Wednesday, July 27, 2016

How to Get Every Kindergartener Reading on the First Day of Reading Workshop

This year, I'll be going back to teaching kindergarten. Even in kindergarten, I run a full-blown reading workshop. So, yes, my reading instruction happens in less than fifteen minutes and then I send those lovely little 5 year olds off to...READ. No centers, no crafts, no stations (during reading workshop)...they just read. They have a basket of books and some tools that aid in their reading...but, I'm a no-frills kinda lady. We're readin' in this class. So what happens when they can't conventionally read?

What does this mean? There is a good book that says that the power of life and death life lies within the tongue. What our students say and believe has great power. If we can get them to believe that they are readers from the first day of school, then the chances of them behaving like a reader will more than likely increase. How can we do this? 
*Encourage them to think about the kind of reader they are- and share it! Are you the kind of reader that LOVES fairytales? Maybe you can't get enough animal books. Readers have a "thing!" What's yours? Let's share.  Click the photo for more details!

*Model your love and excitement for reading. Book talks are key!   Reading aloud is key-er than key (no it's not a word). This is infectious and the goal is to get them to believe that they are not only readers...but they are readers that LOVE it. I bring in a bag of books that I'm reading. I include fiction (novels), magazines, manuals (for my new gel nail lamp that I need to learn how to use), and a few other things to show them the kind of reader that I am. I also show them my reading notebook- just to show that readers write about what they read. 

*Make them say it. I'm serious. Out loud: "My name is Kesha and I am a reader!" Now turn and tell your neighbor. We are indoctrinating here. Every kindergartener that came in ready to say they don't know how to read will have a new set of beliefs by the end of that day!

Lastly, I teach my kids to stand up for their reading rights. Lots of well-meaning families might respond to their child reading with something along the lines of "oh, you're not a real reader because you didn't read the words." I tell them that what they are doing in school IS real reading and it's ok to tell their family and friends that. I send them home with a poem on the first day of school so the conversation can begin at home. I also send the poem home AND a parent letter explaining the lesson that was taught today. This gets the family on board! Click the images below to learn more!
These can be copied on flesh-tone colored paper or white paper. 

We can teach them to read on the first day because the brilliant minds of Matt Glover and Kathy Collins have given us an amazing definition of reading:
Reading is an interaction with a text during which the reader uses a variety of resources within the text (i.e., words, pictures, graphic elements, etc...) and within themselves (schema, skills, strategies) to make meaning.  
Well how 'bout that? I can teach my kindergarteners how to interact with the text on the very first day. In my mini-lesson, I  will model how to pick up any book and read it.  I'll sketch out a chart that shows how to look at the pictures, give the characters voice, and notice what seems to be happening. I might even show them two books that day- a fiction book and a nonfiction book. A lot of us teachers don't read nonfiction aloud enough. Our young readers won't know how to interact with a nonfiction text if we don't model it. Kids are quick. They'll do what you show them! In addition, read aloud lots of books that are memorable but not memorizable. The more they see you interact with a story, they more they will know what to do with their time during independent reading. 

You won't do one-on-one conferring on the first day, but you can get around and meet with chunks of kids! During this session, use the directive- "Would you read this book to me?" instead of "Can you read this book to me?" This assumes that the child is a reader. It'll make a big difference.

On the first day, coach your students into interacting with the book. Show them how to point out the characters and notice the details in the illustrations. Take notes on what you notice from the very first day! This is the conferring sheet that I use to confer the first few weeks of reading workshop. Click the image below to check it out!

Click to purchase! 

Now, of course this is not how we will spend the entire year reading, but it will give your students a reading identity and the ability to build stamina for independent reading. We will eventually bridge the gap from unconventional reading to decoding but there is always a place to support students in books that they cannot read. There is much to learn from this! 

So, don't count your kinders out for reading workshop. They aren't too young to do it. Any time students are spent engaging in real reading- it's meaningful. 

