August 21, 2017

August 17, 2017

Storage For My Classroom Library



Although I'm not actually back in the classroom yet, I still haven't stopped thinking about my classroom. It's been a summer full of reading blog posts, Facebook posts, and my own professional reading to help improve my craft. My brain never really stopped thinking about school.

With that in mind... I've been a little hung up on my classroom library. You can read about it HERE and HERE.

After reading and looking at my classroom pictures, something needed to change.

My first step in the plan was design... so I sketched out my perfect classroom layout...

Lofty...I know...but I think I can do it!

I'm making the library the center of the room--my kids never really sit at their desks during lessons, or independent work for that matter, so having the hub in the middle is perfect.

Unfortunately, I have very few bookshelves, so I need a creative way to make the books easily accessible to the kids.


      With a limited amount of space, I couldn't use the plastic storage bins--they are too bulky and can become very heavy!

I found these storage bags on Learn365 by Oriental Trading. This particular bag is a medium and it fits quite a few books! These bags are going to store my text sets and many can fit on one shelf. I'm even thinking of putting some of the bags around the outer edges of the library, so the kids can grab the bag and go. The only thing that may be difficult for the kids is re-zippering the bags. When the zipper gets to the corner, it gets stuck. When I lift and spread the seams, the zipper slides much easier. But it takes some practice πŸ˜‰

I also found these clear adhesive pocket labels, which I love because I can easily change out the paper label for the set. I made the label, printed, cut, and quickly slipped it into the pocket label.
 
I'm excited to get these storage bags into my classroom and get my students immersed in books other than the ones in their leveled baskets!




I was provided products from Learn365 by Oriental Trading for the purposes of this post. All opinions are 100% my own.



What are some creative ways you do to set up your classroom library?

 Let me know in the comments 😁

July 28, 2017

3 questions to ask yourself as you set up your classroom library





In my school, we formally assess students 5 times per year on their reading levels. The school even creates goals on the number of levels students need to move in a given year as a way to track growth and progress.

Already, the climate conveys the importance of reading levels, but...
     we don't use a curriculum that is geared towards levels--
             no Teachers College...no Fountas and Pinnell...

       or teaching kids strategies to use within their independent books...

       or small groups that are geared to help kids tackle those instructional texts...

so the kids are left with practicing their running record goals...
                                             on
                                                 their
                                                        own.


It's terrible...I know.

So...I went back to the basics...

Product Details

to get some advice on classroom libraries.

When thinking about your classroom library, ask yourself these 3 questions...

1. When you walk into your classroom, does the library or book nook jump out at you, or is it all but invisible?

Kathy Collins says, "The reason we meet here in the library at the start of every day, and often during the day, is that it's a really important place. See how the bookshelves are all around the carpet, on three sides of us. We're wrapped in books! We are so lucky to have a library like this in our classroom. It's our greatest treasure."

The library is the focus of the room--not a section of the room that's tucked away.

Unfortunately, my library is in the far corner of the room. It actually gets pretty packed back there when the kids choose new books. There are tables at each edge of the rug,  making it an even tighter squeeze.




This is the front of the room. The SmartBoard is front and center...it's where I do all my teaching.

With that in mind, I'd like to shift the library more to the middle--opposite the SmartBoard. Possibly move the tables to the outer edges of the room.

I'm not sure where to put the small group table...maybe leave it there? Or move it to one of the other corners of the room?

I want the kids to feel that our classroom library is our greatest treasure as well. That'll be my mantra as I'm knee deep in books and begging for more book shelves 😊


2. Do you and your students rotate, change, and add to the collection based on the changing needs, interests, and curriculum, or is your collection static?

Books in the library at the beginning of the year are easier ones that the kids enjoy reading--books they know and love, as well as series books. Once the assessing is complete and the units of study begin, other books are introduced as mentor texts or part of the unit of study, books based on student interest, books based on recommendations, and books that are similar to other loved books already in the library.

The library itself is evolving based on what you're noticing about the kids in your room. My favorite part of getting the Scholastic book orders is going through them with my kids in mind. I would use my bonus points to get them books that I knew they would love to read and talk about.

