Saturday, November 14, 2015

Growing Independent Reading Time with Our Youngest Literacy Learners

In the first weeks of our reading workshops we take careful and intentional steps to set the tone and develop routines for the work we will do as readers.  As readers, students will need time to read, think, and grow.  As teachers, we will need time to confer with our readers and work in small groups.  How do we build time for independence when the books students read can often be completed in less than five minutes?  As a teacher of readers, I value time, choice, genuine conversation, and opportunities to extend reading beyond the text.  Here are a few ways I find useful in stretching our time we spend with books and learning in reader's workshop:

Teach with Intention:  The focus lesson should set readers up for the work they will be doing.  The focus lesson starts our workshop and helps students to know what they will be thinking about as they go off to read.  Whether it is a new reading strategy or a way to think about the text, readers consider a plan of action that will help them to learn during this time.  Making time to share at the end reinforces this focus and celebrates the discoveries made during learning time.  Considering this focus and language to support new learning in conference conversations and small group work helps readers to make sense of new learning.

Develop Story:  Listen to students talk about the stories they are reading.  Do they point to pictures and discuss each page as a separate event or do they weave them together as a story?  Build story language in focus lessons, small groups, and peer conversations.  Help students learn to take the time they need to talk through the pictures when a book is too challenging, preview before reading, or to retell books they've read using story language.

Place Books Everywhere:  The less movement in a workshop the easier it is to work with readers.  Young readers haven't developed the stamina of their older peers and books take much less time.  Having baskets students can take with them for workshop and placing books all around the room will make it easy for students to find a place to nestle in to read.

Grow Book Conversations:  Help students learn to talk with peers about the stories they are reading.  Retelling, making connections, questioning, thinking about characters, comparing books, and learning to consider the author's message are all ways to build our understanding and engage in book conversations with our peers.

Value Thinking:  Allow flexible (optional) response.  The addition of digital tools has really grown the way we can respond to our reading.  Yes, we can use post-its, paper, or a notebook to draw and write about our thinking, but we can also share our thinking using digital tools that can be shared to expand the reach of our voice.  Blogs, creation tools (sketch noting, Educreations, Explain Everything, Pixie, etc.), and other digital spaces can help students expand their thinking beyond the text.  

Teach Balance:  We can't expect students to spend all of their time with leveled readers, but we also need them to be making smart choices.  If students understand balancing reading choices, they can not only spend time engaging as readers, but can begin to make intentional learning decisions.  I read books of a variety of challenge.  I spend the least amount of time with challenging books as I find I need time to think about them so I read in short bursts and spend much time thinking later.

Grow Possibilities:  Keep in mind the power of read aloud and shared reading for growing possibilities for young readers.  Choose books to read with students they will be able to return to and read independently after the whole class experience.

Keep Workshop Conversations about Learning:  If we're not careful, it can be easy to find ourselves talking about behavior over learning in our workshops.  When students are having a hard time engaging as readers we need to ask ourselves why and what we can do to help.  Is the task too challenging?  Are books available that match the reader's interest and ability?  Are students focused on learning and developing plans to grow as readers?  Does the classroom library need a lift?  Are students focused on new learning and thinking about books?  What do students need in order to be successful?

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Saturday, November 7, 2015

Hilliard U: A New Kind of Professional Development

This year my son, John,
a SACC employee and education
major, spent the day with me.
He was a big fan of all of our
technology sessions.
Personalized Professional Development
As educators, the internet has opened the floodgates of ways we can connect, collaborate, and learn with others across the globe.  #Edcamps have popped up near and far to allow educators to come together and self-determine the professional learning experience they need without cost to the participant.  Professional books, virtual book talks, MOOCs, and social media platforms allow us to shape our own learning.

Teachers collaborate, look at resources,
and plan as part of a literacy session
to help find focus.
If you stop by this blog much, you know I'm a proponent of personalized professional development (related posts).  No longer does professional development look like a meeting with information being sent out in lecture-like formats about topics in which we have no control.  Sure districts have some common conversations needed for systems to work efficiently and effectively, but there are so many more opportunities for us to learn and grow.

Hilliard U
Brian Kight, of Focus 3 Culture,
led the Hilliard U keynote.
(Great post about the R Factor
 by Craig Vroom at
Fueling Education -- and love
Nicole Roholt's Sketchnote
featured here).
For the second year in a row, our district is hosting a day of professional learning that allows educators in our district to personalize their schedule for the day to meet their needs.  On "Hilliard U" days our entire district comes together to learn.  Keynote speakers keep us working within a common message, but break out sessions allow us to personalize our learning.  Educators, and other district staff, host sessions applicable to the work we do each day with children.  It's an opportunity to collaborate with others across the district and to see the many things going on in classrooms across our school system.

While Hilliard U has an #edcamp feel, sessions are planned in advance.  Sessions cover a range of topics including:  literacy, math, technology, growth mindset, unique student needs, and so much more.  For me, it is an opportunity to connect with educators across the district.  The atmosphere is charged with engaging conversation.  Food trucks line the perimeter of the school as participants grab a quick bite to eat, share in conversation, and enjoy a bit of entertainment (and this year the weather was divine!).  There are collaborative rooms set up for meeting with others.  I'm grateful to all who work behind the scenes help make this event work --- and to all who are willing to share.
The Food Truck Line

Here is a Hilliard U Storify with tweets of the day from participants across our district shared by Scott Morrison:

To give you an idea of the extensive course offerings (and hopefully an opportunity to see more about sessions you may have missed)  please stop by to visit or link up with this Hilliard U session collection.