A Song a Day...

A Song a Day...Keeps Non-Fluency Away!

Ok, I'm pretty sure that's not a word...but I couldn't resist.  The idea of singing a song a day to build reading fluency came from Tim Rasinski and this article from TIME.  It seems like a simple thing to do...how could it really make a difference?

The article explains in detail the physical reactions you have from singing, but basically, it creates endorphins which decrease stress and increase happiness!  You don't have to be a good "singer", you just have to join in and sing and it builds a closeness or sense of community with your group as well. 

Now transfer these ideas to the classroom setting, by singing one song daily with your class (less than 3 minutes of your day) you are building classroom community, decreasing stress and creating an atmosphere of joyous learning which we know has the most transference....now let's add in the part that attacks fluency:


Put the lyrics in front of your students and ask them to keep their eyes on the text the whole time they are singing.  Do a new song each week, or every other week and when they kids are fluently singing that song (able to mimic the intonation and speed of the lyrics) without struggling, it's time to move on to a new song.  Even after moving on to a new song you can have a "request" day to revisit an old one they sang before. 

Tim Rasinski says if you do this with fidelity, your students' fluency will improve!  So I challenged my teachers, try this with your kids...if you do nothing else every single day...sing one song with eyes to text and let's see what happens. 

And so it began....
I suggested they might try some pop songs the students may have heard but don't know the lyrics (you have to be careful to pick an appropriate song for the age), because I thought they might hear it outside the school day and be singing along.  Also, some older songs that the teacher may know that are fun but the students hadn't heard.  You don't need to buy all this music.  Most songs can be found on YouTube, just play it hooked up to speakers and they can hear it and sing along!

My favorite thing about this activity is that EVERYONE can be successful.  Even students that are below level will learn the repetitions in the song and feel some immediate success and some of the higher readers that can have the worst intonation while reading, this forces them to slow down and feel the words.

The first response I got from teachers is: MY KIDS LOVE THIS!  They said the kids were excited about starting their day with a song, unmotivated kids were finally excited about something and the teachers were loving the fun time together.  Wow!  All that from a few minutes of the day?  I can't wait to see the results we reap from this fun strategy!  

If you are a visual learner like me, you might need to "see" what this looks like for different ideas of rituals to use but you mainly have to make sure that they always have EYES to TEXT:

Fluency is such an important piece of the reading puzzle, give it a try!


Lifting the Level of your Reader's Thinking

When kids are stopping and jotting, the goal is to grow their thinking and thoughts as the story develops.  Sometimes that takes modeling and demonstrating how that actually "looks".

In this lesson I explained to these third grade students that they needed to support their thinking with evidence from the text when they stop and jot while reading.  I was actually teaching this lesson for a group of third grade teachers to see so I reviewed the lesson from the day before about "what" to stop and jot at the beginning of the video. 

Rubrics are key.  Not only demonstrating what meeting or exceeding the standard "looks" like but showing them how to do it and then leaving a visible model up for future reference.  They need to be able to hold their work up and see where it matches.

The kids seem to be doing very well with this!  Let me know what you think:


Stop, Jot and Think While You Read about characters

We want readers to constantly be thinking and developing ideas and theories while they read, so using "stop and jots" (post it notes) help them remember to reflect, take note of and synthesize their thoughts while reading. 

I'm discovering how important it is to really look at the genre of study that a grade level is working on to help guide examples and non-examples of what students are learning to notice in their jots.  Third grade is currently working on their developing characters study in Readers' Workshop.  I chose the following examples for jots to help guide their thinking about characters. This chart can be added to as they continue to learn new things about their study of characters:

Places worth Stopping and Jotting:
I learned something NEW about my character
My character's action was unusual
When I want to write about what is confusing me???
When I disagree with what is happening
When the text is BEGGING me to write something!
When something really important happens
When you have a prediction with evidence
When I see a PATTERN in my character's actions

I am also finding that it is just as important to hold them accountable for doing thinking they are capable of doing by reminding them what they should not be doing any more:

What's NOT worth posting:
The first thought coming to mind
Repeating what I already jotted
Forcing myself to have a thought
Nothing exciting is happening
Restating what the text says

Does your current genre of learning guide your suggested stop and jots?  Any suggested prompts to help us with character study in 3rd grade? 


Looking at Word Nuance with First Graders

Everyone seems to have really loved the learning I shared from Mary Ehrenworth about reading visual text.  One of my first grade teachers asked me to do a close reading lesson using visual text.  EVERYONE is on fire about close reading!

I looked at the first grade common core standards to see what I felt like would be best approached with visual text.  I chose this one:  With guidance and support from adults, demonstrate understanding word relationships and nuances in word meanings.

I wanted to use a music video for this lesson, like Mary did in her lesson with us...but every time I found a song that was appropriate for first graders it didn't have specific words I could look at closely to meet this standard.  I also felt like looking at ALL the lyrics to a song was too much so I decided to pick a song with a simple repeating chorus.  I ended up choosing "Brave" by Sara Bareilles. You can find all the lyrics to the song here, but I wrote only the chorus out on chart paper. 

Say what you wanna say
And let the words fall out
Honestly I wanna see you be brave

With what you want to say
And let the words fall out
Honestly I wanna see you be brave

I just wanna see you
I just wanna see you
I just wanna see you
I wanna see you be brave

I just wanna see you
I just wanna see you
I just wanna see you
I wanna see you be brave

On Monday,  I went in their classroom and just asked them if they would do a shared reading with me on this passage.  I pointed out that the passage had a word "wanna" that is a slang word, but the author had chosen that word for some reason.  It was really difficult to not sing this but to read it like a book with the students following along.  I'm sure they wondered what kind of weird passage this was, but the cool thing about first graders is they are pretty much willing to try anything you ask them.  We practiced a few times and I told them I would come back tomorrow to read it some more.  

On Tuesday, I came back with a list of words: chorus, lyrics, slang, rhythm, tempo.  I started off by just saying that the secret about this passage we read the day before was that it was lyrics to a song (pointing to the word lyrics as I explained) and that in a song most songs had a chorus (pointing again) where the lyrics were repeated.  I pointed out the word slang we had learned the day before and then said the other two words rhythm and tempo were kind of the beat and feeling of a song.  They were important signals to help you know if it's a happy song or serious and listening carefully can help you know when it is about to repeat a chorus. I didn't spend but a few minutes on this because it was only just a bit of new info for them to add to their schema and words to possibly help them be able to explain their thinking later on.  I played the song for them and we did a shared reading of the chorus every time it came up in the song.  Their little eyes lit up.  It was fun to watch them enjoying the music and realizing it made it easier to read the passage once they heard it over and over.  We listened a few times...there may have been a little bit of dancing in our seats. :)  I pointed out the word "brave" and how it was repeated in the passage and asked them to turn and talk to their partners about what that word meant.  When listening in and then sharing most of them had the idea that it was not being scared, doing something even if you are scared, courage and many related to the Disney movie Brave.  At the end of their thinking I asked them to go home that evening and think of other possible meanings of the word brave.

