Speaking to My Children- What Language?

The short answer is: speak to your children in the language you know best.  Oral language is the precursor to all literacy skills:

  • What you can think, you can say;
  • what you say you can write;
  • what you can write you can read.

When parents ask me what language they should use with their children I consistently tell them to use the language they know best.  Most of the time the parents are non-English speakers wondering if they should speak with their children using the little English they know.  “No,” I tell them.

When children are offered rich language in extended discourse they develop amazing vocabularies and complex sentences.  If their caregivers offer them limited vocabulary and limited discourse that is what the children will develop.  Because literacy skills transfer, the extended discourse will transfer once the children have the necessary vocabulary in the new language… but they can’t transfer what they do not know.

  • Speak to your children often and listen to their answers.
  • Have them tell you stories and ask follow-up questions.
  • Ask open ended questions (questions that require more than yes or no).
  • Ask them to explain more or tell you what that means.
  • Give them new vocabulary as you ask them questions and respond to their stories:
    • Child: I used that thing to cut cheese.
    • Adult: Oh, you used the cheese slicer.
    • Child: Yes, I used the cheese slicer and I cut a lot of cheese.
  • When you read with your children ask them questions such as:
    • What do you think will happen next?
    • Would you have done that?
    • How would you solve the problem?
    • Tell me the story
    • Talk, talk, talk!

There is much research about the importance of oral language.  Give your child the gift of language through conversation and story telling.

Literacy creates justice!

Graphic Organizers

If you have not seen these please take a look: Graphic Organizers. Estas ayudas gráficas están disponibles en español también.

Any time we can help students organize their thinking, plan their learning, make their learning visible, we are helping them build connections and increase the number of synapses– that is learning!  With graphic organizers we can increase literacy, too.

Literacy Creates Justice!

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Staggered Start Guided Reading

You are right- I never explained this!

In a guided reading group one of the goals is to have students read text while supported by you, the teacher.  Remember the idea of gradual release of responsibility:

  • I do, you watch
  • I do, you help
  • You do, I help
  • You do, I watch

Using staggered-start can be both of the last two bullets; the key is that the student is ‘doing’ while you watch or help:

  • When you stagger the start, each student has a copy of the text;
  • One student student begins with the first paragraph (first page, first part,…);
  • When the first student gets to the second paragraph (second page, second part, …)  student number two begins with the first paragraph while the second student continues on;
  • When student number two gets to the second paragraph, student number three begins with the first paragraph while the previous students continue reading;
  • While students are reading you are monitoring, taking notes and coaching.
  • When a student finishes s/he goes to the beginning and starts again and all students stop at the same time.

Did that make sense?  The idea is that each student starts and continues reading through to the end.  Because each student begins at a different time, each one has to appropriately-struggle with the whole text.  No one is getting nervous about everyone listening; no one is counting ahead and pre-reading his or her paragraph.  This is not round-robin reading!

As coach, you cue students as they are reading and take notes about their struggles.  I always ask students to use their finger or a ruler while they are stagger reading so that I, the teacher, know where they are on the page and I can match the text with their speech as I quickly check in with each student.

Remember, this is one step in a whole process; it is one way to have students practice their reading in a guided reading group.  Staggered reading will mean nothing if students do not understand what they are reading.  Reading= comprehension.

Literacy Creates Justice (and it’s fun!).

Here is a group of teachers practicing staggered reading:

Modified Guided Reading

Thank you for the question about Modified Guided Reading.  Let me start with the link to the original article and a link to an article that explains the original article.

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Now that you have read those, I have a copy of my Modified Guided Reading-Plan for you to look at and use.

The results are amazing when done carefully.  In order for this to work, though, we have to think about our students and what they know and what they need to learn.  When I use this format I pre-teach the aspects that my students will struggle with (you need to know your students!) and work on building oral language around those ideas.  By the time they get to the text they will be in that wonderful Zone of Proximal Development (Vygotsky) and understand most of what they are reading.  I try to leave appropriate challenges along the way so that their reading is in the Goldilocks-Zone.

Try it and let me know what you think.  If you want some additional coaching please let me know.  Remember: Literacy Creates Justice (and it’s fun!).

Now in Peru!

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.

Minnesota State Fair

I love the Minnesota State Fair!  I try to go at least twice a year when I am in Minnesota.  While there is lots and lots of food, there is also much to learn, arts and crafts, animals, …  If you go, be sure to check out the Education Building to learn about options for post-secondary education.  Amazing possibilities!

Here is a view from the Space Tower at the Minnesota State Fair:

Listen, Watch then Teach

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.

Literacy in Minnesota

Literacy @ RiverviewIf 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.

Check it out and see what you think:
https://sites.google.com/a/stpaul.k12.mn.us/riverview-literacy/ 

Strategies for Learning and Engagement

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.

  • Bubble Map- Describing
  • Circle Map- Defining in Context
  • Double Bubble Map- Compare
  • Flow Map- Sequence  
  • Tree Map
  • Vocabulary Development- Pronoun Boxes Comprehension
  • Vocabulary Development- Synonym Triplets
  • Vocabulary Development- Taxonomy
  • Vocabulary Development- Vocabulary Tri-Fold
  • Vocabulary Development – Dancing Definitions
  • Community Builders- I Am, I Love, I Always
  • Equity Sticks/Voice Avatar
  • NUA Notebook
  • NUA Explicit Strategy Instruction Protocol
  • Touching the Spirit
  • Punctuate Your Thoughts
  • Speech Bubbles with Imaginary Teachers’ Comments on Race/Ethnicity Related Issues
  • Comprehension – Key Word Notes
  • Composing with Keywords- Writing
  • Good and Better- Vocabulary
  • Decoding–Phonic Pattern Word Lists
  • Comprehension – Essential Summaries
  • Choral Reading Repetition (The girl on the train)
  • Panel Books

Just to name a few! 🙂