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Sunday, January 25, 2015

To group, not to group, how to group - These are questions many of us struggle with...Here are some articles that help you reflect on this issue. Coutres of Choice Literacy. Enjoy!!


The Big Fresh Newsletter from Choice Literacy
January 24, 2015 - Issue #417


DEARO
  
Smile at strangers and you just might change a life.
                                                 Steve Maraboli
On a cold winter day last month I stood at the front door of a local school, fumbling to open it with my arms full of video equipment. It was a quiet morning, with regular classes canceled for parent/teacher conferences. I looked through the glass and saw Alan, the school principal, moving toward me. He gave me a hearty greeting, even though we'd met only once years before. He then grabbed a couple of tripods and ushered me to the classroom where I'd be helping with setup.
Hours later I was walking down the hallway chatting with Jen, the literacy coach. She spied an older man who was stopped in the middle of the hallway, looking confused. Jen immediately excused herself from our conversation and walked over to help the man, who was trying to find his grandson's classroom.
I realized in that moment that the school has a DEARO policy, whether it's official or not. (It's probably not an official policy since I just created that acronym this morning.)  Drop Everything And Reach Out is the attitude of every staff member when they see a visitor who needs help or looks confused.
I thought about another school I visited months before, where most of the students were walked to the school by their immigrant parents from the public housing nearby. I observed dozens of parents outside the school joyfully and tenderly kissing their children goodbye that morning, but none of them stepped over the threshold into the school. The principal explained to me later that day how hard it is to get parents to come into the building. He even makes a point of being at the school door before a parent conference to usher them in, because he knows how difficult it is for many of them to enter.
Most readers of this newsletter are comfortable in schools. We've spent most of our waking and working hours in classrooms since we were five years old. We know the lingo and rituals, and where the staff bathroom is hidden. It's easy to forget how uncomfortable, even threatened, many adults feel by schools. New security measures put in place in the past decade have only increased the anxiety for visitors.  In our rush to get to the next thing, it's tempting to ignore that stranger who looks perplexed in the hallway. The Germans have a phrase for it -- "wie Luft behandeln," which means "to be looked at as though air."
When the whole community is trained to look for that discomfort and alleviate it as quickly as possible, it sends an important message: "We are here for you and your children. This is your place too."  What's your policy for reaching out to unexpected visitors to your school?
This week we look at grouping. Plus more as always -- enjoy!
 
Brenda Power
Founder, Choice Literacy

 

 
Free for All

 
[For sneak peeks at our upcoming features, quotes and extra links,  follow Choice Literacy on Twitter: @ChoiceLiteracy or Facebook:
 
 
 
Heather Rader asks, How Do We Know Small-Group Instruction Is Effective?:
 
 
 
From the A Year of Reading blog, Franki Sibberson is Planning for Small Group Instruction with a focus on teaching problem and solution:
 
 
 
Mary Ann Reilly gives advice for guided reading with intermediate students:
 
 
 
"Hello Stranger" from the New York Times includes research on the mental health benefits of conversing with new people in everyday situations:
 
 

Jennifer Allen's Literacy Coach Jumpstart online course runs February 5-16 and includes three on-demand webinars, the Layered Coaching DVD, Jen's book Becoming a Literacy Leader, and personal response from Jen tailored to your needs on the class discussion board. Choice Literacy and Lead Literacy members receive a $50 discount off the course fee. Click on the link below for more details:
 
 
 
Lead Literacy is our subscription site designed especially for literacy coaches and school leaders. You can sample content at this link:
 
