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!