On Wednesday, I reviewed their thinking from the day before and validated to them again that those thoughts are correct meanings of the word brave.  But I introduced the idea that words can have shades of meaning or nuances that are completely different.  I explained that today I would show them the visual text for the word brave that the author of this passage had created in the form of a music video.  You can see it here, or in the video lesson below.  The idea was to help them see the word nuance of brave possibly meaning to be brave enough to be yourself, to be different, to do what you want when you want to do it.  I think for first graders they got it.  You can see the entire Wednesday lesson below.

If you find yourself asking, "Why go to all this elaborate trouble of having them see two forms of the word brave when she could have just told them and showed them a picture example of each or read books that represented the word differently in each?"  The reason is 1) they came to the thinking on their own so they are more likely to remember it later 2) this experience was much more joyful which creates more transferable learning and 3) all learners were able to be successful in this experience, no scaffolding necessary.  I am finding visual text to be the level playing field to introduce a concept and it is definitely perfect for close reading.  We really examined the word brave!


Visual Text and Close Reading

Many days ago, I had the opportunity to give close reading a try in Maria Mallon's kindergarten classroom.  I used what I learned from Mary Ehrenworth about visual text to try to lead kindergarten students to look closely at visual text to notice close details that would lead to theories about what was happening in the visual story we examined.

After my lesson, I conferenced with Maria about what she thought about the student outcomes and how she felt about the differences she noticed in my vocabulary and questioning with the students.  She was very positive and excited about trying this new strategy!  We began talking about what a "day 2" lesson would look like and Maria was excited to try to give it a try herself.  What a teacher learner!  We made a plan for me to come back and observe her teaching this lesson.

Then...as Murphy's law would have it, Maria woke up with a cold and scratchy throat.  (It is the plight of all teachers of young children.)  I offered to teach the lesson for her or pass it on to another day but she refused because she was so excited to have the kids finish up their "thinking" about the story.  She even asked me to film it so we would have the two lessons together to use to show others.  Wow - willing to teach something she never taught before, feeling not 100% and did I mention this are kindergarteners?  I mean, anything can happen... :)

But of course, she was the master teacher as always, and I think it was as much fun for me to watch the kids from the observing side.  I don't know if this relays on tape so I want to point out one of our favorite noticings was that this strategy met the needs of all levels of her learners.  Students that are still trying to recognize letters were able to identify happenings in the story and the students that are fluent primary readers already were challenged to consider multiple possibilities for why things could be happening! 

Without further ado...here is day 2 of our kindergarten students closely reading with visual text.  Would love to know your thoughts and noticings!

Thanks again, Maria, for sharing your classroom and learning with the world!


Reading Fluency isn't Sexy Anymore - But it Should Be!

Tim Rasinski
During my week at the Teachers College Reading Institute, I heard one presenter say: "Tim Rasinski says fluency isn't sexy any more.  Complexity is sexy."  I laughed, not knowing really what that meant but found out later in the week when I attended a session led by Tim.  His session was entitled:  Why Reading Fluency Should be Hot!  (It's all about what the "catch" words are in education...and it shouldn't be.)  Tim Rasinski is a professor of Literacy Education at Kent State University, has written over 200 articles and authored or co-authored over 50 books and is a leader in the field of reading research and fluency.  Here's what I learned from Tim:

What makes reading fluency hot??

It is related to comprehension and if you want students to read they need to be fluent, comprehending readers that enjoy reading. You also need joyous readers to have successful readers.

One of the most successful, joyous strategies I use in clinics we run with students is singing.  There has been much research on the benefits of singing but for our purposes we will call it using rythmical words. When working with students I start each day with singing "fluency exercises".  When looking at the words afterwords you work in the comprehension.  You teach them to be thinking about songs they sing and what they mean. Singing is reading!  And it's reading with fluency!

A few years ago, he did a speech about this and he received this letter from a teacher:

So after he received her letter he called her and asked if they could do a study the following year.  She said sure!

She taught her kids three songs a week, always with the words in front of the kids and prompting them to make sure and look at the words.  Becky had lots of ELL kids in her class and they were being assessed by the DRA.  First graders were expected to achieve the level of 16 or 18 and none of her 25 kids were below that expectation.  Eight or so of her students ended up level 24, 26!  Of course this wasn't only because of the singing but you have to ask yourself why students are achieving so well compared to previous classes that different.  The singing was what she was doing different.

This appeared as an article in the Reader Teacher, where she is the first author and he is the second on "Bringing Back the Joy of Singing in the Classroom".  Fluency is important but we need to work on it in a joyful way.  Singing makes us happy! 

I got into reading fluency myself as a teacher.  I worked with Title 1 and Special Ed kids.  I had an interest in teaching kids that struggle.  I was doing the best I could with those first kids but no matter how well they comprehended what I read to them their fluency was not improving.  I began reading new articles coming out on fluency while working on my Masters Degree and I discovered that the materials I was being given at school addressed comprehension, phonics and everything except fluency.  I began trying my own things with my students to improve their fluency and they took off!

There was really nothing on the market you could buy for fluency until The National Reading Panel came out and said fluency was HOT!  But it was hot on and off because misunderstandings with oral reading, speed reading and fluency only being important in primary grades kept teachers confused.  If students don't get fluency by second grade they need help with that.  It's essential. 

What’s Hot in “Reading Today” comes out every year.  Reading Fluency:  2009 - 2012  came out as not hot!  That's what made me mad enough to write this article:  “Why Reading Fluency Should be Hot!  Common Core Standards labels fluency as one of the foundational skills.  Finally.

Tim Rasinski is the author of Word Ladders, a word game for skills practice with word work and building for K - 6.  He likes the idea of having fun and playing with words as you learn. 

Here are his Building Blocks of Fluency
Model Fluent Reading - read aloud, point out things you do with your voice and character
Assisted Reading - shared reading, paired reading, audio reading (listening center, close caption hearing)
Practice - practice, practice, practice, wide reading (read a story or chapter and talk about it and do extension activities....mediocre reading) deep reading (repeated reading of same thing)

What would motivate a reader to read something more than deeply or repreatedly?


Fourth Graders Learn to Build Theories!

In a recent training day with my fourth grade teachers, I shared my learning from Teachers College Reading Institute about developing theories from stop and jots in Readers' Workshop.  I have been

excited to see all the students walking around the building with books they are reading filled with sticky notes sticking out around all the corners of the pages.  I even saw a student from our school sitting at her brother's soccer practice diligently reading, then stopping and jotting on extra sticky notes she was carrying around!  (You better believe I sent a photo text to her teacher to brag!)

My fourth grade son was working on his reading at home and we had a conversation that went like this:
Me:  Hey buddy, what are all those notes sticking out of the book you're reading?   Him:  I write notes on these stickies about what I'm thinking when I'm reading.  Me:  Cool, let me read a few.  Him: No, mom, you wouldn't understand.

