Tuesday, September 29, 2015

#T21Con- My Reflection

The College of Education at Illinois State University hosted their annual Teaching in the 21st Century  Conference (T21Con) just over two weeks ago on Friday, September 18. It's been a crazy time since then so it took me a pretty long time to get this reflection posted- but better late than never! Let me start by saying that this is the fifth year the conference has happened and the third year in a row that I have presented. While I can honestly say that I loved each year of the conference- this year was above and beyond the rest. There was such a great energy on Friday that it was hard to miss the excitement in the air. Unfortunately, I didn't get to take many pictures- but I did follow the #T21Con hashtag on Twitter and stole some really great snippets from the day.

And I think it's important to note that if I sound super gushy and proud as I type this, it's because I graduated from ISU in 2008, along with my husband, and I absolutely love the place. It holds a super special place in my heart and I can't possibly write a post about ISU without mentioning how great it is. Peter (my husband) and I met at ISU and as teachers, it prepared and set our lives on a fantastic path. Fun fact: The conference took place in the Bone Student Center on ISU's campus- and in that student center they have the Braden Auditorium. Why is this a fun fact? Because Peter and I named our first born Brayden- a tip of the hat to our alma mater. We also named our second child, a girl, Olive- which is the name of a street in downtown Bloomington.  Cheesy- yes. Proud of our alma mater- yes, yes, yes.

So onto the conference. It opened up with the best keynote that I've seen so far at #T21Con- an amazing moment with Kevin Honeycutt. Now I had seen Kevin Honeycutt give a keynote before- he was our keynote speaker at iEngage Berwyn last May- but this is the best, by far, that I have ever seen him. He was funny, motivational, inspirational, and emotional all at the same time and it was the perfect audience for him. I've never been in a room of people so impacted by a person speaking before and it was the perfect start to a conference dedicated to learning. 

After the keynote it was time to prepare for our presentation. I say "our" presentation because this was the very first co-presentation that Peter and I have done together. As I mentioned, I have presented at this conference twice before- both on my own with the topics of Going Paperless in the 21st Century Classroom and Using Technology to Improve Reading Instruction. Peter has also presented by himself, last year, with the topic of Classrooms of the 21st Century. So this was a big deal for us. I present my two sessions often and I just wanted something new- and I wanted to present with Peter since we both share the same passion for the field of education and I knew that if we both got in front of an audience- the results would be amazing.

With that said, our new presentation, debuted at #T21Con, was Educator Expectations in the 21st Century Classroom. This is a presentation that we made specifically for this conference with pre-service and new teachers in mind. We set out with the mission to help new teachers by (a) making them aware of the changes that are happening in the field of education and (b) giving them the confidence and motivation to conquer the ever-changing educational climate. We wanted to convey the message to never, ever stop learning- and I think we did just that. Our presentation focused on four parts- (1) Creating your PLN (personal learning network) (2) Using Social Media in the Classroom (3) Digital Communication with Parents and (4) Becoming a Lifelong Learner. Note that the last part there isn't creating a lifelong learner in the student- but becoming a lifelong learner yourself. This, we think, is the key to being a successful teacher and I think we did a great job at conveying that to our audience.  Below are some tweets that a fellow D100 friend sent out during our session:

I'm also going to include some tweets sent out after our presentation- all of which I love seeing that we made a positive impact on the conference!

Anytime you get a shout out from Kevin Honeycutt- it's a good day!

The fact that we got this aspiring teacher to create a twitter and get started on her lifelong learning journey is amazing! Mission accomplished!

We love our College of Education crew and so for them to give us this shout out was so sweet- anytime we can help or lend a hand- let us know!

Last up, a super cute selfie of Peter and I during our friend Mike Saracini's TouchCast presentation- who also did a very wonderful job at inspiring the crowd. It was definitely an informative session that left all the attendees in awe- there were definitely lots of exciting whispers happening in the crowd as he spoke. It was pretty cool. Plus it gave Peter and I the chance to decompress after our session and learn something new from a friend.