With Love and Real Teaching, 

Saturday, July 16, 2016

What I'm Reading This Summer

School starts on August 1st, so in like 15 minutes. This year is really interesting for me because I am not only coming off of a year-long maternity leave, but I'm changing school districts after 10 years!  I'll be teaching kindergarten at a Reggio-inspired early learning center! So this summer reading has been all about project learning, the classroom being the "third teacher," and always, always, always- reading. 

I believe in the power of early education. If we can give these young children amazing experiences and teach them to love learning, they will have a much better chance to be successful in grade school. 

I heard about this book by Matt Glover and Kathy Collins (total teacher crushes on both of them) called "I Am Reading." 
Image result for i am reading kathy collins matt glover chapter notes
To be honest, I was going to read it out of blind allegiance because I'm honored to call Kathy a friend. When we hear that she is coming anywhere near Indiana we flip out and furiously try to see her. 
See? We don't play when it comes to our Kathy. 

When I got hired, this was on the book list so it was an obvious decision! My favorite thing about this professional read is the idea that we can honor and qualify so many early reading behaviors as "reading." How many times have we heard a kiddo declare, "But I can't read!" when they can't decode? 

The authors stand on the premise that kids are doing so much heavy lifting with reading before they can ever decode a word. This speaks to me as I have a three-year old and I have done MANY reading workshop sessions with her. She legitimately thinks she can read- and I think that is great. We tend to spend so much time convincing children that they are readers and asking them to find their reading identities. I can't help but wonder how children would perform if they walked into the first day of kindergarten or first grade with the idea of being a reader already implanted? 

Essentially, this book provides you with different lenses to view emergent readers. They are busy doing lots of work and we need to honor that so that the student understands that because they are making meaning, they are actually reading. 

If you are teaching the early grade, I highly recommend this book. Kathy and Matt are super knowledgeable and you will view your early or even struggling readers in a new light. 

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

How I Administer Math Fact Running Records

Running records. I'm going to speak for you, teacher, when I say that we loathe the process of getting them done, but we LOVE the information that we gain about our precious readers.  After completing a running record, we can have clearer picture of the reader as a whole. We know what strategies they rely on and what bands of text are appropriate for that reader.

So, what about math?

I caught wind of a running record for fact fluency a few years ago. I was expl-trained on how to administer them. (Oh, right... Expl-trained is what happens when you need a full training on something but who are we kidding? and the neighboring teacher explains what she knows about it in ten minutes.) She gave me a bunch for forms and coding sheets and gave me the layman's explanation for administration. I was totally overwhelmed. 

I went ahead and administered them by giving it my best approximation. With every passing child, I found myself making up codes for what I saw them doing. I also realized that through it all, the only thing I really wanted to know was what strategy they were heavily relying on to add and subtract. If I could figure that out, then I could use that information to:

Just like reading, you want to find that sweet spot for solving facts. If the student is answering them without the use of any strategies, you'd give them a more difficult version. If they are taking more than 3-4 seconds per problem, you'll want to back up. You would want to watch them closely and ask them to share what they are thinking if you can't tell what they are doing. You'll code their answers and group them with students who have similar needs. You can also be mindful if you feel like you have a student that is close to moving into a relational understanding of adding and subtracting by matching them up with a student that has mastered it. They might be pulled over to the relational understanding side!  
So, I've compiled what I've done and want to share it here. 

Since we want our students to move toward the use of relational strategy usage, I’ve created some strategy “friends” that could be used to encourage students to move in that direction. They can be posted on a bulletin board. I’ve also included the mini version of the charts to be placed on a ring for individual student use.

So this is my less-than scientific system for administering a math fact running record. This is the way I begin to tap into a child's number sense. Just like I know a reader better after a reading running record, I have a much better feel for the mathematician. Watching them deal with numbers without the use of manipulatives is really enlightening!  

