Out of This World Literacy : January 2013
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Guided Reading...Let Me Know What You Think!

Hello Friends,

I am enjoying some down time after working 6 hours this afternoon to complete my second guided reading set.  Phew...these resources are a massive undertaking, but I feel like they will be a great help for teachers.  My plan is to complete one guided reading level every two weeks.  I will be working my way up the scale, starting with level M.  Once I complete M, N, O, and P, I will be bundling them into one resource for third grade teachers.  Then I will continue through the levels up to grade six. 

I spend about 3-4 hours researching the objectives that are chosen and instructional targets in each level.  I analyze the Common Core State Standards, The Continuum of Literacy Learning, and text features specific to each level.  From these resources, I create the objectives. 

I would love some feedback from teachers on whether these resources are something that will be helpful in the classroom!  Click on the pictures below and download the free preview on my Teachers pay Teachers page and let me know what you think!




Blogging from Boston...Day Four


Day four was another full day of learning.  We looked carefully at genres again today. 
Here are my TOP 10 things I am thinking about tonight:

1. It’s not about teaching the book…it’s about helping the reader use strategies to develop a deep understanding of what they can take away from the information they are reading.
2. Don’t excuse books that are short or appear basic as not being rich text or ‘too easy’ for your fifth graders…if you look closely you may find deep meaning that upper elementary students can grow from as readers.  These kinds of books are great to use as interactive read-alouds that we can share as a whole group with our class.  Imagine the conversations we could have!?  

3. We could read the same text to students at different grade levels and the students will take something different from those books.  Students are growing, thinking, and changing their opinions year after year.  Students’ perspectives and thinking about a text read to them in fifth grade will be much different than when the same text was read to them in second grade.

4. Instead of teaching to the text by always asking teacher generated questions, let’s listen for our students’ responses to a text.  We can learn a lot about how our students think by giving them time to talk about their thinking with the class, in small groups, or with a partner.  Sometimes our specific questioning gets in the way of students’ thinking.  Instead, let’s ask, ‘tell me what you are thinking about this book?’  Or, ‘what are you wondering after reading today?’ 

5.  Model rich learning by sharing out loud what we are thinking in your head as you read to the class or during guided reading.  By modeling our thinking, students will begin thinking and forming their own ideas. 
6.  We need to believe that kids can think and that sometimes they can teach us something.  We sometimes keep them from thinking by asking them questions we think they should be answering.

7.  Book clubs are a great opportunity for students to go deeper with their thinking and understanding of a text.  Teachers should be part of a book club to share input to guide students through their understanding.

8. Book clubs can be done in all grades.  Wordless books work great for kindergarteners to share their understanding of a text without having to read words.

9. Reading is all about meaning.  When we are teaching specific skills in guided reading (making inferences, for example), we always need to tie back to the big idea of the text. 

10. When analyzing a text while reading with students, take some time to talk about what the author’s purpose is and also what the big ideas are.  The big ideas should include themes that can
be pulled out of the story and applied to our lives (friendship, bravery, injustice, for example).

Today was another great day of learning.  Tomorrow we meet until noon then it’s off to the airport to get home.  As much as I love all this training, I am eager to get home and see my family!  Happy Thursday EveryoneJ

Blogging from Boston...Day Three with Irene Fountas!

Well today was a huge day!  I spent the day listening to Irene Fountas share her thinking around her new book, Genre Study

After a whirlwind eight hours of high energy learning...here are my TOP 10 things I'm thinking about tonight...

1. Students have to be motivated to read in order to be successful readers.

2. Teaching reading is a complex process.
3. We need to give students time to read independently.  Studies show the best way to become a better reader is to spend time reading.  We, as teachers, do not always need to be in front of the class talking for our students to be learning. 

4. If we realize students in our guided reading group are struggling through a text, don’t make them struggle through it.  It’s okay to take over the text and read it to them.
5. Students need to feel a sense of community.  They want to feel like a part of a group.  If a student is sitting in a guided reading group and the text is too difficult, that student will feel nervous, frustrated, and unable to participate.  He/she will not feel a part of the community. 

6. Creating understanding together with our students’ helps them develop their own thinking and learning.  They own their learning and retain information on a much deeper level when they have a part in each lesson.  It is much more powerful to include students’ thinking in a mini lesson rather than just telling them what they should know.  
7. Close reading is when readers analyze a section of text by reading it more than one time and talking about their understanding each time with other readers.  Looking at a text more than one time gives readers the opportunity to think differenly and gain new understandings each time the text is read.

8. As teachers, we don’t have to know everything about a genre before we begin teaching in a unit of study.  We can learn as we go right along with our students!  When we provide oppportunities for our students to share their thinking during mini lessons, they will often share thinking that we may not have thought of on our own.  We will learn from them!

9. Exposing children to a variety of informational texts will help them know a lot about things...but then what?  What's the point of knowing a lot of things?  What is the purpose for students to know these things and how will it change the world?  (this is some deep thinking I am playing with in my head).  Having conversations with our students around not only what we are learning but WHY we are learning is so important.

10. Have students talk about their responses to reading.  Then have them write about their thinking!
Phew what a day!  Two more days of learning are on their way then it's time to fly home and see my babies:)  Happy Wednesday friends!!!

Blogging from Boston...Day Two


I am back to my hotel after day two of training.  Today we spent a lot of time thinking about genre studies in both reading and writing workshops. 

