Monday, August 29, 2016

Reflection and The Book Whisperer

I am out currently, awaiting the arrival of baby number two, who apparently is in no hurry to come meet her big sister who is asking daily to meet her.

I am one of those people who cannot sit still and needs to be doing at all times. I have cleaned every nook and cranny of this house and organized filing cabinets, closets, freezer, refrigerator, and more. I am also one who loves to continue to learn. Not working with teachers and students right now is weird for me. So, I am taking the opportunity to read up on articles and links I have favorited on Twitter (@candacewhites) and rereading some oldies but goodies that teach me more about literacy in the classroom.

I am currently rereading The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller. I am so glad to be given this opportunity to reread this book because it has reinforced conversations I have had with teachers and my literacy partner, Melissa West (@melissawest75) about the importance of student choice, and most importantly, time given to students so they can apply what we are teaching them about reading to what they are reading. That is the only way students will achieve academic success and become readers.


I remember my first year teaching, my team shared with me the First 20 Days of Reading by Fountas and Pinnell from Guiding Readers and Writers (Grades 3-6): Teaching, Comprehension, Genre, and Content Literacy. I set up reader’s notebooks. Students were engaged, but reflecting on that time, I could have done a much better job focusing on the reading strategies I had been modeling, and checking in on how they were applying the strategies they learned to their own reading.

I did my best with reader’s workshop and reader’s notebooks my first few years. Then, Houghton Mifflin was something we began to use. All the students reading the same story, one story a week, answering all the same questions that were found in the practice book. I moved away from modeling reading strategies with picture books because HM “”taught” reading strategies within the stories we were reading.

I went away from student choice and the only time they had to read was SSR time. Sadly, that eventually was always one of the first things I cut when we needed more time for something else.

So, here I was guiding students to read all the same story with no time for choice. No time for students to explicitly be taught reading strategies and no time to apply them to what they wanted to read.

I then moved away from HM and with good intentions, worked with my newer team to create novel units. We chose books that matched our standards and curriculum, ordered class sets, read the book whole class, all reading together, stopping to discuss, and then all of us answering the same comprehension questions.

At the end of that year, I saw a job posting for a Literacy Coach. I figured I would apply and practice interviewing as it is something I dread as much as I dreaded public speaking (which I have gotten over that fear, well, I am less nervous now). I got the job and that summer I read The Book Whisperer. I was invigorated and excited to share what I learned with other teachers but I did so in small groups and the focus became writing.

Conversations began to occur last year when the idea of adopting a reading program for our literacy block. Conversations about the importance of student application, time for students to read, student choice, and finding time in the day to make reading important came up often. However, we also had those conversations with teachers who want the program; the one where the students are all reading the same story during the reading block and the desire for novel units to be developed.

After doing more research on-line through Twitter, reading articles given to me by fellow literacy coaches, administrators, and attending professional development, as literacy coaches, we understand that we need to continue to have conversations with teachers, and teacher teams who understand that in order to have successful readers in our classrooms, they need ample time to read and read books of their choosing. These teachers are ready to implement or even fine-tune reader’s workshop in their classroom.

Reflecting on my learning, when I go back to the classroom, I will eliminate Daily Language Review (I used to do it every morning, thinking it would transfer to their writing - which it never did) so that students can start their day reading, reader’s workshop will be a chunk of my literacy block again, reader’s notebooks will be come back, I will again model reading strategies with picture books (I loved Reading with Meaning by Debbie Miller)  but in a more concise mini-lesson and not a mega-lesson, I will be better at conferring so students have goals focused on reading strategies that will allow them to become better readers and successful learners, and give students choice to what they want read when it is their independent reading time to apply what they are learning as readers.

As a literacy coach, when I come back in January, I will continue support the implementation of writer’s workshop in our district, as that is so important. And, I will I assist teachers who would like to awaken the inner reader in their students.

For now, I will continue to read, reflect, share my learning, and take care of this baby girl, whenever she arrives.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Takeaways from Day 4 of TCRWP Writing Institute June 23, 2016


I am going to focus on Mary Ehrenworth’s Inquiry Work from Days 3 and 4.

During our time in Mary's workshop, we were given about twenty minutes to plan mini-lessons and inquiry work with our groups. By putting a time limit on it, we still got them done and did not dwell on being perfect which I can do sometimes, especially when I am new to the work. It’s all about learning, trying, and reflecting. We ask our students to do that on a daily basis and I need to remember this for myself.

Inquiry Work is not part of a mini-lesson. It can take a period, a few days, or even better 20 minutes, so that students can apply it during Writer’s Workshop in their writing. Hattie, in Visible Learning, shares the importance of not having too much time pass between learning and applying learning.

Inquiry Work sticks, especially when we learn it and apply it right away. Grant Wiggins also shares that the less time gap between learning and applying the learning, the better information is retained for learners. Also, with inquiry work, it engages students - they are talking, writing, and drawing their learning to share with others. Then, looking at their writing and applying their learning.

