Friday, February 28, 2014

Five for Friday

I had a great week! Here's a few of the cool things that happened!

I taught my first close reading lesson to first graders last week and they did so well! I based my lessons on work of some of my fellow colleagues (they blog over at Learning to the Core!) Anyways, we read The Hello, Goodbye Window and then focused our close reading on narrator and character traits. The kids were awesome and had fun, too. Here's some pics:

Looking back at the text!
Our anchor chart!
"I know this because in the story the girl said Nana took (gave) her a bath in the sink."

I'm super excited! I made a new Instagram account and have linked it up to my blog! You can see a few pics that I posted today, right over there to the right hand side of my blog. You can find me @bigtimeliteracy. Please follow! (I'd really like bloggers to follow me so I can find and follow you!)

 The Slice of Life Story Challenge is starting tomorrow! Do you follow Two Writing Teachers? Well, they are hosting a challenge for us to write every day in the month of March. I'm really excited, but also kinda nervous. I mean, some nights I come home and I'm just super tired...but I know I can do it. My month will start off with Farley's Currently tomorrow, and then we'll see where it goes.
Just want to share though: I may not always be writing about teaching-related topics! Perhaps my readers will get a dose of some of my daily (personal) life stuff, too!

I'm getting a blog makeover! Kassie, over at Designs by Kassie has officially put my on her wait list! I have so many ideas and I can't wait for it to get into the production stages...and how exciting will the reveal be? Eeeekkk! Can't wait! 

My blog hit 150 followers on Bloglovin! Now most people would have some kind of celebration and discount their TpT stuff, but I'm not amazing at Tpt, so I'm just happy to report that there's quite a few people checking out my blog! I'm super excited! One goal of mine this summer is to work on docs for TpT, but in the mean time, a big appreciation to all that stop by for some light reading each week!

That's all for me this week. Hope you have a great weekend!

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

The Data Wall: An Overview

Well, it's been a long time in the making, but our data wall is finally up and running!

Our data wall reflects information collected school-wide about how our students are performing on the Fountas and Pinnell Benchmark Assessment.

This assessment is given to students three times a year. It is a 1:1 assessment where the classroom teacher meets with each child individually. The child reads a book aloud to the teacher who takes a running record. Then, the teacher and student have a conversation about what they read. The running record is scored for accuracy and fluency and the responses to questions are rated from 0 (Unsatisfactory) to 3 (Excellent). Scores are all tabulated and teachers determine if the reading level is Independent, Instructional, or Hard. The data wall reflects students Instructional reading levels.

The levels students read at are coded with the alphabet - A through Z. That's why at the top of our data wall, you'll notice the letters.

Each child is given an index card, and they are coded for grade level:

Kinder: White
First: Pink
Second: Yellow
Third: Green
Fourth: Blue
Fifth: Purple

The child's card is placed in the pocket chart under the level that the child is at:

You'll also notice that the top of our data wall is for all cotaught students, the bottom is reserved for general education students. Our district is a huge supporter of the cotaught model, so all special education students are taught in the classroom with two teachers. This happens at each grade level!

Each child's card is marked with various information. Facing outward, the cards show the student's S-Number (to keep student names confidential) and they are coded with various subgroups the student may be a part of:

So, some of the cards look like this:

The backs of the cards list the student name, and then there is a space to keep the cumulative scores for the students across the years:

Under the student's name are the numbers K-5 to represent the grades. Along the left-hand side are the three testing times (Fall, Winter, Spring). Then, as the child moves from grade to grade, the card will follow them along their journey here at school.

Teachers met in the the Reading Office to put the cards up on the wall, reflect on what we saw, and discuss:

There's so much more to share: our conversations, next steps, and how to set this whole thing up! I will be sharing more about those in a later blog make sure to follow me on google or bloglovin!

Do you already have a data wall up and running at your school? Is it similar or different than ours? Please share in the comments about your experience with a data wall!

Happy Tuesday!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Hey, It's Ok!

So sometimes on my other blog I write this one post like the Glamor magazine column where you write about all the things it's okay to do - you know - don't beat yourself up about little things? Well, here's my edition for this Wednesday...

Hey, it's okay...
to wear wet pants to work because your'e running late and slipped on the ice on the way out to the car.

