So... Where does close reading fit in? What is close reading? When does close reading occur? How do I select text for close reading? Continue reading for some ideas.
What is close reading?
Close reading is when we use our "heavy" weights. These are the short bursts of practice that are highly directed and coached.
Close reading is:
Who does the reading?
When do we do close reading?
Close reading can be done several times a week. You will most likely use one text over the course of a week and really dig into it, engaging in repeated readings and reading for a new purpose each time, pushing the level of text-dependent questions deeper each time.
How do we select texts for close reading?
Close reading is not the time to differentiate text. You select one text that will challenge your students and give them something to truly tackle. The text should be complex enough to spur discussion and inspire students to debate, investigate, write, present, or take some action of some sort.
On a related note...
Close Reading Model Lessons - Check out the downloadable lessons from Achievethecore.org. There are several sample plans organized by grade level. You can download the lessons with the text for reading included. Using these sample lessons might be a great way to step into close reading before selecting texts on your own.
Awhile ago I came across this blog post from Byrdseed.com. This is a website dedicated to differentiating instruction for high-level learners. However, I find many of the things Ian Byrd, the blog's founder, blogs about and shares are able to be applied at a variety of levels. The post I want to discuss today is called Tickling Students' Curiosity. In this post, Byrd offers suggestions for how to capitalize on the curiosity of your students. I'll summarize his suggestions here:
1. The Book - Create a book of unanswered questions with your students. This can take the form of a simple binder or it can be a bulletin board in your classroom. This is what the third grade team at Harvey Dunn has created. Here students are encouraged and given time to write questions that may come up (whether related to the content or completely off topic) and hold onto them for later investigation.
2. Scaffold -
3. Curriculum Connections - Once students understand how exciting it can be to ask questions, start connecting to your curriculum. What lingering questions do students still have about a topic you've been studying? Put these questions in the book as well as any answers that come up.
4. Using the Book - Return to the book when you can and remind students of questions that have been answered, but also of questions that are still waiting for answers. Encourage them to keep pondering.
There are no doubt countless ways to incorporate these ideas into your day. Perhaps the questioning happens as a wrap-up to a lesson, or even as an opener. Perhaps it takes place during morning meeting. Maybe it becomes a closing circle activity before the day is out. Giving students opportunities to ask questions, demonstrate inquisitiveness, and excitedly seek those answers deepens their critical thinking and problem solving skills. In order to prepare our students to be successful in the 21st century, we need to support their curiosity and the search for answers. How can you capitalize on your students' curiosity?
On a related note...
Google Search by Reading Level - When students use Google to search for answers to their questions or research topics, they can use the simple steps on this handout to filter their Google searches by reading level. Just follow the steps in this document.
Over the past few weeks I have been thinking about the concept of practice. Practice is essential in every field of study. Practice is most effective when it has meaning, modeling, and monitoring. This means when we assign our students opportunities to practice, there must be some sense and meaning to that practice, some "why" to the work they are doing. There must also be strong models to show students what success looks like. And there must be monitoring, or checking in with students, so that corrective feedback can be given as needed in a timely manner.
Today, I want to focus in on the modeling. Many of us are familiar with the "think aloud" concept, and use it regularly to demonstrate what should be happening inside their minds when doing the work they do. But today I bring up another type of modeling that you may want to add to your repertoire. That is silent modeling. Michael Linsen recently wrote a blog post on this topic called Why Silent Modeling is a Powerful Strategy. In it, he discusses the power of modeling for students without the "think aloud" or talking portion there to distract from the actual act. Of modeling, Linsen writes, "They [teachers] gloss over details. They rush through important steps. They cut short what should be a thorough and engaging process.They also tend to talk too much, adding information that only distract students from learning."
As I think back on some of the "think alouds" I've done in my teaching, I can name times when I've been guilty of all of the above. Linsen provides a possible solution to some of our modeling woes, and that is silent modeling. When done effectively and for appropriate tasks, silent modeling can enhance your instruction in the following ways:
On a related note...
15 Easy Book Character Halloween Costumes for Teachers - Check out this page for some quick ideas for Halloween that don't involve too much distraction or time tracking items down.
Halloween Classics - If you're looking for some good Halloween-themed literature to read and discuss with your class, be sure to check out this page. There are several classic Halloween stories listed with some suggestions for how you can use them with your class. Warning: probably best used in upper elementary.
Halloween: Characters Dressed as Characters - This is a fun Halloween-themed activity that involves some out-side-the-box character analysis. The premise is, you take a character from a story you are reading and explain what they would dress up as on Halloween. The students then back up their ideas by analyzing the traits of the character. They would site evidence from the text (what the character says and does) to justify their reason. This sounds like a fun way to get kids thinking about characters.
