Paperless?

IMG_0680

 

I am trying to go paperless with my lesson plans and conferring notes. I have used The Confer App for my conferring notes and it worked adequately. I wanted to find a place where I could house my conferring notes and my lesson plans. I started using an app called Noteshelf 2. I typed my lesson plans in word and imported them into the app where I could continue to edit the them and write in notes using my Apple pencil or type additional text. My Apple pencil didn’t always work the best in this app however. I am trying an app called Notability now and my Apple pencil seems to be working better. I can still import my lesson plans from word. I have also started recording my conferring sessions when I’m going into classrooms and conferring with readers. This really helps me reflect on the language I am using with my students and helps me hold them and myself more accountable.  Each conferring session lasts 5-6 minutes. While I am recording I am also typing notes. When I play back my notes, what I typed or write is highlighted as the audio plays. This is very helpful and lets me make my note taking more efficient. I am not typing as much because I can rely on the audio to help me plan for future sessions. I also plan to play back students oral reading when it becomes useful to help them notice fluency concerns or decoding attempts.

What are you using? Any suggestions? I am really liking Notability so far! This is just my 3rd day using it and am learning more  about it everyday.

Troy

Are we teaching for compliance or engagement?

time to

 

51vLk92FYEL._SX410_BO1,204,203,200_ When thinking about student engagement as I started reading Ellin Keene’s newest book Engaging Children: Igniting a Drive for Deeper Learning, I started to think about how I engage with people. Am I truly present in conversations with my wife and children. At times I admit I may appear to be listening with intention, however I am really being compliant, not fully mentally present. I am not truly engaged anticipating what might occur next, creating new background knowledge, asking questions, showing intense focus and concentration towards the topic of discussion and trying to apply what we are talking about in a new or interesting way to help solve a problem or give insight. That is what we want when we have conversations with people, right? I actually ask a lot of questions, but my questions tend to fall short of the intended focus of the conversation and often frustrate my friends and family.

Continue reading “Are we teaching for compliance or engagement?”

The Point of the Teaching Point

As I was reflecting on my guided reading lessons today, I started thinking about the teaching point. The teaching point is something I believe can be overlooked when you are first learning the guided reading format you are using. I think it is very important and should never be overlooked. I try to have a teaching point for every day of the lesson no matter if it is two, three or four days long. I make sure to include a teaching point even after conferring with students as they write about the book.

Next StepThis is how Jan Richardson introduces teaching points in her book The Next Step in Guided Reading (2009).

Each day, after students read the text, spend a few minutes teaching strategies for decoding, fluency, and/or comprehension. Always ask yourself what do these students need to learn next.  

The teaching point is something that you may plan for ahead of time as you anticipated what problems the text may pose to students. You may also choose something you noticed a student or students do or attempt to do and discuss what the student did at the point of difficulty, in an authentic point of need. I think you can go much deeper than teaching a strategy, by focusing on the thinking you have do before, during and after using a strategy. I love being able to notice and name what students do as they are experiencing true struggle and trying to make decisions of what they can do to help themselves. When you can discuss those moments as teaching points, students learn the invisible things readers do.

 

UnknownVicki Vinton explains the benefits of what she calls  noticing and naming in her book Dynamic Reading for Deeper Thinking (2017). Vicki says when conferring with readers she would notice and name what they had done to solve the problems the text posed in order to make thinking visible and transferable to other texts.” Keeping the focus on meaning and bringing in skills and strategies as students need them while conferring is a more authentic way to make sure transfer is happening. As readers we do many things at once without often realizing it. If we notice and name what we see the student doing along with the thinking they are doing, this helps motivate them and deepen their understand of what readers really do in their head. I think it is important while completing a teaching point to reference the thinking the student had to do. By doing that you make it more transferable to other texts.

 

A teaching point could be noticing and naming that a student paused or stopped because something didn’t make sense and sharing that as a teaching point can be huge! Getting students to stop and recognize that they need to figure something out is important. Those small pauses and stops are at the heart of self-monitoring, that teaching a strategy won’t expose kids too.