Hey, it's okay...
if it's three weeks later and you *still* haven't finished AIMS Web on that last set of kids you were supposed to finish so long ago.

Hey, it's okay...
to scrap your academic-centered lesson plans in reading workshop and revert back to management lessons for a week.

Hey, it's okay...
to interrupt your RtI lesson plans and have kids work silently for two days in a row to benchmark all the kids in the group.

Hey, it's okay...
if some things at work are going so so well, and others, well, I'll take another stab at it tomorrow.

Hey, it's okay...
to high-tail it out of work at 3:30 to get to that yoga class that will make you feel better, and thus, be a better teacher tomorrow.

You can't control it all...what are you beating yourself up for today? Hey, it's okay!

Happy Wednesday friends!

Monday, February 17, 2014

Accountability with Independent Reading - Middle School Edition

A long time ago - like maybe six months ago - I wrote about how I believe Reader's Workshop is better than AR. You can read that post here. Well, I mentioned at the end of the post that I'd share about how to maintain accountability with kids and reading at a later time. But then I never did. So here I am to do that!

I actually think it's better that I'm writing it now, now that I can see what a Reader's Workshop looks like in primary and intermediate classrooms, as opposed to just middle school. I think we have two different situations going on with elementary and middle that need to be addressed separately, so I'll start with middle school.

Independent reading is a huge component of Reading Workshop. When I taught in middle school, I had a traditional schedule where I saw students 45 minutes a day each day of the week. I had to get some instruction done, which eventually led my schedule to have only one day of class for sustained silent reading. First tip: Keep your day for silent reading the same every day. Kids need to be able to plan for their reading!

Students had to have more reading in their lives than just one class period a week, so all the rest of their reading was to be done at home. Their homework every  night was to read 20 pages of their Just Right book and work in their Reader's Notebooks. Once in awhile they would have additional homework, but I made it a point to do so very rarely. It was more important to me that they read every night at home, so I made time in class for whatever else we were working on.

Now, you have to check this reading. You can't just tell middle school kids to read and assume that they will. To check it, I used status of the class. All you need is one calendar per child and about 3-5 minutes at the beginning of class. This is what it looks like:

As you can see, I just call out to each student and ask their page number. I tracked it on the calendar. Students who didn't do their reading had to stay after school to finish. (This really only works if you have some other time during the day to make kids stay and finish their reading. I highly encourage something like our PRIME Time class, which was for students who didn't finish homework - not for behavior-related issues.)

Why status of the class?
Well, since it's all verbal, students can hear what one another are reading and it builds interest for books. As I take status, students are working on a "Do Now" of some sort, but they also hear the books of the friends in the class and can ask each other questions about the books.

Secondly, it's a 1:1 time for me with each child, and although super short, that 1:1 is so important. I've had people say, "Why don't you make this a google form and have kids do it on the computer?" Well, it's easier to lie about pages when you don't have to connect 1:1 with an adult. Plus, when you do this every day, with every child, you see patterns and trends. You know which kids are really reading and which kids are not.

Finally, it's quick. When you do this every day and the routine never changes, it hardly takes any time and is no big deal. Plus, doing status lets me know when a child finishes their book, needs to write a blog (click here to see my former students' book blogs, listed down the right hand side of the page), and when they need to get a new book.

Status of the class is important but students also have to be doing some kind of writing in their Reader's Notebooks about their books. Every night. You can do this in many ways - and I change this up throughout the year, but kids have to write about their reading. Some options:

  1. Reading Strategies - Kids can write predictions, questions, draw conclusions and inferences, summarize...any of those great strategies we teach to help kids be active readers.
  2. Response to Literature - Kids can write responses to what they read - what they think about the books, characters, settings, etc. I use this list from Fountas and Pinnell.
  3. Text structures - Kids can complete text structures about their reading - obviously a plot line for fiction, but then when they read nonfiction, they can complete any of these:

Great book for teaching text structures:

Anyways, make sure students are writing about their reading each night at home. Status of the class plus a writing component for homework are key to accountability in Middle School.

I thought I would continue on with Elementary School, but I'm going to save that for another post. Promise to get to that sooner than six months from now!

Happy President's Day! I think we're going to try skiing today...I've never been so we'll see how that goes!

Sunday, February 16, 2014

A very late 5 for Friday!