As educators, you know that learning doesn't start and stop at you classroom doors. You know that the other adults in your students lives matter. You know that these people need to be included in the education of their children. It is so important to acknowledge the influencers in your students' lives and view them as allies to the work you do every day. Conferences is one place where you have the opportunity to team up with student influencers. This is an opportunity not only to report how the students are progressing in your classrooms, but also to educate and empower parents to support the work their children are doing in school.
In this post, I have shared some resources that might support your outreach to parents during this valuable time. When planning for and conducting your conferences, keep in mind the following, "The Myth of the Culture of Poverty", that came from Reaching and Teaching Students in Poverty by Paul Gorsky. Remember to be compassionate and provide access to the wonderful information you have to all parents. As teachers, you are not only a powerful educating force to your students, but to their families as well.
Resources for Parents
Feel free to add a comment at the end of this post and share any other documents you send home with parents!
Other Report Card and Conference Resources
Effective Report Card Comments - Here is a link to Jaime Bell's page. There are several great tips for writing digestible, effective comments on the report cards.
Tips for Parent-Teacher Conferencing - I'm sharing this link again. There are some great reminders for conferencing with parents. I find the first tip, approach parents with positive assumptions, to be so valuable.
Student-Led Conferences - This link was on last week's post, but I thought I'd put it here again, too. If you do student-led conferences in your room, there are some great resources here. If you would like more information about student-led conferences, I can support you in this. I have always done conferences this way and have found it to be an empowering experience for students. They are accountable for their own learning and for reporting on that learning in this model.
After last week's post I heard from several of you that you were happy to have a quick easy overview of guided reading. Several people also told me they were glad to have some new examples of templates for planning and access to Jan Richardson's guided reading website. Here I share a few videos that might give you another glimpse at what guided reading can look like. Enjoy.
Check out Guided Reading with Jenna: Overview - This is an overview of guided reading in a 5th grade classroom. It also includes discussion of what other students are doing while the teacher is working with the guided reading group. I encourage you to peruse the other videos on the site that feature this teacher, too.
This first video is a 5 minute clip of Jan Richardson introducing a text to an early phase group of students in a 2nd grade class. Notice how they preview the book and she makes sure some important vocabulary is taught up front. At the end of the preview she says, "Ok, now we are going to read to find out."
This next video is a 9 minute clip of Jan Richardson checking with her readers on where they put their flag. The purpose for reading must have been to find a very important part (VIP) in the book and flag it. She then listens to them read and prompts them for fluency. Notice how she rotates through each student, discusses, listens, prompts, and gives them a goal - something they should continue to do - all in 9 minutes!
On a related note...
Jan Richardson Videos - Follow this link for more of Jan Richardson's videos.
Conference Time: Chatting with Parents - Conferences are just around the corner. This post has just a few tips to keep in mind when preparing for and engaging in those discussions with your students' parents.
Student-Led Conferences - This blog post has some helpful resources if you do student-led conferences.
Now that it is October and much of our baseline data has been collected, it's really time to start digging in and getting to work with our students. One way you'll start to tackle these goals is through guided reading. Here you'll find a quick overview of guided reading followed by links to many helpful documents and resources.
What is Guided Reading?
Guided reading is an instructional practice wherein the teacher works with a small group of students who display similar reading behaviors and can access similarly leveled texts. The text used during this time should be at the students' instructional level. Texts should be chosen that are easy enough for students to access with the support of the teacher, but challenging enough to expand the students' reading ability.
What is the procedure?
What are the other students doing at this time?
The rest of the class can be independently reading and practicing skills and strategies modeled during whole-class mini-lessons or taught during their guided reading sessions. Students can also be working on the goals they've set for their reading. Alternatively, students can be engaged in Daily 5 or CAFE activities. Either way, it should be an independent time where there are no interruptions. You need to be able to completely focus on working with the guided reading group.
Check out these sample reading workshop schedules for more ideas on how to set up your reading block:
On a Related Note...
Lesson Plan Templates - Here are templates for all of the categories of readers you may have in your class including Emergent, Early, Transitional, and Fluent..
Tips For Managing Guided Reading - Check out this document for some easy and useful tips for managing Guided Reading with a large class.
Discussion Prompts - Use this document to develop questions for use during the discussion portion of your guided reading. They are organized by reading strategy (visualization, making connections, etc.).
Bell Bytes - Guided Reading - Check out Jaime Bell's great site for more guided reading resources.
