Monday, March 16, 2015

Creating (and Keeping!) Young Readers

I just finished reading through my Reading Today Journal that I receive because I am a member of the International Literacy Association. (Which, on a side note, if you love reading, love teaching reading, or love instilling a love of reading in others- you should become a member of this association- see the end of the post for more details!) The article that struck me the most from this edition of the journal was called "For the Love of Reading: Five methods to instill a lifetime of good habits" by: Pam Allyn. Here is my reflection on that article:

In her article, she describes five different things that we as parents, educators, members of society as a whole, can do to make sure that our young people (as early as birth) are being read to and are reading themselves. Well, not the babies, but you get the idea! Find those kids and find them books and READ! I love this article because it seems like common sense. It seems like everyone knows that we should foster a love of reading in kids. It seems like we don't need to remind people- but we do! It's a busy world out there and we need to stop and smell the pages! Or in our technological time we live in, click to flip those crisp, digital pages!

As a teacher, her first tip, to "read aloud", is my favorite. I LOVE reading aloud to students. Now, it's not always happening, as I totally understand that kids have to read on their own- but when it's applicable- I cannot resist reading to students! The look on their faces when they come and sit around as you read- you can visually see the change. My all time favorite read-aloud book (probably good for grades 4-6) is called Skeleton Man by: Joseph Bruchac. You can check it out here. It's amazing. I don't even want to explain why it's amazing (because I don't want to give it away), but you should get it and read it to your class. Right now. They will love it and so will you. Oh, and that moment I was talking about before. Pam Allyn references it in her article as a "bonding experience" and she's absolutely right. There's just something special that happens when you read aloud to a child that you don't know until you've seen it.

Her next point, to "encourage reading from a young age" also hits close to home because I am a mom of two small children. My husband, a middle school math teacher, and I love to read to our kids. We also love that they fight us for "one more book" at night and that my son, who turns 4 in June, is starting to "read" to his little sister, who just turned 2. There's that bonding experience that Pam Allyn was talking about- happening right in my sons bedroom when he's not even 4 years old. Reading! It's magical! Allyn gives tips- like using picture books and asking questions- all great ways to get young readers involved in a text. When they start to value a book at a young age- it will carry on for their lifetime!

The next point, "make the journey a celebration", is really interesting- especially for kids who love attention to detail like I do! She suggests that we "pause and celebrate" the reading as they go- to make a big deal out of even the small moments. I love seeing this in my small reading groups- when a student recognizes a word and reads it correctly- especially one they have been struggling with. We ALWAYS stop and have a little moment- after all, learning something new is a great accomplishment! Never forget to give your students credit!

Up next is "hand them a pen" and as you can imagine- it has to do with writing. I love that she reminds us that kids of all ages can "create." They don't have to be writing five paragraph essays in response to a novel- they can "write or create" anything in response to their reading and that is putting them on the right path. Sometimes I forget that every little step in the right direction matters. Teaching reading is oftentimes a challenge- and like I said above- never forget to give your students credit.

The last of the five tips is "honor each child's unique identity" and more than us doing that- I love how Allyn points out that we should have kids do it. She says to "invite readers to pay close attention to their reading processes" and I think this is genius. We need our students to be little self-aware beings if we want them to own their learning. Don't forget to encourage them to look inward every now and again. Goodness knows that we (as the reading specialists and teachers) keep plenty of data on our students- but let's try and get our students to keep some mental data of their own!

I'm going to sum this up with the final thought, as shown in this screenshot from the article. Again- if you are looking for this article or support for any of the quotes in this reflection- it is from the Reading Today Journal from the International Literacy Association and it is called "For the Love of Reading: Five methods to instill a lifetime of good habits" by: Pam Allyn.

For more info about ILA or to join, go to their website here and notice a $10 off discount code!

Monday, March 9, 2015

Common Core Conferencing

Have you ever wanted to try going paperless AND bring your student reading conferences to the next level? 

If you answered yes to both of those statements (and even if you answered no!) then read on as I describe how I conduct my student reading conferences and keep them aligned with the common core AND am able to easily communicate that data to many different audiences with the click of a button!

So now I am going to offer a glimpse into my paperless Common Core Conferences that I have with my RTI (Response to Intervention) students. As you know, I am a reading specialist who loves all things technology and paperless. Because of this, I developed a way to consistently measure my students against the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) while also keeping excellent paperless data that I can then communicate with the student, his/her teachers, administration, and parents.

First, I want to go over the tools I used to create and implement my Common Core Conferences. I first created the documents in Pages (the CCSS info I got from an awesome Common Core App from Mastery Connect), uploaded them to my Google Drive, from there put them into Notability (an iPad app) and then take notes on my iPad during my conference/interactions with the student. Having a nifty stylus that offers a fine point also helps with this process (and using the type to text feature in Notability)! I got mine from my principal- but you can easily order one on Amazon.

Now, lets walk step by step through the process with a 5th grade student example. I have two versions of the Common Core Conference form for each grade. A "short" form and a "detailed" form. I use the short form, a snapshot of this form is seen below, to take quick notes and to summarize the more detailed findings as I learn them about the student. 

Along with this form, I use a detailed version of the same form to go into a little more depth of how the student achieved the standard and also break down the standards a little more to possibly find where problems may arise. A snapshot of this detailed form is seen below:

So what do these forms look like when they are filled out? Here is an example from John Smith, an obviously fake name of a real student that I have in a 5th grade group right now. You will see from the short form, where I take quick notes as to when he passes (or progresses through) certain standards, and then on the detailed form where I mark how and when he ultimately achieves each CCSS. These two forms work together to give me a great snapshot of his learning and I can also refer to them for when I am meeting with his teachers during an RTI meeting, with his parents during a conference, or even with him as we discuss his progress in our group.

CCSS 5th Grade Short Form Sample

CCSS 5th Grade Detailed Form Sample

As you can see, both of those are screenshots taken from Notability- the app I use constantly to keep this form updated. Once the form is complete, or if anyone needs to see it, I simply upload it to my google drive from inside Notability and share it with the teacher or anyone else. This keeps the process completely paperless while keeping everyone completely informed. 

Think you want to try this on your own? Head on over to my Teachers Pay Teachers storefront to checkout my listings of Common Core Conference forms. Here is the short form link and here is the detailed form link.

Please feel free to comment or leave feedback below- and if you are doing something similar- lets chat and share ideas! If you aren't even close to something like this yet- lets chat about that, too, and maybe I can help!

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Icy Traffic!

This new blog post is titled ICY traffic for two reasons. 
First, as I look out the window I see the lovely ice coated landscape of Berwyn, IL and realize that my commute home will be almost entirely on a sheet of ice- leading to some very ICY traffic! 
The other reason is the fact that I had almost 

200 blog views in few days post the ICE Conference last Friday! 


A huge shoutout to all my new visitors- hopefully you found the resources you were looking for from my Going Paperless in the 21st Century presentation. If you are still looking- check right above this post where you see the word Paperless. You click that and it brings you to the whole slideshow in image form. 

Remember- if you have ANY questions at all, please comment and ask. I would love to help!

I also wanted to seek out some interest levels on another presentation of mine: Using Technology to Improve Reading Instruction. Like my Going Paperless presentation, it offers tips and tricks to help with using technology in the classroom- specifically in the reading classroom (as my background is a Reading Specialist). 
If any of my readers would be interested in seeing the images from that presentation, please comment  below and let me know! Also, if you could include where you are from or some more about you (Twitter handle, school district, etc) that would be even better!

I look forward to building a PLN with all my new readers and hopefully sharing some new information!