Monthly Archives: June, 2013

Close Reading: “The Ultimate Goal”


Really, another post on Close Reading?  Oh, yes! And here’s why. I had the privilege of hearing Kate Roberts (@teachkate) passionately illuminate Close Reading at a session at Teachers College Writing Institute this week. (Kate will have a book out this fall with @ichrislehman titled Falling in Love with Close Reading.)

The ultimate goal:  Read our lives closely.   

Our goal with close reading is not just to pass a test, perform above a “cut score,” or read closely because the teacher said so.  Sure, the current emphasis on close reading may be due to CCR Reading Anchor Standard 1 , but is that really what we want for our children, grandchildren, and students?

“Close reading is not just academic.  Close reading impacts our everyday lives.  It is a way of being:  reading, watching TV and listening to music.  We read our moments closely. We read our lives closely. What did I say? What did I do?  Close reading in our lives .  . . when was I not patient?  What was my language / or what were the specific words that I used with that  favorite person/ that challenging person?  How were they the same?  How were they different?  Maybe I could make some changes. . .

Close reading is challenging. Revising writing is challenging. But more importantly we need to read our lives the way we want to be!

Be better persons!”  (Kate Roberts, 6/26/2013, Teachers College Writing Institute)

Why is it important to know the ultimate goal?  It is very hard to meet a target in life or in learning if you don’t know that desired outcome.  As I listened to Kate’s presentation I thought, “Wow!  This answers that age-old question from students, (often spoken with a whiny tone), ‘Why do I have to know this?'”

Kate showed us some  results from an internet search for “close reading” (and there was great variety). As far as instruction and close reading, one source  is Patricia Kain at Harvard University.  Kain lists these steps for close reading:

  1. “Read with  a pencil in hand, and annotate the text.
  2. Look for patterns in the things you’ve noticed about the text—repetitions, contradictions, similarities.
  3. Ask questions about the patterns you’ve noticed—especially how and why.” (Kain, P. How to Do a Close Reading, Harvard University, 1998.

Other authors have spent countless hours and much ink also defining, explaining, and demonstrating “close reading.”  Check out these links for Doug Fisher or Tim Shanahan for additional information.

Kate shared with us that there are typically two ways to do this:  open or directed.  Some students may not have the skills or the sophisticated language to do close reading.  They may need the practice and the security of directed instruction to fully understand the nuances of the text. I am confident that her book will have much more information on both of those ways.

But another “gold nugget” from her presentation was this thinking about the reading behaviors  simultaneously employed by powerful readers.

“When you are able to read closely you are doing three things at once:

  1. Lens – What am I looking for? (examples:  text evidence, word choice, structure, figurative language)
  2. Patterns –  What patterns do I notice?  (Not to pick out one just one word, but to look across the text to determine ‘What does the author tend to do?’)
  3. Idea -What is the big idea that this author is writing about?   (not just confirm previous thinking)”  (Kate Roberts, 6/26/2013, Teachers College Writing Institute)

If these simultaneous behaviors are easy for you, what do you need to do in your instruction to make it easy for your students?  Food for thought?  Please continue to consider

How close reading  can help you become a  better person

ELA, Common Core, and Summer Plans


It is officially summer!  In Iowa that means that the temperature and humidity are creeping up!

What are you planning for this summer?

I am fortunate to have been accepted into the June Writing Institute and the July Reading Institute @TCRWP (Teachers College Reading and Writing Project) at Columbia University in New York City.  As Eva Gabor said in Green Acres, “New York is the place for me!” (You will recognize me as I will probably look and act more like Eddie Albert!)

So what will my focus be for those two weeks (and beyond)?

1) Read:   I will be continuing to read the new Units of Study by Lucy Calkins and all the authors at #TCRWP.  They are phenomenal.  I am already rereading parts because they are so well crafted. Other books are downloaded on my iPad including The One and Only Ivan and Teach Like a Pirate (#educoach twitter chat book study beginning July 10 at 9 pm CST).

2) Write:  I will, of course, tweet from #TCRWP. I believe that one day with Lucy Calkins in January was the source either four or five blogs. I cannot even imagine how much I will have to share after 10 days with Lucy and the #tcrwp tweeps on their home turf!   

And then there is this other little thing called #teacherswrite.  It begins on June 24th and the goal is to write and share every day. As @azajacks said last week, “I am putting my money where my mouth is!”  Time, or lack thereof, cannot be an excuse. In order to continue to grow as a teacher of writing, I need to write more.  (Intrigued?  Information about #teacherswrite can be found here http://www.katemessner.com/teachers-write/ ) Check it out yourself!

3) Continue to grow my technology skills!  I have a love/hate relationship with technology as I have used/owned my own personal technology for more than half my life.  When it goes well, it is a blissful honeymoon.  But when the computer exercises its control, my frustration level rises faster than the temperature!

I need to explore more tools to help teachers increase their efficiency and effectiveness.  I think I was one of the last people to know about Read and Write (Google extension that requires Google Chrome, Google Docs, etc.) and its quick conversion of spoken words to text. Eliminating the need for a scribe sounds both efficient and effective to me!!! Three or four tools that are VERY user friendly are exactly what I need to use well before I share with teachers!

