Tuesday, December 9, 2014

We are about to administer the DRA to some of our kids in January and February. 

Critical Point #1- Fluency
Email Response from PEARSON about Fluency and the DRA2

Hello Sarah,
Since fluency is a key area used to determine a student's independent DRA Reading Level, must stop if they fall in the shaded area for Accuracy AND/OR Rate*. Even if a study has an IEP for extended time, you cannot give the student more time. 
This would be a modification to the assessment, not an accommodation.  There is a difference.  
Fluency is crucial to reading comprehension.  It may not seem to have a huge impact at the lower levels, but eventually it will take its toll on the students.  This is non-negotiable.  
Giving students with an IEP more time to do the written comprehension is much different since timing is not part of the comprehension score.

DRA2 Specialist
Pearson 2014​

* And must be in the independent range of point when you add up all 4 Fluency cells on the final rubric. 

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Back to Building Schema for Mechanics & Conventions

Mechanics Mondays-
“Making Language Studies Meaningful”
The KCAS conjunction scaffold by grade level
1-Use frequently occurring conjunctions (e.g. and, but, or, so because) (e.g.= some examples)
2-Continue to support students' understanding of conjunctions to form more developed sentences.
3-Use coordinating and subordinating conjunctions
4-Work to master the previous conjunction concepts
5-Use correlative conjunctions (e.g. either/or, neither/nor)

Music & Lyrics: Bob Dorough
Conjunction Junction, what's your function?
Hooking up words and phrases and clauses.
Conjunction Junction, how's that function?
I got three favorite cars
That get most of my job done.
Conjunction Junction, what's their function?
I got "and", "but", and "or",
They'll get you pretty far.

If you are like me, you hear the word conjunction and Sunday morning Schoolhouse Rock cartoons pops into your head. I see the train cars, hear the tune, and sing the words above. I can honestly say that don't recall learning about this language tool, or every considering why a reader would need it, but hope that I can change that pattern for our students.

Can you define a conjunction and explain it in simple terms? YES!
A regular old conjunction, also known as a coordinating conjunction, is a word that, as stated in the song, connects/“hooks up” parts in a sentence- parts that are of equal importance. As authors, we strive to write developed sentences. We work to stretch them out so they become more complex, and we must rely on conjunctions to do so. Our favorite mechanics master, Jeff Anderson refers to the most common coordinating conjunctions as FANBOYS (for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so). Please know there are more.

Subordinating conjunctions are the words that “hook up” an independent clause and a dependent clause. The most common include: after, although, as, as far as, as if, as long as, as soon as, as though, because, before, if, in order that, since, so, so that, than, though, unless, until, when, whenever, where, whereas, whenever, while.

Correlative conjunctions work as “partner pairs” to conjoin groups of words of equal importance in a sentence. They include: either…or, not only… but also, neither…nor, both…and, whether…or, just as…so. I often consider these my “see-saw” conjunctions. As writers become more sophisticated, the correlative conjunctions become more useful and natural. Students will encounter these conjunctions in their texts and be expected to use them in their writing.
As readers, we crave a sweet harmony of varied sentences. We like to read some short ones and we like to mix it up with longer, more complex ones. Whether we’re reading fiction or non-fiction, the craving is still the same.

Examples in Action:
Coordinating conjunction
“You can give me the books, and I’ll check them out for you, Ron,” she said gently.
-From Rose Blue’s and Corinne J. Naden’s book Ron’s Big Mission
Subordinating conjunction
Because I am the oldest, my father told me first, and now it’s my turn to tell the others.
-From Sandra Cisnero’s vignette Papa who Wakes up Tired in the Dark
As soon as Martin and other black leaders in Montgomery heart what had happened, they rushed into action.
                        - From Martin Luther King, Jr.:The Fight for Freedom by Joanne Mattern
Correlative conjunctions
I will either go to batty looking for a correlative conjunction in a mentor text from home or I will go to sleep and continue the search tomorrow. 
-Sarah Whitt
While it’s not as imperative that our students know for formal name for these language tools, it is imperative that we teach children to recognize and write more complex sentences. We have a duty to help them reach beyond the simple sentence and must help them comprehended what a writer is doing when he/she uses conjunctions- words that “hook up” words, phrases, and clauses.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Making the Most of Mentors: Pacing, Pulling, and
Pondering with Touchstone Texts

This is the time to start reading those all-important MENTOR or "Touchstone" TEXTS for the ‘14-‘15 school year.
While you are warming up your students to your workshops and “Building your Literate Community” through Unit 1 of our ELA curriculum, take a minute to consider a few texts YOU WILL USE LATER THIS  YEAR AS MENTORS that you could read now. Richard Parrott just did this today! In an effort to model writing a summary to his kids, he previewed a future mentor by reading aloud a short chapter and then modeling how to write an effective summary. He then offered his students an accessible text that everyone could read and “try on” writing a summary to share with the class. Upon sharing their writing, the students made noticings about the elements of effective summaries. It’s just one of the ways to intentionally introduce a mentor early in the year.