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Saturday, January 17, 2015

Great Article! Great Ideas --- As Always!! Courtesy of Choice Literacy

The Big Fresh Newsletter from Choice Literacy
January 17, 2015 - Issue #416


The Power of Nonfiction Picture Books
  
People respect nonfiction but they read novels.
                                                 E.O. Wilson
Student choice is a key component of my fourth-grade reading workshop. I believe that if students have more control over what they read, more reading will happen. However, more reading doesn't always mean wider reading across many genres. One of the genres I still see students struggling to read is nonfiction. Over the past few years I have increased the amount of nonfiction that is available in my room. At one time my classroom library had about 20 nonfiction titles. Fiction books still dominate, but now there are over 200 nonfiction titles.
Yet I discovered having more nonfiction available didn't translate to more nonfiction reading. If the students are not choosing these books, why have them in the room? I needed to find ways to get nonfiction texts into my students' hands without just passing out a random article to support content studies.
One of the routines in my room is to pick up a picture book as a break from a longer novel. I encourage my students to not juggle too many novels at one time. So if a child forgets her book at home, she will usually choose a picture book during independent reading time. For many fourth- and fifth-grade readers, having a picture book in their hands is like having the Scarlet Letter embroidered on their hoodie. Showing students that a well-crafted picture book is a wonderful break from a longer book is a good gift to give. And since most of the picture books that are displayed in my classroom are now nonfiction, there is a much better chance that high-quality nonfiction will get in readers' hands during these little breaks from novels.
I also often choose fabulously written nonfiction books to serve as mentor texts for writing workshop craft minilessons. Even if kids are working on fictional stories, a well-written narrative nonfiction piece can be a great model for writing techniques. The books I choose for minilessons get read and reread many times by students during independent workshop times.
Book talks are a valuable part of my reading workshop as well. The past few years I have been much more intentional about sharing nonfiction titles during the daily book talk that launches our reading workshop. My excitement about a book will sometimes spark student interest. This past year I shared over 50 nonfiction titles for book talks.  Some made it into the hands of just one or two readers, and some were read by more than half of my class.
If you are thinking about trying to layer more nonfiction into your reading workshop, try using nonfiction as "break books" and mentor texts in writing workshop, as well as featuring nonfiction in book talks. These are all authentic ways to encourage students to choose nonfiction more often on their own. 
 
This week we look at nonfiction in classrooms. Plus more as always -- enjoy!
 
Tony Keefer
Contributor, Choice Literacy

 

 
Free for All

 
[For sneak peeks at our upcoming features, quotes and extra links,  follow Choice Literacy on Twitter: @ChoiceLiteracy or Facebook:
 
 
 
Franki Sibberson is Rethinking Nonfiction Author Baskets:
 
 
 
Kylene Beers has advice for students and teachers on noticing and noting nonfiction:
 
 
 
School Library Journal offers suggestions of great new picture book biographies featuring a range of diverse figures from Johnny Cash to Peter Mark Roget (of thesaurus fame) in The Stuff of Stars:
 
 
 
The Library of Congress has a search feature that allows teachers to find primary sources for historical events from local communities. Michael Apfeldorf explains how it works in Close to Home:
 
 

Jennifer Allen's Literacy Coach Jumpstart online course runs February 5-16 and includes three on-demand webinars, the Layered Coaching DVD, Jen's book Becoming a Literacy Leader, and personal response from Jen tailored to your needs on the class discussion board. Choice Literacy and Lead Literacy members receive a $50 discount off the course fee. Click on the link below for more details:
 

 
Lead Literacy is our subscription site designed especially for literacy coaches and school leaders. You can sample content at this link:
 

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Saturday, January 10, 2015

Here is some great research to help schools back up some scheduling decisions. Take a look. Courtesy of ASCD SmartBrief


Study reveals reading patterns among students


Reading aloud to children and restricting online screen time may boost the number of young children who read on their own, according to a recent study. Research shows older students are more likely to read on their own when they have free time during the school day. The New York Times (tiered subscription model) (1/8)Bookmark and Share

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Here's a great article on young readers. I suggest many of these descriptors apply to older readers as well. Enjoy. Courtesy of Choice Literacy.



The Big Fresh Newsletter from Choice Literacy
January 3, 2015 - Issue #414


Cookies and Coaching
  

Cookies are made of butter and love.
 
