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Friday, August 30, 2013

Five For Friday

I love this linky party hosted by Doodle Bugs Teaching, but have never joined in.  However, on a Friday at the end of the second week of school, I feel completely random and so I am ready to ramble away!

I am very excited to be heading home to my hometown of Kewanee, Illinois this weekend.  It is a small town in Illinois of about 12,000 people.  Sa-lute!  (Okay, for those of you who have no idea of the old TV show Hee-Haw, you won't get that reference)!  Anyway, I loved growing up there and my girls love going back to stay at camp Grandma and Grandpa!  So today you are going to get 5 random facts about pretty much the coolest small town in Illinois!

1.)  The reason I am heading home with the family this weekend is because every Labor Day weekend, the town celebrates Hog Days!  Yes, you heard me right Hog Days!  It is a long story about our town's history, but basically it boils down to this.  Kewanee was a great place to raise pigs.  So much so that the US Department of Agriculture named Henry County (of which Kewanne being the biggest city in the county) "top hog" when it came to pork production.  Kewanee took it upon itself to celebrate this honor by a one day (which has now turned into 4 days) of celebration.  Things snowballed from there.  So on March 23rd, 1949, the Illinois House of Representative passed House Resolution 40 declaring Henry County (and Kewanee) the Hog Capital of the World!

2.)  The biggest industry has since shut down, but I know you have seen what Kewanee is famous for making in some of your favorite movies.  Especially the basement scenes!  The Kewanne Boiler Cooporation was famous for making boilers!  In fact, that is still the high school mascot (and I believe the only Boilermaker high school mascot in Illinois)!  So watch Blues Brothers again (and I have heard the old version of Nightmare on Elm Street) and you may see a genuine Kewanee Boiler!

3.)  In a town of only 12,000 people, Kewanee actually has 2 separate school districts.  Very rare for such a small town.  The good thing is that one is smaller than the other so the two rarely have to compete against each other in sports!

4.)  Over the years, one store in Kewanee has grown so much that even up here in Chicago, commercials for it can be seen now and then.  Goods Furniture has turned from a small store to about 2 whole city blocks.  It even has a restaurant and a bed and breakfast.  Yup, that's the skywalk you see in the picture above connecting one side of the store to the other.  Rumor has it that the store even delivers up to Chicago once a week!  Pretty cool for a small town!

5.)  When we visit my parents, we often go to Johnson's Sauk Trail Park.  The girls go fishing with grandpa and we sometimes walk the trails.  It is home to one of the biggest round barns in the country!

I know this has nothing to do with teaching, but after working hard for a couple of weeks, I thought I deserved to take a break for this post.  And, if you can't tell, I'm kind of proud of the country girl that still lurks in me somewhere!  There is something to be said for small town life in the Midwest!

If you have started school, enjoy your days off with the holiday.  If you will be starting next week, have a great start!  

The next chapter for Pathways (my book study) will be posted on Tuesday, September 3rd.  I am taking Labor Day literally and not doing anything! 

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Pathways to the Common Core - Chapter 5

I know that you were expecting this post last night.  However, I seemed to have more important plans.  I worked at school a little, picked up the girls, made dinner, cleaned up dinner, put away some laundry, did homework with the girls, did bedtime, read books, and then sat down at about 8:45 last night to rest for a bit and see what I still needed to do for the night.  You can probably anticipate what happened next. . . . .yep, out like a light!  That's pretty scary since yesterday was only Monday!!

Anywho, here is chapter 5!

Chapter 5
Reading Informational Texts

As you know, the anchor standards for reading fiction and non-fiction are exactly the same.  So, much of what was said from chapter 4 about fiction was restated in this chapter about non-fiction.  So I will be brief about the first part of the chapter.

Anchor Standard 1:  Read Closely and Make Logical Inferences - You should be able to teach someone everything that you have learned so far from the text.

Anchor Standard 2:  Read to Determine Central Ideas and Themes - You should be able to ask and answer, " What is this passage/article/text starting to be about?"  You may have more than one idea or theme emerging as you read.  Most texts do have more than one theme or idea.

Anchor Standard 3:  Read to Analyze How Individual, Events, and Ideas Develop and Interact Over the Course of a Text - To do this work, readers need to think about the sequence of the text, relationships, connections, and cause and effect.