I have compiled this resource and posted in in my store. Please click any of the photos below to check it out! 

Thank you for reading along! 

Friday, May 6, 2016

I Stopped Teaching Writing!

Ok, obviously I didn't stop teaching writing. But I did change out of the role of the primary writing teacher in my classroom. I got smart and lets TONS of other people teach writing for me.

In my class, above all, the writing teachers are the authors. Some years back I was fortunate enough to attend a training with Katie Wood Ray  right around the time that she released Study Driven.  This book changed me as a writing teacher. She basically teaches us that "if you can stack it ("it" being a collection of texts that do the same "thing,") then you can study it." So basically, you can provide your students with a collection of texts, have them study them deeply, and then coach them into writing something similar in that genre. Thus, the authors are the teachers in my classroom!

We actually do this all the time. If someone passes away and you are asked to write the obituary, you'd probably look at a few other obituaries that other people have written to give yourself a vision- or a roadmap for that genre of writing. We can do the same for our students if we allow them to see that books can be writing teachers. If you read up on a lot of authors' stories about honing their craft, they will usually say something similar to "in order to be a good writer, you have to read." This is why I believe it is paramount that my students understand that they can read books like readers of course, but they can also read them like writers.

One way I try to make sure that happens is by exposing them to authors as much as I can. I try to show the students that they are real people that make books. They make books that are full of intentional, calculated decisions that make us, the readers, read their book the way the imagined it in their head. I do this because I want them to see themselves as people who make books and are in good company with the likes of Mo, Vera, and Kadir!

When we teach our students to read books like writers, they will notice some amazing things. They'll start to wonder, "why did the author make those words like that?" "Why are the words on one page and the pictures on another?" "Why do I keep hearing the same line over and over in this book?" Every question they ask is evidence of the realization that the author didn't just haphazardly throw words and illustrations in a book. There is a reason for every little thing that an author does!

One of the ways that I get my students to make the shift to finding their own author-teachers is by doing lots of author studies! I select an author to study with my students. Author studies are EASY! All you need is a collection of books by the author and some information about their personal life. I usually plan to read one book aloud per day and then I house them on a special book rack so students can find them easily. Once the study is over, I'll take all of the books and put them in a basket with the author's folder in the front.  Then we are surrounded by our writing teachers all year long!

Looking to jump into some author studies? I made some author study folders a few years back that I sold on Teachers Pay Teachers but I had to take them down because I didn't know the rules about using photos and book covers in products. But I've created some new folders and ways to collect crafting moves that authors do and they are pretty fun! Click any image below to take a closer look!

Click the photo below for a free sample! 

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Maximizing Parent ACADEMIC Involvement

Let's talk a little bit about parent involvement. How do we move past involvement and strive for engagement? What would that take? What would it look like? In thinking about some of the reasons why parents may or may not be engaged in our classrooms, a few thoughts came to mind. 

I work in a lower income school among some of the best parents with the biggest hearts. They love their babies and they want what is best for them. If they could, I'm sure they would love to be super-involved in their child's education. But let's face it...we can't all be Susie-Room-Mom. (Even though I LOVE Susie-Room-Mom...especially when she texts you for your Starbucks order, yes, Lawd!!!) 

In my 10 years, I've heard teachers' remarks regarding "these parents" and how they "just don't care" and wonder "how they couldn't check their child's homework" and such... And I'll be honest-it hurts my heart because that isn't always the case.  Of course there are exceptions but there are TONS of reasons why a parent may not feel comfortable engaging in our classrooms. Why? Maybe...

Some parents might feel intimidated. 

This might be for various reasons.  Off the top of my head...

*Language barriers. English language learner parents can be intimidated for obvious reasons. If I moved to another country under less than favorable circumstances and enrolled my kids in school, I wouldn't be the first in line to sign up to make copies or bring the cupcakes. I'd sit at home and hope to the high heavens that they were educating my child appropriately. 

