Monday, October 20, 2014

Teaching Color-Coded Elaboration Strategies to Students: Part 2

Slice of Life is hosted by the inspiring community oftwowritingteachers.wordpress.com. Everyone is welcome to read, post, and comment every Tuesday. Feel free to stop over and join us!

Last week, I wrote about color-coding elaboration strategies. Over the course of the week, several teachers asked me about this lesson and I had the chance to teach it in two separate classrooms on Friday and today. One of the perks of my job is that I get to teach the same lesson to different classrooms and adjust it if I think that it could be better.


The first time, I co-taught the lesson with one of our teachers and we had students divide into teams to elaborate my skeleton story: I arrived at the beach. I wanted to learn to ride a wave. I rode a wave right in to the beach! One team worked on description, one team worked on dialogue, one on action, and one on inner thought. On that day, I scribed their work on to the chart in between the three original sentences, using different colors to signify different elaboration strategies. Both of us thought the lesson went well and students were definitely using the various strategies during the workshop, but I thought that the scribing took longer than it should have.

When I taught the lesson a second time, I brought colored strips of paper. The teaching point is on the chart below, and I left room so that the classroom teacher can write more under each strategy if she wants to.

After showing them the chart and establishing the teaching point, we divided the students into teams and gave each team several strips of the same colored paper: red for action, blue for description, green for dialogue, and purple for inner thinking.

Once they wrote their strips, we taped them up into the appropriate places on the chart paper and watched the story get better and better. We added inner thinking last so that they could see how much depth thoughts add to stories.

The three main sentences are: I arrived at the beach. I wanted to learn to ride a wave. I rode a wave in to the shore.

During the workshop, most of the students were working hard to try out different strategies. At the very least, they were more aware of what they could work on. I can't wait to hear more about how they continue to use these strategies.

Happy writing,


Sunday, October 19, 2014

Is Listening the Lost Standard?

Last week, I attended the Connecticut Forum to listen to Charles Blow, Karl Rove and Doris Kearns Goodwin debate and discuss what is wrong with our current political system. They were supposed to, according to the program, discuss how to fix it, but most of the agreement was only on the fact that our political system is broken. 


I came away from the night worried about the political future that my daughters face, and believing that one of the most important standards in the Common Core is the one that has to do with listening. Really listening. Not waiting to have a turn to talk, but engaging in conversation that strengthens or weakens previously held beliefs. Digging into the speaking and listening standards, the one that I'm not sure that Charles Blow and Karl Rove have mastered is the first anchor standard for Speaking and Listening: Prepare for and participate effectively in a range of conversations and collaborations with diverse partners, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively. They seemed much more interested in listening to each other in order to gather ammunition and discount the other, as opposed to listening to each other in order to build on ideas. 

To master this anchor standard, the skills build as follows: 

By the end of third grade, students should be able to explain their own ideas and understanding in light of the discussion.

By the end of eighth grade, they should be able to acknowledge new information expressed by others, and, when warranted, qualify or justify their own views in light of the evidence presented.

And, by the time they graduate, students should be able to respond thoughtfully to diverse perspectives; synthesize comments, claims, and evidence made on all sides of an issue; resolve contradictions when possible; and determine what additional information or research is required to deepen the investigation or complete the task.

I wonder, do we teach these skills? While I have pinned, shared, and developed several anchor charts about our responsibilities as partners and even some about what listeners do, some of which I am sharing here,




 I am working on some thinking stems that emphasize the integration of opposing ideas. 
  • I listened to you and your comments have made me change my original opinion because...
  • Before I listened to you I thought... but now I think...
  • Having listened to you, I feel more strongly because you said...
  • Having listened to you, I feel less strongly because you said...
  • I listened to you and I learned...
  • I listened to you and you have inspired me to learn more about...
I may also add books that emphasize listening skills to classroom libraries, but books that go beyond sitting and crossing legs, and into the integration of ideas and knowledge. I'd love some suggestions!

As a parent and as an educator, I believe in democracy and the importance of it. I want my children to grow up into a country where leaders listen and learn from each other. 

Here's to listening!



Monday, October 13, 2014

Color-Coded Elaboration Strategies

Slice of Life is hosted by the inspiring community oftwowritingteachers.wordpress.com. Everyone is welcome to read, post, and comment every Tuesday. Feel free to stop over and join us!