I also find a lot of great books at GoodWill and garage sales. I am always looking for ways to build up my classroom library.

3. Can struggling and reluctant readers find books they can and want to read, or do they spend most of their independent reading time searching for books?

This is a big one and my library is guilty of it because it is heavily based on the levels. Reluctant and struggling readers aren't interested in the books at their level--they may think of them as babyish or if they've been on the same level for a long time, they may have already "read" all the books in their level basket.

They may even start identifying themselves as a level--I'm level P and Jess is level S. We want them to identify as readers--we have to teach them that the levels are a guide and explicitly teach them how to choose just right books. Giving them the freedom and trust to choose books that they want to read will not only boost engagement--their self-esteem will bolster as well. It's win-win 🌝




July 25, 2017

Rethinking my classroom library


One daunting summer task on my never-ending to do list is to tackle the garage--I mean really get in there and get rid of organize a lot of stuff that's accumulated over the years. 

We spent a good part of an afternoon in there and we made quite a dent...

Now, I'm sure you're wondering where I'm going with this...

how does organizing a garage have anything to do with a classroom library?! 

Let's backtrack a few years when I had to move my classroom across the hall to a much smaller room. I had to downsize a lot of my stuff, like bookshelves and bins upon bins of books. So I brought them home and they lived in my garage...

Until the garage clean-up of 2017,  where I met my books again...

and I remembered why I bought them and why I organized them in the most specific of categories.

You see, the past few years, I've lost focus...

my classroom libraries have looked like these...



the focus is more on the levels...so what message am I sending the kids as they search through their leveled basket? That the letter on the basket is more important than you becoming a reader...

A reader...a person who picks up a book because you want to experience the adventure with Crispin or find out the backstory between Ally and Shay. A person who knows that reading is a ticket...a ticket to elicit change...change in yourself, in your community, even your life. 

With that, I'm rethinking my classroom library....
to show that building a reading life is important...
and that the READER is valued, not the letter on the basket.


May 28, 2017

Authentic Tasks vs. Project Based Learning

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I have to say that I am so jealous reading these blog posts about summer vacation...we are still knee deep in curriculum and still have a whopping 19 school days left...the 4th grade science written and performance task, a dance performance, a poetry cafe, one more field trip, and visitors coming to the school to see the work that we're doing around tasks.

Has anyone used authentic tasks in their classrooms or schools? From what I can tell from the research I've read, the difference between authentic tasks and project based learning is that with authentic tasks, the students come up with the problem, define the purpose and audience, and seek out solutions through their own inquiry. The projects are created and designed by the students. I'm dappling with this type of work as we close out the year, but I feel like I'm tip-toeing around the beach instead of diving right into the water.

Did anyone else feel like this? Any advice or words of wisdom?




May 2, 2017

Creating Classroom Communities with Sanford Harmony


Yesterday, I had the pleasure of learning about T.Denny Sanford. He is a businessman and a philanthropist.

His motto is:

and he wants to die poor. At 81 years old, his net worth is 1.77 billion dollars--you can read his bio HERE and HERE

I'm sure you're wondering why I'm writing about T. Denny Sanford...well, he recently donated 25 million dollars from Sanford Harmony to schools in the United States. Sanford Harmony is a research based, teaching strategy that helps strengthen classroom communities. 

It is a way to redesign your morning meetings through sharing of items/stories/ideas, buddy conversations, creating Harmony goals for the entire class, and problem solving and highlighting goals. There is a classroom kit that contains all the materials needed to complete the lessons (which are already pre-planned!) 

Here's a sample lesson for K-2 on the The Meet-Up and a 3-5 sample lesson on Buddy-Up.

The best part of this is that the kits are free for your entire school! Click here for more information

I actually left my PD feeling excited to try this! My kit hasn't been delivered to the classroom yet, but when it does, you know I'll be like a kid in a candy shop :) 

I'd love to hear your thoughts about Sanford Harmony! Anyone use it? Or you can comment below with one favorite activity you like to do during morning meetings! 



April 23, 2017

Writing Strategies Goal 3: Generating and Collecting Ideas





This chapter talks about living the writerly life. A wide-awake life where ideas find the writers.

