Monday, November 11, 2013

My Truth Monday

Okay, I'm going go get right to it.

I'm linking up again with Denise.  I'm so proud of myself for sticking with this linky somewhat consistently.

This week's "My Truth" entry pretty much speaks for itself.  Those eyes!!!  Hello Handsome!  

This morning, as I'm sure many of your schools did, my school put on a lovely Veterans Day program.  It's always so nice to host the veterans at our campus and thank them for their service.  It's also really cute seeing them with their elementary school students.  :-)

I know that I've promised a post about our work we've been doing in 2nd grade on American celebrations, and it's coming.  Today, my students presented their products to me.  I could not be more proud.  Now that I've assessed them, we will take it a step further and present to a kindergarten class later this week.  After that, I'll be able to fill you in on what they did, complete with pictures of their work.  I didn't have time to watch presentations, ask questions of my students, AND take pictures of their work just couldn't be done.  

This post feels really rushed and scattered, and it is.  I'm really ready for bed.  However, I've continued working on my self-assigned book study, and I must say, I'm really starting to get into this book.  

Chapter 5
  •   This chapter provided an overview of the management of guided reading.  I must say I was intrigued by the example of independent activities in a 2nd grade classroom that was provided at the beginning of the chapter.  (Students read a self-selected book, write a response in their journals, and then share their response with a friend.  Rinse.  Repeat.)  I feel like the appeal of this is that it lines up really well with the Daily 5 and The Book Whisperer's ideas.  
  • Next, a variety of activities for students to engage in while the teacher meets with guided reading groups was presented.  I use the Daily 5 in my classroom, but I did find several of the options interesting.  I like the idea of browsing boxes.  These are basically like my book boxes right now, except in addition to good fit books, browsing boxes include guided reading books with which the student is familiar.  
  • Other ideas I liked were buddy reading (like Read to Someone), reading journals, and literature circles.  
  • The chapter ended with some possible schedules and an emphasis on teaching students management/routines so that they may be independent while the teacher meets with groups of students.  The one takeaway I have from this, as always, is that these professional books are quite utopian in their views of time available.  150 minute schedules, at least an hour of which is devoted to guided reading?!  What about tutoring?  What about make-up work for absent students?  What about re-teaching/re-testing?  How much time do you spend meeting with guided reading groups daily?  What does your ELA block schedule look like?  How do you find time for tutoring, make-up work, and the many other demands placed upon teachers while still fitting in guided reading daily?  
Okay, sorry to drop off in the middle of nowhere, but it's bedtime.  Tomorrow night, I'll be attending the PTA meeting at school, then participating in a Twitter chat, so things at this blog will probably be pretty quiet.  See you later this week!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Guided Reading and What's Been Going on in My Classroom Lately?

Happy Sunday night to you!  I hope you all have enjoyed your weekends.

I'm going to start off with a few notes about Guided Reading chapters 3 and 4 (So far, while I assumed this was the "bible" of guided reading, I don't know that I'm getting too much out of this self-imposed professional development book study.  Can you recommend a better book about guided reading for me?).  

Chapter 3
  • This chapter was about the components of a balanced literacy program.  As a teacher with background in teaching ELLs, I appreciated their emphasis on oral language as the undercurrent of a balanced literacy program.  (Components include interactive read aloud, shared reading, guided reading, and independent reading as well as shared writing, interactive writing, writing workshop/guided writing, and independent writing.  
  • A gradual release of responsibility is evident across the 4 types of reading and writing.
  • Guided reading should involve flexible, rather than fixed groups.
  • Guided reading changes purposes across grade levels, but may include character development, story structure, comparing themes of different texts, exposure to different genres, and obtaining information from texts, among other purposes (p. 30).  
  • Reading workshop (p. 32).  After reading The Book Whisperer, I know that this is what I want for my classroom.  
  • Writer's workshop includes a mini-lesson (3 types: procedural, strategy/skill, and craft), writing time, and sharing time.  
  • I LOVE the end remarks at the conclusion of this chapter!!!  On page 42, Fountas and Pinnell state that "The quality and effectiveness of the interactions between teacher and children (and between children) within the framework are most important.  It is not the elements themselves but the teaching decisions within them that lead to new learning. 