Tomorrow, I will be meeting with some teachers to talk about ways that they can help students understand how to elaborate their narrative stories. Since many of the teachers in our district are working on teaching elaboration, I was sifting through some favorite posts. Last year, Anna Gratz Cockerille wrote a post about toolkits and included a chart showing the balance between action, dialogue, and thinking. I have also added description, and I have created a skeleton story, sequentially adding an elaboration strategy. I envision unfolding this story to students, gradually showing them the impact of adding carious strategies. I have color coded the strategies so that it's easier to spot the differences.


Action   Dialogue   Inner thinking    Description


A Skeleton Story:
One day, I went to the beach. I wanted to learn how to ride a wave. A big wave came along and I dove through it.


Adding Description:
One day, I went to the beach. I wanted to learn how to ride a wave. All around me, people were frolicking in the water. I watched three kids who looked to be my age run and jump through the crashing waves over and over. A big wave came along and I dove through it.
When I came up, the wave was rolling into the beach and my mom was standing and clapping. The three kids I had been watching were also clapping.


Adding Description and Action:
One day, I went to the beach. I wanted to learn how to ride a wave. All around me, people were frolicking in the water. I watched three kids who looked to be my age run and jump through the crashing waves over and over.
I walked down to the water’s edge and watched the three kids a little while longer. Curling my toes into the sand, I started talking to myself.  
She got up and walked closer to the water’s edge.
Then, I walked right into that ocean and into those waves.
All of a sudden, a huge wave came up.A big wave came along and I dove through it.   I put my arms over my head and sucked in a huge breath of air. Then, just as the wave broke, I dove. I bent my knees and went head down right into that wave! When I came up, the wave was rolling into the beach and my mom was standing and clapping. The three kids I had been watching were also clapping. One of them came over and gave me high five.


Adding description, action, and dialogue:
One day, I went to the beach. I wanted to learn how to ride a wave. All around me, people were frolicking in the water. I watched three kids who looked to be my age run and jump through the crashing waves over and over.
“Be careful,” my mom called.
“I will.”
I walked down to the water’s edge and watched the three kids a little while longer. Curling my toes into the sand, I started talking to myself.  
“The waves are really big,” Mom said from her chair. She got up and walked closer to the water’s edge.
“I know,” I said. Then, I walked right into that ocean and into those waves.
All of a sudden, a huge wave came up. A big wave came along and I dove through it.   I put my arms over my head and sucked in a huge breath of air. Then, just as the wave broke, I dove. I bent my knees and went head down right into that wave! When I came up, the wave was rolling into the beach and my mom was standing and clapping. The three kids I had been watching were also clapping. One of them came over and gave me high five.
“Do you want to body surf with us?” he asked.


Adding description, inner thinking, dialogue, and action:
One day, I went to the beach. I wanted to learn how to ride a wave. Maybe this will be the day, I thought to myself. All around me, people were frolicking in the water. I watched three kids who looked to be my age run and jump through the crashing waves over and over. How did they do it, I wondered. How did they just dive right through those waves. They are not scared at all.
“Be careful,” my mom called.
“I will.”
I walked down to the water’s edge and watched the three kids a little while longer. Curling my toes into the sand, I started talking to myself.  
You can do this, I said to myself. You definitely can do this. But in the inside, I wasn’t sure.
“The waves are really big,” Mom said from her chair. She got up and walked closer to the water’s edge.
“I know,” I said. Then, I walked right into that ocean and into those waves.
All of a sudden, a huge wave came up. I was scared. I knew that I had to time it perfectly or I could get really hurt. What if I missed? What if the wave crashed right over my head and spun me around? What if it...no more time for what if’s! A big wave came along and I dove through it.   I put my arms over my head and sucked in a huge breath of air. Then, just as the wave broke, I dove. I bent my knees and went head down right into that wave! When I came up, the wave was rolling into the beach and my mom was standing and clapping. The three kids I had been watching were also clapping. One of them came over and gave me high five.
“Do you want to body surf with us?” he asked.
I had done it! I felt like I could do anything since I had finally figured out how to dive through a wave.

Feel free to use these samples or tweak them as you see fit, but I'd love to hear if anyone experiences successes or if anyone has other ideas for helping elementary students develop elaboration skills.