It's where writers seek new ideas in old memories, collect ideas from ones that may have been forgotten; they react, respond, and store ideas in their writer's notebooks and generate their own thoughts from their passions and interests.

It's a remarkable life and it's one that students will embrace if given the appropriate tools.

In the upper grades, especially 4th and beyond, the students become very aware of their world. They are moving out of that self-centered phase of life and are realizing that there is more out there. We can use this change of thinking as a way to help our students generate new ideas for writing. 

This strategy is called: Abstract Issues, Specific Examples

↠Brainstorm issues or ideas that are important in our world (I always do this as a whole class activity. This helps clarify ideas/definitions that students are unaware of while creating an anchor chart. This chart becomes an ongoing one, where we are always adding to it when new issues arise.)
↠Select an issue
↠Brainstorm examples (this is a list of possible topics that connect to the issue)
↠Choose a genre
Another favorite strategy is called: Word Mapping

↠Put your topic in the middle of the page
↠Brainstorm words or phrases connected to your topic
↠Draw lines to connect your ideas

Think:
😁What surprises you?
πŸ˜€ What might be an angle your topic can take?
Another favorite strategy is called: Tour Your Home

↠Guide the reader through your home. Write with detail using your senses and capture the memories that are evoked.

🏑 Pause. What do you see in that place?
🏑 Imagine stories that would come up in that spot.


Share in the comments some ways you help your writers generate ideas. Have you tried any of the ones I listed above? What do you do to help your writers who struggle with getting their ideas on paper?


April 17, 2017

Facing Your Fears...A Poetry Activity Freebie


After digging through my office, I found this gem of an idea using Maya Angelou's poem, Life Doesn't Frighten Me. I remember doing this activity shortly after Maya Angelou's death. It seemed very apropos at the time. Thinking about it...it's a great way for the kids to self-reflect and get their fears and how they are going to conquer them on paper.

Here's what I did: I showed the poem written by Maya Angelou under the ELMO projector and my students saw it on the SmartBoard.

We read through the poem together once, just for fun. During the second read, we started to dissect the poem. (You can even turn this into a close reading and annotating of the poem.)

After the discussion, I modeled for them how to fill out the poem organizer. I sent them off to work on their organizers. Once the majority of them were finished with their organizers, I modeled for them how we were going to write the poem.



We talked about how our poems were going to be formatted:
Stanza 1: my fears
Stanza 2: my fears
Stanza 3: what I’m not afraid of
Stanza 4: what I’m not afraid of
Stanza 5: how to get rid of my fears



**As I went over the stanzas, I always referred back to the poem and talked about how this is our mentor poem. {Mentor poems help poets, like us, make our own poems better. In this case, our mentor poem is helping us format our poems.}

I wrote my poem in front of my students, but you could definitely have this written beforehand to save time. 



 

Students can draft their poems in their writer’s notebook, on loose leaf paper, or they can use the poem outline. I had my students work on loose leaf paper and most were successful with it. 

To publish, I gave them a blank sheet of drawing paper. They wrote their poem, down the middle, first. I had them draw a bubble around the poem and illustrate items from their poem on the outside of the bubble. 
Here are some examples of student work:








I spruced all the materials up for this pack!



It includes the poem, Life Doesn't Frighten Me by Maya Angelou, Teaching Notes, a poem organizer and outline. 



You can get it Here.
















What hidden gems have you found lately?

April 13, 2017

The Writing Strategies Book Study Goal 2: Engagement





I'm linking up with An Apple For The Teacher for this awesome book study! I'm sharing Goal 2 with you today and we are digging into Engagement {Independence, Increasing Volume, and Developing a Writing Identity}.

Successful writing requires a huge amount of mental focus and discipline--collecting, drafting, revising, editing, publishing...repeat πŸ˜€

The thought of moving from one piece to the next can send any reluctant writer into a panic. Or your unmotivated writer...a mood writer, I like to call it, who has trouble getting started...who does a lot of "thinking" and who rarely brings a piece, let alone pieces, to publishing.

