Sunday, February 28, 2010

That Workshop Book - Reflection #3

As I reread the first chapter in, That Workshop Book by Samantha Bennett, this jumped out at me tonight.

"In a workshop, as students are busy doing the work of learning, it frees teachers to do their work as learners. As students read, write, think and talk, teachers do the work of learning about their students: what students know, what they can do, and what they need to be successful adults."

The word adult seems very big in my every day kindergarten world. However, I know all the little and small things we do daily will help them grow and get to be an adult. In writing workshop, we are transitioning from writing small ideas in our Drawing and Writing Notebooks to writing ideas with many ideas in small booklets. As my students were reading, writing, thinking, and talking during writing workshop last week I was learning about them. I was reminded our time recently had been fragmented. I was reminded we needed to write daily and no matter what our day grew into. I was reminded one general introduction was probably needed to get us started but we need more information in smaller doses. Last week I was learning about my students through observation, conferring, and reading. I saw what they can do and celebrated. I also learned we need to do these things this week at a slower pace with more intentional talk and guidance.

-Books have titles
-Books have authors and illustrators, write your name on the cover
-How to write on lines below your illustration
-How to add pages
-How to take away pages
-How to write on the front of the pages only
-How to write the text in pencil and illustrate in color
-We need some mini lessons on drawing to enhance illustrations

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

That Workshop Book - Reflection #2

Writing workshop went well today in kindergarten. Our recent schedule has been slightly hectic with winter weather and I was eager and ready to get back to a workshop routine. As we were revisiting our work, we needed to ask ourselves some questions. What was I writing during writing workshop? Did I want to continue with that piece? If I'm starting a new piece is it just one idea that would go in my Drawing and Writing Notebook or does it have many parts and I could start a writing a book?

The students did a great job thinking through these questions to start our workshop and as they worked I felt a hum with a focus. In That Workshop Book, Samantha Bennett uses the word debrief to conclude a workshop. Here's how she helps the reader visualize a workshop debrief, "teaching can look like sharing student thinking and work, synthesizing student thinking, labeling patterns from the work time, making connections from the mini lesson, setting the stage for the next day..." When I met with my study group we all found the word debrief an interesting choice of words, different than sharing which is more commonly used. I think debrief adds another layer to the conclusion of a workshop. While carefully picking apart Samantha Bennett's words, as a teacher I need to help get the thoughts from a conference out to the entire class. I need to the writing to our mini lesson that started the workshop and allow this thinking to guide our work when we are together today.

With young students I've wanted to have every child celebrate their work daily as a writer. It would be very long and hard to justify each child sitting in my rocking chair to share their piece. So, we sit in a circle and hold our page at our waist outwards. I ask the students to find a friend's writing to start with and when I count backwards from 3 to 1, at 1 we will look at each piece around our circle. I had previously began to ask a couple of students to talk and tell us about their writing based on my observations and reasons to celebrate.

I had two great conferences today. E finished a book about Star Wars, actually playing a video game. He did a nice job planning out his first book with a beginning, middle, and end. M was writing his first book about his vacation and thought he was done after two pages. We talked about what happened next on his vacation to learn there was a sunset and he wanted to use the colors of orange, blue, and black. I could completely see his next step. During our debrief today, we did our everyone shows their work in a circle. I wondered how my young students could articulate or remember our conference conversation and our focus in their writing. The two boys couldn't remember to be quite honest but began shaking their heads as I helped us share our work together with the entire class. Then M showed everyone the rest of his thinking for his book by touching and pointing as he used oral language to tell the rest of his story. I think with practice, modeling, and guidance we can elevate our workshop debrief together.

Monday, February 22, 2010

That Workshop Book - Reflection #1

I'm participating in a study group through a local organization, The Literacy Connection. I became a member several years ago and continue to fit in the time to participate in their book study during the year. I have found a great network of colleagues to work with each year, it's fluid and the attendees vary each year but what remains the same is talking about professional resources because we are interested in improving our practice and the work of our students.

That Workshop Book by Samantha Bennett is this years focus. A small piece of the first chapter struck me to work with last week. The subheading reads, Workshop as Routine. Thinking about the definition of routine, (which she provides) "a regular course of procedure, habitual performance; ordinary." Routine is necessary, in a workshop it...
-sets expectations
-encourages risk taking to make meaning
-helps students expect to share and celebrate
-it helps free up the brain from anxious questioning

This was my favorite sentence found in this section, "You are consciously and intentionally setting up the predictable on a daily basis(the workshop structure) so the unpredictable (students thinking and making meaning) can happen."

When I read this, I thought about something that was routine that needed fine tuning. I teach two classes of kindergarten and they come every other day, alternating Fridays. So, within two weeks they come 5 days. After they do their morning routine, they participate in what I call Book Look Reading. While both groups could refine what they do during this time of our morning, one group needed a bit more redirection. I hadn't really tried anchor charts with the kindergartners, not sure why, chalk it up to my first year back and the Fire Marshall reducing the amount of wall space covered.

