Thursday, March 24, 2016

Read Aloud for the Joy of It

Last Thursday night I joined #g2great Twitter chat around read aloud.  Steven Layne led the discussion in a chat hosted by Dr. Mary Howard, Jenn Hayhurst, and Amy Brennan.  Check out the #g2great team blog for In Defense of Read Aloud:  Sustaining Best Practice (7 important considerations for read aloud.  The chat has me thinking about one of my favorite things:  read aloud.  So...  

At the end of the day, I stop by Nichole Berkey's classroom to drop off information for one of our reading ambassadors.  Nichole's room is always a favorite stop at the end of the day.  When you walk in the door there is a sense of calm as students gather together on the carpet.  Nicole is perched on a stool with students surrounding her feet, a book open as she reads page after page of the current chapter book they are reading.  Her third graders hang onto every word.  Every time I walk into her room I want to just sit down on the floor and join them.

Since moving to a reading intervention position in my building, read aloud is one of the things I miss the most.  I miss starting our day with a read aloud, reading aloud after lunch (that was always my favorite), and the days when our classroom managed to end in a read aloud like Nichole's (that was always tricky).  I miss peppering in poetry.  I miss the read aloud's sprinkled across the day in the opening moments of our workshops.  I miss the community that is built around the books we experience together.

As a teacher, I found that read alouds could support many of our learning conversations and anchor our thinking.  It's a gift to be able to use the author's words to support teaching and learning, but this chat reminded me that there is also a caution:  there still should be places in our day where we just read aloud for the joy of the story.  There should be places where we just sit back, without interruption, and enjoy the book for pleasure - where the words fall off the page and into the ears of children, where we laugh, gasp, and wonder together.

The #g2great chat and follow-up post had me thinking about some of my favorite read alouds.  I decided to create a Pinterest board of favorite read alouds.  These books never let me down with a group of children.  I'll continue to grow this collection when I get back to my books at school.  (It's spring break so these are the ones I remembered.)  I hope you'll share some of your favorites in the comments below.

Follow Cathy 's board Read Aloud on Pinterest.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Simple Changes in Language

I still remember the overwhelmed feeling of my first year of teaching.  At that time, I distinctly remember telling myself to hang in there as surely by year three I'd have it figured out.  HA!  Here I am at year twenty something, and I'm still always working to figure it out.  The challenge, I believe, becomes that teaching is a people profession.  Children are always different, and different children have different needs.

This year, I've found myself looking hard at my teaching yet again.  As I work to support readers I have been really trying to figure out how to change my language to help the readers I support move toward independence.  I've changed a lot of aspects of my teaching with this group this year as a result of observations I have made.  I've worked to improve my language, my prompting, and our use of time.  Still I have felt that some of the students I support over-rely on adults when they read.  

Recently I read, Tripwires, The Prompting Funnel, and Letting Students Do the Work by Kim Yaris and Jan Burkins.  In the post, they said, "Typically, when a child encounters difficulty when reading, we are inclined to say things like,  'Does that make sense?' or 'What would sound right?' We worry that these prompts intervene too quickly, telling students what they need to do before they’ve had a chance to self-monitor and think for themselves about what they need to do."  This statement really made me pause.  Could my challenge be that simple?  Could a simple change in my language make a difference for my students? 

Last week I went back into my groups changing my language.  I changed two things:  
  • More wait time (I'm pretty good at wait time, but I extended it --- and made no eye contact with students who were solving --- just kept a little ear on their attempts)
  • When students needed support I started with a much higher level prompt:  "What could you try?"  (this higher level prompt often worked)
These two changes seemed to make a difference.  In another recent post, Jan & Kim created an infographic titled:  Who's Doing the Work.  You should check it out.  It was this statement within the infographic that I have hung onto across my work with readers this week:  "Ladders vs. Scaffolds:  Scaffolds only support us when they are in place.  Once the scaffold is removed, we are in no better position to reach a high place without the scaffold.  Instead, let's give students ladders they can fold up, take with them, and use anywhere."  I think I'll be thinking about both of these statements for awhile as I work to create ladders toward independence for the readers I support.  

Friday, March 18, 2016

Thinking About Assessment: Shifting Our Conversations

Take a moment to look at this picture.  What do you think you see?

I'll wait...

At first glance, one might think this is a photo across a pond or a lake.  The sun reflects off the water from the distance.  It might surprise you to know that this water isn't really supposed to be here.  This is our backyard after melting snow is followed by too much rain.  Any time we get too much rain our backyard floods and our sump pump works overtime.

Collecting Information
In education we collect a lot of data.  As an intervention teacher, I use Fountas and Pinnell assessment data, Rigby assessment data, Concepts of Print, Hearing Sounds in Words, Developmental Spelling Assessment, running records from books, observation notes, and other forms of assessment to find out information.  Classroom teachers use a variety of assessments as well to determine assessment needs and monitor progress of students across the year in reading, writing, math and content areas.  

In our building, one assessment we look to often is our Fountas and Pinnell benchmark assessments.  These assessments give us much information about our students as readers.  Our literacy team meets each time teachers complete benchmark reading assessments.  As a team we look at the data to be sure we are properly supporting students.  These conversations focus on students we are currently serving in intervention and those we have been watching.  These conversations are always preceded and followed by conversations with classroom teachers because data only tells one story.

Changing Our Question 
Changing our question from "what do we notice" to "what questions do we have now as a result of this information" can shift conversations about information obtained.  Recently our team met to discuss the latest nonfiction assessment information entered by teachers.  As we looked at the information we started by looking at the levels reported at the benchmark for readers.  However, it wasn't long until we found ourselves considering accuracy scores, fluency scores, and comprehension scores.  It isn't long until we find ourselves moving from what we notice to the new questions we have.

To make instructional decisions we need to widen our lens looking for patterns, commonalities, and differences.  Then we need to zoom back in again.  If the picture above was taken from greater distance you'd make new observations.  If you walked around in our backyard at the time, you'd ask different questions.  If you looked at pictures of the same space across time, you'd ask even more questions and likely come to better conclusions.  One data point, one piece of information, is never enough; it's a starting point.  Collecting information should push us toward asking new questions about what we notice.   It should push us to look a little more closely, to dig a little deeper, and consider other pieces of information.  Shifting our conversations from what we notice to the new questions we have can move us toward action.