Sunday, May 29, 2016

Running Records

I recently came across a great book on running records, so this post is for all of you are new to running records, who only administer them 2-3 times a year, and/or those who are struggling with some aspect of them.

I love this book on running records for several reasons:
1) It is short. It only has 32 pages. 
2) It is easy to understand. It really simplifies the process.
3) It is chunked into easy to use chapters and sections
4) It provides concrete examples and templates. 

I will summarize a few of the most important points in this post, but I highly recommend the book as a resource to refer back to for scoring and analyzing the running records you administer. 

Why Use a Running Record

Some teachers believe children's progress in learning to read is best measured by testing the number of letters, or sounds, or words they know. If a Running Record is taken in a systematic way it will provide evidence of how well a child is directing his knowledge of letters, sounds, and words to understanding the messages in the text. So... if you teach kindergarten and think a running record can't help you, you may want to think again about it. 

Running Records are taken to guide teaching, to assess text difficulty, and to capture progress over time. Running Records are an important part of assessing a child's text reading. They show much more than whether a child read a word right or wrong. 

Taking a Running Record

Teachers who practice with a wide variety of children and are at ease with administering Running Records will get the most informative records and will make the fairest interpretations of the data. Some teachers only administer running records 2-3 times a year or not at all. Correctly administering a Running Record will show everything other reading inventories show as well as what the reader already knows, what the reader attended to, and what the reader overlooked. 

Teachers should practice administering a Running Record until it is easy. 
At first, simply record the easy-to-notice behaviors.
In the beginning, taking a Running Record will require your whole attention without interruptions. We all know that the things we practice are the things we get better at. So... practice!! In the beginning, set yourself up for success by freeing yourself of interruptions, carefully choosing the students you assess, and recording only the easy-to-notice behaviors. With practice and time you will become more skilled in record taking and able to focus despite the child's level, the text chosen, or the interruptions around the room. 

Begin by practicing on a range of average readers. Avoid practicing on higher or lower readers until you become more skilled at administration. Good readers go to fast and struggling readers produce extremely complex records. Choose the students you start with wisely. Then practice with them!

Any texts can be used for administering Running Records. You don't have to do a Running Record only on pieces you have a pre-printed text for. Start with a familiar text that the child has read once or twice. An easy level book also makes it easy for teachers to record as they practice their recording techniques. 
Teachers may also want to use a more challenging text to see if a child can read at a higher level than they anticipated. If the challenge is too great, the record will not show where the reading process comes together, but rather where it falls apart. Many teachers think that running records should always be administered using a "cold read," but when getting started, a familiar read will make it easier for you to record the child's reading behaviors. 

When used in relation to Running Records the terms easy, instructional, and hard do not describe the characteristics of the text itself. They describe how the child read the text. They do not address how another child will read the same text. 

Taking Running Records at three levels of text difficulty is a more reliable way to establish the instructional level of text that should be used with the student. 
- easy text (95-100% correct)
- an instructional text (90-94% correct)
- hard text (80-89% correct)
This type of careful approach allows the teacher to use the record to make important educational decisions such as moving children to different groups, observing children with particular difficulties, selecting children for special supplementary assistance, etc.

Printed Text

Oftentimes, a printed text does not allow a teacher to record all of a child's reading behaviors. A Running Record needs to capture all of the behaviors that will help a teacher determine what a child is doing. A Running Record is not just about right or wrong words. When reading a Running Record, a teacher should be able to "hear the reading again" when reviewing the record. Limiting yourself to a few select pre-printed texts will provide less usable information. Pre-printed text encourages teachers to attend only to right and wrong responses, and to ignore how the child is arriving at their decisions. This was an "ah-ha" for me. I never really thought about the benefit of using a blank sheet of paper for a running record before I read this book. 
You can download this Running Record template from Kindergarten Kidlets here. It is a free download. 

Tape recording is discouraged  because it does not record visual information such as how the child moved, seemed puzzled, peered at the print or looked across the room or at the ceiling.

