Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Your Daily 5 Questions...My Answers (Part Two)

Yesterday I posted part one of the questions fellow teachers have been e-mailing me regarding Daily 5.  Today is part two!

I'm a 4th grade reading/language arts teacher. I want to use the Daily Five/cafe format this year, but I have some questions. I'm required to take 2 grades per week for reading, grammar, and spelling. What do you take grades on? Also, do you use basals or chapter books during your comprehension lessons?

One of the hardest things I struggled with when I first started Daily 5 & CAFE was grades.  I went from a ton of grades each week (from silly busy work) to nothing!  Luckily, I am not required to take two per week, but I might have a solution for you.  I do take an effort grade.  We did Marzano training a few years ago, and one of the strategies is effort.  Together with my students, we create an effort rubric.  It is very simple 4,3,2,1 where 4=100%, 3=75%, and so forth.  At the end of each Daily 5 round, I call students' names and have them give me their effort.  For the most part, students are pretty honest about their effort.  If I suspect a student of inflating their effort, I choose to watch them closely during the next round.  I typically pick out 4-5 students each round to really watch (while I'm doing groups) to see if their effort is what it should be.  I tally the effort grades at the end of each week and average them for my grade book.  Daily 5 effort accounts for 10% of the total reading grade in my grade book.  I also do weekly reading response journals (modeled after the letters Donalyn Miller discusses in The Book Whisperer).  My district has one grade for reading, writing, and spelling, so the reading response journals account for 25% of the grade.  You could also have students turn in their weekly word work for a grade.  My students have to complete a SAW (Sort, Alphabetize, Write sentences) during their word work each week.  

How many students do you teach? 

In the past, I have taught my homeroom and my teaching partner's homeroom reading, language arts, and spelling.  There were 30 students (give or take a few) in each class.  My reading block for each class was about 2 hours and 15 minutes long.  This year, however, I have chosen to stay self-contained and see what that is like!

Does each of your students have a book box in your classroom? 

My students do not have book boxes because I do not have room for storage.  Plus, I wanted my students to be able to take their books to their other class.  I used reusable grocery bags for a few years, where students were supposed to store their books, journal, and reading binder, but I was finding it was also becoming a trash can.  I took those away, then went to gallon ziploc bags.  Eventually, I just gave everything up and expected my fourth graders to be responsible and bring everything with them that they needed to my class. This year, being self-contained, I'm going to try book boxes if my school will order them for me.  

Do you teach anther subject with reading? We will teach social studies and reading.

My district recently adopted Good Habits, Great Readers as a series.  I do not use it religiously, but I do use the guided reading books and lessons as part of my strategy groups. This series is strategy-based, so it does fit somewhat nicely with Daily 5.  I am very anti-basal.  Prior to this adoption, I did not even have basals in my classroom.  I created lessons based on the strategies/standards I was teaching.  

The first year I switched with my teaching partner, I taught reading, writing, spelling, and social studies.  She only taught math and science, though, so it was a little uneven. We eventually made it so I taught reading, writing, and spelling while she taught math, science, and social studies.  She only did science and social studies on alternating days, however.   

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Your Daily 5 Questions...My Answers

I'm on vacation this week, but I am scheduling some posts so I don't leave you all lonely!  I have recently been e-mailed by several people asking questions about Daily 5.  As I was answering each one, I thought that I should create a blog post about this because if one person is asking, there might be five more wondering.  So here goes...Questions are in bold, my answers follow.  

My thoughts are that I want to do both- the Daily 5 (or daily 3) AND reading workshop.  Do you do that in your classroom?

The Daily Five and The Book Whisperer are excellent books.  Those are definitely my go-to books for reading framework and instruction.  I'm not sure exactly what you mean when you say Daily 5 and reading workshop, in my mind, they are essentially the same thing.  Have you read The CAFE Book, also by the Sisters?  It is the "instruction" piece to Daily 5.  

