Sunday, August 23, 2009

The Big Day!

This summer has brought a lot of changes for me this year. Last year I looped up with my first graders to second grade and had a blast. After last summer I was preparing to meet my treasures after a long summer break. This year, after much contemplating I made a big step. I moved schools...
I loved my old school friends, I loved my students, I loved having lots of prior knowledge there...but I wasn't satisfied, I wasn't content. An opening at another school became open in the first grade. I heart first grade. If ever I have loved an age of elementary children it is first graders. You see so much progress in a school year, it is a sight to behold. The school that had this posting is an excellent school, out of all the schools in my city it is one of my favorites! I applied, and after interviewing I accepted a job at my new school. I had to move!
I packed my bags, boxes, crates and whatnot...
And, here I am, ready to begin a new school year at a new school, with children I don't know, coming from families of unknown names, and I don't even know some of my colleagues names. I am content though, I have assembled my classroom, I have readied my books, gathered my materials, looked at my class list. On the eve of this new beginning I am nervous, excited, but ready for change.

This summer I chatted online with a former student through Facebook, here is the just of our conversation:

Student:"so mrs. amick, i went to registration today and they said that you don't work there anymore :-("

Me: "Yea, i moved schools this summer."

Student:"i don't get it mrs. amick, i won't see you everyday :-("

Me: "you know how i told you in the 1st and 2nd grade that i wanted you to take risks as a writer and a reader. and to do that that sometimes you had to change the way that you do things? i'm taking a risk as a teacher by moving. change is good remember?"

Student: "yea, i get it, but i'll miss you. i'm proud of your risk taking though. sometimes you have to work hard to see great results."

Me: "i'll do my best!"

Student: "i'll still miss you, but we can talk here."

A new year is starting for me, I am thrilled to see what change happens for me and my students.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Cafe Book

Recently, I posted about reading the Daily 5 because I was having trouble reading the Cafe Book. I understood the concepts but it seemed like I was missing the beliefs behind this book. I would recommend reading The Daily 5 first and then The Cafe Book. They springboard one right into the other. I would like to take you through the book and make my comments by chapters since there is a LOT of information inside this book!

The CAFE Book by Gail Boushey & Joan Moser "the sisters"

Chapter 1: Introduction: The Beginnings of the CAFE Menu Assessment System
This chapter basically gives you an overview of the research behind the CAFE, it's assessment tools, and how it is still a work in progress. I do have to say that throughout the book the sisters continually comment about how they continue to see and hear how teachers take this material and make it their own. They are excited to see the pieces played out in the classrooms around the country and they invite you to visit their website to ask questions, and moderate discussions. True lifelong learners never stop learning and growing!

Chapter 2: The CAFE Notebook and Record-Keeping Forms
I found this section very helpful. I have struggled with how to keep all of my conferring notes in order. Also, what do I talk about in a conference with a student? The sisters take their reader through their notebook which is really a binder that holds everything within. I went out and purchased a binder, personalized it to make sure I could always find it, and printed out the forms for each student. I am excited to give it a try and see how beneficial it is for record keeping. "We have gone through many, many different styles and formats for these forms, always trying to reduce what we collect to the information we truly need to assist students and capture how they are changing and growing as readers and writers." Collecting what we truly need is all teachers truly want!

Chapter 3: Step-by-Step: The First Days of School
This chapter gives a very descriptive review of how to get the ball rolling during those first couple of days of school. I didn't find it to be very useful specifically, but it did get me thinking about my own classroom and how I begin getting my classroom ready for Independent Reading. This chapter however was where The Literacy CAFE Menu was introduced. While I didn't think that in the first grade level that we needed to be so formative in the setting of our goals I did like the menu. It allows me as a teacher to look at that menu and confer more precisely with students. This is going to be an awesome tool for me to use during the conferring.

Chapter 4: Conferring with Children: Principles and Examples
Ever thought: "What should I say that will change this child as a reader/writer?" The sisters have developed a chart that deals with this question specifically. It is the, "Seven Elements to Successful Conferences." Wow! Someone make that into a poster so that I can use it every day! Actually, as mentioned before they have come up with a CAFE menu that can be used to help figure out what a kid needs to work on in Reading. What areas do we need to improve upon? Then we can use the menu to teach precisely and quickly during a conference. Within the CD-Rom that comes with the book all of the forms can be printed and used. I like that, because so many times there are forms within the book but they have to be made by me again, and they're never the same!

