Best Book I Have Not Read

Writing, Reading, Teaching, Life, Attempting to Balance it All

Welcome Spring March 20, 2010

For those of you who read my blog on a regular basis, you know I’ve been silent for a while. Thanks to those who didn’t give up, but kept coming back to see if I was talking yet.

I moved in mid-January (which has been wonderful), had four ‘extra’ snow days to unpack, but the rest has been hard.It’s not even been “my” hardness that has been hard, but our small town has been suffering through immense sadness.

I’ve spent many days plotting a trip to TCRWP for their March Reunion weekend. I figured if a shot of Jerry Spinelli, Lucy Calkins, Katherine Bomer, Alfred Tatum, and Jim Trelease mixed with the TC energy couldn’t fix my funk, I might need to seek professional help! Unfortunately (or fortunately from my husband’s point of view), I could not find anyone who thought NYC was ‘just a road trip’ from Columbus.

If I was there I’d be getting ready to walk into Riverside Church to hear Jerry Spinelli’s ‘Failure, Fried Chicken, Fiction’ keynote. I would then be trying to decide if I was going to hear Mary Enrenworth’s talk on “Reading Historical Fiction: The Project’s Latest Thinking on the Intersection Between Deep Comprehension, Interpretation, and Book Clubs” or Jen Serravallo’s “Reading Conferring and Small Group Work in a Classroom of Accountability”. I would then skip off to see Jerry Maraia, who was my TC staff developer last summer, talk, “My Students Just Retell! Getting Readers to Think Deeply About Their Books by Supporting Inference and Synthesis”. After lunch I would have been hard pressed to pick between Tiffany Nealy’s “Unit of Study on Mystery Book Clubs”, “The Intersection of RtI and Reading Workshop” (not because it makes my heart go pitty-pat, but because I have to think, talk, and advocate about the topic endlessly, or “Grammar Instruction on the Go! Creating Demonstrations Sketchbooks to Support Small Group Instruction in Writing”. (I will admit that I just flipped over to Expedia to see if a magical plane ticket for cheap had just appeared. I know I am nutty, but I’m a good nut). I will now make myself stop looking at the Workshop Schedule.

I haven’t been able to make myself read and finish a book. I’ve started several, but after a chapter I’ve put them down. Today, I vow that I will pick one up and finish it. It’s not good for me not to read.

Here’s the positive I’m going to focus on-

  • It’s the first day of Spring!
  • My kids and hubby are healthy and happy!
  • Not only am I going to attend a week of the July Summer Reading Institute, but I will have a teacher from the elementary school there as well! The August Reading Institute has another elementary teacher and two intermediate teachers! We have two on wait list for July! This is huge for us!
  • I have a huge TBR pile!
  • Four days until spring break!
  • I love walking two blocks to get a coffee, an ice cream cone, or a drink!
 

The Art of Teaching Reading and Assessment June 18, 2009

I know I have mentioned  The Art of Teaching Reading by Lucy Calkins, but I feel it  is a book I feel all K-8 teachers would benefit from reading if they have not done so.

Last night at baseball (I’ve figured I can get one chapter of something in if I leave my finger in it and read as the teams switch for in and out field without missing anything) I finished rereading the chapter on Assessment (pp. 137-157) and it, like everything else in the book makes so much sense. Here are some of the highlights:

Assessment is the thinking teacher’s mind work.

“Have you ever tried to change the tire of your car while driving along a mountain road? That’s what it’s like trying to assess your readers in the midst of classroom teaching.” (pp. 137-138)

The chapter is not about ideal methods of assessment, but offers guidance to teachers who find it difficult to fit assessment into the very real-world of classroom teaching.

Calkins strongly urges schools to support two days of one-to-one appointments between all teachers and all children before the first day of school. Wow! Wouldn’t that be fantastic?!

Schools need to develop a gradient of assessment expectations for teachers–first year teachers might need help determining which assessments are critical.

Calkins advises starting with a lean system of assessment and then moving the world to be sure that this assessment affects teaching and learning (the spot where many assessments or assessment programs fall down!)

According to Calkins, “What is the bottom rung of reading assessment?”

Every teachers must accomplish the following goals:

  • An efficient means of quickly and roughly matching readers with books so that the class is engaged in productive work from the first week of schoo and we can begin to assess individuals more closely.
  • We need to underand and support children’s habits, values and self-perceptions as readers.  If every converstaion with every child is all about weighing and measuring the child’s place within our leveled libraries, we end up teaching lessons we did not intend to teach-that we are trying to line up children according to whether they are better or worse readers.          Children should immediately and always sense our interest in the wholeness of each of them as a reader. teaching them  to not simply get through text, but to compose richly literate lives.
  • We need to understand the strategies and sources of information individual readers use and don’t use and need to tailor instruction to each child’s strengths and needs.
  • We need to take early note of (and then understand, teach, and track the progress of) children who are failing to thrive.
  • We need to hold our teaching accountable as we work toward clear and public goals
  • We will achieve a classroom system of assessment that forces us to develop multi-level teaching plans
  • Even the above goals are ambitious.  