I was wondering how your day goes.

I have a two hour block for reading that consists of two 20 minute lessons (or one long 40 minute lesson, for new material), and three Daily 5 choices.  During the Daily 5 choices, I pull small groups for instruction.  Sometimes the small groups are strategy based, but more recently I have done strategy-based guided reading.  My district has Good Habits Great Readers, and although I don't use the series exactly as it is intended, I do like how the guided reading books and lessons are strategy based.  It fits very nicely with CAFE.  

How would you break down a 1 hour block for daily 5?

I don't know if Daily 5 is the best option for you if you only have one hour.  I would think your "mini-lessons" would need to be a bit longer since you don't get to see your students that often.  Maybe you could spend half the time in a whole-group lesson and the other half working with a small group.  While you're with your small group, the rest of the class could be doing independent reading with a book of their choice.  Have you read The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller?  She offers a lot of great insight about reading instruction, and especially choice reading. 

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

#nErDcampBC Breakdown

Last week I posted how excited I was about the first-ever nErDcamp, hosted by the Nerdy Book Club. It did not disappoint.  In fact, is was one of the best PD opportunities that I have ever attended.  For those of you who don't know, an Edcamp is an "unconference" of sorts.  1.)  They are free.  2.)  Conference attendees create and run the sessions.  3.)  They are fun!

My colleague and I arrived in Battle Creek, Michigan on Wednesday night, after what turned into about a 6-hour drive because of weather and traffic.  After grabbing dinner and drinks, we hit the hay at the Holiday Inn, Battle Creek because it was going to be an early morning.  We grabbed a quick breakfast at the hotel restaurant-free, thanks to my husband's Platinum Priority Club status, and headed to Lakeview High School, the site of nErDcamp.  The first 150 people who arrived were greeted with swag bags, full of ARCs and posters!  Awesome!  We headed into the "Black Box," quite literally a black, square room possibly used for theatre or band.  The room was set up with tables, a screen and projector, and several books for people to explore that would be given away later.  After giving everyone time to settle in, Colby and Alaina Sharp, nErDcamp organizers-extraordinaires, told us how the day was going to work.  When asked, very few people in the room said they had been to an Edcamp before.  This was a new experience for most attendees!  

The day had four sessions-two morning, two afternoon, with a lunch break in-between.  After a welcome and brief overview of how things were going to work, we were set off to begin discussing what kinds of sessions we would like to see.  I felt so inferior to so many people in that room, that I mostly sat and watched, in awe.  Colby Sharp, Donalyn Miller, Franki Sibberson, Jillian Heise, among MANY others-all people whom I look up to as a reading teacher.  Sessions started forming.  Alaina put session titles into an "Idea Board" Google Doc, to which everyone had access.  Sessions brainstormed included "Everything Evernote," "Flipping 101," "Twitter 101," "Book Talks," "Skyping and Connecting with Authors," etc.  Twelve possible sessions into two one-hour time blocks.  How's a girl to choose?!  Let me tell you, it was difficult.  I chose to go to "Everything Evernote," hosted by Cathy Mere, Karen Terlecky, and Alaina Sharp.  I used Evernote in my classroom last year, and I wanted to learn more about it's possibilities.  Wow!  That's another post for another day.  The second session I chose to attend was "Motivating Reading and Writing Through Technology" with Donalyn Miller and Suz Gibbs.  The cool thing about Edcamps are, even though there are session leaders, everyone is encouraged to participate and give input.  Some things I took away from that session is Biblionasium, a site for students to record their books, and Booksource, a way to catalog your books digitally.  Book trailers, Prezi, and Edmodo were other things discussed at this session.  Suz Gibbs also showed an amazing book trailer created by one of her students!

