Tuesday, January 31, 2012

My OLW for January...pass it on!

Listening.  Trying to hear.  At times this month I became so hyperfocused on my students' thoughts, opinions, and feelings in conversation...one may think that I might be going deaf due to my efforts in "trying to hear."  So...how funny is it that my biggest listening moment this month came over the Internet. Yep...as you read in my last post, my students are now participating on a private discussion board.  To practice social media etiquette, I posted a focus: Tell us about your favorite book so far in fourth grade and why.  As I read the simple words on the board, what I was reading was screaming at me without any extra trying at all.

Book clubs. Book partners.  Book recommendations.  Students were posting time and time again about their need for intra-dependent reading.  The need to exchange thoughts, opinions, feelings...talk.  I see their energy in the room when book clubs and book partners have developed.  The students are more accepting of a challenging text and more engaged with a purpose.  By what came through their simple conversations on a discussion board was a sense of community and pride.  The students were caring about each other's thinking and each other's reading.  As I reflect back to the classroom, it is the actions that developed from caring that are most amazing.  Students are showing they care by checking in on each other, pushing each other to say more, pushing to read more, and wanting to support each other.  It is this authentic opportunity that has the students reading together, thinking together, and talking together.  I did not realize how much the students relied on this structure for their reading life.  I knew they enjoyed it, but I have come to realize they want it.

Not everyone in my class posted that day, but 9 mentioned book clubs and book partners as the reason they selected the book as their favorite.  7 students mentioned that their favorite book came from recommendations that occurred during Status of the Class or share time in our reading workshop.  Here are some sample conversations:


S: My favorite book was Skull Cliff in the Cabin Creek Mysteries series because I had someone to talk to and it was a good book.
           S1: I was your partner and I was glad we both wanted to read that book.  That book was another favorite of mine.  I would recommend.  Would you?
           S2:  I am interested in that book.
           S3:  It does seem interesting…

S: My favorite book is How To Steal a Dog because it is not like all the other books I have read so far.
            S1: I liked my bookclub book too!  It had a lot of mixed emotions.  One minute excited and the next you are nervous.  It is fun with a group and all the talking.

Reading is thinking.  Thinking can be shared through conversation, but also through social media.  How amazing that the one time I was not trying to hear... I listened the most!

Check out the status update on other OLW happenings this month at...

Maria @ Teaching in the 21st Century
Tara @ A Teaching Life
Melissa@ Technology: figuring out how the pieces fit




Saturday, January 28, 2012

WONDER what is next...

If you have been following my blog, you have discovered that Wonderopolis is a huge part of my inquiry workshop and classroom.  As we approach the second half of the school year, I have been thinking about the best way for my students to see Wonderopolis from a different perspective.  Students have used Wonderopolis within our inquiry workshop, as a resource for extending our curriculum, and of course...a place to act on our curiosity!  Believe or not...the idea of what to do next came as the buses rolled out on a Friday!!!!

My class has recently started to use a Discussion Board to post thoughts about our reading, book recommendations, and other components of our reading workshop.  This week we spent a lot of time posting about what we had for dinner, our favorite books this year, and facts about the First People in Ohio.  These board topics helped us to better understand how to use the Discussion Board, how to stay focused on a topic when responding, and the whole etiquette part that social media brings.  As we left for the weekend, one of the students asked if I would add any more discussion focuses for the weekend.  My response...check the board and see!  (Actually it was a response to buy more time since I had not thought of carrying it through the weekend :) As I looked around my room and saw additional research a student had done on a Wonder of the Day, it hit me!  I ran (if you know me... I didn't really run...let's say...brisk walk) to the computer.  I decided to create a Discussion Board on a Wonder of the Day and titled it "Something to Wonder About".  My description was to use the following link, see what you wonder, and post a thought about your findings.  The discussion board has been "dinging" all weekend...and it is only noon on Saturday!  Students are commenting, responding, confirming thinking, and asking more questions about the Wonder that I linked!  Since my class has been focused on "jotting while reading", I sent them to Wonder 473...Who Invented Sticky Notes?  The video is engaging and the story behind this everyday invention is interesting!