Chapter 5: Eavesdropping on Some Conferences
This chapter sort of explains itself, it is just some examples of conferences and how they have used the menu to help them with a student.

Chapter 6: Whole Class Instruction
One thing that blew me away in this chapter was a teachers ability to assess students and move through the strategies according to what they need as a class. There is a sequence, but they encourage teachers to move according to what the class needs! They do say, "These professional judgement calls come fairly easy to Joan because of her expertise with assessments and her experience with CAFE. New teachers who are trying to juggle assessment protocols, school standards, faculty expectations, student and family relationships, and a variety of academic lesson plans may feel too overwhelmed to select CAFE strategies based on emerging student needs. It is perfectly appropriate to follow the given sequence, alternating between columns to provide balance during the first months of school."
Then I got to thinking about my student teacher from two years ago. She still asks me for professional books to read. She still is trying to grasp this literacy thing, not because she is not knowledgeable, but because she is still trying to better herself. She is still trying to learn all she can to be the best that she can! This menu would help a new teacher tremendously because it gives them an outline to follow. The seven keys to conferring is perfect for someone who is not confident in their abilities yet!

Chapter 7: Strategy Groups
This chapter stretched me as a teacher of reading. I believe in small group instruction. I struggle, and have been contemplating having strategy groups as opposed to guided reading groups. I am still not sold. I may not be able to relinquish that control... I am a work in progress! However, it makes perfect sense except for in the first grade. I am wondering, "how am I going to teach those print strategies if they are in a small group right there in front of me?" Again, it is about me giving up that control.
I am not sold on the Daily 5, but I do see some very strong elements in the program. One of the things that I feel strongly about is making the learning of reading a very natural progress. I firmly believe that it should not be about setting goals and pressing on to meet them. I just believe that we need to see a skill, and then practice it. At my grade level I am not ready to add more "goal" pressure to them. (Just my opinion!) I do however like many other things about this book! I love the forms, I love the sequence of skills in the menu, I love the units that are in the back of the book. It gives people who are new to this readers workshop thing a very clear and precise path to follow. It would be a great buy for student teachers, or a principal or administrator that is trying to move towards the workshop model.

Friday, August 14, 2009

The Daily Five

Okay, so I've been on hiatus. I have still been teaching, and reading, being a mother, wife, and etc. On top of that though I had been taking classes to renew my license and that really drained me for some reason. Now I am back ready to blog, and ready to continue growing professionally, not because I was made to do it but out of desire.
Stenhouse Publishers sent me the Cafe Book by the "sisters" to review. I got about halfway through the book and realized that I didn't have much schema about the The Daily Five. I was missing a large puzzlepiece of this book. So, instead I picked up The Daily Five and began reading it over the course of a couple of days. I learned a lot, and found it to be a very good read. After reading The Daily Five I picked up The Cafe Book and it has been a much easier read. Expect my review in a couple of days.

The Daily Five had a lot of good quotes that I had read over the years but had forgotten their meaning. As you all are beginning the start of you school think of your room arrangements, your communities, and your explicit instruction. How will these words guide your preparations?

"Just adding more time and space for independent reading is not enough. I'm advocating a carefully designed, structured reading program that includes demonstrating, teaching, guiding, monitoring, evaluating, and goal setting along with voluntary reading of books students choose... When an independent reading component is added, test scores go up." -Regie Routman

"Eventually, I realized, of course, that nothing was wrong with "these kids." They don't get it because I hadn't shown them how. I'd told them to be respectful, thoughtful, and kind, but I hadn't shown them what that looks and sounds like."
-Debbie Miller, Reading with Meaning: Teaching Comprehension in the Primary Grades

"Whe we follow routines day after day, our students can use their energy to grow as readers and learners rather than to figure out what we expect them to do. And we in turn, can focus our energy on teaching, not managing, our independent learners."
-Kathy Collins

Don't forget to plan for establishing routines, and developing routines!