Assessment and Comprehension

Comprehension is dependent upon the difficulty of the text. Assessing comprehension on a text that is too easy or too hard does not make a lot of sense.
The answers to comprehension questions depend more upon the difficulty of the question posed rather than on the child's reading. So true!! Are we asking the right questions??
Different teachers ask different questions, thus weakening the assessment.
This makes complete sense and may be why Running Records you are taking on your own students do not seem to match exactly with a teammate's Records. 
Try having a conversation with the child about the story after you take the running record. A good conversation will add to the teacher's understanding of the reader.

This Guided Reading video series takes place in a fifth grade classroom, but can easily be adapted to younger grades. It is a 5 part series. This video came from The Teaching Channel, so it is higher quality and a good model to watch. The management video is my favorite one.

These videos are nice examples of administering and analyzing Running Records

This video is almost 20 minutes long. It is most helpful if you break it into chunks and actually analyze the record for youself as she works through it. 

The Running Records book is very helpful when watching the anaylsis video. The section on how to record what you see and how to score errors makes a great "cheat sheet" when scoring.

Something to think about...

- How skilled are you at administering a Running Record? Do you practice?

- Do you only use pre-printed Running Record sheets? If so, practice scoring without the text.

- Do you only pay attention to right and wrong words read by the student? Are you using the Running Record to learn all that you can about a child's reading behaviors?

- Are you using standard procedures and taking and scoring records properly? If you want to be able to compare Running Records to each other and over time then you need to be using a common standard for taking records.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Teaching Writers Side-by-Side- Already Ready Book Study Week 7

Chapter 8 and 9 focus on side-by-side teaching and building a repertoire for it. This vision here is one of teaching rather than management. The teacher doesn't just show up to make sure everything is ok and then move on. Instead she stays awhile with the child so that she can learn about them and teach them.

Chapter 8 and 9 are great reasons to purchase your own copy of Already Ready. Chapter 8 provides specific assessment questions that can be used when framing your students writing development, as well as a list of professional books that will improve your knowledge of writing. Chapter 9 offers concrete examples of how to respond to and teach young writers as you work side-by-side with them.

Nudging vs. Pushing
Teachers need to nudge development along rather than push or force it. This means a teacher needs to learn what their children already know and can do as writers. Knowing your students as writers allows you to direct their interactions more purposefully toward their zone of proximal development.

Be thoughtful in what is said
Do not ask question after question
Watch and listen
Engage the child in a small amount of talking and thinking that makes sense in the context of what he is doing
Teach into children's actions
"Fill one's fist" with understandings about writing (teachers need to be well-versed in writing development and how to teach writing in order to respond in the moment to a child's writing actions

Talk about What Books are About
- Talk about what the child already knows about the subject
(for example: dinosaurs)
- Help him image what ideas could stretch across the pages
(all of the ideas should be about dinosaurs)
- Discuss what type of book he is writing
(since the book will tell about a topic, maybe it needs a close-up)
- Urge him to consider how a book about dinosaurs may be different from other books
- Talk about revision when he adds to illustrations

Talk About How Children Are Writing
Notice what children do in their writing and name it. Ask questions to initiate talking and thinking about what they are doing.
-When a child says what they are about to draw before drawing it- praise them for thinking ahead
- If a child looks ahead at blank pages- comment on how you noticed him thinking about how the book might have
- If a child adds to his illustrations- comment on how they revised the work
- If a child adds writing to a page that is only illustrated- mention that you noticed how he illustrates before he writes the words

The Importance of Repetition
Repetition supports young writers in holding their meaning over time. It also helps them remember the language they crafted for their text.

- Repeat what children say to you about their writing
- When you ask a question and the child responds, repeat the response

Help Children Learn How to Read Their Books
- Help your students understand the difference between talking about a book and reading it
- Take all that a child shares about a page and say it again in a connected way without interruption
- Take the child's idea and enrich the language a tiny bit
Repetition is very important

Saturday, May 21, 2016

What Matters Most? Reading Volume!

This week I attended a session on Content Literacy with Stephanie Harvey. One of the points that Stephanie touched on is the importance of reading volume. I speak to this all of the time with the coaches and teachers in my district. Research shows that nothing is more highly correlated to reading achievement than volume and we are simply not giving our students enough time to read each day- especially our kids that need it the most- they are getting less time than any other group.

