Sunday, October 10, 2010

I Realize...

I realize that the world kids are being raised in is so very different than the one I was.  I also realize that their knowledge and capacity to grasp technological gadgets and gizmos is far greater than mine.  I believe their brains are wired differently.  Most have been looking at moving images and digital images from the time they were born.  Yet, so many of our classrooms are the same as the ones that I started teaching in more than 25 years ago.  Sure they are equipped with smart boards vs.chalkboards.  And there is a document camera where the overhead used to be.  Yet I think most of us have only begun to scratch the surface of the potential of the tools that we have.

For me, digging in to Glogster yesterday really helped me see that kids need to be able to present information in a way that makes sense to them.  They should be able to access what they know to share what they've learned in powerful and more meaningful ways.  There must be a huge disconnect between the digital world of their homes and the lack of digital focus at school.

This makes me realize that rather than leading them on a journey of discovery, many of us may be stifling their learning.  For me, I plan to get out of their way and start listening to what they know.  I plan to stop assuming that my students, who come from lower SES homes, don't know how (or shouldn't have the opportunity) to access the wealth of resources that are available via the Internet.

It makes me realize it's time to step up the game and help them access, process, and communicate knowledge and learning in new and relevant ways.  It's time for a change.

Saturday, October 09, 2010


Guided Reading Overview Glog thumbnail

I have spent a good portion of the day creating this Glog: to share with colleagues at our first Guided Reading session this Thursday.  You're going to have to click the link below to preview it because I cannot make it paste here without it being HUGE and when I resize it's distorted.  It may not look like this when it's complete, but it's not bad for a first attempt--at least that's MY opinion!  Today reminded me just how painful new learning can sometimes be--yet how rewarding in the end.

Guided Reading Glog Link

Have you tried "Dip and Tip" in your classroom?

If we want our students to make wise selections of books, then we have to be constantly aware of their choices. I haven't read every single book in my classroom library (although it's my goal to do so).  Instead I think we need to use a strategy I am calling "Dip and Tip".  Occasionally, while your kids are reading their self-selected books, take a few minutes to conference with them.  These should be SHORT conferences (1 - 3 minutes max).  

When you "dip" into their reading, sit down next to them and ask them to read aloud to you right where they are. It doesn't take long to figure out if the book is a good choice for them...are they reading at a pretty fluent rate?  Or are they stumbling over their words?  Do they seem interested?  Or obligated to it?  Give a quick "tip" to the reader and then move on.  A tip could be a question you ask to nudge them further in their thinking.  It could be a suggestion to abandon the book.  Or it could be a strategy for figuring out an unknown word or part of text.  

Although you could probably give a lot of tips, resist the urge to do so.  Give a quick one and move on.  This allows you to get to the next reader.  It also allows your readers to continue their work without a lot of interruption.  

You could carry a small notebook or note-taking page with you to jot down the tips you are offering each reader.  This provides a good anecdotal record over time of the student's independent reading behavior.  

How do you conference with your students during independent reading?    

Friday, October 01, 2010

How Well Do You Know Them?

While reading Donalyn Miller's book, The Book Whisperer, I am once again reminded of the importance of really knowing the kids we teach!  Oh sure I know them IN the classroom.  We laugh there.  We share stories there.  We share text there.  I learn a lot about them.

But what do I really know?

She interviews her kids so she can make "book whispers" to them.  She doesn't just ask them "what do you like to read?"  She asks what kind of TV they watch, what hobbies they have, and what websites they visit.  She knows that this is the way to really uncover their interests.  And she knows books (titles and authors) well enough to suggest them to the appropriate students.  I mixed her questions with some of my own and plan to ask these:

  • What kind of books do you like to read?
  • Where do you like to read?
  • How did you learn how to read?
  • What are your favorite magazines or websites?
  • What type of TV shows do you watch? Why?
  • What is your first choice about what to do when you have free time at home?
  • What kinds of things have you collected? What do you do with the things you collect?
  • What is your favorite activity or subject at school? Do you have a least favorite?
  • If you could talk to any person currently living, who would it be? Why? Think of 3 questions you would ask them.
  • If you could talk to anyone from history, who would it be? Why? Think of 3 questions you would ask the person.
  • What are your hobbies?  How much time do you spend on your hobbies?
  • Tell about your favorite games.
  • What was your last favorite book? Why?
  • What career do you think might be suitable for you when you are an adult?

One time at a reading conference Dr. Samuel Betances, diversity trainer, made a profound statement.  He suggested that every teacher should read and know 100 books at their grade level.  Then he added that we should also know 100 books below the grade level (one to two years).  And finally he said we should know 100 books above the grade level.  And when he talked about "knowing"---he nudged us further and suggested that we had actually READ that number of books.

After all, how can I make meaningful recommendations to a reader if I haven't read widely?

This week I made myself read some books I've never read before.  And next week I will interview my students to really dig in and start to know who they are as people.  Then...I plan to whisper away!