A common theme in these four sessions that I attended at #NCTE15 was the importance / necessity of involving students in their own learning. (It’s a connection that I could make about ALL of my #NCTE15 sessions in retrospect.)
1. Bring Students into the Conversation: Goal-Setting, Tool-Making that Supports Transfer
#TCRWP Staff Developers: Valerie Geschwind, Marjorie Martinelli, Ryan Scala, Amy Tondeau began this session with a “Turn and Talk”.
Think of a recent goal that you have achieved.
What were the conditions that helped you to reach that goal?
Motivation is a Result of . . .
- Social interaction
Tools that Support Self- Assessment
- Tools created from Mini-Lessons
Goal Setting with Students and Language that Honors Choice
And then Val introduced the cycle of learning. . . in student language.
- I am working towards a new goal.
- Sometimes it goes well and sometimes it is really hard!
- I need my tool to know each step.
- I am practicing my goal all the time: in every book or in every piece of writing.
- I use my tool as a check-in.
- I can use my goal in lots of places.
- I can teach other people what my goal is and help them do it.
I loved the idea of the three stages. I believe Brook Geller first introduced me to the belief at #TCRWP 2013 July Reading Institute that most “students are over taught and under practiced.” Many students seem to need more practice time with specific feedback and a lot less “teacher talk”. In this case a practitioner is someone who is actively engaged in the doing, who repeatedly exercises or performs an activity or skill to acquire, improve, or maintain proficiency, or who actually applies or uses an idea, a method, or a skill across many scenarios. In other words, our students are the practitioners!
Practice does not have to be boring. There are many methods (see picture below) that can be used to reach “expert” status but the key to this entire presentation was that students would be working on a goal of their own choice and moving from novice, to practitioner, to expert. What wonderful language to put into the mouths of students . . . How motivating and empowering!!!
Caution: These are not stages to be RACED through. They will take time to develop. Students in charge of their own assessment of these stages will definitely be students who know exactly what skills and strategies that they do have in their repertoire.
Be the Force! Help students
- Take on their own learning
- Take on their own change
- Cultivate a growth habit of mind
- See each other as experts
Tools: Checklists, rubrics, progressions, charts from mini-lessons. However, a new look . . . Bookmarks with 3 or 4 choices. Students marked the choice that they were using with a paperclip. Clearly visible!!!! AWESOME!
And then a final reminder .. . .
You’ve met your goal. Now what?
- Maintain your skills
- Teach others
- Get critical
- Set new goals
It was the first time for me to hear #TCRWP Staff Developers Valerie, Marjorie, Ryan, and Amy and I’m definitely looking forward to learning from them during future opportunities!!!
2. Responsible and Responsive Reading: Understanding How to Nurture Skill and Will
Kylene Beers, Teri Lesene, Donalyn Miller, Robert Probst
Of course this was a popular session so I was willing to sit on the floor (don’t tell the fire marshal) because I wanted to be able to be up front and see!
Donalyn’s presentation is here for you to review at your leisure. A very powerful activity included these questions: “What books and reading experiences would form your reading autobiography?” Donalyn explained that: What matters is WHY you chose the book? Insights from these responses lead to deep conversations with students. Convos for Ss
Teri Lesene’s presentation is here. This fact was startling to me! Obviously I need to read more than a book a week!
Kylene Beers and Bob Probst shared a great deal of information about nonfiction reading that has come from the process of writing their new book. This slide is something I want to remember. . . “when I have answers I need to question”.
And this one on the importance of reading.
3. Finding Their Way: Using Learning Tools to Push Rigor, Increase Independence and Encourage Learning in Your Classroom
TCRWP Staff Developers: Mike Ochs, Kate Roberts, Maggie Beattie Roberts
Maggie began this session with many great connections. “We haven’t seen teachers work harder than they currently are, YET sometimes students aren’t working so hard! ” Tools can help students buy into learning. Tools, in our daily life, extend our reach, meet our needs, help us tackle big problems and personally get better! Tools connect, access, build community . . . should change over time!
- Rigor and motivation
- Memory . . . Why don’t we remember things? (short and long term memory) “I’ve taught this 1000 times. I know they learned this!”
