Sunday, December 10, 2017

Disguise a Gingerbread Man Library Contest

One of the most fun partnerships of my job was working with our school librarian. We worked Family Literacy Nights, Read Across America Celebrations, and our fun library contests! The library contests came about as a way to reach our kids and parents and engage them in fun activities that they would enjoy. We wanted our kids and parents to:
together on our

* love reading and love books.
* talk to each other about books.
* create something special together.

To do this, we invented our library contests! They were totally voluntary. One of our library contests that took place in December was Disguise a Gingerbread Man.

We posted posters around the school to let kids know we planned to host a contest.

When kids came to the library to ask about the contest, we provided a gingerbread man template on cardstock and the directions on a flyer.

The kids had about three weeks to disguise their gingerbread man as a character from a book they enjoy.

They returned the completed project (with their name, teacher's name, character name, and book title on the back) to the library by the due date.




Then we had a couple judges identify the winners! We chose many, many winners, because the prize was a big one. We booked a bus and a field trip to Barnes & Noble!

Our original idea was to give the winners gift cards to Barnes & Noble, but we realized that our population of kids might not be able to find transportation to get there to spend their card. So my incredible principal suggested the field trip!

We collected winners from the three contests in the fall (Disguise-a-Pumpkin, Turkey in Disguise, and Disguise a Gingerbread Man) and took them all to Barnes & Noble!

They gave each child a piece of chocolate and a tiny sample of a frappuccino (I don't have to tell you how fancy the kids thought that  was!) and then the school paid for one book of the child's choosing. It was a beautiful day!

To grab the editable version of these fun projects (and more: bunnies, snowmen, and designing bookmarks!) just head over to my TpT store!
 
https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Book-Projects-for-seasons-holidays-editable-3433625
 
 
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Sunday, December 3, 2017

Supporting struggling students without pulling them out

One of the biggest challenges to instructional coaching is time management. Where do you spend
your time? I've written about this before, but I'd like to address a specific problem that comes up frequently.
The dilemma:
Should instructional coaches pull out students for intervention?

A lot of this depends on your job description. If you're more of a reading specialist, this might be what your job is mostly about. My job description was about supporting teachers to grow our school's instruction, so that's where I'm coming from.

Sometimes instructional coaches (or literacy coaches, math coaches, whatever your district calls them) are viewed as the safety net for struggling kids. The RtI standby is "Have so-and-so pull the kids out for a small group intervention."

While this is clearly a better support for kids than sticking them on a computer-based program (another old standby), there are issues that arise with this philosophy.

I've done some thinking about this, and here's what I've come up with.

Pros
The student is pulled out by someone who is trained highly in their area of need.
This might not always be true. I have known people who weren't highly trained in their area of coaching and I was confused about how they were placed in that position. But in general, people in support positions should be very knowledgeable in their intervention practices. Students can benefit from a one-on-one or small group setting with a highly trained individual. 

If the student is at a level all of his own, he will get support at that level.
It's hard (sometimes impossible) for teachers to schedule support for students who have no peers at the same learning level. That is a tremendous challenge for teachers in the classroom with students significantly below (or above) their peers.


Cons
The student is pulled out of class.
This is a huge issue that I believe doesn't get enough attention. Our kids who are pulled out are at a serious disadvantage. They are missing what's happening in their home class and are interacting with someone who doesn't know them as well as their teacher.

Learning doesn't always transfer. 
Kids compartmentalize learning. (Adults do, too, incidentally.) To bridge this requires a conscious effort on the part of the classroom teacher and the pullout teacher.

This keeps the coach from working with teachers or meeting other school-wide needs.
This is also huge. If you're working with a small group, you're affecting maybe six people on your campus, tops. That's not a great ratio, when you consider the number of kids and teachers you're there to serve.

Coaches are frequently pulled from duties.
It's hard to be consistent when you're sent to trainings, pulled to monitor classrooms or to serve as support during other emergencies. Support only works when it's consistent. I really want to avoid committing to a teacher if I might not be able to follow through on that.