I always plan a teaching point I can talk about as I prepare  a lesson centered around the problems I think the books will cause and have a strategy ready, but I really prefer to highlight something a student or students did as I conferred with them. I want to establish that each child is a reader and already doing many things readers do. Notice I said “readers” do. I did not say “good readers” do. I use to use the phrase “good readers” all the time. Looking back on it I can see some looks of frustration and hurt many of my students faces. We need to build students agency as readers, not imply that they are bad readers. I  point out what they are already doing as a reader. Then I can build upon that strength, often getting to my planned teaching point if it fits the reader at that moment. It is key to always acknowledge what we notice readers doing well. This builds them up. After your teaching point you still have time to introduce and led students to practice a skill or strategy within the lesson and should have planned to do so. Your teaching point should only be 1-2 minutes and doesn’t need to be connected to the strategy you plan to teach later in the lesson.

David Pearson & Margaret Gallagher who first introduced the gradual release of responsibility model said “We could begin a sequence by asking students to try it on their own, offering feedback and assistance as students demonstrate the need for it.” I try to approach my conferring sessions that way! That assistance might be a quick modeling exercise that could become my teaching point. This can also be applied to readers workshop conferring sessions. Teaching points give you a chance to highlight what you notice readers doing during your conferring and set them up to apply a strategy, but not the place to teach a completely new strategy.  

I want my students to be able to construct an understanding of the text’s meaning as they work through problems the text caused. I want them to completely engage with the text bringing their whole self to it, not only a strategy or skill to practice and ask them to think about what they did as readers and highlight those moments through teaching points. I want them to use their feelings, experiences, observations and thoughts to make reasonable interpretations towards the texts meaning while using a strategy as needed as a tool to enhance meaning. Using teaching points this way can lead to so much more self-reflection for students and can be used as student self-assessments. You can even create more formal student self-assessments once students are have experienced thinking about themselves as readers in this way. Teaching points are a place to make the invisible work of reading visible to students focusing in on the thinking it takes.

 

Sunday Cummins states she that when conferring during a guided reading lesson, she first looks for monitoring/decoding problems,  then fluency and lastly comprehension when listening to students read. So depending on student and group needs your teaching point can look very different. Even when zeroing in on decoding I feel the focus should be on making meaning. I keep the focus on cross-checking vs individual decoding strategies, because as readers we usually use multiple strategies at once. This is a good rule of thumb to follow. Jan Richardson says regardless of your focus, always emphasize rereading the text to be sure it makes sense. I love keeping the focus on meaning! 

When planning for guided reading and teaching points ahead of time consider thinking specifically about the problems a reader faces individually and with the specific text. When doing this Vinton say “ you’ll be able to come up with precisely targeted solutions.” She says to consider 3 questions as you plan:

  1. What kind of problems is this reader facing?
  2. What kind of text does this reader need?
  3. How can we help this reader develop a more complex vision of reading?

Keeping these questions in mind can help you plan lessons and teaching points. They will help you be prepared for problems students encounter as they read.

 

Troy

 

Self-Assessment

self assessment wordle

I recently completed the National Board Teacher certification process. I do not find out if I achieved until December 2018. Part of that process required me to create and administer a student self-assessment. As I thought about the type of assessment I wanted to create, I thought about strategy instruction. Explicitly teaching strategies is very hot right now in some circles of literacy instruction. Teachers are modeling the heck out of strategies and explicitly teaching them and students are “doing” them. I think a key word here is doing them. Students are going through the steps and doing them. I wondered if they were thinking and reflecting about themselves as a reader and using the strategy as a tool to help and enhance reading for meaning as they completed these strategies however.


