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Introducing! A Hierarchy of Writing Goals

Posted by on Jan 25, 2017 in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Introducing! A Hierarchy of Writing Goals

Introducing! A Hierarchy of Writing Goals

It’s crucial to spend time making sure you’re choosing the right goal to focus on for each writer in your classroom. Choosing an appropriate goal requires that you have a deep knowledge of your students, developed through assessments and by talking to your students and getting to know them as people. You’ll likely plan to spend time observing them as they write and meeting with them in conferences to learn about their interests and hopes for their writing. You’ll also likely do more formal assessments such as asking them to write “on demand” (completing a piece of writing in one sitting) and looking at those pieces for qualities of writing that you hope to teach. The ten goal categories I use are: Composing with Pictures, Engagement, Generating Ideas, Focus, Structure/Organization, Elaboration, Word Choice, Conventions: Spelling, Conventions: Punctuation & Grammar, and Partnerships & Clubs. I have arranged these ten goals into a hierarchy to help me prioritize when I discover a student could use support with more than one goal (see image at top left). Think of it not as a hierarchy of most important to least, or from simplest to most sophisticated. Instead, this is a hierarchy of action. For example, if I notice a child could use support in two areas—say, structure and elaboration—I’m inclined to start with the one that’s closest to the top (structure) and work my way down (elaboration). Think of that example. Why teach a child to fill her page with details if the details are disorganized and it will make the writing difficult to follow? The first goal is composing with pictures. It’s a goal centered around teaching children to use sketches and illustrations to tell stories, teach, and/or persuade. The idea behind this first goal is that even before children are able to write conventionally with words, they can compose pieces of work using what they can do— draw pictures. Also, as children get older, using pictures as way to practice qualities of good writing, and as a way to plan their writing, has lots of value. Engagement comes next because unless students see themselves as writers, have the stamina to sit and write, and want to write, it’ll be hard to focus on qualities. They’ve got to practice to improve. Generating ideas is a goal that’s close to the top of the list because it’s crucial to help children come up with their own topics and ideas for their writing. An inability to do so could also be a root cause of disengagement with writing. Independent writers need a never-ending bank of things to write about. Focus is the next goal category because when a writer sets out to write a piece, there should be something that helps it to be cohesive. It could be an idea, it could be a thesis statement, it could be a focus on a period of time (as is sometimes the case with some stories). But it can’t be wandering all over the place. Without focus, it’s hard to know what details to add and what to take away, and it’s hard to have a purpose or meaning behind the writing. Next: structure. A piece needs to be organized so that a reader is able to follow the story, the argument, or the categories of what’s being taught. Having a clear structure, and having solid parts within that structure (lead, middle, ending, for example), helps a writer to know how to use detail effectively. The next two goals—elaboration and word choice—appear side-by-side on the hierarchy. Each goal will help writers fill out the structure they’ve created. Elaboration is about...

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Reading Teacher Priority One: Getting to Know Your Students as Readers

Posted by on Aug 19, 2016 in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Reading Teacher Priority One: Getting to Know Your Students as Readers