Lesson #326 in parenting...
Your child's teacher > Mom (even if she is the reading coach)

Anyway, I was circulating through fourth grade classrooms last week capturing some photos and video for our Writers' Workshop night and just happened upon a brilliant closing share of Readers' Workshop in Jenny Nash's classroom.  One of her readers had developed a theory she had been working on.  Please forgive the AWFUL camera work.  I am a hot mess without a tripod, but I knew if I didn't catch the moment I would miss out and so would you.  So take some dramamine and enjoy..


Kindergarten Scares Me

So... you know this famous quote?

Today, mission accomplished.  I taught Kindergarten. 

Over the last week I have been having a conversation with some of my kindergarten teachers about Close Reading.  They are hungry for more information about what that looks like in the primary grades with students that are not reading or are reading at a very low level.  I shared my kindergarten inspiration blog, Kinderconfidential, written by Kristine Mraz where she shared her thoughts about Close Reading with her kindergarteners.  And I pondered the learning I have experienced following the Close Reading Blogathon by Christopher Lehman and Kate Roberts, as I anxiously await their book coming out next week:  Falling in Love with Close Reading .

During all this conversation and pondering I thought to myself, "I am the reading coach, I should be modeling and willing to step into their shoes and learn what will work for our youngest readers.  Even if it is epic fail.  Even if I pass out."  (This was a real possibility.)

So I channeled my inner Mary Ehrenworth and what I learned from her Secret and Songs of Text session I attended at the summer Reading Institute at Teachers' College.  She used the visual texts of a Picasso painting and a music video.  I looked through the big books in Maria Mallon and Cheryl Dillard's kindergarten classroom and decided to try to teach them to closely read visual text from one big book.  My goal was to get the kids to notice nuances of what is happening in the "text" and what the story "seemed" to be about...so they would continue to grow and change their ideas along the way.  I would have liked to do this with just one visual but this is where they are right now, so I tried to meet them with what they are used to seeing and teach them this new "Close Reading".

So, while I'm throwing myself out there in front of my colleagues... I might as well share with the rest of the world.  Because honestly, whether I am impressed with other lessons I see or photos in classrooms...I ALWAYS learn something from others who share.  So since I managed to not pass out I'm sharing the video I had running.

I have plenty I could critique and would like to do over a little differently, but I was mostly happy with the outcomes and look forward to watching Mrs. Mallon teach lesson 2!   Would LOVE to hear your thoughts!



Secrets and Songs of Text

Secrets and Songs
I had the absolute pleasure of learning from Mary Ehrenworth at Teachers College Reading Institute.   

Her session was entitled:  Secrets and Songs:  Deepening What Children See in the Texts They Read

What are some ways to teach close reading so that kids will love reading?
Seeing more and being alert to the secrets and songs of text. 

Secrets and Songs of Close Reading
How can we teach students to see more in the texts they encounter?  You get out of reading what you bring into reading.  You need to know about the things the text is talking about (the nuances it’s referring to)
How can we innovate so that this teaching is engaging, intellectual and joyful?
What methods increase transference?  The highest level of instruction is sometimes your read aloud but there is low transference.
What kinds of texts might we incorporate?  If they do it then it will be rewarding... That’s increasing the likelihood of transference.
One example activity:
I immediately took note that Mary referred to this as visual text.  Read this visual text and see what story it tells. 

Guernica by Pablo Picasso

Mary Ehrenworth
While looking at this Picasso painting she spoke about why Picasso painted it ( “Guernica” was painted in response to a bombing in northern Spain by German and Italian warplanes during the Spanish Civil War.  It is a mural sized painting that represented the horrors of war.)  Teach kids to notice what there is to be noticed.  Turn to partner and speak about what you see.

The next thing would be using words to describe these things you see and back it up with evidence. Make sure to teach kids to be specific but kind of literary. (Lots of times kids skip the hard part of text- make sure they stop and look at every little thing)
Is the painting sad or what?  desperate? Not hurt, desolate?  What specific word would describe these characters or one of these characters rather than just any character in any book?  She asked us to try that with a partner by saying, “Your idea, then your evidence.” Either one character, all characters or compare/contrast characters.

After we spoke for a minute she interrupted us with a mid-teaching point. “Let me tell you what I notice with some nice reading work I see going on here: I heard readers saying the characters seem ____ because______.  There is no one right answer when texts are complex so it’s about seeing all the sides of something and telling why you see that or read that.  Then synthesize it to what is this starting to be about.  “What in the text makes you say that? ”Complex texts are about more than one thing and why do you see what you see?”  Teach kids not to say the characters ARE, say the characters SEEM....

So we talked about what is happening in this text, what is happening with the characters and then what is this text starting to be about...  message, underlying theme....chances are with complex text there are more than one.  So get in the habit of saying: possible idea, evidence and then your partners should be saying, “What makes you say that?”  Ask them to point to the part that demonstrates what you are saying.  So Close Reading is about wanting to see more in the text. 

As another example activity:  She then gave us the lyrics to the Mackelmore song: “Wings”  Equally complex but different kind of visual text.  She suggested we read it with our partner because one of the ways to increase your comprehension and help you see complexity in text is to compare your thinking with someone else. 
Read it and think about who is in this story and what does it seem to be about. 

(feat. Ryan Lewis)

I was seven years old, when I got my first pair
And I stepped outside
And I was like, momma, this air bubble right here, it's gonna make me fly
I hit that court, and when I jumped, I jumped, I swear I got so high
I touched the net, momma I touched the net, this is the best day of my life
Air Max's were next,
That air bubble, that mesh
The box, the smell, the stuffin', the tread, in school
I was so cool
I knew that I couldn't crease 'em
My friends couldn't afford 'em
Four stripes on their Adidas
On the court I wasn't the best, but my kicks were like the pros
Yo, I stick out my tongue so everyone could see that logo
Nike Air Flight, but bad was so dope
And then my friend Carlos' brother got murdered for his Fours*, whoa

See he just wanted a jump shot, but they wanted to start a cult though
Didn't wanna get caught, from Genesee Park to Othello
You could clown for those Pro Wings, with the Velcro
Those were not tight
I was trying to fly without leaving the ground,
Cause I wanted to be like Mike, right
Wanted to be him, I wanted to be that guy, I wanted to touch the rim
I wanted to be cool, and I wanted to fit in,
I wanted what he had, America, it begins

I want to fly
Can you take me far away
Give me a star to reach for
Tell me what it takes
And I'll go so high
I'll go so high
My feet won't touch the ground
Stitch my wings
And pull the strings
I bought these dreams
That all fall down