This might be a good place to tell you about an article that the authors of the book kept referring to.  It is called "Shoot-Out" by Guy Martin.  It was originally published in The New Yorker magazine in 2009.  The authors of "Pathways" take you through the standards with that article.  It is about a game that some high school students are playing where teams assassinate one another with water pistols until one team or one person is left.  You're intrigued right?  So was I!  It would be a great article to use for staff development on teaching about the standards and how to understand them.

Moving on!

Anchor Standard 4:  Read to Interpret the Language Used in the Text - To do this work, a reader should be thinking about words and choice.  Do some words seem more important than others?  Do some words seem symbolic in some way?  The authors gave two great examples here.  One:  Lincoln's Gettysburg Address uses words like conceived, dedicated, consecrate.  These words take on almost a biblical tone and even a sense of destiny.  The other example that was King's "I Have a Dream" speech.  King talks about America writing a "bad check."  This referral to money takes on a business tone.  Civil rights is just good business or will pay off for America in the end.

Anchor Standard 5:  Read to Analyze the Structure of a Text - To do this work, you look to see if the text can be broken down into parts.  What does each part do?  How does it contribute to the whole?

Anchor Standard 6:  Read to Assess the Author's Point of View and How It Shapes the Text - To do this work, think about the word choice, the language and how the tone of the text shapes what the author is trying to say.  Guy Martin in the article "Shoot-Out" was portraying with his words that students are now ready for the big world.  By planning ahead, seeking alternatives, making strategies in the game, this shows that students will be ready for life after high school.
****Keep in mind, that this is not the time to agree or disagree with the author.  This is the time to analyze what their point of view is and how well they substantiated that point of view.

Anchor Standards 7-9:  Read to Integrate Knowledge and Ideas and Think Across Informational Texts - To do this work, you need to have a text that is somehow related to the first text that has been read.  In our example "Shoot-Out" the authors suggested a YouTube video entitled "The Great Office War," or having the kids play "Call of Duty:  Modern Warfare 2."  It does not always have to be a text.

The next part of the chapter laid out the pathways that we can use to get students ready to do this kind of reading work with non-fiction texts.
1.)  Students need to read more non-fiction texts.
2.)  Students need to be reading non-fiction texts that are at their just-right level (most are tooooooo hard)!
3.)  Students need to be engaged in reading non-fiction texts in more appropriate ways (not just fact gathering that disrupts the flow of reading therefore decreasing volume of non-fiction texts read).
4.)  Students need to have choice in their non-fiction reading.
5.)  Classrooms need more high-interest non-fiction.
6.)  Teachers need to infuse more non-fiction reading into content areas.
7.)  Teachers need to make sure readers are properly matched to the non-fiction they are reading. (Fountas and Pinnell is good)  I am saying it and the authors say it!!
8.)  Teachers need to continually move students up the level of text complexity as they are ready for it.

There you have it ladies and gentlemen!  Sounds simple right?!  One thing that I am very excited about is something that was just given to the Reading Specialists in our district yesterday.  These kits are great for non-fiction reading!

We have had these for a few years.  They are great to model comprehension strategies for students.  They make a primary toolkit as well.  But that is not what I am excited about.  We just got the toolkit texts that go with this kit.  You can now purchase all of them together, but we got the kits so long ago that the extra texts did not come with them.  They have a book for K-1, 2-3, 4-5, and 6-7.  They are filled with engaging non-fiction texts.  They also come on a CD so you can show them on your Smart Board!  Here is a peak at one.

No, I don't work for Heinemann, I just love Stephanie Harvey and all the work she has done with comprehension!

Okay, it is 10:32 here in the burbs of the Windy City (more like stifling hot city)!  I am all for bed!  Next week, chapters 6 AND 7!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Back - To - School

Our district started back this week.  Yesterday was an institute day.  I work in quite a huge district:  1 pre-school center, 13 elementary schools,  middle schools, and 2 high schools.  However, every year at the beginning of the year, they pull us altogether.  I have to say it is a nice way to start the year. You get to see those people that you were on a committee with a couple of years ago, or say hi to people you have worked with before.