Try to time an inquiry lesson when students are in the midst of a draft, so that they are excited to apply their learning to their own writing right away.

Inquiry Work is done at centers. Students teach each other by learning and then creating a tool that explains their learning to others in the class.

You may wonder, how do I even decide what type of Inquiry Work should I do with my students?
  1. Study student’s writing - what are they ready for now? What do you see them trying and not fully understanding in their writing?
  2. Look at units ahead of time and see what will be hard and plan inquiries within the unit - space them out based on genre.
  3. Pick up a text or two in your room and look through to see what would be good to teach students that would enhance their learning and their writing.

Mary modeled with Frog and Toad for verb tense (which could be used with middle school students too). She used post-it notes to point out for students to see specific examples. Then, we can ask students to find other examples in the text.

We were then tasked with creating our own inquiry within a group. We focused on ways authors’ use commas. We were thinking 3rd-8th graders as we work with those grade levels. Reflecting on our work, I will tweak this to be specific with the commas I mark in the books so that students see those examples and then look for more pf them within the text samples.

Our example:

IMG_8544.JPG    IMG_8471.JPG

We were able to walk around the room and check out other Inquiry Work. It was so fun to work with the text and be intrigued with the Inquiry Question and then follow the directions on the Procedure Page.
Inquiry Work Tips:
  1. White space and color matter
    1. Maybe do a mini-book for them to work from
    2. Have lift flaps
  2. Strategic Text Selection
    1. Multiple examples
    2. Easier to more complex
  3. Be strategic with page selection
    1. Limit the scope of the inquiry
  4. Genre Choice
    1. Focus on the genre you are currently in
  5. Remember, do this when students are in the midst of their draft so they can apply it in their writing

I cannot wait to try this work with students and teachers to enhance the learning of grammar in classrooms so that students have better opportunity to retain the grammar "rules."

~ Candace Whites

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Takeaways from Day 3 of TCRWP Writing Institute June 22, 2016

I am already a day behind. With that in mind, I wanted to share a key takeaway or two or three or four, I gathered from Mary Ehrenworth’s morning session.

Tips for a Strong Mini-Lesson:
  • Make Connects
    • More engaging by starting with a story
    • Talking to audience as though they are writers
  • Stay in the voice of a mentor writer
    • Be aware of pronoun
      • If doing an inquiry ML - use we
      • If in role of teacher - use I and you
  • Read Aloud writing piece/text before working it (or at least read a part of it to intrigue them and get them to become familiar with the story)
    • Ss need to hear it at least once
  • Try to keep the energy up/excitement between the Connect and Teach
    • This was key for me - use a transition between your connect and teach such as:
      • Which leads me to, how we can do similar work as writers. Watch me as I show...
      • Which brings me to…

There is much more I learned from her about Inquiry Work during Writer’s Workshop yesterday and today, but that will be another post.

For now, here is a mini-lesson that was created with two other teachers yesterday. We had to give this mini-lesson to another group of teachers. I typed it up to include the takeaways from above. It focuses on paragraphing, so, it is geared more for third graders and those in fourth and fifth grade who may need reminders on why writers begin new paragraphs.

~Candace Whites

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Take Aways from Day 2 of TCRWP Writing Institute June 21, 2016

Another wonderful day of learning at TCRWP!

Grammar Focus, Mentor Texts, Narrative Focus, and Developing Powerful Partnerships

Here are some takeaways from today that I hope you can learn from, reflect on, and implement in your classroom with your students to support student learning.

Mary Ehrenworth - Grammar

  • When teaching grammar - it can be easier to use our own writing compared to finding the perfect mentor text
  • Remember, punctuation can change the tone of the writing
  • Grammar is rethinking and paying attention so that we making writing better - we are being more purposeful and thoughtful instead of viewing Grammar as a right or wrong thing we need to do to writing
  • Something Mary did was when she read aloud her pieces, she also read aloud the punctuation to make it stand out to us - great to do with Ss - they see and hear the punctuation being used


Ralph Fletcher - How Mentor Texts Lift Student Writing
  • All Writers are Readers!
    • Have rich literature in the classroom
    • Mentor Texts build vision
  • Suggested Mentor Texts for Craft
    • The Scarecrow - Cynthia Rylant
    • Fox - Margaret Wild
  • When using mentor texts - Students take away even things we we are unaware of
  • Mentor Texts can inspire writers - they have that story/poem in them and they are affected by the piece
10 Tips for Using Mentor Texts to Teach Writing
  1. Read what we love ourselves
  2. Take advantage of “micro-texts” that can be read in one sitting (Picture Books, Poems, Paragraphs)
  3. Talk about the author behind the book - what made them write the story?
  4. Try not to interrupt the first reading of a text - (I need to work on this!!)
  5. Leave time for natural response
  6. Reread for craft (Reread books often but don't kill it)
  7. Design a spiral of Mini-Lessons that cycle back to teach Craft
  8. Use the Share to reinforce the craft lesson you did in the Teach Point - showing students in the class who did the craft move in their writing
  9. Invite students to experiment with Craft element
  10. Be patient

  • Find the Balance
    • Guiding and Naming a Craft Element
      • BUT
    • Leave room for students to make their own discoveries - What do they notice?


