Monday, November 21, 2011

Conferring Resources

*****Wanting more from your conferring? Check out these resources from Choice Literacy:
A basic primer of Conferring Principles to use as a cheat sheet.

When we were first learning to confer with students of all ages, we devoured books written by Nancie Atwell, Donald Graves, and Lucy Calkins. Each of these teachers had their own twists on the essential elements for high quality student-teacher conferences. Over time, we integrated and distilled their ideas into a few core principles. For the core principles click on this link.

Gail Boushey and Joan Moser ("The Sisters") explain their conferring routines during reading conferences: an excerpt from Conferring with Children: Principals and Procedures
 We are also teaching children to look more closely at where they are now as readers, and where they might go tomorrow, or over the next week, in working on skills and strategies to become better readers. So many of the conference protocols we've seen and used in the past look at what children are reading at the moment, or ask them to talk about their whole life as a reader. There doesn't seem to be much in-between those two extremes, but the "in-between" is where we all live as teachers, trying to get students and ourselves to look beyond the moment to the concrete, practical steps we can take today, tomorrow and this week to move forward as readers. With conferring now, we're looking at days and weeks, rather than moments and years, to help children become more independent in tracking their progress and taking responsibility for it.

One of the strengths of setting goals with children that they work on over a period of time is that it saves time in conferences. Instead of taking time during each conference with a child to come up with a new goal or goals, the child begins with knowing he or she is working on developing fluency, or on expanding vocabulary. Starting with a focus, instead of always having to establish a focus at the beginning of the conference, saves us an enormous amount of time. We can spend far more of the limited time we have with each child observing and listening to them read, and then teaching, rather than wasting much of the first part of the conference trying to figure out what we need to concentrate on that day.
We have a focus for our next conference before we even meet with the child again. When children see us walking up to them for a conference, they mentally begin to sort through what progress they have made toward their goal, and what topics around the goal we might discuss when we meet.
This essay has been published in a different form in The CAFE Book by Gail Boushey and Joan Moser.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Common Core and Content Learning

From Choice Literacy:

A new podcast with Georgia Heard, who discusses the surprising connections between nonfiction, poetry, and the Common Core:
Persuasive writing is a key focus in the Common Core, and Heather Wolpert-Gawron has suggestions for minilessons to home in on persuasion skills:
Franki Sibberson has suggestions for previewing nonfiction with students:
Happy Clicking and Learning!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Thinking About Your Thinking & Locating Lexile Levels

Intentional Naming = Vicarious Learning

A colleague of ours recently shared with me her awe of a first grader who used the word “infer” in context. Take a minute to create a mental image of the scene below.

She was helping another child read a book in front of the class, and she stopped her to ask the class if they could infer what would happen next in the book. She said, "Would anyone like to infer what might happen next?" and she called on lots of kids to share their schema.
While this teacher had not yet formally introduced inferring during her lengthy strategy studies, it was pretty clear that she had heard the word used multiple times in context. During her think alouds while reading, solving math problems, and engaging in science experiments, voiced how her schema and mental images helped her to infer. Real thinking. Said out loud. In context. Because of her teacher’s clear explanations about how the thinking tools helped her understand, the student obviously made meaning of when and how to infer—in order to use the word appropriately in a novel situation (i.e. transfer).

If you work under the assumption that children cannot “handle” hearing about a thinking strategy before you formally introduce it, research encourages you to reconsider. Bandura, a social theorist who studied how people learn proposed, “People learn not only from their own experience but by observing the behaviors of others. This vicarious learning permits individuals to learn a novel behavior without undergoing the trial and error process of performing it.” With that said, if you are looking to increase your students’ vicarious learning about our thinking strategy tools so that they can make meaning and possibly transfer prior to explicit instruction…

Try this strategy- Every time you say the word “thinking” in your classroom (when modeling, thinking aloud, in conversation, when conferring with students, etc.) try to follow-up by intentionally naming the specific thinking strategy you are using (i.e. using schema, inferring, visualizing, determining importance, synthesizing). See what happens. I bet you’ll be amazed at the vicarious learning and deeper understanding your students gain related to the thinking strategy tools.

Extra, Extra- Lexile Levels Made Easy!
Looking for a way to find the Lexile levels of those texts you want to get into the hands of your RTI, small groups, and individual readers? Just go to and set up a free account. You can use this site to type in titles, passages, or simply find the appropriate Lexile levels for your readers.

Here is a very quick peek into what might be the most helpful Lexile website.

Lexile Analyzer-The Lexile® measure of text is determined using the Lexile Analyzer®, a software program that evaluates the reading demand—or readability—of books, articles and other materials. The Lexile Analyzer measures the complexity of the text by breaking down the entire piece and studying its characteristics, such as sentence length and word frequency, which represent the syntactic and semantic challenges that the text presents to a reader. The outcome is the text complexity, expressed as a Lexile measure, along with information on the word count, mean sentence length and mean log frequency.

Request a Lexile Measure for a Book-You can use this form to request that books be added to our list of Lexile measures. Please fill out the form with as much information as you can. You must supply the Title, Author, and Publisher. Submitting a book is no guarantee that it will be added to our list of Lexile measures. A publisher must ultimately add the book to their request, but submissions from this form can help get a book included.

Find a Book- Allows you to type in grade or Lexile level to generate a list of texts.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

HOT new books for your professional library

Check out the latest from your favorite expert authors.

The PERFECT book to start the year off on the right foot" (Angela Maiers). In Teaching with Intention, best-selling author Debbie Miller helps you define your core teaching beliefs and put them into practice through classroom organization, lesson design, teacher language, assessment, conferring, and more. Click here for details!

Move beyond the "how to write" and get students thinking about the "why"—by focusing on the reader. Building on the best-sellingReading PowerWriting Power gives you dozens of lessons based on five thinking strategies—Connect, Question, Visualize, Infer, and Transform—to help students engage readers' thinking. Preview the entire book!

10 Things Every Writer Needs to Know by Jeff Anderson distills what makes writing work in any genre or form. You get a rich collection of mentor texts, tips, and launching points for a variety of writing. Filled with classroom dialogue. Click here to preview Chapter 1 online!

See how to make formative assessments a powerful part of your everyday instruction. In So What Do They Really Know?, best-selling author and English teacher Cris Tovani shares successful lessons and strategies for getting to know your students well, differentiating instruction, giving feedback, grading, and more. Preview the entire book online!

How can you make the most of small-group math instruction?
Math Exchanges shows K-3 teachers how to foster rich discussions within a math workshop setting and help students construct new meaning and understanding as they establish themselves as mathematicians. Preview the entire book online!

In their first book, Mentor Texts, Lynne Dorfman and Rose Cappelli demonstrated how teachers can use children’s literature to guide and inspire student writers of narrative fiction and poetry. Now, they have turned their focus to nonfiction, identifying a wide range of mentor texts and showing how these models illustrate the key features of good writing.
Lynne and Rose guide teachers through a variety of projects, samples, and classroom anecdotes that demonstrate how teachers can help students become more effective writers of good nonfiction. The Your Turn lessons at the end of each chapter use the gradual release of responsibility model to guide and empower student writers. Teachers will find especially helpful the information on how to select appropriate mentor texts from among the sometimes overwhelming offerings of children’s literature. Each Your Turn lesson encourages reflection and motivates students to think about what they’ve learned, the purpose of learning and practicing a skill or strategy, and how they might use this technique in the future. Additionally, An Author’s Voice provides encouragement and advice from published authors of children’s nonfiction. 

Happy Reading!!!

What other new professional books do you know about and want to share???