Saturday, October 1, 2016

5 Ways to Quickly Get Kindergarteners Reading Independently

When I moved down to kindergarten, I knew I would have to get creative in order to run my normal reading workshop. I am a firm believer that little kids can do big things! I wanted them to read independently and in partners for a minimum of thirty minutes.

They can do it. We do it every day. 

I wanted to share five ideas that have been helpful to me in getting nonconventional readers reading! 

We want our students to know that our reading time is predictable. They won't be using any brain power trying to figure out what you are going to ask them to do today- so they can comfortably settle in and get busy reading. You can do this in many way- but my favorite thing to do it to teach through song! You can check out my class singing our workshop structure here: 


What problems can you get ahead of? In my room, the number one thing that causes a disruption during reading time is torn books. We all know about the book hospital but I found myself frustrated with that because it would take forever to locate the ripped page and mend it (especially because I struggled to fix the books quickly- so they piled up.) Now, I teach my students to fill out a "book patient prescription" form and stick in the page that needs to be fixed like a bookmark. It cuts my book-mending time in half! 

We use a rubric that shows what our bodies, brains, and books should be doing. This allows students to see the progression for what they might be doing during reading workshop. Here is an example of mine: 
Displayed for the whole class to see...

But also on the back of each student's reading mat. More on reading mats below! 

We use reading mats. They are taught to stack their books on the green side and then move them over to the red side when they are finished. When the books are on the red side, they have a menu at the bottom that asks them to select a purpose for rereading. This menu strip is not laminated because it changes as the units change. You can see examples below! 

The strips are switched out to fit the current unit of study that we are in. 

In the lower grades, they may not be reading conventionally, but they are still making meaning! I teach my students to make their books come alive by providing them with some tools that can help! I give them a television and they can hold it over their books. As they do this, they are making the page sound like a television show. This helps me teach them that the characters say things and have thoughts. 

I also give them think and talk bubble sticks. This lesson is great because it teaches the readers that while the characters might be saying one thing, they can be thinking something entirely different. 

If you'd like these resources and MORE, check out this Reading Workshop Engagement Pack! It includes all of the ideas listed and WAY more. Click the photo below. 

Here's to little kids doing big things! 

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!