Last Thursday night we arrived in Lima, Peru! This will be home for the foreseeable future.
We have been enjoying the company of family and friends; we have been searching out places to live; we have been learning from and working with some amazing people; we have been looking for and creating work, ways to share what we know while continuing to grow in knowledge.
There are amazing possibilities in this city of 10 million! If you are looking for a literacy/ language teacher and coach please let me know; I would love to talk to you about the possibilities.
When working with my students in language and literacy I am always looking for data. I don’t, however, rely much on standardized scores and summative assessments. While helpful in a very small way, those types of assessments give me information more about me, the teacher, than about the student. I look for data that I can use.
Every time I have a conversation with students I make notes about their learning, sometimes mental notes and sometimes written notes. I try to keep track of their use of language and their thinking. Every time I read student writing I make notes about their use of language, their ability to express themselves and their accuracy. This is the data that I use.
This is the real-time data that shows me what students know and can do right now. That data is then turned into large group, small group and individual instruction as needed to move all students forward. I encourage students to make mistakes, use big words, enter into debates and not be afraid. It is through making mistakes, I tell them, that I can know what the next steps are in their learning. All done in a supportive environment.
Give it a try; it’s not rocket science. When we pay attention to the students they will show us what they need. When we listen and watch, we will know what to teach.
If you are interested in how Reader’s and Writer’s Workshop works in one school in Minnesota, check out the site Literacy @ Riverview. The site gives an outline of expectations for reading and writing education. It is a great site for new teachers who want a window into elementary literacy or experienced teachers who want a refresher. There is also a section of resources in Spanish.
Here is a list of the strategies we are learning with the NUA cohort this year. The work has been wonderful and I always love learning! I am pretty sure that any one of them can be “googled” if you are looking for more information.
Today the vertical team, the multi-tiered system of support, is visiting our school. This is a great opportunity to get feedback on what we are doing well and where we need to improve. Specialists in areas of literacy, math, behavior, special ed., ESL, pre-K and kindergarten, … come to spend the day to see what/ how we are doing.
Some of the teachers and staff may get nervous when there are visitors. Me? I like feedback… especially when it is professional and leads toward growth.
At La Cosecha I learned a new vocabulary-practice strategy: Thumb Challenge!
Create a game board for each pair of students. The example in the picture used two crowns from Burger King (sorry about the glare). Along each side have the same set of vocabulary words and the word start. You could attach the words with tape, velcro, sticky notes. Then:
Have each pair of students sit knee-to-knee;
Place their thumbs at the starting line;
Partner A moves his/ her thumb to the first word and challenges partner B to define the word and use it in a sentence;
If partner B is correct, partner A asks about the next word; if not partner B asks partner A about the first word;
If neither partner can define/ use the word they need to get assistance.
Options: Use a third person to serve as the judge, deciding if the definition and usage are correct. Let students use notebooks and environmental print to aid them
When teaching writing in elementary and middle school, one of the challenges is how to keep moving forward with the different genre studies (narrative, expository and opinion … and don’t forget poetry!) while giving students the differentiated instruction that they need. At La Cosecha I learned of a way to do just that.
Using the units proposed by Lucy Calkins or the units created by your district (or by you) the first step is to begin each unit using a simple prompt that will let you complete a pre-assessment to find out what the students already know. You can assess their writing using the rubric to guide your instruction during the unit. My experience has been, though, that those first drafts show too many holes to be of much use; the students need instruction in many areas.
Then, after teaching the unit while referring often to the rubric and publishing a final draft, use the same prompt you used at the beginning of the unit. This time, it is important to use the rubric to deeply analyze the writing. The first thing you will most likely notice is a vast improvement over the initial use of the prompt. However, if you use the rubric and turn the information into numbers (see image to the right) you will see trends including areas that need specific attention.
This is where the differentiation can happen. Based on the needs you notice, you can form groups of students for differentiated instruction just as you would do during reader’s workshop. This small group work could happen during the first week of the next unit or you could schedule a week in between each unit for the differentiated instruction. Use the CCSS to decide which areas are of greatest need. You might also decide that a change in tier 1 instruction would be most appropriate (e.g. focus on punctuation during morning meeting). You can let this assessment guide you during the next unit of study.
One more idea that I loved: sketch the story then touch and tell. Oral rehearsal!
I learned of two texts at La Cosecha 2014 that can help us teach for biliteracy. Biliteracy is one of the three goals of dual language education: students who are bilingual, biliterate and bicultural. I will add them to my wish list! Click on the image for more information.