Happy writing,





Friday, October 3, 2014

Discussing Growth Mindset Early in the Year

A few years ago, I read Mindset by Carol Dweck and it completely lifted the level of my thinking as an educator and learner.  I immediately wanted to teach the concept to my students that year and make them aware of their mindsets as learners.  To read all of my posts I wrote about mindset and teaching students about the difference between a growth mindset and fixed mindset, click here.  To read my post that describes the difference between the two mindsets and my first introduction to students about the concept, click here. 

Ever since I read Mindset by Carol Dweck and read additional books about the concept, I always introduce the concept to students during the first week of school through read alouds.  We read picture books with characters who demonstrate perseverance, along with characters who may want to give up at the beginning, but then realize they CAN do it in the end. I always read The Dot on the first day of school to begin these important conversations by talking about Vashti and noticing how she didn't think she could draw at the beginning, had little confidence in herself, and became very frustrated.  Then we discuss how Vashti changed at the end and began to work harder and built up confidence in herself as an artist.  This discussion leads us to the power of the word YET and how when we can't do something, we should say, "I can't do this YET" instead of "I can't do this."  See our class chart below for The Dot by Peter Reynolds.  
                                          
In addition to The Dot, I also read aloud a new book, The Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires, that I came across this past summer.  This is a perfect picture book to read aloud to discuss perseverance - what it looks like and sounds like.  It also reinforces that making mistakes and failing is part of the learning process and that you should keep trying and put in 100% effort into your goals and dreams.  In this book, the character has an idea that she wants to make something magnificent, but each time she tries it doesn't come out the way she pictures it in her mind.  Even though she continues to fail multiple times, she keeps on trying.  Even though she still gets frustrated and thinks for a second that she should just give up, she doesn't. This is a powerful read aloud to discuss perseverance and growth mindset.  
                                               
Once we read aloud a few picture books that have characters who don't give up, I begin to go back to those charts to discuss growth mindset - what it looks like and sounds like.  The students realize that the characters in those books have a growth mindset and begin to think about other characters in books they have read who also have a growth mindset.  I teach students that having a fixed mindset is the opposite of having a growth mindset. Then I have students work together as table groups to create t-charts to jot down what they think a growth mindset and fixed mindset looks like and sounds like. Below are two examples of charts groups made: 
  
                                        

After groups have time to discuss the differences between the two mindsets and jot down their thinking, we share ideas as a whole class.  Below are two charts we created to compile the students' thinking about the two mindsets. The first chart is our draft that I jotted quickly as students shared out, and the second is the one we have hanging up above our smartboard in the front of the class as a reminder to strive to have a growth mindset as learners.  



During the second week of school, once students have discussed the concept of the mindsets and have an understanding between the two, I have students write a personal reflection about their own mindset.  We talk about how it is possible to have a growth mindset in one area and a fixed mindset in another.  For example, you may have a growth mindset in reading and writing, but a fixed mindset in math.  Or you may have a growth mindset while playing sports, but a fixed mindset when it comes to school. 

Below are two examples of personal reflections that students wrote about their mindsets as learners. Students will continue to write personal reflections about their mindset throughout the school year and at the end of the school year they will compare their reflections to see how their mindset has changed throughout the course of the year.  

 
In addition to conversations and reflections, we also consistently talk about mindset during our read alouds throughout the year.  For example, this week we are finishing our first chapter book read aloud, Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt, and students have shared their thinking about the characters' mindsets and noticed the word "Grit" that Mr. Daniels used and how it is connected to growth mindset and perseverance.  Below is one of our 5 charts we created during our read aloud for Fish in a Tree that  shows some students' thinking about mindset.  


If you have not read Mindset by Carol Dweck yet, I highly recommend that you add it to the top of your stack to read.  Ever since I read it a few years ago and began teaching and discussing the concept of mindset with my students, I have noticed the positive impact it has on my students as learners and individuals.  

Stay tuned to hear more about how we are discussing mindset and striving to have a growth mindset in our classroom! :)





Thursday, September 25, 2014

Ways we are using our Reader's Notebooks!

One of my favorite parts of reading workshop is teaching students how to talk and write about their reading.  I LOVE creating charts to write about our read alouds and to help lift the level of our conversations so I am constantly modeling how to write about reading through chart-making with my students.  I always tell my students that the chart is our giant reader's notebook and during read aloud I model a variety of strategies to organize, keep track of, and deepen our thinking.  This consistent modeling helps students transfer the strategies into their own reader's notebook to write about their independent books.  To read my post I wrote a couple years ago about reader's notebooks, click here.

