Sunday, November 17, 2013

The Joy of Discovery: Amy Krouse Rosenthal

I guess you could say it all started one day with a Spoon.

Sometimes it's so hard to just wait for students to discover something.  However, when the moment finally arrives and students authentically come to this new realization, discovery, or understanding it is all worth it!  Such was the case last week when I read Spoon by Amy Krouse Rosenthal (@missamykr) to my class to talk about the author's message.  My class loved this book in which poor Spoon just isn't happy with his life.  Knife and Fork have it so much better.  In the end, of course, Spoon decides maybe he does have it pretty good.  The conversation that followed was full of possibilities for what the author wanted us to know.  

When I saw how much they loved Spoon I knew I needed to share another book by Amy Krouse Rosenthal.  After lunch that day I decided to read Exclamation Mark.  I had been waiting for just the right moment to bring out this book and thought this might just be it.  I'm not joking when I say the kids actually broke out in applause as I closed that book.  I then said, "You know, Amy Krouse Rosenthal has written a few other books that we've read this year."  I reached near my easel and pulled out Yes Day.  My students loved this book when we read it earlier in the year.  What kid doesn't wish every day was Yes Day?  They applauded yet again.  I paused like I was really trying to think and added, "She also wrote the OK Book."  One of the students raced up to grab it.  The excitement was building as students tried to puzzle out what other books she might have written.  

"We should make a basket for her books," Paige quickly added.  The students all nodded in agreement.  "Let's see what else she has written," I said I as pulled up Shelfari and typed in her name.  At this point, I just couldn't keep up with them.  There were shouts of books we'd read that students were realizing had been written by Amy Krouse Rosenthal.  "She wrote Little Oink and Little Hoot," they chimed.  Then of course there were conversations of those we should definitely read.  We added a few "PLAN TO READ" titles to our shelf including:  Chopsticks (they'd seen Chopsticks in Spoon), It's Not Fair, Little Pea, and Wumbers.  

Had I just placed Amy Krouse Rosenthal's titles in our basket at the beginning of the year they likely still would have learned who she was as an author, but the joy behind this discovery and the excited conversation of our community has likely created an appreciation for Rosenthal's work that will stay with them.  

Saturday, November 16, 2013

True Confessions: I Use Reading Logs **gasp**

Truth is: I use reading logs.  Honestly, "Do you use reading logs?", is not a question I want to have to answer yes or no to in conversation because we do record books, but I don't advocate a system that bogs down reading or makes it a chore to be done.  I teach first grade and writing is still a bit of work for the young learners in my classroom, but even if I taught 5th or 8th or 12th I would likely follow a similar system.

What has me thinking about reading logs?  This morning I ran across this tweet by Amy Rudd (@aruddteacher100) which took me to this article, Recording Your Reading History, from the DAILY CAFE.  It made me think once again about reading logs.  Is it something I do because I have done it?  Or is it something that students truly benefit from taking the time to do?

What Reading Logs Are Not
Often reading logs are required because we want to be sure students are reading X number of minutes, or completing X number of books, or writing about reading X number of days.  I hope students will read because they want to read.  I trust them to find the time.  I don't require students to painstakingly record the minutes they have read.  I don't require them to write about their reading so many times each week.  Honestly, if keeping our log was bothering someone I wouldn't even require them to use it.

In our first grade classroom, recording every book you read would be an overwhelming task.  Readers read a multitude of titles by the time we have been through our morning independently reading from  baskets of books on our tables, reading during time embedded within our reader's workshop, and the little minutes book lovers in my class manage to find across their day.  Being required to write about books would also be a little cumbersome for many emerging readers.

Reading Logs Are 
In our classroom I do ask students to record the title of the book they are taking home each evening.  I'll be honest, the primary purpose of this is to help us find books when they come up missing.  It makes it much easier for first graders to recall the title we are searching for if they know the title and our book recovery rate is near 100%.  Each day students record the date and title of the book.  They are sometimes asked to record their perceived difficulty of the book.  Space is left for a comment which is sometimes filled in by parents or students because they have something they want to share about the book, but may also be left unused.