We had a phenomenal speaker by the name of Mark Scharenbroich.  He talked about building relationships with each other and our students.  He made us laugh, and I even shed tears when he told some stories.  It was the perfect way to get motivated for a new year!

Since today was the first day with students, I thought it was only appropriate to link up with Jess over at I {heart} Recess for her Back to School Goals Linky Party.

Personal:  I would like to continue improving my 5K time in at least 2 more races this school year.  There is one in September and one in October near here that I may try for.  I have not been running at all and need to get back into a routine!

Organization:  If I were not so embarrassed by the way I have let my oldest daughter's room get, I would take a before picture and after picture (I still may, I know that there are worse out there)!  We need to work together to get about 3 years of clutter out of her room.

Planning:  I use mostly the Leveled Literacy Intervention materials from Fountas and Pinnell, which has a great word portion to the lessons.  However, I would like to incorporate more Words Their Way with my students as well.  I just think that they need that extra repetition.  I also love the assessments.  It's a great way to show growth with spelling and writing!

Professional:  I really need to read many of these professional books that I bought this summer.  If the book was about reading or writing, you can bet I bought it!  I even bought one on formative assessments!  If I keep up my schedule of reading and blogging about my books every Monday, then I just may well meet that goal!

Students:  The students that I see struggle in reading.  My goal is to give them a second dose of (hopefully) really good reading instruction and start to close the gap between them and their peers.  I need to keep them working hard every day and keep expectations high.  I think that when you show them that you are invested in their learning and care for them, it makes a huge difference!

Motto:  I know I am not the only one out there who is juggling about 50 things at a time.  If you are a teacher, wife, mother, daughter, coach, troop leader, and everything else in between (like me), you are probably very good at multi-tasking.  I want to make sure I am not missing out on all the little things with my daughters (and students) because my mind is thinking about the other 50 things I also need to address.

That felt really good setting those goals.  It kind of felt like a therapy session (only much cheaper)!  Has anyone every told y'all that you are great listeners?

Go link up and let's hear about your back to school goals!

Monday, August 19, 2013

Pathways to the Common Core - Chapter 4

Well, here we are the night before my first day back to school.  Tomorrow we have an Institute Day with the students starting the day after.  How did I spend my last day of freedom?  Getting my room prepared!  I am still waiting on some bulletin board stuff that I ordered from Creative Teaching Press that go with my theme.  I am hoping it comes tomorrow.  I don't start with students right away, so I guess I have some time.

It is Monday (for another 2 hours and 20 minutes), and you know what that means.  Time for your run-down on chapter 4 of our professional book.  I love the fact that I am doing this.  Not sure how many of you are doing the same (if any at all, but that's okay.  I'll do all the reading and hand you over only the good stuff)!  Now that school is starting, it will be harder for me to stick to the schedule, but I really do love what I am learning so I plan to . . . . . . .

Or, if that doesn't work, there is always . . . . . . . .

So, here we go!
Chapter 4
Reading Literature

Chapter 4 started off by talking about the importance of the anchor standards.  The authors said if you look at the anchor standards, then you always have in mind the over-arching goals that the writers intended.  Not to say that the grade level specifics are not important, but it is always good to see where you are headed.  In that same fashion, the authors suggested that it is not a good idea to just look at your grade level standards in isolation.  The standards are a progression.  It is best to be informed of where students came from and where they are headed.

The next sections of the book broke up the Reading Literature standards up into their subcategories of:  Key Ideas and Details, Craft and Structure, and Integration of Knowledge and Ideas.  Let's look at each one individually.

Key Ideas and Details:  Students who can do the work of these standards are able to carry meaning and understanding across an entire story.  Students will infer about character, ask questions about why something is happening and then understand that those answers can be found in the text.  Student should also be able to understand theme or what could be learned from the text.

Craft and Structure:  Students who can do the work of these standards are able to think about the craft of the writing and how the author said what they said.  The authors talked a lot about symbolism here and even used an example from Charlotte's Web to further get the reader thinking about these standards.  Think about words that the author chooses.  Do some seem more important than others.  Why did the author choose those particular words?  They used the example of Mr. Arable having washed his hands after he handed the runt pig over to Fern.  Was this intended by E.B. White to show that he is washing his hands of the little runt pig?  This is the kind of close reading that is needed.