Below are some examples of charts created during read aloud to model a variety of writing about reading strategies:


 

Each year, I encourage students to not only try out the strategies that I model during read aloud, but to also create and try out their own strategies.  I want my students to always feel ownership over their reader's notebooks and know that it is a place for them to choose how they want to express their thinking about their reading in a way that makes sense to them and is purposeful for them.  I don't want it to feel like a chore or something they are doing just for me.  I want them to see and understand the purpose and value of writing about their reading and how it helps them grow their thinking and conversations.  Students have the choice to use pencil, different colored pens, post-its, sketches, and more.   By giving students ownership of their notebooks, they truly do use it as a tool and it is amazing to see the strategies they create and use! 

I think it is important for students to teach one another the strategies they create and use so I make time for students to share and teach one another.  Last week, during reading workshop, students had the opportunity to share a strategy they are using in their reader's notebook.   They used the document camera to share a page from their notebook to visually show the strategy and teach their classmates how and why they use it.  In addition, they share the name they chose to call the strategy if they created it - some of the strategy names are very creative! As students share strategies and explain them with an example from their notebook, I record the strategy name along with an example on a chart for the class to use as a tool.  Next to the strategy, I write down the name of students' who shared the strategy so their classmates can check out their notebooks and/or talk to them more about the strategy.  

Below are two of our class charts that were created while students shared strategies from their notebooks: 
Class chart created while students shared ways they are using their reader's notebooks

Second class chart created while students shared more ways they are using their reader's notebooks.

Below are some examples from students' reader's notebooks:




 

Students also showcase colored photocopies of pages from their reader's notebooks on one of our bulletin boards.  If they want a page photocopied, they mark the page with a post-it and put it on a table in the back of our classroom at the end of the day.  Once it is photocopied, they hang it up along with a colored label where they write their name and the name of the strategy they used.  This bulletin board not only gives students a chance to showcase their writing about reading strategies, but also serves as a teaching tool where students learn from one another! 

Reader's Notebook Bulletin Board 

Happy Writing about Reading! :)




Monday, September 15, 2014

Anchor Charts for Conventions

Last year, I worked with one of the teachers in our district on how to teach conventions to students so that they would not only retain the skills, but also use the skills in their writing. Together, we created a chart during an inquiry lesson that specified all of the conventions that her fourth graders knew. That chart held her students accountable for those skills whenever they wrote, and the skills on that chart were aligned to the Common Core State Standards.

Because her students did so well on both our district's editing and revising assessments as well as the conventions component of our district's analytic rubric, I have created a set of master charts for grades 1-5 that I am sharing. These charts align to grade level standards and increase in expectations going up the grades. Since these charts are cumulative, you wouldn't want to be a fifth-grade teacher if students haven't mastered the previous grade level standards!



I would teach a separate lesson on paragraphing.
















My hope is that these charts serve as anchor charts for conventions within classrooms. They can be introduced during writing workshop with the important teaching point that writers pay attention and use conventions in order to make sure that readers can understand their writing.  I also am creating smaller versions that can serve as toolkits for students to keep in writing folders or within notebooks. Depending on how teachers roll out the lesson, perhaps students' initials may appear on the charts in order to increase accountability and designate "classroom experts."

So one of the CCSS language standards is addressed within out curriculum. Now, on to parts of speech and grammar... If anyone out there has done work around integrating some of the grammar standards into workshop practices and writing units, I would love to hear about it. 

Happy writing (and punctuating!),




Sunday, September 14, 2014

It's Monday! Here's What I'm Reading...

Jen Vincent at Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee Moye and Ricki Ginsburg at Unleashing Readers cohost It's Monday! What are You Reading? weekly on their blogs.  To see what others are reading and recommending each Monday, or to participate, be sure to head over to these blogs.

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson could be my new favorite mentor text. I loved the New York Times review by Veronica Chambers where she wrote:

"You can read “Brown Girl Dreaming” in one sitting, but it is as rich a spread as the potluck table at a family reunion. Sure, you can plow through the pages, grabbing everything you can in one go, like piling a plate high with fried chicken and ribs, potato salad and corn bread. And yes, it’s entirely possible to hold that plate with one hand while balancing a bowl of gumbo and a cup of sweet tea with the other. But since the food isn’t going anywhere, you’ll make out just as well, maybe even a little better, if you pace yourself."

