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.