Tuesday, February 28, 2012
Then forget about it. Until he says to me, "I finished POPEYE AND ELVIS this weekend. I need something else to read. Do you know where is that frog book (he is talking about OWEN JESTER, another Barbara O'Connor novel),"
"Oh my gosh, Uriel, I forgot! I have something to show you."
Uriel and I sit together at the computer and watch the book trailer. I ask, "What do you think?"
"I didn't picture all those trees," he says. "I just pictured water and a bridge going over it." This is interesting to me, given that a good number of scenes in the book, as I remember, take place on hikes in the woods. It makes total sense, though, given that Denver, and especially the urban area where I WORK, doesn't have many (any?) wooded areas. And also given that Uriel, a very talented athlete, spends most of his weekends playing soccer at fields, not hiking in the mountains.
"Can I watch it again?" We hit replay and Uriel watches the book trailer a second time.
My encounter with Uriel gets me thinking. Or maybe confirms some things I have already been thinking about since our state reading convention in early February. At the convention, Sharon Taberski talked about the importance of background knowledge in reading comprehension. Taberski said that when kids have trouble comprehending, we are quick to wonder what strategy we should teach them, when actually most of the time, students' problems with comprehension are probably related to a lack of background knowledge. Taberski encouraged us to concentrate on building students' background knowledge and teaching kids to access that knowledge before and during their reading process. Taberski's session made me think Frank Smith's comment that reading is "only incidentally visual."
My students, more than half English language learners, don't have the background knowledge of their more affluent peers. That's not to say they don't have rich lives. Uriel comes from a large extended family-he has a mom and dad, an older sister, at least one nephew (a two-year-old biter who regularly leaves teeth marks on Uriel). Uriel travels all over the city playing soccer every weekend. He's a smart kid, a sweet and gentle kid, one of those "old souls" whose deep thoughtfulness regularly leaves me wondering, "Where did that come from?"
Uriel is a fairly good reader, on grade level, likes to read, takes books home, always has a book going. And yet even this really bright, really talented little guy could use a "background knowledge boost." I wonder how I might make use of book trailers as a pre-reading strategy with my readers. We have already used "read the blurb" or "talk to someone who has already read the book," but now, what if a new "getting ready to read" strategy might be "look at a book trailer?" Hmmmm…
This fact is driven home later in the day during read aloud. The word "jack-o-lantern" comes up and Uriel raises his hand. "I forget," he says. "What does that mean?" And I am more than a little surprised that Uriel, who I would describe as one of my more proficient English language learners, doesn't remember this relatively simple vocabulary word. Then I try to remember the Spanish word for jack-o-lantern, and realize that the best I can come up with is "pumpkin with a face."
Teaching-- definitely a profession where you get to think and grow every single day…
* not his real name
Thursday, February 23, 2012
Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.…
Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to mail letters and purchase bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
it is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you everywhere
like a shadow or a friend.
Most importantly, I understand the child matters more than a score on a test.
And so I approach test prep from this stance. I want children to face that test, with confidence and hope and a warrior’s spirit. I want them to know they know the things they need to succeed. I want them to be bold and trust themselves. I want them to believe they are the kinds of people who perform well on tests.
This happens through workshop teaching — not gimmicks or drill and practice worksheets. When students have time to write and read in authentic ways, on topics of their interest and choosing, then they develop the skills they need to succeed on standardized tests.
This week, my involvement in test prep is to help young writers realize all they know about writing — and to believe this is more than enough for them to be successful on a standardized test. We will make charts about the things we know as writers, and students will claim strategies for themselves. They’ll practice using craft and conventions. They’ll smile about the things they can do. This is our focus…the things they can do — not the ways they are falling short. And they will face the test feeling encouraged and loved.
If you have not read her post on test prep, you really need to head over to TWO WRITING TEACHERS and read the whole thing here.
Thanks, Ruth, for this oh so important, oh so true, reminder!
Tuesday, February 21, 2012
Monday, February 20, 2012
My motto in life, "When the going gets tough, the tough get reading." And so I read a lot this weekend…
Tuesday, February 14, 2012
Sunday, February 12, 2012
Saturday, February 11, 2012
Friday, February 10, 2012
Tom devotes a good chunk of the book to six practices that he believes help readers to delve deeply into texts. One of those practices has to do with poetry. Specifically, memorizing poetry. Tom talks about how poetry works its way deeply into our hearts and then surfaces when we need it most.(Slow reading) has to do with the relationship we have with what we read, with the quality of attention we bring to our reading, with the investment we are willing to make. It is based on the belief that good writing is never consumed, never fully understood, and that though we often read for the efficient extraction of information, this extraction is not the most meaningful or pleasurable reading we do. Slow reading repays even repeated readings and speaks to us in new ways with each engagement..." (p. 2)There is usually an ebb and flow to slow reading, times when we are immersed in the narrative flow, and times when we pause to reflect or reread or just savor the moment…Although I am convinced that slow reading is essential for real comprehension, it is also clearly crucial to the deep pleasure we take in reading and the power of reading to change us. As John Miedma eloquently puts it: "By opening yourself to a book in this way, you invite ideas and feelings that enrich and expand your interiority. Reading is the making of a deeper self." (3)
A Lazy ThoughtThe last three lines of this poem, "It takes a lot of slow to grow" have been echoing in my head all week long. We are about four weeks from state testing. This is the time of year when the "Power Standards" hanging next to my desk seem to glow like a neon sign. And the things I have not yet taught (partly because they are in Unit 11 in the math book and we are only finishing unit 7, which, according to the pacing charts is exactly where we are supposed to be) seem to greatly outweigh the things I have. And I feel like that scene in the old CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY movie, when they are all on the boat in the dark, and the boat is moving faster and faster and faster, and everyone is screaming and hanging on for dear life. And I have to fight the temptation to teach faster, faster, faster, and remind myself again and again and again, "It takes a lot of slow to grow…"
By Eve Merriam
There go the grownups
To the office,
To the store.
