Monthly Archives: July, 2013

CCSS And Beyond: Know and Wonder Charts

How do we truly ensure high learning expectations for our readers?

After two weeks with friends on a twitter book chat #wrrdchat, discussing What Readers Really Do by Barnhouse and Vinton (@VickiVintonTMAP), I must confess that I do need to return to a classroom and work with students. The whole process of making meaning from written symbols is simple for some students, but oh, so confusing for others.

Confusion could come from the words – long or short – many words have multiple meanings and then only the surrounding words in the sentence or paragraph can truly help tease out the specific meaning.  Confusion could also arise from the lack of pictures as students move through the grades and the levels.  Or it could simply be that reading is HARD work!

My journey this summer has included #tcwrp Writing and Reading Institutes.  It has also included book studies for Notice and Note, Teach Like a Pirate and as previously noted, What Readers Really Do. I will admit, I have struggled this summer as I have heard and now BELIEVE that students must do the work of understanding. I cannot and dare not rush in and rescue them!  True understanding of text only comes from “grappling with it.”

So on with it!  Get to the point!

How do I use a “Know and Wonder Chart” to help students understand?

I will begin with the text Walk Two Moons brought to my attention by a Barbara O’Connor blog here.  Then I will build  a Know – Wonder Chart based on the “setup” to look for patterns.  Here is what my chart looked like in its first draft.

ImageIn the “setup” I have learned a lot about Sal in the first two pages of this book.  I know she is a country girl and her name is Sal.  Her dad is in the story as is “a lady” named “Margaret” with “wild red hair.”  I was wondering about the main character’s name each time I generated questions.

As the first two pages end, I am still wondering about:

  • when does this story take place (no clues yet in clothes or transportation),
  • what is the story? (hunch= life in the city with Margaret?) and
  • my biggest “wonder” is “Where is Sal’s mom?.

I am going to have to keep reading to find out more about the “setup” (who, what, where, when, etc.) but also to find out if any of my hunches “come true.  I will also be looking for patterns where the author tells me or sets me up to discover the meaning that is hidden in the words.

How will I assess this “Know and Wonder” work with students?

My formative quick check at mid-workshop interruption will be:   “Thumbs up if you have jotted down an idea from your reading. Point to head if you added to “wonder.” Tap finger on your shoulder if you have added to or found a new pattern.” (Some use of visual/gestures would give me a quick look at status of class.) Students could also add other ideas to “self-assess” in their book clubs if you are using them.

I am leaning towards a “star” system to begin with because I have literally seen high school students beg for a star before! The star would go in the Reader’s Notebook.  I love how #tcrwp folks use writing continua so I am also thinking about what that might look like but I want to be careful to make it be about quality factors and not just “things I can count.”

In the beginning, I believe that any student who adds to their chart in terms of “know, wonder, or arrows/comments for patterns” will earn a star.  It is the beginning of the book. The assessment will evolve!

The assessment process – When students do this thinking in jotted notes in their Reader’s Notebook, they will be meeting the standards of CCSS and exceeding them.  No bubble tests required!

How would you assess “Know and Wonder” charts?  What has worked for you?

Circling back to the beginning:

I have learned during this study of What Readers Really Do is that my reading is really from the “inside out!” Thank you @Teamhanrahan62  for that idea.  I have also learned that this work is hard and the reader must be trusted to do the work (@VickiVintonTMAP)!  (And I apologize in advance because I will not remember everyone from the chat in this post!)  From my #wrrdchat mate  @brettelockyer I have learned new vocabulary as well as the value of a conversation around a text for deeper learning.  Thank you for the mention of this book in NYC @azajacks and special thanks to @rscalateach for developing and implementing a book study plan!   Reading a blog from a voracious summer reader, @jarhartz, who wrote about “Yet”  –  and commented on an old post of mine yesterday, the idea of this post was born.  Thank you all, #wrrdchat mates, this study has been a wonderful summer learning opportunity!


CCSS: Read Alouds and Increasing Comprehension

“What’s in a name?   That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” (William Shakespeare)

Read Alouds have had an important place in education and the lives of our students since Jim Trelease published his first book about read alouds in 1982 (more information about his work here).  Some other names that have been used to describe read alouds include:

  • Shared reading
  • Close reading
  • Cross text read aloud
  • Interactive read aloud

What are read alouds?

A planned oral reading of a book or print excerpt, usually related to a theme or topic of study, is a basic read aloud.  Typically, read alouds have been used to engage the student listener while developing background knowledge, increasing comprehension skills, and fostering critical thinking.  The Center for the Improvement of Early Reading Achievement (CIERA) has archives of articles (research-based) about using read alouds for engagement and comprehension.

What can read alouds do for instruction?