                                  Norwegian Proverb
 
 
I always knew that the way to a person's heart was through their stomach, so when I moved to a new district as a reading specialist for one elementary building eight years ago, I enjoyed bringing cookies to data meetings or other professional development workshops. Teachers seemed to appreciate the midday treat and didn't seem to mind being pulled from their rooms as much because they could count on a home-baked goody.  The expectations grew, and soon there wasn't a meeting in that one building without a cookie or brownie.  When I became the literacy coach for four buildings, word spread.  "You can expect a treat at a meeting that Kathy runs," was heard across the district.  
 
I love living up to those expectations of baking, as the experience is quite therapeutic for me.  Some days are easy drop-cookie days, but some can be "needing to knead bread dough" days!  I always use fresh ingredients, provide a variety of choices, consider the dietary needs of the recipients, and try to make the treats easy to eat on the run. Now and then, an extra-special treat like cinnamon rolls are given to those who really need an extra pick-me-up.  As I mix, knead, bake, and decorate, I always think about the people I am baking for.  I think of recent times we have spent together in their rooms planning, teaching, and debriefing.  I think of the struggles some have with challenging students.  I think of how I can help them grow as learners. 
 
What are they expecting from me as a coach? The expectations that I will be a caring, supportive, confidential coach have also taken some time to cultivate, but they are in place now.  Here are some things I know they have grown to expect from me:

They expect confidentiality. Nothing leaves their room -- nothing we discuss together, not even notes I may take. 
 
They expect consistency. We have established long-term goals for our coaching cycles together, and short-term objectives for each session that we both agreed on.
 
They expect to grow as a learner. Our time together is nonevaluative, so risk taking is done without worry.  They expect me to anticipate what they will need next and plan for that.  
 
They expect honesty and humility. None of my lessons are perfect, and theirs aren't expected to be, either.  The best data comes from struggling and watching how students acquire what we hope we are teaching them.
 
They expect me to be there on time. There is nothing worse than trying to hold the attention of a large group of kindergartners when you expected to start a lesson on time and the coach is late.  
 
They expect me to be a listener. They need someone to confide in when teaching is hard, an extra set of eyes for a puzzling student,  and a resource provider who can get them that just-right book when there is no time to get it themselves.
 
They expect to be able to get what they need. Needs vary, from a demo lesson, a co-teacher, or an observer, to a pusher who helps them see when they are working harder than their students. 
 
They don't expect me to know everything. I will never know it all, but love learning and growing with them.  
 
Just as they've come to expect cookies, everyone expects me to live up to the consistent role I have grown into over the years.  Without those expectations, our coaching time together wouldn't be effective.  It would be like me bringing cheese and crackers to a meeting!
This week we consider strategies for working with young readers. Plus more as always -- enjoy!
 
Kathleen Provost
Contributor, Choice Literacy

 

 
Free for All

 
[For sneak peeks at our upcoming features, quotes and extra links,  follow Choice Literacy on Twitter: @ChoiceLiteracy or Facebook:
 
 
 
Shari Frost provides a booklist of Multicultural Books for Beginning Readers:
 
   
 
Kyla Ryman explains the difference between picture books and beginning readers for use in instruction, and why understanding these differences is crucial for teachers:
 

 
The Chicken Spaghetti blog has published their annual "list of lists" of award-winning children's books from 2014:
 
 

Jennifer Allen's Literacy Coach Jumpstart online course runs February 5-16 and includes three on-demand webinars, the Layered Coaching DVD, Jen's book Becoming a Literacy Leader, and personal response from Jen tailored to your needs on the class discussion board. Choice Literacy and Lead Literacy members receive a $50 discount off the course fee. Click on the link below for more details:
 
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Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Monday, December 15, 2014

Here is some interesting information that my help inform instruction. Courtesy of ASCD SmartBrief.

Bookmark and ShareReport: Students read mostly fiction, below their grade level
Students are reading fewer nonfiction books than fiction and often reading below their ability levels, according to a recent report from Renaissance Learning, the company behind the Accelerated Reader program. The report was compiled from anonymized and aggregated data on nearly 10 million U.S. students in first through 12th grades. T.H.E. Journal (12/9)

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Here is another great post from Choice Literacy. I highly recommend the Literacy Shed link. There are some great resources there. Enjoy!