Guided Reading vs. Strategy Groups - This document lists the differences between two types of small groups. Check it out to make sure you are indeed doing Guided Reading and not Strategy Groups.
Dr. Jan Richardson's Resource Page - There is a plethora of resources you can put to use in your guided reading practice on this page. I recommend checking out the Lesson Plan folder and the Schedule folder.
On Monday, you'll be attending the district inservice. It will be a full day, jam-packed with information. Some of it might affirm things you are already doing, some of it might push you to try something new, and some of it might even overwhelm you. In this post, I want to speak to the part of you that will be or is already overwhelmed with the grand job you take on each day. Being confronted by the plethora of information, choices, and next steps that fly at you each and every day can be absolutely paralyzing. You may find yourself at a crossroads, standing still, looking in all directions wondering what your best route will be. Today and going forward, take time to stop, reflect, and choose to take one step at a time and move forward. As you leave the inservice, what can you take with you to your classroom tomorrow? Next week? Next month? Next year?
On a related note...
Teachers Matter (Now More Than Ever) - If you do nothing else, please watch the video linked into this blog post.
School Wide Appreciation: 3 Ways to Say Thank You - You can never say Thank You enough. Spread the word.
The Power of the Positive Phone Call Home - Keep in mind that your students and their families also need to hear that they matter. This blog really sums up the power in this positive and often unexpected interaction.
As you get to work tackling the goals with your kids and continue to write up your plans for the week, it is important to think about not only what you as the teacher are doing during the lesson, but what are the kids doing?
One "Teach Like a Champion" technique for getting started with this type of planning, or thinking about your planning is called Double Plan. Follow the link for a full description of the technique. With this technique, you not only think about the actions you'll take as the teacher, but you script in what the students will do and say at each point in the lesson. Doing this can really help you more intentionally create plans that effectively integrate student interaction and get the students doing more work and talking.
You also want to keep in mind the SIOP strategy of Chunk and Chew. During instruction, the ratio of teacher to student talk should be 10:2. This means for every 10 minutes of teacher talk the students should have 2 minutes to process the information or do something with the information they are learning. This might be talking with a partner, writing thoughts, briefly practicing the skill, etc. It does not need to be super involved, but there should be a back-and-forth between students and teacher during your lessons.
Check out this blog post, "8 Ways Teachers Can Talk Less and Get Kids Talking More", for more ideas on how to incorporate student talk into your day.
On a related note...
53 Ways to Check for Understanding - Check out this awesome list of formative assessments. There is so much more than "thumbs up / thumbs down" that you can do to see if your kids are getting it.
Over the last week, I've been working with teams and individuals to set goals. We have our school visions and we have our SLOs. Now how do we make these meaningful to us and our students? It is the students, after all, who lay at the center of the work we do. Wouldn't it be helpful if we let them in on the goals we've set?
In John Hattie's Visible Learning he says, “… goals inform individuals as to what type or level of performance is to be attained so that they can direct and evaluate their actions and efforts accordingly (p. 164)."
When one sets out to hike a mountain, a plan must be carefully drawn up in order to ensure safe completion of the hike. Proper tools must be brought along in preparation for the challenges (steep terrain, snowy passes, downed trees, etc.). Markers must be checked along the way to ensure you are on thr right path. With a goal in sight and a plan in place, success is much more likely.
If you don't have the end in mind, and you can't anticipate the challenges that will present themselves as you hike, you'll likely be unprepared to meet the challenge set before you. You may stray from the path or take a wrong turn, or may even need to turn back to the starting point. The checkpoints along the route will be meaningless. The chances of success will have been narrowed significantly. The same thought process and preparation must be applied to the goals we set in our schools.
So how do we begin to make our goals transparent in our classrooms? Below are some ideas:
Step 1. Start with your SLOs. Display your goals in kid-friendly words somewhere that all will see it. Find a way to unveil the goal to your class that gets them excited. You might have an unveiling celebration. Maybe you've already had the kids set their individual goals, or hopes and dreams. Connect them to the whole class goal.
Step 2. When applicable, intentionally design your "I can" statements to reflect your goal(s). Then every time you teach an "I can" statement related to that goal, refer to it. Make it a big deal so they know you are at point in your path that is important to reaching the end goal.
Step 3. Individualize your goal for your kids. Make it clear to each student where they are and where they need to go. If you have AVMR growth as your goal, for example, your students need to know what the construct level they are at means. The same can be said of the DRA. Use the checklist on the back of the assessment to make it clear to students what they can do and what they are working towards. You can also use this DRA Reading Stages Checklist as a guide.