Several years ago, I read Richard Allington's (2012) book, What Really Matters for Struggling Readers. In the book he writes about the importance of reading volume, the amount of time children need to read daily, and ways to capture more academic time for reading. At that time I was still in the classroom, so I coupled Allington's work with Donalyn Miller's The Book Whisperer and knew I needed to do something in my classroom to increase the amount of reading volume for my students. 

The Book Whisperer helped me understand why I needed to increase reading volume and choice with my students and The Daily 5 (Boushey & Moser, 2006) showed me how I could implement these ideas with my kindergartners. My students were more engaged and grew far more as readers using The Daily 5 model than they did working in literacy stations. 

Using The Daily 5 model, I implemented "Read to Self" on the first day of school by talking about what a reader looks like and people that we know who read. The Daily 5 was my starting point for increasing reading volume in my classroom. You can read more about how I put the Daily 5 into action in my classroom here and you will find a few additional posts about work on writing and using CAFE here

Allington (2012) recommends that children spend at least 90 minutes a day actually reading. This is far more time than most students get. In some cases, it is 90 minutes more. So... that leads to the question "How can you carve out time during the busy school day for students to read?"

A few ways to increase reading volume during the school day...

- Implement The Daily 5 or Reader's Workshop

- Have students take a book with them wherever they go. A few stolen moments add up over a year. Doing this helps young readers learn what life readers know- having a book with you at all times helps alleviate boredom and is just what you need for those unexpected times you have to wait. 

- Get rid of "morning work", Bellringers, and "when you are done" activities- these types of activities yield limited instructional benefits and none of them produce the same level of academic power as 15 minutes of time spent reading
students can read when they come into the classroom in the morning

students can read when they are finished with their work

As much as 15 minutes of extra reading time can be gained in class each day by naming reading the only activity for any class time not used for instruction and practice. 

- Rethink your guided reading time. How much time do students actually spend reading during your guided reading lesson. Group students by strategy rather than reading level. Do a quick mini-lesson, then let students read. You can walk around and listen to each one and confer with them individually as needed.  

- Broaden your definition of reading- articles, graphic texts, and screen reading all count

- For younger readers- incorporate shared reading and read-alouds all throughout the day and across all content areas

Time is not the only factor in increasing reading volume. Choice plays a part as well. No single practice inspires students to read as much as the opportunity to choose the books they read. Allington and Gabriel (2012) found that students' volume of reading and understanding of text read increased when they were able to choose what they read. 

classroom libraries are central
lots of books, every level, every topic
books should be readily accessible to students

A little bit of the research on time...
Reading books every day is the only activity that reliably relates to proficiency in reading (Atwell, 2010).

Voluminous reading has been proven to be an effective intervention for struggling readers as well as the most effective test preparation for all students (Allington & Gabriel, 2012). Did you read that?? and the MOST EFFECTIVE TEST PREPARATION FOR ALL STUDENTS!! Not packets... but volume of reading. 

Heavy reading is the best predictor of school success. We know that students who read the most perform the best on standardized tests, not only in reading and writing, but in content classes such as science and social studies, to. (Miller, 2012)

Access to books and time to read can even lessen the effects of poverty on literacy development (Krashen, 2011). 

Increasing Volume Through Content Literacy
Another way to increase volume is to read across all of the content areas. A new edition of the Comprehension Toolkit is set to release at the end of August. This new edition will contain lessons and texts for comprehension across the curriculum. The lessons in this book are great for getting kids reading on a wide range of topics and for getting them thinking about the new information they are learning- thus turning the new information into knowledge. You can learn more about Stephanie's new book here

Something to stop and think about...
How are you using your time during the school day? Are you filling it with meaningful instruction and activities? Are your students getting time to read?

What are you doing for your developing and struggling readers? Are you giving them more skills activities to work on or are you giving them time to read?

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Finding Joy and Building Competence in Browsing for Books

I recently read a blog post entitled Serendipity  by Donalyn Miller. In the process of unpacking books from her move and deciding on how to sort and shelve them, she ran across several titles that reminded her of that serendipitous feeling of discovering and rediscovering a book-- running across a book you read long ago, but still remembered clearly-- one that left you with fond memories of the characters and the feelings you had while reading it. Haven't we all felt the pull toward a book that mysteriously calls to us??