Coming up next week will be my reflection from the Illinois Reading Council Conference- where I will be this week on Thursday 10/1 and Friday 10/2.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Reading Strategies Book: Goal 13 Reflection

I can't believe I am about to say this- but this is the final reflection from Jennifer Serravallo's The Reading Strategies Book! We made it to the end of this fantastic online book study! The first post was on August 3 and we are finishing on September 15- a nicely spaced series of posts all reflecting on fantastic reading strategies from a fantastic author. Since this is the final post, and maybe you are just joining in, I am going to link all the previous posts in this one- just to make them easy for you to find from one place. So here they are from 1-12:

Which bring us finally to Goal 13: Improving Writing About Reading. You didn't think we'd get through this whole book without a goal focused on writing, did you?! If you've been waiting for it, here it is!! I love that this strategy was saved for the end because, obviously, writing has been incorporated into the whole text but now we just have a really distinct focus on it at the end. As Serravallo states, "Teaching children to write well about their reading is about teaching them that their thinking about books matters. It matters enough to take the time to write it down." (Page 350). I just love that quote. Any time we are teaching a child that something they do matters is a great moment. And I feel like we should attach more of this value to the everyday doing of kids because we really need to send the message to them that their education does matter. That we pick out tasks and lessons and skills for them to do that are valuable and will make them more valuable. Everything is deliberate in the plan and organic in the outcome. It's up to them to show us how awesome they are and that we know they can be that kind of awesome. That's a message we should send to kids more often.

As you can see, the three focus strategies that I chose for this reflection are 13.4: Buying Stock in Sticky Notes, 13.13: Lifting a Line, and 13.16: Character Connections Web. Many of the strategies in this section of the book focus on readers at a Level M or higher, so I tried to pick at least one strategy (13.4) that is good to use with any level of readers. 

First up is 13.4: Buying Stock in Sticky Notes. First thing I thought about this sticky note strategy was that it would be great to use with an earlier strategy from the book. If you look back at my Goal 9 reflection, you'll see 9.13: Important Versus Interesting where you can use lots of sticky notes as you read but then separate them into important and interesting when it comes down to thinking and writing about the text. That strategy would pair nicely with this one!

As you can see, when the student is reading and they have a thought, they stop and jot it on a post it note. Then they can reflect on those post it notes and think about what to write from there. Using 9.13 strategy comes into play when you don't have to check every single "jot" because some are just interesting and not exactly important. While I don't always recommend combining too many strategies with students (keep it simple!), sometimes when they mesh nicely together it can really help with scaffolding their understanding and help them tremendously!

Next up is 13.13: Lifting a Line. Admittedly, I did kind of pick this because of it's unlucky 13.13 nature, but it's also a really sound strategy to use with readers around Level N or above. When I was younger (and even now), I loved quotes. I love finding parts of texts that really stand out and speak to me and typically, for me, that was a great springboard for writing. I could put a quote at the top of the page and write/reflect on it for the assignment. This strategy is helpful for those students who the thoughts don't always come flowing easily. 

Here's how it works. You read a text, find an important line, and then write your thoughts. It's as simple as that. If we start teaching kids to simply get their impactful thoughts on paper, they will start to write more freely and easily. Once they get their initial thoughts down, you can then prompt them for more and more and turn the initial quote response into a complete written response. A nice (tricky) way to get good, solid thoughts in writing from students!

Last up (and really last!!)  is 13.16: Character Connections Web. I'm going to jump right to the visual for this one because I think it helps to see it as I talk you through it. 

As you can see, they write the names of the main characters on the page (and post-its, if you really did buy stock!) and then they commence the connection making! If you have this page set out from the beginning, you can always reference it when you learn or sense a connection. I like this idea of having a safe space for these connections because you are more likely to write them down here instead of brushing them off and forgetting about them later. It will be important, when using this strategy, to remind students that everything they write doesn't have to be right in this case. They might sense a connection, write it down, and have to alter it later. Be sure to teach them that this is called learning- not a mistake. Once students become proficient with this activity, they will absolutely more likely be able to make character connections in the future. 

