Posts filed under 'Reading'

Now Online: Powerful Book Introductions

PowerfulBookIntroductionsNo matter what level of experience you have with book introductions, your knowledge will spiral upwards as you read this text.
—Pat Johnson

In Powerful Book Introductions, literacy leaders Kathleen Fay, Chrisie Moritz, and Suzanne Whaley take a close look at purposefully planning for effective book introductions that set the stage for young readers to navigate texts independently and successfully.

Through relatable classroom examples and the wisdom of their shared teaching experiences, the authors show you how to select texts, amplify meaning making, and introduce visual and structural information as a way to support your readers.

No matter where you are in your understanding of guided reading, Powerful Book Introductions will help you as you to craft student-centered, meaning-driven book introductions that prepare your readers for success.

Preorder now; copies will start shipping in late-August. Preview the entire book online!

Add comment August 7th, 2017

Blogstitute 2017: Sticky note strategies for transitional readers

Welcome to Stenhouse Summer Blogstitute 2017! We are thrilled to kick off our series with this great, practical post from Franki Sibberson and Karen Szymusiak, authors of Still Learning to Read, Second Edition. Share with us in the comments or on Twitter (#blogstitute17) how you use sticky notes in your reading workshop.

Sticky note strategies for transitional readers
Franki Sibberson and Karen Szymusiak

Our classrooms are reading communities that represent a variety of readers who have different needs, a variety of interests, and a range of skills. Transitional readers are in many of our classrooms in grades 3–6. They are making a move from reading mostly picture books to reading chapter books. They have developed some strategies for making sense of texts but many of them lack independence in several areas. Some transitional readers need to be better able to sustain comprehension as they read. For others, maintaining interest in an entire book is a challenge. Our goal is to help them become independent readers of more complex texts by giving them the strategies and tools they need. As they move toward reading books with more complexity, transitional readers need new tools and a variety of new strategies for making sense of the texts they are reading. As they become strategic about making sense of texts they can easily move from the transitional stage to becoming successful readers of more complex texts.

Some simple but effective strategies can make a huge difference in helping students move toward independence. We have found that sticky notes are a helpful tool for transitional readers. They offer a variety of support to readers as they become more independent. Sticky notes are always handy during reading conferences as we support students in meeting their goals. They are also easily accessible in the classrooms so children can use them as they read independently.

 

sticky1

This student was transitioning to longer chapter books. Holding on to a story over several days was a skill that needed some practice. He was discovering that when he opened the book each day and just started to read, he was often confused. During conferences, we focused on strategies to do some thinking before reading each day to remember the story. Using sticky notes to summarize the plot at the end of each day of reading helped support him in this skill. Instead of just starting where he left off, he started each day of reading by rereading the summary so he had a  a clear understanding of what occurred in the story so far. This helped build a solid background when starting a new reading session.

 

sticky2

Figuring out the meaning of unknown words is another common challenge for transitional readers. This student relied on an adult or another student when she came across an unknown word. She would simply ask someone to tell her the word but this did little to build her own strategies for discovering the meaning of unknown words. During a conference, we cut up sticky notes so that she could guess the meaning of a word based on the context of the sentence/paragraph. Then she discovered that if she read on, she could often determine the meaning of a word. This sticky-note strategy gave her the confidence she needed for more independence.

sticky3

Some readers transitioning to chapter books tend to read quickly without really holding on to the story. For this student, sticky notes reminded her to stop and think about the story throughout the book. While she was capable of reading the words on the page, she needed to pause to think about what was happening in the story. Rather than rushing through the book, she needed to develop a strategy for building the meaning of the story as she read.  We spent time during a reading conference putting a blank sticky note on every fifth page of the book. So as this child read, she was reminded to stop and think whenever she approached a sticky note. On the note, she would take time to summarize and/or write her thinking. The visual reminder to stop and think was exactly what she needed to support better understanding of the story.

sticky4

Our students sometimes have difficulty finishing books as they begin to choose longer books. We had a reading conference with a child who was moving between books and never finishing any of them. He knew several books he wanted to read from his book bin. He went through the stack and decided in what order he hoped to read them. He numbered each of them with a sticky note. This simple visual reminder helped him to finish one book before moving on to the second, third, or fourth book in his book bin.

sticky5

Some transitional readers have difficulty sorting out the important parts of a story from those that are not as critical to understanding the text. Recalling the important parts of a story over several reading sessions is an important skill to develop. This student used sticky notes to bullet the two or three things that were most important to remember in each chapter. This gave him something to go back to when beginning to read each day. It also gave him practice understanding the difference between important ideas and small details.

