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 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.  

Monday, September 7, 2015

Let's Do It Together: Shared Experience in the First Days

Yesterday I was invited to a friend's house as her family gathered to make dolmades (grape leaves).  For years I have wanted to make dolmades for our family.  My husband and oldest daughter love dolmades as well as many other Greek and Lebanese dishes, but trying to make dolmades on my own seemed a bit overwhelming.  For weeks I have looked forward to joining my friend's family as they make this traditional family dish.  Each year they gather on Labor Day weekend to make hundreds of dolmades to have across the winter months.  

When I arrived the kitchen was already full of family with many years of experience making dolmades.  I watched as they prepared the filling, listened to tips for assured success, and sat beside the family as we rolled grape leaves together.  It was a delightful day for me.  As someone who has never made dolmades I was given the opportunity to watch the family of experts work effortlessly in the kitchen.  The risk was minimal as I just worked alongside everyone and did what they did.  As I worked I couldn't help but think about the students in our classes during these first days of school trying to figure out routines, working to get back into the groove with all they know, and feeling uncertain in their new communities.  I couldn't help but think about the hard first days of school.  

Shared Reading and Writing
In my role as a reading intervention teacher, I am moving from room to room getting to know the students I will likely support this year, watching students who may be of concern, and noticing students who are finding the first days of school a bit more challenging.  I've looked carefully at the data a bit earlier than I would have as a classroom teacher.  As I go into classrooms I am using the previous year's data to inform who may need support.  I'm also noticing students who were at grade level at the end of the year, but seem to be having difficulty using what they know in these first days.  As I am sitting beside these students I'm reminded of the importance of shared experiences in the first days of school.  These students are not yet sure of the routines and expectations of the classroom.  They're just getting back into their habits with books and writing.  They're not yet comfortable with their new peers.  

To help students get back into their routines of reading and writing, shared experience is a powerful tool for the first days of school.  Opening a book for shared reading, writing together, or creating a post for a class blog together can help students get back to what they know, grow in understanding, and build common knowledge/language for future learning.  For our youngest of literacy learners, shared experience can remind students how to orient to the page, use concepts of print, and think about the story.  For older literacy learners, shared experience can help students to reach in reading and writing.  Some benefits of shared experience:
  • Builds Community:  shared experience allows groups to talk together and share common experiences that can be foundational in the first days of school
  • Creates a Safe Environment:  in shared experience students can try things that might be hard for them to do alone and share success with peers
  • Grows Common Language:  shared experiences provides opportunities to begin to grow and share common language around learning the community will use across the year
  • Develops the Sounds of Language:  shared reading and writing can help students get to know the sounds and rhythms of words as well as build vocabulary
  • Reinforces Known:  shared experience can help students get back to what they know (in youngest literacy learners this might be reminding students of 1:1, using known to monitor, using pictures to help solve with meaning, etc.)
  • Nudges Forward:  shared experience can be use to subtly introduce a new idea within this context of high support
In the first days of school (and across the year), students can benefit from shared experience.  There is safety - and new opportunity - in doing something together.  As the dolmades simmered in the pan, I was reminded of the power of shared experience.  I had learned a lot in the day that would help me when I went to make dolmades on my own.  The task no longer seemed out of my reach.  The shared experience helped me to feel comfortable in this new task.  Shared experience makes new things possible.  This week as I step back into classrooms, my experience in the kitchen will remind me of the power of shared experience in learning.  

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.