Reading Teacher Priority One: Getting to Know Your Students as Readers

The first couple of weeks back to school can feel hectic. There’s routine-establishing, environment-orienting, and community building to be done! As a teacher who wants to instill in all my students a love of reading and the skills to do it well, I want also to make sure that getting to know my readers is also at the very top of my list. To help teachers fit this effort into an already busy time, what follows are some of my favorite ways to make this a do-able part of the first days back. 1. Kidwatch. Get kids set up with books of their choosing within the first couple days of school. Set aside time to for kids to read independently and watch what happens. Who’s spacing out? Who’s giggling at the funny parts? Who is asking to use the bathroom? Whose eyes are glued to the pages? Who’s staring at you instead of looking at the book? I like keeping notes about this on a simple class list where I make up annotations as I watch.     2. Invite Reflection. Use the reader’s notebook as a spot for students to reflect on their reading histories, and to plan for their reading life this coming school year. For example, you may invite students to list books they’ve read that are great and those they’ve read that are “the pits” and then to look for patterns to inform future book choices.               3. Make the Rounds. Since many students’ stamina still needs to be built and supported at the start of a new school year, sitting down to do lengthy conferences can make it hard to find time to spend with every student. Instead, make the rounds in your classroom with quick 90-second compliment conferences. Here’s how it could go: First, pull up alongside a student and spend 30-45 seconds researching: ask a few questions, listen to the student read aloud, or/and take a peek at anything he or she has written about reading (sticky notes, notebook entries). Jot down some notes about the student’s strengths as a reader and ideas you have for next steps. Then, offer the child a compliment-in-a-paragraph: name what they’ve demonstrated they’re able to do, how that’s helpful to them as a reader, and an example from their own work. Click here to watch videos of me using compliment conferences with three fourth graders. 4. Prompt for Quick Jots During Read Aloud. For fluent writers (typically grades 2 and above), ask students to come to the gathering area one day with a clipboard or notebook stickered with four post its. Have them put their initials on the upper corner of each one. Then, read aloud a favorite short story or short picture book. During the reading, ask them to stop and jot four times. If it’s fiction, you may have them jot once for Plot and Setting (Why did X happen? What problems is the character facing? Retell the most important events so far. Describe where the story is taking place.); Character (What kind of person is X? How is X impacting Y? How is X changing?); Vocabulary and Figurative Language (Explain what X means in this story.); and Themes and Ideas (What lesson can you learn from this story? What does X symbolize? What are some social issues the author is writing about in this story?) Then, collect the sticky notes and sort/rank them. Put those students with the strongest answers to the first question in one pile, those with the most simplistic answers in another. You’ve got your first several...

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Updates to THE READING STRATEGIES BOOK

Posted by on Nov 25, 2015 in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Updates to THE READING STRATEGIES BOOK

Updates to THE READING STRATEGIES BOOK

Hello Reading Strategies Book Users! I just got my newest printing of the Reading Strategies Book in the mail. Thank you all so much for your readership! Thanks to feedback from some of the many teachers who are using the book, I have made a few changes to the interior that I wanted to share with all of you. All of the changes were meant to help to make intentions clearer and navigation even easier. Here they are, in pictures and words: 1. On page 3 there is a “Hierarchy of Possible Goals” chart. In the first few printings, the figure is all blue. In the latest printing, we have added new color-coding. This is because I was showing some teachers at the KSRA conference how each of the goals on the hierarchy relates to one of the chapters in the rest of the book. One of the teachers seemed to have an “ah-ha!” right there and then she said, “You know what you should do? Color-code the graphic!” What brilliance. So I asked the fabulous designer of the book and she made it happen! Page 3<–Click here 2. The overview pages of each of the goal chapters, and the “level” category in each margin, now have a level range that starts with a level and ends with a level. For example, instead of saying “any” you’ll find “A-Z+”; instead of saying “M and above” it will say “M-Z+” The reason for this change is that there were several people who didn’t understand that “and above” meant “all the way up!” and they thought it was just around the starting level. Hopefully this clears it up! I’m attaching the sample overview from chapter 6, Character. Page 165 <–Click here 3. I have added a level correlation chart as an appendix at the end of the book (see attached photo of that new page). This one people may want to print out and stick in their books. I made this change because of a few questions I got with people who were entirely unfamiliar with the F&P leveling system. “How does this correlate to Lexiles?” some asked, while others said, “We don’t use levels at all. How do I know what’s appropriate for Grade ___?” I have to say this change was a hard one to make. As you’ll read in the opening paragraphs, there are a gazillion versions of level correlation charts available with a simple Google search. I tried to take the average and use my best sense, and I hope that this general guide helps people match strategies to their readers. Page 378 <–Click here In sum, I hope these changes help make things easier and clearer for all of you whether or not you have the newest printing. And if your colleague’s book looks a little different than yours, you now know why. Thanks again for all the love and support for this book! I’m so glad it’s helping your readers. All my best (and Happy Thanksgiving!) Jen...

