Saturday, November 30, 2013

Get Closer....

A few days ago I started reading this:

And last night I went to see this:

As I sat in the movie theater, crying as Katniss addressed Rue's family, snickering as she made the dummy of Seneca Crane, in awe of her beautiful wedding-turned-Mockingjay gown, and anticipating the last movie as the cameras went to an up-close of her face in the last shot, I was sitting there thinking how I wanted to reread the books, and be close with them again.

Until I began reading Falling in Love with Close Reading (Lehman & Roberts, 2014) (2014 copyright date?), I didn't know I was thinking about Close Reading in the wrong way. How I had been thinking of it was like this: teacher asks kids a question about a text, and then ask them to go look for evidence - read closely - to find that evidence.

(Please don't judge me...I feel like I should know more about this since I am, after all, a Literacy Coach.)

But I digress...

Here's what I've learned since beginning this great read - in order to get kids independent with close reading they have to do the close reading the other way. Instead of being prompted with a question, kids need to be taught how to begin looking closely at their own text for their own purposes. For example, after watching Catching Fire, I want to go back to the part where Katniss makes that dummy of Seneca Crane, reread that part, and look for her personality - find places in the text where she gets that attitude about her, which causes her to do the little bow for the suits sitting up on the balcony watching her.

Close reading should look more like this:

First, we have to show students how to choose a lens for what they are looking for. For example, they could choose to look through the lens of what people/characters think/say/do.

The next step, then, is to collect evidence on on a character, making notes about what a particular character thinks/says/does. As I used to tell my middle school students, we read with a pencil in hand, and our Reader's Notebooks close by. As students read, they jot down the things the text says about the character - their actions, their words, their thoughts.

The next step is to look at all the notes they have  created - notes which came right from the text. With all that evidence they collect, they can then look for patterns about that character. These patterns will make it easy to form a hypothesis about the character.

This is what reading closely is. It's falling in love with the characters in our books. Following them so closely, watching their every choice and move. It's reading this way because the character is so loved, and we want to be closer to them.

This is why it's important to pick super engaging texts to model this with. The texts we pick have to be about dynamic characters who have to make hard choices. The texts we pick shouldn't be too hard or too boring or too long or too....well anything that would cause students to disengage.

We also don't have to make children do repeated readings of the whole text. We can have them do a first draft reading to get the gist of the text - it's pretty hard to analyze a text when we don't have a vision of the whole thing in our heads. But then, we can ask students to go back and look closely at a small part.

I'm only in the beginning chapters of this book, but I'm already revising my thinking on Close Reading. I'm sure as I read on and try these strategies with students, my ideas will continue to evolve. But, it's easy to think about close reading  after watching such a great movie - following a character like Katniss that you admire so much.

How is close reading going for you? Any tips, tricks, or experiences you could share?

Well now I head to the pool, my book in hand. I'm in Arizona for Friendsgiving and have one  more day: grabbing some sunshine for a few hours and then sportin school colors down in Tempe for the ASU - U of A game. Big game....if we win we'll have home field advantage for the PAC12 Championship! Plus, we definitely want to beat the Cats anyways for bragging rights!

Hope you're enjoying your Thanksgiving weekend!

Friday, November 22, 2013

The Gift of Reading Stop #12: Somebody-Wanted-But-So-Then

Welcome to BigTime Literacy! You have arrived at  


At each blog stop, you will be gathering Reading gifts and freebies.  In each post you will find a picture of a snowman with a letter on it. Collect all of the letters to solve the mystery quote to enter the giveaway. Record all of the letters on your recording sheet and follow each blog along the way so that you can enter the amazing giveaway at the end!

The hop is set up as a loop, so you may start anywhere along the hop, but if you would like to start at the beginning you may go to A Day In The Life of A Title I Teacher's blog.  This is also where you will go after you finish the hop to enter the giveaway!!

For this Gift of Reading, you will find a great read aloud to use around the holidays and a reading strategy for summarizing narrative text. Let's get to it!

Read Aloud

Going home is a great story to read close to the holidays. In this story, a migrant farm working family makes their way home to Mexico for Christmas. The children in the family don't understand why they have to go each year or why their parents love their little Mexican town of La Perla at first, but then they see that it is home to their parents. The children come to understand that their parents went to the United States for opportunities - opportunities for the children and for themselves.