Another way for students to communicate, explore, and reflect through the weekend!

PS...Great timing Wonderopolis with Wonder 480...perfect as a resource for indoor recess!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

And Benjamin Franklin appears again!

"Read with a pen in your hand and enter in a little book short hints of what you find that is curious or that might be useful; for this will be the best method of imprinting such particulars in your memory, where they will be ready on some future occasion to adorn and improve your conversation." -Benjamin Franklin


This quote is one of my strongest beliefs.  I think the most important words are "to adorn and improve your conversation" and that is developed through purpose.  Students should not be filling up post-its just to fill them up...students should be recording their thinking while reading in any manner (post-its, charts, etc...) for the purpose of conversation.  It is this conversation that makes the trail of thinking so important and necessary!  When the book is done, jotting notes and jotting plans should be celebrated and discussed before being tucked away as part of our reading lives.  One teacher even suggested that a reader leave one thought in a book, so when the next reader comes along they can see what someone else was thinking...great idea!

Look what I found in my daughter's bedroom this morning...a book full of thinking inspired by her first grade reading workshop! Her teacher had mentioned that they were working on writing about their thinking.  My six year old and I sat down to have a conversation about what she wrote.  Then she said, "I have an idea!  How about I read and write, and you read and write, and then we talk.  I have a lot to say!"  Sounds like a plan to me!!!!!
Book full of post-its

Using the illustration

Using the text

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Two moments...

There are two moments in my inquiry workshop that take the longest when I use Wonderopolis.  I know they are the most important moments, but in the hustle and bustle of a classroom I have to make sure students know that they are the most important moments too.  They are the moments that I need to make sure I make time for and do not "rush through" or skip.  I came across a quote on the Catching Readers Before They Fall website that reminded me about the importance of these two moments.

“A teacher’s job is always to bridge from the known to the new.  Because there really is no other choice. Kids are who they are.  They know what they know. They bring what they bring. Our job is not to wish that students knew more or knew differently.  Our job is to turn each student’s knowledge, along with the diversity of knowledge we will encounter in a classroom of learners, into a curricular strength rather than an instructional inconvenience.”  -P.  David Pearson, 1997

(I love how the quote says known to new!)

The two moments??? Stimulating background knowledge and sharing knowledge.  The structure of the Wonderopolis website has helped me to appreciate these two moments.  First, stimulating background knowledge.  After displaying the Wonder of the Day, students jot for a few minutes about what they THINK they know, what they KNOW, and what they WONDER about the Wonder of the Day's topic.  Students then share with a partner and share their thinking whole group.  By separating what they THINK they know with what they KNOW, my students have become more open to understanding misconceptions and accepting of new knowledge.  The videos that Wonderopolis supplies, or sometimes I find a video to stimulate because it might dig deeper into intergrating the content areas, gives students a chance to continue to formulate new thinking, confirm thinking, or wonder even more. The second moment... sharing knowledge.  At the end of inquiry workshop, students discuss any new knowledge gained, any connections they bridge to other information, and questions that they need to know now that they have this information.  Lots of conversation, lots of time...but it all appreciates each student's strength!  And I get to practice my OLW...listening! :)

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Time for a showdown!

What if two animals that would never naturally meet in our world actually went face-to-face in a fictional encounter?  What if we read about each predator?  Compared each predator and declared a winner...that is Predator Showdown!  Predator Showdown is a new addition to my inquiry workshop inspired by a Scholastic Bookfair book titled (you guessed it)...Predator Showdown!  Not the most warm and fuzzy cover! :)