Well that's it! I want to thank @LitLoveGal1 Colleen and the #ReadingStrategiesCrew for starting and inviting me into this amazing social media book study on Jennifer Serravallo's The Reading Strategies Book. This has been an awesome experience and I have learned so much. Being a lifelong learner is so important to being a teacher and this is just one easy way to dedicate a little time to bettering yourself. 

Friday, September 11, 2015

Reading Strategies Book: Goal 12 Reflection

Welcome back, readers! First let me say that I am very sorry that this post is a day late! I explained in my last post (read it here) that it was a crazy week for me with my husband having shoulder surgery- but it was also an adorable week because my kids started preschool yesterday. So between taking a half day to get them to school and then getting back to my own job after a few days off- it all just got away from me. But hey, considering we are on goal 12 or 13- I am pretty impressed that I stayed on track this long! So even though these pictures are not reading strategy related, they are incredibly cute and I feel the proud-mommy need to share them with you all. 

This first one is of both of my kids- Brayden, who is 4 and Olive, who is 2.5. They really don't totally like each other this much- but they can at least turn it on for pictures!

Here's Olive. She's our little ham. The world needs to watch out for her; she's fearless and determined while being adorable silly at the same time. This is her first ever day of school- and it's safe to say she was very excited! No tears at all!

Here's Brayden. He's our shy, tender-hearted little boy- who, when his sister isn't making him crazy, is pretty much the sweetest, nicest boy you'll ever meet. This is his first day of Pre-K and his second year of school. He went last year as a 3 year old- but didn't go to 2's like his little sister.

As you can see, both share a deep love and admiration for Paw Patrol!

Now that you've met the reason why I am a day late on this reflection- let's get right to it! Today we are here discussing the next Goal in Jennifer Serravallo's The Reading Strategies Book which is Goal 12: Supporting Students' Conversations: Speaking, Listening, and Deepening Comprehension.  As Serravallo puts it, "When kids talk well about books, the conversations can be invigorating, engaging, and enlightening. When they don't go well, kids get bored and off task and time is wasted. What kids most often need is instruction into how to talk well, period, and also how to talk well about books." (Page 324). I love that this quote really explains that kids do talk. They talk a lot, actually. We just need to focus on giving them the right strategies to talk about books in the right ways. If you think about it, 50% of our job is already done. The kids already talk. Now just spend 50% more time making sure it's about the right stuff and it will be 100% awesome!

Here's another long quote- but again, this really explains perfectly what's happening here. Serravallo says, "There are two sides to the productive conversation coin. First, students need to have a hearty repertoire of conversational skills. Second, they need good stuff to talk about, meaning that their comprehension of the text and the depth of their thinking can impact the conversation." (Page 324). This. Is. Perfect. Just reread it and think about it. We have to teach them how to talk properly (hence the upcoming strategies), but we also have to give them meaningful things to talk about. We, as the teachers, are not without responsibility in this task.  

As you can see, this week's focus strategies for Goal 12 are 12.2: Listen and Respond, 12.10: Sentence Starter Sticks, and 12.20: Power Questions. Remember that there are so many more strategies in the text- for readers of all levels and for skills of all types. Be sure to check them all out because your needs and likes might be different than mine! 

I listed both pictures right away for this strategy because I think the visual does a fantastic job of explaining what is happening with this strategy. As much as this goal focuses on getting students talking, we must also be sure they are listening (now and always!). This strategy really helps student be good listeners to their peers and then construct their responses. I also like that this strategy comes with the nice little symbols for each prompt. This way I could nod to students as I am walking around the room and this would act as a reminder queue for them to be sure they are doing the same with their partner.