Reading Strategy
Somebody - Wanted - But - So - Then is a great reading strategy to use to summarize narrative text in a quick way.

In the example of our mentor text, the strategy might come out like this:

"Mama and Papa wanted their children to have opportunities for their future, but in Mexico, there weren't many. So, the family moved to the United States. Then they visit "home" for the holidays and the children see how much their parents sacrificed to give them opportunities in their future."


Now that you've learned about my strategies, head over to my TpT store to download my freebie! In the document, you'll find a review of the story, a poster for Somebody-Wanted-But-So-Then, and exit slip, and a running record you can do to assess your students' reading.

And now the big secret letter is:

Enjoy the coming holiday season with your students, family, and friends! I hope that you have found a great read-aloud and a new strategy that will help with your instruction! Make sure to follow BigTime Literacy so you can learn all about what is happening in my corner of the world. Next up on this blog: Academic Parent Teacher Teams!

Don't stop now! Hop on over to Read With Me ABC to pick up another amazing reading gift! Happy Holidays! 

If you get lost along the way download the Hop Map here to easily pick back up where you left off! 

Happy Friday!

Friday, November 8, 2013

Five for Friday

It's been a great week and now it's a long weekend and I'm so stoked! Here's a look at my week for Five for Friday with Doodle Bugs Teaching!

1. Personal Readers

I've been teaching guided reading groups in kinder, first, and second. We "read" Fountas & Pinnell's Level A readers. We are also about five weeks deep in Words Their Way (WTW), so the kiddos know all initial consonant sounds (well, not to mastery, but we've introduced them all). Anyways, I found the idea of the Personal Reader in the Emergent Spellers book of WTW.

What you do is just make a handout of an excerpt (or all of) a book you've done for guided reading or shared reading. Then, each child gets a folder and the passages are in there. We only have one so far, but they were so, so excited! Here's our conversation:

Me: Boys and girls, I got you a present!
Kiddos: You did?! What is it?!!!
Me: Well, it's a folder, but look inside. It has the story we read this week - a copy just for you.
Kiddos: It's for us? <smiling> Can we take them home and practice them at home, too?!?!
Me: Well, we're still figuring that out. But yes, they are your stories and you can practice at home.
Kiddos: <totally unprompted> Thank you, Ms. Brezek!

another Kiddo: Thank you!!!

Melts. My. Heart.

2. Kids loving words and teachers loving teaching them

I love the people I work with, and especially when I get emails like this. One teacher has been doing WTW with some students in fourth and fifth grades and the kiddos were so excited to get new words for vocabulary discussion, sorting, pattern seeking, spelling, games...etc. Excited for words? Teacher win : )

3. My friend, Christine
Speaking of working with awesome people, I love working with Christine, one of our Reading Specialists. We get each other, trust each other, and help one another. She's taught me so much about guided reading and sight words (ooohhhhh I have a so good blog coming - she said I could write about it!) and running records and assessment of kids in the primary grades. Oh, and gluten-free pumpkin bars? Yes, those are awesome. And healthy! : ) I can be myself with Christine and I look forward to coming to work each day because I know there will be a positive, happy, person waiting to say hello in the morning. You're totes amazing!

Side note: Can we take a few more pics? This is the *only* one I have!
(and I kinda look like a giant!)

4. An email from a former student....
Diego was my student, let's see, my third year? That would have been 2005-2006. He is now in college studying engineering and came to Chicago for a conference. Unfortunately, we were unable to connect for a dinner, but he sent me this great email. This is why I do the work I email like this will fill my heart for  months and months to come.

5. Fall on our playground

I am not a huge fan of recess duty, especially now that it's getting cooler, but it is a pretty beautiful yard we have. It seemed like it rained for two days, causing us to be inside for recess, and then this day, when we finally went back out, the leaves were all golden and falling, and so the kids were having a blast playing with them. Fall is my favorite season because of pictures like the one below...