Chapter 4
  • This chapter was all about the classroom environment needed to support a balanced literacy program and the "underlying theory" (p. 43-44).  
  • The importance of the classroom library was supported by the two authors.  
  • "Oral language supports literacy in a fundamental way" (p. 50).  Yet again, the importance/role of oral language is affirmed, as it was in Chapter 3.  
In the upcoming chapters, it appears that the authors will get into the specific components of guided reading.  I'm looking forward to these chapters, and I'm hopeful that they will be readily and specifically applicable to my classroom.  

Tomorrow, my school will be honoring the local veterans with an assembly and a choir performance.  Following that, my assistant principal will be visiting my class to watch my students present their products that show their learning about U.S. celebrations.  She observed them researching the celebrations for my evaluation.  I'm so proud of my students, and I'm so excited that they are learning research skills at the young stage of second grade.  I will share more about this learning experience after my students present their work tomorrow.  I hope to also actually post my contribution to My Truth Monday in a timely fashion (after my track record with this linky over the past few weeks though, if I post it by Wednesday, it will be marked down as a success in my book.  :-) ).  

Other things going on this week include Picture Book Month (throughout November, even though I just found out about it this weekend), and National Young Readers Week.  As part of the latter, my class will be reading the free daily online stories available here each day.  Here are the stories that will be featured each day this week (I know my students will be particularly thrilled that there is an AR test on the last 3 books.):


Have a great day at school tomorrow, everyone!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

My Truth...Thursday

Hi friends!

Yes, I'm late again, but I'm not as late as last week, so I'm going to go ahead and count that as a success in my book.  So here's my entry for My Truth Monday Thursday.  Go check out Denise's blog to see all of the posts and information.

Anyway, this week at school was the book fair (I got some great books), and my class got to participate in the coolest thing this Tuesday.  Maybe I'll make it back to my blog this weekend to share some of the new books I discovered/purchased and give everyone details about what my class did on Tuesday.  Now, I'm just exhausted, so I'm going to take it easy then head to bed early! 

Until next time!

Sunday, November 3, 2013

I Did It!!!

I finished reading The Book Whisperer.

Wow, what an inspiring book!  As you can tell, I read the majority of this book today.  Here are my thoughts about chapters 5-7 and the final "whisper" about the end of the year evaluations.  These thoughts may also be about the book as a whole.  Please give me a few days/weeks to digest this terrific book before asking me how I'll bring it into my classroom.

  • Chapter 5 was all about serving as the reading role model for your class.  I particularly enjoyed her student's quote at the beginning of the chapter: "I feel really bad about all those good books out there waiting for me to read them" (p. 105).  That Parker seems like a funny kid.  I feel like I'm doing a good job with this.  I am an avid reader, and I love nothing more than sharing a box of new loot from Scholastic with my students.  Often, I'll bring a book with us while we are moving down the hallway.  I recently engaged in a conversation with a few of my students about how hilarious a book I had ordered was.  (In case you were wondering, that book was The Three Ninja Pigs by Corey Rosen Schwartz, and I think you should definitely read it and then share it with your students.)  