After lunch, we went back to the "Black Box" to brainstorm ideas for the afternoon sessions.  Once again, some wonderful ideas were offered.  Sessions included "Graphic Novels," "Special Ed and Literacy," "Sister Classrooms," "Battle of the Books," "Genius Hour," "Nerdy Book Club Needs You," among others.  For the afternoon I chose to attend "Sister Classrooms," hosted by Jillian Heise and Brian Wyzlick and "Genius Hour" with Amanda Ferrari.  I was interested in Sister Classrooms for two reasons.  One, I follow Jillian and Brian on Twitter and I am seeing their back-and-forth about things they are doing in their classrooms.  Jillian lives in Wisconsin and Brian in Michigan.  They have connected their classrooms in many ways.  Another reason I was interested was because my colleague and I will be in different buildings next year, both teaching fourth grade.  We want to connect our classrooms in this same way.  When I get done writing this post, I am going to create a Google Doc for she and I to share ideas on ways to connect-one thing Jillian and Brian recommend.  The final session I attended was "Genius Hour."  Once again, I had heard about it on Twitter and wanted to learn more.  Twitter is amazing PD people!  The idea behind Genius Hour comes from Google, who allows their employees 20% of their time to work on something company-related that interests them personally.  They believe that employees will be more productive when people work on something that they are passionate about.  Genius Hour in the classroom is allowing your students 20% of their time to work on a project they care about.  I really like this concept, and look forward to learning more.

The best thing about nErDcamp was the interactive idea board and notes taken at each session.  If you click on each session number on the idea board, it links you to a notes page taken in the session!  How cool is that?!  So, if I have mentioned anything that sounds interesting to you, or you would like to read more about the different sessions offered, go to the idea board and get clicking!

I was so inspired by the number of teachers that attended nErDcamp.  Everyone gave up a day from their summer vacation to learn and grow.  Many traveled hundreds of miles to get there and I would be willing to bet that everyone said it was well worth it, it certainly was for me.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Thoughts on Abandoning Books

Have you seen this infographic on GoodReads recently?  

My co-teacher sent it to me for a little laugh.  We allow our students to abandon books.  We know that every book is not right for every person.  Our goal is to pair each student with their just-right book.  Of course, we have those few students who abandon every single book they pick up.  We call them "Book Abandoners."  It's a term we use every day in our classroom, and the students know that we do not want them to become habitual book abandoners.  This infographic was kind of a laugh for us, because we had a parent a few years ago that did not like that we told her son he was a book abandoner.  Regardless of the fact that the child did not finish a book his entire fourth grade year.  We wanted him to finish a book.  We begged and pleaded with him.  We allowed him to pick his own books.  We gave him books we thought he would enjoy.  He never finished one.  That will haunt me for a long time.  

I recently finished The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak.  A non-teaching friend recommended it to me, which was huge because this friend rarely reads kid-lit or YA.  She told me how much she loved it and how she had to slow her reading down because she just didn't want it to end.  Great review, right?  This same friend also recommended The Storyteller by Jodi Piccoult.  I also read that book this summer and she did not steer me wrong.  (Side note: What's with the Nazi books this summer?  I also reread Number the Stars).  The Book Thief had been on my GoodReads list since I started marking books to-read on the site.  On this friend's recommendation, I decided to read it this summer.  What the heck, right?  I read two other Holocaust-era books, what's one more?  

I struggled through it.  No, I STRUGGLED through it.  I don't know why.  Maybe it was one too many Nazi/Holocaust books in such a short time period.  It could be the fact that Death was the narrator in this book, obviously something very new to me.  My go-to reading superstars on GoodReads & Twitter, Donalyn Miller and Colby Sharp both rated the book very highly.  I kept wondering, "What is wrong with me?  Why don't I like this book like the rest of the world does?"  I still don't have an answer to that question.  I will continue to ponder.  