When developing my inquiry workshop, I had planned out a routine in my mind for the three days.  Day one would focus on a particular non-fiction reading strategy that I was noticing the students needed.  The first quarter of the year I spent a lot of time on stimulating background knowledge, asking questions, wondering, asking questions off of new knowledge, locating information, writing while reading, and finding details that would answer our questions.  Wonderopolis was an amazing tool for all of this!  As we moved into second quarter, the focus started to shift to structure.  I continued to use Wonderopolis as one of my main sources.  We focused on the main idea of sections that had headings and those that did not, a fact that was nice to know vs. a fact that had importance, integrating technology into our inquiry process and inquiry buddies, and synthesizing information when a text does not give you the exact information you are looking for.  Whew!  Well, now it is third quarter and through listening (OLW of the year for me!)...I was hearing a lot of curiosity and connections in the form of comparing.  Students were using all of their experiences and were now comparing and connecting information.  The need for some comparing mini-lessons and a great book combined to make our Predator Showdown!

Here's how it works...

The student's thinking...
1.  I announce the opponents and show a picture of each opponent.
2.  The students sketch each opponent quickly and write down their prediction of who would win.
3.  I show a quick 1-2 minute video clip of each animal in their habitat.  After watching the video clip, the students predict again...they can keep their prediction the same or they can change it based on the new information they learned.
The two page spread...
The venn diagram and the scientist's thinking...
4.  Then we use the book's two page spread.  We examine all of the non-fiction text features...the maps of where they live, the table (listing their size, location, predator style, etc...), the bar graphs that rank their strength, defense, attack, and more on a 1-10 rating scale, we read each individual paragraph on each animal, and we read the showdown paragraph about how their meeting would play out in the real world.
5.  We organize some of our thoughts into a venn diagram.
6.  Each student then writes their final prediction but with justification.
7.  To declare the winner...you read the winner that they announce in the back of the book!

Our version of Predator Showdown has really brought a spark to our inquiry workshop.  Students now want to not only do this with animals that they choose but now....want to compare transportation vehicles, tools, places, and even compare prey!

You might be wondering about video clips. A MUST: Previewing videos is a must since all of the showdowns involve predators and "eating":) .   I found the first video for saltwater crocodile vs. great white shark on the Animal Planet website.  It was actually a showdown clip that matched exactly!  After reading many blogs on using digital media for a mentor text, this video has a great lead and would be fun to examine in writing workshop.  Animal Planet has many more showdown videos but they do not match the showdowns in the book.  There are about 8 showdowns in the book that you can find a short clip on each animal at National Geographic for Kids website.

It is a small twist to my inquiry workshop that has developed a spark of curiosity!


Friday, January 13, 2012

Tools and Tricks

I have always been amazed how a new tool such as a post-it, a new spiral notebook, a colored pencil, or even tape can engage a student into a moment.  I should not be surprised since I also get excited about a new notebook, a new pack of post-its, a new purple pen, or highlighter tape!  Then, comes the tricks....the tricks that come at us.  We might not even remember who said it first, but we are always willing to pass them on to another teacher or students.  Whether it be the saying "there is no 'a' in they" or the multiplication trick for solving nines with your hands.  A trick always gets a student to not only hear, but to listen.

So...I decided to post about a tool and a trick that I have used recently.  After being in the literacy coach position for four years and coming back to the classroom, it was a tool and trick that I had pushed to the back of my memory.  After 15 years of teaching, I don't remember who said it.  I don't even remember if it was something I read or something that was said.  All I know is that I stored it, and wish I could remember who/what suggested it to me because I would love to thank them!  This tool and trick combination brought a spark back to revising and editing this week.

Tool:  a green colored pencil and red colored pencil
Trick:  to color code your sentences.  The capital letter at the beginning gets green for "go" and the punctuation gets traced over in red for "stop"

A student transfers the tool and trick to writing about your thinking in inquiry workshop.
Simple...I know.  After modeling for my students this "new to them" tool and trick, I was amazed at the conversations while we were beginning to edit a realistic fiction piece.  Conversations developed not only around editing, but into revising as well.  There were conversations on sentence complexity, word choice, and types of punctuation.  The students visually could see the beginning of one idea to the start of the next.  By tracing the beginning of each letter, conversations were happening on varying the start of sentences.  I was able to listen to many conversations that, in the past, were not happening.  It was easy for them to look at a sentence in isolation and it was easy for them to revise or edit as a whole piece.  All of this because of two colored pencils and some tracing.  I am still wishing I could thank the source for this tip...bet my students do too!