sticky6

For some students, creating a picture as they read is a new skill. Transitioning to chapter books requires students to visualize the story and it often takes some practice to stop and think about what was read. This child is using a blank page in his reading notebook to stop and jot every time he gets a picture in his head from the words alone. Using a notebook or sticky notes to collect simple images is a way to invite students to stop and think specifically about the picture in their head and to build understanding over time.

sticky7

Often students get stuck in one way of thinking and as text becomes more complex, it is important that they do various kinds of thinking in their reading. After conferring with me, these students are sorting sticky notes from a recent read into categories to get a sense of the kind of thinking they tend to capture while reading. They are noticing when they wrote down a prediction, a summary, a wondering, or a thought about a character. At a future conference, we used these reflections to set new goals of trying to capture different kinds of thinking.

Some students prefer using digital sticky notes. This child is using the app Corkulous on the iPad. This app allows students to jot on sticky notes, to color-code sticky notes, and to reorganize the notes for better understanding. Since students are becoming more and more comfortable using electronic devices, Corkulous offers another perspective on sticky notes and how they can support reading.

sticky8

Sticky notes are valuable tools in our reading workshop. Sometimes, in reading conferences, we give students invitations to use sticky notes in ways that support their goals. Then students can use sticky notes independently to build new habits as they go off to read each day.

15 comments July 11th, 2017

Getting Started with Action Research

We are excited to have Matt Renwick back on our blog today with a guest post. He has written before about his school’s efforts to develop lifelong readers. This time he is back with some pointers on getting started with action research for both teachers and administrators.

Getting Started with Action Research
Matt Renwick

We recently facilitated action research for twenty of our district teachers. They came from all areas in grades K–12. The course was led by Dr. Beth Giles and Dr. Mark Dziedzic from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Teachers met one evening a month to explore their driving questions, set up action plans, collect and organize data, and prepare their work for an inquiry showcase this spring. Here are some of the questions that were specific to literacy, and what we learned.

What happens when we provide choice in reading and learning?

Three teachers investigated this tenet of engagement. A second-grade teacher conducted Genius Hour at the end of the day, a time in which students could tinker and make things of their choosing. A third-grade teacher allowed her students to decide how their classroom should look and feel regarding furniture and resources. A reading interventionist embedded choice within her instruction, including letting the students select one book a month to keep.

What they found out was that choice affected each student in different ways. For example, the reading interventionist discovered that if a student’s basic needs were not being met, he or she had a hard time progressing. She countered this reality by bringing families into school to engage in literacy activities, such as building bookshelves. The third-grade teacher realized that some students liked working with peers regularly, whereas others needed quiet time to read and write. The second-grade teacher found that, for one student in particular, a half hour of tinkering every day led to a reduction in office referrals by 70 percent from fall to spring. Providing choice in school helped teachers better understand their students and adjust their instruction.

What happens when students are taught to ask questions and reflect about their reading?

A fourth- and fifth-grade teacher working with multiple curriculums in a split classroom realized that addressing the needs of a wide variety of learners was a tall order. Therefore, she wanted to find out if teaching her students to ask their own questions of the books they read and to reflect on their thinking in authentic ways through reading journals would lead to more independence.

She modeled these skills and strategies with her own reading. Gradually, she released the responsibility of questioning and reflecting to the students. Data she gathered were anecdotal and powerful. Students not only kept reflections of their own reading, they also noted what their peers were reading. Recommendations for what to read next led to students creating “Want to Read” lists in their journals. Also, students emulated how their teacher talked in their book discussions. This teacher later noted that she was looking forward to working with next year’s fifth graders in the fall.

What happens when teachers reveal themselves as learners?

A secondary reading interventionist was frustrated with her past students’ inability to exit her program in a timely manner. She decided to focus on how her language might promote a growth mind-set in her most reluctant readers and writers. First, she wrote in front of her students about the struggles she was having as a teacher and as a parent. These were day-to-day ordeals—ordinary issues she was sharing publicly. Students were also asked to write about their struggles. Few initially took her up on it. But as the teacher continued to model a growth mind-set, more students followed her lead.

Because the teacher was so open about her own learning, students felt safe in her classroom to take risks. They started to shed their rough exteriors, revealing frustrations about classes and their home lives. This led to exploring literature that students could personally relate to, populated with characters and settings in which they could reside. Pretty soon, her students were coming to her with improved progress reports to share and celebrate. A few kids exited her reading intervention earlier than anticipated but didn’t want to leave. This teacher eventually published her action research in the Wisconsin State Reading Association journal.

