader's Workshop with students blogging about books. This has become a common way for students to share books with classmates. Most bloggers take a picture of the book, insert it into the post, and then write a bit about the story.

During Writer's Workshop I glanced up from a conference to see a student taking pictures of his story. A friend was showing him how to take the pictures using Photobooth so his story could be turned into a podcast.

So What?
There's really nothing overly significant about those events except that they demonstrate shifts in my teaching which I think have resulted from joining this community of learners. Changes as a result of these professional conversations:
  • Seamless Use of Technology: For years I've struggled with making technology as common as a pencil in my classroom. Though I still have a long, long, long way to go, I am starting to see a shift. My students, and many colleagues, are helping me to see all that is possible.
  • Independence: None of the activities above required me to help. Students can independently make choices about the best way to compose and share a message.
  • Collaboration: In all three of these examples, students were working together to figure something out. They no longer see me as the person with the answers. They have learned how to help each other problem solve. They are so willing to help one another.
  • Going Public: As a primary teacher it is easy to get caught up in the "we read and write because we have to learn to read and write". Now we are reading because we have something we want to know and writing because we have something we want to say. Going public with our writing is important in this shift. Students are empowered and encouraged when friends read their work and comment on their message. They're learning the power of their words.
Looking forward to another year of reflecting on our conversations, refining practice, and extending my learning community.

You might want to read:

Teach Yourself What You Think

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Home Reading: It's a Reader's Choice

Supporting Book Choice Through Read Aloud
The most recent read aloud is always a hot item in our classroom. Lately, everyone wants to be one of the first students to take home the newest books we read. I'm not sure, but I think they've even worked out their own systems for passing the books along to the next reader.

This morning was no different. Before I was able to hold up the morning read aloud up for students to see, hands were flying into the air.

Glancing at my students like I have no idea why everybody has their hand up I call on David. The book I am holding is "There Are NO Cats In Here" by Vivian Schwarz.

I'm just starting to win David over in reading. He began the year saying, "I don't like to read. I can't read." I've slowly proven to him that he very well can read. He likes books about sharks and only sharks, but I know he wants to be part of this reading community and everyone wants this book. This book is about something other than sharks, and it is a book he will be able to reread after hearing it in our read aloud. I would love nothing more than to see David take this book home.

"Can I take home that book today?" he asks pointing at the book in my hands. "You don't even know if you are going to like it," I joke. "I haven't even read it yet." David assures me he will love it so I tell him I will give it to him after we share it.

It's a Reader's Choice
In our classroom, students choose the book they want to take home to read each evening from our classroom library. As beginning readers I want them to have opportunities to practice their reading, but more importantly I want them to be develop a love of reading. For this reason, students choose the book they will take home each evening during Reader's Workshop. Books are checked out from our classroom library, student reading bags, table baskets, shared reading collections, and even student-authored texts.

After making a selection students record the book title and date on their booklog. This helps me to remember which book they have checked out for the evening. Students then place the book inside the folder (if it fits) for me to check at lunch. At lunch I walk quickly around and make sure the title they have written matches the book. The student booklog serves as a record sheet of the choices students have made.

Students take the book home to read and return it the next day. In the morning I will quickly walk around to check in books by initialing beside the returned title. Students put their books back in the classroom library; or pass them to a friend.

Benefits of Self-Selection
  • Students are motivated to read, select, and share books.
  • Students enjoy making recommendations to one another.
  • Students learn about authors.
  • Students discover a variety of genres and topics.
  • Students are better able to select books at the library or bookstore.
  • Students can talk about books.
  • Students learn to balance their reading (difficulty, genre, topic, etc.).
  • Students have choice.
  • Develops a community of readers.
  • Parents learn about book choice.

If you are interested in choice, you might want to read:

Saturday, January 1, 2011

It's a New Year and I've Lost My Mind

Well, this is a post I hadn't planned to write. No. I sat down to my computer with thoughts of writing my resolutions for a new year. It seemed simple enough. My daughter was on the couch finishing a book. My husband was in the recliner watching football. It was the perfect plan. I could sit with my laptop in the living room and write this post.

Of course, I was on Twitter. My resolution should probably be to seek help for my Twitter addiction. I guess knowing you have a problem is the first step.

So I'm pondering my resolutions and watching the Twitter feed. Soon they start to appear: 365 photo challenges. I've thought about these before. I always enjoy Mary Lee's photo mosaics at A Year in Reading, as well as the 365 day photos I see tweeted on Twitter.

The tweets continued. (You can read below to find some that were pivotal in my decision.) Finally I received this tweet:

Homework Dog
@ Did you decide which group to join? Re: Pic a day

It turns out this resolution post will be about a new and crazy goal I have for myself. I'm joining the 365 day challenge.

So for now...

I'm joining the Flickr 365 challenge. I'm still thinking about a blog to keep the photos. Yes, it's a new year and I've lost my mind.

Photo Challenges
There was this 2011/365 challenge on Flickr (Sorry, I can't remember who first tweeted this; maybe @steelepierce).

There was this 365 Project tweeted by @teachingwthsoul.
Lisa Dabbs
And so it begins...Project Life:365:

Photo Tweets
Library Girl
by dmcordell
Yay! I took advantage of the 70' weather 2 take my 1st pic at the beach. Thx 4 making it bett

Katy Gartside
joined 365-2011 on flickr - this yr hope to do better than last!

Linda Clinton, Ph.D.
So, I'm gonna try this #365 thing...

Photo Blogs

Jenea Midgett

Jill Fisch
@ I also used more than one picture on many days. It became like a gratitude journal or memory blog:

Tyson Seburn
begins on my personal blog!

This one too, but unfortunately I lost the original tweet that took me to it.

Photo Tips
Kelly Hines
Doing a project? Here are some neat ideas

@ There are many 365 groups - I belong to three! You can create a flickr badge for your blog to display your photos.