Friday, October 24, 2008

I have books a first grader can read in my room; Imagine That!

I introduced the idea of just right books this week. Before this week we had been gathering books that interested us for our book boxes. The students could then read the words, retell the story or tell a story using the pictures.

I have asked them to have at least 3 or 4 "just right" books in their box now. (they can still have a few hard or easy books)

So, as I was conferecing this week, I have been checking book boxes and helping my friends make better choices in reading material. I noticed that my friend J had a box full of thick higher level books.
"Are these your just right books, J?" Me
"I can't read any books in this room." J
"Really? Come over here and we can look at some books together." I gathered 6 or 7 for him to look through
" Do any of these look interesting?" He chooses one and opens it and....reads the words! He chooses another, and low and behold, he can read the words again.

He looked at me with an astonished face and says, "These are Mrs. Harshberger (his Reading Recovery teacher) kind of books. I didn't know you had Mrs. Harshberger books in here!"

I did not add these books to my library recently. These lower levels have been here all year and some have even been in his box before. Had J internalized the idea that he can't read and therefore, stopped looking at the print? When else does he do this?

J has reminded me how important it is to convince each child that he or she is a reader.

Fall Break

OK, I made it to Fall Break...time to take a breath. This first month and a half has seemed so hectic. I haven't had time to reflect, which is a very bad thing.

Two of my colleagues and I (with the help of our math coach) are revamping how we teach math this year. We are trying a workshop approach.
In the past we have been frustrated with
a.) our math series
b.) the students understanding of number concepts
c.) trying to differentiate using said math series
d.) our lack of bathroom breaks throughout the day (oh wait, that is a different post)

Kids come to us each year having memorized facts, yet they don't understand what those facts mean. So we have spent the first part of this year "exploring numbers". For example, if a student was working on 7, s/he would use many different materials to make 7. S/he may use pattern blocks, jewels, cubes, unifix cubes, geoboards,beans, etc. The next step would to be record this in some way. Then to transfer that record to a number sentence. This is done over days or weeks. Each child is assessed and working on a different number.

We hope that fostering this deeper understanding of number concepts will show throughout the year. For example, when we teach fact families the kids will have already discovered, on their own, how this works using manipulatives and the concept should "click" with them. (notice my use of the word should...only time will tell)

The hard part of all this is trusting that it will work. There have been no worksheets in math yet. Will parents understand what we are doing? Stay tuned...