We want what we can't have, commodity makes us want it
So expensive, damn, I just got to flaunt it
Got to show 'em, so exclusive, this that new shit
A hundred dollars for a pair of shoes I would never hoop in
Look at me, look at me, I'm a cool kid
I'm an individual, yea, but I'm part of a movement
My movement told me be a consumer and I consumed it
They told me to just do it, I listened to what that swoosh said
Look at what that swoosh did
See it consumed my thoughts
Are you stupid, don't crease 'em, just leave 'em in that box
Strangled by these laces, laces I can barely talk
That's my air bubble and I'm lost, if it pops
We are what we wear, we wear what we are
But see I look inside the mirror and think Phil Knight tricked us all
Will I stand for change, or stay in my box
These Nikes help me define me, but I'm trying to take mine, off

I want to fly
Can you take me far away
Give me a star to reach for
Tell me what it takes
And I'll go so high
I'll go so high
My feet won't touch the ground
Stitch my wings
And pull the strings
I bought these dreams
That all fall down

It started out, with what I wear to school
That first day, like these are what make you cool
And this pair, this would be my parachute
So much more than just a pair of shoes
Nah, this is what I am
What I wore, this is the source of my youth
This dream that they sold to you
For a hundred dollars and some change
Consumption is in the veins
And now I see it's just another pair of shoes

So what happens in this story? A boy who wants a pair of shoes, a specific kind?  And then? Dark moment, friend’s brother killed for shoes?  Why wear them?  And then?  Chorus is like inner thinking of fly, what do they mean?  Get away?  Then he gives like a mini lecture and a plea for change? 

What is really hard about this is this is what is expected of our kids on state tests. The tests are normed on a minute a page and a minute a question.  And the kids are really being asked to do close reading, which involves rereading.  They have to go back and ponder and linger and think.  So you have to give them opportunities in your class to know that the first thing you have to do is ask yourself do I even know what this is saying?  Often our kids basically comprehend but they have to be trained to say to themselves, “What am I really noticing?”  When you are doing this work what is helpful to kids is being introduced to technical vocabulary. 

Here are some words you might use in technical vocabulary of looking at music verses text from a book:

Watch the video:

What did you notice after the chorus in the imagery and tone?  Speak to the people for a minute in your group about the lens you were using.  You don't always have to explain it out.  What they saw, or heard, or thought is ok.  One of the things that kids struggle with in state tests is tone. In this video, the tone switches with male voice then kids voices.  Why do you think the performer did that?
 What was happening with his tone when he got angry?

Here are some insructional methods for this:

 Do you see yourself using visual text as a tool to teach text complexity in your clasroom?  This got my mind turning with ideas!  What do you see yourself doing?

Cross posted on LIVE FROM THE CREEK


From Post Its to Theories in the Reader's Notebook

Cynthia Satterlee
Here in Florida, we have been talking a lot about how important it will be for our students to learn to write in response to their reading to meet the common core standards but we are still learning what that "looks like" and how to get the students there.

I was very interested to see what Cynthia Satterlee, from Teacher's College Reading Institute had to say during her session entitled:  From Post-its to Theories to Writing Literary Essays:  Help Students Write Quick Literary Essays in the Reading and Writing Workshop

The first question Cynthia posed to us was, "What do you do with all those post its that the kids are stopping and jotting on while reading?" <As I think of how I threw them away when students were done reading so they could start a new book> Thankfully she didn't really require an answer before she said, "Don't throw them away!  Have the kids use them to build theories and essays."  It's a gradual process.  They move from inference to interpretation.  They take the good work they are doing on those post its and make it a little better as they move to writing about their ideas together.

There are so many ways to use the stop and jot:  as an active engagement activity during the mini lesson, as an exit ticket before they leave for independent work in workshop, during their reading in their books...but for when it is used as a quick picture for the teacher to see their thinking such as the morning bellringer thought, active engagement or exit ticket try using it with a JOT LOT.  On the poster each student has an empty square with their "student number" and they leave their thoughts there.  Imagine how much more thought they will put into it knowing their peers with see!  This will also give you a quick look at who you need to meet with or form a small group for during the workshop.

First have them grow their surface thinking on the stop and jots.  Elaboration on thoughts:
character feeling...... to......character feeling with evidence
character trait.......to.......character trait with evidence
interpretation of character.....to.......interpretation through character

Be ready for quality conversations with your students and for them to have thoughts on their own and with each other by making sure they are reading quality literature.  By starting with their thoughts on characters they have someone to "get to know" to build theories on.  "How is your theory of this character changing?  Why" 

In 4th grade students need to make inferences about characters, develop theories about character and find big themes in the story. In 5th grade students need to make inferences about characters interacting with other characters in the setting, notice that author sets the story up in a certain way to reveal theme.

How to make worthwhile post-its to bring to conversation in book clubs:
Don’t come to book club or conversation club without post its to talk about
Boxes and bullets can work on post-its
Use those to build ideas about characters

If there a lot of post its with one idea on each, work with them to see how to make a big idea (How are these post its related - do theory work with them)
When they are ready to start "talking like an essayist" then they can use that language to build their essay.

Post its are important, it helps the teacher understanding your thinking, it helps you form big ideas

Don’t worry about essay structure first, get ideas. 

Here's how they can see the structure with the stop in jots:
This will be a big move for us in writing this year.  I would love to hear tips and tricks from others that are successfully doing this with their students. 

Cross posted on LIVE FROM THE CREEK


Conferring with Readers

During the Reading Institute last month,  I learned some new ways to look at conferring with readers.

Kathleen Tolen had this to share:  You need to prepare ahead of time, not just conferencing on the
Kathleen Tolan
fly.  Keep notes and follow up on something they were struggling with, look at artifacts (post its) in what they are currently reading ahead of time, study data on this child, have the child tour you through the work they are doing with their reading.  Find a way to lift their thinking a level.  There are lots of ways a mini lesson is a lot like a conference.

What do you do in a conference if you don’t know the kid’s books?  Try to read as many books in your classroom as you can.  If you have a series and you read one you will have an idea about the others. In the beginning of the year have the books out in your libraries that you know.  Also, at certain levels there is a way the story goes basically.  We are holding kids too accountable for comprehending everything.  Do you comprehend every single thing you read in a book or every single part of a movie?  Sometimes when you are just enjoying something you don’t comprehend everything.  It’s ok.  Also, don’t hold a child to the accountability level of comprehension that you have.  An 8 year old will comprehend something differently than an adult.  Tour their post its in their book of stop and jots.  Pick a portion and have them read it to you.  You need to hear your kids read aloud to you at times you aren’t assessing.  If a child is reading a non-fiction text then you can look at questions they may have and say:  I see you have a lot of questions about alligators.  You can take these question post its and put them on the cover of your next alligator book and see if you find the answers to your questions there.  USE post its.  Their work will be better.

The important thing to do at the end of a conference is to leave a LINK.  Just like you do in a mini lesson.  What will the student do when you leave them on their own.  In a mini lesson you end with a link and that is how they go into work session. In a teacher/student conference you end your conversation with what they should do or where they should go next with their reading.  (Not necessarily an “assignment”, but more like a habit or action)  You should see evidence that the student is interpreting their reading.  Noticing, comparing and all reading strategies get them there but their goal is to interpret their reading. 