This feeling prompted Donna to pose a few questions-- Do these random meetings between readers and books still occur? How much time are children actually given to freely browse  bookshelves? and How often do children truly have choice in selecting the book they want to read from an open collection?

These questions got me thinking about a training I am working on with a few of my coaches. In one of our meetings, we discussed limiting students' book selection choices to books "on their level" and teaching them how to choose "good fit" books. While many might agree with this way of thinking, I had to argue against it to my coaches.

A few years ago I read The Book Whisperer: Awakening the Reader in Every Child and was delighted by Donalyn's unconventional approach to getting her students to read more--  simply put... she gave them time to read the books they picked themselves.

The first lesson in Burkins and Yaris' book Reading Wellness talks about teaching children to read as Jane Goodall read... to read not because someone picks the books for you or because others set goals for you, but because you are driven by your interests and passions. The Heart, Head, Hands, and Feet lesson focuses on the teacher bringing in collections of books so that students can gather information about their areas of interest and the things they love. 

Can we really get all kids excited about the pleasure of reading if we limit their choices of books and dictate the ones they must spend their time reading? 

Another important point that Donalyn brings up is students' reliance on these types of support systems for choosing books. She suggests that some students may struggle with finding books of interest as well as how to use these systems causing them to lose excitement in and become frustrated with reading. I worked at a school once where the librarian tried to limit my kindergartners to two shelves of books with "green dots" because she said those were the ones on their reading level. If you know me, then you can imagine how that conversation ended... with my students checking out books ALL over the library :) 

"If children never learn how to pick a book without a reading level or color-code on the spine, it's unlikely they will read much outside of school." (Donalyn Miller)

Browsing books with freedom... 
- brings joy and pleasure to our reading lives
- builds competence in us as readers
- gives us confidence in our own reading decision-making skills
- grows children into the readers they will become

I love this point- Even when we choose books we don't like we learn about ourselves as readers. 

"Empowered readers remain readers." (Donalyn Miller) 

With that said... How do you organize your classroom library? How do your students browse for books? and Are you empowering the readers in your classroom? 

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Reading Wellness- Authentic Reasons to Read Closely

Teaching is a careful balancing act that pushes us to reconcile our ideas for cultivating lifelong leanership with top-down pressures for accountability. Nevertheless, the reality is that, oftentimes, our intentions and our behaviors do not line up. This misalignment impacts our general wellness in and out of the classroom, and it can make us feel as if we have fallen out of love with teaching.

The two perceived "opposing tensions" of lifelong learnership and accountability are not mutually exclusive. It is feasible, and urgently important, to blend moments of balance between intention and necessity into our teaching, giving the term alignment new meaning.

So often children read because someone else tells them to. Rather than just telling our students to read, maybe we should think about what drives their desire to read. When we ask "What drives reading?" for our students rather that "What readers do?" we begin to think about reading very differently. 

Teach Children to Read as Jane Goodall Read

Jane was a reader. She read informational books about animals she knew and books about animals she knew existed but never saw in her backyard. She read stories that helped her imagine going to Africa to live with the animals. Jane didn't read because other people set goals for her. She read because she was driven by her passions. Her reading was joined to the things she loved. Reading should not be seen as an end in itself, but rather a vehicle used on the avenue to one's dreams. Burkins and Yaris suggest starting with students' passions and letting reading stamina and volume emerge as the joyful consequences of their self-directed exploration of things they love and want to do.

The Heart, Head, Hands, and Feet Lesson

1) Engage students in a close reading of a story with a character who is determined to accomplish a goal

Burkins and Yaris list Me... Jane by Patrick McDonnell as one of their favorite texts for the Heart, Head, Hands, and Feet lesson. This is one of my favorite books too.

2) Read the book aloud and have students identify what the character loves to do (heart). What is the character's passion? What does he or she love to do?

Put on heart-shaped glasses. Explain to students that their hearts will help them develop a vision for their futures. 

3) Look for evidence in the text that indicates what the character imagines for his or her future, building out from the driving passion (head). Read the book aloud and help students make connections between Jane's childhood passions and what she imagined for her grown-up future. What was the character's vision for him or herself? What did he or she imagine for the future? 

