Tuesday, April 29, 2008

A little bit of reading

O.K., just so you all don't think I'm a big slacker, I will explain that this is the dreaded Music Program Week. We have spent a large amount of the past two days practicing for Thursday's performance. I did manage to squeeze in some instruction time this afternoon.

My kids asked this morning if we could PLEEAASE do reading workshop today. How can a teacher say "no" to that? We had about 55 minutes of workshop before the last practice. The kids were really engaged today. It could have been shear exhaustion from standing on risers for hours or they could really be becoming avid readers. (I'll choose to believe the later)

I spent conferences today working on decoding issues. I conferenced with one little girl, C, who has been reading at a G/H level in group. She was reading a level I from her "just right" books. She needed to be reminded to go back and reread and them point and slide. We practiced on one page together and then she proceeded to read the rest of the book by herself. She did appeal a few times, but I told her that she had the tools and I thought she could do it..... and she did! She shared with the group how she used rereading and told them that she felt "good" when she figured out a tricky word.

I watched Debbie Miller's Happy Reading tapes last night and I feel re energized again. I think I may work on a sheet to record individual conferences and then bind these into small "books" to use next year. I am thinking I would need a space for what they are doing well, a small running record, what we worked on in this conference, what we may need to work on in the future, and possible group work. I like using the small steno books that I am using now, but maybe this would organize information better.

If I figure this out and figure out how to put this form into the blog I will do this. I welcome any ideas you may have on this form. Feel free to post!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The Great North American Basket Search

O.K., I had this brilliant idea to color code the baskets that my books are in in my room. So, this weekend I ran a few errands and thought I would pick up some different colored baskets as I am using mostly blue baskets right now. Sounds simple enough doesn't it?

Well, here we are on Wednesday and in the last 5 days I have been to Deals, Dollar Tree, 3 different Dollar Generals, 3 different Family Dollar stores, Walmart, Target, Alco, CVS, and Pamida. These stores were located in 4 different towns. I found exactly 1 purple basket! I think that this was way to much effort for something that is probably not going to effect kids ability to read. I am using some dish pans and some odd haped baskets. If I happen to run across some baskets in the fiture I will switch these out. I will not be spending any more time or effort on baskets!

I think that I sometimes get wrapped up in the little stuff and lose track of the big stuff. I am hereby vowing to focus on the "Big Stuff".

(I did buy new shelves and am anxiousely awaiting their assembly... but I promise not to obsess!)

Monday, April 21, 2008

Operator Error

Ok, today's reading workshop did not go well. However, I will take all the blame for this. We are having book fair at our school this week and we had a storm drill today. Sooo, my reading block had two separate interruptions. But, my kids are usually flexible and I think it would have gone fine except, this brilliant teacher justified doing word wall tests during this time by deciding it fit in the daily 5 because it was "word work".

I had a parent volunteer and my assistant pull kids back to give them their tests. This just added chaos to the normally quite working environment. It seemed to just throw the kids off balance and that, in turn, threw me off! I was worried that I would not get everybody's test done and I just was not at my best, to say the least.

What does this mean? Are the word wall tests worth the time and effort put into them? Is there an easier way to differentiate the lists and still not lose my mind? Do I let my 9 or 10 kids who are one week away from completing this year's words to just stop taking tests? (I think I may have answered that question just sitting here) I like having the weekly tests because it seems to motivate parents to work with their child, but I worry that it isn't meaningful. Is it too much like those weekly spelling words that have been proven not to really work?

If anyone reading this has answers to any of the above questions, please let me know! I will continue to reflect on word wall words and weekly tests and will keep you posted on my progress(hopefully I will make progress!)

Friday, April 18, 2008

A minute to reflect

My last post stated I should be blogging more often. I didn't quite follow through, but I will attempt again to reflect in writing each day.

I have introduced 4 of the 5 Daily 5 activities. (I'm still waiting for Lois to start that word work; just kidding, I plan to introduce word work next week.) I introduced "read to someone" this week and it seems to be going well. There is a bit more noise, but it is "good noise". I think I only notice this because of how really quiet it has been the last couple of weeks. We seem to work out the partner thing pretty well. The students are only allowed to respond, "yes. thank you," when someone asks them to read. It is really interesting who students choose to read with when they don't have fear of being rejected!

I did notice today in a conference that some students are pointing at each word when reading to a partner. I think they are doing this to help their partner follow along. I am just wondering if this regression is going to hurt anyone. I will be watching and noting how these particular children read with me in group next time.

I continue to be happily surprised at how good they are at choosing "just right" books and how engaged they are in reading. I have decided to add more book shelves to my room. I have been surfing the web and looking at others classrooms and have decided I need even more of my book out. I guess I will be shopping this weekend!

Wednesday, April 2, 2008


I realize that, if the purpose of this blog is too help me reflect, I need to blog more often. So here goes...

Yesterday I had two great conferences with two of my struggling readers. T was writing during the Daily 5 and was trying to write the word play (I am not going to think about the fact that we have written that word about 100 times in class so far). I asked him what he thought he should use to help him. (Hoping he would say, "I could use the word day from our word wall.") Of course, he had a better idea. He said, "I could use those sound boxes my reading teacher uses." Why didn't I think of that! I asked him if he could tell me how many boxes he needed and he said three. He drew the boxes and filled them in. I helped him add the y (referring to day on the word wall...I have trouble letting things go). What a powerful conference. He knew a strategy I hadn't even thought of using. He took ownership, drew the boxes, and filled them in. Thank you MaryAnn (his reading teacher) I couldn't do it without you!

My next conference was equally awesome! I sat down next to J. He was reading a book about bugs. He said he thought it was a "just right" book. He read a little and I agreed with him. Then he came to a page with a praying mantis on it. He told me it was harder for him to read about bugs he had never seen before. We discussed that when we don't have much schema it is harder to read. (I love it when my students use words like schema) I asked if he had any strategies he could use to figure out that word. He found the "ay" like in day and the "ing" like in going. He soon figured out praying then reread and got his mouth ready and out popped mantis. He told me, "sometimes when you reread the right word just pops out of your mouth." He did all of the above on his own; I was just sitting and listening. If we had read that book in a group he would have probably heard someone else say the word first and would have just repeated it or I would have introduced the word in my book talk. I would have never seen the evidence of his Great Thinking!
I love that these awesome thinkers in my class let me come along for the ride!