“A great coach never achieves greatness for himself or his team by working to make all his players alike.” Tomlinson
And then a typical problem from narrative writing. . . How to stretch out a frozen moment. Kate created a demo page in front of us and told us it was, “Messy!” Lean on a menu of ways, decide the color scheme, and title.
Another tool might be a Micro-Progression. It provides a clear description of behaviors that are expected so students will know where they stand. Middle level is good. Students don’t always have to think they should be at the top level of performance.
Bookmark – 5 or 6 most important things for students to work on. Let students create this for themselves. They can be different!
Mike – Framework for creating tools adapted from The Unstoppable Writing Teacher with a shout out to Colleen Cruz.
Do not plan to use a tool forever. Have a plan to remove the tools. Some tools we will always need (the hammer), some we want to go away/become automatic (steps to hammer a nail) Some tools become references, set aside until needed. Sometimes need an additional/alternate tool. Most writing tools are not designed to be used indefinitely.
Kate: “You find yourself getting as smart as the toolmakers as you use the ‘tools of others’ and you get better as teacher! You don’t want to teach without a sidekick. Your tools can be a sidekick.”
News : Spring 2016 a book from Kate and Maggie!!!! SO EXCITED!
4. Transforming Informational Writing: Merging Content and Craft
Seymour Simon, Kelly Boswell, Linda Hoyt
I think I know this boy!
Seymour’s part was actually titled: Celebrating the Wonder in Nonfiction Storytelling. He began with a discussion of what nonfiction really means. If nonfiction is really “not true” than fiction should be “not real”. There is something about the use of “non” that marginalizes the texts that are labeled nonfiction. After all, who takes anything with “non” in the title seriously?
Not much difference between teaching F and NF. . .
- Who am I?
- What am I?
- What about me?
Mystery, wonder, poem, the universe!
Seymour read aloud many great fiction and nonfiction pairings. One of my favorite pairings was:
Kelly: How Mentors and Modeling Elevate Informational Writing
Mentor texts plus teacher modeling equals quality student writing. When teaching writing, FOCUS! If the target lesson is about leaving spaces between words, only teach “leaving spaces between words.” Don’t teach everything in the world of writing.
Kelly’s example for the text went “something” like this as an example of what NOT to do! “Class, we are going to work on leaving spaces between words today as we write. What does a sentence begin with? Good! Yes, a capital letter. (writes The) Our next word is ‘butterfly’. Let’s clap the syllables in butterfly. How many? Yes, three. What sound does it begin with?”
If the focus is “leaving spaces between words” – that’s the teacher talk!
On mentors and models – read the book once to enjoy, then mine for craft. Use a favorite book over and over and don’t forget to use it for conventions! Here’s an example from Hank the Cowdog.
- Create a culture of Curiosity.
- Provide time for students to ask questions
- Immerse learners in fascinating informational topics and sources
- Focus on content and craft in the writing they see, hear, and produce
- “Float the learning on a sea of talk.” – James Britton
- Teach research strategies
- Teach visual literacy – First grade writing example
8. Writers Workshop Every Day
9. Make sure learners are writing all day long. Write to remember. Write to question. Write to think. Write to express yourself. Write to share your learning. In every subject area.
10. Write Using Elements from Real World Informational Texts (lists, emails, letters, notes, newsletters)
Involving Students Take Aways:
Students can set real goals and self-assess their progress toward their goals.
Students are motivated when they have control and real choices in their work.
Models and tools aid students in moving through a cycle of novice to practitioner to expert.
What are your thoughts about involving students at this point?
The general session that began Monday’s learning at #ILA15 was notable! Stephen Peters shared that “My teacher thought I was smarter than I was, so I was!” To learn more about him, check out his biography here.
And then Academy Award winner Octavia Spencer was interviewed by a panel that included two freshman students from a local high school who asked her questions about how to prepare for a career and even whether parents should have to answer questions from their child. Smart, witty, fun . . . and on the importance of reading as Octavia shared that she struggled with reading and dyslexia.
