Sunday, October 31, 2010

Reading Logs

When our journey began with the America's Choice School Design, we implemented internationally benchmarked performance standards. One of the reading standards included students reading 25 books a year. The standard, supported by research that students need to read one million words a year to be proficient grade level readers, was immediately embraced. However, before the implementation of the standard or the kick off event with students and parents, there was much discussion. How many minutes should a student read in one day to attain this standard? How much of the reading would be done at school and how much at home? Would we count books read aloud to students or just books they read independently? What systems would be in place to hold each student accountable? How would we reward students that successfully accomplished the goal?

As we set forth, in the early years, toward our 25 book campaign, we had each student keep a reading log, and some teachers had students respond to each book. (I know, it makes me cringe to say it aloud, too.) And, as the years passed, we continued discussion on the purpose of the standard and got further from responses and closer to the heart of the standard--a student's avid reading.

Now, ten years later, I still have a teacher or two that asks me each year whether reading logs are required, and if they are, what we expect to be included as part of the reading log. I know if they ask me the question, they've only implemented out of compliance rather than commitment and are still grappling with the true purpose. Whenever I'm asked, I think about myself as an avid reader. Presently, I don't have a reading log and I've read so many titles and authors that I'm beginning to accidentally purchase the same books twice, especially if I'm ordering on-line. I know, now, that it's time for me to keep a primitive book log, one where I record the date, title, and author, just so I have a record. Of course, for my purpose it will be a book log that travels with me forevermore.

Lucy Calkin's, in A Guide to the Reading Workshop explains,

" The log is a record of the book title, the level, the date, the reading place
(home or school), the page at which reading began and the page at which reading
ended, and the minutes spent reading. At the start of each reading workshop,
children pull out their reading logs and record the page number at which they'll
start the day's reading, and they record the start time. Then, at the end of the
reading time, readers record the number of total minutes spent reading and the
number of pages read. As a teacher moves about the room, this makes it easy to
notice that in, say, seventeen minutes of reading time, a particular reader may
have read fifteen pages (which is what you'd expect) or four pages (which would
lead you to want to do some further research). Children, as well as teachers,
study the data.

The reading log is used to analyze trends in a child's reading and share celebrations. If a teacher wants to give next steps, Lucy suggests, "The conversation needs to occur far from any discussion of the written record." Accurate data keeping is needed in the student's log so it displays an accurate picture of the reader. If the reading log becomes the checking spot of a conference, then fabricated data may become the norm.

With Lucy's explanation, you can quickly see that the reading log is used to inform instruction, as well as discuss books with children. What it is not, is a record tool to simply hold students accountable.

Teachers, I'd love to hear your thoughts about reading logs. Do you use them in your classroom? And, how do you feel about them?

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Units of Study for Teaching Reading Workshop

Lucy Calkin's Units of Study for Teaching Reading Grades 3-5 is my latest read, and simply put, I'm enthralled. Readers' Workshop has been a cornerstone of our work at CCE since 2001, but like all passionate educational professionals, we are continually reflecting on our craft and honing our lessons, discovering new ways to teach students with greater depth and understanding.

Lucy's new units offer a quality resource to help us scaffold new teachers' instruction so they deliver thoughtful quality mini-lessons from the start, at the same time allowing master teachers to reflect on their own lessons, uncover new precious gems, and polish their own Readers' Workshops. I've only just begun reading and already I'm captivated. The books can't get into the hands of our intermediate teachers fast enough.

A Guide to the Reading Workshop...Chapter One

Almost immediately Lucy shares, "The average college graduate in this country reads one book a year. The longer kids stay in school, the less they like to read." How utterly sad that they don't have a love affair with books, that they aren't experiencing the unfolding of a character's motives, beliefs, and choices page by page. That they don't let a tear drip down their cheek and soak into the print on the page because they can't bear the struggle that some have had to endure. That they aren't so engrossed in the story that before they realize it half the night has slipped away.

And, how sad that despite the money, time, and energy they put into getting a college education, they didn't transfer that into being a life long learner and avid reader. I can't count the number of professional books I've read, and the reflection and new learning that has come from each one. Simply put, I can't imagine a life without books. In addition, I'm left wondering, how many teachers are a part of this average? Who among us doesn't read veraciously? Lucy says, "Shirley Brice Heath has gone so far as to suggest that the single most important condition for literacy learning is that a person needs mentors who are joyfully literate people, who demonstrate what it means to live joyfully literate lives." For the sake of every student in our care, I hope each one of my colleagues considers themselves joyfully literate, and I hope they spread, like wildfire, that passion into the lives of our students.

In chapter one, Lucy also points out that, "These are important times in the teaching of reading, There's been a gigantic crack in the system. Judgment is no longer pending. The verdict is in. Not one of those core reading programs, mandated under No Child Left Behind, has been shown to reliably work." This message was supported and written about by Richard Allington, too, in What Really Matters in Response to Intervention. Our faculty did a book study last year, and our conversation kept coming back to the same thing--Why do states require districts to sink millions of dollars into pre-packaged basal textbook series, ones that for forty years have been proven not to work, when instead they could spend the money to put authentic children's literature and quality leveled readers into the hands of our learners?

