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?

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Don't forget Pinterest!!

I looked on Pinterest today for Guided Reading ideas. I found so many cool ideas and resources. Take a look at the pictures I found of some great ideas:
I love the seats this teacher made from crates! You could use them as storage, too!

Cool idea for your rotation chart.

Teacher Pay Teacher even sells the rotation signs!!
Love how they used kid pics for the rotation chart. Look closely, each child is holding a My Name Is....sign. 

Another nice rotation chart!

Friday, May 2, 2014

Chapters 1-3 Guided Reading

You made it through the toughest part of the book! I am sure we can all agree chapters one and two were not the most stimulating or entertaining! However, chapter three seems to be where we start learning the "meat" of this Guided Reading program.

As I was reading chapters one and two, I kept a few notes in my journal. I was resisting the overwhelming urge to highlight in this book. It is, after all, a library book. I will be honest though, by chapter three I couldn't resist any longer. I HAD to highlight a few things that stood out to me. If you feel the same as you are reading, highlight to your heart's content. We will beg forgiveness later.

Chapter One:
While I was reading the first two chapters, nothing startling came to mind. However, I did find myself wondering about YOUR classrooms. I rarely get to come into your room while you are teaching, so I am generally unaware of your routines and how much of the Guided Reading program you already use. I would like you to fill me in on what you are already using.
  • How much of the program do you feel like you are currently comfortable with and utilize weekly?
  • Are any of you using Interactive Writing?
  • Do you have a solid hour for reading within your day? I noticed this was what the authors recommended, but I am not sure this works the "real world" of BISD. 
I will admit that I had a misconception about the small group part of guided reading. I was surprised to find that during the reading of the book, the students read it alone and the teacher listens in. I don't know why that surprised me since I observed a teacher at Westside doing this very thing. I think it just contradicted the way I taught first grade years ago. I will admit back then I did a LOT of round robin reading. I never felt like it was effective, but it was the only way I knew how to teach reading. It is interesting that the round robin way of doing things really doesn't have a place within guided reading.

Chapter Two:
It was helpful to be reminded by the authors that reading and writing are COMPLEMENTARY. So often, we separate the two when really they will both be more successful if we look for ways to integrate them. 
  • What are you doing for writing? Do you tend to separate reading from writing?
  • Can you think of ways to incorporate the two together?
Chapter Three: 
Finally we get to the part we need to know! What makes a comprehensive guided reading program? The eight components the authors listed: Reading aloud, shared reading, guided reading, independent reading, shared writing, writing workshop, and independent writing are all strategies that we must focus on integrating into your classroom. 

I found it interesting that I have learned about each one of these components separately, but I have never thought about how together they create a comprehensive reading program. I feel certain that you are probably utilizing many of these in your classrooms now. Doesn't it feel good to find out you are doing something right? My prediction is that the parts you are not currently using, you have probably tried before, but as the education pendulum swung to something else, they fell to the wayside. 

Finally, my favorite quote (and the one I think is most relevant to us right now) was, "Each educator has to find his own point of entry into the framework" (42). So, what will be your point of entry? Pick one of the eight components to guided reading and give it a try in your classroom next week. We will come back next week and share what worked or didn't work. I look forward to hearing what you will try! If I can be of assistance, just let me know!

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Let's Get This Party Started!

So, you decided to join me in a book study? I promise to make it fun (well, at least as fun as you can make a professional literature book study ). I also promise to make it RELEVANT and PURPOSEFUL. There is nothing worse than spending your precious time on something that is of no use to you.

Let's start by discussing how we got here and why we are even reading this book. As you know, our school district is working on implementing a balanced literacy approach to Language Arts. Unfortunately, we have run into a few problems with this goal. I have heard over and over from teachers on my own campus that you don't feel knowledgeable enough about balanced literacy. Another issue that seems to be a common problem is that there isn't any money put aside to train you on balanced literacy. So basically, we expect you to do it, but we can't afford to train you. I won't rehash all the steps on how we arrived here other than to say after observing the wonderful teachers at Westside Elementary, you all seemed really motivated to learn more and start implementing! That kind of excitement fires me up!

After talking to the principal of Westside, I had the idea to do this study with you. She suggested that we read the book, Guided Reading by Fountas and Pinnell as a good starting point. Since I know your time is valuable why don't we use that book as our PLT (Professional Learning Team) since it is required anyway? Also, why don't we do this online (for the most part) via my blog so that you can work at your own pace generally, and not have to have attend meetings?

So, here we are! The only way this will work is if you KEEP UP WITH THE ASSIGNED READING and if you POST COMMENTS for our discussions. I absolutely do not want this to be something I lead and only some follow along. That would waste my time and it is frustrating to the other people in our group who are following along.

So, let's practice for those of you who are just entering the world of blogging. It is simple and easy and works much like Facebook. I will create an original post (like this one) and you will click comment under the post and add your comments. Your first assignment is to post a simple comment to this post. If you have any trouble, please email me at school and I will come to help you. On your mark, get set, go!!!