Have any simple tools and tricks that you use? Reading, writing, math...whatever! Would love to hear them...leave a comment! :)

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Listening for the things that matter

Listen.  My one little word for 2012.  Mandy at Enjoy and Embrace Learning posed the question: What was your just right moment in selecting your one little word?  I have spent all day thinking about that question and I was saddened by my realization.  Over winter break I was playing board games with my children around the kitchen table, Christmas tree lit, television off, and the first glimmer of snow flurries outside...my daughter spoke out, "Did you hear that? Did you hear that Mommy?  I can read this card!  It tells me to move forward five spaces." And then I realized, I had missed it.  Of course, I had her reread it to celebrate so I could be truthful that I had listened.  The reality...I did not listen the first time.  I was lost in thought.  I still can not remember what had me preoccupied or what world problem I was trying to solve, but I had almost missed it.  I had almost missed the moment my daughter realized that she was a reader.  Not just a reader of books, but all the words around us in our world.  Her celebration continued all day long...reading words on the television, looking at more books, reading words at the restaurant (that was my decision on dinner...I do remember that!).  I am still bothered by the fact that I almost missed it.  That wonderful moment when a first grader's light bulb goes off and it is full speed ahead!  Now that I reflect back, I think it was that moment...that moment I almost missed... that played the biggest part in selecting my one little word...listen.

So...how am I going to stay focused on my one little word?  If you have not guessed, I am a quote person.  Love quotes!  I use them on my blog. I have a notebook collection of them.  I am even in the process of creating a scrapbook of quotes of life lessons to pass on to each of my children filled with pictures of their childhood that remind me of each quote's message. (My favorite page is, "Families are like fudge- mostly sweet with a few nuts".  Lots of silly pictures are going on that page).    A quote to inspire, remind, focus, and celebrate the art of listening....I want to listen for the things that matter most.

This week's quote:
"My wife says I never listen to her.  At least I think that's what she said." - Author Unknown

My focus this week will be on my presence.  Being truly present for all conversations...work, classroom, and family.  This week my ears will be wide open...can't wait to discover what I am trying to hear.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Writing about your thinking...the world of jotting!

I ran across a quote on Patrick Allen's blog over the summer:


"Read with a pen in your hand and enter in a little book short hints of what you find that is curious or that might be useful; for this will be the best method of imprinting such particulars in your memory, where they will be ready on some future occasion to adorn and improve your conversation." -Benjamin Franklin

This quote summed up everything I believe about reading.  Students should be writing about their thinking during a book so that they can leave a trail of thinking for conversation.  Students should wonder and should be given the opportunity to act on that wonder in the form of curiosity during conversations.  Students should be encouraged to use evidence from the text to support their thinking during their conversations so we can appreciate all of the different thinking that comes from each reader.  Lastly, the writing should be "short hints"...not developed questions, not pages of graphic organizers, but what I call "jots" to serve as thinking stems to enhance each reader's conversation and writing.

The beginning of the year I introduced "jotting" to the students as talking back to the text using post-its as our primary tool.  During our share time, I would have five students come up and share a "jot" from their independent book that they felt helped them with their reading that day.   We would then sort the post-its by reading strategy...questioning, connecting, predicting...whatever strategies the jots lent themselves to so the readers could see different ways to think WHILE reading.  It is important to me that I demonstrate a strategy and encourage, but to remember that I can not force a reader to make a prediction, ask a question, or make a connection.  Each reader has their own strategies while reading...I want them to be open to all the possibilities since each book brings a different journey in your reading life.  Here are some jots from the beginning of the year.

Making a connection to a character's feelings.
Determining a character trait for a character and supporting the thinking with evidence.
Discovering figurative language.