One more thing, I have to share. Last night I went to dinner for a friend's birthday (Happy Birthday, Laurie!). We went to Hash House a Go Go and I had chicken and waffles for the first time:

Let's start with the waffles and work upwards: Belgian waffles with bacon cooked inside, topped with fried chicken and onion straws, and skewered with a rosemary stalk. It was delicious, but so much food. I shared it with a friend, and we still took some home. Great restaurant, great food, great friends!

Well, that's all for me today. Enjoy your weekend, hope it's long like mine! Speaking of, thank you to all the service men and women who protect our freedoms so we can have chicken and waffles and teach kids how to read and do 100 other amazing things every day. Thankful for all the Veterans do to protect all the liberties we enjoy each day.

Also, thanks again to Doodle Bugs Teaching for the link-up! Hope everyone has a great weekend!

Peace out,

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Currently November

Wow, I can hardly believe it's November! The school year is flying by! Halloween has come and gone, I turned a year older, and I've almost finished my first semester of Grad School (the second Master's). Not to mention, I began a new job and I LOVE it! I work with amazing people and I'm learning so much!

So here we are again, linking up with Farley for Currently. Time to get to know a little bit more about the blogger behind BigTime Literacy. I give you Currently for November:

Listening to....

I've been obsessed with country music the last few months. I think a big part of it is because of a new station I found on iheartradio: The Big 98 out of Nashville....have you ever listened to it? I listen to their morning show and I love them. Great music, and their little line is something like, "A bunch of  friends with some microphones." Love!

New love: Blog-Hops

So some reading specialist and literacy coach bloggers got in touch with me to participate in a blog hop. I just learned what it is - there were about 25 of us and we all link our pages together and share tips about reading. Now, I'm a new blogger. BigTime Literacy has been around since beginning of July of this year. I usually get about 40 hits per post, but with the blog hop, I had over 900 hits on that post! I mean, it's insane! I had 2 followers on Teachers Pay Teachers and now have 17 and I almost doubled my followers on BlogLovin. I am loving blog hops!

We are planning another one: "The Gift of Reading" for the November. Follow me to get connected with that! There will be TpT freebies and raffles!

Thinking: Blessed in Friendship
On your birthday (mine was yesterday), you always feel the love. Everyone says hi on facebook, friends bring you treats and happy wishes to work and some come along to celebrate in the evening. I am so thankful for all of my friends - the ones far who called, the friends at work who said happy birthday and brought me gifts, and the friends who came to see Wicked with me last night or met up with us afterwards. Such a great night, and I am blessed with great people in my life. Lots of love to all of you!

Sidenote: Wicked is amazing!! It was my second time and I loved it just as much as the first. I still want to go and sit way closer, but even from the rafters it was a beautiful show. Galinda is hilarious and the music is beautiful...

Here's my favorite song from the show - Defying Gravity. I'm sure you've heard it before!

Wanting a personal grocery shopper

#firstworldproblems :)

Definitely not a fan of grocery shopping. I wish it would just magically get done. Especially where I live - I usually get half of my stuff at Target and the one by my house is insane if I don't go at like 8am. I asked a cashier one day and she said it's one of the busiest in the country (maybe she said it was the busiest...can't really remember). It's just such a big to-do. Any takers on this little errand?

Needing to take it easy...

I've been going-going-going since Wednesday morning - work, then grad school, then work on Thursday, then Halloween, then work on Friday, then out for the birthday. I am exhausted and probably overdid it...not feeling my best, but it's 3:30 and I'm still in pajamas and resting. I guess the homework will have to wait until tomorrow, too. Not even going to worry about it! Okay, I'm worrying about it, but trying not to.

I do work best under pressure...

A Yummy Pin: Rainbow Cake!

I was Rainbow Brite for Halloween! Here's a pic of Twink (my cousin Emma) and I from Thursday night:

Since I was Rainbow Brite, I had an excuse to make a rainbow cake! My sister gave me the link with the recipe and it turned out well! I made one for my mentee for her birthday to practice:

and then a second one on Halloween:

It's super cute and I love making them but they are labor intensive! I think I'm done now for least until a birthday for someone else! Click here for the recipe!

So that's all for me for November. Coming up I'm excited for Friends-Giving - going to Phoenix for the holiday! I'm sure this month is going to go by just as fast...I hope you enjoy it! Also, remember to follow me to be in-the-know for the upcoming Blog Hop!

Happy Saturday!

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