Monday, January 31, 2011

We've Come So Far- Just Look For Yourself!

As I look at our current 5th grade class, I am reminded that these are the students who have been living and breathing the thinking strategies since Early Primary. This is the group who has experienced reader's and writer's workshops for the last four and a half years. This is when we really begin to see (more than ever before) how far we (students and teachers) have come.

Here is preview of our upcoming Buckner Beat. Check out the how our Developing Writers Have Developed Understandings.

Have you observed a lot of students don’t have public speaking skills? I know you are thinking public speaking, who cares? But when kids have jobs, most need guest speakers. So if they don’t have public speaking skills they can’t have jobs and won’t go anywhere in life. When I started drama, I was extremely shy. I wasn’t comfortable on stage, and when I would talk soft and I would mush my words together. But after my first play, I felt more comfortable on stage, and was better at public speaking skills. For example, I did not mush my words together and I did not talk soft. So if we had drama kids would have awesome public speaking skills.                                                          - Jake Baliey

I know you may be thinking that sidewalks cost a lot… Research shows that sidewalks would cost 500,000 dollars…I found a cost-sharing program that they have in Chicago… The cost-sharing program is a program that will help pitch in to pay for your sidewalks so they won’t cost as much money. I believe that paying for sidewalks would be worth it in the end…                                                                                                                                           -Makenna Brizendine

Nearly 22 million school days are lost annually to the common cold, Mrs. Cheek, and since infectious diseases account for millions of lost school days and cost the U.S. $120 billion each year, the economy can get rough. …However, Mrs. Cheek, we can reduce gastrointestinal illness and related absences by more than 50%, by washing our hands WELL WITH SOAP, at least 4 times a day.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   - Elizabeth Berhow

… By composting, we cut down on waste and soil that will help trees grow. Each family can fill up several dump trucks a year [of garbage]. By composting we can reduce our carbon footprint…                                                                                                                                          -Anna Ripley       

Did you know second hand smoke can cause ear infections, bronchitis, and even death? Dr. Sepnshect says, “Based on my findings, second hand smoke can cause lung cancer later in life.” His advice, “Don’t smoke around kids.”                                                                                                                                                             - Alison Middleton

Firstly, there are a wider variety of books on the Kindle than our school library. I interviewed Mrs. Dolan, our school library media specialist and technology coordinator, and she says, “…”                                                                                                                                                      -Bryant Reynolds

                Most people enjoy reading the local newspaper with their Sunday breakfast; I choose to read Writer of the Month Entries. This January’s contest posed the most challenging month in the history of the contest. I had no idea that it would be so hard to choose winners when I first opened the yellow 5th Grade folder. I read entry after entry where our students were writing to real-world audiences, concerning causes they were deeply passionate about, and developing their ideas with explanations, examples, experiences, and experts’ opinions.

                As you read the excerpts from our students’ letters, I am quite sure you noticed the authenticity of their topics. This year (more than ever before) our kids wrote to a wide variety of audiences within their school, local community and the larger world- about topics that spread the gamut. Consider how mature our students are! They’ve chosen to suggest a new class at BES, enhance their neighborhood by adding sidewalks, save the earth by composting with worms, save lives by decreasing the smokers in the world or enforcing hand washing regulations, and moving forward with technology by allowing digital book devices. This is what we want for them- we want them to visualize a better world and understand that they have the power to change people’s behaviors, their school, local community, and beyond! The power of the pen is mighty and developing their skills as writers has the potential to make their dreams a reality.

                Read the snippets another time and you’ll surely see the depth to which our students worked to develop their ideas. What began as digging into their own schema, advanced into researching using Internet resources and conducting interviews.  Our young writers crafted topic sentences and then- like Jake- used experiences to explain his opinion. He supported his idea that a school-wide drama class would develop participants’ public speaking skills, and shared his experiences of how drama helped him to overcome his shyness and speak more clearly.  Makenna, Elizabeth, and Anna supported their reasons with research and statistics. Who can argue with a program that worked in another city, or cold, hard facts? Notice how Alison and Bryant developed their ideas by interviewing experts in the field. They knew their audiences well enough to seek out the credible people to get quotes from and used that information to support their purpose. These writers had read enough persuasive writing to understand that the “4 Exs” work (explain, experiences, examples and expert opinions) and intentionally chose which “Exs” would best develop their ideas and persuade their designated audiences.

                As I read and read and reread this month’s entries- and my breakfast slowly disappeared from my plate- I did not grow frustrated at the possibility that choosing only 3 winners could take up a the bulk of my day. Instead, I smiled, shook my head, and reveled in the fact that our oldest BES writers have come so far and are writing so maturely. I feel confident that these kids are going out into the world understanding that they can take an idea, figure out whom can make it come true, and write using their crafts and skills to develop it fully- to make it happen. Watch out! These logical and creative thinkers are destined to problem solve and succeed- fortunately, they also know that if at first they don’t succeed, they must try and try again.

For more information on literacy at Buckner Elementary School, please visit or click on The Literacy Connection on BES’s homepage. 

Be proud of yourselves and keep developing our students- they are our future and destined to change the world.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Analyzing Model Conferences- Read, Code, Make Meaning, Reflect

Are you looking to refine your conferring skills? Often we wonder, How can I improve my craft? What can I do to empower my students and help them understand at deeper levels? I recommend starting by Reading, Coding, Making Meaning, and Reflecting on your own practices. 
What's similar? What's different? What can I do to improve? Then NAME that next step. 