This doesn't solve the underlying issue.
The student will continue to go back to class with the underlying issue: something about their school day isn't serving their learning.

My proposed solution:

In order to support kids in the long-term, instructional coaches have to support their teachers. My thinking is in five steps.

1. Meet with the teacher to discuss the area of students' needs.
  • Ask specific questions to get specific details.
  • What has the teacher already tried?
  • How have students responded to that support?
2. Observe the teacher working with the students to fully understand what is going on.
  • Take careful notes.
  • Look for what the teacher has alrady explained to you.
  • Notice what the teacher does when students struggle.
  • Notice how students react to teacher instruction.
3. Plan with the teacher an approach that might work with students.
  • Be specific - use the lesson plan template or structure that the teacher is using.
  • Plan out steps.
  • Choose materials.
  • Write questions and dialogue together.
4. Model the plan.
  • Work with the small group using the plan you created.
  • Debrief with the teacher: what went well? what didn't? what needs to be changed?
5. Carry out the plan: observe and provide feedback.
  • Watch the teacher deliver the plan.
  • Check in with the teacher: how's it going?
  • Watch for student progress.
  • Model again as necessary.
I don't have all the answers. You might really disagree with this! And this won't always work, honestly. But it might help you minimize the number of students who need to be pulled out while growing your teachers' intervention strategies. Both of these outcomes are important for instructional coaching.

 Interested in getting yourself organized? Check out my Instructional Coaching MegaPack on TPT for records, observation forms, planning documents, binder covers, and more for coaches!

https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Instructional-Coach-Binder-A-MegaPack-of-Printables-Fillable-Forms-and-More-2065048

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Sunday, November 19, 2017

Guided Reading: Make It Fun!

If guided reading is an important part of your reading program, your kids will be spending a lot of
time at your table. This means that the time you spend in guided reading has to serve a lot of purposes: growing readers, of course, but not just growing readers at the skill level. Our goal is to create real readers: people who can and do read.

I'm just going to say it: if guided reading is boring, and kids don't feel excited, successful, or engaged, then we may be robbing our kids of the joy of reading.

Here are some things to think about to make sure that love fills your guided reading lessons!

1. Fake it till you make it.
Don't love guided reading? Fake it. If you're bored or disinterested, your kid are too. Be excited and value the work you're doing with kids. Joy and humor go a long way to grow readers.

2. Choose texts with kids in mind.
Those handy dandy leveled readers are awfully convenient, but they're usually not very exciting. I prefer to go with real, engaging texts that kids might actually enjoy and connect with. Scholastic's Book Wizard is a great place to hunt for reading levels.

Find a text you'd like to read with your kids, and then search for it here to find the guided reading level. Choose a book that's high interest for the kids in your group. Starting with a reading interest survey can help. You can find one in Rolling Out Reader's Workshop.

3. Celebrate!
Guided reading is tough work for kids. They're exploring strategies at levels that aren't easy. When kids use a strategy they haven't before, celebrate! When they reach a new level, celebrate! High fives, stickers, bookmarks, and little cheers are easy ways to show kids they've accomplished something and should be proud.

4. Use fun materials.
Depending on the age group and personality types you're working with, props can liven up your lesson and give kids something to look forward to. Some easy props are fun pointers (swizzle sticks are cheap and cute), and "reading glasses"(nothing too distracting or view-obstructing, of course!) are great for younger readers.

My kids also love using dry-erase boards and markers, and sticky notes in cute shapes! The Dollar Store is a great spot for livening up guided reading.

Honestly, though, you don't need to buy anything to make guided reading fun. If you bring joy to your work, it will shine through your lessons and your kids will love getting small group attention from you! It could be the happiest part of their day, because they feel special, successful, and engaged!

Be sure to check back every Sunday for these informative posts. I promise you won't be disappointed. I included lots of information and tips to help you get rolling or to spice up your guided reading!
 