Game Changers: Using Sports and the Power of Adolescent Literature to Transform the World
Sharon Draper and Chris Crutcher
Laughter, long and constant, emanated from our conference room as Sharon and Chris answered questions from the audience. Here are some of the quotes that I captured from these YA authors who have also been classroom teachers.
Chris – “The only people who are ruined by their experiences are the people who allow it. I’ve seen people stand up under pressure, when I would have folded.”
Sharon – “Leave a door open, without being Pollyannish (not everything is going to be ok). I have to leave hope, not desperation and despair at the end of the book!”
Chris – “I would have failed Ms. Draper’s class but I would have still learned from her class. I ailed other classes, but I still learned something!”
Sharon on Diversity- ” Students, whether Black or Latino, need to see themselves in books and others as well! Classroom library needs to be diverse regardless of the makeup of the class!”
Chris on language (curse words and the F bomb)-“It’s the language of ‘anger/rage’ so it’s natural. I want to hear your story in your native tongue.”
On writing, rejection, and editors:
Sharon, “I sent out 25 letters, 24 were no, 1 yes from Simon and Schuster. When you turn in a manuscript, you know nothing. Find your own path. Just because you know how to climb Mt. Everest doesn’t make it any easier the second time because you have done it before. Still hard, just know what to expect.”
Take Away: Authors that write REAL books for kids, write from what they know and the kids that they see on a regular basis. It’s hard work to craft a book so the content and details are still relevant 10 years later.
Transforming Understanding Through Informational Read Alouds
Seymour Simon and Linda Hoyt
What a star-studded ending to the conference with Linda and Seymour and a room packed to overflowing for the last session of the conference! I was excited to meet my “Science Guy” as we evaluated the credibility of Seymour as a science expert during a TCRWP workshop earlier in July! And yes, he fit our EXPERT category!
Seymour Simon began by showing the craft techniques that he uses in his many books:
- Action words
- Engage senses to set the scene
- Ask questions
- diagrams and photographs
- Descriptive Detail
Seymour also shared a sample of the work that he has done as a publisher at Star Walk Kids. 500+ ebooks are available with more than half as nonfiction. I loved that he worked in a shout out to Mary Ehrenworth, Teachers College (TCRWP) and Twitter, “a unique opportunity for teacher to talk about education in a universe of teachers interested in the same work”.
“EVERY teacher should read aloud daily! Every book I write, I have to read aloud.”
And then pearls of wisdom from Linda Hoyt:
How do we make time for Informational Read Alouds?
“Shorten fiction read alouds. Put short informational Read Alouds into science and social studies to load up the heads and hearts of students. Make time. Informational Read Alouds do not need to be boring. Be picky about what you read.”
Qualities of great informational texts for Read Alouds:
- beautiful language
- high quality visuals
- test language – Does it beg to be read aloud?
- Is it projectionable? (so kids can see the text)
- You do NOT have to start reading on page 1 and read until the end.
We practiced with some text. Be cautious in saying all text should be a Read Aloud. This should be GREAT text. Teach kids that read alouds vary and where, why, and when we adjust them. Brian Cambourne’s Seven Conditions of Learning were included as well as a study of university students who are being read to at the University of Woolangong in ann adult study of the effect of Read Alouds on adult learning.
Linda shared a fourth grade persuasive PSA from Mrs. Fitpatrick’s class, “Pulling over for emergency vehicles”, as an example of student work after learning through Read Alouds.
What are the connections between Read Alouds and writing?
Build Capacity for Deep Thinking and Memory
Recast Conversation Patterns
Pause to sketch, to think, to visualize and talk . .
“Lester Laminack advocates for seven Read Alouds each day. I go with three – only 1 is interactive – so students can FEEL what happens! ( Fiction, NF, and writing craft – ex. lead)”
Take Away: A mix of fiction and informational text Read Alouds needs to be thoughtful, planned, practiced, and executed multiple times each day for ALL students!
What do you want to remember from this finale post?
What will linger with you?
“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:
- Activate students listening
- Read passage
- Elicit responses
- Conduct student application of knowledge
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?
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.
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.
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:
- 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!