One thing that is important for us is to have reflection time about what we need to get better at when conferring.  Breaking habits is hard so you have to put it in the forefront of your mind.  You need to “hear” what you are saying after it is over.  Audio record your next conference with the student.  This is easy to do with a smarthphone!  Continue doing it until you are doing what you want.  Kathleen did this for weeks and realized she was doing too much of the talking and not enough of the listening.  At first she put a sticky note on her clipboard that said “Shut Up” until a student saw it and asked her why she had that written down.  So she ended up telling the class was she working hard on being a better listener than talker.  They all decided to have a code sign for Ms. Tolan is talking too much which was rubbing their nose with one finger.  It really helped her.  Finally one day after a conference a student said, “Good job!” and she said, “Oh, good, I taught you something?”  and she said, “No, good job not talking too much!”  LOL

A reflecting conference shows how your work is improving or maybe they are in a place they need to reflect and see why things are growing and improving.  The kids need to be involved in the learning.  Let them reflect and SEE what their next step forward will be. 
fly.   Keep notes and follow up on something they were struggling with, look at artifacts (post its) in what they are currently reading ahead of time, study data on this child, have the child tour you through the work they are doing with their reading.  Find a way to lift their thinking a level.  There are lots of ways a mini lesson is a lot like a conference.

Alexis Czeterko, staff developer for TCRWP,  had us reading chapter books and jotting our thoughts throughout so that she could model conferring with us.  
Can I just say this freaked me out?!?  What would she think when she read my thinking as a reader?  Was what I was writing "enough"?  Where should I stop and write? Wow, I wonder if this is how my students feel?  Well, the answer to that was probably no.  My students probably didn't worry about what I thought because I didn't spend much time reading their stop and jots or hold them accountable to deepening their thinking.  Hmmm....  I'm going to remember that. 

Alexis Czeterko
Alexis shared these points to remember:

Architecture of a Conference
Research the reader
    what will you compliment?
    what will you teach?
    how will you teach it?
Give a compliment
Teach the reader something and have them try it
Rearticulate what you’ve taught and encourage the student to do this often as she or she reads (LINK)

Alexis says to look through the stop and jots of their independent book before your conference.  If you notice the jottings on post its are not connected in any way that can be ok but try to get the student to connect their thoughts.  Get a theory about the story or character and continue to see where your thinking changes. Help them make that connection the first time if they are struggling with it. 

Documentation is important.  She logs a date under the students page in her data binder and writes her compliments on left of 2 sided paper and right she rights the teaching point.  Sometimes she will pull out the current read aloud or a mentor text to demonstrate what she is trying to teach the student to do in their book.  Go to the student where they are reading, don’t call them back to your space.  Meet them where they are and if other students are nearby hearing what you say it’s ok. They are actually learning too. When the student is done reading they need to do something with their post its.  They may take a few to a new text to build on their thinking. They may use some to tape in their reading notebook and write about their thinking.  They definintely shouldn’t throw them away, staple them in the reading notebook and grow more thinking!

What are your best tips or tricks for conferring?

Cross posted on LIVE from the Creek


Close Reading

So let's be honest here.  I do have a fundamental understanding of what close reading is but I have been avoiding speaking the words out loud in conversations for a reason.  I don't know if it's because I'm from the south, or because I got it confused with cloze reading in the beginning, but I didn't know if it was pronounced close (as in - close the door) or close (looking at something closely).  Well now I know for sure.  Look at that reading closely! 
Kelly Hohne

Kelly Hohne helped refine my thinking to seeing close reading as a way to see more in text than you did before to help you grow new thinking about it.  Use different lenses to do this.  Then they take these lenses to new texts.  It’s not about understanding the text only.  It's about learning to do something that you can do again on your own later.

When to do close reading?  You don’t want to do it all the time or you will never finish reading!  Do it purposefully.  Maybe look across the introduction of texts, or maybe kids in book clubs might make a decision to do a close reading of this part where they think it is really an important part.  Or maybe if there is a passage of text they think is not important, then why would the author choose to add it?

Think about why, what will kids get out of it, and how will this help my kids with other texts reading independently. 

Stop at the part you want to look at closely and talk about why that part is powerful. Point out which part they can look at to support their thinking about that part.  With informational text the author chooses illustrations, headings, subheadings and possibly even a word bank for a reason.  Does that support your thinking about this important part you are looking at closely? Is the word choice helping make this part important? 

Lenses to Use with Close Reading:

point of view - What is the perspective of the author on this topic?  What perspectives are included in this text?  Missing?
language author used - How has the author used language?  (Non-fiction - How have experts quoted in article used word choice?)  What words stand out?  Why jight the author have chosen these words?  What do they show?  Are the words creating a positive or negative tone?
text structure - How has the author organized the text?  Why might he/she have made these choices?
Go close with very small portions of text
You could do close reading with an except from an article using the lens: what does the author want you to think, then show them an opposing article or text.

As a teacher read the passage as a reader.  Stop  and then reread it and think what part do you want them to look at closely.  What part do I want them to see more in....look at the standards and see what they need to work on.  That’s the part you base the lesson on. 

You may have the students take that portion of reading and write a response connecting their new thinking with evidence from the text. 

Close reading can be used in a mini lesson, while conferring with students, in the closing of a workshop and during book clubs.  When do you use close reading?

Cross posted on LIVE from the Creek


Ramping Up Readers' Workshop

Most of us who are elementary teachers know we are going to have to teach readers to grapple with complex text in order to help them meet the more speedy growth that common core requires but we don't know yet what exactly that will look like in our classrooms.  We can't go faster or squeeze in more lessons so we need to be very prescriptive about what strategies we use to move our students through text levels and help them respond critically writing about what they read. 

Kathleen Tolan
On Day 2 of Teachers College Reading Institute, Kathleen Tolan reminded us about not forgetting to use the important metacognitive strategies in our lessons but showed us ideas to help students dig deeper for more complex work. 

*  Visualization and Envisionment help students be more engaged in their reading because they see it in their minds eye.  What you envision may be wrong until the text corrects you.  As a reader, you adjust to what the author is showing you with their words.  This is why reading fantasy can be so hard because you don’t have a schema for what something may look like.  You can practice this with kids by reading aloud and having them close their eyes while you read something.  They can sketch what they are see in their mind movie.  This is a whole part of reading that can be lost to some students.  Build the world of the story.  When you can do this and you really understand the character you can better make predictions.  Prediction engages students.  It makes them want to find out if they are right.  Kids can be unspecific about what they think “I think she will be able to do it”  Make them predict the steps that leads to their prediction.  When the prediction is wrong, then you have some work to do about why they predicted wrong. 

* Character work is important because it helps us understand why characters do the things they do.  What are the traits of this character?  Help kids understand which traits might be positive or negative, what happened in the story that might change the character’s traits.  Find text evidence to support it or things that are evidence to the contrary.  Read over your jottings during reading and find out how they go together.  Group your jottings together to make new ideas.  Look at your jots through the eyes of another character.

