Read Aloud Experience Count

To hold me accountable for reading informational texts, I decided to keep count of our class’s read aloud experiences.

I created a poster that looked like this:

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We kept count of each read aloud experience, but as we continued to read more and more texts our class started to notice that texts have more than one genre most of the time. We started to notice genre blurring.  This sparked a discussion about how poster.

Should we keep this poster and simply mark the genre that the text mostly represents?  Or should we make another poster with more broad categories: informational and literature?  Our class took a vote, and we decided on the latter.

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I think it is important for me to continue to keep track of our read aloud experiences so that I can make sure I am balancing literature and informational read alouds.  I clearly need to read aloud more informational texts.

Also, our class will continue to discuss all of the genres of a text that we read aloud together.  I think these discussions create a deeper understanding of the texts and genres.

Teaching Informational Structure

After last year, I realized I need to spend more time teaching my students informational text structures.  I have spent time reading and researching to understand these structures because I had never taught it before beyond chronological order.

This year, I decided one way to incorporate this instruction was into an explorer inquiry unit.  As my students and I read a variety of text to build background about early explorers, we are re-reading texts closely to examine the structure.

Today we re-read a text about the Columbian Exchange to determine the structure.  At this point the students have been exposed to the following text structures: chronological, compare and contrast, and problem/solution.  I started by asking students if they thought the text was structured chronologically because all of the students feel the most comfortable identifying this structure.  There was a mixture of responses, but we launched into a discussion to figure out the structure.  We determined it was not chronological, so I introduced a new structure…description.  Most students caught on really quickly, but I think I would like to go back to the text or another text to create a visual of how a text is structured by description with my struggling readers.  I know that they need repeated exposure to new concepts.  I also think the visual will help these learners have a deeper understanding of the structure.

I will work with these students on Monday.

There is Something About…

There is something about…

  • time,
  • writing,
  • reading,
  • thinking,
  • accomplishments,
  • reflection,
  • being proud of myself,
  • exceptions to a rule, and
  • new doors

that make me move forward in a chaotic educational world. 

When there is so much bogging us down in our profession sometimes it is really difficult to keep a positive attitude.  Not to mention our own self-doubt and the pressure we place on our shoulders.

Today I started something I am excited about.  It is not ready to be shared, but I think a door is being unlocked.  I didn’t even know the door was there.  I think it is something that will eventually cause less stress for teachers and more student learning. 

There is something about challenging yourself that makes life worth living.  That makes the challenges we face worth it.

Spring Break!

Spring break has arrived! My students and I had a great week, but we were all ready for spring break!

Today I made sure all of my students had multiple books to read over break. They were so concerned about checking out all of the books they have been wanting to read. They asked each other what they were planning on reading.

I love these types of conversations!

Conversations Part 2 (with Other Teachers)

Earlier this week I wrote about conversations with students, but today I would like to revisit this topic.  But I would like to focus on conversations teachers have with other teachers.  

Do you have fellow educators who you can talk to about your teaching?  

I think it is important to make sure that you can talk to teachers who are not going to judge you.  It makes it more likely that you will be honest about your instruction so that you can help students grow.  You are someone I trust to talk with about best practice.  Thank you to all of you who read my thoughts and who comment with your own thoughts and advice.

I like having several types of professional conversations to help me grow in several areas.  I talk to good friends about how to be a leader, how to be a good teammate, how to strengthen my math instruction, how to confer more successfully, how to meet the needs of struggling students, how to incorporate what I learned at the Illinois Reading Conference, etc.  These are conversations I have had this week, but each week it is different depending what is on my mind.  

What types of professional conversations do you have?

Conversations

What types of conversations do your students have in the classroom?  

Today I am thinking about verbal conversations, although there are several types of conversations students may have in the classroom. 

This is an area I have focused on this year.  Throughout the school year, I have continually thought about how I can encourage students to have conversations about what they are thinking, reading, writing, noticing, etc.  I teach students to have conversations with their classmates in partnerships, in small groups, and in whole-class discussions.   I don’t want to be the facilitator in the conversations, but I want to teach kids how to have their own conversations independently. 

