Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Read Alouds with Columbia Teacher's College

My neck has a permanent crick like a sand cranes. I read during the day to students. I read during the night to myself. I read when I'm waiting in line to strangers. Yes, if you read as much as I do, then you too, would have straightened your cricky neck from a book momentarily to listen to the news of a professional development opportunity on how to improve on read alouds.

Kristi from Columbia Teacher's College was at our school coaching teacher's on how to continue with the development of the reader's workshop in their classrooms. I was able to listen to her speak with grade 2 on how to conduct a read aloud. I have always enjoyed watching how teacher's manage classes and picked up a few tips in that area as well.  Kristi does a great job with her setup and this is something I've been trying to improve all year so I will go into more detail than usual so I can read this post to remind myself of best practices and how she did her read aloud. She was focusing on 1)inferrence 2) interpretation and 3) synthesis.

Inferring about a character - readers learn about the character by studying how he or she acts, thinks, and speaks. Interpretation - Identify the character's problem and with prompting name the lesson the character has learned. Synthesis - How does this fit with what was read before? What does the author want the reader to learn or understand about life?

Okay, stop right there. Do I have your attention? If you don't want any more nitty gritty details about the workshop, you can close your browser or hyperlink to your favorite website; otherwise read on for more nuts and bolts than you ever wanted to know about read alouds. Oh yes, I threw in some classroom management too. Just to make my post that much longer ; )

Students came to the carpet with a clipboard and 3 post-it notes. In order to motivate them to sit faster she said, "One reader ready to go, two readers ready to go, three readers ready to go." Kristi told the students to put their name and the number 1 on the first post-it. "Guess what's going on the second post-it... your name and the number "2," a kid shouts out. I love how elementary teachers make even sitting down at the carpet fun!

The students first instruction was to "stop & jot." Kristi explained that  when she asks students to stop and jot about a question she asks them, they need to write or draw a response on the post-it notes. While managing the class, she tells students to tuck their pencils away and put their clipboards on their laps and get ready for "the best story of all time." She continues, "if you've heard this story before give me a thumbs up." [I need to remember this with Mo Willems books ; )] She's reading "Leonardo and the Terrible Monster by Mo Willems."

She wants the students to think of the word "terrible" in the title. "Terrible can mean BLAAAAAAAHHHHHHHH in a scary way like something kind of scary. Leonardo the Scary Monster... Show me terrible that way." The kids scream. And laugh. "That's one thing that terrible can mean. A second thing that terrible can mean is not very good," she demonstrates  the concept visually by crossing her arms and shaking her head. Terrible can be confusing because it might mean Leonardo is scary or he is mean. "We want to find out right away which one it is," she says. "Are you ready to figure it out with me?"

She reads the title of the book and tells the kids to look at the monster on the cover. What does he look like? Show me with your body, sad. "Even before I begin I'm thinking this is not the kind of monster who eats people but the kind who is not very good [at being a monster]. How many agree with me?"Next, she begins reading the story. She has spent 6 minutes with management and setup. The first page of the book is "Leonardo was a terrible monster and I'm wondering what is a terrible monster." Look at how tall he is. He is so cute and little. Do monsters want to be cute?

She reads to pages 6-7 and asks students to stop and jot (teachers need to think about their dream response to the questions asked). On post-it number 1, she says, "I want you to stop and jot what the character might be feeling or thinking or how they are behaving. You can write or draw. Post-it number 1...go." She told kids to use the letter "L" for Leonardo. Teachers can walk around and if someone is drawing they can ask them to tell them what they are drawing. She gave them 2 minutes, told them to put their last thoughts down., and jumped right back into reading the story.  

On page 9-10 Kristie had the students turn and talk to their partner to tell what their thoughts were about Sam. She is listening for predictions when she does this. She points out what is happening with the illustrations. On the next page she talks about how Sam looks unsuspecting and explains that the word means "you don't know." She has someone come up and act out Sam. They have to be unsuspecting and act like they don't know Leonardo is not there. What is Sam thinking? If no one is around him he's thinking he doesn't have any friends. Sam says, "I don't have any friends!" The student actor says this. She gets another student volunteer to be Leonardo and tells them to put out their tongue and freeze. She talks about being brave to help students get over their nervousness. Next the whole class makes music; scary music, "da dum... da dum..." Then Leonardo gave it all he got. Students loved the build up then the volunteers were told to go back to seats. "What did Leonardo want to do?" she asks. "Scare Sam," says a student. "Did he?" "No," replies the class.

After Leonardo's scare attempt, Sam has a conniption and everything that has gone wrong. Kristie has  the students turn and talk about what Leonardo is thinking. She starts to read again and explains the word, "decision." She asks students to think of one thing Leonardo can do? One student says, Leonardo can help Sam. She prompts the students for another idea and tells them they can't say help Sam because that is idea number one.  Another student says he can scare Sam again. "Leonardo wants to scare people so you would think he would do that again, right? But look at what he does. He wants to be a friend," she says. On post-it #2, she says, show how Leonardo has changed. She helps them start with, "I used to think... but now I think..."Tells them to finish their thought and finishes the book. 