Though the primary use for our log is to not lose books (I have to be able to keep my public library card), I've found it does provide other benefits even though it is so simply kept.  The log helps us locate books, but it also provides information for me at a glance about the kinds of reading students are doing at home.  Do students read particular genres?  Do they like to read certain authors?  Do they take home a variety of books?  Do they usually choose books that are helping them to grow as readers?  Do they like to pick the books we read together as a class?  Are they developing their own likes as readers?

Like waiting to open a present, the best part of the log really doesn't come until the very end of the year when I return them to students.  The expressions on their faces as they look back through some of the titles they have loved across the year is worth keeping them stored and organized until I can return them.  The conversation they have as they look through pages of titles they've recorded and begin to realize all of the books they've read is one full of excitement.  When we discuss what a small part of the reading they have done this log represents, they are even more amazed.  Some families enjoy writing comments about the books they've read together and love seeing these once again.  I'm quite sure these logs become keepsakes full of treasured memories.  As we are reminded by Joan and Gail, "By keeping track of the the books we read, we create a history of our journey as a reader."  Having the first steps of our journey as readers seems like time well spent.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Stenhouse Blog Tour: Celebrating Writers with Ruth Ayres

"Celebration ought to wrap around many moments in writing workshop - not just the final product."                                  - Ruth Ayres 
Bring out the streamers.  Blow up the balloons.  Set out the party food.  Celebrate!  I feel like my blog needs to flash, throw confetti, and make sounds of cheers for this new - and much needed - book by Ruth Ayres:  Celebrating Writers:  From Possibilities Through Publication.  Schools need celebration.  Children should be celebrated.  Their stories should be captured and their "tiny steps toward a writing life (p. 4)" should be noticed and rejoiced.  In her book Ruth reminds us this doesn't always mean punch and cookies, but instead "Celebration is is so much more.  Celebration ought to wrap around many moments in writing workshop - not just the final product. (p.5)."

When Ruth Ayres visited Ohio in October I was so excited to hear about her new book.  She came to talk with the members of the Literacy Connections about celebrating young writers in our workshops.  Her talk was energizing, inspiring, and positive.  After listening to her speak I could hardly wait to get started reading it.  When I received my copy I couldn't put it down.  I was thrilled to be asked to join the Stenhouse blog tour for her new book:  Celebrating Writers.  No matter your grade level, if you are a teacher working alongside writers, you'll want to read this book.  Ruth's book had me taking notes and planning changes for our workshop - changes to bring joy into the time we work as writers.

Today I'm so excited to have Ruth stop by Reflect and Refine to answer a few questions about Celebrating Writers.

Me:  How does your work as a writer carry into the way you celebrate the work of young writers in classrooms?
Ruth:  It is this – writing myself—that has had the biggest impact on my craft of teaching. Even when working with preschool writers, my own writing life helps me be a better teacher. I understand the importance of individualizing the process, as well as the importance of having specific direction. It’s this balance of choice and structure that I’m able to provide because I write myself.

Me:  You share with readers how your thinking has changed about celebration, and talk about celebrating the small steps along the way. What do you try to notice and celebrate in the daily process of writing?
Ruth:  Risks. I try to notice and acknowledge the risk it takes to put words on the page. I’m always looking for what a writer is almost (but not quite doing). Then I celebrate this small thing. Recently, my seven year old son shared a story with me. He is an experienced second grade writer, but as I read his writing, I realized his capital letters were out of control. The only place he used them accurately and predictably was with proper nouns. Character names, towns, months, and street names were all capitalized in his writing. However, there were a lot of other capital letters loitering in the middle of sentences and the middle of words. They were also missing at the start of sentences. So we celebrated what he knew and I nudged him to expand his use of capitals. This is the perfect kind of daily celebration. Building on what you almost know is a great way to grow as a writer.

Me:  I’ve always wanted to take the steps to teach primary writers how to confer with one another. In your book you share many suggestions for creating partnerships and helping students learn to give helpful feedback. What considerations or suggestions do you have for those working with youngest of writers to create meaningful partnerships?
Ruth:  This is a great question. I’ve spent a lot of time working with a kindergarten and first grade teacher in supporting their students to build strong partnerships. We do our best to make the process concrete. One way we do this is with checklists. The check list shows a picture of each of the steps. We start simple with these four steps:
  1. Sit side-by-side so both people can read the book.
  2. Read the book aloud.
  3. Make sure the book is finished with words and illustrations on every page.
  4. Tell your writing buddy something you value about the book.
Then we add things like this:
  • Touch the main topic on each page. Is it the same for the entire book?
  • Check that the words and illustrations both help tell the story.
  • Look for Word Wall words.
  • Help your writing buddy think of something to do next as a writer.
By making the work of partnerships concrete, we’ve found our youngest writers are often the best writing buddies.