I found myself reading Brown Girl Dreaming holding the plate in one hand and gobbling as I went, so I had to ge back and savor it after I made it to the final page. My family humored me and listened to several of the entries, especially since they were stuck in the car with me as we drove home from Rhode Island last night. I plan to continue to mark pages and savor pages...

Many parts of this book remind me of When I Was Young in the Mountains by Cynthia Rylant, except that instead of just having 32 pages of images, powerful memories, and sensory language, Jacqueline Woodson provides 330 pages of evocative writing. While a strong plot winds through the lyrical verses, many of the chapters can stand alone as individual stories to inspire both readers and writers to pay attention or create sensory details, foreshadowing, parallel structures, minimalism, characterization, figurative language. Many schools have upper elementary students write I Am From or I Believe poems and one of my favorite chapters is What I Believe at the end. Do not miss this!

In addition to providing incredible lessons for powerful close reading and writing mentorship, Brown Girl Dreaming also weaves American history and geography throughout the twentieth century. This book will definitely inspire questions about segregation, civil rights, and equality since the Woodsons' experiences included the north and the south over the course of the sixties and seventies. One seven line chapter, Ghosts, relays history in just these lines:

In downtown Greenville, 
they painted over the WHITE ONLY signs, 
except on the bathroom doors, 
they didn't use a lot of paint
so you can still see the words, right there
like a ghost standing in front
still keeping you out.

Themes of perseverance, resilience, and acceptance run throughout this book, as well as messages about growth mindsets and the power of believing in yourself.  I could go on. What a beautiful, inspiring book!
#don't miss it!








Monday, September 1, 2014

It's Monday! Here's What I'm Reading...

Jen Vincent at Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee Moye and Ricki Ginsburg at Unleashing Readers cohost It's Monday! What are You Reading? weekly on their blogs.  To see what others are reading and recommending each Monday, or to participate, be sure to head over to these blogs.

Unusual week for me , as I have no picture books on the list...

Absolutely Almost by Lisa Graff has been on my list all summer, but I had loaned it to my 13 year-old nephew who doesn't love to read. (He loved it. Do I need to write more?) When my blogging partner, Melanie Swider, listed it on her list of favorites, I cut the TBR line and I am glad that I did. Absolutely Almost is a wonderful book to read and talk about empathy and kindness. I wasn't prepared for how sad I would feel for Albie, the main character, in this book, as he grapples with learning difficulties, friendship issues, and parental realationships.  This is also a wonderful book to talk about the power of voice in writing, as Albie is funny, honest, and insightful.

I had two long car rides last week, one with my going-to-college daughter and another by myself. Larkin had tried to pick a book that we would both enjoy and had selected The Here and Now by Ann Brashares. Not a book I would normally pick up since it is young adult and I rarely venture from my world of middle grade and picture books, I have to say that I enjoyed the plot. I'm selective with my seventh grade daughter's books, and I would have no problem with her reading this (no swearing, only one mention of sex, a short violent scene) and I think that she would learn a lot, as woven into the plot were strong messages about global warming and our disregard for the warnings in our world. The main character is a "time traveller", and is in our world from a world that is 80 years ahead of us. Her community had to escape blood plagues along the lines of AIDS, as well as deadly and prevalent mosquitos. Overall, the audio kept my attention along long highways, and I listened to the last third without Larkin, who bought the hard copy in Michigan.

Before I let Larkin put in her choice, we listened to several chapters of Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg, who is the COO of Facebook. I think that her TedTalks and her book are important reading for young women, as she delivers a strong message that women need to be more represented in leadership positions. Larkin (18) and I had some good conversations about the truth of Sheryl Sandberg's points--we found ourselves nodding as we listened, agreeing that she was right about how women behave versus how men behave--and I was glad to have shared this experience during an important time in Larkin's life. I will also have my younger daughters watch her Tedtalks, found here and here.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YraU52j3y8s  I have read many books about raising strong daughters, but I felt like there were messages in these talks that young women should definitely hear.  It's also a book that fathers should read, as well. 

Happy reading (and listening!)