*Mom Guilt/Dad Guilt- "I haven't been involved...why start now..." "I was late to the conference, the teacher is probably mad at me..." "I work 2-3 jobs and just don't have time..."

*A lack of content knowledge themselves. I've had parents who couldn't read very well. It might be something they are embarrassed about, so are uninvolved because "that's the teacher's job."

So what can we do? 

*Check our privilege. We are teachers. That means we are college-educated contributing members of society. On our worst days we can at least fall back on that. A lot of parents are not. But you know what else they are not? Dumb. They can feel when someone thinks poorly of them and the last thing they want is to feel worse than they already do. This might involve challenging your assumptions about "these parents" or speaking up for them when a colleague generalizes or assumes. Even when these thoughts aren't vocalized, they can manifest in demeanor, comments, and even our wording. 

*Make our classrooms warm, inviting, and accessible.  Make sure they know they are welcome in your room and if they dare to take you up on it, roll out the red carpet! If your school allows you to go social, do it! Instagram, tweet, post, FACEBOOK LIVE! Tell your parents you'll be broadcasting live at 1:00 p.m.  on Facebook and if they can't catch it then, they can watch the play back later. But here is the kicker: what you send out socially doesn't need to be amazing! Tweet the mundane. Snap a reading club for the 'Gram. This will allow parents that might feel intimidated to be a fly on the wall when they can. If they know we are serious about them coming in, they might be more likely to come. 

*Validate ALL forms of volunteering. When you are giving the weekly shout-outs for all of the wonderful things that parents have done, don't forget the mom that sent in a bag of pretzels by way of her son. Was that random? Yup. But that might have been the best she could do. It might be HER version of volunteering, and we can choose to honor that. 

*Snap photos of your anchor charts and send them home! Our students already think they are little versions of us, so having a copy of the charts we make in school would be a great way for parents to see what you are teaching. 

*Evaluate how much you send home. I'll let that one be. 

*When you get a parent that says they want to help at home, have GOOD resources ready to go! How can we make sure parents are able to help and hold their own child accountable? I used to be a mess in this area because I was overwhelmed during parent-teacher conferences and I would just type a list of websites and have a packet of practice sheets to send home. I always wanted to be more intentional, but I didn't have the TIME! Recently, I've been taking the skills that most parents are familiar with AND students struggle with (time, money, quick recall for facts, sight words, etc...) and turning them into at-home interventions that parents can do.  They are set up so that parents can take 2 weeks and really focus in on one particular skill. They can see how their child progresses at home and they report back to you (if they choose). These will be copied and ready to go at all times, so if a parent asks for meaningful ways to help, I will be ready! You can see them in action here and you can check them out below. 

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Actually, Yeah...I Teach to the Test!

Confession...I totally teach to the test...


I am very passionate about teaching in meaningful and lasting ways all year, K? I'm anti-skill-drill! I think it's smart to take some time out to really dig in and show students how to take all of that wonderful knowledge and show what they know on a test. I believe in creating "test-ready readers!" 

Here are a few tips that might be helpful in becoming a test-ready reader. 

1. Immerse your readers in a packet of reading passages from years past. 

Lots of states will release items from past tests for studying purposes. Google your state test and the'll probably be able to locate them. If not, search for good reading passages that vary in genre and format. Pay attention to the questions that you choose to go in your packet.  Make sure to include all of the tricky-worded problems that those test makers love so much! Study them with your students. Look for commonalities! 

2. Focused Exit Slips 

We teach hard, don't we?  How frustrated we feel when it doesn't show on the test! One way to make sure that amazing work gets translated into successful testing is to show the same work in testing format. Focused exit slips are GREAT for this! If we are intentional about using an exit slip to word our teaching points with some testing language, then they will get "test prep" in tiny doses every day. 
Here is what I mean...