I work with striving readers as a Reading Specialist in my building. A strategy I have really started exploring is Cross-Checking. As a reading specialist I know and value the importance of it, but realized my students needed to be doing more than just completing the steps of it after watching me model it. They needed to be authentically attempting cross-checking on their own, in books of their own choosing and reflecting on what they did as a reader and really become metacognitively aware of themselves as readers recognizing what works for them. I wanted to be teaching for transfer, not just for students to do the strategy. I realized that most strategies do not actually have steps we need to follow to be successful with them. They require students to think and process information from multiple sources often simultaneously. I noticed that when trying to stretch out cross- checking into steps, it slowed students down. Some students relied on visual cues more than meaning or semantics and vice-versa. Some students didn’t try to use any other source of information. This told me I was staring in the right place.


Reflecting as a teacher and getting your students to reflect is a big part of the National Board process. I recognized that reflecting required me to do more than go through the steps and my students needed the same. I had recently read an article from Reading Research Quarterly, called “Change over time in first graders’ strategic use of information at point of difficulty in reading” (Mcgee, L., Kim, H. & Fried, M., 2015). The researchers reminded me that beginning readers first rely on meaning to help them read. They used pictures and their own experiences and apply those understandings as they read a text not noticing the visual cues within the words themselves but mostly using pictures. We quickly teach them to notice beginning letters, endings and eventually whole words. Of course we stress applying meaning to what they notice visually about the word so they do not have to try to stretch the word out completely often butchering it up beyond recognition. Point being lots of readers learn to over-emphasize the visual cues without applying meaning or syntax. To me this goes back to simply doing a strategy without thinking.

Cross-Checking requires students to think through the questions of “does it sound right, does it make sense and does it look right.” Students have to apply these simultaneously.

Screen Shot 2017-11-05 at 6.58.11 PM

They are not steps students mindlessly complete. Meaning of the word they are trying to solve at the sentence, paragraph and whole text level is key along with visual cues and thinking about how the word sounds. A combination of thinking through the questions of cross-checking is what makes it work! There is no magic order to think through the questions readers ask themselves as they cross-check. I feel it may vary depending on the word and text.
 With this in mind I designed the following student self-assessment for a group of 2nd graders. The assessment can easily be adapted to fit striving readers of all levels. I usually had students start them on their own, jumping in and giving support as needed. I would often add some notes to the bottom of the assessment to help me clarify information. I found that discussing each self-assessment with the students’ guided reading group, individually or sharing it to the class as an example of what readers do made it more meaningful.
 Talking with readers about what they were doing as they cross-checked and after was effective for the students; moreso than all the modeling in the world was.  As we talked I noticed and put names to what students were doing, so we could refer back to what they did.

Students have to be thinking about what they are choosing to do as readers at the point of difficulty when solving words or monitoring for comprehension. I continue to use this cross-checking self-assessment today and I am developing others to address student needs. I feel self-assessment even in simple forms is key to making sure students transfer what we teach into their own reading. Students have to think to become effective, efficient readers, much like we found students have to do when solving equations in math. Going through the motions of following formulas we found was not enough. We are learning to making sure students have number sense. Making sure they can recognize when an answer or attempt they make doesn’t make sense. Students are learning to keep a meaningful answer in mind when solving equations and can recognizing when something does not make sense. We have to be applying the same thinking to reading instruction. Readers have to be able to do more than go through a set of steps. Any strategy you use has to be used as a tool to help make meaning, not take the place of making meaning and thinking. Self-assessments like the example below can help make sure students are not doing strategies but using strategies to effectively help their meaning making processes as they read. Let me know how you are using self-assessment with your literacy instruction or if you have any questions about what I have done and learning to do as I continue to reflect and grow my practice.
 Here is the Cross-checking self-assessment I created. It is simple, but gets students to think about what they did. On the second example you can see I added a box at the of the form to write notes.