Don’t grow up
It takes a lot
"Hi.""Hi.""How are you?""Fine.""Me too.""What are you doing?"On and on and on…
Thursday, February 9, 2012
Franki encouraged us to ask ourselves, "
Franki encouraged us to ask ourselves, "What kinds of literacies do students need to be able to work, innovate, and communicate in the modern world?" Franki's answer, "Whatever literacies enable them to "write"the media they "read" so they can be active media creators rather than passive media consumers. Literacy has always meant being able to consume and produce the media forms of the day, whatever they may be" made perfect sense to me.
· Franki shared a variety of electronic tools and resources. Most weren't tools that were totally new to me, but over and over again, I found myself thinking, "I have got to get serious about learning to use some of these tools!" Some of the ones I really, really want to add to my every day repertoire include Evernote, Diigo, Glogster, and Tagxedo. I also want to learn to use www.jogtheweb.com. and figure out how to integrate QR codes into my teaching.
Franki also reminded us that kids are coming to us with a much "larger" sense of story. She shared several ebook websites, e.g. Duck, Duck Moose, Mo Willems' Pigeon, Scaredy Squirrel, and also the work of Patrick Carman, who integrates print books with technology, through books like SKELETON CREEK. I have not read any of Carman's books yet, but have definitely added them to my TBR pile. Franki encouraged teachers to explore tracking their reading through tools like Goodreads or Shelfari. I'm already using Goodreads, but want to make it a more consistent part of my reading life.
Franki finished her presentation with a couple of quotes that I have been thinking about ever since…
If you are in education and you’re not feeling challenged by how these technologies affect teaching and learning, you’re not paying attention—this tectonic shift of connections has huge significance for the way we think about our roles as educators, our classrooms and most important, our own personal learning. It’s becoming more and more obvious that the longer we wait to embrace these shifts, the less prepared our children will be for their future. Will Richardson, Summer 2009
That quote is profoundly disturbing to me as an urban teacher whose students simply don't have access to computers and the internet on a regular basis.
And then, as I'm feeling totally, totally overwhelmed by what I'm NOT doing, Franki brings out a 150 year old quote from Abraham Lincoln, "The best thing about the future is that it only comes one day at a time."
So thankful for this, because I have a ton to learn!
Tuesday, February 7, 2012
Monday, February 6, 2012
Sunday, February 5, 2012
Every year after CCIRA, or actually every time I go to a conference or hear a speaker, I promise myself that I am going to summarize each session, so that I can think about the content some more, and so that my friends who didn't get to go can have access to the information. I envision some big, gigantic, high quality task that people will really love and use. And then because I am a perfectionist and a procrastinator, it never happens. I decided this year, then, that I am going to simply post the notes, or at least a cleaned up version of the notes, of each session I attended, or maybe just my favorite sessions.
Richard Allington, yes, the Richard Allington who is in the IRA Hall of Fame, and who has long been one of my favorite thinkers and speakers, opened the conference on Thursday morning. Allington talked about the components of an ideal literacy program. He said that in such a program, every day every child will:
- Read something they have self-selected
- Read something accurately
- Read something they understand
- Write something that is meaningful
- Talk to peers about their reading and writing
- Listen to an adult read aloud
o Adults typically read texts they choose, not texts that were assigned
o When will kids learn to how to choose books if we always choose for them?
o Access to large and multi-level classroom libraries are critical
o All classrooms K-12 need libraries of 500 to 1000 titles in order to provide easy access to lots of books.
o In far too many schools, there is no budget for building classroom libraries.
o There usually is a budget for workbooks, photocopying and computers, none of which have evidence of improving kids' reading abilities
Read something accurately and smoothly.
o High success reading is essential to developing oral reading fluency
o If kid can’t read the book, we have them in the wrong book
Read something they understand
o If you are reading and you don’t understand, you are not reading, you are just barking at print.
o Barking at print produces no reading growth
o Understanding is different from remembering.
o Recall of textual information is easier than understanding text information
o Do our reading lessons assess recall or understanding????
· Write about something meaningful to them
o Worksheets are not writing
o Writing involves composing (thus the term composition), or creating a text
o Few of us can write well on topics we don’t care about or know very little about
o When we write in the real world, we write about things we know and care about
o Why has so much school writing been about topics we don’t care about or know about?
· Kids need time to talk to peers about their reading and writing
o In the real world, we talk about what we are reading and writing
o In school we turn in our papers and get a grade
o Research shows the power of conversation with peers. Kids that got to talk to their neighbor scored substantially higher Mystrand (2005)
o Even a small amount of literate conversation, ten minutes a day, improves standardized test comprehension outcomes
· Listens to a fluent adult read aloud
Kids should hear 4-5 books a day, 20-25 books a week, 100 books a month)
o Read aloud develops:
§ World knowledge
§ Sense of story
§ Awareness of genres
§ How many teachers are making sure every kid leaves the classroom every day with at least one book they can read?
§ Only 1 out of 24 fifth grade teachers regularly do read alouds
o Where to find the time for these components
§ Eliminate worksheets
§ Replace worksheet time with:
· Literate conversations
· Read aloud
· Self selected reading
· Self selected writing
I came away from Allington's keynote really convicted of two things. First, I need to trust myself that I really do know what I am doing when I devote time to reading and writing and talking and thinking. I need to remember that the decisions I am making for kids really are based in sound, educational practice. And second, I need to shut up and let kids talk more!