Carl Anderson - Mentor Texts and Content Focus: Narrative Writing
  • Mentor Texts - Remember
    • We have to like the mentor texts - use what you love
    • Ss need connections to the mentor texts as well
    • Show them text that Ss can do - so show Kinder level work to Kinders, and 1st Grader level work to First Graders
    • Also, remember, use mentor texts that are more complex to get writers to stretch their writing for those writers who are ready for that challenge (conferring time)
  • Narrative Content Focus Today
    • Meaning
      • Writer has something to say - what point do you want to make as a writer
      • We craft our writing to get meaning across
    • Structure
      • How parts go together to get meaning across
      • It helps us understand the meaning of the writing
      • K/1 writers, writing across the pages teaches Ss structure
      • Scenes are basic components of narrative
        • A scene can stretch across a few pages - that is complex writing - can be done at 2ndG and with 1stG writers who are ready
      • Illustrations shows key pieces of scenes
        • If scene stretches across a couple of pages - illustrations do as well
      • Chronologically
      • and sometimes in K-2, endings can flashforward (Night of the Veggie Monster ending)
      • Writers need to decide which scenes to include and which not to include (ending of Snowy Day - breakfast just happens “After breakfast…”)
      • Leads may provide background for reader, tension/set up problem
      • Endings may be where the tension/problem is solved
      • Transitions move reader from one scene to another
        • It can be as simple as
          • Turning a page
          • Time change
          • Setting changes
            • Can be as simple as stating the setting (At home….) 
      • Events are made up of scenes
      • A scene is a small moment
      • Scenes happen when
        • New characters get introduced
        • Time change
        • Setting change
      • Reflecting on the above - for upper grades those three things get writers to start new paragraphs in narrative writing
      •  
Lindsay Mann
Developing Powerful Partnerships
  • Things to consider:
    • Who? - Consider Who is going to motivate who?
      • Do not need to pair kids by “level”
      • Want Ss to be motivated or excited to share their stories with their partner
        • Best Friend may be the best fit especially for a S who is reluctant
      • Personality matters - make a match
      • Vary Strengths - opposites attract (different from reading, yes)
        • Pair S with no structure with the S who has the beginning, middle, end
      • Triads - kids need models (especially ELLs)
        • Ss need the modeling
        • Develop specific roles
  • Establishing Routines
    • When? - vary time, mix-up structures
      • Ex: Sometimes you have partners meet at the beginning  - story tell it, talking rehearsal
    • Where? - create a “partner place”
      • Have Ss sit at a space with partners
      • Create a partner place when partners are not there and they go there to see who needs to join another partner or match up with another whose partner is not there
    • What? - plans, menus
      • Be specific of what you want partners to do/try
  • Provide Models
    • How are you modeling collaborative work across the day
      • How can I support partner talk throughout the day - RW - coach into those partnerships
    • Videotape
      • Video partners
      • Have Ss video themselves
      • Day, to video the partnership - T can see work, use as an example/models - this can deepen the work of partnerships
      • Have Ss watch it and ask them “What do you notice this partnership if doing well?”
    • Fishbowl
      • Model good examples and not-so good examples
      • This can be challenging and she suggests Videotaping
    • Padlet
      • Great place to post their goals, a clip of their video, their work they did together during a partnership
    • Use iPhone to record the talk with the audio - just listen to the partnership
  • Stay Flexible
    • Partnerships involve relationships
    • Make some time/days to allow them to just talk so they can build those relationships as this will support their writing work (at least at the beginning of the year)
    • She shared that they did research and teachers noticed it took many partnerships 7 minutes before getting into their writing work
  • Focus on Goals of Writers
    • Be aware of their own goals and their partner’s goals
    • Share! - What am I trying to get better at as a writer?
    • Check!
    • Suggest! Partner can suggest
  • Partners go beyond the Active Engagement time and Share - Can get them to think more deeply about their writing with Goal Setting
  • Possible Progression
    • Read together and talking about what they wrote - great way to start (put one piece of writing in the middle)
    • Share goals and responding to the goals
      • It goes beyond T and S goal setting - my partner is helping me reach my goal
    • Focus on purpose and plans
      • Give them the choice to set a time to meet with partner

She suggested switching up partners for every unit

Sonic Pics App - Take a picture of their work and voice-over what they want to say about it.

Virtual Share - used Google to share to do that with at fifth grade - could do this across schools or outside district or family member

Today was a wonderful day and I am excited for Day Three - but for now, off to Yankee game.
~Candace Whites