Me:  What do you hope readers take away from your book?
Ruth:  I hope they feel energy for writing workshop and are inspired to teach with joy and purpose.

Other blog tour stops:
November 11th:  A Year of Reading
November 12th:  Kate Messner's Blog
November 13th:  HERE!
November 14th:  Read, Write, Reflect
November 15th:  Nerdy Book Club 

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Classroom Twitter Accounts? Yes! Yes! Yes!

Personally, I know the benefits of learning with a larger community which consists of many different types of experts, causes you to think and rethink your understandings, and which supports your next steps.  After listening to Sheryl Nussbaum Beach speak at our Ohio Innovative Learning Conference I knew I needed to make a commitment to connecting students to learners from a variety of places.    However, I hadn't really opened my door completely to this type of connecting for our classroom.  Last year, I started a class Twitter account, but used it in a very limited way.  Our lack of access at our school created logistic challenges and also made it hard to make these connections authentic.

This year I committed to connecting our classroom and it has really pushed the learning in our community.  Our classroom Twitter page, @snowleopards1M, has been busy this year.   During our morning and afternoon meetings, as well as across our day.

Here are just some of the benefits:

Connecting with Parents:  Our Twitter account allows me to share links to news updates, Shelfari changes, important dates and reminders with parents.  Best of all, it allows me to share work children are doing across the day with parents.

Share events and information with parents.

Share learning.

Sharing Our Learning:  Twitter has been the perfect place to share quotes from students, stories written during writer's workshop, solving during math and much more across our day with classrooms around the world.

Connecting with the World:  Through Twitter we have been able to connect to other classrooms in events and conversations.  These extended conversations grow our thinking and extend our learning as we work to connect new ideas to our learning, rethink our ideas based upon new learning, and share in common conversations.  We have joined the Global Read Aloud, #DotDay, participated in math conversations, and shared in learning experiences.

Global Read Aloud:  Eric Carle


Math Collaborative Conversations

Connecting with Classrooms in Our Building:  Students are inspired by the learning taking place in their friends' classrooms.  They are interested in the stories they share, the work they are doing as mathematicians, and the learning they share across the day.

Learning about Current Events:  We follow Wonderopolis, Time for Kids, National Geographic Kids,  Sports Illustrated Kids and local places such as our zoo to keep on current events.  This week we were excited to learn about a new baby kangaroo born at The Columbus Zoo.  We had just read about how small baby kangaroos were in the book Why?  by Lila Prap.  Imagine our excitement to find this tweet:

Following Favorite Authors:  Kudos to the many authors who share their lives, tweet about writing, and respond to classrooms on Twitter.  We follow a variety of authors students love including Peter Reynolds, Louise Borden, Todd Parr, Loren Long Ame Dyckman, and Lynn Plourde.

Classrooms to Follow
I'm still learning to use Twitter in the classroom.  There are a few accounts that really help me to think more about ways to use Twitter with my students and push the learning in our classroom:

Mrs. Wideen's Class:  @Mrs.WideensClass tweets much of their learning.   Following this class gives me ideas for using images in my tweets, ways to show learning, applications to consider for use, and so much more.  Additionally, Mrs. Wideen's Class will post questions they are studying.  My students like to think about these too.

Mrs. Cassidy's Class:  @mscassidysclass shares a lot of their learning too.  I find many conversations we can link to our learning here.

First Grade:  @frazier1st is right across the hall from us, but we continually learn from their tweets.  This class works collaboratively with classrooms around the globe.  They share their learning in a variety of ways across the day.

Ms. DeGroot's Class:  @mrsdegrootclass shares much of their learning too.  One of the things I like is that this class often asks questions or shares work to start a conversation.  Like this:

Ms. Jill's Crew:  @msjillscrew has done a lot of collaborative study comparing where they live with classrooms in other places.  I've enjoyed following these conversations and will be using some of her ideas for using Twitter as we move into our life science and global study learning.