Integration of Knowledge and Ideas:  Students who can do the work of these standards are able to carry meaning several texts.  This could be fiction with non-fiction, fiction with fiction, or even fiction with a movie.  (Think Hunger Games and the comparisons that are made between the book and the movie).  This is where students who read that Poppleton book go back for another Poppleton book to read.  They are making comparisons with the one that they have already read, maybe even looking for similar themes in the stories.

The last section of the chapter laid out the pathways that schools need to take in order to help students succeed in this kind of reading.  Nothing here will shock you, but I'll list them nonetheless.  These are taken right from the book.
1.)  Students should be doing lots and lots of in school reading.
2.)  Readers should have opportunities to choose from a wide range of high-interest texts.
3.)  Readers need explicit instruction in the skills of effective reading.
4.)  Students should have ownership over this intellectual work.
5.)  Teachers need support and professional development to help their students rise to this high-level reading work.

Next Week, Chapters 5 about non-fiction texts!
Happy Monday or early Tuesday!

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Brownies! and Freebie!

Did that title catch your interest?  I'll bet it did!  That's how I felt when I saw this on Pinterest.  This idea was originally from Erin Stephan over at Snazzy in Second.  Click on the picture to check out her post to see how she uses it.

I pinned this right around the time that I decided on my reading theme of:  "Reading is So Delicious."  I thought that this could be a great way to motivate students.  So I am linking up again with Joanne over at Head Over Heels For Teaching.  She has a great linky going on over there!

So it got me thinking about how I could motivate the students in my small groups that I pull out.  I give homework for them everyday.  It usually has to do with the stories we read or sight word or word family work.  So I created this:

I can use this pretty much any way I please.  I can stamp or punch the numbers as the students complete the homework or exhibit the behavior that I want them to.  I started using it with my two daughters.  I asked each one what reward they would like to work for.  My oldest chose for me to make her favorite dinner:  beef stroganoff.  My youngest wanted a movie night with popcorn.  So far it is working well on the home front.  I can't wait to see how it will work with my students!  Click on the picture and it will take you to my freebie!

I know that you probably know already but, Teachers Pay Teachers is having a huge Back to School Sale.  Check out my sign below.  Use this time to get some things on your wish list.  I know I plan to!

Happy Shopping!

Monday, August 12, 2013

Pathways to the Common Core Chapter 3

I promised chapters 3 and 4 today, but chapter 3 has so much meat to it, I think it is best to separate the two.  Too much meat in one blog post is too much!  So instead of a porterhouse or a T-Bone, we will go for more of a petite fillet kind of post (haven't had dinner yet).

Literal Understanding and Text Complexity
Text complexity seems to be the united theme that pulls the CCSS (Common Core State Standards) together.  The CCSS were actually written in a backwards fashion, going from what graduating seniors need to have in order to be successful in college and worked back from there.  The authors actually created a great metaphor.  They said to think of the reading standards as a ladder.  Standard 1 and 10 would be the sides of the ladder and the rest of the standards would be the rungs.  I picture it like this:

So, how do the CCSS determine a text's level of complexity.  Not one measuring system is adequate enough to use on it's own.  The CCSS use three criteria to measure a text's complexity:  qualitative measures, quantitative measures and reader and task consideration measures.  

Qualitative measures look at:  levels of meaning, structure, language conventionality and clarity, and knowledge demands.

For quantitative measures, the CCSS puts strong emphasis on the Lexile Framework for Reading

Reader and task consideration measures means that you can put a more difficult text in front of a student if their knowledge and interest about the subject is high (Hello, Captain Underpants and Diary of a Wimpy Kid)!  Of course, the opposite is also true.  I consider myself a good reader, but put one of my husband's law books in front of me and I will definitely be at my frustration level.

Now wouldn't it be great if you could put all of those factors into some kind of system (come on machines can do incredible things nowadays) and out pops the text's level of complexity.  (There is my million dollar idea)!  Nope, not so easy folks.  This isn't mathematics people!  Finding a text's level of complexity cannot be categorized like that.