I've been there...I even dubbed myself as a mood writer from time to time. I've learned that you can't force people to write because writers need to be excited about their writing. They need to take the initiative to write and to write more. Their passion and drive drips from their notebooks.


Now the question is...
How do we get our students there?

To take the pulse of the class, begin with an Engagement Inventory and observe students working. Jot down specific behaviors you see.
Are your students...
⭐actively working?
⭐going to the bathroom?
⭐setting up for the task?
⭐distracted?
⭐meeting with a partner?

You can also note about what they're doing in their notebooks. Are they...
❤ using the strategies taught?
❤ drawing?
❤ planning?
Picture the End! (Or, Imagine It Done)

This strategy is especially helpful when energy is low and your students are having a hard time attending to the task--they can picture their piece completed! This is especially motivating when there's a mentor text of the same genre or style that you can compare to their work. They will get inspired by new ideas and techniques to push through and try in their writing. 

πŸ“‹ What inspires you about this book?
πŸ“‹How can you use that inspiration in your writing?
Volume is the amount of writing in a given time frame. Each grade has a different set of volume expectations. 

To give you an idea...

In late Kindergarten, students should be able to create one 3 page booklet with a sketch and a sentence on each page in 35 minutes. 

In 4th grade, students should be able to write 1.5-2 pages in 35 minutes.

To get our students to meet their grade level volume expectations, try...

Set a "More" Goal for the Whole Writing Time

Have students look at their notebooks and think about how many lines they tend to write in one writing period. Then have them set a goal to write more. Students can place a dot in the margin next to the goal line indicating where they want to stop...this is the finish line. They can try to write up to the line or past!

πŸ“‹ Check your goal. You've been writing for 15 minutes and have 15 to go. Are you about halfway there?
πŸ“‹ You met your goal! Try to make a new one!


Comment below with your favorite strategy to help students stay focused during writing time!



April 12, 2017

Using Close Reading to teach Test Prep Strategies...Theme





Look at our featured mentor texts! Love them :)


After days of reading "Swimming with Sharks," we were ready to wrap it up and move on to other texts and genres. Before we left, I wanted my students to think about the theme of the text.

The majority of my class is composed of ENL students {English as a New Language} and it's a wide range from Level B to Level U; Emerging to Advanced. (My levels B and C readers were not present for this lesson, nor would they be expected to complete such a complex task as new readers.)

Knowing what I do about my students and the way they think--they really aren't outside of the box thinkers. They are more "let me take what is in the text and copy it down' types of thinkers, which is perfectly acceptable in many cases, but for this lesson, again, I need them to think deeply and come up with their own ideas about the text.

Which leads me to this strategy...

We practiced this strategy with the model text, "Swimming with Sharks" and we re-read the last paragraph.

We thought about Sarah's struggle and how it related to the problem and solution. We took it a step further and thinking about what it all meant and why the author teaching me this?

Here is what they came up with:
They called them out and as I wrote them on the paper, they explained how the theme fit.

They were even able to name empathy and perseverance! I was so excited 😊

Before they went on to their independent work, I had them choose a theme from the list and write some reasons why this theme fit "Swimming with Sharks." As the students finished their post-its, I looked at them quick and gave them immediate feedback.

Some students who were able to clearly show details to support their chosen theme, then went on to complete the independent task using "Lawn Boy."

Others had to work on it again. I was able to see where students went wrong and help steer them on the right course before they had to try it on their own.


For the independent part, they had to answer this question in their reader's notebook:

What is the central message conveyed throughout the story? Cite specific examples and details from the text. 

Once they were finished writing their responses, I read them and wrote my feedback in their notebooks. Using my feedback, they needed to revise their responses. Some of them only had to add a detail, while others had to rewrite their response completely.

Here's some examples of the reader's notebooks:
    **she used post-its to show how she used the strategy and then wrote her response**

**this student was on the right track, he just needed to add in those specific details**

 

**This student's first response didn't answer the question. Using the feedback, he was able to accurately and completely respond to the question and give examples 😊**

 

Have you tried any close reading strategies? Leave a comment below telling me what close reading strategies you use in your room. If you don't use any, no worries, just write "none" πŸ˜‰