Friday, June 3, 2016

The Most Precious Book Club EVER!

I would like to share something about a few special Ney Knights. This spring during one of my conference periods, I was visited by three special fourth graders, Emily, Alyssa, and Peyton. They had a proposal for me. It was a very well thought out proposal, I might add. They sweetly presented their idea to me. They wanted to start a book club for fourth graders and they wanted me to "sponsor" them. My job as the sponsor was only to provide the space for their meetings as well as the adult supervision. They laid out their organized plan for me. They were going to meet for about thirty minutes every other week during their recess time. They also checked and found out that this was my conference period, so I would not have any scheduled classes. They had a list of rules that book club members would be asked to follow (the most important of which was to KEEP UP WITH THE REQUIRED READING) and they had a three strikes and you are out policy. They had spoken to the counselor and had permission to tackle this project pending my agreement to help them.
Of course I agreed! What self-respecting librarian wouldn't agree (and melt) to this idea? They asked for my suggestions on books to read. We pulled a few titles that were appropriate for their age and which I had multiple copies of. They decided to pick the book at the first meeting, so that all members could vote on their choice. All three of them were very concerned about having enough books each time we started a new one. I promised them that if the library did not have enough copies, I would see to it that I got the copies for them. They were so very thoughtful in that they always tried to choose between books I already had copies of. They were all so worried that I might have to spend my own money to purchase the books we needed. I thought this was so very sweet! I assured them that the library would purchase the books we needed. I would not have to use my own money.
On the day of their first meeting, the three leaders came into the library early to set up. They neatly displayed all book choices that the members would be voting on. They discussed their agenda for the meeting and which of them would be covering each item. They reviewed the rules and discussed how they would present them to the other members. Then, they set up the space with chairs and laid out their sign-in sheet.

Before long, the members started to show up. Each of these sweet kids were giving up their recess time to be a part of this book club. My heart just melted. The leaders introduced themselves, and proceeded with the agenda. Thankfully they agreed that I could be a part of their book club. I made it clear that I wanted to join, but as a member. I was not going to interfere with the leadership. We voted on the book that we would all like to read. The Tale of Despereaux one by a landslide! The leaders informed the others of the next scheduled meeting and told them how far they should read by the next meeting. Everyone left with a book in their hand and a smile on their face! I spoke to Emily and let her know that she could most likely google good discussion questions to use at the next meeting, if she would like to do that. She seemed interested, but I definitely did not want to push her. I purposely wanted this to be THEIR book club, not mine.

The remainder of the school year this little group met faithfully every two week until the craziness of mid-May came along. As they finished one book, they would vote on the next and start it immediately. They came prepared with googled discussion questions and led meaningful, spirited discussions each meeting. I was so incredibly impressed with their faithfulness, preparedness, and leadership qualities! Over time, some members dropped out if they could not commit to the required reading. Interestingly, each child policed themselves with this rule. The leaders never had to utilize the "three strikes and you are out" rule. If a child was not keeping up, they voluntarily turned in their book and quietly stepped out of the book club. I am pretty sure they did not want to disappoint their leaders. I am still in awe of this precious little group of kids. I feel blessed to have been included in their book club and even more blessed to be their sponsor. This opportunity provided me first hand insight into what can happen when you allow students to take control of their learning and their learning environment. I am so sad that they are leaving me this year, but so hopeful that they will carry on their legacy of leadership. I can't wait to see what these future "bosses" will become and what they will do with their lives. All three are destined to do great things! Mrs. Roland loves all three of you sweeties! If you have a book club at Rasco, I want to be in it, too!!

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Kindergarteners Can Do WHAAAATTT?

While attending the Texas Library Association's annual conference a few years ago,  I came across one particular session that really peaked my interest. The ladies presenting the session explained in great detail how they were able to get their PreK and Kinder friends to do research. I was amazed! I was also extremely jealous because this school had access to the coolest database for younger elementary kids, PebbleGo by Capstone. I immediately contacted my Capstone rep and requested a quote for PebbleGo. Unfortunately, our budget had been spent by this late in the year. I decided to save the quote and make PebbleGo one of my first purchases for the next school year. Next, I very sweetly asked my kinder teachers if they would jump on board with me and try this research idea with their kiddos. Luckily, I have kinder teachers who are generally always on board with my ideas, so they agreed to collaborate with me.  Although we did not have the database access, we did have age appropriate library books, so we completed our research the "old fashioned way," with library books.  With all hands on deck (even the kinder parents), we were able to make it through an entire research project. The final product was just precious. Each child completed a poster of their animal at home, they came back to school with the poster, and we recorded their voices telling about their animal. I connected the voice recordings to a QR code that we attached to their poster, and then we invited their parents up to school for a gallery walk of all the kinder projects. Parents could see the poster, then scan the QR code and hear each child explain what they discovered about his/her animal. It was a TON of work, but it was a BIG hit! This is an example of one student's audio presentation:

 Many things have changed on our campus in the two years since we completed this research project. Our classrooms each have ten Chromebooks and about three or four iPads.  Our kindergartners are familiar with using both devices. Our district has also graciously purchased the PebbleGo databases for all of our elementary schools. With all of this available technology, I decided that this year was the year to try my hand at online kindergarten research.