4) Read and reread the text and have students think about what actions the character takes to realize his or her dream, citing evidence for each step or action (hands and feet). For example: students might cite evidence such as Jane observing the chickens in the henhouse and sketching the animals in her backyard. What choices did the subject make? What actions did he or she take to make sure the dream came true?

This is an example of the Heart, Head, Hands and Feet Graphic Organizer

5) Let students explore their interests- Get them talking about the things that they love. Help them explore their ideas. Then support them in documenting their passions on the Heart, Head, Hands, and Feet graphic organizer. 

6) Investigate informational topics- Bring in collections of books so students can gather information on their areas of interest and things that they love. Have them revisit their graphic organizers and add to or revise them. 
from Miss Herrin Says @MissHerrinSays

A few thoughts and tips... 

This idea of reading wellness, children reading about what they love, and staying true to my inner teacher is what I am always striving for. It reminds me a lot of Donalyn Miller's work. Donalyn has worked mostly with upper grades though. I love that this work has been used with younger students. The lesson ideas embedded in Reading Wellness are just what we need to be able to strike that balance between being our best teaching selves and addressing accountability standards at the same time.

While the examples in the book refer to first grade and up, I think they can easily be adapted to a kindergarten classroom through whole and small-group modeling and individual conferring.

Burkins and Yaris offer a few suggestions for putting it all together. 
1) The lessons in the book are presented in order. They build on one another, therefore it is best if you teach them in the same order.

2) Give students time to practice the ideas and vocabulary in each lesson before moving to the next. Ideally you will teach one lesson a week.

3) As you move across lessons, look for ways in which one lesson's ideas support the next.

A few suggested titles for Heart, Head, Hands, and Feet Lessons...

one of my all time favorites

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Reading Wellness: How Well Are You?

A few months ago someone told me about a book titled Reading Wellness. The title intrigued me, so I had to check it out. Over the next several weeks I'll share what I am learning with you chapter by chapter.

The premise behind the book...
To help teachers find new ways to meet the demands and pressures of standard and accountability measures, while remaining connected to their broader visions of students as readers, thus helping them to establish habits that will support a lifetime of reading wellness

Wellness is about...
the ways we blend together all of the aspects of our lives to be our best selves

How do we apply this idea of wellness to reading?
Reading wellness goes way beyond skills and strategies. The ultimate goal of teaching any reading strategy is not the skill or strategy itself, but rather it is becoming a lifelong reader.

Reading wellness includes all facets of readership- from finding favorite books and authors, to reading magazines and working on fluency, to knowing when comprehension is breaking down and determining which strategy to use in repairing it.

Reading wellness includes the skills and strategies needed to read the text, as well as enjoying the text, having ideas, and developing identity and agency as a reader.

Burkins and Yaris offer four "intentions" for teaching and learning-  
Intention 1- Alignment- Keep your sights set on long-term outcomes and the ways in which your instructional decisions affect who children will grow up to become, focus on lifelong learning

How does the lesson show your students their power as learners? Are you excited about teaching the lesson? If so, why?

Intention 2Balance- Teachers need to recognize the role of standards and standardized instruction in today's classroom, while also balancing it against their own inner teacher self

I love this question from the book- "How does this lesson marry the goals of my inner teacher, the immediate considerations of accountability, and checks against my own biases?"

Intention 3- Sustainability- Sustainable lessons teach processes, strategies, and routines that support learning across all contexts. Due to a multitude of classroom constraints, we must teach lessons that serve purposes beyond the work at hand.

How will what students are learning and doing in this lesson make them more "well" as readers?

Intention 4- Joy- The moments when you and your students are engaged in work that matters to both of you- work that brings on lifelong learning habits and results in growth in both accountability standards as well as in an agentive life of learning.

How does this lesson cause students to love learning? How does it make them forget they are learning? How does it inspire them? How and why is it memorable?

There is overlap in all four intentions. They are not categorical, but rather connected.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Supporting Young Writers Through Read-Alouds- Week 6 Already Ready Book Study

By extending the ways they talk with students about picture books, teachers further young writers' understandings about texts, process, and what it means to be a writer.

