Friday, April 29, 2016

Jennifer Serravallo's The Reading Strategies Book

This week I attended a half-day session on Jennifer Serravallo's The Reading Strategies Book.

Rather than offer a lot of new information, the session provided a new perspective on a few things for me. This post is not a walk through of all of the goals or each chapter in the book, but rather a summary of the important ideas I took from the training.

There are several Reading Strategies blog book studies out there. I have listed just a few below. Check them out for more information on specific goals.
Literacy Loving Gals
My First Grade Happy Place
The Reading Strategies Book Club
Digital: Divide & Conquer

Skills vs. Strategies

Serravallo begins by pointing out the difference between skills and strategies. She defines strategies as "deliberate, effortful, intentional, and purposeful actions a reader takes to accomplish a specific task or skill" (Serravallo, 2010, 11-12). She calls it a step-by-step procedure that puts the students' work in "doable terms." She says it should help them become more comfortable and competent with a new skill.

Skills are what the student needs to learn. For example- sequencing, inferring, fluency, synthesizing, etc. Strategies are the series of actionable steps students use to help them break down the skill in order to learn it.

Important to Note- Oftentimes, I think we use the terms skills and strategies interchangeably and talk about them as if they are the same when they are actually two different terms.

My Favorite Point- This is my favorite point that Serravallo makes about strategies- Strategies are not a means to an end. They are a temporary scaffold that eventually needs to be removed.

"The objective is not that the reader can do the steps of the strategy, rather that the strategy helps them be more skilled" (Serravallo, 2015, 9).

Something to Think About- Do you require your students to walk step-by-step through strategies that have become automatic or do you allow them to "outgrow" the strategy?

Goals and Assessment

So... how do you know which goal to start with?

Goals start with assessment. You need to match the right goal to the right reader. To help with this, each chapter starts with an overview of what the goal is, whom the goal is appropriate for, and how to assess students with the goal in mind.

Important to Note- John Hattie (2009) synthesized thousands of research studies and concluded that goals paired with teacher feedback make one of the greatest differences on student achievement and progress.

Possible Tools for Assessment
- formative assessments
- reading logs
- engagement inventories
- reading interest surveys
- reading levels

Another possible tool- You will need a text you are extremely familiar with. Have students read the text or read the text aloud to them. Then have students jot down a question, wondering, or thought. Take up the sticky notes and sort them into groups- "deep," "deeper," and "deepest." What can you learn from your students' thinking?

The goals in the book are categorized in a hierarchy of sorts.  

Emergent Reading- for those who are not yet reading conventionally

Engagement- students have to want to read and to have focus and stamina in order to progress

Print Work- students need to have strategies to be able to read words

Fluency- students need to be able to read with automaticity, intonation, and expression

Comprehension- Students need to understand what they are reading and be able to talk about it

While writing and talking about reading are very important, they come last in the hierarchy because it's hard for students to write and talk about their reading if they don't understand the text.

Prompting and Guiding Readers

Some argue that everything you choose to teach requires a lengthy demonstration (Barnhouse & Vinton, 2012; Johnston, 2004). Instead, Serravallo suggests a 12-15 minute lesson. Get in, anchor the learning, and get out.

Show students how. Get out. Let them practice.

Important to Note- We, the teachers, have to stop doing all of the talking. Hence the "get in, get out" and let them practice statement. If we are doing all of the talking, we are doing all of the thinking and learning.

A Simple Teaching Plan-
1) activate engagement, link, and teach
2) coach into a child
3) One-on-one conference with students
4) take notes on what you are seeing and hearing

Hattie's research (2009) shows that feedback connected to a visible goal has the potential to bring about enormous positive results for the student

Feedback can take many forms- 
directive (directs the reader to try something)
redirection (names what the reader is doing and redirects him to try a new strategy)
sentence starter (gives the reader a question or prompt to respond to)

Important to Note- It is often more effective to start with a lower level of support  and work up to more support as needed (Marie Clay, 1993)- within the lesson or across several lessons gradually decrease the amount of support

Supporting Strategies Using Visuals

1) help readers remember strategies
2) help the strategies to stick in their minds
3) helps readers internalize them and make them their own

Check out These Great Resources for Charts- chartchums (a blog focused on making smarter charts) and the book Smarter Charts by Marjorie Martinelli and Kristine Mraz.

Characteristics of Helpful Charts
- they are clear and simple
- are low on text
- use icons and pictures
- are age appropriate
- have clear headings

Important to Note- Sometime we need to "retire" charts. Once the strategy on a chart becomes second nature for students, then it is no longer needed on the wall. Charts are not meant to become wallpaper.

The strategies at a glance pages make the book really easy to use. Once you determine a goal for a student, you can look for strategies with the chapter. 