A read aloud can be used to model behaviors that powerful readers use to make sure that they understand the text as a reader or  to understand the author’s craft as a writer.  These parallel processes can provide a model for teacher demonstration/thinking to allow students to be active listeners prior to student practice of the same reading behaviors when reading their own texts in a small group, with a partner or individually.  This “deep understanding” is important as the Common Core State Standards demand moving beyond literal understanding to Webb’s “Depth of Knowledge” as used in the assessments coming soon.

What format is used for a read aloud?

There are many formats that match the different names already listed above.  See if one of these sounds familiar to you and also matches your goal for increasing student comprehension?  In Iowa under Every Child Reads, the observable moves for a read aloud were:

  1. Introduction
  2. Activate students listening
  3. Read passage
  4. Elicit responses
  5. Conduct student application of knowledge
Linda Hoyt has her own version of Interactive Read Alouds.  Here is a link to a sample K-1 lesson for Goodnight Moon.  And Hansel and Gretel as a sample lesson for grades 2-3.
Last week I was introduced to a third version of a Read Aloud that involves many of the phases of a lesson using Gradual Release of Responsibility.  Here are the planning stages for a TCRWP Read Aloud.

Planning a Read Aloud

1.    Read the text as a reader first

  • Spy on yourself and take notes on post-its
  • Where do you react strongly?
  • Where do you have a new insight?
  • Where do you revise your thinking, etc.?

2.   Decide if there are particular skills or strategies your class really needs to see modeled. *Check CCSS standards

  • Defining vocabulary in context
  • Noticing author’s craft

3.  Choose the post-its that model the skill you want to model and have students practice.

  • Decide what parts will be interactive
  • Decide where you will pause
  • Decide where you will have students turn and talk
  • Use prompt sheet for support

4.   Rehearse it

  • Check that it “feels” right
  • Check that it “sounds” right

Did you notice the subtle differences?  Which one do your students need to be using themselves as they read? Increased understanding of the simultaneous processes used by powerful readers may mean a shift in your use of read alouds.  What will be both efficient and effective for your students?

Caution 1:

How does this read aloud fit into my 90 minutes of reading instruction (or 60 minutes of reading workshop)?  It doesn’t under the model proposed by the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project(TCRWP).  The read aloud  is both outside the workshop time and in addition to the workshop time!  Yes, one more thing to be included in the busy school day.  Reading workshop time is predominantly for student “work” with less teacher talk time!  That work time is the necessary “practice and game time” for students to work through text with the coach (teacher) by their side so they can successfully accelerate through the rigor of the expectations of the CCSS.  

Caution 2:

So if a read aloud is NOT going to be a part of instruction and work time, what do I use for my focus lesson during reading workshop?  At TCRWP, a mini-lesson is a part of reading workshop.  Is it the same as a read aloud?  What’s different? Check out the features listed in the chart below.

Read Aloud

Mini – Lesson

The teacher reads aloud to students in order to model  and demonstrate all of the strategies that characterize proficient reading.The teacher could do a focused read aloud where one or two major strategies are popped out.A read aloud is interactive:

  • Think aloud
  • Turn and talk
  • Stop and jot
  • Stop and add on
  • Stop and sketch
  • Stop and take notes
  • Explicit teaching
  • 8-10 minutes
  • Follows clear architecture
    • Connection
    • Teach
    • Active Engagement
    • Link
    • Students go off to read independently
      • Teacher confers and pulls small groups
      • Mid-workshop teaching
      • Share
      • Could do an inquiry or GRR lesson
For your reflection:
  • Are you currently using read alouds for instruction with your students? If yes, which format is similar to the one you are using?  If no, which format will work best in your classroom to provide the robust instruction that will increase student learning?
  • CCR Reading Anchor 1 demands “close reading” by the students that will require explicit modeling and instruction in order to avoid being another example of “assigning” reading. Students may need some initial scaffolding with sentence frames in order to practice  oral language structures for this work. Read Alouds can and should be a part of that instructional sequence!  Consider how Read Alouds can help meet the goals of the other nine CCR Reading Anchor Standards!

How can you increase the effectiveness of your own Read Alouds?  What are you planning for this next year?

Fostering Self-Assessment and Revising Post – Its*

In order for students to self-assess their own work, they have to have clear learning targets and be able to see the difference between their current work and the end goal.  This is not easy work for teachers or students because the expectations are ever increasing under CCSS.

These first years of implementation of the Common Core may be transition years.  If students have not had explicit instruction in understanding character development (R. CCR. Anchor 3), they may need varying levels of support.  That instruction is going to be critical for fall 2013,  in order to ensure success for students in their daily reading as well as future high-stakes assessments.

The last post included the chart below as an anchor chart that was a resource for a loop of :

  •  instruction,
  • conferencing,
  • assessment, and
  • planning for additional instruction for the students.