What happens when we let kids read?

A fifth-grade teacher and I teamed up to provide her students with a lot of texts to read, and we decreased the reading requirements placed upon them. I would come in once a month with a box full of high-interest books and do a quick blurb about each one. The teacher also used her allocated funds to enhance the classroom library. She taught the students how to have a conversation with peers and frequently conferred with students about their reading and goals. Her work derived from the research by Gay Ivey and Peter Johnston, highlighted in a Stenhouse blog post four years ago.

My role as coresearcher was to survey the students once a month using a tool developed by Ivey and Johnston. What we learned was that every student was different. Their reading lives varied from month to month. One student who proclaimed “I hate reading!” in February was excited about a new series he discovered in March. Other students also became more honest about reading in school. “I am SO glad to be done with my reading contract, so I can read whatever I want.” This type of data was more powerful than any screener or test score. Reading lives look more like a heartbeat than a straight line. Readers—kids and adults—have their ups and downs.

In observing these teachers’ journeys, I have discovered new truths about principalship. Just as students need to be engaged in their learning, teachers have to be engaged in their work. Not merely busy or working collegially with staff, but really engaged. We need to trust in their professionalism. We need to provide teachers the room to ask questions and grow. We need to honor the process as much as the outcomes. We need to celebrate both their mistakes and their successes, always striving to become better every day as professionals. Letting go of some control as a school leader is hard. Yet when we do, teachers are able to be the leaders of their own learning.

Tips for Getting Started in Action Research
If you are a teacher…

  • Ask yourself, “Why do I want to engage in action research?” If you can identify the purpose for this work in your professional life, it will motivate you to get started.
  • Do your homework on action research to build a knowledge base about the topic. Excellent resources include Living the Questions by Ruth Shagoury and Brenda Power (Stenhouse, 2012) and The Reflective Educator’s Guide to Classroom Research by Nancy Fichtman Dana and Diane Yendol-Hoppey (Corwin, 2014).
  • Develop a community of professionals who also want to engage in action research. You can leverage the power of the group to persuade your principal to support this initiative as part of the professional development plan. If you cannot collaborate in person, check out online communities related to classroom research, such as The Teachers Guild.
  • Find a question that you want to explore and that is embedded within your current practice. This wondering should relate to your professional learning goals and offer artifacts that can serve as evidence for your evaluation system.
  • Include your students in your action research as much as possible. They will become a great source of information as you study the impact of your work on their learning. They will also come to see you as a learner, which enhances the entire classroom community.

If you are an administrator…

  • Be deliberate when considering action research as a possible professional learning experience. The phrase action research can scare off some teachers who might otherwise be interested in this approach. Start small, maybe offering it as a voluntary course beyond the school day for graduate credit or pay.
  • Connect with outside organizations that can facilitate a course instead of trying to host it yourself. There is vulnerability involved in action research. The more we can have others lead the initiative, the more likely teachers will be willing to open up and take risks in their pursuits of becoming better practitioners.
  • Conduct action research yourself. I did this, using the resource The Action Research Guidebook by Richard Sagor (Corwin, 2012). The author offers several examples of a principal engaging in professional inquiry at a schoolwide level. I would share my findings and reflections in staff newsletters and at meetings. The message you send is the same one teacher-researchers convey to their students: We are all learners here.
  • Prepare a multiyear plan for facilitating action research in your school or district. Teacher questions seemed to lead to more questions during the school year. At the inquiry showcase, teachers were already asking if they could conduct action research again. “I feel like I just discovered my question,” noted one teacher.

 

Matt Renwick is a 15-year public educator who began as a 5th and 6th grade teacher in a country school outside of Wisconsin Rapids, WI. After seven years of teaching, he served as a junior high dean of students, assistant principal and athletic director before becoming an elementary school leader in Wisconsin Rapids. Matt blogs at Reading by Example, tweets @ReadByExample. His book Digital Student Porfolios: A Whole School Approach to Connected Learning and Continuous Improvement will be published by Powerful Learning Press.

Add comment September 12th, 2016

Now Online: Still Learning to Read, Second Edition

Still Learning to Read 2nd EditionIn the decade since the first edition of Still Learning to Read was published, the prevalence of testing and various standards have changed what is expected of both teachers and students.

The new edition takes into account this sense of urgency that changing times impose on classrooms and focuses on the needs of students in grades 3-6 in all aspects of reading workshop: read-aloud, classroom design, digital tools, fiction, nonfiction, and close reading.