(from p 125 of Already Ready: Nurturing Writers in Preschool and Kindergarten)
Without laboring the point, Matt says simply, "I like the way that sounds. 'Soft and silent she swooped through the trees.'" Then, he continues on with the reading.

With just a tiny bit of talk inserted into the read-loud, Matt does some important teaching. He plants seeds of understanding about how writers craft literary language, how readers draw to this language, and what this language sounds like in texts.

I love the language on this page as well. 

Later that morning... a student composes his own Waddell-like text for his book when he reads, "This is a snake and it slithers and slides."

During share time... Matt gets Owl Babies and rereads the page he read earlier and remarks on how the student's writing sounds like Martin Waddell's writing. 

In this example, the teacher worked with the student on the writing process across three different contexts- read-aloud, side-by-side while writing, and share time.

Wood and Glover suggest five lines of thinking that teachers and children can talk about related to writing and read-alouds-
1) People who make books
2) What makes a picture book, a picture book
3) Different kinds of books
4) Different purposes for books
5) The decisions writers and illustrators make

Talking About the People Who Make Books

Teachers need to support and encourage discussion that helps students understand that people who make books are everyday people just like them. Wood refers to this as the "concept of authorship." 

To build the concept of authorship-
1) Make it a habit to read the names of the authors and illustrators of the books you read. Read the names first, before you read the title. Embed a simple definition for author and illustrator into the talk. 
I have a book for you today that is written by a man named Mo Willems. He made the words in this book and he's the author. He is also the illustrator, so he made the pictures too. The name of his book is Knuffle Bunny. 

2) Show photographs of the people who make the books. This helps children see that authors and illustrators are real and familiar people. 

3) Read aloud the blurbs on the back covers to see what else you can learn about them. Find additional personal information from websites. 

4) Read the dedications. Knowing that authors and illustrators have special people in their lives makes them more real.  

5) Reread the same books. When reading a book students for a second time, you can talk about the author and illustrator like you know them. Rereading allows the talk about the author and illustrator to become more natural. This is the key to students seeing themselves like these authors and illustrators. 

6) Read multiple books by the same authors and illustrators. Reading a stack of books from the same author helps students see that writing is not a one-time event. 

Talking About What Makes a Picture Book, a Picture Book

Stapled sheets of paper and markers alone don't actually help children understand how to respond to an invitation to make books. Teachers need to encourage talk that supports students' understanding of what it means to make a picture book. 

- a picture book has both words and illustrations in it

- the words and illustrations change from page to page while staying on the same topic

- the author decides what the picture book is about (sometimes the author will make a note in the book explaining why he/she wrote the book, other times this is something you and your students can wonder out loud about)

- a picture book has crafted language in it (carefully use voice when reading and point out carefully crafted wording) 

Talking About Different Kinds of Books

Teachers need to help students begin to understand that there are different kinds of books- there is a difference between a book that tells a story and one that simply tells about something

Books That are Stories

Books That are Lists

Talking About Different Purposes for Books

It is helpful for students to understand there are different purposes behind the different types of writing and that two of those purposes are entertaining (writing just for fun) and informing (writing to teach people things). 

Point out and talk about common features- table of contents, labeled pictures, close-ups, glossaries, inset boxes, maps, bold print words, etc. 

The pieces for this anchor chart came from Kim Adsit's 

Talking About the Decisions Writers and Illustrators Make

Notice and name what writers and illustrators do in their books- for example: look at how the author made the word a particular way- the way Nicola Smee crafted the words "WHOA!" and "STOP!" makes us read them with a loud voice. This helps build a repertoire of possibilities for things your students to try in their writing and illustrating. 

Common features to draw attention to- 
Written Texts
bold words, words written in different sizes and shapes, repetition, dialogue, sound, interesting language, interesting uses of punctuation

perspective, interesting use of color, borders, layout, how the illustrations show more than the words, the presence of white space, the presence or absence of detail

A few closing points...

1) Manage your talk around books so that is supports students rather than overwhelm them
2) Help children take the talking and thinking about the read-aloud back to their writing
3) The message of all of the talking and thinking should be "You're writers too!" 
4) Bring student books to read-aloud time and talk about them the same way you talk about read-alouds
5) When working side-by-side with a child as he/she writes refer back to read-aloud conversations as teaching points