(If you haven’t read that one, you might want to go back to “Readers’ NotebooksAssessing, Goal-Setting, and Planning Instruction“.)


Joey, fictitious student, left his reading conference with a goal to work to increase his depth of understanding about characters.  This is important for Joey and all other students to understand.  It is not just about being able to understand the characters in this book.  It truly is about how Joey will read and reflect on characters across all future reading (and will include many more attributes before he finishes elementary school – this is just ONE example).

Joey had some coaching in his reading conference about what he needed to do in order to meet that next level.  But what if the coaching did not stick?  What happens the next day? And what if there are many more students like Joey in the class?

Remember that group size for instruction is based on data and some general guidelines are:

  • 1 student needs it – can be done in 1:1 reading conference
  • 3 – 5 students need it – can be done in small group
  • more than half the class needs it  – whole group mini-lesson

Class data pointed to a need to improve understanding depth of character development.  Planning  an explicit mini-lesson in revising Post – Its, or “seeing again” is needed.  Explicit demonstrations of what revision looks like and the many different ways it can be done will be modeled.  The students also need more time to practice.  Ultimately,  the students will be improving their independent ability to describe character development in order to deepen their reading comprehension while simultaneously increasing their self assessment and reflection skills.  This is HARD work!

What might instruction in revising Post-Its look like?

All students would come to the mini-lesson with a post-it about characters. The lesson will depend upon the data (the post-its in the hands of the students).   It is possible that students may still be struggling with accurately self assessing that will require the teacher to teach the “assessing post-its” lesson AGAIN.  Instruction has to be responsive to the student data!

As I move to instruction on revising, I will also be using some Question Answer Relationship (QAR) talk and labels because it is a strategy that students and teachers are already familiar with.  That may not be included in your work with students/teachers.  Instruction in the mini-lesson  and subsequent student practice may include:

  • self assessment of my post – it (review)
  • talk with a partner about how I rated my post – it and WHY? (review)
  • specific ways I can revise my post – it (includes ideas from the next chart about “HOW” )
  • a second self-assessment of my post – it
  • confirmation/validation with my partner of my revision
  • an opportunity for students to practice this with a post – it I give them
  • an opportunity for students to practice this with their own post – it

How I can Revise

If my goal for the “Revising Post-Its” lesson series is to create a chart that would allow students to show which revision strategies they are using (public evidence of our learning), it may look something like the final chart below.  (Remember this chart will be created with the students, but I do have to have a plan in mind.)  As a teacher I could quickly check on the status of student revision with a simple thumbs up or down in response to this question, “Have I used more than one way to revise a post – it?” in a whole-class setting.  However during a reading conference with an individual student, I could ask them to “show me other ways that you have tried revising?” if they seem to be stuck on just one way.


This was a bit of my holiday thinking.  What would you do differently to increase self-assessment and revise post – its?  I would love to hear your ideas!

* Reflection on large and small group sessions at July #TCRWP Reading Institute 2013 with Kathleen Tolan and Bianca Lavey.

Readers’ Notebooks: Assessing, Goal-Setting, and Planning Instruction

What are the most effective uses of Readers’ Notebooks?  

One of my pleasurable tasks this school year will be to work with a veteran group of teachers who will be  implementing the new Units of Study in Writing.  A secondary goal with that group will be to explore the use of Readers’ Notebooks as a tool that can:

  1. Assess the students’ ever-increasing levels  of comprehension;
  2. Assist in student and teacher goal setting during individual reading conferences; and
  3. Provide structure for planning instruction.

I am excited about the possibilities for Readers’ Notebooks that I am hearing this week at the  Teachers College Reading Institute, Columbia University, New York City(#tcrwp).  (You all definitely should plan to attend next year!)  This post contains several possibilities that I am considering.  Please consider whether these match or extend your current thinking!

Setting the context:

In Readers’ Workshop, students will be reading for at least 30 minutes each day out of the ideal 60 minute block.  There will also be an expectation that students will write for approximately 5 minutes (this is not writing workshop and does not replace that designated writing time) in order to show their level of understanding of the text that was read. This opportunity for writing will allow the students to develop their own thinking as well as provide evidence of application or transfer of a skill taught during a whole group mini-lesson.

1. How can teachers use Readers’ Notebooks as a Performance Assessment for Comprehension?

Example – Character Development in Book Being Read:

Just a quick reminder that I am making an assumption here that previous literacy work has included a Read Aloud where the teacher modeled some thinking about the character development in a text,  a mini-lesson with explicit instruction in character development (or multiple mini-lessons depending on the grade level), and now conferencing and goal-setting with an individual student.


All students are jotting down evidence from the texts they are reading about character development on post-its in their reading notebooks.  They have practiced jotting multiple times in whole and small group settings.  The teacher may have already pulled the post-its and placed them into categories along a continuum of expected features for character development to create a rubric (or the teacher may be using information from #tcrwp as I am).