Step 4. Track your progress towards that goal. This could be done in all kinds of fun (and anonymous) ways. Maybe each student has a symbol that moves along a line as they get closer to the goal. Maybe you have a thermometer that fills up as the class gets closer to the goal.
Individually, you can have goal sheets in reading, writing, or math folders where students keep track of their progress by graphing assessment scores or checking off behaviors of strong readers that they have demonstrated, and so on. When conferring with students, direct them towards their goals. These can then become great conversation pieces for conferences with parents.
In the image to the left, you can see that cars and a road are used to track the number of letters of the alphabet each student knows.
Here is another tracker idea in the form of a thermometer..
Step 5. Celebrate! When you've reached a benchmark or made progress, make sure to acknowledge it with the class or with the individual.
I have seen many wonderful things happening in both schools related to goal setting. I know you know your students and are prepared to meet them where they are and push them to where they need to be.
Please contact me with questions you have about goal setting with students. And please let me know if you are doing something wonderful in your class related to goal setting that you'd like to share so we can celebrate that. I'd love to support and witness the implementation of any of the above practices in your classrooms.
On a related note...
Primary Goal Setting Template - This template provides a great resource for primary classrooms. There are several sample goals with pictures attached and a way to track achieving those goals.
My Goals Template - This template provides a good weekly check-in. It would be good with intermediate grades and could be used to tie into your big goals as a class or modified as needed for individual students as they track their progress towards their end-of-year goals.
How to Motivate Students to Work Harder - This article was shared with me by a teacher and it fits in with perfectly with the Mindset work that our district has been engaged in and can also help frame your goal conversations.
This past week I had the chance to go into a 2nd grade classroom and help facilitate a couple of lessons on feedback. The students practiced sharing "warm" and "cool" feedback in order to help make someone's work better. In this case, we used name cards as our product. They were a safe and accessible way to practice using the language of feedback that students will later employ as part of a peer revision process in writing. The guidelines are simple. Students must be kind, specific, and helpful when giving feedback to a peer. They first practiced sharing what they liked - giving "warm" feedback. Rather than simply saying, "It's pretty," we discuss focusing in on a detail that made it pretty and explaining why. The student feedback quickly elevated to, "The extra lines on the R are pretty," or "I love the color you chose for the A because it is bright and colored carefully." Next, we practiced giving "cool" feedback. The students were able to focus in on specific details in order to generate ideas that might help the designer. For example, one student pointed to the base of the R on one of the name cards and said, "What if you added a line at the bottom here like you have on the rest of your letters?" Wow! What attention to detail! And this was a 2nd grader!
After practicing as a whole group, the students then partner up. They were told that they must focus on giving kind, specific, and helpful feedback that will help the designer make their name card easier to read. That's the point of a name card, afterall.
Here are a couple of examples of the improvements students made using feedback from their classmates. What kind, specific, helpful feedback do you imagine these students received that led them to improve their name cards and make the names easier to read?
After our session, they had a poetry share. When it came time for comments the students began to share what they liked. Their teacher then directed them to remember the feedback guidelines they had just learned - be kind, specific, and helpful. They instantly made their feedback specific. Instead of saying, 'Your picture is pretty," they now had the tools to say, "The color you used on the girl's T-shirt really stands out." Now that student knows that is something they should try again. This simple feedback can go a long way. Not only can it be utilized in peer revision, but it may even help facilitate those interpersonal conversations children engage in everyday. When students learn to give and receive feedback, they begin to learn a valuable lesson about life and learning. Having the tools to communicate and help themselves and their classmates can be very empowering.
I also think this is an easy lesson that can make us more effective as educators. Think about the feedback you give your students? Is it kind, specific, and helpful? When we write "Awesome!" on a paper, what is that really communicating to a child? When we say, "your child is a 24," what does a parent gain from that? How can we make these simple interactions more informative? Keep this in mind as you move forward with the wonderful work you do this week. And if anyone is interested in facilitating a session on feedback, please let me know.
Austin's Butterfly - Check out this amazing lesson in effective feedback taught by Ron Berger of Expeditionary Learning Schools. You'll never believe what drafting, receiving feedback, and revising enable this first grader to do! P.S. I have the resources in this video if anyone is interested in getting their students started practicing how to give feedback.
Feedback in Schools - Feedback falls in the top 10 most influential factors on a child's achievement, according to the research of John Hattie. Check out this article for some more thoughts on the feedback we as educators give to our students.
It's September. Don't Worry, Teaching Gets Better. For those of you feeling the back to school crunch, here are some words of encouragement from Angela Watson of The Cornerstone teaching blog.
I am an elementary instructional coach for the Sioux Falls School District.