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The Reader, the Text, the Task: Considering Variables When Using Leveled Books

Posted by on Jan 21, 2015 in Uncategorized | Comments Off on The Reader, the Text, the Task: Considering Variables When Using Leveled Books

The Reader, the Text, the Task: Considering Variables When Using Leveled Books

Lately, as I’ve been trying to help teachers whose states mandate moving kids through reading levels — called “SGO” or “SLO” or something else depending on where I am — I’ve been finding myself talking about the interplay between reader, task, and text. Just how significant are the “reader” and “task” dimensions when matching books and readers? Think of one reader in your class and consider how you’d answer each of the following questions: At what level can the student read a short 100 word passage out loud with fluency and accuracy when not being asked comprehension questions? At what level can the student read an entire chapter book with stamina, appropriate pacing, and deep comprehension? At what level can a child understand a text on a first read? How high could the level go if the student were allowed to re-read the text several times? At what level can a child read if you are sitting right next to him or her as he or she reads? At what level can the student answer questions with lots of prompting and support from the teacher? At what level can the reader write about his reading to show complex thinking and deep comprehension? It’s likely that you didn’t answer the same level for all of the questions above. What I’ve been finding is that I can think of “reader” “task” and “text level” as inter-related and often inversely proportional. As one increases, another decreases. For example, if the task is simple – perhaps reading a short text quickly to get the gist – then the child could probably read a higher level than usual. But, if the task is to read independently and write to demonstrate deep thinking (a high demand on the reader), it helps if the text level is at a lower level. Some other scenarios to consider: READER (Motivation, background knowledge) TASK(Independent or with support? Talk about and/or write about?) LEVEL (Levels of meaning, themes and ideas, vocabulary, character development, text structure) High (may vary) High Low High Low Moderate High Low (may vary) Low High So why does all of this matter? When we are trying to help match readers to books, here are some takeaways: It’s not helpful to think of the text level a child is able to read as fixed. Depending on what we’re asking a child to do with the book, and/or what the child brings to the book in terms of background knowledge or motivation, the level the student can comprehend may be variable. We have to make sure our assessment matches the reader. In our assessments to determine appropriate text complexity, it’s important we give students a choice in what they read since motivation and background knowledge are important. Or, when we can’t give a choice, we need to take that variable into consideration when evaluating the assessments. We have to make sure our assessment matches the task. If we are asking students to read a whole chapter book, independently, and do high level thinking with that book, then it doesn’t make sense to put all of our eggs in the “read a 100 word excerpt and answer a few questions” basket. Of, if a child can only handle a text when we are sitting next to them, walking them through it line by line, then it doesn’t make sense to give them a text at the same level to read independently without that support. We shouldn’t rely solely on only one assessment as the end-all, be-all. Running records? They help us learn about fluency and accuracy and a little bit...

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Twitter Chat Monday June 9th @ 8pm

Posted by on May 15, 2014 in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Twitter Chat Monday June 9th @ 8pm

Twitter Chat Monday June 9th @ 8pm

Please join me on Twitter for a discussion of how we can “Find the Joy in Rigorous Reading.” We’ll follow a Q1/A1 format, with new questions every 10 minutes. Follow #readingjoy. Here are the questions: 1. What are the conditions in your classroom where the most joyful reading happens? 2. What interferes with the joy? 3. Is there a way to balance higher expectations (dare I say “rigor”?) and the joy we know matters? 4. How important is comprehension in our quest for joy? 5. Can we assess joy? If so, what are we looking for? What tools do we use? 6. Can we plan for joy? What “new year’s resolutions” do you have as you reflect on this year and consider changes for the upcoming...

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Upcoming #litlead Chat May 8, 2014

Posted by on May 5, 2014 in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Upcoming #litlead Chat May 8, 2014

On May 8 at 8:30PM EST I’m honored to be leading a #litlead Twitter chat to discuss formative assessment. I hope this chat serves as part trouble-shooting, part inspiration, and part practical advice for future planning. Chances are good many of us hear “assessment” and think of mandates that take away from teaching time, and offer us little help with what to do next. It’s a shame, because good assessment is at the heart of effective classroom instruction It helps teachers to create goals for students, give effective feedback, and measure progress over time. In this chat, we’ll attempt to reclaim the word assessment to mean the types of classroom-embedded practices that support instruction and learning. Together, we’ll reconsider what “data” is the most helpful, what assessment practices in the classroom help us teach better, and how to use the information from assessments to set goals with students. I look forward to hearing some of your thoughts on some of the following questions: • What are some examples of assessments you can’t do without – but that nobody is making you give? • How do we keep in-class formative assessment relevant in the time of CCSS? • What practices do you find helpful when evaluating formative assessments? • How do you involve students in self-reflecting on assessments? • How do you use assessments to set individual goals? • How do you manage individual goals and unit goals? I’ll look forward to “meeting” you online...

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