  • Chapter 6 discussed common reading activities employed by teachers and schools and suggested alternatives.  For those of you that like to just "get to the point" in your professional reading, this is definitely the "practical applications" chapter of the book.   I appreciate that Miller offers compromises to the whole-class novel approach vs. teaching readers, not books.  I'm honest enough to say that I'm currently doing basal stories every 2 weeks or so with my class.  I appreciate her suggestions to read the book aloud, share-read the book, etc., and I'm proud to say I'm already doing most of those things.  I think that by moving toward the CAFE approach espoused by the 2 sisters, I can better approximate Miller's model as well (teach skills with student-selected texts).  
  • Instead of comprehension tests (another reading evil, rampant in schools and classrooms, including my own), Miller recommends testing reading as a genre.  I think that this is a bit mature for 2nd graders, and I agree with Miller that book reports are not the answer.  I'm intrigued by book commercials, and I think they'd be especially great speaking practice for my ELLs.  Do any of you do book commercials with your students?  Do you grade/assess them?  What do you require/how do you assess your students' book commercials?
  • Again, I'm guilty of using reading logs, although I totally see Miller's point that these are completely fabricated at times.  I have been intrigued with a reading requirement, but I don't know that I'd have a genre requirement built into it for 2nd graders.  Do you use reading logs?  Do you have a reading requirement for your students?  
  • Round-robin/"popcorn" reading: Oops, guilty again.  I have read about the dangers/ineffectual nature of this practice in whole group as well as guided reading situations.  However, I do give students time to partner read, and I like the idea of pairing students of similar reading levels.  I also play stories on CD for my students.  
I'm not going to recap/discuss extensively the reading evaluations Miller does at the end of the year, nor am I going to discuss chapter 7 in great detail.  The reading evaluations are powerful support for Miller's methods, but again, I feel they'd be too daunting as is for my 2nd graders.  The final chapter serves as a good wrap-up of the book, painting a picture of Miller's methods as opposed to the prevalent reading instruction methods and the enduring effect of the former. 

As you can hopefully tell, I really enjoyed The Book Whisperer.  For those of you that didn't know, Donalyn Miller is coming out with another book tomorrow (lucky us!!!), Reading in the Wild: The Book Whisperer's Keys to Cultivating Lifelong Reading Habits.  Will you be buying her next book?  

That's all for now (3 posts in a weekend-yikes!).  Hopefully I'll be back tomorrow with the 3rd installment of the My Truth linky series.   

The Book Whisperer and Currently November

Hello again!

After coming back from lunch and a shopping (browsing, I guess, since I didn't buy anything) excursion, I just had to pick up The Book Whisperer again.  I am LOVING this book.  I have now finished chapters 3 and 4 as well as the second "whisper." but I'm telling  you, it's a real possibility that I finish this book tonight.

I appreciate that Miller emphasizes the importance of providing time for reading.  I like the idea of independent reading replacing morning work, and I tried this last year.  I do not do it this year, however.  Instead, I reserve that time for our daily intentional problem solving math requirement.  Ultimately, though, I agree that it is vital to establish the importance of reading within the classroom.

I do not have the privilege of visiting the library with my students (it is part of their Fine Arts rotation), but I try to address this by communicating suggestions to them prior to visiting the library, maintaining constant contact with our terrific librarian, and showing interest in their book choices following their library visit.  My students are also aware that I always work with our librarian to check out books related to our content topics in class.  Right now, for example, I have all kinds of books about U.S. celebrations, which is our social studies focus.

Miller's comments about a place for reading made me feel better.  I do have several carpets, a special chair, etc. where students go to read each day.  Additionally, as part of launching the Daily 5 (specifically read to self and read to someone), we go over places in the room where students may read (pretty much anywhere they like as long as they have adequate personal space, I can see them, and they are not too close to the reading group I'm working with at my table).  I identify with Miller's assertion that her whole room is a place for reading, and I like to think my classroom has the same feel to it.

While reading the fourth chapter, Reading Freedom, I realized that much of it would be beyond the reach of my second grade students.  However, the overarching idea is attractive to me.  My students choose their own books during Daily 5, and I'd love to transform my language arts whole-class instruction so that it incorporated or even emphasized student-selected books.  Are you able to accomplish this in your classroom?  How do you do it?

I have not read the Fountas and Pinnell book, Guiding Readers and Writers from which Miller draws inspiration for her reader's notebooks.  However, I love the idea.  I can picture how the notebooks would keep the students accountable and help replace a reading block format in which students complete the same written activities for the same books.  Do you use reader's notebooks in your classroom?  Is there a format that you use that is appropriate for young elementary students?  Do you grade them?

Anyway, I'm loving this book, as you can see.  I think I will put the Guided Reading book aside until I finish with The Book Whisperer.  I'll leave you with my contribution to the Currently November linky.

And here's my yummy pin.  

YUMMY, easy, and DIET-FRIENDLY pumpkin muffins.

