Monday, September 29, 2008

Why We Confer

Today, after much deliberating I posed my problem to my students during my mini lesson:
"Boys and Girls, last week I really struggled to get you to confer with me during Independent Reading time. I would pull up next to you and try to pry you from your reading!"

"Well, Mrs. Amick, we just love our books, and we don't want to come above water." commented one of the boys. The rest of the class nodded their heads in agreement.

"Well, I think we need to confer, what will I do during that time if I can't discuss your books with you?" I asked.

Together, we discussed the importance of conferring, and why I needed to do this simple task with them. Together, we came up with a list of questions, things that I would be asking them when I pulled up next to them. Here, is my student generated list of things that I am going to be asking them:
-What is your book about?
-Do you like the book?
-What level is this book for you? Is it easy, medium, or hard? (1, 2, or 3)
-Can you read some of it to me?
-What strategy are you using with this book? (we made a list of comprehension or monitoring strategies)

We talked about how important it would be for them to be thinking about their reading and what I may be asking of them. However, if they really wanted to share something specific with me during that time then they could go ahead and do that instead.
Overall, I was impressed, it was a very student led conversation. I just simply wrote their suggestions down while they discussed. I also discovered that they know exactly what I am asking of them. They get it!

Friday, September 26, 2008

"Oh, just leave us alone!"

This week has been a truly great week. We have truly been into the schedule, we have met together as small groups, whole group, and we have been reading! We received two packages from Scholastic Book Clubs where I spent all my classroom PTA money on books for my pumpkins. I showcased them all from the boxes and we made it quite the spectacle. We got some really great titles that my kids are thrilled about reading! Here is the problem:
Twice this week I have pulled up next to some kiddos ready to confer about their books. Ready to hear what they have to say about their connections, their inferencing, etc... They don't want to confer! They don't want to talk, my talking to them is pulling them up from under the water! I have kids asking if they can take books out to RECESS because apparently the 20 minutes I have squeezed into our schedule for reading independently is not enough for them! Conferring is the last thing they want to do because they are to into their books! (I even had eye rolling!)
What would Carl Anderson say? How about the great Debbie Miller? Any ideas?

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Inferring through the garbage

I am in love with a new book called Comprehension Connection. This book was recommended by one of my colleagues last year but my principal purchased it for us for a book talk. I am already using its contents. One of its contents was an activity on Inferencing. The author recommends bringing in garbage so the children can examine it and make inferences about the people that it belongs to, here is our conversation:
"I walk by a house everyday, they have the most beautiful yard, they have pretty flowers, and they have nice cars. Their house is immaculate. The thing is, I've never seen the people who live there. So, last night when I was walking by their trash, I took some!"
Here is where every jaw in my classroom dropped to the floor and they stared at me in astonishment. Their teacher had done the unthinkable...taken trash!
"So, I was wondering if you could help me solve the mystery of my neighbors?"
Every head nodded, still, no sound coming from their lips.
Inside the bag I had a Better Homes and Garden magazine, a coffee cup and lid, a tea bag, some receipts to very expensive places, and a band aid. Here are their inferences:
-The people who live there have no children. People with children don't have their "nice" things just out, they keep it up until their children are grown.
-The people who live here are older because they keep things so nice, they don't have to go to work a lot because their so old. That is why their stuff is so nice and why I never see them. They get up very early and they go to be very early at night.
They drink expensive teas and coffees because they don't have children.

About five minutes into this activity one of my boys says,"I don't think that you can get in trouble for stealing someone's garbage, they already put it out, they don't want it, I think it's okay."
Another little girl, "Mrs. Amick, you should get up early and go and knock on those people's door and introduce yourself. Then you should tell them that you took their garbage, because that is the right thing to do."
Have you ever been disciplined by a seven year old? I told them today that I really didn't take someone's garbage. I could see the relief on some of their faces!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

A Whole New World

Last Friday, at approximately 3:00 I received a package of 100 red worms. Worried that they would die over the weekend I went into a panic. I have never taught 2nd grade Science and so I was concerned about their well being! My other colleagues assured me that they would live in that box over the weekend and be just fine. Today, after forgetting my dirt at home on Monday, we "planted" our redworms. The concept of the whole experiment is to show students the work of the worms. We placed them in containers, watered the dirt, and gave them some compost that we collected in our school's woods out back. We also had a lot of worms and dirt left over and I put them in an aquarium that I stored in the attic. Many of my children are very interested in the changes that will take place in our containers. My surprise came during Writer's Workshop:
"What sort of work are you doing today as a writer?"

Many of my students that I conferred with today were writing about their worms, and the project. They were making predictions, giving them names, writing about the things they had seen, heard, smelled...
One boy discussed with me at length his learning. "You know Mrs. Amick, we created their world right here in our room! They have everything they need right there in that container! Isn't it cool to think that right now there are 100 worms working and doing their thing while we are here doing ours?"

I guess I didn't see it as that important! I really just thought that I was putting some worms into some dirt to watch them eat compost and poop it out! Boy, was I ever wrong!

Tomorrow: intensive group of students working on creating "worm like" words for stretching them into a story about a worm, or perhaps even a poem about what we're learning.
We'll see, the possibilities are endless!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

New Blogs!

