Tag Archives: Iowa Core ELA

Lexile Level Is NOT Text Complexity CCSS.R.10


This Tweet  from #tcrwp (Teachers College Reading and Writing Project) on August 15th caught my eye.  A quick glance at the twitter stream confirmed that it came from Stephanie Harvey’s keynote (sigh of envy across the miles).

@amandalah: Careful of lexile: Harry potter, old man & the sea &Alexander & the horrible no good very bad day. All similar lexile. #TCRWP

Hmmm. . .  Harry Potter, Old Man and the Sea, and Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day are three distinctly different texts that have similar lexile levels!

Was I interested?  Yes!

Did I independently check?  Yes!

Those three books are typically read by readers at these levels:

  • Alexander and the Horrible, Terrible, Very Bad, No Good Day  –  primary grades
  • Harry Potter  –  upper elementary grades
  • Old Man and the Sea  –  high school

But yet they all three have similar lexile levels!  Would that still be where those texts would be read?  Or has that expectation changed with the adoption of the Common Core?

The initial connection to Stephanie Harvey was further confirmed in Twitterverse later:

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So what is a lexile?   And just how is a lexile determined?

The Lexile Framework® for Reading claims to measure a student’s reading ability based on actual assessment, rather than a generalized age or grade level.  It uses a common, developmental scale to match a reader with books, articles and other resources at the right level of difficulty. The Lexile Framework was developed by MetaMetrics®, an educational measurement and research organization that purports to use scientific measures of student achievement to link assessment with targeted instruction to improve learning.  To date, more than 115,000 books and 80 million articles have Lexile measures, and the number of resources with Lexile measures continues to grow.

HOWEVER, CCSS.R.10 does not use Lexiles alone as a single measure of Text Complexity.  ALL CCSS documents include a three-pronged approach to complexity as evidenced by this graphic and explanation:

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The Common Core specifically says that there are “three equally important parts.”  A lexile measure does not equal text complexity. There are many ways to determine which texts are appropriate for specific grade levels or bands.  Quantitative factors (#2 above) seem to be the easiest to measure.  An addendum to Appendix A suggests that two quantitative measures be used for comparison.  That would mean that Lexiles AND a grade level equivalent could both be considered for a more general “quantitative measure.”  Then qualitative facets would be explored like theme, structure and knowledge demands.  Finally the Reader and Task considerations would be reviewed.

Additional information about text complexity is easily located.  Kansas text complexity resources are available here.   Sarah Brown Wessling’s,  “Teacher of the Year,” viewpoint of text complexity is available at Teaching Channel.

 So just how do these three books compare when looking at multiple data points?

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Which elements of text complexity are you considering when selecting text?
What examples of “Out of Whack Lexiles” have you found?

*    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *

Addition/ Update =  08.17.13:
  • Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway 610L.
  • Twilight garners a Lexile score of 720.
  • A Farewell to Arms – Ernest Hemingway 730L.
  • Beverly Cleary’s Ramona Quimby, Age 8, has a Lexile score of 860.
  • Diary of a Wimpy Kid has 1000L.
  • Moby Dick by Herman Melville has a Lexile of 1200.
  • The Wee Little Woman is a board book by Byron Barton and has a Lexile of 1300.

**According to Titlewave:
The Diary of a Wimpy Kid 950
Fahrenheit 451                   890
Gossip Girl                           820
The Great Gilly Hopkins    800

From @AliBuzzell  new resource on 08.21.13  tweentribune.com/readrank  Thanks, Ali!
@doctordea   Brief white paper:  The Lexile Framework:   ow.ly/o9iW3

Donalyn Miller, the Book Whisperer http://blogs.edweek.org/teachers/book_whisperer/2012/07/guess_my_lexile.html?cmp=SOC-SHR-TW

Planning to Meet CCSS Grade Level Literacy Standards


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Do any of those questions sound familiar?

I spent this week with some fabulous teachers working on the Iowa Core Writing Standards.  Did we work on all of them?  No!  Did we talk about all of them?  Not by number!  But we did spend a lot of time talking about what good writing should look like, how writing will be assessed in the future, and the whole reciprocal nature of reading and writing.