The Big Fresh Newsletter from Choice Literacy
November 29, 2014 - Issue #410


Cheerfully Indifferent
  
 
Not my circus, not my monkeys.
 
                           Polish proverb
 
This summer I participated in a qigong class, which is sort of a mix of tai chi and martial arts (and that makes the class sound much more strenuous than it was). The group met on a gently sloping lawn at a retreat center in western Massachusetts.  The instructor was in his sixties, calm and funny, with an Irish lilt to his voice. He put us through our paces, all of us beginners looking earnest and silly as we mimicked the moves of a tiger, crane, and dragon. Midway through the class as we all tried to balance on one leg, he said, "The key to focus is to be cheerfully indifferent - to happily ignore most of what bothers you."
I looked out at the view - a stunning vista of a large pristine lake, with mist rising from it in the morning sun. Beyond it was a vast range of mountains, dwarfing the lake. This was in one tiny corner of the world, tucked in the Berkshires. It all made me feel small, in a good way. We have so little time and energy when it comes to all we want to accomplish. We know this, and yet we still think the biggest crime we can commit is to not care enough. But if you try to care about everything, you're just spending your entire life living inside your head. And it's so small compared to all that is out there. The arrogance is in thinking we have more hours or more to give than anyone else.
Ever since that class, I've tried to approach more messes (especially those created by other people) with cheerful indifference. What good does it do to feel your blood pressure rising or your jaw clench at the colleague who is always late to the meeting and needs to be brought up to speed, at the parents who seem to care about their child less than you do? The weight of the world starts to lift when you stay positive and don't invest any energy in things you can't change. A happy countenance is a blessing to anyone who experiences it, and our indifference is a gift to those tasks that need our focus, and the people who can most benefit from our concern. As George Lichtenberg writes, "Nothing can contribute more to peace of soul than the lack of any opinion whatever."
 
This week we consider some strategies for making minilessons more visual. Plus more as always - enjoy!
 
 
Brenda Power
Founder, Choice Literacy

 

 
Free for All

 
[For sneak peeks at our upcoming features, quotes and extra links,  follow Choice Literacy on Twitter: @ChoiceLiteracy or Facebook:
 
 
Here are two features from the archives highlighting ways to make minilessons more visual.
 
Clare Landrigan and Tammy Mulligan explain to students how previewing is like watching a movie in Previewing and Picture Walks with Fiction Texts:
 
 
 
Shari Frost and her colleagues have many creative strategies for teaching with wordless picture books in Worth a Thousand Words:
 
 
 
The Literacy Shed is a treasure trove of films and images for use in minilessons:
 

 
Last chance to register for the online course Designing Primary Writing Units with the Common Core in Mind instructed by Katie DiCesare, which runs December 3-14. The course includes three on-demand webinars, a DVD, print resources, and personal response from Katie. Click on the link below for more details:
 
 
 
 
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Thursday, November 20, 2014

This article draws some interesting conclusions. Take a look and see what you think. Enjoy! Coutesy of ASCDSmartBrief

Report analyzes independent-reading selections
Students generally do not select challenging nonfiction for independent reading, according to a recent report. While students' selection of nonfiction has increased by 5%, the number still is below recommendations in the Common Core State Standards. The Christian Science Monitor (11/18)
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Friday, November 7, 2014

This is a review of 250 studies and the indications for the instruction based on the following conclusions: spending more time writing, writing using a computer and relying less on traditional grammar lessons. This is a ground breaking study. Please take the time to review. Courtesy of ASCD Smart Brief.

Analysis reveals effective practices for writing instruction
Word-processing software may help improve students' writing quality, according to a recent review of about 250 studies on writing instruction. Researchers identified three instructional practices -- spending more time writing, writing using a computer and relying less on traditional grammar lessons -- that they say could help improve writing instruction. The Hechinger Report/Education by the Numbers blog (10/27)Bookmark and Share