*Theme in a book is not looking at what book is about.  It is about the aspect of that topic.  Example:  Book is about Friendship.  Theme is how friends can be there for you when you are going through a hard time.  Don't let kids get away with broad statements.  They should be used to you saying, "Say more...".

*Make a chart of sentence starters for students to dig deeper and tell more about their noticings and judgements after reading.
To add on...
This makes me realize...
My other theory is....
The bigger idea I am having now is....
In other words...

Digging Deeper
How do we help our children know that there is hard work that will have to be done for a book?  Tell them.  When you are modeling for your students you need to point out what you are doing specifically, because this is hard work and they need to know exactly the steps to do.  It is possible to over-scaffold or over-coach but you need to be honest about the hard work they are doing so they expect to struggle and reach for the answer.

Because reading is invisible, we have to make it more tangible for kids. There is not a reading skill that we don’t use in life.  Watch their actions and point out when they predict and infer and make connections when they are just living their lives as readers.

Cross posted on LIVE from the Creek


Interactive Read Aloud

Alexis Czeterko
This week at the Teachers College Reading Institute I've had a School Leaders Group Session with Alexis Czerterko, staff developer for upper grades for TCRWP each day of the week.

Alexis has really pushed my thinking about things I thought I already knew how to do.  Some of those things I will share here on this blog and others I will share on my personal blog after I have had a chance to do the activities with you (Chets Creek Elementary School teachers) in person! 

One interesting thing about these sessions with Alexis each day is that we took the role of students in a Readers' Workshop.  Do you know how hard that is to do?  Let me tell you, as she goes conferring around the room your heartbeat starts going a little faster thinking, "Is she going to ask me a question?  Aaaccckkk!  What if I don't know the answer?"  You may be laughing but really it made me think about how students feel when they know they are going to be talking with a teacher about something they are not sure about.  So I guess what that taught me is I have confidence in my reading, but I don't have confidence that I am thinking deeply enough about my reading.  So what do I need to work on?  Because if I am not living my life as a growing reader than how can I teach my readers to grow?  More about that later...

The first important thing to do with an interactive read aloud is to choose a book carefully that aligns to the unit of study you are working on and the teaching points in that unit.  When Alexis modeled the interactive read aloud during our "Readers' Workshop" she had prepared the book ahead of time with sticky notes all through it to remind herself as a teacher the times she wanted to stop and model or help the readers draw meaning from envisioning, inferring and synthesizing.  You are to give kids
Interactive Read Aloud
an image of what proficient reading looks like.  She began by saying,"Look at the cover and get your mind ready".  Then she referenced a word bank that she had put on the document camera of words from the book we would encounter.  The word bank was separated by just new vocabulary and content vocabulary. She instructed, "Talk with your partner about words you don't reecognize."  After reading the first page in the book she walked the book over to the document camera and showed that first page and said, "Talk with your partner about words you see that were in the word bank.  When she did stop and model she gave us many opportunities to turn and talk.  If you don't prepare deliberately what you are going to talk about it would be hard to be focused about what the kids are learning from your modeling.  An example of this would be Teacher: "Given what just happened, I think the character is feeling and thinking " Then she would read a little more and stop and say: "Turn and tell your partner what the character is probably feeling now about this?  During turn and talk she circulated the room.  Her goal being for the kids to "grow" their thinking from the previous part.  After a few of the models that she did she stopped and pointed out implicitly her teaching point, "Did you see how I grew my ideas of the main character as we went along?

I loved hearing more about interactive read alouds.  I know that from now on I will prepare my teaching points more carefully and not be afraid to cover the book in sticky notes!  Even though I was comprehending the book just fine as a student the turn and talk points made me think deeper about the characters and text.  An essential as we prepare to ramp our kids up faster!

Cross posted on LIVE from the Creek


Helping Our Youngest Readers Move Up the Ladder of Text Complexity

Natalie Louis
This session was presented by Natalie Louis who is the co-author of Writing for Readers
(Heinemann, 2013) a unit of study for Kindergarten writers. 

The lower grade is potentially in danger with text complexity.  It's a huge learning curve from what we've been doing.  We need to find new ways to move readers forward faster.  Don’t abandon Fountas and Pinnell.  We still need reading levels, the progression of students has just been ramped up.

In kids book baskets, in the past the teacher would mostly have the students independent level.  We started to play around with the formula in the baggies.  Marie Clay says what most grows readers is the instructional level (stretch level). So already we aren’t putting the right thing in the book bags.  Reading Recovery studied and discovered kids grow one level every two weeks, so most of the instruction wasn’t at instructional level.
So we decided to get more instructional level texts in baggies - more shared reading with a small group, sometimes one to two levels above their grade level.

I want to read that book with you!!!!
Kindergarten teachers understand the power of shared reading.  How you know its a good shared reading - the kids are excited and UNRULY!  And its mostly implicit (just doing reading - don’t talk about it).  Less blah, blah, blah, more do, do, do.  It’s why they want to read.  They hear that model of you reading and want to sound just like it.  If your kids are all sitting still, hands folded -it’s not a good shared reading (all eyes on same text - 1 book).  More like a MOSH pit where kids want to surf toward the book.  That's what she wants to see in classrooms.  Excitement! 

You do the dance of shared reading.  As much as they need, until they DO back.  Gesture for them to try, don’t talk about it. Continue saying "Join me if you can." as you turn the page.  Just read it with them.  We are talking levels below I , J. 

Take guided reading books and use them for group shared reading.  Teacher is only one with copy.  All eyes on same text.  The idea is that at the end they might be able to read by themselves. 

Kids below benchmark get this burst schedule of shared reading instruction from you.

Example "Group Burst Schedule"
 You would do two week cycles where you take one group and see them intensely and work with the instructional books in their baggie.  This won't take much time!  These are low level books you can shared read the entire book pretty quickly.

Day 1: Two or three instructional texts (meaning books 2 or 3 levels above their independent level)  in shared reading. Saying to the kids: Join me if you can.  The kids are shouting out things they notice and you just don’t respond.  Keep reading and stopping and saying “Join me if you can”
Day 2:  Two shared reading two above level
Day 3: Guided reading at their level
Day 4:  Two shared reading  two above level and decide how each is doing
Day 5:  Informal or Formal assess to see if their level moved unless they are totally lost still

This can help them “burst” ahead.  Even if you can move a few up faster the one behind can get more focused one on one help.

Partner Reading - There is no reason to have a reading partner unless there is trouble.  If things are good...you don’t need help.  A partner is there for help.  Make sure kids know why they have a partner - so there’s someone else to help when there’s trouble or join the joy!  They need to understand the why of partner reading.

