Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Reading Workshop Schedule and Structure: Fitting It All In

I spent some time with a group of middle school teachers this week discussing how to fit in the components of balanced literacy into the workshop model. We had been focusing on Reading Workshop in a 45 minute class period. Some of the pieces we needed to consider were:
-Mini Lesson
-Lots of time for reading time
-Mid Workshop Teaching Point
-Teaching Share
-Time for Partnerships or Book Clubs- Building in Accountable Talk
-Read Aloud… (Each day? A few times throughout the week? Anchor Experiences?) Including time for Accountable Talk?
- Vocabulary / Word Work instruction and follow up experiences

Below are a few “options” or ideas as to how to structure the week.  These certainly are not perfect; but, I thought perhaps worth sharing to consider how to fit it all in when time is a barrier.

The first piece that we identified is what our bottom line or non-negotiable was within workshop.  I can speak for myself and that is committing to plenty of TIME for students to read.  

Feel free to share your schedules and how you everything in in your workshop in the comments section :).

Here is a “key” to help navigate my abbreviations:
ML: Mini Lesson
IR: Independent Read
SG: Strategy Group / Small Group
MWTP: Mid-workshop Teaching Point
TS: Teaching Share
P: Partnership
BC: Book Club
Centers: This is where I fit in vocabulary instruction. First, by introducing some words and then throughout a week or two kids will engage in quick follow-up activities that are playful to practice using the words.  *I would consider bringing my “formal” vocabulary work / centers in for two weeks at a time (two weeks on, two weeks off).  This is what worked best for me in a middle school schedule, as I wanted to ensure lots of time for kids to read.
*Anchor Experience- An instructional model used when my schedule does not allow me to read aloud each day or a few times throughout the week. I may take a class period to do a read aloud and have an accountable talk session prior to a unit or twice throughout the unit to build a repertoire of mentor texts we will need to support our unit goals as I model.  Ideally, I would read each day or a few times throughout the week, but sometimes schedules do not allow for this. (LINK to Read Aloud with Accountable Talk post)

**The times I outline are purely an estimate.  It all depends on the day!

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Grammar Instruction: "Sticky" Teaching for Transfer

Grammar? Grammar? Grammar?  How do you fit grammar instruction into the workshop model?  How do you teach grammar so it sticks and transfers into their independent writing?  How do you teach grammar so it is engaging?  

When I consult or teach graduate courses, this topic inevitably comes up… whether our focus is on reading or writing.  It certainly isn’t a bad question.  It is a loaded question.  When I work with staff in the area of writing, I always emphasize that students need to understand why writing is important and that their ideas are valued.  I also discuss that writing is a way of thinking - of pushing our thinking and exploring our thinking.  But this post is not about that. I want to give some insights on grammar instruction and resources I have found helpful.  

This will likely be only Part 1 of my ideas on grammar instruction.

First, some questions to ponder:
  • How do I support students’ understanding of grammar as a form of power in school and the world? (Ehrenworth)
  • How do I develop grammar instruction so as not to encroach on workshop, but still make it transferrable?
  • How do I build upon what my students can already do, instead of only looking at what they cannot do?
Next, keep the below pieces in mind as you plan grammar instruction and coach students:
  • Grammar:  Agreed upon usage of language and words and their relationships with each other
  • Code-Switching:  Changing one’s dialect depending on the circumstances or context; the conscious act of alternating between different languages or dialects and knowing when, how and why to do it
  • Syntax: Complexity of sentences and the way they are used and crafted

Question 1: Grammar and Power… What is the connection?
Mary Ehrenworth has a book, The Power of Grammar and she states that “power inhabits the linguistic codes a culture accepts” and that when one has control of grammar, he/she will obtain more access to power.  Ehrenworth elaborates on how we can teach control of language in a way that student voices can become “powerful, disruptive forces”.  This links with my beginning statement that we need to teach students that their voices are important and they should be intentional with how they share their ideas.