Inferring the lesson that the main character is going to learn.
At the end of the book, where do the jots go?  They all get taped into our reader's notebooks, and we celebrate a jot during share time when the book is done.  It might be the jot that answered a big question, or it might be the jot where you figured out your character had learned a lesson.  Whatever it may be...all the thinking is collected and celebrated!

All of the thinking collected during the reading of Flying Solo.
As we moved into the second part of the year, students were now asked to jot with post-its until around page 20 of their independent reading.  They would then sign up for a reading conference to develop a jotting plan.  To entice this new idea of a jotting plan, I gave each student a spiral notebook.  During our conference the student would share their thinking so far and then we would discuss:  What information do you think you need to collect to support your thinking while reading this book?  Students would then develop a way to collect that information.  Some students wanted to monitor the feelings of a character, some wanted to see if they were learning more information about the land in Florida or the animals in Florida.  One child was reading a book that involved a contest and wanted to write down any major events and the opponent's reaction to that event.  All unscripted, unprompted, and authentic reading needs for comprehension determined by the reader!
A jotting plan to write down the main event in the text and the mood that the reader felt.
This time, at the end of the book, the students would use their plans to write a letter to the class about something they learned from their jotting plan.  They would celebrate the letter during share time and...if the book was one they would recommend...it would be placed in one of the clear envelopes on the "Next Stack" when reading board.  I would then randomly select a student to "jot" a quick note back to the reader.  I would also "jot" a quick note to the reader.
Our recommendation board that has envelopes for the books that you can grab on the go.
I am currently working on the third phase of "jotting while reading"...hopefully I will have my vision fully developed by next week...stay tuned!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

One word for 2012...

The shopping is done, family has been visited, Christmas decorations are packed up, and numerous games of the board game Sorry Spin have been played.  I took some time away from blogging in December to focus on giving, family, and reflecting.  My mind was muddled with a myriad of thoughts about literacy instruction, reading, and inquiry.  My followers know that after four years of being in a literacy coach position, I am now back in a fourth grade classroom....back to the heart of it all...and what a wonderful place to be!

Maria at Teaching 21st Century has given us a thought to ponder as we bring in the new year.  She was inspired from a post by Mandy titled, Happy New Year and One Little Word.  I love the idea of picking a word for the new year.  I already have resolutions...a diet coke from McDonalds only three times a week, exercise goals, eating goals, family goals, but is there a common theme for the year?  Is there one word that has the power to sum it all up? Yes, there is.  My 2012 word will be listening.

Listening.  As I read many definitions of the word, I came upon the reminder that listening is when you try to hear.  Hearing is just to simply recognize with your ear.  My goal this year is not to hear, but to listen.  There are three ways I intend to do just that...

1.  Listen to my heart-  In an education world that involves assessments, state achievement tests, standards, Core Curriculum, school levies, and more...I want to make sure that I listen to my heart.  I want to make sure that I listen to what my beliefs are and listen for the evidence of it in my classroom.

2.  Listen to conversations-  I want to focus on having more dialogue with colleagues, students, and family.  I want to listen deeply and hear viewpoints.  I want to listen to multiple perspectives that create aliveness and possibility in our education world.  I want to make sure that in our busy lives in the classroom that I am truly listening to my students.  When they are discussing/sharing, am I just hearing or am I listening?

3.  Listen to reading-  I don't mean one of the Daily Five routines :)  I want to continue to focus in the classroom on encouraging students to listen to their reading thoughts (previous post: talking to the text).  This year I have put a lot of emphasis on jotting while reading/leaving a trail of thinking, using those jots to respond to their reading, and creating own jotting plans while reading.  I want to make sure that the thinking and listening that is done while reading has as much value as the thinking that is done when the book is closed.

Do you have a word for 2012?  I would love to hear them! They say when you start something new that you should tell others so they can encourage and check in along the way. :) And thank you to Maria and Mandy for encouraging us to focus on one thing...and all the possibilities that one thing can bring in the new year!  (Disclaimer:  There is one area I might listen less...Maybe I can "listen" less to my stomach and "listen" to my head so I eat less ice cream too!)