Important to Note- Introduce one strategy at a time. Guide the student in practicing the strategy. Move on to a new strategy once the child appears skilled with the first one. 

Another important idea that Serravallo points out is to keep strategies generalizable. Don't refer to specific parts or pages of the text. You do half the thinking when you do so. Keep it simple. Use fewer words. The prompts in the book will help you do this. 

For a sample of the book and other resources check out Heinemann's Reading Strategies Book page here.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Understanding Dimensions of Composition Development- Week 4 Already Ready Book Study

The purpose of Chapter 4 is to examine the different dimensions of composition development within the context of children's composing.

Important Point- As you read through each question related to development, it is important to remember that the answers to the questions cannot be found in the books alone. Some of the questions can only be answered by observing the child as he writes. If the child has already finished the book, the opportunity to see the child's development in some areas has been lost.

The book organizes the dimensions of composition development into 3 broad categories- 
1) understandings about text
2) understandings about process
3) understandings about what it means to be a writer

Important Point- Composition development is multidimensional. It does not have to follow a line of logical progression. The three dimensions are not hierarchical.

Understandings About Texts
Is the child's book about something?
- When children start making books, each page of their book will most likely be
about something different
- In the next phase of development the book will be all about something, but
written in a loosely connected way (for example: things a child likes)
- Over time the writing will have more focus with strong meaningful
connections between ideas

How has the child organized the book?
- Does the book move through time (narrative, telling what happened next) or
through a list of ideas (non-narrative, a list of ideas that tell about something
and connect them in a logical way)
-Oftentimes young writers mix the kinds of connections they make between ideas
(for example: a book that tells about a trip to the zoo through a list of things the
writer did at the zoo as opposed to a story of unfolding events)

Does the child ready the book basically the same way every time?
- Over time, inexperienced writers grow to understand that meaning should stay
the same over time
- Growth in this area also includes a child's drawings becoming more
representational so that they too hold their meaning more efficiently

Is this book made in the manner of other picture books?
- Young writers show that they understand the particular formats of publishing
when they add features such as titles, bylines, dedications, table of contents,

What in the book shows the child understands genre?
- "Genre is the writer's sense of what he is making with writing" (Ray, 2006)
- When young children begin talking about the different kinds of books they can
compose, they are developing a sense of genre (for example: writing a funny
book about a family member, making up a story about a turtle, etc.)
- Young writers will broaden their repertoire of possibilities as teachers read a
variety of texts to them

How is the child representing meaning?
- How does the child represent meaning in the text (is all of the meaning in the
illustrations or does the written word hold most of the meaning)
- Do the art and writing extend each other's meaning or are the words just labels
or words that simply narrate the same meaning found in the illustrations)

Understandings About Process
Is the child intentional about what is being represented on the pages?
- Is the child intentional about what he is drawing and writing on each page
- A child who is writing without intention may ask the teacher what he's drawn
- Some children draw something first and then decide what it is after the fact
- Does the child set out to make meaning and then move the piece purposefully
in that direction

Does the child engage in revision while composing?
- Young children mostly revise their illustrations
- Development in this dimension ranges from no revision at all, to revising one
thing, to being able to explain the revisions made
- Allow students to hold markers when they are telling you about what they
- Conversations with and feedback from the teacher helps students to think about
and see what else they need to do to make meaning clearer

Is there any evidence the child is thinking ahead about what to write?
- Young writers begin by living in the moment of the page they are composing
rather than thinking ahead to the end

Has the child made any intentional crafting decisions?
- Teacher need to show students what other writers do to make books interesting
(speech bubbles, the size and color of illustrations, circular or repetitive text)

How long has the child worked on the book?
- Stamina includes- writing in one sitting as well as going back and working on
the same writing for more than one day
- Working alongside another child and interacting with an adult helps a young
writer stay with a book a little longer

Does the child exhibit a willingness to solve problems while writing?
- Young writers will certainly encounter "technical" difficulties through the
writing process- a marker may not work, they run out of pages in their pre
stapled book, the book is not finished but it is time to leave for lunch or go
home, etc.)
- The act of learning how to solve problems productively is an important part of
writing development

Understandings About What it Means to Be a Writer
How has the child decided what to write about?
- The topic may come from whatever the child drew on the first page, from
something the child saw another child write about, from a read-aloud the
teacher shared, or something they are interested in

How interested in the child in an audience's response?
- The more young writers experience the response of real listeners, the more they
will develop the sense of audience and an interest in the responses they receive

Has the child composed in a way that led to new meanings?
- The act of writing is as much a process in finding meaning as it is in expressing
- Composition should lead to new understandings about the topic

Does the book show that the child willingly took compositional risks?
- Most of the decisions made by inexperienced writers involves risk-taking
- Development in this dimension ranges from not knowing how to do something
and avoiding it, to not knowing how to do something and trying it anyway, to
showing great confidence as a writer

Does the child seem to have a sense of self as a writer?
- Proficient writers know the things they write about, why they write about them,
how they write best, and the conditions that matter
- When a child can respond to questions about his writing and the decisions he
made in the process, he is developing a sense of self as a writer

Does the child show he understands his powerful position as author of the book?
- The child owns what is in the book and knows it is up to him to make all of the
decisions about everything in it

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Rethinking the Meaning of Writing Development- Week 3 Already Ready Book Study

Chapter 3 contained a lot of familiar information and was rather short. I have summarized what I considered "a-ha's" or important points below. 