3. Be explicit about what the test really is.  

Teach them to be real readers, writers, and thinkers in our daily lessons and then dedicate a period of time to shifting what they've learned into test-taking skills. I think a lot of students are being skill-drilled every day in school because the teacher wants them to pass but we are dealing with two different skill sets here. Just because a reader does well in class doesn't always automatically translate into good testing scores. Plus, if they are skill-drilled daily and they think that that is what learning looks like, they may not take it seriously. But if there is a noticeable difference in instruction, they might be more likely to wake up and get the job done! 

I have created a resource that might help! This unit is dedicated to turning your students into test-ready readers! Check it out by clicking below. 

Friday, March 18, 2016

6 Ways to get Students to TRANSFER Spelling Skills to Daily Writing!

You know what is super-annoying? Conversations like this:

“Sarah got a perfect score on her spelling test, but then she spelled the exact same words wrong in her writing piece...what gives?”

Lots of spelling practice can be trivial. I know because I'm formerly "that kid." I was just like Sarah. I could ace the test by memorizing it but wouldn't spell the same word patterns correctly.  We as teachers know that the transferring won’t just happen... but what can we do to help? 

I think we have to be intentional about teaching our spellers what that looks like. They have to be reminded and taught to be mindful of spelling during writing workshop, homework, journaling, and...well, always.  Here are some tips I've found helpful! 
Undoubtedly, you study words in your class. How are students able to keep track of patterns that they've learned in the past? You could have them glue down weekly word pattern sorts in a notebook, keep a collection of spelling quizzes in a 3-pronged folder, or keep a collection of words in a baggie. However you do it, encourage your students to keep a record of patterns. This can be used over and over throughout the day and will encourage students to pay attention to spelling. in, put on a skit where you are the student. Begin writing (while thinking out loud) and then quickly arrive at the need to spell a word with a word pattern. Model what it looks like to open your notebook (or whatever your class uses to collect words) to the page with like-sounds. Physically show them what this process looks like. This will increase the chance that they will do this independently because they are watching you think aloud! 

Again, use the power of modeling! Model filling in a worksheet and thinking through the spelling of a word you KNOW is right, but you might be feeling a little lazy. Think aloud, "I'm just going to scribble down something close to the spelling." Then, switch gears. SHOW your kids that you refuse to let poor spelling go unchecked. Think aloud again, “I’m a better speller than that. I can spell that word correctly or at least get really close!”  Putting these skits on means putting thoughts into your students' heads! 
 The goal is to get daily writing under control.  Some kids (like twenty-years-ago-me) don't like that strategy where they have to stop then and there. Consider teaching them that there can be a time and a place to focus on spelling. Teach them that they can get their ideas out, THEN go back ad think about your word patterns and spelling words correctly. Tell them to pick a system for words they KNOW are incorrect (maybe lightly circling them) but teach them that the MUST go back and give those words the attention they deserve! 

Most of us have a word wall in our room. It is a great teaching tool! But what you want to discourage is letter-by-letter copying. Teach kids to activate their visual memories by studying the word that they need and take mental snap shot of it. We hold up an imaginary camera with our fingers and try to look at the word one time before we copy it down. The more they do this...the more the spelling will stick!

Before, I mentioned activating their visual memories. In developing the Word Study Workshop, I spent some time researching habits of great spellers. I interviewed people in my life and also looked up strategies and habits that professional spelling bee champions depend on. Across the board, the thing I heard over and over was that they visualized the word in their mind. I then asked myself why that never worked for me...and it is because visual memories aren't created equal! I don't have a great visual memory. I was pleased to find out that there are tons of things you can do to improve you visual memory. 

As students activate their visual memory, it gives meaning to a lot of the spelling practice sheets and practice activities we do. Instead of just "rainbow writing" spelling words, students can do that activity with purpose.

If you want to hear more, I would love for you to check out the Word Study Workshop! There are mini-lessons tucked into spelling units of study that encourage spellers to become a lover of words. 

To purchase the Word Study Workshop, click the image below!