Next up is 12.10: Sentence Starter Sticks. I have to admit, I love manipulatives. I don't use them as much as I'd probably like to because I kind of have a rule about not making the learning about the manipulative rather about the learning- but there are absolute times when they are needed. Let's say you somehow have those kids who really don't talk (having taught middle school I don't think this is really possible) but if you do, these sticks would definitely come in handy! Just bring the cup over to the students and have them select a stick and start talking. This is great, too, because you control where the conversation begins- which is a very powerful tool.

I also chose this because I used to use a strategy where I taped little visual cues for reading on the end of sticks to help my struggling readers. I would tape an ear on the stick and hold up that particular stick if I wanted the student to ask themselves if it sounded right. Or I'd tape a magnifying glass and hold it up if I wanted the student to look for clues in the sentence to try and figure out the word. I loved those sticks and students did too. Eventually I didn't need to hold up the stick, they would say, "Oh, what does it sound like?" and eventually they would just internalize the strategy altogether. Mission accomplished!

Last up is 12.20: Power Questions. As Serravallo explains, "Power questions are often ones that begin with why and how and won't have a simple yes-or-no answer. Think about what you wonder- about the book or about another person's ideas- and consider sharing your question, not just a statement." (Page 347). I like to think of power questions with the following "mom" scenario. If I just ask my kids, "How was school today?" they can get off easy with a one word answer. But if I make it a power question, maybe something like "Tell me something that made you think at school today." and poof, I'll get a much more magical answer.

I also like how in the visual it breaks down types of questioners- so students can remember that they don't always need to be a "detective" and sometimes they can be a "judge" and this will help differentiate their thoughts and responses. 

That's all for Goal 12! Be sure to check back on Tuesday 9/15 for the final goal reflection from Jennifer Serravallo's The Reading Strategies Book which is Goal 13: Improving Writing About Reading. 

As always, thanks for reading and be sure to add your thoughts/comments/questions in the space below! 

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Reading Strategies Book: Goal 11 Reflection

Welcome back, everyone! Today's blog post is going to focus on Goal 11: Improving Comprehension in Fiction and Nonfiction: Understanding Vocabulary and Figurative Language. I'm posting a day later than usual because yesterday was Labor Day, and to be honest, I spent most of the day cleaning/getting the house ready because my husband had shoulder surgery this morning to repair a labral tear.  Instead of being at an institute day today at school, I'm at home taking care of him and making sure he follows the rules! He's a teacher too so it's definitely safe to say that we both miss our classrooms but it's important to take care of yourself first.  I'll be home with him today and tomorrow and head back to work Thursday afternoon after we drop our two kids off at their first day of preschool! So wow, it's definitely an exciting/busy/crazy time- but I didn't want to miss a reflection from this awesome book by Jennifer Serravallo. Without further delay, let's get on to the reflection!

Like I said above, we are focusing on Goal 11: Improving Comprehension in Fiction and Nonfiction: Understanding Vocabulary and Figurative Language. I have always loved teaching figurative language- it represents the idea that language can change and have multiple meanings and I love that about learning. Teaching figurative language, for me, is such a complicated and fun thing to do. I love watching as a student's mind wraps around the concept of an idiom and the slow steps they take toward understanding. It's definitely rewarding but equally difficult. For that reason, this "chapter" of The Reading Strategies Book is so necessary! These strategies will definitely go to good use in my lessons!

When discussing vocabulary, another point that Serravallo makes is, " Vocabulary knowledge helps students access background knowledge, express ideas, communicate effectively, and learn about new concepts." (Page 296). For students who have a limited vocabulary and background knowledge, for reasons such as poverty or other limitations, learning is much more complicated for them. I teach these students. They don't have the background knowledge to fall back on. They don't have the luxury to know if a word "sounds right" or "looks right" because they most likely have never encountered it before. This is an aspect of teaching that teachers must always take into account. Your classroom of students will walk into your room with individual experiences and you must consider that all when you begin to teach. 

