Monday, November 18, 2013

Contribute to our Global Poetry Audiobook!

Our first grade class at The School at Columbia is making a Global Poetry Audiobook and we need your help! We'd love for your class to pick a poem that you would like to share and make a page for our book, using Book Creator. Each page should have the name of your class (or grade), the name of the school, the location of the school, a picture of the poem, and an audio recording of it. Any kind of poem works and other embellishments on the page are welcome!

Please make sure that your pages are in the landscape format, or we won't be able to use them. When your page is complete, email it to and we will add it to the book! If you need help navigating Book Creator, here's the app support forum, and definitely feel free to email if you have any questions!

Thanks so much for your help in making our Global Poetry Audiobook come to life!

Taking poetry outside our classroom

First graders have been studying poetry for the past few weeks. We've discussed looking through a poet's eyes, the rhythm in poetry, how poems can express big feelings, and most recently how to implement line breaks to affect the reading. Throughout this process, we've been using many poems to illustrate the different elements of poetry. Each time we read a poem, the students in 1B get a smaller copy of it to put in their own poetry binders.

Our students love these binders. Not only are they able to be personalized, they're just the right size for small hands! During free time, they ask to read their poetry binders, and can often be heard chanting the poems together in pairs or small groups. Their fluency has increased, and their love of poetry seems to be blossoming.

At the same time as our poetry study, we've been implementing literacy workstations twice a week. We now have 4 stations: Library Reading, Read to Teacher, Word Work, and Writing. We are about to launch our Listen to Reading station. In the past, we've had a variety of audio books on the iPad, many purchased, some recorded by teachers and uploaded on Dropbox. But we've never had any recorded poetry.

A few weeks ago, I attended EdCampNYC, which, if you've never been, is an amazing, motivating, exhilarating event, that not only allows you to connect with other educators, but leaves you reinvigorated and excited about trying new things in your classroom. I attended a session entitled "Global Collaboration on the iPad," led by Meg Wilson (iPodsibilities on Twitter- I highly recommend you follow her). She led a presentation on how she utilized the app Book Creator with her students in order to create a "Global Book" about neighborhoods.

That's when the idea hit me.

A global poetry book! We'd send out the plea on Twitter for classrooms around the country (and maybe world?) to pick a poem, take a picture of the poem, and record the students reading the poem, using Book Creator. These pages would be collected, and made into a "Global Poetry Book," which would not only allow my students to have poetry to listen to when we launch the new workstation, but would open up the walls of our classroom.

I introduced this idea to our students and they jumped on the idea, eagerly asking questions like, "what if we get the same poem from different classes?" and "what if we get the same poem, but in different languages?" We've since picked our poem and have begun practicing it. I'm going to use the space on this blog to create the "Twitter plea" for participation. Fingers crossed it gets retweeted and we get responses!

Friday, October 11, 2013

Blogging in 1B- A New Approach to Shared Writing

 1B has been doing some very purposeful blogging during our nonfiction unit of study. We have been practicing elements of nonfiction using our 1B Blog to inform our readers and teach them about life in our community. We began with a morning sign in –“Please sign in with a food you eat at school. Draw and label." This was then turned into a list, which we did as a shared writing on our blog. The post was drafted and published on the Smartboard with all of the steps that a blogger follows. Seeing the process before their eyes and then publishing was powerful. The need for a heading was obvious-it stood alone and informed the reader what this entry was about in a very obvious way. Our next entry was a captioned picture of 1B at the park. The blog provided a box for caption -  what could be better. As we continue studying nonfiction elements, we will reach out to the larger world of readers with entries, which show a diagram of our classroom, questions and answers about the 1B day, how to do learning on the rug and mini bios of our Ugly Dolls. Blogging has put a new, very exciting twist on shared writing.

Need ideas for Writer's Workshop? Just ask the kids.

We launched our first literacy unit with the grand idea of making a connection from our study of family to our Nonfiction writing. It seemed like a great idea to kill two birds with one stone- we could combine the information we were gathering about 1B families with their own writing. After all, they ARE experts on their own families. We modeled making lists about family members, activities they do with family, foods they eat, places they go, and sent them on their way. However, even though they were proficient in the Nonfiction features we had drilled into their heads (captions, lists, headings, bold words, etc.), they immediately ran into road blocks, and Writer's Workshop was painful to get through. It felt WAY too teacher directed and lacked the spark that is present when students are writing about meaningful, self-selected topics.

Break down time. After our literacy meeting, we brainstormed with Bonnie about ways we could revamp our study. Together we realized that it didn't matter WHAT they were writing about, as long as they were practicing the Nonfiction writing process: recognizing what you already know (your schema), what questions you still have, gathering data (either from books or peers), and interpreting it.

We came back as a group of writers and looked at our Morning Message sign-ins to compile the topics they care about. At this point, the room began buzzing with excitement, as students shared ideas about their passions. We made a list of possible topics, and each child chose 2 or 3 ideas that they wanted to write about. They are going to be working in small groups to record their schema, ask questions, do research, and draft their work.

We'll keep you posted on the outcome, but we definitely walked away from our writing period today feeling more comfortable with our very child-centered approach.