Here are her starter questions for getting to know your students as readers:

What should I know about you as a reader?

With whom do you share your reading?

When has reading really worked for you in your life? Tell me about that time. When as reading really NOT been a good thing for you in your life?
What are some neat things you do with reading at home?

Can you walk me through a day and tell me about the reading you generally do? 

Goals: (students help form them-not just having them set by us)

What kind of reader are you right now?

What kind of reader do you want to become?

What do you plan to do to become that kind of reader?

How did this plan help you grow as a reader? Be specific.

What is your next goal? What is your next plan?

What texts will finish your fiction standard?

“It is too easy to become lulled into believing that by suggesting, mentioning, or assigning readers to do something, we’ve accomplished the job of teaching. “

Calkins also recommends that each grade level identify certain observeable signs of reading progress and look for them across the grade, and that we systemically collect data according to these indicators and bring what we learn to meetings and study groups with our colleagues. (We would all learn so much!)

Our assessment system should provide us with a constant source of feedback on our progress toward our goals. Our teaching should be more powerful when we hold ourselves accoutnable for having a real effect on our students’ work. Instead of teaching in a whole-class fashion to a hypothetical average students, we need to take into account thte range of development within our classrooms, designing a curriculum that meets all our children where they are and takes each child further.

I LOVE Lucy Calkins and Teachers College-they just make so much sense out of a very difficult job-teaching reading and writing to a whole class of individuals.

art of teaching reading

 

16th Annual July Institute on Teaching Reading at TCRWP June 16, 2009

Here’s the highlights of yesterday’s mail–

Section Assignment: 4B

8:00 Registration Lerner Hall (on Columbia University’s Main Campus)

9:00 Keynote

10:00-11:50 Grades 3-8 Large Group-Lucy Calkins

11:50 Lunch

12:50-2:50 Small Group-leader Tiffany Nealy

2:55 Closings

We’ll receive ‘The Trail Guide’ (There was one of these for the Reunion Weekend-VERY HELPFUL to get yourself around) at registration, need name tag for all .

We’ll also receive a copy of The Art of Teaching Reading by Lucy Calkins, which we can turn in with a voucher for a different professional book if we already have it. I think it is one of the best books out there, and was rereading parts this morning. I’ll probably see what the other choices are, but probably keep it to use as a door prize for one of the back to school teacher meetings. If you are a K-8 teacher and you have not read the book, get yourself a used copy off Amazon for $24.00 (instead of $47 at the college bookstore) and start reading this summer! You’ll be so glad you did. 

For July’s Institute, I am driving from Ohio with my friend (the one whose very kind parents put me up for the last Institute) and her three young children. It should be a 11 1/2 hour drive, but seeing how it is a holiday weekend, that is probably  a low guess. I’m counting on children’s “Are we there yet questions?” not bothering me as much when they aren’t my own children (crossing my fingers!) Then the next day we’ll see how good my memory is from spring when I got myself from her parents house to Columbia everyday by train, subway and cab. Once there, I will stay in campus housing, which should bring back some fun memories! Seeing how summer is just starting this week for me, it seems a long way away. In reality, it is 19 days away. My husband is in denial and keeps asking, “When are you going to be gone?” and is sure the house will sell, we’ll have to move, and the world will spin out of orbit during the week I am gone. I guess I should take that as a compliment.

 

The Cafe Book by Gail Boushey and Joan Moser “The Sisters” April 15, 2009

I became a fan of “The Sisters” with their publication for The Daily Five: Fostering Literacy Independence. Even though the book was aimed at more primary students than my fourth graders were, I was game to give some of their strategies a try. I had been a huge proponent of individual reading conferences for many years, but the management of the rest of the class as well as the organization to ensure I was meeting with students in a way that met their needs was still a challenge. The Sisters got me with their quote, “Did those things (centers, projects, worksheets…)just keep our kids busy or were they engaged in literacy tasks that will make a difference in their literate lives.” Their concerns mirrored many of mine.cafe

You can read the entire Cafe Book book online. I made it about halfway through before my copy arrived in the mail Friday.  You can also hear a  blog interview on Stenhouse to see some more information from the sisters. They do also have their own website-part free, most subscription.  

The Cafe system makes record-keeping and organization accessible for teachers who feel often feel overwhelmed by the management of workshop or conferences.

They are coming to Columbus, Ohio this summer for some workshops in conjunction with Choice Literacy and I am thrilled a few of the elementary teachers I work with will be in attendance.  They did a great job presenting at the Dublin Literacy Conference-very engaging and had me laughing quite a bit. My favorite story was from the one sister who tried to make post-it notes into wearable jewelry so she wouldn’t keep losing them. 

Many of us have made their “Pensieve” notebooks and love having all our records in one place. It’s a nice complement to any reading or writing workshop, not just one new thing to try.

 

 
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