Question 2: “Sticky” Teaching- Making Grammar Instruction Transferrable

Our students need to know:
  • We need to teach students that “voice” is composed of word choice, punctuation, and syntax - partly of grammar.
  • Students need to be thinking about grammar before editing. Students need practice constructing knowledge of grammar as a part of what it means to write, specifically in how it is essential to create a voice that engages a reader.
    • Teach grammar throughout your unit of study, rather than at the end before publishing.
    • Teach grammar in all phases of writing process.
Question 3: Building on what my students CAN do…
Be mindful when analyzing student work. All too often, when I work with colleagues, discussions immediately drift towards what the student isn’t doing or “can’t” do.  I encourage you to shift your mindset and as you sift through student writing, first attend to what the student is doing.  Below is a chart that can be used to analyze student work.  I have used this particularly when attending to grammar usage and what I should teach the whole group, small groups, or individuals:

Some ideas for how to implement grammar instruction:
  • Direct Teaching Mini Lesson- Teacher models using a mentor text or her writing and students have an opportunity to practice either in the mentor text or in their writing.  I would recommend having students practice in their writing as often as possible during the active engagement portion of the mini lesson to foster more “stickiness” and transfer of skills.
  • Inquiry Mini Lesson or Centers / Investigation in Writing or Reading Workshop- Have students search for the grammar or convention piece in action.  Students outline where and why the grammar or convention rule is being used:

Photo Credit: Steve Sell, TCRWP Staff Developer
  • Interludes and Extravaganzas
    • Students Investigate, Create, & Teach
      • Songs
      • Picture Book / Story
      • Skit
      • Art
This is just a sliver of what I have to say on the topic.  I will post more on this topic soon. I also have ideas on incorporating vocabulary instruction into the Reading Workshop.  Below are some of the resources I reference often when digging into grammar instruction:
  • Teachers College Reading and Writing Project (http://readingandwritingproject.org/)
  • The Power of Grammar by Mary Ehrenworth
  • Catching Up On Conventions by Francois and Zonana
  • Mechanically Inclined by Jeff Anderson
  • Units of Study in Argument, Information, and Narrative Writing (Calkins, TCRWP)
Share your "Sticky" teaching in the comments!

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Reading Logs

As we think about the upcoming school year and developing and analyzing reading lives with our students, one way to do this is by using reading logs.  I have many thoughts on the effectiveness and use of reading logs. For me, what it truly boils down to is, what is the purpose? Are we using the log consistently to learn about our reading life or is it just a nightly expectation that needs a parent initial for compliance.  Reading logs can be a powerful way to monitor one’s reading life and artifact as to where we have been in our reading.  It can house the adventures we have taken to far away lands in our fiction reading, as well as display our footprints of learning and interests.  

In my classroom, I have used multiple types of reading logs - and for a few reasons:
  1. The purpose occasionally was adjusted from September and into the remainder of the school year.  In the beginning of the school year, we collected “data” on our reading lives to determine when we get the most productive reading done and where.  It helps confirm if we are selecting high interest and just right books.  It also supports the long term and short term goals we set. (book/author/pages/ time in school and out of school reading)
  2. Keeping track of the volume of pages and books read was something we monitored throughout the year.
  3. Having an outlet to share the books we like with peers and the world (Goodreads)
  4. Logs that allow us to reflect and write quick reviews
  5. Logs that support our need to have books “on deck” and our long-term reading plan.

I value teaching students multiple ways to track their reading and multiple purposes to track reading.  This way, throughout the year, they can select the way that works best for them.  I still use a mode to track my reading and share out with my peers what I read. I used to keep a notebook to jot the books I have read with a rating and then in the back, list books that I wanted to read.  I did this my entire life, until I came across the site, Goodreads.com.  This is the site I use now because I can see what my friends are reading and they can recommend books to me, and vice-versa.

Below are examples of reading logs I have used myself and with students:


Friday, December 26, 2014

Students Rate Their Stop & Jots

Below are some charts that were made to help students develop their stop and jots.  The first picture is blank because it can then be used with a small group of students (or whole group) who are working on stretching their thinking while jotting.  The other pictures show possible "STAR" Jot Charts.  These can be helpful for students to rate their jots and set goals regarding their jots and thinking while reading.  It is important for our students to know how to be successful in their reading work.  Offering exemplars with descriptions are an easy way to incorporate this.  Some staff I have worked with have also used these charts as student-facing rubrics and teacher rubrics for assessing reading jots.

The first column shows a star or stars.  The more stars, the more in depth the jot.

The second column includes a description of what the jot might include.  This can be done as an "I can" statement or a checklist format.