So recently I stumbled upon the Stenhouse Blog by Stenhouse Publishers and I was impressed. Not only do they have some pretty great articles to read that I am completely interested in reading, but they have also created a really great Blogroll! I have been checking some of them out, they are mixed with just normal reflective pieces like mine, author's websites, and then great lesson ideas like at The Two Writing Teachers. Anyway you slice it, it is a great blog to add to your perusing! Check it out!

Friday, September 19, 2008 library day in room 142!

A Trip to the Library...
You may not think that is a big deal. You may not think students would get excited about a little ol' trip to the school library...but not these kids. Thursday morning rolled in and I mentioned that I had spoken to our librarian, our school has Babymouse, and Captain Underpants! We have acquired these titles this summer in our classroom during my many trips to Village Books, Goodwill, and The kids began to buzz, little post-it notes began to disappear, I was asked to write a note to the librarian. "Mrs. Amick can you write her and tell her we want to check out anything?"
"You always get to check out anything, now you just know what you want to check out!" I said.
Plans were being made!
Lunch arrived, "Mrs. Amick, Mrs. Amick, when are we going to the library?"
After lunch was over, we used the facilities, gathered our notes and we were off to the school library. As we entered, the librarian led them to the story area. She gave me a questioning look as it seemed everyone had brought a post-it note to the library. As I left the library, I felt proud of my students, they are readers. They are setting goals as readers, they are developing interests and finding favorite authors, they are excited (at the age of 7/8) about going to the library! Mostly, they are turning into lifelong readers, something I have tried to instill in them.
When I gathered them later they were all a twitter about their new finds. Some had stuck with with their post-it note ideas, some had been enticed by other titles. Mostly, they were just content. They were talkative, mentioning to their neighbor what book they checked out, some had gotten nonfiction books and were revealing new information they were learning. All the talk was "good" talk, it was about books!
Fast forward to Friday: "Mrs. Amick, can we do Independent Reading time all day?"

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Building Stamina

Reading Workshop in first grade was noisy. First graders read aloud, alot. They aren't talking but they are "whisper" reading for about 20 minutes. It's hard to confer, it's hard to maintain focus for some students, but we got through it. This year I have noticed that most of my kiddos are drifting off and really valuing this precious time that I give them. At first they chatter while getting their books, they find their spot, and then the room falls silent. They are growing as readers.
Today we discussed our stamina. I used myself as a runner to model this new word for them. I talked about how I used to just walk the dog, then I started walking faster, and then I started running. I kept mentioning that all that time I was building stamina. Readers build stamina when they dive under with great books (this is an analogy we came up with when we talk about how readers dive into books. Like a SCUBA diver, they don't experience the above water world, only what is going on under the water, their in their own little world). We discussed that when they go to their reading spot that they need to have enough books to maintain their stamina.
When they marched off excited to read a pin could have dropped in that room.
I pulled up to a person who was reading just a simple Dr. Seuss book, I asked, "Why did you choose this book?"
"I'm working on my fluency, Mrs. Amick! I'm going to practice with this book (the Dr. Seuss book) and then I'm going to really dive under with this one!"
In one reflective moment I realized how much they have grown as readers. Not only do they value this time, they have built stamina, but they also know what they need to read to build themselves up as readers.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Living with a Kindergartner

So Syd is learning about beginning sounds at school lately. Everywhere we go she points out words and says what their beginning sound is, stressing the sound at the beginning. It's a start and we're so proud of her progress. Today at lunch though we had to chuckle when she said this:

"Scaragus, scaragus, Momma, scaragus starts with scary, that starts with 'S'! So, scaragus must start with S!"


We had to talk about Asparagus, starting with 'A' even though the beginning sound sounds like the 'E.'

Darn that schwa sound, gets us everytime!

Friday, September 12, 2008

When "**!!Eeerrrr*!*!*! becomes "WOoo Hooo!!!"

So, for the last three weeks I have been arriving at school prepared to greet my little pumpkins with my bright shining face, full of lessons that won't get taught, workstations that will be had (no small groups to meet yet), and workshops to be given minus the conferring. EEEEEERRRRRRRRRRRRR! Yes, my system, my non meeting AYP (Annual yearly pain in the ?) system has to do DIBELS and TRC. We were given palm pilots to record our data and while that was very cool I saw myself losing ground. Dibels took no time at all, but the TRC, whoa, I was spending 30-60 minutes on one child. What were the others doing you may ask? Keeping busy! I became more and more stressed at just "getting it done" and I was not doing my students justice. I started to hate the system, hate going there, hate my job, hate, hate, hate. My mind said, "this is why the world loses good teachers!" Thursday, after almost 3 weeks of testing my students, I finished... (can you hear the hallelujah chorus?)
I synched my palm pilot and then printed out my data.
Here is what I discovered:

-My five students who are not where they should be, are already receiving interventions. Apparently, the moron that I am according to No Child Left Behind, is smart enough to notice when a child is not reading at grade level. Hmmmm.....
-My other students, the other 16 proficient readers, are reading at the end of second grade. How can that be? They just started 2nd grade, well you see, their teacher, has studied the benefits of Reader's Workshop and implemented that in her classroom. Those students excelled with that program and she continues to work with them again this year. Why? Because she knows it will continue to work.
-The other 2 proficient readers, are at grade level, and that is okay. They are where they should be, reader's workshop will get them to a k by the end of 2ND grade.
Maybe, I am not such a moron after all. Smart enough to read really great best practices and apply!