I had such a great week last week and have been wanting to post but have been busy and relaxing. But, it's time now for Five for Friday! Linking up with Doodle Bugs Teaching to share mine from this past week!

The reading team was in charge of our Wednesday Morning PD so we presented differentiated sessions on Close Reading. Christine, one of our Reading Specialists presented a beginning session of Close Reading, just covering everything that it entails. Teachers who already heard this session on during our Institute Day in January came with me. I presented "Revving up the Rigor with our Questions." In this presentation, we talked about moving close reading questions from the Key Ideas and Details standards to Craft and Structure and Integration of Knowledge and Ideas. I showed lots of examples, like this one:

Teachers then had time to look at one of their guided reading books or an article they were planning to use and figure out questions they might ask.

This session was great, too, because a first grade classroom asked me to come model this in their classroom. It's strange - because I've been reading lots about close reading, but haven't got to teach it yet...super excited for next week in a first grade cotaught classroom!

On days when I present to our staff, I always make it a point to get a little more dressed up, so on Wednesday I was wearing a dress and pink sweater, some bigger jewelry, and I did my hair and makeup more than I usually do. A few hours after our presentation, I was walking down the Kinder hallway and passed by one of our sweet little guys who said in the sweetest voice, "You look beautiful, Ms. B." It seriously made my day!

Our kinder teachers have been using Words Their Way now for about 14 weeks and are just beginning the digraphs and blends unit. What's great about Words Their Way is the routine and consistency it brings. AFter 13 weeks of the same procedures, students know exactly what to do, so they can really get to business with their learning. Watch this video to see students doing a Word Hunt in books. They are looking for initial S, H, and SH words in their books. Then, they record them in their notebooks:

I love it!! Kids can really see the importance of sound sorting as they read hunt through their books and they get so excited to find words and read them!

A few weeks ago I wrote about my favorite Valentine's tradition: Warm Fuzzies:

I've been doing these every year since my first year of teaching... always with middle school, until this year! This year I asked one of the kinder teachers if I could try them with her class. Aside from me not realizing the fine motor skills they need to tie little strings - they loved them!

They said the cutest appreciations to one another:

"Thank you for sitting by me at lunch."
"Thank you for being my friend."
"Thank you for helping me with my sound sorts."

Additionally, a parent had emailed the classroom teacher about another question, but mentioned how she loved that the kiddos did this activity together. Winning!

My Valentine's Day was pretty great, too! I had no idea what we were  doing - the bf planned it all! We went to dinner at a Vietnamese Pineapple Calamari was served in a halved-hollowed-out pineapple and the bf's mango and coconut beef was served in a coconut. I'm not sure why I didn't take a pic, but definite points for creativity! We had a lovely dinner and got each other little gifts....couldn't ask for a better night!

Hope you had a great week and are enjoying a much needed three day weekend!

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

the power of personal connection

Today I was co-teaching in a second grade classroom. A small group and I were doing word study. The kiddos that are with me are working on some short vowels and basic CVC patterns.

One boy, we'll call him Mike, has a really hard time with reading. Even reading words like map and van and dad. He can figure them out, but it's definitely not automatic, and so he has lots of work-avoiding habits in place to cope.

Today, one of said habits was just sitting and not doing anything. He wasn't really bothering anyone - wasn't whistling like yesterday - but was just sitting there, disengaed. So, I sit down next to him to have a talk.

I tell him that his teachers care about him and want him to be a better reader, and word study is part of the program. I let him know that, yes, it's new in his classroom, but it's here to stay, and so we have to buckle down and get to work.

As I'm giving him my spiel, his hands go over his head and he leans down, kinda grunting. His head is on the table. He's kind of rocking back and forth. Then, my thoughts go a little ADD, because I didn't do this on purpose, but I said, "Hey Mike, did you get a hair cut? Your hair looks nice today."

It was like a light shone down from the heavens right upon us. He sat up and looked at me with wide eyes and a faint smile. He tells me that yes he knows his teachers care about him and then he starts working. He sorts about three or four words and then tells me that he was finally ready to begin when I asked about his hair.

This is exactly why teaching can't follow models that are pure business models. We, my friends, are in the business of raising kids...and emotion is the engine of intellect.

Have a great Wednesday!