Some people think this is just a book about a monster being a friend, but I think Mo Willems wants us to think about something more. On post-it number 3 can you write what the author was trying to teach us about the world or about people (synthesis and interpretation). Put your clipboard behind you and put your pencil behind you. All I should see is your faces and hands in your lap if comfortable there.

Whole Class Conversation Modeled

Next she has a whole class conversation. "Let me explain what that is...the main rule is that you get to be the grownups. You don't even want to look at me. The second rule is you don't have to raise your hand. This is a like a conversation where you talk without raising your hand. You have to take turns. When one person is talking you wait for them to finish before you start talking. The main thing to remember is to look at each other.  We're going to practice. Are you ready? Do you watch Scooby Doo? Do you ever watch Mickey Mouse? Which one do you think is better?" She asks. Scooby Doo the students shout. "Now we are going to have a whole class conversation just to practice. I'm going to let one person start and you'll take it from there." Silence. Students respond with, "Scooby Doo is better because he always got into trouble. Scooby Doo is ... funny. "

She stops them and explains to the teachers to start with pop culture as a way to practice the behaviors of whole class conversations. She will begin with what is better this lunch or that lunch or what do you like more at recess? In the beginning she is casual and doesn't use the talk prompts of "I agree" and "I disagree" but uses them if students are struggling or she is teaching a different way to talk.

She then goes back to the class and asks them to think about Leonardo and the terrible monster. "Are there any ideas you want to talk about in the circle?" Then she has them turn and talk. Listen for a student who is ready to start the conversation. "Back to the circle. Who wants to start our conversation off? Who's feeling brave?" Students talk away until she stops and says, "A couple of different ideas came up and I want to talk about them. One question is did Leonardo become friends with Sam because he couldn't be scary? Or is it okay for monsters to not be scary and be other things?" Turn and talk to your neighbor about that.

Then she recaps the two things they learned in a whole conversation 1) you don't have to raise hands 2) look at each other, NOT at each other . Last the students get instructions as to what to do with post-its. I am always struck by how often KA-2 teachers repeat instructions to students. I don't repeat enough. I was not able to see what the teachers did with the post-it notes because I had classes to teach. Next year I'll have to catch that part.

You probably have a crick in your neck just from finishing this post. Thanks for sticking with it!



Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Character Education and Laptops in the Library

Karen Newman, curriculum director at Montclair Kimberly Academy, came to our school to talk about character education and technology. We met with the librarians and IT teachers to discuss what we are doing and what we can do differently to improve our practices as educators. When reflecting on how students use technology in the lower school library, I realized that I can improve our after school check out of laptops for students in grades 3-5. Starting in grade 4 (1:1 begins then)  Montclair Kimberly requires students to go through their driver's manual,, which is a technology manual that basically gets students to think responsibly about how they are using their laptops. The videos are produced by students and there are a set of questions that students must answer.

I have a video that I have students watch before they can check out and use laptops in the fall. The character SpongeBob tells students how to care for their laptops and check them out but I like the idea of having students answering 5 questions about how they use the laptops in a responsible way. Rather than spitting out a list of rules, this forces them to think about how they use them. I also like how Montclair Kimberly has students make the videos such as those found under Good Habits & FAQ. For instance, students always ask about Cisco Agent, how to save to the mainshare, how to use the wireless. Grade 5 students could put together a how-to video. Or better yet I could tie it in with a nonfiction curriculum unit. I thought about doing it this year but we are getting new laptops next year and the issues will be completely different than this year.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Top 10 Collaborative Book Project

Grade 4 students compared their top 10 books with students at the International School of Bangkok. I created a Google doc for students to survey and put the link to it on the Follett Home Page. Students logged on and voted for their 10 three books. There was a total of 150 students. We discussed what influences us when choosing books for the enjoyment of reading. Students said they were influenced by the cover, summary on the back, title, series, subheading for nonfiction, genre, reviews, author, artwork, recommendations. They discovered that students in Bangkok choose books in the same way such as the blurb, book covers appealing, series, recommendations (from various people), and popularity.

I took the top 10 books and created another survey where 4th graders ranked their favorite books. They discovered that new book releases or movies based on books had a big impact on people's top 10 book choices. Diary of a Wimpy Kid had just released Cabin Fever, Big Nate had a new release, and so did the Heroe's of Olympus and Warriors. ISB had more graphic novels on their top 10 and Roald Dahl books.






One thing I would do differently is make sure there were no holiday breaks when doing this project. It got a little stretched out because of Christmas and Chinese New Year. It might be nice to do it at the end of the year to get students excited about summer reading.