*  *   *   *   *   *   *   *

And in the interest of full disclosure, the three items on this list came from a blog I follow at http://chartchums.wordpress.com/ that was posted on June 17th.  Check it out!  Their explanations were much more eloquent than mine.  (And borrowing ideas matched my fortune cookie: “Imitation is a sincere form of flattery.”) Their blog and book are fabulous. Both have totally expanded my view of how “charts” can make learning “visible” for students.  Their charts are a perfect match for gradual release of responsibility that results in student independence!

What are you going to plan to do this summer to improve your knowledge of ELA?

 And the Common Core? 

Record your plans below!  Let’s encourage each other to meet our goals!

Common Core ELA Resources*


A LinkedIn question from ASCD that landed in my mailbox at 4:02 a.m. today asked members to “Share the name of ONE state or district that appears to offer the best Common Core resources.”  The parameters of this task – limiting myself to ONE – seemed quite daunting. It was way too early to respond on such a nice sunny, summer day!  So about four hours later, let me offer my best answers for today and you can see if you agree!

1. Building background knowledge:

2. Specific passages for use with students:

3. Building leadership capacity – teachers/administrators:

4. Planning for instruction: 

5. Student writing examples that demonstrate the demands of the core:

Did you notice that many of my favorite resources fit more than one category above?  I wonder if that is why they have become a favorite?  

Which of these resources are you familiar with?

Which ones would you have on your list(s)?

Please comment below if you would like to know “why” a particular site is included here!

There are many great resources available including many blogs by teachers and professional development providers that I follow in a text box on the right column.  The links above are the resources I continue to return to when I want to check my own understanding!

Smarter Balanced Item Quality Review


Questions continue to be voiced in the media and academic realms about the assessments that will determine whether students are “proficient” on the new Common Core Standards.  

Do you recognize the experts listed below?

Do you trust their input? 

 

“Item Quality Review Panel convened on May 20–21—The Item Quality Review Panel convened in Las Vegas to discuss three critical aspects of the item development process: quality criteria, item specifications, and archetypes. The panel members (listed below) who represent content expertise and expertise in services to underrepresented students met as a whole group to discuss the design of the Smarter Balanced assessment and the goals of the Field Test item development. Then, in content-specific groups, the panel members, Smarter Balanced staff and work group representatives, and contractor staff discussed key areas of focus and made recommendations to improve item development.

Dr. P. David Pearson
Dr. Donald Deshler
Dr. Douglas Hartman
Edward Bosso
Dr. Elfrieda Hiebert
Dr. Guadalupe Valdes
Dr. Sandra Murphy
Dr. Alan Schoenfeld
Dr. Bill McCallum
Estelle Woodbury
Dr. Francis (Skip) Fennell
Dr. Guillermo Solano-Flores
Dr. Jason Zimba
Dr. Karen Fuson
Dr. Patrick Callahan
Steve Leinwand”

 

This information was released in the Smarter Balanced Weekly Update #118, 2013-06-07.

Maximize Your Time!


clock1

Several items in yesterday’s ASCD SmartBrief (June 4, 2013) caught my eye.  But the one that captured both my mind and my heart was the pdf available titled “Multiply Your Minutes” in  a preview from Great Habits, Great Readers:  A Practical Guide for K-4 Reading in the Light of Common Core by Paul Bambrick.  My first read was while waiting for an appointment to meet with a curriculum coordinator.  (With my iPad in hand, I even shared some sections immediately.) My second read was to consider which co-workers would get an email link.  My third read was after a co-worker commented on “I like the part about. . .”; I had to reread to find that “evidence.”  I wanted to make sure that we both had a common understanding and that my enthusiasm had not been misplaced.  Then I sent the link to another circle of co-workers.  My morning drive to work was spent rehearsing a title for this blog entry that I just had to write. And then before I began writing, gasp! I read the pdf AGAIN!

Time is one of our most precious commodities in school.  As a teacher and administrator, I was often cavalier when I would use the excuse, “I just don’t have time,”  so I did not have to change what I was doing.  It was a well-worn excuse!  But in my role as a literacy specialist, I see time as a critical factor that  with “better management” has the potential  to lead to increased student learning.  I find it incredibly hard to listen to conversations about how longer school days will improve learning when the day that we have just does not seem to always be used wisely.  Is this important?  Doug Fisher spends time on “Routines for the First 20 Days” and Daily 5 is all about the “routines” that need to be taught in order to allow students to become both independent and productive.

So what was so illuminating?  The 3 pdf sections available for preview are perfect for end of year reflections as well as August resolutions to “Maximize Time!” and increase student learning! (and to “tide you over” until your book arrives!) Check out these three GEMS!

1. “Core Idea: You can’t add more hours to the week, but you can add more hours of instruction; just build tighter routines.”

2. “Core Idea: Time lost to systems is time lost for learning.”

3. And the amount of instructional time gained if transition time was reduced from 4.5 minutes to just 30 seconds because of explicit instruction and practice.

use of time

Ten school days!  Wow! Have you timed your transitions lately? Maybe you are at 2.5 minutes. You could still gain five days in a year!

What routines do you teach your students in order to maximize your time?  What routines SHOULD you teach?

What are you thinking of changing for next year?

Please add your ideas below!

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