I did some thinking about the purpose of our Book Look time, what I wanted the children to accomplish during the this time and how I would guide them in creating our anchor chart. The conversations we had about the picture clues generated was really interesting and aided in their ownership. For example, the book tubs drawn, "are the spines of the books." We also talked about placing the books cover forward back in the tubs to make them more inviting for the next person. Immediately after through our morning calendar three students went to work fixing the many tubs of books in our room. I am very pleased with our final product and the common language it provided us to use daily.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Of Primary Importance, in person!

I did meet Ann Marie Corgill, (thanks to my friend Karen) on Saturday at the Dublin Literacy Conference. In my post Friday night before I met Ann Marie I wrote, "She is thoughtful, insightful, practical, and realistic." and I couldn't agree more after meeting and listening to her. I've been thinking, how did I know this without ever meeting her? It was her voice, her voice that shines through Of Primary Importance is her actual voice in person.

The first session I attended was about publishing children's work. She reminded the audience we need to publish and celebrate. The children's work deserves to be honored and celebrated, it represents the process. While the final piece celebrates the process, I've always tried to make sure our sharing also showcases the pieces in process. It's important to show parents and visitors the journey. The drafting, revising, editing, rethinking and planning. Ann Marie captures this in an organized fashion, a Writing Journey folder. She shared with us some samples that travelled with her from Alabama, which was great to see in person. She talked little bit more in depth about Poetry Walks, just like a gallery walk in a museum, Restaurant Reviews, and Poetry sharing with village shops. All unique ways to share writing and found in more detail in her book. When teaching and conferring with children all of her statements start with Growing writers..., and she gave a great example of a picture clue for our youngest writers.

Growing writers write about what they love. A sketch of a tree, pencil, and heart. My students could figure this out. Loved that tip to help my emergent writers take ownership with their own learning.

Her second session really took the audience through her book. Here are my favorite quotes from that session.

-when you cover less, you uncover more.

-put the teaching in the hands of the children.

-spend time with kids work and look at that to know them as writers, vs. data.

-it takes a lot of slow to grow.

Give us Hope for Education is a video Ann Marie Corgill made with her students assistance in hopes to send a message to the new administration of our country. It has a great message for educators and a peek into her writer's working lives in her classroom. You can find it on youtube.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Of Primary Importance

In about twelve hours I hope to be sitting in a conference session with author, Ann Marie Corgill who wrote, Of Primary Importance What's Essential in Teaching Young Writers? and I can't wait! I really wanted to read this book before I saw her in person and I'm thrilled I did. I made a daily reading plan, a few snow days helped and I stuck with my plan. I also read it on my Kindle which made transporting it easy. I love my page of notes and highlighting I did as I read.

I can't wait to meet Ann Marie in person. She is thoughtful, insightful, practical, and realistic. Her writing was comforting to read and I felt like I had a personal cheerleader by my side understanding the needs of young children. She guides her work with the six As; analyze, ask, applaud, assist, assess, and advocate. This was obvious throughout her book. She begins by guiding the reader through setting expectations, believing, designing an environment, planning, and establishing a community. She then shares several units she has worked through with primary students filled with ideas to consider. Each unit begins with an invaluable chart. These are the column headings; key provisions, big ideas, essential skills and concepts, possible text support, and assessment.

I'm sure tomorrow will be a good day of learning and growing. The only thing I don't like about reading it on my Kindle, I can't get the book autographed. Ann Marie Corgill, I will see you soon.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Literate Kindergarten

This is my new favorite professional book for any kindergarten teacher! I think other teachers would walk away with thoughts to reflect on, too. This book encompasses all aspects of a kindergarten classroom and the energy needed to work with young learners. Every time I sat down to read this book I walked away with something I would try or implement the next day. My friend, who happens to be my literacy support is going to borrow the book (since I am so excited) and I can't wait to talk further with her about the ideas and thinking presented in this text.

Susan L. Kempton has done a fantastic job capturing the essence of working with young learners. In The Literate Kindergarten, she encourages teachers to view children through different lenses. She refers to these as domains; the cognitive domain, the creative domain, and the emotional domain. Right there, you can tell she considers, believes, and works with the whole child in mind. To help guide planning and interactions with children she thinks of these questions to guide her work within the domains, what are you wondering?, what did you discover?, and what are you feeling?.

If you are looking for a clear picture of a kdg. classroom with a schedule, routines, and helpful tips she provides all of this information in her Setting the Tone chapter. Throughout this book the reader is reminded about the importance of oral language, the use of play to foster learning in academic areas, the importance for integrating the curriculum, the use of the arts and different mediums to express learning. She speaks about writing, about thinking strategies which is really the use of comprehension strategies, and about reading. I don't know if there is anything she missed in the 172 pages. Yes, there are math and science ideas shared too! Her book is filled with ideas to promote inquiry and wonder in learning.