The book provides expanded examples of mini-lessons and routines that promote deeper thinking about learning. A new chapter includes information on scaffolding for nonfiction and showcases the authors’ latest thinking on close reading and text complexity. Online videos provide glimpses into classrooms as students make book choices, work in small groups, and discuss their reading notebooks.

You can preview Still Learning to Read in its entirety now, then watch Franki discuss the book and the changed environment student and teachers face:



Add comment July 28th, 2016

3 Vocabulary Strategies Help Students Decipher Unknown Words

By Brenda Overturf

vocabulariansHow powerful can one word be?

Jacob, a seventh grader, sits staring at a challenging text he has tried to read. He knows the other words in the paragraph but is stuck on a multisyllabic word he has never seen before. Jacob sounds out the word, but because he has also never heard it, it still doesn’t make sense.

Finally, he just gives up and moves on. Yet the one word Jacob doesn’t know holds the key to comprehending the entire passage. Sound familiar? Kids like Jacob occupy many middle level classrooms, and they are not necessarily struggling readers.

 

Read Brenda’s full article on MiddleWeb

Add comment October 6th, 2015

What we talked about with Kelly Gallagher

We covered a lot of ground during our hour-long chat with Kelly Gallagher. We talked about his new book, In the Best Interest of Students, as well as the effects of the Common Core State Standards on the teaching of reading and writing. Here are a few memorable Tweets from the chat, as well as the fuller archived version.

Add comment April 9th, 2015

Memories of Read-Aloud

We had an amazing time with all of you Wednesday night, chatting on Twitter with Steven Layne about read-aloud. It was clear that there was so much passion and appreciation for the art of read-aloud and for preserving this practice in all classrooms and in all grades. Here are some Tweet highlights, and you can see the — almost — full chat on Storify. It’s definitely worth a browse for all of the great book recommendations and for the warm memories everyone shared about what read-aloud meant for them.

Add comment March 13th, 2015

Live Twitter chat with Steven Layne

stevelayneTune in Wednesday, March 11, at 8 p.m. EST to talk about read aloud with Steven Layne! He will be on Twitter to answer your questions. The chat, hosted by Colby Sharp (@colbysharp), will build on the following questions:

  • Share some of what you remember about being read aloud to as a kid.
  • What makes a great read aloud?
  • How do you know a read aloud is effective?
  • What makes a read aloud flop?
  • What are some things you think about as you plan for a read aloud?
  • Please share some of your favorite books to read aloud.

Follow #readaloud to keep track of the conversation and join in with your own questions! We will raffle off 5 copies of Steve’s new book In Defense of Read-Aloud during the chat. Follow @stenhousepub to win! You can still order the book with code TWEET and receive 20% off plus free shipping!

See you on Wednesday on Twitter!

1 comment March 9th, 2015

Now Online: In Defense of Read-Aloud

in-defense-of-read-aloudSteven convinces us that reading aloud must be a cornerstone of every teaching day regardless of the age level, subject matter, or discipline we teach.
—Regie Routman

Should be on every teacher’s must-read list.
—Jim Trelease

What do you say to someone who questions the value of reading aloud to your students? How can you use read-aloud to teach reading and writing skills? And how can you enhance your performance to leave your students engaged, transfixed, and begging for more?

Drawing on the latest research, Steven Layne provides a convincing argument for reading aloud every day across the grades, and gives teachers practical advice and specific strategies in his new book, In Defense of Read‑Aloud. You’ll learn how to:

  • arrange the best seating plan;
  • select the best read-aloud;
  • prepare for and launch a new read-aloud;
  • plan for teachable moments; and
  • read with expression to maximize engagement.

Correspondence between teachers and noted authors Katherine Paterson, Lois Lowry, Nancy Werlin, Andrew Clements, and Ben Mikaelsen open each chapter, and the book is filled with reflections and book suggestions from teachers and prominent educators such as Brian Cambourne, Richard Allington, Debbie Diller, Doug Fisher, Kelly Gallagher, Linda Hoyt, and Donalyn Miller.

In Defense of Read‑Aloud will entertain, challenge, and inspire you to make the most of this essential literacy teaching practice. You can preview the entire book online now!

1 comment December 15th, 2014

Author Conversations: Kim Yaris and Jan Burkins

We recently sat down with Kim Yaris and Jan Miller Burkins, authors of the new book Reading Wellness: Lessons in Independence and Proficiency. During the conversation they talked about how teaching kids the importance of the heavy lifting their brains do while figuring things out during reading helps them become more independent readers and learners. Watch the video below and then preview the book online!


Add comment October 6th, 2014

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