I started this project by first teaching my kinder friends how to log on to MackinVia using our generic school log in. From MackinVia, we discovered how to access the PebbleGo database. This worked pretty well, but I ran into two substantial problems: the students had to do too much "logging in" and we only have ten iPads in the library, so they had to "partner up."

The following week, I decided to "bite the bullet" and teach my kinder friends how to log in to the library computers. I have twenty Chromebooks available in the library, so this was a more individualized option. Once they were familiar with logging in to the Chromebooks, I taught them how to navigate to our school's Symbaloo. This Symbaloo is the go-to place for all of the websites that our students will need access to. Our entire campus uses this site on a daily basis and it has really helped us with speeding up the process of kid's finding the sites we need them to find. If you aren't familiar with Symbaloo, be sure to check it out. It is a lifesaver! From Symbaloo, students were able to access our school's PebbleGo databases without being required to log in (the least amount of steps possible, the better with our kinder people). The first day we navigated to PebbleGo, was just an exploration day. I let the students play around on PebbleGo and figure out how it works on their own. They absolutely loved it!

The following week, we reviewed how to log on to PebbleGo and I allowed the students a few minutes to explore. Once the uncontained excitement was under control, I asked them to navigate to the animal database and choose one animal that they would love to learn more about. When their choices were made, I gave each student the following graphic organizer to take their notes on. I found this idea on the PebbleGo website, then tweaked it a little bit to make it more kindergarten friendly. Next, I guided the students in writing down their animal name on the top line and their name on the second line. It doesn't sound like much, but just these few steps took one entire lesson!

During our next library visit, we got down to the "meat" of the research. I asked the kids to log in to the computers, navigate to Symbaloo, find PebbleGo, and find the animal they picked to research last week. This was quite the task! About half were able to do all of this without help. The other half, I assisted as needed. Once students were on their animal, I asked them to draw a picture of their animal in the large box at the top of the page. This was right up their alley and they loved it! Once the picture was complete, I modeled how to click on a tab such as, Body, listen to PebbleGo tell about the tab, and pick one thing to write in their "body" box. I was very impressed with how many of them were capable of doing this task! When I started this, I actually expected that most of them might need to just draw a picture to represent what they heard about the body. However, almost every student was able to find one thing to copy in the body box! The next library lesson or two focused on filling in the remaining three boxes about their animal. Each week it became easier and easier to complete the task. By the time we finished the graphic organizer, I was able to teach the lesson without feeling like I was going to come undone!

I am looking forward to next week when I will teach students how to use Chatterpix on our iPads. We are going to use this app and our note taking sheet to create the final product for our Animal Research. Stay tuned to find out how it all turns out!

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Final Thoughts

It is time for you to be real and to be honest.  I need your unfiltered, honest opinions on what you thought about this Book Study and what we can do to improve it for next time. Please answer the following questions for me:

  • Did you like the format? Is there any way you can think we could improve how this is delivered?
  • What did you think about the chosen book?
  • Would you do this again?
  • Would you do this again voluntarily (you are not REQUIRED to do a PLT)?
  • Do you honestly think this was beneficial to your teaching career?
  • Do you have another book you would like to see done in this format?
  • What suggestions can you give ME to improve my moderating of the Book Study?

Chapters 13-15

Well ladies, we made it! We finished the last section of Guided Reading AND we are about to embark on the last week of the school year. I don't know about you, but I am feeling rather accomplished. Let's discuss the last three chapters of Guided Reading and then move on to planning for next year.

Chapters 13-15:
In chapter thirteen I appreciate how the authors remind us of the importance of connecting reading and writing from the very beginning of a child's literacy experience. How did you feel about the authors' opinion on the role of phonics in Guided Reading? I will be honest, it goes against how I was taught to read AND how I was taught to teach reading. However, I do believe that if we can "let go" of our preconceived ideas and give this approach a try, we will probably see success. I liked how this book encourages teaching phonics, but in a more authentic and individualistic manner. I am just not able to see where studying short a and completely a repertoire of short a worksheets will get us where we need to be. This chapter had a lot of good teaching techniques. I can see you referring to these as the year progresses, just don't forget they are there!