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Dear CoTeacher

One of the things I love about the school district where I work is that we have fully embraced the co-teaching model. With co-teaching, all special education students are taught in fully inclusive rooms, and taught by two teachers: the general education teacher and the special education teacher. No more pull-out, no more resource. Just classroom teaching, co-planned, co-instructed, co-assessed by two teachers working side-by-side.

Co-Teacher with some former students

I think co-teachers can hit a highly productive form of practice when a few things happen:
  1. If the kids just think that they are lucky and just have two teachers, you've done your job well. Sometimes the kids know one teacher is the general education teacher and one is the special education teacher. Or, sometimes it will be that kids will always go to one teacher over the other. If these things  don't're doing it right!
  2. Each teacher has a space in the classroom to work and they are of equal size. Think about it....if one teacher has less space (or no space) what message does that send?
  3. Co-teachers make an effort to know about the preferences of one another. The comparison we get at training on co-teaching is that it's like a marriage in a lot of ways. We are encouraged to find out little things that one another like and dislike. It may seem silly, but perhaps one co-teacher really prefers a certain kind of pen and always keeps them in the same space. That would be important to know! Maybe one co-teacher likes to come into work and get things done before school, but the other likes to work after school. Maybe one co-teacher always wants to leave on Tuesdays right after work to make a class at the gym. It's important to know these things about one another to better understand one another!
  4. Co-Teachers celebrate together. Not just academics and the progress of their students, but also one another. They plan birthday celebrations and attend all the milestone parts of life, like weddings and baby showers. They make it a point to spend time outside of the classroom so that their relationship is stronger inside the classroom. And...they have fun doing it!

When I came to Chicago in 2009, I was matched with a perfect co-teacher (and whole team, really!) Over the four years we worked together, I never really sat and thought about how lucky I was to have this great person working with me every day, but since I've moved on to become a Literacy Coach, I'm constantly remembering how much I loved the work we did together.

As a side note - this co-teacher situation really was like the three of us - Michelle (left) as the primary gen ed teacher for math, Julia (middle) the primarily special education teacher, and me, the primary gen ed teacher for literacy. At different times over the course of four years, Julia resided in my room, and Michelle's room but the three of us were just always in and out of one another's spaces - hard to think of Julia without also thinking of Michelle :-)

Anyways, just a short note to my co-teacher(s). I look back on our four years together with such pride and happiness at all we accomplished!

Dear Co-Teacher(s),

Thanks for trusting me and just "going with things" even if they may have been different than what you did in the past. Teaching is such a highly personal practice, and it can be hard to give in when you have had success doing things a certain way. I feel lucky to have worked with such open-minded colleagues! I am also on the receiving end of learning, as you taught me how to interact better with students of varying needs, how to modify work, how to think about kids in different ways, and how to make appropriate expectations for each child.

Thank you for truly being my co-teacher. You planned with me, you graded with me, we prepared our presentations, and eChalk pages by each doing part after we planned it all out. You were there to teach with me every day, and on the off-chance you couldn't be, that was always communicated. We worked well together!

It wasn't until recently that I realized that you were always doing half of our whole work, plus you had all your IEPs and Special Education meetings and paperwork to prepare. Had I realized this, I would have definitely offered to pick up more of the slack during your busy times. But - you never got angry or mad. You just did what had to be done. Thank you.

You always had my back when, kids being kids, tried to get their way whatever way possible:

Student: Teacher, can I ___?
Teacher: No.

Student: Co-teacher, can I ___?
Co-Teacher: What did the first teacher tell you?
Student: Oh.

You were there to share in laughs as our kids were funny or awkward or said weird things. It became so easy, that just a look from across the room was enough. How I miss that!

You took initiative to get things done that you know needed to be. It was never as if I felt I had to ask for something - you were aware, knew how to keep business running as usual, and just did things. I'm not so sure that this happens in all situations, so for that, thank you.

Eventually, we became one of those co-teaching partnerships that could complete each other's thoughts. Like that time we were talking about doing an intervention with....wait, what's the word? And you filled it in: fidelity. And it was right. <Onlookers shake their heads in wonderment...>

Anyways, I've been blessed to work with tons of super great teachers...the two of you at the top of my list!

Much Love,
Co-teacher :-)

Another side note: One of the principals in our district has a blog all about co-teaching! Definitely check it out and follow her as well!

Happy Sunday!

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