Every child has that one book they keep picking up that is WAAAAY above their level.  Maybe its a book they've seen an older sibling read, maybe it's a topic or popular character right now, but whatever it is - Let them have it!  I call this the child's northstar book - way above your level but you will LEARN to read for this book. They want to read this book so bad they try to sound these huge words out when they are really a C level reader!  Mark it with a post it and say this book is special because it is hard for you but we will give you a shot.  Guess which book they work on hardest?  If I say a book is "just right" and you struggle with it what are you saying in your head to yourself in your head?  "My teacher said this book is just right and I can't read some of these words - ugh I'm so dumb."   A hard book they know is hard  they say, "Oh, I don't know lots of these words but she said it was hard for me so no big deal."  but they work harder.  Let them have it but label it with a sticky note with a star so they know that is their special hard book they chose. 

As an aside...I remember when my son was in Kindergarten and hanging at the C level for so long and desperate to read Star Wars easy readers.  I bought them anyway to keep at home and I would read them aloud to him at times but he sat in front of those books longer than any others trying to sound out "Obi Wan Kanobi".  I'm pretty sure "the force" (or his Northstar books) propelled him through those primary reading levels. :)

I think the Common Core Standards and text complexity will force us to continue looking for new and different ways to get those "bursts" in reading levels.  Do you have any tips or trick to share?
Cross posted on LIVE from the Creek


Write Around for Reading

This strategy can be found in the Characters Unit of Study.  A “Write Around” is a strategy to engage
Write Around
students in silent conversation.  It helps students share their opinions, debate or discuss.  It also fosters critical thinking because they have to consider other opinions.       

We participated in one as a pre-reading activity.  A photo or image was put in the center of a piece of chart paper.  Groups of four are ideal but we had a few more.  Everyone uses a different color marker and takes turns responding to the image. You can write what you think about the photo, your questions, your inferences or theories.  Groups members are to start new ideas or respond to yours already written there.

She encouraged us to respond to what other people wrote by elaborating on their writing and taking turns as well.   Zoom in on one portion of the photograph and write about it.  What are you now noticing about just this part?  Move around the table or rotate the chart  Read what another reader has written and respond.

You could begin:
I agree with...
I disagree with..
One question I have is...
What have you learned in other parts of your life that you can relate to this?
What’s an idea you are now having?
I think...

The Babe and I
The activity we did was old black and white photographs during the depression era.  Then she went straight into reading aloud a picture book with us (The Babe and I) that had the Depression era as a setting.  It really gave a deeper level to the understanding of the book as she modeled interactive read aloud.

The "Write Around" strategy is a great pre-reading activity but it can also be used as a debate format about a controversial issue.  Sharing their ideas and building on others' ideas.  Or you can use it as an end of unit activity for a read aloud or content area.  Students take turns write and responding to each other about what they learned or how their thinking has changed at the beginning of the unit or read aloud.  Can you see using "Write Around" easily in your classroom?

Cross posted on LIVE from the Creek


Building a Reading Community

Kathleen Tolan
My morning session Monday was with Kathleen Tolan - senior director of TCRWP, author of several books including some of the new Units of Study

Kathleen spoke passionately about building a reading community.  Below I am sharing my notes that still may sound a little disjointed even after I reread and filled in but I left what I felt was important or worth repeating.  I am italicizing her thoughts that are some direct quotes and some paraphrased by me.

How do we really think about building a reading community?  It is essential.  We will be holding on to it all year long. Most of the kids you teach have a broken relationship with reading, only a few have a good one.  Some of these essentials maybe weren’t addressed earlier you can’t make assumptions that they have heard of it before.   

When trying to develop curriculum it’s hard because you are always being given more things to stir in the pot and never one to take out.  And reading affects ALL content areas.  Reading has to matter in a school as a whole.  In every classroom.  Make things in your school that display that reading matters... Photos, displays of book reflections, book ads...  We have lots of assessment data but we need to think of the kid as a reader.  If you were making a timeline as a reader what would be on it?  Let kids talk about themselves as readers.  If they had a great experience reading what were the components of that?  If kids had a bad experience what were the components of that.  Lists of favorites and why they are favorites. Conversations with readers about their lives as readers.  Some kids who are avid readers lose the love because it isn’t cool to read.  They don’t talk about themselves as readers.  It’s important for them to speak about themselves as readers.  Tell them about YOU as a reader.  Read the books in your classroom library so you can talk with kids as a reader of that particular book.  Book buzz- sell them or talk about them to kids.  When was the last time you walked into a bookstore and just picked a book off a shelf and just read it?  Really?  Kids with broken relationships with reading do that on a daily basis.  Let kids sell books to each other. Also talk about books you found not so good.  Why did you not like it?  Oprah Winfrey’s book club sales would go up after they talked about it, not the day she introduced it. 

Build a community where we talk about books.  Rating systems for books, interactive bulletin board happening in room.  Recommendations inside covers on sticky notes.  Let kids own and not be ashamed of the books they read, every classroom has a range of readers they should still be a part of the reading community.  If you are talking about the characters of books it doesn’t matter what level you’re reading.Make sure there are plenty of choices for all levels of readers.  Struggling kids shouldn’t have fewer choices.  They need to feel part of that community.

If you want to scare yourself, do a running record on your content textbooks.  They are always written above their level. Reading identity gets established young.  Have time each week for kids to shop the classroom library to find new books to read.  1/3 of books leveled but part of the library not leveled for interest level.  Have a smaller library out at the beginning of the year so you can control choice a little until after you assess.  Getting kids turned onto a series will help kids read a ton of books.  If you have second language learners it’s good to have a few books in their native language to continue their reading skills in their native language as well as books in their English level.  When we launch book clubs or historical book clubs we need to save books to side so they won’t have read them already.  Structures and units affect how we roll out our library.  It’s important for kids to read for long stretches of time.  The more you practice something the better you get at it...  LONG periods.  AT LEAST 30 to 40 min a day.  So many “activites” around reading than kids actually reading.  The reading extensions can’t become more important than the actual reading.  How many of you as adults finish reading a book and go get a coat hanger out of the closet with some yarn and make a mobile about the book?  It’s not growing readers!

Help kids keep track of the reading they do.  They can keep a log but use it for conferring and have kids use it to look at their reading habits.  Help them see how they can use it to assess themselves for reading time and genre type and where they read.  Columns to have on the logs:

book /level / home or school / page started / page ended / minutes read / genre

If you don’t talk with kids about noticing their reading patterns and they think of it as only an assignment don’t do it.  That is not what it’s for.  Study and get data on yourself as a reader.  Also compare with a friend. 

There is a magic to books if you get kids hooked in to reading books, but they won’t progress without the right instruction.  Structuring your day with rituals and routines that make roles for the kids and teachers clear is important.  60 minute block is really needed.  Mini lesson needs to be mini.  It’s important for kids to be on the floor close to you because it creates an intimacy with you.  Your feedback is instant and if you ask them to do something to practice what you teach you can hear and see what they are doing better.  30 to 40 minutes is the time for workshop and reading. You pull small groups, assessments, circulate, confer.  Don’t do one thing only every day.  You might also be working with a book club or partners reading.  Sometimes you might have a mid-workshop reading point.  You stop what they are doing and note it.  The share closes the workshop time with a noticing where a student used what you taught in that mini lesson. 