As you can see, my three focus strategies this week are- 11.4: Categorize Context with Connectors, 11.7: Picture It, and 11.18: Help from Cognates. You're probably tired of me saying this, but seriously this goal was so difficult to pick my top three. I loved all these strategies. All of them are so helpful to students of all levels and they are easy to implement. Considering this goal is such a common struggle for students- the fact that so many easy to implement strategies exist- this is a game-changer for education. 

First up- 11.4: Categorize Context with Connectors. I love this strategy because it isn't about the big, obvious details. It focuses on the small, easy to miss details that are so helpful. They may be easy to miss, but when you pay attention to these details, it makes comprehension so much easier. 

While the above visual looks a bit cluttered (I'd advise using a much simpler one for younger students), but it points out the important information. Perhaps a list of "common connector words" hanging up on a classroom wall would also be helpful to accompany this list. Then, once those words are taught, the above visual will be incredibly helpful.

Next up, 11.7: Picture It! It makes the most sense to skip right to the "picture" to help explain. (I crack myself up sometimes!)

I've said it a million times but I'll say it again. When you need help, try to picture it. Some call it making a movie in your mind, some call it visualizing, others just say picture it (like the strategy name). Whatever you call it, just make sure students are utilizing this strategy. The only time I would advise using this strategy is when students don't have a huge repertoire of background knowledge to pull upon- because if you tell them to picture it and the picture they bring up is blank or wrong, this won't help. However, visualizing will still help them- you will just need to scaffold for them to ensure they are bringing up the right picture.

Last up is 11.18: Help from Cognates. I teach in a school where 45% of our students are LEP (Limited English Proficient) so as you can imagine, this is a strategy that our teachers fall back on regularly. Sometimes we get confused when teaching students and think we have exhausted all teaching options. Well, if a student speaks a different language, try using their own native language to help. I especially like this strategy because it gives students a chance to feel confident and proud that they are really navigating their own learning and aiding their comprehension.

As you can see, the strategy is pretty simple. Follow the steps, keep a handy dandy chart, and let the students take care of the rest!

That's all for today- be sure to stop back here on Thursday for Goal 12: Supporting Students' Conversations: Speaking, Listening, and Deepening Comprehension. We are almost to the end- only 13 goals in total so if you've been following along this long- be sure not to miss out on the final stretch! If you haven't been following along, just click any of the links of the right of the page to bring you back to my full blog and you can review my reflections on goals 1-10. 

As always, thanks for reading and have a great week! Leave any questions or comments below- I love to hear from you!

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Reading Strategies Book: Goal 10 Reflection

Today is the perfect day for me to be reflecting on Goal 10: Supporting Comprehension in Nonfiction- Getting the Most from Text Features because this applies directly to one of my RTI Groups that I just started meeting with. We are reading a nonfiction book from the FnP LLI Gold Kit and these students (5th graders) just started reading the text without paying any attention to any of the text features! I was shocked! So yes, this is the perfect time to study up on some nonfiction text feature strategies!

If you are new to my blog today, welcome! The #ReadingStrategiesCrew started a social media book study (a downright awesome idea) of the book The Reading Strategies Book by Jennifer Serravallo. A must-own if you teach reading or even come in contact with supporting reading in a classroom or intervention setting. Which is pretty much everyone in a school! You're coming in at my reflection on Goal 10, which means there are 9 previous posts that you can check out if you'd like. The topics range everywhere from supporting emergent readers to fluency and from comprehension of fiction to nonfiction. 

Like I said, the goal for this week is Getting the Most from Text Features in Nonfiction texts. I feel like students sometimes think that unless it is written in classic text format, they get a freebie and don't have to read it. That kind of confuses me because you would think they would like the pictures and charts and graphs- but they don't! Or maybe it's not that they don't like it, they just see it as something to skip over and get done with the page faster. If this really is the case- they need to go back to Goal 2 and focus on some Reading Engagement!