Below are three teachers' (from Primary and Intermediate classrooms) conferring notes for individual conferences with students during reading workshop.

1) Begin by noticing the flow of the conference- What are the main parts of it?
 Is there a routine that you could follow?

2)    2)  Now, take a minute to dig a little deeper to notice the more thoughtful and intentional components of the routine:                 
§  highlight thinking strategy language
§  Put a ? when the teacher probes with a question so the child will dig deeper
§  Put a P when the teacher paraphrases (repeats back (in slightly different words) to the reader what he/she said)
§  Box out compliments and positive feedback

3)    Mark the text with all other noticings.
*These transcriptions contain ONLY the Teacher’s part of the conference. When you see a ________ it means that the teacher finished the sentence with specifics. Know that for every question the student did reply with an answer.

Classroom A-  GQ- How does asking and answering questions help you understand economics? 
Conference #1
How’s it going?
Why did you write _____ right here? (child explained verbally)
Instead of just writing “Right!” can you expand on it- like you just did?
So, what is your goal?
Thank you for working so hard and setting the goal of ______.
Do you need anything else from me?

Conference #2
Can I interrupt?
How’s it going? Have you had any questions? (strategy of focus)
I’m not clear about _____. (names and notices part the student coded)
Do you have an answer?
So, what could you do?
So that means next time I come to you, I’m going to expect to see (names instructional focus and what the child said they would do)_.
Where you think you’ll write these questions and answers?

Classroom B: GQ- How do schools from the 1700s compare to schools today?

Conference #1
Check in:
How’s it going?
That’s great I’ll look for (names student’s noticing).

Conference #2
Tell me how it’s going with your visualization?
Why do you think that?
Where did you get all of this great information about (names specific point)?
So, you took information form the text? (paraphrase, restate)
What I really like is you did what good readers do- you merged your schema with your reading to understand ________. (student shares more)
So you connected it to____.
You did this really great visualizing…
How will your visualizing help you answer this question (points)?
I love the way you’ve used your thinking language_____ (names it).
I like the way you showed how different life was for the colonial students.
What are you going to do when I come back?
What do you mean?
Can you give me an example?
What would you do then?
I love that idea. What I hear you saying is_____.
You’re going to ___restates goal____.

Conference #3
Wow! You’ve done a lot of thinking!
I noticed that you _____________.
Why did you do that?
What else did you do? (student’s name), think of  (points to the students visualization)___. How is this compare going to help you?
I love the way you ________.
What will be your next step?
As a thinker, how would it help you get more information?
What about this? (points)
So, when I come back I’ll see (rephrases student’s goal).

Conference #4
How’s it going? Want to tell me a bit about your visualization (points to it)?
I love the (points to part.) You bring information from the text into the visualization.
Where did you get your information for school today?
I have a question- What’s this? (points).
How do you know that? (child explains)
Oh, so you made a Text to Text connection. (she names thinking)
Why did you draw these two pictures?
Tell me about this (points). (child names and tells it’s an inference)
So you can make an inference? (restates student’s ideas & names thinking)
I like the detail you put in. What are these things? (Points)
I noticed you picked (names) Why? (share’s details and that it’s an impt. idea)
So, you think that’s an important idea?(restates student’s ideas; names thinking) Why?
I love (names specific). What would you want your next step to be? 
If you were to add deeper thinking, what would you do?
What you’re saying is ____(names student's plan).
When I come back I’ll expect to see _____.

 Classroom C: GQ- How can visualizing help us understand the story?

Conference #1
How’s it going?
The last time we met you were working on______.
How do you say that word when you’re exact?
What about when you’ve already seen it? (child sees the same word they just sounded out)
Can you visualize (character’s name)? We figured out or inferred that he (the character) was scared through the pictures.
(stumbles on a word) Pick the word that sounds right to you.
What will you do the next time you read this word?
Read a bit more. Ok, so what will you do when you come to a word you don’t know and I am not here?
Great! You said you would use the beginning letter sound and the pictures to help you. Plus, you’ll make sure it’s a real word you know. Great job.

Conference #2
How’s it going?
What kind of book is this?
Great, you think you’ve chosen a just right book. Last time we met, you were working on uncovering a word that you didn’t know so you could sound it out.
Can you read a bit to me?
Oh, I noticed that you stopped at this word (points) What strategy will you do to figure it out?
 As you uncover the letters what sound do you need to make?
When you were reading that word, how did you know which sound to make?
Yes! You know that the letter b makes the /b/ sound.  What will you do to figure out the rest of the word?
Uncovering the word is a strategy that good readers do. What sounds will you make next? How did you know that is the word?
Now that you know that word, how does it help you to visualize the story?
What do you see in the movie in your mind?
What does that help you to understand?
Oh, so knowing the word bark helps you to see the trees in the woods. You’re seeing the ??
Yes, the setting! Great job. So as you continue to read, you will want to keep uncovering words you don’t know and making sure they are real words. That way you can visualize-make that movie in your mind- so you’re sure that you understand the story.
I can’t wait to come back to you and watch you use your reading strategies!

I think it takes a lifetime to perfect this art! I am certainly still working on it,  myself. There are plenty of books and resources to read, colleagues to observe, and video footage to take and use for reflection!  Let me know if you want to work through this journey together. :)

Favorite Resources:
 ref=sib_dp_pt.jpgref=sib_dp_pt.jpgCHIT- CHAT model (see archived post)
                                                                                                                                       Flip Cam Footage