I have to say chapter 15 was probably the most eye opening chapter for me, personally. This chapter has really made me think about some things we can do at Ney to promote literacy. Page 189 contains a bulleted list that could basically be a starting point for goals we might make for next year. The top of my list is starting up an outreach program for Pre K! I loved the following statement, " The most important group of educators a child will ever meet is the primary literacy team." (191) How true is that? Can I hear an "amen"? Finally, I found the suggestions for intervention criteria to be so helpful. It is my hope that once we get a definite administrative leader on our campus, they will at least read this chapter to determine whether or not our intervention program is on track and where we might have room for improvement. We need TOTAL buy-in for all areas of our campus in order for Ney to build a rich literacy learning environment. My fingers are crossed that we are all on this same track. What are your thoughts about this? Do you think we currently have complete buy-in for balanced literacy? What do you think we could do to encourage everyone on campus to promote and participate in balanced literacy?

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Chapters 10-12

Chapters 10-12

I think we will all agree that chapters 10-12, though very informative, were also incredibly sleep inducing! Chapter 10 delves deeper into using leveled readers. The authors spend a great deal of time explaining the increase in difficulty of each Guided Reading book level. I am assuming they spent this much time on these details so that we can eventually pick up any book and correctly place it within a Guided Reading level. Fortunately, we have our Guided Reading library set up with plenty of access to a wide range of literature. I have also noticed that book publishers and companies are including this information with the books that they sell. I am sure that you will not have to put the information in this chapter to use very often. What did you think about the charts found on pages 132 and 287? I found both of these to be very informative. I feel like either one would be an asset to add to your toolbox for Guided Reading.

In chapter 11 we learn how to select and introduce books to our readers. How successful do you feel with this now? My guess would be that we are all experts at selecting the right book for our students. However, if you are like me, you probably found the tips quite helpful for introducing books to your groups. This bulleted list of ideas is another tool I would add to your existing Guided Reading go-to documents. The ideas for introducing a book are simple and familiar, but it is nice to have them in one place to refer to when we get stuck in a rut. Did you find anything in this list of ideas that you find yourself neglecting?

If you stayed awake for the duration of chapter 12, you can consider yourself a champ! Wow! This chapter provided great information, but it was so much to take in at one time. One page 150 I liked how the study cited by the author explained comprehension: "A study of over one thousand fourth graders' oral reading fluency (Pinnell et al.1995) found that rate, fluency, and accuracy were all highly related to comprehension. (150)" Again, this is something that we intuitively know as teachers, but it is nice to have it in print so that we may share with parents. In this chapter the authors also explain the ever-mysterious topic of how to teach a child to improve comprehension. On page 156 the authors list five behaviors that show evidence of comprehension. The five indicators are: accuracy rate, use of cues, behavior that indicates an active search for meaning, fluency and phrasing, and conversation about what they have read. In addition, we are provided an excellent chart on page 161 that lists teacher prompts to support the processing of these strategies. This is a MUST HAVE for you at your Guided Reading table. Do you agree that this would be a valuable tool to use while conducting small group reading?

Ok, ladies! Only one more week/section to go. Let's talk about readiness. I am referring to YOUR readiness to begin Guided Reading for next year. Do you feel equipped to handle what is coming your way? Do you feel supported in this endeavor? Is there anything else that we could do to help you through the implementation process? I will see you all next week. I feel certain that we will need to celebrate the end of this maiden voyage with our Book Study!

Friday, May 16, 2014

Chapters 7-9

We are getting closer to the end, ladies! I am sure we will all agree that chapters 7-9 were not the most invigorating chapters you have read thus far. Let's break it down and talk about what you learned from this section.

Chapter 7
This chapter was all about the importance of using running records as a form of assessment with Guided Reading. The author described two forms of running records, quantitative and qualitative. Quantitative records break the child's performance down to a number. This number is used to determine the child's fluency rate. The fluency rate is a solid number that will allow you to easily see how the child is progressing.  I can see this number being helpful in parent conferences. Parents may not understand the process of teaching a child to read, but they can relate to a number, especially if that number tells them where their child is currently performing and where the child needs to be by the end of the year. Qualitative records are used when looking for evidence of how the child is processing the act of reading. The teacher must dig into the mind of the child and look for clues that show how the child is understanding the meaning of words, the structure of sentences, and the visual information within the reading material. I believe the qualitative records would be most helpful in guiding the teacher toward meeting the needs of the individual child. The authors provided a few examples of running records. I also looked on Teachers Pay Teachers and found many examples of running record data collection sheets. Many of the downloads were even FREE! Do you currently use running records? If you do not use running records, what kind of data do you collect currently? Do you plan on using running records next year?