An example of topic choosing.

(A little side note from Bonnie...) Yay! I must say that it was so exciting to have that conversation and see teachers going from uninspired about the work happening in the room to totally excited and then to walk into the room and see how the changes they made were working with the students. In the end, the beauty is that although it might have felt like it wasn't going to be about "Family," it still totally is. For example, Chess comes from a list of "Games My Family Plays." Part of the research can be to learn about other games that families play, friends who play the same game, and some facts about the game. I'm excited to see how the students now go on to collect data about their topics from their peers and other sources and to see how the published piece comes together. 

Friday, September 27, 2013

KB kids are readers!

"But I can't read!" is a refrain that is often heard at the beginning of the year in kindergarten. We started the year in KB with a focus on wordless picture books to help children understand that they ARE reading when they make meaning from images. Students notice different aspects of the illustrations, and as they share their observations with the class, they tell the story in their own words.

We used our skill of telling a story from pictures when we learned about turn-and-talk. Each student pair had an image, and the child who was holding the picture was the designated speaker.  Handling a single a picture as prompt helped focus the storytelling and the turn-taking.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Starting Independent Reading in KA

While students had been spending time with books, we hadn't formally introduced what independent reading looks like and sounds like until last week. Amy & I co-taught this lesson, so that I could be the model and Amy could be the teacher. I asked the students to watch me, and either give me a thumbs up, or a thumbs to the side to indicate whether or not they thought I was doing the correct thing. I demonstrated how not to act: looking at the ceiling, talking to a friend, holding the book upside down, yelling the words of the book, etc. Amy was recording what they were saying to show what great independent reading looks like and sounds like.

We then posed the question: What do you do when you are done reading your book? One student modeled for everyone how to finish a book, quietly get up, get a new book, and go back to your spot.

We then talked about how you need your own special space for independent reading; we used poly spots to help the students find a space. We then asked if they thought they could do this for 2 minutes. We decided we were ready to try! After setting the timer, students read the words and the pictures with few reminders until the timer went off. They did so well, we decided to try one more time, when they seemed to feel even more comfortable with the routine. We are excited to build their stamina as the year goes on!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Beginning Independent Reading

I always forget that you have to teach even the most basic routines when the students come back to school in the Fall. You end the year at such a high point, so happy with how much they've accomplished and grown, and then come September, it's back to setting the expectations and developing the classroom norms. On one hand, it's so exciting. On the other, it's incredibly overwhelming.

One thing I started last year was a focus on Literacy Workstations. Multiple times a week we dedicate a block of time to independent literacy work. Starting with just 2 centers, we eventually build up to 5. Although one is teacher directed ("Read with Teacher"), many of the others are independent, with a teacher circulating to problem solve or assist with technology malfunctions. What becomes essential, then, is that students are able to work on their own.

We began this year discussing "Read to Self, or "Independent Reading," which is present at one of the first stations (it's under the center title of "Library Reading," as we eventually add hip-to-hip, back-to-back, and book reviews or searches to the center). My first year starting independent reading, I naively assumed that my students could sit, independently, with their books for a period of time. I was mistaken, and when we eventually put "Read to Self" into our literacy workstations, I found it wasn't independent at all. Rather, I needed to be constantly monitoring the center to ensure that kids were... reading.

I re-read the book "The Daily 5" over the summer, and remembered the importance of building stamina...slowly. On Friday, after allowing the kids to book shop for independent reading books (really focusing on books they were interested in), we began our "Read to Self" journey. We explained that we were going to build our stamina, since our brain is a muscle, and just like every other muscle in the body, you need to exercise it every day if you want it to grow strong. As in the book, Jan and I wanted this activity to be completely independent- as soon as a student can't follow the expectations, or requires teacher redirection, you're supposed bring all the students back together, so that incorrect behavior isn't ingrained. Our goal was to go for 3 minutes.

Our first time trying "Read to Self," our students were able to go for...14 seconds before someone started chatting with their neighbor about how hungry they were. We came back together, reviewed the "Read to Self" expectations, and sent them off again. This time we went for... 11 seconds. Each time we joined back as a group, we added to our bar graph. One more review, and sent the group back to their spots. Silence, everyone spending time with their books, bodies steady in one spot.... 3 minutes later. We came back together as a group and revealed the exciting news. As we were charting our time, there were exclamations of "that is SO much longer!" and "my brain just got bigger!" They eagerly asked if we could go for longer, and we told them we could practice more on Monday.

They couldn't wait. 

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

2nd Grade Bloggers and Pinterest!

2B has started blogging! They have started blogging about books they've read and trips they've gone on. If anyone has any ideas and/or tips please let Jen and Owen-Roe know. Hopefully they will blog about the experience of starting the blog with the kids ;).

There are great ideas on Pinterest! I've started a couple of boards with good ideas for Anchor Charts for Reading
Sentence Structure
Word Study

I'm going to keep adding boards and pins and encourage you to do look for ideas and share as well. I'm sure there's a way to link here... I'll work on it.

For now, here's a pin I found that I thought was great for all classrooms...