In our building, there has been no return on investment in the realm of pre-packaged reading series, in fact, most of the book's covers have never been cracked. We know what really matters--Good teachers using relevant data to prescribe and deliver quality instruction with authentic literature through the Workshop Model. We have the results to back up our teaching philosophies and practices.

At Chets, our dollars are spent almost entirely, year in and year out, on purchasing authentic children's literature, quality leveled books, and professional texts for teachers. With CCE dollars, we get a great return on our investment. This research supports what we've always known, it is the teacher that makes the difference, not a basal textbook series meant to be teacher proof. Lucy writes, "Access to good teachers is more important to the likelihood that students will do well than anything else. It is more important than a student's background, than small class size, and than the fact that a school as a whole is a good one. A mountain of research confirms what all of us already know: the single most important resource a school can provide to its students is an effective teacher." Not a parent or educator I know would spar with her statement.

A Community of Learners and Leaders is etched in the glass as you walk in our door, a culture of collegiality and excellence has been built brick by brick and cemented with rigorous academic mortar. Within our walls, you will find colleagues who work together as a cohesive team toward a common vision and mission and who find it a moral and ethical obligation to grow and develop as professionals in our craft. Our community, saturated with effective teachers, is a place to proper, a place a thrive. We promote joyful learning. Our learners have the opportunity to select books based on their interest, and have ample time during workshops to read independently. Our youngsters get to hear daily read alouds and thoughtfully respond to books. Our students receive explicit instruction in reading strategies and skills, and get high quality differentiated instruction tailored to meet their individual needs. We are implementing the foundational pieces within Readers' Workshop that Lucy has written about. But, by no means do we think we have all the answers. Constantly, we are in search of quality mini-lessons to bring into the fabric of our workshop.

I'm sure Lucy would be impressed to know that we live by her words and we greatly appreciate her willingness to share her expertise with us. Stay tuned for our progress as we implement her newest work, Units of Study for Teaching Reading.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

No Excuse Word List

During a stroll through a teacher's classroom last week, I noticed this chart hanging on one of her cabinets. I'm sure, as a teacher, we've all had those moments when we collect students' writing to find high frequency words misspelled. I thought this was a creative way for Ms. Launey to hold her students accountable. The chart says... These are words 4th grade students are expected to spell correctly 100% of the time. (If Ms. Launey spots one spelled incorrectly on your paper...Pay Up!)

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Growing Narrative Writers

Second graders begin their year writing personal narrative papers. Teachers use Launching the Writing Workshop from the Lucy Calkin and Colleagues 3-5 Units of Intermediate Writing as a guide for their instruction. (Second Grade teachers use the 3-5 kit, because our Kindergarten and First Grade teachers thoroughly use the K-2 kit so our students are ready for deeper learning.) The narratives are not expected to meet the standard this early in the year. In fact, we only teach about half of the elements in the beginning of the year and save the other half when we revisit narratives later in the year. There will be a definite change in terms of writing craft and conventions between our fall narratives and spring narratives. I can't wait to see the difference as our young learners grow.

Last week, as I focus walked Second Grade, I could see that most classrooms had published their narrative pieces and were moving on to Responses to Literature. So, on Thursday, I spent some time in Second Grade reading the students' writing. I pulled two samples to share with you. They do not meet the Second Grade standards for the end of the year expectations, but they fall within the parameters of what has been taught. You will notice grammatical, spelling, and sentence structure errors, however we expect that from beginning of the year Second Graders. What we really focus on is telling a personal story and writing fluency. When students have fluency, it is much easier when they go to the revising and editing portion of the standard.
You will notice after the student's writing a Coaching Rubric. The teacher had each student self reflect and then had them meet with parnter for a peer reflection. When the peer reflected they also gave the student a compliment and a suggestion. After that, the teacher filled in the rubric based on beginning of the year expectations and left a comment for the student at the bottom of the paper.
Student Sample #1
Getting My New Kartay Belt
Hmm, should I test for my belt? I was testing for my orange belt. I was extied, very extied to get my belt. I have to break a board, form, sporing, wepins, self difen's, and combos. When I do my form it is hard to remember all of my moves. I could not kick high like my master. To kick you have to bring your nee up then bring your foot out next bring your foot back down last bring your nee down do it fast and you did a kick. when I became a camal belt I can spor with geaer but I am not a camel belt so I cannot spor right now. Next I did

my wepon's. Wepon's are easy. Next is bourd brack's. My bourd brack's are I have to make a fist then punch it down. My is to kick up it is easy. There were not many poeple around. The room was small. There was a stuck of belt on the wall. I got everything right. No body else was test for there belt. It smelled very good. The floor felt soft, very soft. It was quiet, very quiet. My sister was not there I wish she was there. The color of my siut was white there were black spots on my siut. My master told my mommy and sister I should start karty. But my mom replied, "It was to much." It was really to much. It cost $600.00 dollar's. I finaly got my new belt and I even got a resband it was so cool. Then we went to go pick up my sister.