   Gotta go guys.  I have some grading to do before work tomorrow.  But, realistically, I think I'm going to go make some pumpkin muffins, watch Pitch Perfect for the millionth time, and finish reading The Book Whisperer.  :-)  

Saturday, November 2, 2013



I'm so late with week 2 of the My Truth series from Denise at Sunny Days in Second Grade that I might as well wait another 2 days and just do 2 at once, but I'm ready to blog, so I'm linking up very late just because.  However, that's not all that's on the agenda for this all over the place blog post today.  Buckle up, here we go!

1) My Truth Mondays (uhh...Saturdays?  Yikes!):


I'm really enjoying this linky, and I can't wait to see what Monday's topic will be.  Thanks to those of you that commented on my truth about fitness last week.  I appreciated it!  Last weekend, as I mentioned, I participated in the Color Me Rad 5K.  It was the perfect race to do while being sick (I've had allergies and a cough that I just can't shake for WEEKS).  It was a great time, and it made me motivated to do another race when I start to feel better.  Maybe I'll post a post-race picture in a future blog post.   

Next, let's move on to my self-assigned book studies/professional development.  

2) The Book Whisperer

This morning, I read chapter 2, Everybody is a Reader, as well as her first "whisper" in the book about student surveys.  Here are some takeaways, parts I liked, and thoughts I might have to modify what she does so that it is appropriate for my 2nd graders:

  • I love the idea of starting with a "book frenzy" on the first day of school.  I totally identify with Miller's quest to put interesting and manageable books in the hands of each of her students as well as making it clear to them that the classroom library is not mine, but ours.  
  • I also love how Donalyn Miller renames typical categories of readers to frame them in a positive light.  I think it terrific that she emphasizes reaching each type of reader and not making one type more of a priority than another.  Instead of struggling and reluctant readers, Miller discusses "developing readers", "dormant readers". and "underground readers".  I have a few "underground readers" in my class this year.  They love to read, but they read their own books rather than class books.  What's so wrong with that?
  • The chapter ends with a discussion of Brian Cambourne's factors that contribute to successful learning that include: immersion, demonstrations, expectations, responsibility, employment, approximations, response, and engagement (p. 34-36).  To achieve engagement, reading must have personal value to students, be something students see themselves as capable of doing, be anxiety-free, and be modeled by someone students see as a role model.  
  • Whisper about student surveys: I understand the use of these to determine students' interests so that we as teachers can put interesting books in the hands of our students.  I don't believe her versions are 2nd grade appropriate (that's a lot of text for the beginning of the year).  However, I think that conducting the surveys orally and/or engaging my students in conversation can help me make sure that my students are engaged in and motivated to spend time reading.  
3) Guided Reading (Fountas and Pinnell): 

I'm so looking forward to finishing this book.  I feel like I'm doing a better job with guided reading already, and I can't wait to get even better.  Chapter 2 of this book is titled Building on Early Learning.  While this chapter focuses on emeging literacy for very young students, there were some useful bits of information for me as a second grade teacher.  Here are some thoughts/takeaways from this chapter:    

  • The chapter begins with a discussion of language.  I love their description of language as a "self-extending system" that "allows the learner to keep on learning by using it (p. 11).  
  • Teachers can help develop students' awareness of literacy by reading aloud stories multiple times, then making them available to students in the classroom library.  
  • Correcting readers encourages dependence, but helping students learn to check their own reading will foster independent, fluent readers.  
  • Speaking of fluency, I appreciate how Fountas and Pinnell have explained its importance: "Good readers are fast, efficient problem solvers who use meaning and syntax as they quickly and efficiently decode unfamiliar words" (p. 18).  
  • The goal of literacy, according to the authors is "independence and ongoing learning" (p. 18).  
That's all for now.  I'm looking forward to continuing to read The Book Whisperer and Guided Reading.  I'll be back soon with another My Truth post, more notes about what I'm reading, and possibly I'll jump back on the "Currently" bandwagon (again,  a little late).  In the mean time, leave me some comments about what creeps you out (your truth) and/or how guided reading works in your classroom.    
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