Well at least for me (and I am sure many others of you).  The authors suggest that many of us using Fountas and Pinnell as a leveling system should continue to do so.  They have already taken into account much of the qualitative, quantitative and reader and task demands into leveling their books.  I can hear you thinking already, why doesn't the CCSS endorse their leveling system?  Good question.  Sue Pimentel (one of the authors of the CCSS) stated that the CCSS were written in a top-down fashion which doesn't coincide with the F&P method of leveling.  Also, there is no way to F&P an IRS document or a physics textbook.

One suggestion is to make sure that teachers look at the text exemplars that are referenced for each grade level band.  I think that is a good idea.  I would love to see the Lexile levels on them and then also get an F&P level on them just to do some comparing.  (By the way, if anyone has already done this and would like to save me the time, please respond via email)!!  I will totally credit you!

So, how do we move students up the ladder of complex texts?  Running records.  That was a huge theme that came out of this chapter.  They need to occur in classrooms and they need to occur more than just at report card time.  We need to be continually looking at students so we can see where they are in their progression.

Okay, I know that you have seen this chart before many times, but this was another big theme that came out of chapter 3.  One of the biggest factors that leads to success in reading is having access to high-interest texts and time spend reading.  The authors even quoted some research that says a classroom library should have 20 books for every 1 student (and that was a minimum people)!  They also suggested that at least an hour and a half of the school day should be spent reading (this does not include reading instruction, this is just time spent actually reading).  I am a big proponent of children get better at reading by reading.  Yet, just another thing we get to fit into our busy classroom schedules!

Okay, I told you there was a lot of meat to this chapter.  I could have gone on too!  This week delay means a change in the reading schedule for me.  (Chapter 4 has just as much meat)!  Next Monday will be chapter 4.  I seriously do recommend this book for classroom teachers.  I have felt more times than one, good about what I am reading because I realize so much of the CCSS is what we are already doing.  That makes me feel less overwhelmed about the work ahead (especially for our district.  We go CCSS in language arts next year).

Happy Monday everyone.  Now as my reward for finishing this never-ending entry, I am going to treat myself to an episode of How I Met Your Mother.  I am trying to catch up before the last season this year.  I hear it is going to be LEGEND (wait for it) ARY!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Illinois Book Awards

I am a creature of many habits.  One of my better habits is reading.  I seem to read just about anything.  I read anything and everything from picture books to books made for grown ups.  (Yes, this includes the 50 shades trilogy ashamed to say).

The one year I did a stint as a school librarian led me to a wealth of new authors and titles that I had never heard of or read before.  The start of my bedside reading that year was with award winners.  In Illinois, the Illinois School Library Media Association nominates books at different grade levels for awards.

The Monarch book award has been in existence since 2005.  20 books are nominated for children in grades K-3.  Click the link below and it will take you to this year's list.

For older children there is the Rebecca Caudill book award.  Rebecca Caudill was an author from Illinois.  This award is for kids in grades 4-8.  It started in 1988.  The link will take you to this year's list.  Previous winners have been Frindle, The Hunger Games, and Matilda.

The Bluestem book award started in 2011.  This is the newest award.  There seemed to be a big difference between the books that were chosen for the Monarch (mostly picture books) and the Caudill award (mostly upper elementary and middle school).  Sooooo, the Bluestem award was started.

Lastly, there is the Abraham Lincoln Book Award.  It is for high school readers, so no links, but I had to give it a mention.

I try to read as many of these as I can.  I may be blogging about them from time to time if they are good and have some really good reading strategies or lessons that might go good with them.  I will also add them to my books page and link the books to the blog post.

Happy Tuesday everyone!

Monday, August 5, 2013

To Be Continued

So, you were all wondering how long I could keep on my professional book study.  Turns out the answer is 1 week!  I forgot when I made the schedule that I would be on a short vacation this week.  We are in the water park capital of the world.  Do you know where that is?  Yes!  Wisconsin Dells!  I am here with my girls and my mom.  My husband had to stay home and work.  I made sure to give him plenty of "honey do" lists!

So next Monday, I will chat about chapters two and three.  I will still be around this week, but the book takes way too much thought when I'm in vacation mode.

I'd like to thank Jennie from JD's Rockin Readers.  She helped out this newbie here by mentioning to her Facebook followers about my blog.  I went from my highest page view count of 37 to over 300 views in one day!  Got some new followers as well.  If you aren't one of the followers that came from her blog, check it out.  She has the coolest blog design ever!