Screen Shot 2018-07-18 at 5.58.17 PM

Screen Shot 2018-07-19 at 1.46.07 PM

 

Next week I am teaching a 2 hour course on using a problem-based approach to teaching reading for my districts Summer Academy professional development program with a colleague Elizabeth Hagan. I hope to reflect on that experience and bring some new insights from other great teachers within my district. This problem-based approach comes from Vicki Vinton and her book Dynamic Teaching for Deeper Reading. Check out my previous blog post about this book: https://troyafredde.blog/2018/02/06/teaching-reading-skills-in-isolation/

Troy


 

What’s the difference? Skills vs Strategies?

adorable blur bookcase books
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Timothy Shanahan wrote a blog post explaining the differences between these two often mixed terms.     Skills   vs   Strategies

Check out his blog post.

http://www.shanahanonliteracy.com/blog/comprehension-skills-or-strategies-is-there-a-difference-and-does-it-matter#sthash.BWBhTyQ4.RvtuLH4W.dpbs

Then go back and read my post about teaching skills and strategies in isolation.

https://troyafredde.blog/2018/02/06/teaching-reading-skills-in-isolation/

I did not clarify how the two terms are different in my post, but stressed the need to make sure all skill and strategy instruction be directly linked to a text where the focus is on reading for meaning not use of a skill or strategy in itself which easily happens.

I read a comment from Shanahan’s post where a teacher said

“I found students comprehended with few strategies or skills articulated and taught in isolation. The one comprehension strategy I did teach repeatedly was the use article features such as titles, sub-titles, section titles, photo and photo captions. Acquisition of the skills used to comprehend was assessed through the content and the use of format in their completed written feature articles. ” 

This really shows shows what students are transferring into their own reading. Notice also that this teacher said the strategy she taught repeatedly is one the students used. That is not a coincidence. I would venture to say most skills are being taught in isolation with very little use of strategy instruction to support them. Some skills are useless without a strategic reason to use it. Students may know a skill but not when to use it or the thinking it requires to use it on their own. Noticing text features is a skill students need that becomes very effective when used strategically while reading for meaning.

As Shanahan points out strategy instruction is centered around the thinking a reader must do. He says,

“The basic premise of strategies is that readers need to actively think about the ideas in text if they are going to understand. And, since determining how to think about a text involves choices, strategies are tied up in meta-cognition (that is, thinking about thinking).”

I feel skills are the prerequisites that a reader must have in place to effectively apply strategies to comprehend. Shanahan talks about how comprehension instruction today has become skill based and it should be taught more as a strategic process. I whole heartedly agree. When taught as a skill which is implied to be something that becomes automatic without much thought, or only about recognition. Comprehension requires more than simple recognition of a metaphor or a text structure. Comprehension of a text requires you to get down and dirty and think. It is a process, more than a skill. It is an invisible process and not black and white. It is not easy and is harder to assess than a skill. As Shanahan implies it has been approached more like a skill to fit into standards that we so want to be able to easily assess.  It is certainly not done that way for the student. Comprehension instruction taught strategically with meaning in mind not isolated skills makes good sense.

That being said skills are more easily modeled than strategies. Strategies require students to do the thinking. If teachers only model strategies doing the thinking for students and limit their practice to using certain books where most of the thinking has already been done for students then transfer of the strategy will never happen. For that to happen students must be taught the language they must use to verbalize their thinking. Teachers must notice and name specifically what students are doing as readers in the act of reading, not rely solely on modeling and provide them opportunities to practice different strategies as they arise in their own texts.

Thank you Timothy for your post, it helped me reflect on my own post with more depth, meaning and understanding. I hope others do as well!

 

 

Do You Have Students Break Words?

fullsizeoutput_34

I am trying a new approach in the Word Study component of my guided reading lessons. Sunday Cummins shared this approach with me recently. Jan Richardson shared it with her. It comes from Michele Dufresne.  Twitter: @MicheleDufresne

It is really simple and makes great sense when you think about transitioning readers from using sound boxes into chunking words or breaking a word, a strategy you should be using with readers in stages Early – Fluent.