The third column is an exemplar jot.  I have seen teachers develop these exemplars with students using a read aloud.  I have also seen students take their jots from one star and revise it to make it a two, three, or four star jot.

Before developing these charts with students, it might be beneficial to develop a rating chart and exemplars with your grade level teams by looking at rubrics you use or the CCSS.  This way you can get a feel for what students are going to go through to grow their reading ideas from one star to higher level jots.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Conferring Scaffolds and Collaboration in Reading Workshop

I have been lucky enough to learn alongside some colleagues who are considering how conferences might go when digging through their units of study in Reading Workshop.  One of the tools they are preparing are visuals to help scaffold students in the big ideas or unit objectives (see pictures below).  This has offered powerful collaboration, as we are creating these visuals during common planning time and discussing interpretations of teaching points.  Conversations are also around what student thinking or jots might look like if they are successfully utilizing the skill or strategy (Considering the success criteria for ALL students!!)

Some of the steps we took:
1. Consider some important teaching points (the enduring understanding of the bend).

2. What do we want students to know and be able to do after having taught this bend (or set of teaching points)? What will success look like for the diverse learners in the class?

3. Discuss this success criteria and the teaching points with colleagues - What is the interpretation of the bend?

4. Create scaffolds using any tools that might support students in the work (index cards with visual prompts, sticky notes that are readily available during the conference, exemplar jots in mentor texts...)

Supporting Stop & Jots with Anchor Charts

Hi everybody!  This fall, I worked with a number of teachers on utilizing stop and jots in Reading Workshop.  Our goals included:
  • What is the purpose of stop and jots?
    • Supporting the objectives of the unit
    • Preparing for book clubs / partnerships
    • Carrying ideas across the text
  • How might students use their stop and jots?  Why and when might a student stop and jot?
    • Finding / carrying ideas across multiple texts (intertextuality)
    • Practice comprehension skills and support unit goals
    • Write long from jots - elaborating in a notebook to explore topics
    • Monitor comprehension
  • How to raise the level of student stop and jots?
    • Model, Model, Model!
    • Exemplars
    • Student-facing rubrics
    • Anchor Charts (see below!)
  • How might teachers use the stop and jots to help form instruction?
    • Formative and summative assessing
    • Develop strategy groups
    • Determine next steps for whole group
One of the exercises the participating staff members engaged in was looking closely at their unit of study and considering what kids should know and be able to do.  This consideration is followed by determining how will you be able to tell if they are understanding the concept
While digging into their units, teachers developed potential anchor charts that could be created with students to support student responses that connect to the unit goals. 
We displayed our charts and did a Gallery Walk to share out:


It was really energizing to see the creative ways the group was considering how to support students in their jots.  Some teachers developed chart ideas to support students in:
  • When to jot... ("To jot or not to jot...")
  • How to start jots... ("Jot starters")
  • Jotting specific to a genre
It is powerful to come together collaboratively and discuss teaching points and unit objectives through this lens. When planning together, it is helpful to consider the work our students will be doing and discuss the scaffolds we can provide to help students find success.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Strategy Groups in Reading Workshop

Hi all!  I wanted to share one way to organize thoughts around planning and executing strategy groups in Reading Workshop.

1. Determine what to teach:
  • Identify a the main objectives within a bend (of a unit). This may be the essential question or enduring understanding of the bend.
  • If you do not have bends to work with, determine what you want kids to know and be able to do after a week or so.
  • How are you going to tell who is getting it... who needs re-teaching... who can be extended...
    • Perhaps collect an exit slip during a read aloud, after a mini lesson, after independent reading
  • Use other data to inform groups for a strategy lesson (F&P assessment, MAP assessing, PALS...)
  • Use your conferring notes (a great tool is the Confer App)   Identify next steps after a conference
  • Find patterns - or students who have like needs
2. Determine who should participate in the group:
The above template might be used to organize strategies to be taught in small groups. Then after reflecting on conferring notes, exit slips, or other student information, you can place students in the small groups.

3. Plan the lesson / Deliver the lesson
Above is an example of a strategy lesson template (strategy lesson architecture).
  • When planning lessons, you may consider if you will use any tools or visuals
    • Mentor Texts to help model
    • Charts to help keep focus and offer examples / exemplars (see below for examples)


I like leaving these papers for the small group after I leave the kids to work.  It offers a visual reminder for what we worked on.