When a child says they cannot read their own writing, simply explain "It like pretending if you did have words there, what would they say?" 

Restate and clarify what a child "reads" or says is on a page in order to help him grab hold of the meaning. 

Young writers writing is not yet representational in a conventional sense; meaning it is not able to hold meaning on its own without the writer being present. If you, the teacher, don't acknowledge the writing of your young students simply because it's not representational, then you will never see the amazing thinking they are capable of as writers. 

I love this quote- "In order to judge the quality of a literacy experience one must judge the quality of the mental trip taken, not the arrival point per se" (Harste, Woodward, and Burke, 1984, p. 18) If you, the teacher, are only interested in the "arrival point" or finished product, then you will miss all of the different reasons your students engaged and interacted with the text that they composed. 

Related to the same point above- Lucy Calkins (1994) suggests we "teach the writer, not the writing."

Once a child's writing becomes representational, it oftentimes becomes more difficult for teachers to focus on the child as the writer because they're so distracted by all of the needs they see in the transcription of the writing. 

As teachers we need to see the possibilities for nurturing and teaching the writer even before the writing becomes representational.

Spelling development is not writing development. Transcription is only one of the many things a young writer needs to be able to do in order to write.

Oftentimes an emphasis is placed on transcription because spelling development can be clearly seen, while writing development is much less clear. Adults typically have difficulty imagining what the thinking process of writing looks like when it's not connected to actual words written on a page.

Consider looking at the development process as composition development rather than writing development. Why?
- Children need to take part in compositional writing, not just functional writing in order to see themselves as writers.
- Composing is a multi-model process. Composing text involves a combination of written words, art, graphics, layout, audio and video- all of which result in a desired composition when finished.
-Composing a text is not just about writing the words.
Therefore, writing development is not the focus- compositional development is.

In this composition, the child imagined the piece and then used illustrations, words, layout, and craft to think out how should could represent the meaning she wanted to convey. 

Imagine how this piece might have been different or how the child may have felt stifled or insecure as a writer if her teacher had placed all of the emphasis on transcription. 

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

The Most Magnificent Thing About Young Learners

Today I attended the Lead4ward K-2 Learning Conference- The Most Magnificent Thing. I really enjoyed the opening Keynote Speaker- Ervin Knezek- and his session The Most Magnificent Thing About Young Learners, so I thought I would share my top 10 a-ha's for the session.

1) We need to give our students the opportunity to learn how to start. Kids who can't start, can't finish. We want to create independent learners. If we tell them how to start, we create dependent learners who have to constantly rely on us.

2) Do students need more than one way to start? Yes. They need at least 3 ways to start and they need to be able to apply those ways in different contexts.

3) What is the difference between "learning how" and "telling how?" It typically takes longer to let kids learn how, but more work in the beginning pays off in the end. Very little thought goes into the work when kids are told how to do it. If you do not have a lot of time to allow for "learning how" then at least give children a choice.

4) A really good question has more than one answer. Try to find at least 3 answers to every question. Sometimes there may be only 1 answer- so... have kids show it in 3 different ways, demonstrate 3 ways to solve it, model 3 ways to start, etc.

5) Kids learn only when they are given time to talk. When kids talk about what they know, someone is listening to them. When others listen, they suggest other ideas, add to the learning, offer another answer, come up with additional questions, etc. When others are listening kids can get to a better answer or a different answer.

6) When kids can defend what they are doing- they are committed to their learning.

7) Quote of the day- "My teacher thought I was smarter that I was- So I was."
                                                                                       -- a six year old

8) The notion that the first answer is the final answer does not help kids become good thinkers. We want to create fluency and flexibility in them instead. They need to know there is more than one way.

9) Mistakes matter! Trying again is the cornerstone of persistence. Teaching kids that it's ok to make mistakes and that through it all they need to stick with it creates fluency and flexibility in the younger years.

Ervin used the book The Most Magnificent Thing to illustrate this point.

Making the most magnificent thing turns out to be harder than the little girl thinks. She measures, hammers, fastens, and adjusts again and again, but the thing just keeps turning out wrong. 