During running records you need to look at fluency and reading rate.  If that’s not something to patch and fix the longer you wait.  Reading logs will help you assess this informally.  The important thing about a running record is you don’t stop until they bomb.    How can you assess their higher level comprehension?  Written responses to their reading.
Depending on your assessments, that will tweak your instruction and units.  Some groups may need more word work or compare/contrast.  Assessments should change your instruction. 
Our educational system teaches to deficit model, always teaching at what they don’t know.  If you teach to the strength that can spiral back to help the deficit as well.  Don’t get caught up in all weaknesses.  

I think that all the teachers in my building agree that we are ALL reading teachers and that it is
important to use reading strategies and teaching techniques throughout the day, but there is always more for us to learn about teaching reading through content or informational text.  I think that we will do more of that in our professional development this year.  But I am thinking there are some creative ways we can display to our students, parents and stakeholders that we are a "community of readers".  Maybe highlight a teacher's favorite childhood book, short "commercial" clips that teachers or students can do for books to be played on morning announcements or accesible on a share site for teachers to show at a good time and maybe even capture video footage of teachers in the school that are willing to share their life and habits as a reader.  Especially those teachers that are familiar to all students, so watch out resource teachers and administrative staff...I'm coming your way with a camera!  What ideas can you share to build a reading community?

Cross posted at LIVE from the Creek


Teachers College Reading Institute Begins

Inside Riverside Church
Our day started bright and early at the beautiful Riverside Church I spoke about yesterday .  Where Lucy Calkins gave the keynote entitled:  Leading by Influence

If you have ever heard Lucy Calkins speak even once, you know her words are powerful, she tells a story like nobody's business and she talks fast!  So I came prepared and took seven pages of notes but recorded her audio as well to go back and fill in some important parts I missed.  So, much of what I am sharing is direct quotes from her or her words paraphrased.  I want you to know that this huge church was filled to the back and you could have heard a pin drop.   The thoughts and ideas resonated with us all as I could see nods of heads around me and even tears at times.  I hope that what I share here will even have a small impact on you as it had a big impact on me.

Lucy Calkins
We are at a juncture in education where pressures and expectations are skyrocketing.  The Common Core Standards which have been adopted in 46 states point out that there is a gap that exists from high school graduation to college entrance where students enter a year behind the reading level they should. Even though it has been made clear that if there is any dumbing down of the texts it has been done at the high school level, maybe the middle school level but definitely not the elementary level.  (The level of text complexity in the K-5 level has not increased over the last 30 years). Yet the common core has put the responsibility of raising text complexity squarely on the shoulders of K-4 teachers. Between the grades of K -5 kids are expected to grow a level of 150 lexile points a year and between the grades of 6-12 the kids are expected to grow a level of 60 points a year.  What used to be expected at the end of fourth grade now is expected at the middle of second grade. We have to escalate the quality and volume of reading that kids do.  The expectations come with punitive results if students don’t meet the them.  Instead of 1/3 of third graders not meeting expectations in the U.S. we will now have 2/3 not meeting expectations. (This just happened in NY )  It is the level of reading, comprehending and writing.

The expectations are higher so the level of support for teachers should be high as well but schools have less money to provide for books and supplies because that money is used on tests and technology to take tests ( 15 billion is being spent in the U.S. to implement Common Core Standards)  Schools have less ability to provide professional development and less ability to provision kids with books they need and teachers have larger class sizes than ever and at the same time people, the media and politicians are calling out, “DO MORE, REACH HIGHER!”  Teachers are being portrayed as screw ups. 
That wake up call has been rung, and rung, and rung and it’s not gonna work now.  Why would people think that criticism is helping grow master teachers? 

The story that schools are failing is a carefully manufactured message.  It’s not true, for example, that graduation rates are at an all time low as people keep saying.  In the beginnning of the 21st century, the graduation rate was 10%.  Now the graduation rates are 75-90% depending on how you look at them.  The question Lucy asks is, “Why would Arne Duncan, U. S. Education Secretary, NOT count those graduating in August instead of June? Why would he not count GED graduates?

Why don’t people point out that levels of child poverty have tripled over the years and the scores have remained flat for 30 years.  The single factor that most relates to scores is poverty.  They should be saying, “Good for you teachers!”  Do they actually think the way to improve teaching and learning is to demoralize teachers? 

A study recently came out that said in the last 3 years teacher job satisfaction levels have gone from 62% to 39%.  It’s worse in elementary schools.  Over half are going through their day stressed.  Think about a day with your kids where you weren’t stressed at all.  How different was that from the day you were totally stressed out. 

Whether you like it or not those of you who teach reading are entering into a horse race. The move to more universal and rigorous common core assessments will yield data about approaches to reading and writing and the expectation that we will figure out the right answers from these tests.  Many of these schools are quickly moving to Readers Workshop.  This year they received more applications than ever. 

Here’s what will matter in your school because there is less professional development.  You must lead from within.  Build capacity.

Our first goal at our school should be to create a counter narrative to this “teachers are failing” narrative.  The “teachers are failing” narrative is demoralizing and it will never tap into the energy needed to do this work.  It’s not just teachers taking a beating.  Kids are taking a beating.  Lucy referenced Sandy Hook Elementary where they could be the death of optimism.  But authors captured the stories of heroic teachers and love displayed to give that school a counter narrative.  At Teachers College they have made the story of NewTown, CT the story of the principal, Dawn who attended many of their Institutes.  The principal who put herself in harms way to protect children.  THAT is a narrative.  These counter narratives need to be told.  They are what MATTERS.  It shouldn’t take kids dying to tell these stories.  Write yours as school leaders.  You need to do this to overcome doing more with less. 

Successful communities have leaders that rally others to fight for causes greater than themselves. Success or failure of an institution is how well it taps into finding talents of individuals.  We all need to be contagious learners.  It needs to be visable.  One way to rally communities is to go on walks through the school building expecting to find beauty.  Call it “Glory Walks” - illustrate your counter narrative with the magic that happens when a teacher sits and works with a child. 

Carrot sticks will never make teachers go the extra mile.  Rally them to ideas that tap into their belief system.  Tapping into people’s energy to make good work better.  As a leader, all of the people who work with you are on your lap or shoulder.  Choose to lead by influence. 

My favorite thing about her speech was teaching us about writing the counter narrative for our school.  I think we do a good job of that within, recognizing greatness, sharing small moments and telling the story of what makes our school special but I think we can do more.  I LOVE the idea of Glory Walks.  Sometimes when you are going on a "focus" walk looking for specific things you might miss out on something amazing that could be happening that very minute.  One of my favorite job assignments my boss ever gave me was to take photos of each teacher interacting with a child or class.  Truly I get teary eyed watching the slideshow of the photos teamed together because what we are doing with kids IS magical, and rocket science, and selfless.  We need to tell our story more!

Created with flickr slideshow.
Cross posted on LIVE from the Creek