The teacher has then developed a chart for the classroom using examples from student post-its to fill in the third column in the chart below that uses student friendly language/phrasing.  Students may also have a smaller version of this checklist  (the same chart below minus the example column) in their notebook that they can refer to while jotting notes.


2. How can Readers’ Notebooks assist in student and teacher goal setting during individual reading conferences?

A Quick Peek into a Reading Conference in Progress:

For this example, I am having a conference with Joey (a fictitious student). I will look at the post-its on character development in Joey’s notebook during our reading conference.  Joey will explain what “star rating” he believes his post-it is and “WHY” he believes so.  We will use the examples on the chart to talk about the accuracy of  Joey’s rating.  Joey puts  the corresponding number of stars on his notebook entry so he can literally “see” the rating. Then Joey and I set a goal.

How does this happen?   If Joey’s post-it reflected a “1 star,” I will use a teaching point and teach Joey (using the chart with example) what he needs to do in order to have a “2 star” response the next time (goal).  Similarly if Joey has a “3 star” response, I will use a teaching point and teach Joey what he needs to do in order to have a “4 star” response the next time (goal).  Joey now has a clear learning target and is much more likely to meet his goal because he knows his current status and what he has to do to move on the continuum.

Expected Results:

Joey knows what his target is and specifically what he needs to do to move up to gain another star.  He will be able to meet that goal because he has seen and heard what that goal looks like from peer examples, and Joey can also consult the chart hanging in the classroom.

3. How can Readers’ Notebooks provide structure for planning instruction?

After a round of conferences I, the teacher, will have class data, (see example below),  that I can use for small group instruction.  Note that alphabet letters in the third column are codes for individual students.  I could also decide to set up “partner groups” for accountable talk around character development by deliberately pairing two students with differing star levels in this skill area.

class status of rising stars character development

Performance Assessment:  Star ratings based on student jottings on post-its on a continuum for a comprehension skill;  character development is the skill in this blog post.

Student Self Assessment: Use of checklist to determine “star level” and explanation of “WHY” that rating

Goal Setting:  Use of checklist to determine the next step to meeting the goal of higher comprehension in this skill

Informing Instruction:  Class Status record allows teacher to see the current levels of understanding of all students in the class and make decisions about next steps in instruction.

College and Career Ready Anchor Standard RL.3

Is this new thinking for you?  Are you using Readers’ Notebooks in these ways?

Thanks, in advance, for your comments!

(Sources of information:   Reflection on large and small group sessions at July #TCRWP Reading Institute 2013 with Kathleen Tolan and Bianca Lavey  and closing session with Mary Ehrenworth.)

Part 2  What else can you do with Readers’ Notebooks?  Fostering Self-Assessment and Revising Post – Its

TCRWP: Performance Assessments in Reading

I was totally fascinated by Mary Ehrenworth’s closing, “The Common Core Asks Us  to Teach Higher Level Comprehension: Performance Assessments and Learning Progressions” on Monday, July 1 on the first day of the Reading Institute.

We began with talking with a partner about assessments that were currently in use in our districts and then Mary began her presentation that was filled with student examples containing both writing and video evidence of reading comprehension.

Mary did caution us to not make running records be the “know all, be all” for every kind of assessment. They are perfect for matching students to books but perhaps not the tool that should be used for measuring growth in comprehension. And especially not to measure growth in comprehension that would be aligned with the Common Core.

In a nutshell, here is the framework Mary proposed:

Reading Performance Assessments

1.  Formal, grade and school wide Information and Argument writing (K-10)

2.  Use checklists to set goals and raise levels

3. Reading notebooks

4. Calibrate expectations across grade level and try making a checklist”

Mary wrote this list during the presentation on a piece of paper under the document camera complete with subheadings (no power point here) so errors in reporting would be mine.

A specific reference to Hattie, his book Visible Learning, and the power of specific feedback had me revisiting my notes from our #educoach book study in the summer of 2012.  How do students get that feedback?  I  now know that in writing, the learning progressions authored by Lucy Calkins and the TCWRP staff will provide just that feedback in the form of the checklists available.

Two more gems from Mary:

“Rubrics are for teachers; checklists are for students.”

“If you can say it on a checklist, kids can do it.  If you can’t say it on a checklist, kids cannot do it!”

The use of a Reader’s Notebook as a performance assessment was new to me.  Having specific goals in terms of checklists or a learning progression would enable both the teacher and the student to “see” progress in deepening comprehension.  Having targets would also ensure the likelihood of student success.  The premise is both exciting and exhilarating in the forward march to meet the increased demands under the Common Core.

Are you using a Reader’s Notebook as a performance assessment?  How might that be used to document increased student comprehension? (grades 3 and above)

Your thoughts are greatly appreciated!

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