This strategy teaches readers to break words into meaningful parts or chunks. This is a strategy you should be prompting readers to use as you listen to them read and get stuck on a word. Breaking a word will help the reader hold onto the meaning of the word and sentence as they work through it. The alternative of asking readers to stretch it out, does not often work and it causes them to lose meaning of what they are reading. Breaking  a word should be used as part of the cross-checking strategy when students are reading.

Screen Shot 2017-11-05 at 6.58.11 PM

 

The old adage of sound it out is not effective when reading for meaning.

This new approach involves asking students to break words apart instead of asking them to build words during the word study component of guided reading.

When introducing this approach, you may want to tell readers where to break words at first. However you want them to be responsible for breaking the words themselves when possible. You have to know your readers and what they need. If they do not need to be told, then do not tell them. Let them figure it out.

Let readers take on as much responsibility as they can. Never start from the stand point that readers cannot do something, give them a chance and jump in when they need the support. Remember one benefit of guided reading is that the teacher is right there supporting students as they try things out. It will be more authentic for the student and they will remember it better when they do the work. Then they will transfer the skill more easily.

Example: Break chop in front of the vowel:  ch  op

Or just ask students to chunk/break the word.

If your students need to be told where to break the word I think it is important to say break the word in front the vowel. This will help reader distinguish vowels from consonants, a skill they must have when breaking apart larger, more difficult words. Recognizing different vowel combinations is very helpful.

In my 2nd grade group this week I practiced this strategy.  I wrote the word sticky on a white board and asked my students to build it and then break it out, without saying the word out loud. They came up with 3 different ideas.

                                                      st   i   ck y

                                                     stick   y

                                                    st  ick    y

All of these can be helpful to individual students. So, do not penalize readers for breaking the words differently. But make sure you ask them to explain their reasoning.  There are certain guidelines you will want to enforce, however.

Keep vowel pairs together: ea, ou,  ir

Keep digraphs together:  th,  ch,  sh

Keep blends together:  st,  sw,  sl

Keep prefixes and suffixes together

                                                    (This is not a complete list)

Look for meaningful chunks that keep common patterns(rimes) together:

CVC words like: p op,  s  at,   t ub

 

Readers in the Early stage of reading will probably need more support.

Here are a few more examples of words my students have broke apart this week.

fullsizeoutput_2e

This student changed her break in the word to “con” “nect” when I asked her to explain reasoning for the break in the picture above. She even said at first I though it was “co” (with a long o sound) and then I thought it was “con”  I always ask student to explain why they broke the word the way they did and let them notice a better way to break it without directly telling them when at all possible.

The other students broke it like this:

fullsizeoutput_30        fullsizeoutput_32

 

Here are the basic steps

Step 1:  Write a word on a dry-erase board. Do not say the word and tell students not to say the word. (chop)

Step 2: Have students take the letters off their trays and make the word.

Step 3: Tell students to break the word at the vowel. (ch   op)

Step 4: Have the students say each part chorally. (/ch/  /op/)

Step 5: Have the students put the word back together and read it. (chop)

Step 6: Tell the student to change a letter or two to make a new word (e.g. tell them which letters to change). For example, tell the student to “change the letter c to a letter s” so they have the letters for shop). Do not say the word and tell students not the say the word.  Students then break the word, say each part, and put the word back together as they read it.

Step 7: Write a word on the dry-erase easel with the same rime but different onset. Have students read it. (stop). If they need help underline the rime (stop).

Now when readers come to a difficult word and are trying to cross-check it, I have them try breaking it as an added strategy. When reading with this group of 2nd graders I had  to prompt them to break several words this week. They wanted to guess or try to stretch it out. A habit I am trying to break. They quickly put their finger on the word and eventually all solved their words by breaking them apart.

I like to say break the word instead of saying look for a part or word you know. Saying that can sometimes backfire on you. For example in the word: finger, recognizing the word in will not help. I am sure many of you have encountered many words where it didn’t help. You have to think about the word, text and student when making in the moment word solving decisions.