I thought about abandoning the book a few times.  I allow my students to be book abandoners, why can't I?  Then I kept telling myself, "Everyone else loved this book, there's got to be something I'm missing."  I kept reading.  In my eyes, the last 100 pages or so redeemed the entire book.  It was so well-written and I felt so many emotions reading the end of the book.  (No, the emotion was not happiness that it was almost over!).  That got me thinking, should I allow book abandoning?  Should I encourage my students to stick with it, because they might get something out of it in the end?  I won't say I loved this book, by any means, but my entire perspective on the book changed now that I reached the end.  Maybe this book wasn't just right for me at this time.  I'm now curious, should I encourage students when they abandon books to go back and try it again at another point in the year?  

One of the great things about being a teacher who reads is that I can reflect on my reading life and use it as a teaching tool in the classroom.  I will definitely be sharing my struggle with this book with my students.  First, they will learn that readers do sometimes feel conflicted with a book they are reading, dislike a book even.  They will also learn that persevering through a book, rather than abandoning it, does have it's rewards.  I felt accomplished finishing this book, as well as seeing the book in a whole new light once I had time to reflect.  I learn, or take away something from every book I read.  This time my lessons will carry on with my students.  

Saturday, July 6, 2013

nErDcamp Battle Creek!

Anyone on Twitter and follow Colby Sharp?  He's a teacher from Michigan and co-founded the Nerdy Book Club with Donalyn Miller.  You know, The Book Whisperer.  Well, he and his wife have also founded the first (hopefully annual) nErDcamp, that is taking place this coming Thursday, July 11 in Battle Creek, Michigan.

Has anyone ever been to an EdCamp before?  I had never heard of them until recently.  Many teachers I follow on Twitter have been to them and tweet from them using a EdCamp location-specific hashtag.  From what I understand, EdCamps are FREE professional development organized by teachers for teachers.  They are sometimes referred to as "unconferences" because it is exactly the opposite of a conference your district or administrator requires you to attend.  There are also no scheduled presentations or topics.  The session topics are brainstormed on the day of the conference by conference participants.  

So what is nErDcamp?  nErDcamp is the first ever EdCamp organized by the Nerdy Book Club.  It is a literacy-specific EdCamp.  I was just checking out the Idea Board on the nErDcamp blog and there are lots of really neat topics cropping up!  Last I heard, there are over 200 participants registered!  

So why am I telling you about this?  Well, for starters, my good teaching buddy and I have decided we are GOING!  Less than four hours away from our homes?  We cannot pass this opportunity up! Neither one of us have ever attended an EdCamp before, so this will definitely be a learning process, but hopefully a very beneficial one.  I don't even know why I just said that.  It definitely will be a beneficial one.   Forget the fact that we are Buckeyes traveling into Wolverine country.  We can put our differences aside for a few days.  

If you live in the area (or within a driving distance of the area) you should definitely register to attend!  If I haven't convinced you enough, read Top 10 Reasons Why You Should Come to nErDcamp.  Anyone already planning on attending?  Hopefully we can meet up!  

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Words Their Way Word Study

Back in August 2011, I posted about a new word study program I was starting called Word Journeys.  I used that program for the entire year and loved it.  I felt like my students were making so many gains in their word knowledge.  In fact, the fifth grade teachers who taught that group last year were so impressed with them!

This past school year, my district adopted a new reading program which came with the Words Their Way program.  It was a very easy transition for me, having used Word Journeys in the past, as the two programs are very similar.  Though I'm wanting to revamp somewhat, I plan to stick to the shell of how I ran my word study program.  At the beginning of the year, I give the Words Their Way spelling inventory.  I start out with the "Elementary" form, then give the "Upper Elementary" form to those students who got more than 20 words correct.  I typically end up with about four groups.  I meet with each group once a week (usually Tuesdays and Wednesdays) to discuss the new spelling pattern.  I used to give a notes page for students to keep in their binders, but I was finding them on the floor, in their desks, and every other place except their binders!  I put a composition book on the supply list this year and I want to try a word study notebook instead.  So, at the group meeting, students will take notes in their word study notebook.  They will record their spelling pattern, then brainstorm words that fit their pattern.  Students will then be given their word sort.  I give them a word sort page for them to record it on.  I do not have students glue down their words because I want them to access the words for ABC order and to do other sorts throughout the week.  The word sort is due the following day.  This allows me to see if anyone is struggling so I can do some reteaching before it is too late.