Consider Texts You’ve Already Read to Students and will read AGAIN

Think back to your past experiences in the classroom and consider which texts are jam-packed with craft techniques, structures, well-developed and organized Stoplight paragraphs, and/or content you wish to highlight and use throughout the year. If you find that you absolutely LOVE using Alice McLerran's The Mountain Who Loved a Bird, and you used it for teaching science concepts later in the year, anyway, why not introduce it in August and let the kids go ahead and fall in love with the story, the structure, the language, the artwork? If you had a book within one of your ELA units that was great for supporting your reading standards, how much more powerful will it be to introduce it early and return to it as mentor over and over again (when studying narratives, or beautiful language, or personification, or purposeful repetitive writing as well as the content in Unit 4). Why not?

Cast a Wide Net

As Carl suggests, don't limit yourself to long picture books. This is an easy one for us as we have always cut clippings from newspapers or magazines, or downloaded from online sources. The shift may be forcing yourself to feel even more comfortable using those less familiar texts or forms: nonfiction texts, poems, digital mentors, writing in math, science, or social studies. This wide net is important when we plan those first few weeks of school— supporting our writers in Building a Literate Community by offering invitations to write from sparks in a variety of forms (and for a variety of purposes) within a variety of workshops, and ultimately immersing our kids in ALL kinds of writing situations, forms, audiences, purposes, styles.

  Cut Excerpts from Longer Works

Although it's so tempting to feel like we have to use the ENTIRE text when we show students how to write in a certain way, it's totally unnecessary to always feel like we have to have to reexamine the WHOLE text. Carl contends that sometimes just a few sentences or paragraphs will do the trick- show the student the desired craft technique, or demonstrate the complexity of a sentence or two. The key is that that the child already knows and appreciates the text. Then they will seek to emulate that writer so they can have the same desired effect on their reader. So, consider cutting out a part to have that available for later use.

Use Student Writing
As a whole, we are successful with this... sometimes. As you dig into files from past students, or read through your students’ SHOWCASE PORTFOLIOs, think about if any of the entries will make great models for this year. Too often they sit in a folder and never get truly appreciated. What student written texts will you use... or pass on for a lower grade to use. (Always consider your colleagues when you search for student models).

Enlist the Aid of Colleagues, the LMS, LC (me!), and Your Future Students

 Although it's easy to get swept away in what we know and love, there are always new ideas and perspectives out there. Ask someone else what they have found success with using. Better yet, put into your plans to have new students search for mentors they want to have available in the class.

Make Our Own Mentors: We write!

Carl suggests that you never underestimate the power of using your own writing as mentor texts. You will have the desired traits, craft techniques, content, unique audience, and focus, as well as a way for your students to immediately see you as a fellow writer.

Final thoughts: Consider the kids' interests, the power of variety, and the opportunity for emulation.

Though this list is in no way exhaustive, it certainly offers food for thought. It gets us thinking about the year to come and the mentors we could use RIGHT NOW! At this point, you, or colleagues on your team, have: taught the new ELA units; know the demands of the standards; better understand the connection of the themes, and experienced much of the variety and types of writing the kids are called to do.  So, what might you use this week that will later become a marvelous MENTOR TEXT?

Resources : How's it Going? by Carl Anderson (Heinemann)                 Other supporters of mentor texts- Lucy Calkins, Katie Wood Ray, Ruth CulhamCheck out the BLOG for more mentor texts and links from famous authors!        Sarah

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Instructional Partners: Aides

We recently welcomed five classroom aides to our school to observe some of our instructional assistants in kindergarten and first grade. They left impressed by several things that "just seem so normal for us" and make us the instructionally-focused (yet emotionally nurturing) school we are and strive to be. Here are just of few of the "stand outs" voiced during their brief visit:

·       Instructional assistants are always open to working with their teacher partner. For example, they saw evidence of aides joining in on mini-lessons as a reader, writer, speaker, and listener: taking turns reading from a text, sharing personal writing, listening to pair- shares, and calling on students— just as another teacher in the classroom.

·        When these co-teachers are not participating in mini-lessons they are conferring with kids. The level of questions asked, (open ended, thinking strategy or decoding strategy-based are always encouraging. These dedicated educators always empowered students to seek their own answers by using the word wall, considering their own ideas first, and finally asking permission to share an idea or strategy. Aides always anchored the conferring opportunity in making meaning of the reading or expressing meaning in writing.

·        Another noticing that they commented on was two-way communication between the classroom teacher and instructional assistant. For example, the note-taking strategy of using labels to keep both adults abreast struggles, goals set, or work that had been accomplished with the students conferred with allowed both parties to be “at the ready” for moving and growing the child. Two-way communication between the aide and classroom teacher also stood out as PD learning is always shared, questions are always welcomed and encouraged, and time is devoted to planning so work with students during the day stays efficient. Because all clerical duties are taken care of in the first 20 minutes, the remainder of the day is spent supporting students in whole, small group, or individual situations.
These are just a handful of the great things we do here at BES with our collaborative approach to student learning. It's through working together that we really rise to be the B.E.S.T.!