So what’s my best advice for planning those “first writing lessons for the new year?”

Here is my thinking based on what I learned at Teachers College Reading and Writing Institutes this summer:

  1. At least 50 % of reading workshop time (or more) has to be spent on students reading books of their choice every day (CCR Anchor Reading 1 and 10).
  2. At least 50 % of writing workshop time (or more) has to be spent on students writing every day. (That writing has to be aligned to one of the first three CCR Anchor Writing Standards, Argument, Explanatory, or Narrative and 10).

(To summarize 1 and 2 above, every day the student will be working on a minimum of 2 reading and 2 writing anchor standards.)

If I have planned my instructional sequences well, I will have also managed to “bundle in” some Speaking and Listening and Language Anchor Standards or some Foundational grades K-5 standards to support the gradual release of responsibility.

How will I decide which ones go together?  One of my new tools is this graphic, A Periodic Table of the Common Core Standards,  from Burkins and Yaris.  During planning, this table will remind me of the wide range of standards available and I will choose the standards that best meet the needs of my students as I also consider what I have learned about “letting the students guide my instruction” from Vicki Vinton and our #wrrdchat as we studied the book, What Readers Really Do.

How will I know if I have been successful?

  • I will check the amount of time students spend reading and writing every day and shorten the “teacher talk” time to ensure that students are getting as much time possible for reading and writing.
  • I will listen to students in reading and writing conferences to hear what they are saying about reading and writing.
  • I will talk to students about my own reading and writing histories.
  • I will model reading and writing with and for my students.
  • And I will ask my Twitter mates for help, encouragement and assistance when things run amuck as they are prone to do!

(Dr. Shanahan has already said that “there are no power standards in ELA” here so that is a non-issue.)  And yes, you do have to teach all the standards!

How will you know that you are meeting the CCSS Grade Level Literacy Standards?  What is your plan for this school year?

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.
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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“.)

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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.

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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.

Expectations:

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.

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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!

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!

Not all “Close Reads” are Equal!


I am fascinated by the discussion level that continues around “Close Reading” which is just a “part” of the text in Reading Anchor Standard 1.  (Specifically two words out of 31 that actually say, “Read closely.”)   You can read what Grant Wiggins posted about Close Reads here.

Tim Shanahan has several posts about close reads.  This one, “A Time for Humility,” posted after the IRA  conference on April 23, 2013, is particularly enlightening as Shanahan shares that there is no “one perfect model” for close reads.

Who are the experts?  Is there a “formula” or a plan that works for every story?  No, NO, NO! Close reads are dependent on the complexity of the texts, the skills of the students and the goal of the specific lessons.

When a reader begins with the text, the meaning has to be aligned with the author’s words and craft.  How do students understand that?  Some students may get all that in the “first read” and therefore not need a second or a close read.  But if the second grade students can only provide a “topic” when questioned about a page they have read, a “second read” may be necessary for instruction/modeling of main idea whether explicitly shared by the author or implicit in the text.

Will a single close read work for all students?  Probably not!  That is the “ART” of teaching,  a teacher that can propose a learning target, provide a model and the resources and then begin to check for understanding to specifically meet the needs of all students.

In the waning days or weeks of the 2013 school year, I would encourage teachers to continue to challenge students.  Ask your classes when they felt that they were “stretched” in their learning this year. Likewise, ask them when they felt like they were “coasting” and they didn’t need to put out a great deal of effort.  Consider students’ input and “Try something different” in your implementation of the Core.  A lot of other bloggers and authors have written about the value of  high expectations.  With scaffolding and some collaborative practice, many student CAN be successful!

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *    *    *      *      *     *     *

What is close reading?

To begin at the beginning, this began with Reading Anchor Standard #1.

Then when considering text for use in close reading demonstrations or for student practice, two posts that cover this ground are:

What should be the content or purpose of “close reads?”

Based on what you now “KNOW” about “Close Reading,” what will you do differently BEFORE this school year ends?

Please add your responses below!

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