Today my class and I had a forty-five minute whole-class conversation about class rules, behaviors, and consequences.  We sat in a big circle so that everyone could see each other.  When we have conversations in the “real world”, it is important when we are talking to someone that we are able to see the person involved in the conversation.  This is something I teach my students.  

Also, when you have a conversation you don’t raise your hand to contribute, right?  At this point in the year, I hope students understand each person’s words have value, and we must be respectful and kind to one another.  So, today I asked students to put their hands down and simply talk when they had something to say.  I reminded students not to talk over each other and not to interrupt each other.  

It was amazing! We had a great conversation.  We were able to make decisions together about additional classroom rules we need to focus on in our community of learners and new consequences for not following the classroom rules.  It was interesting to watch nine- and ten-year olds talk about both sides of several issues we were having in the classroom.  They were open to each other’s ideas, and they wanted to help each other make good choices and learn.  I took notes the whole time to document the class’s thinking and to show them I valued what they were contributing to the conversation.  

Today I will communicate our new class rules and consequences to each child’s parents so that they can be on board.  But more than that, I am proud of each student.  Not every student contributed to the conversation, some students talked more than others, but each child listened and each child was on board with our decisions.  

These types of conversations can not be assessed or measured by the standardized tests we administer, but I hope that these are the skills they will remember when they are older.  I hope these are the skills they will use during a meeting with their boss and colleagues.  After all, aren’t these the skills that they will need to be college and career ready?

Missing My Kids…

Today my meeting was at my school, so I was able to see my students for a little bit.  I was so happy to see them, and they all seemed really happy to see me.  Seeing them, made me miss them.  While I was at the conference, I didn’t really think about school because I was so focused on what was going on at the conference.  I also just needed a break.  So I didn’t really think about the kids for too long.

I have one more half-day out of the classroom, and I am so excited to see my kids and teach them in the afternoon!  I am excited to have our meaningful discussions, read together, write together, confer with my students, and see them learning.  I know that I will need to review class rules and expectations with the kids, and I am hoping we can get back into our routine quickly.  

But tomorrow will be a good day!  

Sub Plans

Tomorrow will be the third day that I will have a guest teacher (substitute teacher) in my classroom. I will also be gone for the morning on Tuesday.  It will be a total of three and a half days that I will not be in the classroom.  I typically am not out of the classroom for this many days, so it is quite difficult for me to be gone for so long.  

I am thinking about how to prepare students for a guest teacher.

Do you have specific guests teacher you request?

How do you ensure that your students are behaving appropriately?

Does learning look the same or different when there is a guest teacher with your students?

How do you prepare for a guest teacher?  

I would really appreciate your thoughts about guest teachers!

Thanks!

Oops!

After a long couple of days at a conference, all you want to do is relax. Tomorrow I have to go into work to prepare for the week, and write two more days of sub plans. I will probably spend quite a bit of time at school to get ready for report cards and conferences this week. So I won’t be able to relax tomorrow.

Good thing I just slept for 6 hours. Oops! (Tomorrow’s slice I will actually write about what I was thinking today.) Back to bed!

Motivating Students to Read

Today, at the Illinois Reading Conference, I was able to meet Aaron Reynolds.  He is an author we have wanted to bring to our school for our One Author-One School program.  (A yearlong author study with a culminating activity where the author comes to our school.  Each student receives an autographed book at the end of the author study.)

Anyway, Aaron Reynolds talks about how he was not reader until 5th grade.  He never went to a library or a bookstore before 5th grade.  His teacher that year changed everything for him.  Aaron’s teacher inspired him (in his head and his heart) to become a reader.  He changed everything for Aaron.  He is the reason why Aaron Reynolds is an author with over 30 published books (and more being released soon!).

I thought about that.  If his 5th Grade teacher hadn’t inspired him, would we have Creepy Carrots or Carnivores? 

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Probably not.

It got me thinking about how we inspire our students to read specifically.  Not just read in our classroom, but to become readers who read for enjoyment for their whole lives.  We want our students to become educated adults who contribute to society–like Aaron Reynolds and educators have.

How do you inspire students in your classroom, in your grade level, and in your school to become lifelong readers?