Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Responding to a Comment, Grade 2 Response to Literature

Have you ever gotten a comment on a blog post that you simply can't let go, and just have to answer? It happened to me this weekend on this post, Response to Literature, Grade 2.

Several months ago, I shared a second graders published Response to Literature on the Kevin Henkes' text, Wemberly Worried. A reader left the following comment...

Anonymous said... Who helped this child write this? The child is either very bright or had help from some adult. How do I know? I have never heard a second grader use the term "diversity", yet alone spell it correctly. I think rewriting a book or even a short story after reading it will only discourage children from wanting to read. The joy of reading comes not from rewriting the story, it comes from wanting to read that book again or the next book. Let's teach young children the fundamentals of language then when they are old enough they can write a response not their parents.February 21, 2009 7:41 AM

I chose to take this comment as a compliment. Do you know why? Clearly, this reader thinks the Response to Literature is a good one. One that couldn't possibly be produced by a second grader without help from an adult. But, one that was. This second grader participated in a Kevin Henkes author study in first grade during which he studied the text Wemberly Worried. A text that he grew to love through multiple readings. In fact, he appreciated the author so much that when he had to select a text to do a Response to Literature on in second grade, he selected this children's book. This child will produce two published Response to Literature pieces this year, along with writing in the genres of narrative, report, and functional.

This particular child has been fortunate, because he has gotten to participate in a Readers' and Writers' Workshop daily since Kindergarten. He has learned to love books and reads and writes as part of his classroom instruction daily. He also has had the fortune of daily focused 4 part mini-lessons that allow him to connect his learning, learn something new, practice it during active involvement with teacher guidance, and then has the learning linked to a reading or writing task where he can practice the skill or strategy during his work period. He has on average a 30 to 40 minute work period where he writes every day. He's also had the opportunity to develop a handsome working vocabulary through daily read aloud because his teacher uses Beck and McKeown's Text Talk to teach explicit vocabulary. Not unlike many of his peers, this student's vocabulary learning has transferred authentically into his writing. And, his classroom is a print rich environment with spelling and vocabulary word walls that he can use as a tool throughout his writing. Furthermore, this student participates in a daily closing session where his classmates share their work. He has been taught to benchmark his own writing against that of his classmates and is encouraged to apply their strategies and best practices to his own work. He has been taught to use a rubric to make sure his writing meets each of the standards.

In addition, his teachers use the resource Using Rubrics to Improve Student Writing which sets forth samples of rubrics and student work so teachers can compare their students' work against benchmark pieces. They also meet weekly in Teacher Meetings to analyze student work, share instructional practices, and study professional literature together. They also display student work throughout their hallways as a showcase for colleagues, other students, and parents.

This reader who made the comment clearly doesn't know that we not only foster the love of reading but also that we allow students to live the life of a writer. This student sample was completed in the classroom, not at home, without the assistance of an adult, during the study of Response to Literature, and with authentically embedded vocabulary that a second grader can and does use.

If you think your students can not achieve the same standard, you should be asking, "How do I get my second graders to this same level of performance?" Afterall, your students will be competing with this student for a job in the global marketplace one day.

Monday, February 9, 2009

First Grade Wiki

Around the World in 180 Days, The Virtual Learning Adventure is this year's CCE theme. The theme, selected by design each year, captures our school's central focus, and this year is no different. We truly are on a virtual learning journey. Technology is our focus for improved teacher and student connectedness and collaboration. The connectedness and collaborative efforts are far too many to mention, but one that requires special mention is the First Grade wiki.

Years ago, First Grade Learning Leaders decided to create a resource notebook containing all of their units of study and general resources. The idea was to pass the binder along to the next group of incoming teachers as teachers looped classes from Kindergarten into First Grade. The binder would contain information on their Mem Fox and Kevin Henkes author studies, the First Grade Sleepover, homework, assessments, reading/writing/math/science resources to name just a few. The binders were a good idea, a way to pass along pertinent information from one group of looping teachers to the next. However, as you can imagine, from year to year some teachers were better at keeping up with the binders. It didn't take long for many things to get misplaced or destroyed, and a dedicated individual had to be willing to try to collect and repair them each year. The idea of a warehouse was a good one, but one that needed some much needed 21st Century remodeling.

This year, the solution came in the form of a digital warehouse...a wiki. The wiki is the digital binder warehouse of information and resources, but can also do so much more. It can host links, video clips, photographs, and student work products. The beauty is not only can it be passed from one teacher to another, but shared with teachers globally, and built upon from year to year. The wiki also will eliminate the need for a central dedicated keeper and can instead be a shared responsibility. This is a great resource for the teachers now, and I can only imagine five years from now as teachers add and delete and mold how powerful this resource will become. It has the potential to provide all of the artifacts, lessons, links, videos, and student samples that a First Grade Learning Leader could possible need. Enjoy exploring their wiki and stay tuned...I hear Kindergarten and Second Grade wikis are under development.