September 24: Getting to Know Your Readers First
October 1: What Are the Other Kids Doing?
October 8: Organizing Your Guided Reading Binder
October 15: Preparing Your Space for Guided Reading
October 22: Planning for Guided Reading
October 29: How Do I Know What to Teach?
November 7: Monitoring Progress in Guided Reading
November 12: How to Build Reading Strategies
November 19: Guided Reading: Make it Fun!
 
 
https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Guided-Reading-All-in-One-K-5-Editable-765963
Grab the All-in-One Guided Reading Materials (over 100 pages of tools, forms, organizational strategies, and more for guided reading K-5).

 
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Sunday, November 12, 2017

Guided Reading: How to Build Strategy Use in Readers

The purpose of guided reading is to build strategy use to support growing readers. We do this in a guided setting so we can introduce a strategy and help students practice it until they're able to do it on their own in their own reading.


In order to actually make this happen, it requires thoughtful planning and figuring out which strategies to introduce to students.

But it's not as hard as it seems! Once you've figured out which strategy to teach, here is how you can actually ensure that students acquire it and are able to use it in their own reading.

1.  Explicitly introduce it at the beginning of your lesson.
This can look like a little tiny minilesson. As in a minilesson, explicitly state what the strategy is and how to do it. Choose a chunk of text - it could be from the book you're about to read, a book you've read before with this group, or any short text. Model using the strategy in this text. Ask students if they understand and if they have questions.







2. Keep a record of strategies kids can use.

When you've already introduced a strategy, you'll want to keep a visual record so kids and refer to it in the future, during guided reading and other parts of the day.

I add the strategy on a little sentence strip into a pocket chart, so students will remember that's a strategy they are able to use. Have kids verbalize the strategy, too. The language needs to become theirs.

2. Set a purpose question that requires students to use the strategy.
I use my little dry-erase board to visually record what we are working on during the lesson. Then I provide students with post-its so they can try the strategy on their on during their reading. At the end of the lesson, we can add their post-its and have a discussion about how they used the strategy. 

3. During reading, prompt students to use the strategy.

As students are reading, prompt them to try the strategy out. Ask questions that guide them through using the strategy. If students are simply forgetting to use it, you can just ask, "What strategy are we working on?" and gesture towards the pocket chart and dry-erase board.

4. Close the lesson with a conversation about the strategy. 

Ask students how it went and if they were able to try it out. Think about how you'd like to continue with your next lesson. More practice? An increase in complexity? Different types of purpose questions? 

Over time, students will acquire strategies. Then you can bridge to their independent reading and have them practice it independently, at which point it will be part of their toolbox!

Once I've taught something whole-group or in guided reading, I add it to my Good Readers... chart so students can use the sentence starters to write their reading responses. It really helps to grow their independence! You can read more about this in Rolling Out Reader's Workshop.


Be sure to check back every Sunday for these informative posts. I promise you won't be disappointed. I included lots of information and tips to help you get rolling or to spice up your guided reading!
 
September 24: Getting to Know Your Readers First
October 1: What Are the Other Kids Doing?
October 8: Organizing Your Guided Reading Binder
October 15: Preparing Your Space for Guided Reading
October 22: Planning for Guided Reading
October 29: How Do I Know What to Teach?
November 7: Monitoring Progress in Guided Reading
November 12: How to Build Reading Strategies
November 19: Guided Reading: Make it Fun!


https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Guided-Reading-All-in-One-K-5-Editable-765963
Grab the All-in-One Guided Reading Materials (over 100 pages of tools, forms, organizational strategies, and more for guided reading K-5).


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Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Turkeys in Disguise! Library Contest & Book Project

You've probably seen turkeys in disguise all over the internet - they're a fun way to get kids to be creative and clever! We used this fun idea to get kids engaged in reading and in a school event!

We decided to host a Turkey in Disguise Library Contest! We posted signs around the school to let kids know about the contest.

The rules were that kids had to use the turkey template provided to disguise their turkey as a character from a book they enjoy.

They could have parental help (and many did - it's a great way to encourage kids and parents to work together on a fun task!).