Here are my TOP 10 things I am thinking about tonight:

1. Questioning authenticity of nonfiction text.  Is the text really factual or is it from the author’s perspective?

2. Grounding teaching decisions in assessments.

3. A hybrid text needs to include a fiction genre and a nonfiction genre.  For example, it could include elements of realistic fiction and biography. 

4. The difference between ‘doing’ guided reading and using guided reading to bring students as far as possible in their reading abilities.

5. Writing territories (topics students often write about)…any topic can be a good one provided that it is important to the writer and written well. 

6. Read-alouds are great because they take away the need for decoding.  Students should experience grade-appropriate text regardless of their reading level.

7. Ask questions during an interactive read aloud that draw out thinking from students, rather than ask for one right answer.

8. When students read, they do not think about just one skill (for example, making predictions).  They are thinking about the entire reading process at once.  It’s a complicated process!

9. Students infer when they are reading all the time.  As teachers, we need to bring this skill that they are already doing to their attention throughout our year together.  We can’t just teach inferencing for one week and never talk about it again because our students our inferring every time they read.

10. Reading orally is all about reading the way the writer meant the text to be read.  We read informational text differenty than we read poetry or a mystery. 

That’s my TOP 10 for today…Tomorrow I might have a TOP 100 since I will be spending the day listening to Irene Fountas share her thinking around guided reading and genre studies!

Blogging From Boston...Day One

Hello Friends!  I am coming to you from Cambridge, MA this week as I am spending the week at Lesley University.  As a Literacy Collaborative Coordinator, I head to Boston for a week of professional development in literacy every year.

I’m planning a Top 10 blog post about my new thinking at the end of each day.  We are talking about literacy instruction this week, specifically on guided reading and genre studies in writing.  There is also a lot of talk about the Common Core State Standards as well. 

Here are my TOP 10 things I am thinking about tonight:

1. This idea comes from Carl Anderson’s work in Assessing Writers.  Let’s stop calling the time before a rough draft ‘prewriting.’  Our students are in fact writing.  Let’s call it ‘rehearsing’ instead.

2. What do we, as teachers, understand about writing?  And what do we teach our students about writing?

3. What does an effective writing process look like? 

4. Let’s take some time to watch students writing and assess what they do.  Are they rereading their work?  Do they spend some time rehearsing or do they jump right into a rough draft?  How is their writing stamina?  These are just a few of the questions we can answer about our students as writers when we observe the process.

5. The most important thing we can teach our young learners is to see themselves as writers…real writers who have something important to say that matters to this world!

6. As teachers, we need to accept that writing can get messy.  We have to be okay with lots of marks, fixes, corrections, do-overs.

7. Just like students learn math differently, they all have their own approach to the writing process.  We need to teach different ways writers write and give students the options to try what works for them as writers.

8. To have an effective writing process, kids need flexibility.  They need to be able to try new approaches to their writing.

9. Our young writers MUST have a strong sense of audience and purpose so that they can see their writing as not just another assignment, but rather as something of great value not only for themselves but for their future audience. 

10. Teachers NEED to be writers in order to teach writing!

That’s my TOP 10 for today…let me know your thoughts.  Hopefully there is at least one idea in here for you to think about.  Happy Monday!
I've linked up with some amazing bloggers for a blog hop. Read some great tips about nonfiction writing from Michele from coffeecupsandlessonplans! Hello Friends!
My name is Michele and I'm from Coffee Cups and Lesson Plans!


I'm Jen's guest blogger today for the Blog Hop.

I've had Nonfiction on my mind a lot lately.  I teach sixth grade to some serious smarties, and with the changes in the Common Core Standards this year I've had to revamp a little of my Language Arts program.  I was reading a lot of novels before, and using Writer's Worksop.  As much as I <Puffy Heart LOVE> the novels I read like Hatchet, and Chasing Vermeer, I've found I need to spend more time on nonfiction text features and structures.

Nagivating Nonfiction was born from that.  I didn't want to do just one single unit on nonfiction.  So much of what is read today comes from this category, I felt I could find a way to infuse it into more of my ELA daily/weekly routines and units.

I introduced Nonfiction by teaching my students about Text Features and we practiced this using Time for Kids Magazine which my class subscribes to.  As the year went on, I began focusing on the structure of the text.  This was MUCH MUCH harder for them to do.  They got stuck on sequences and cause and effect.. even as sixth graders. I had to back up a few times and use easier text.
Finally with almost half the school year gone we are hitting our stride.  We are getting better at recognizing cause and effect and compare/contrast in text, and I have added narrative expository stories as examples.  We are consistant with the task rotation cards I've created for structures and features, and I'm adding more challenging text every week.
Next I'll begin pulling my Writer's Workshop back in with expository text, we've done a ton of summary writing and hopeully pull out that longer essay soon.  I am also hoping to get lucky and be able to use some of my smarties writing as examples next year!

Meanwhile, my next goal is to find meaningful nonfiction text that supports themes, ideas and issues from my novel units of study.  My expectation is that by the end of the school year, our last novel, (Chasing Vermeer) will incorporate not only critical reading skills for fiction, but also articles on art, biography and history.  Do you have a resource you can share with me?  I would LOVE to hear it!

Thanks to Jen for letting me take up a little space on her blog today!  If you are interested in having the nonfiction task cards, posters, writer's notebook bookmarks, etc at your finger tips for easy use, visit my TpT store here,  and stop by and visit me at Coffee Cups and Lesson Plans!



Thanks Michele for the great ideas! I agree that the Common Core has made us all rethink how much we are teaching nonfiction in our classrooms!! Hop over to see my blog entry on teaching students how to begin writing poetry at http://drowninginpaperclips.blogspot.com/