And she asked "Why did you get a new belt?" And I replied because I did hard working.

Teacher: I like how you used a transition word-next. You also put dialouge in your story.
Student Sample #2

Onse my mom graduated. The place lookt like a basketball cort. My grandma was ther with me so was my mom's boyfrind. I was happy for mom. She came out & the gradduating song was on. She waulk to a empty chair to sit in. I was six.

Someone calld her name and I think is was something like a diploma that she got from a lady. I didn't know her name. After mom came out some other pepel came out. I bet ther Mom's & Dad's are proud of them to. My famaly was rihgt next to me & I was rihgt in the

middel like the Middel Chld Blues. I was calling my mom's name but she did not notis that I was calling her name. But...she lookt around for me. She did not look at the rihgt part of the room. I was not mad at her because it is her spesheel day! Wen I got home I

said to mom "Congragolashons!" She replid "Thank you." replid mom.

Teacher: You did a good job sequencing your story.

Stay tuned for our progress...

Demonstration Lessons

Children aren't the only ones that spend their time in study.

On any given day when you enter th
e Administrative Conference Room at CCE , you will most likely find a group of teachers having collegial dialogue, unpacking the grade level standards in a content area, building units of study, and/or creating assessment aligned with standards and instruction. CCE teachers are not under the false impression that the learning stopped as they held their college diplomas or after just five years in the classroom as research indicates. Rather, teachers know that spending time in study together, as they so often do, reaps benefits that impact their classroom instruction and student performance ten fold.

As a cornerstone of the work we do during these TDE days, the first component of the day is normally a Demonstration Lesson that focuses on the topic at hand. With newly adopted state math standards and curriculum tools, the First Grade team decided to spend a day together talking about their math implementation. Together, Cheryl Dillard, First Grade Math Lead Teacher, and I created an agenda. We decided on the work that could be done in advance to expedite some of the processes and spent a day together before hand organizing learning and preparing for the session.

To start the day, we asked the fourteen member team to join us for a math demonstration lesson in Cheryl and Maria's classroom. The team, with pen and paper in hand, gathered to watch an Interactive Math Skills Block and a Math Workshop Lesson. Beginning the day in this manner gives teachers the opportunity to see, first hand, what is happening in a colleague's classroom. The learning that takes place in this short time together is so much more productive than just having a conversation, because they can learn the nuances of their peer's work. They see and feel the spirit of the classroom; They watch students at work in a live classroom; They observe the rituals and routines that pace the math learning; They note the level of questioning that occurs; They remember the artifacts that support student learning; They keenly ask questions that support student achievement; They reflect on their own practice; They borrow ideas; They note changes they will make in their own classrooms. Then, they gather back back in the conference room to have collegial conversation about the observation.

Most of the time, this takes less than an hour and frames the learning that will occur in their day of study together. On this
particular day, after the lesson, the team took a closer look at the demonstration lesson and asked questions about the planning that occurred. Next, we prepared the teachers to look at the global picture. We had them look at the math standards that would be covered in the year and gave them an alignment guide that we had created ahead of time. The guide gave them each unit of study aligned with the standards, as well as examples and remarks given for that particular standard. The standards that weren't part of the document, because they weren't explicitly taught in the MI unit, were included on an Interactive Skills Block overview for the year. In addition, we gave them a Concepts and Skills Overview that our states RtI committee had created. In all, they had the global picture and weekly picture so they could quickly move in their own planning to creating a daily plan. After this, the teachers split into pairs and divided the units to begin writing assessments.

This on the clock professional development, supported by the principal's hiring of substitutes, is one of the single most important things we do. Teachers roll up their sleeves and get their hands dirty. They are in study together. We'll have many more days like this, and though I don't get a chance to write about all of them, the flow of the day remains much the same.

So, stay tuned for our progress...

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Suzanne's Curriculum Corner

This year, in an effort to share a common message on a consistent basis with 90+ teachers, I decided to write a weekly newsletter. The Curriculum Corner, as I call it, is attached to the Memo, our Principal's weekly communication tool to teachers, and is sent out by email each Friday afternoon. The Memo sets up the events of the coming week, shares housekeeping items, contains a short message from an RtI lead, Technology lead, and myself, and has public pats on the back called YeeHaws. My Curriculum Corner, on the other hand, updates teachers on general curriculum and instruction topics, in this year of new standards, curriculum, and assessment, and has an overview of the weekly Council agenda and discussion.

My plan is to write the newsletter for the first nine weeks and then conduct a short survey to find out if the teachers find it useful. I will be happy to continue writing it, if I feel like it is being read. If not, I'll abandon the practice and reach for a better way to communicate with the faculty.

Stay tuned for our progress...