Then we made a stack of turkey templates on cardstock (with an entry form on the back) and a flyer with the due date and directions.

And we were astounded by how adorable the entries were! So much that I wanted to share them with you on the blog!

















If you're interested in using this fun idea as a book project or as a contest, you can grab an editable version on TpT! It also includes the Gingerbread Man in Disguise, Disguise a Snowman, Disguise a Bunny, Pumpkin-in-Disguise, and Design a Bookmark! Keep kids engaged and creative all year!

https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Book-Projects-for-seasons-holidays-editable-3433625

 
 
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Sunday, November 5, 2017

Monitoring Progress in Guided Reading

Progress monitoring are buzz words in education. We monitor everything.

How long does it take Benny to read 100 words? How many multiplication facts does Carrie know? How many absences does Richard have? How frequently does Martha use her problem solving strategy?

The only issue with this is: what do we do with that information? What's the point? 

If we collect tons of data on our kids, and then do nothing with it, it was an absolute waste of time and paper.

That being said, there is a purpose to collecting data in guided reading. It can help us make good decisions about what skills and strategies to tackle, how to group our kids, and when they're ready to move up to a new level.

Here are some ways we can monitor students' progress in guided reading, along with the reason it's actually useful.




1. What to collect: reading level
One easy way to do this is on a monthly basis. I have a spreadsheet with each month across the top and students' names down the side. At the end of each month, I record the students' instructional reading level.

Why to collect it:
I look across the student's levels from the year and try to notice if there's been appropriate growth. If a student is making significantly less progress than his/her peers, I notice it and try to think about why that is. If a student is stuck on a level, I think about that too.



2. What to collect: anecdotal notes

To record anecdotal notes, I have an index card for each student. I stick them in the pocket of the plastic divider for that group when I'm not using them. During a lesson, I pull out the cards and have them in front of me, next to the lesson plan.

As students are reading and I'm checking in and prompting, I record notes about their reading behaviors. This might include notes about
- decoding skills kids used or didn't use
- use of comprehension strategies
- how much prompting I had to do
- notes about fluency

Why to collect it:
After a few lessons on a certain strategy, I can pull out the cards and see how my group is responding to the strategy. Do my notes show that they're using it well, and integrating it into their other strategies? Do my notes show a significant area of weakness that I can attack next? The notes are purposeful and help me plan for the future.




3. What to collect: reading behavior records
Reading behavior records incorporate a record of student decoding behaviors, a note about fluency, and a comprehension check. You can get a freebie form here on TPT, or get a form and analysis tools and explanations from Rolling Out Guided Reading.

Why to collect it:
These notes are more thorough than anecdotal notes. You record reading behaviors on about 100 words, and then check for comprehension using a scoring rubric. Using this data, you can decide whether it's time to move up a guided reading level or time to stay at the same level.





4. What to collect: Strategy Quick Check
I have a little system called QuickChecks that I use as an overview every so often to see how students are using a variety of strategies for decoding, fluency, and comprehension. I just check off the strategies I've seen students use effectively.

Why to collect it:
This will give you an overview of where students are. As students move up in reading levels, sometimes the reading behavior record doesn't provide you as much information. Thinking about what strategies students are able to use is a great way to monitor and plan for the future, and will help you think about what kids need to learn next.

Be sure to check back every Sunday for these informative posts. I promise you won't be disappointed. I included lots of information and tips to help you get rolling or to spice up your guided reading!
 
September 24: Getting to Know Your Readers First
October 1: What Are the Other Kids Doing?
October 8: Organizing Your Guided Reading Binder
October 15: Preparing Your Space for Guided Reading
October 22: Planning for Guided Reading
October 29: How Do I Know What to Teach?
November 7: Monitoring Progress in Guided Reading
November 12: How to Build Reading Strategies
November 19: Guided Reading: Make it Fun!
 
 
https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Guided-Reading-All-in-One-K-5-Editable-765963
Grab the All-in-One Guided Reading Materials (over 100 pages of tools, forms, organizational strategies, and more for guided reading K-5).

 
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