Chapter 8 and 9:
Chapters 8 and 9 were "preaching to the choir". In chapter 8 the authors detail the harmful effects of ability grouping without flexibility. The most important point I feel we can take from this chapter is that your grouping system must be FLUID and FLEXIBLE. We have already learned that there are many components to the Guided Reading program. Each component must be considered when planning your groups. Some components are whole group, others are small. Some components work best with heterogeneous groups, others with homogeneous groups. Some components are best grouped by interest, others are best grouped by ability. Page 98 contains a bulleted list that would be helpful in considering each component and the corresponding grouping system that would work best. Just remember, keep the children moving amongst groups. No child should be placed in a group and left there for the year! So, what did you think about the sample class provided in chapter 8 and how the teacher determined their guided reading group? I thought it was helpful that the teacher formed the top group first, the bottom group next, and the two middle groups last. Is this how you go about grouping in your class?

Finally, chapter 9 was all about choosing literature to use with your students. The good news? This has been done for you! Our "new and improved" guided reading library is all prepared and ready for you to use. There is no need for you to go through the tedious task of collecting, buying, and organizing your own private guided reading collection. It is all complete and ready to go. Just walk down the hall and grab what you need! Woo hoo! There's one thing marked off of your list!

Tell me how you feel up to this point. Do you feel like you have a lot of work to do? Or are you on the right track already? Did you read about anything in this chapter that you would like to implement for next year? Do you have any suggestions for your colleagues?

Friday, May 9, 2014

Chapters 4-6 Guided Reading

Now that we have background knowledge on the Guided Reading program, we can start researching the means for incorporating it into your own classroom. Chapters four through six begin detailing the implementation process.

Chapter Four:
While reading chapter four, I found myself thinking about the word, "purposeful". The principal at Westside, Robin Braun, used this term many times when describing the Guided Reading program. During her presentation I noticed that this word kept coming up, but I assumed that it was a word that she just liked to use.  However, as we are reading this book, I am finding that "purposeful" is the perfect word for describing each piece of the program. In this chapter we find suggestions for setting up your classroom in a purposeful manner in order to get the most out of your literacy program. While the author was describing each component of the Guided Reading classroom, I found myself envisioning the classroom that I observed at Westside. This classroom was a "textbook example" of the ideal literacy-balanced room. The teacher had the following components:
  • Clearly defined areas that the children knew how to navigate.
  • The teacher could see ALL the areas of her classroom from any vantage point.
  • The classroom was ORGANIZED!
  • She had plenty of display space for student work. Student products were all over the classroom.
  • She had a clearly labeled and organized classroom library.
I could definitely see that she had designed her classroom around the literacy learning she expected to take place. I have been in all of your classrooms and I have seen many of these components already in place. What do you ALREADY have set up that is aligned with Guided Reading? What do you plan on implementing for next year? Don't forget to refer to the checklist for analyzing the classroom environment when you are setting up your room for next year!  What is one change that you could make NOW to your classroom that would support our Guided Reading initiative?

I loved the idea of arranging the classroom library  by "author, illustrator, genre, series, theme, or topic" (48). I think too many times we organize our library by level. I can see where the library might seem more appealing to students if it were organized by topics. The students wouldn't be confined to one or two leveled baskets. They could find books in their level in ANY basket. Believe it or not, this wold increase student interest in reading!

Chapters Five and Six:
Throughout the years I have seen many examples of classroom work boards. I have even seen great work board examples on Pinterest and Teachers Pay Teachers. Do any of you currently use a work board in your classroom?

Did you notice the author mentions over and over that each new activity introduced on the work board needs to be introduced SLOWLY? Procedures, procedures, procedures, people! I know I am preaching to the choir, but the work areas will not succeed (students working independently) if they are not drilled on how to effectively use each area of your classroom. When you begin planning the start of next year's school year, please remember to refer to the Getting Started chart on page 63. What an awesome resource!

So, how do you feel about the management aspect of the program? Do you feel comfortable with the idea that the students can navigate each area on their own and work independently? Are you nervous?

In chapter six the authors detail the link between assessment and Guided Reading. Currently we are working on gathering the money needed to purchase DRA kits for each grade level. It is my hope that by the start of next year we will have the DRA kits at Ney and ready to be put to use. From this chapter I surmised there will be many ongoing, informal assessments that take place throughout the year. How familiar are you with running records and anecdotal records? Are you sufficiently comfortable to be able to use these next year?

We are almost halfway through this book. How are you feeling about Guided Reading for next year? Do you feel like this is going to be a good program for Ney? What are your biggest concerns? Do you foresee yourself needing support in any specific area?