I was also struggling with finding the word sort words all over the floor.  I asked a 2nd grade teacher in my building how she handles this with her students and she told me that she found zipper pockets similar to these on sale and each student has one that they keep in their homework binder.  She sets aside time at the beginning of the week for the students to cut out their words and put their name on each one before putting them in the pocket.  If a word is found on the floor, it is very easy to tell whose it is.  I like this and I'm going to try it this year!

Other word study assignments that students have due throughout the week are ABC order and Super Sentences.  In the past, I have allowed my students all week to work on the assignment and have it due during the next group meeting.  Last year, that did not seem to work and students failed to turn in the assignments. Mid-year, I started having the ABC order due on Fridays and Super Sentences due the day of their next group meeting and that seemed to work out better.

I feel very strongly that word study is the best way to teach spelling.  Students are learning spelling patterns based on their individual needs.  It really doesn't make sense to have students memorize "4th grade words" when they don't even have the concept of long vowel patterns.

Do you use Words Their Way or a similar program?  What other word study assignments do students complete throughout the week?

Monday, July 1, 2013

Monday Funday: Big Brother & A Little Housewives

I said yesterday I was going to write about what I know.  Well, it's summer, and I know my favorite part of summer (besides being off of work!) is Big Brother!  Now, I wouldn't call myself a Big Brother Superfan, but I will admit that I am a little obsessed and I even read the live feed updates.  See, a superfan would subscribe to the feeds.  I don't do that.  I read the Jokers Updates that the people who do subscribe to the feeds write minute-to-minute what is going on the house.  If you're a BB fan, check it out for yourself.  Warning:  because they are live feeds, there are things you will find out that has not aired on TV yet.  Like who is the MVP, who they nominated, and who the house is planning on sending home.  Yep, I know all of that already.  Don't be jealous. :)  I promise you, though, when I write about BB, I will not talk about anything that hasn't been aired on TV that all you regular folks have been watching.

Ok, here goes....First of all, who was shocked that Rachel's sister is on the show?!  And she really thought she would be able to keep her identity under wraps?  Not smart, girl.  I like the alliance that is forming with McCrae, Howard, Nick, Jeremy, and Spencer.  I usually root for the girls, but I have to say, so far I am not impressed.  As my husband so eloquently put it last night, "are all these girls in heat?!"  I'm not a big fan of the "I'm here for a showmance attitude."  Aaryn and David kind of make me want to throw up.  They've known each other for what, 10 days?!  Ugh.  Respect the game people! Plus, Aaryn has said some things on the live feeds that have not been aired that really, really make me dislike her.

Real Housewives of New Jersey and Big Brother were on at the same time last night.  Oh, the nerve of those TV execs.  Good thing my TiVo has four tuners.  I don't really have a lot to say about the Jersey girls.  I'm kinda over the Gorga-Giudice family drama.  I hope they work things out.  What I do want to talk about is Jacqueline's struggle with her autistic son.  It completely breaks my heart.  My son is almost the same age as her son, so I can really feel for her.  Anytime that storyline graces my television, I am in tears.  I think Jacqueline has gotten some slack for "exploiting" her son, but I feel like what she is showing is very real and she is doing her best to give her son the best therapies and the best opportunities.

If you didn't mind my little side-post about my favorite TV shows and  you read the whole thing through...you get a little treat!  You can download a freebie from my Teacher's Notebook shop!  This freebie is a poster that I use to offer options for my students to do during Word Work time.  It's also a little hintedy-hint about my blog post tomorrow!  Click the link above to be directed to this freebie.  But hurry!  It will only be available for the next 48 hours!