I did not have to tell any of these 2nd graders the words we chunked this week. They solved every one.

Let me know if you try this out and how it goes. Email me if you would like a copy of this complete strategy.

 

 

 

Engaging Readers

I recently had a group of 3rd grade students who had started to become disengaged in their reading. We had just returned from spring break and they were well, not engaged! I was deeply frustrated! So, what did I do? I reflected! On my own practice and on student strengths and needs. Also about the texts I was choosing. All of this impacts engagement and motivation. I also thought about how the students classroom instruction had changed. Students were 3 weeks aways from taking their first state assessment. Classrooms switched to test prep activities that changed what their teaching.

IMG_0387.jpg

 My initial concern was kids distracting each other. When one student finished reading before the others and became a distraction. This is not always an issue if you are able to group kids who read close to the same rate, but groupings do not always work out perfectly & kids grow at different rates. After reflecting I came up with a game plan. I focused on what I could do proactively to help keep students engaged.

The next day I led them in a discussion about our goals as readers, and how we could best use our time to meet those goals. Note, I said I led a discussion, they did most of the thinking and talking. I did not want this to be about me, but about them as learners. We discussed what expectations they had for themselves and what they felt my expectations were for them. This helped them refocus themselves without me lecturing them. I purposefully directed the conversation towards the purpose of reading. We discussed what they could do as readers if they finish reading a section of text and the rest of us are still hard at work. They came up with lots of good ideas, while I nudged them towards some others.

We discussed rereading of course. To keep kids engaged as they reread they really need a purpose for reading however. A student in this group had an “ah ha” moment a few weeks prior that I used as a teaching point to help kids understand the importance of rereading and how it can deepen our understanding. So, we talked about rereading with a purpose in mind. Rereading to figure out a confusing point or something they didn’t understand. We discussed rereading to answer a question, and to see if we might have missed a key detail. We talked about rereading to find an important detail they want to share and to mark it with a sticky-note or highlight it if appropriate. Or to flag an idea they want to talk about and clarify. These are things you may ask kids to do when rereading with a purpose on day 2 or day 3 of your guided reading lesson, but you don’t always have to wait. After all you have students in your groups for very brief moments of time, utilize it!

I incorporated more opportunities for student talk around what they were discovering when engaged in their reading. This helped bring more student to student interactions and student/teacher interactions. These interactions were both teacher and student initiated.

We are continuing to review using our time wisely every day in group and it has helped tremendously. Students are not distracting each other as much anymore. When they do it, it is sometimes in reaction to something they noticed in the text! They are also reading to share, or lead a discussion about something they noticed in the book, something missed the first time they read. They are having more authentic ah ha moments and figuring more out on their own. This is what we strive for, right!

In a recent blog post Sunday Cummins talks about the concept of reading multiple sources about the same topic. A concept sometimes called Reading Ladders. This is an idea a colleague and I dug into a little bit last school year when conducting an action research study on student motivation. We found it very motivating for students.

Here is a link to Sunday’s blog post: https://sundaycummins.wordpress.com/2018/04/01/our-students-know-so-little-if/

Anyway, she describes her natural desire to want to know more about a topic and how students have that desire too. We need to utilize that desire with students. I think first we need to get students to be willing to dig deeper into their original source more closely and extract all the information they can! This will lead them on a more focused journey for information through other sources. The journey Sunday is talking about in the mentioned blog post above. This brings up the need to be using appropriate texts with enough depth to keep their attention and stretch their thinking. Especially in stages:  Early, Transitional and Fluent.

I argue that reading instruction can and should be more interactive to promote engagement and hold it. Students naturally want to read more to discover more or to find out what happens!

What are your thoughts!

Remember this blog is a way for me to reflect, grow and continue to refine my practice. Hopefully it helps others as well. Idea’s and thoughts are always welcome!