What she provides a kindergarten teacher the most is comfort. Comfort in knowing working with young children is uncertain, it takes energy, it takes creativity, it takes flexibility, it takes love, and time. I'm already flipping back through this book to find to reread and ponder.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Presidents' Day

Presidents' Day by Anne Rockwell is a well written fictional book to help young children understand a national holiday. One of the curricular objectives in kindergarten is to teach the children about national holidays. I struggle with teaching things in isolation but I'm finding it's important to teach about the national holidays as they happen, my young students need just tidbits of information that will lay the foundation for further learning as they get older, and as we talk about time and calendars national holidays are naturally entering our conversations.

Ann Rockwell's book defines Presidents' Day, how a president is elected in child friendly terms and then the readers follow a class on their journey putting on a class play about George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson, and Theodore Roosevelt. What I enjoy the most about the text for each president is how Ann Rockwell tells young readers the important work each of these great men did and the message of their presidency.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Mama Will It Snow Tonight?

Mama, Will it Snow Tonight? by Nancy White Carlstrom was a perfect read aloud last night as the Midwest is waiting for another snow fall to come. I think this book would also be a great book to read while discussing winter with kindergartners. The reader follows a mother and offspring pairing while they each ponder will it snow tonight - a pair of foxes, a pair of rabbits, and a pair of humans. As they wait and ponder they observe their environment for signs of winter...

"The wind is brrrr.

The bushes bare.

The berries picked."

After some more pondering, which uses the same repetitive phrase allowing for a shared reading experience in the classroom the pairings each share how they have prepared for winter.

"Our fur is thick.

Our brown turns white.

Our jam is made."

I grew up with my Grandmother making jam and I've been known to do that once in a while. I wonder, how many children know you can make jam. I honestly don't know if I thought about it as a way to prepare for winter. Yes, it does snow and before the book concludes with a snowfall the reader is provoked to think about the smells, sounds, and how it feels to snow. The simplistic text uses many sight words my students have been reading and so I can imagine the detective work they will do finding them. I also think two children could easily navigate the text as a buddy reading book, after we've engaged with it several times.

This is a just right book for today, the girls are sleeping and I get to tell them it's a snow day!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Word Wall Literature - Pouch!

David Ezra Stein author and illustrator of Pouch! has created the perfect book for emerging readers! Joey is a delightful baby kangaroo wanting to explore the world around him. He is willing to try new things but realizes each time the comfort of his mother is needed, returning to her pouch. The illustrations and Joey's reaction guide the reader in understanding his panic when he sees a bee, then a rabbit, and a bird. As Joey continues to try adventures away from Mama pouch, he becomes braver and in the end finds a fellow kangaroo to be his friend. You'll have to see if he returns to Mama's pouch this time.

I think my kindergarten readers can think about something new they have tried and had to be brave doing. I think my kindergarten readers can think about a time when they tried something and were glad to have their parents with them. I'm thinking just coming to school is a time when they all had to be brave. I think my students can make connections to this text.

I know this will be a great shared reading! The language structure for this text is repetitive and fun. After leaving the pouch to explore, Joey uses the same language each time.

"Who are you?"
The animal, creature states it's name.
"Pouch! said Joey."

I'm going to use this text for the word wall - you. It's easy to locate and repeated often. I'm even considering this could be fun to recreate, act out. Each time Joey hops one more than the experience before. There are many parts that could be read by Joey and the animals he encounters. Maybe this could become a mural and labeled using interactive writing. I'm planning on using this text today and I think we will be "hopping" through literacy.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Nonfiction Monday - Groundhog Day!

When I was shopping last weekend, I discovered a new book I didn't know about by Gail Gibbons, Groundhog Day! This nonfiction book is very informative and explains the phenomena around a groundhog. The book begins by explaining February 2 is half way through winter and people believe watching animals can help predict when spring will come. I learned Groundhog Day has a history from over 1,500 years ago. It began a celebration of spring where people would begin cleaning, preparing for a new beginning, and candles were lit. The middle of the text explains the tradition of watching groundhogs and the gathering in Punxsutawney, PA. I didn't know in 1886, Clymer Freas decided to call February 2 Groundhog Day. I think the ending of the book is just what children would need as readers. A good amount of information and all you may need to know about groundhogs themselves. The book's layout is supportive with nonfiction features supporting the illustrations and text. We own several fiction books about groundhogs but I finally feel this books explains the history and reasons we will watch to find out if a little rodent can predict the weather. An early spring would be great. However, if winter must stay here in the midwest bring some snow to enjoy and brighten our gray days.
Nonfiction Monday round up is at Wild About Nature.