This is definitely an important goal, but as Serravallo puts it, "It's true- text features are a really large part of reading, navigating, and understanding nonfiction text. They help to support the main information in the text, add to it, and/or help us navigate it." (Page 270). They aren't just there for decoration- we need to use them to deepen our understanding of the text. It's my theory that sometimes students just think understanding that graph or chart might be too difficult and that is why they skip it. We need to change that mentality. If we can convince students that reading the chart or graph will actually help them and not confuse them more, I think we would have a whole lot more people paying attention to the text features.  Serravallo explains this well when she says, " We need to help them understand the purpose and function of the features, and then move beyond simply naming them. We should teach children how to explain what information the features provide." (Page 271). I love this. I don't want to settle for just knowing that my student can identify a chart. I want them to identify it, read it, learn it, and explain it to me. That's also why I love that this goal wasn't called "noticing" or "seeing" text features because it's not just about knowing they are there- it's about using them and learning from them. 

As you can see, my three focus strategies for this week are10.6: Labels Teach, 10.11: Glossary Warm-Up, and 10.12: Don't Skip It! I know I say this often, but really, this week was tough to select only three. I just love how Serravallo devoted a whole goal to this and all of the strategies are awesome for accomplishing the goal of getting more out of text features.

First up, 10.6: Labels Teach! What I like most about this strategy is that it asks more of students than just labeling. It wants them to apply facts to the labels to gain more knowledge. Check out the visual and that will make more sense:

Notice what is happening here. Say we have a book with a Kangaroo and we see the two labels of Joey and Pouch. We can identify those as labels. But that's not getting the most out of that text feature. So this takes it one step further. Ask the students to use those two labels to make a sentence. The sentence, as you can see, is in fact simple, however it really solidifies the meaning. When we add words to pictures it deepens our understanding and when we add facts to labels, it helps us learn and remember the important information. Side note: this would be great as well for those students who love to add and add and add non-essential information. If it wasn't a label, you can't use it in your fact. Boom! Clarifying ideas, summarizing, synthesizing, and using text features all in one!

Next up is 10.11: Glossary Warm Up! I chose this strategy because I actually wanted to use it in my group today. Here's why: Yesterday in my 5th grade group we were reading a book with a glossary. I prompted the students to explain what the glossary was there for. I did in fact get correct answers, but just surface answers like, "to look up words you don't know" or "to check a definition". Those are correct answers- but I'm not getting that "more" out of students that I am looking for. Glossary's can be really effective to help students' understanding of a text, and I think Serravallo puts it best: when talking about how to use them, she says, "When you come to a word that you remember from the glossary, try to learn its meaning in more detail by getting information from the text." (Page 284). See what I'm saying- we need to get more! Don't just see the word and define it. See the word as an important word (Hello! That's why it's in the glossary!) and then use BOTH the glossary and the text to learn the meaning in more detail. There's that deepen comprehension thing again. I just love how it keeps popping up everywhere!

The visual explains perfectly the concept talked about above. It makes sure that students know to "get ready" with the glossary, start reading, and then, like it says, build your information about the words. That in turn will build your comprehension of the text and poof! you're a reader!

Last up is 10.12: Don't Skip It! I touched on this in the opening paragraph- about how I think students see text features as a freebie- and the terrible implications that can have. We must train students to understand that they cannot skip the text features. They are vital to their understanding of the text and  even more, they are there to help them! I think the visual says it perfectly, so check it out below:

First of all, the ____ in the title is perfect. Eye-catching and definitely something that will draw attention to this anchor chart. It also shows a variety of text features and how to notice them on a page- and my most favorite part is the bottom- where it declares "I read it all!!". This is perfect to hang up as an anchor chart and refer to it every time a student skips a heading or breezes past a picture or chart. We have to train them to read and notice everything- it's simply essential to their growth as a reader.

That's all for today but check back on Tuesday 9/8 for the next post about Goal 11: Improving Comprehension in Fiction and Nonfiction-Understanding Vocabulary and Figurative Language. If you've noticed that I usually post on Monday and Wednesday and am wondering why am waiting until Tuesday next week- it's because Monday is Labor Day and I hope that everyone has a safe and restful holiday!

Thanks for reading!