Just when the little girl wants to quit, her assistant suggests a break. Bit by bit the mad is pushed out of her head, she relaxes, and starts to think clearly again. 

As the little girl looks back over each of the things she made she realizes some parts of the things are wrong, but some are quite right. There are all sorts of parts that she likes and can use if she tries again. 

Finally... the little girl knows how to make the magnificent thing. 

After much perseverance, the little girl finally finishes... 

You will have to read the book to find out what she made. 

10) Transfer means to use what you know in a new way. When we are rigid in our thinking and tell students how to do everything rather than allowing them to learn how on their own, they are only able to do things the way they are taught and no other way. 

We want kids thinking about literacy as well as other content areas. How can you get your kids thinking by implementing one of these a-ha's in your classroom?

Friday, April 8, 2016

The Importance of Book-Making: Week 2 Already Ready Book Study

Sorry about this post being a week late. I painted Abby's bedroom last weekend and the time just got away from me.

I would like to begin this week by addressing a few questions that came up as a result of the last post.

Both questions are related to the book's suggestion to move away from dictation.

How does a parent "read" a young child's writing when they are not skilled at "reading" emergent writing?

What about the child who can't remember what they wrote in order to read it?

My personal opinion is that none of this is really important at this early stage of writing. Let them "read" their stories differently each time. Encourage parents to ask their children to "read" their stories to them. When children are lifted up as writers, they are more likely to explore the craft and to try new things. They develop a sense of agency and identity as a writer. This is a very powerful thing- much more so than if we only have them concentrate on the skill of reading the transcription.  

Chapter 2- Composition and the Importance of Making Picture Books (from Already Ready: Nurturing Writers in Preschool and Kindergarten by Katie Ray Wood & Matt Glover)

The chapter begins by comparing functional writing and compositional writing. In the early grades functional writing plays such an important role in supporting young children's understanding about what writing is and what it can do for them.

Functional writing is important to all kinds of daily tasks, but mostly it addresses tasks at hand and does not go beyond that. Everyday people jot down notes, make lists, sign in and out, and fill out forms. These are all types of functional writing. They are writing done in response to the demands of everyday living.
Students Signing In and Out to Take Attendance

The capability to use writing to support one's jobs and projects is one of the greatest benefits of literacy. Teachers need to provide opportunities for young children to write as part of the daily school routine, in play, and through exploration; however, if functional writing is the only type of writing young children take part in they will probably not feel much like writers. 

This line was a bit of an "ah-ha" for me. I had kids writing all day and across all content areas, but when I stopped to consider how much of that time was spent on functional writing and how much of it was spent on compositional writing... most of it was spent on functional writing.

"Literate people who use writing only for functional purposes typically don't have strong identities as writers." (Wood & Glover, 2008)

Those who use writing to compose have much stronger writing identities because of it. As part of their jobs, some people use writing to compose articles, reports, newsletters, webpages, reviews, advertisements, etc. All of which are designed with a specific purpose and audience in mind.

Making Signs for Structures in the Block Center

Some of you may be thinking "What's really the big deal between functional writing and compositional writing?" 
The big difference is going beyond just the skill and emphasizing the attitude to use the skill productively. (I love this!) 

With this in mind, functional writing alone won't do much to nudge young children forward in their writing because it mostly involves transcription or simply put... writing things down. 

On the other hand, compositional writing requires writers to bring meaning to the page. Project writing and bookmaking call writers to think deeply about purpose, ideas, organization, word choice, tone, craft, presentation, and so on. 
Some of you may be thinking that your students barely know the letters or sounds or that while they know them they are nowhere close to getting them down on paper or to understanding spelling and handwriting. You may be asking how can I engage my students in compositional writing before they master the skill of transcription. 

According to Katie and Matt- Transcription is not a prerequisite for compositional writing. It is part of compositional writing, but not a prerequisite. (2008) 

If a writer doesn't know anything about how to transcribe words yet, he or she simply uses other means to capture his or her thinking while composing. 
Writers can do this through their illustrations or memory- through repeated readings or reading to others. Creating a shared memory by reading to others holds one's thinking better than one's memory alone. 
In fact, not knowing much about transcription actually frees writers to place more thinking energy into other facets of their writing. Once young children have a working knowledge of letters and sounds they will put more of their thinking energy into the transcription of the piece rather than into other aspects of it. 

The purpose of comparing functional writing to compositional writing was not to place more value on one over the other. Rather it was to persuade teachers to consider new invitations to write that encourage children to compose and make things with writing just as experienced writers do. 

Everytime I learn something new I think of this quote by Maya Angelou. Take the challenge- consider what new invitations to write you can offer your students. 

So... Why Make Picture Books?
Picture Books are Familiar
All children are familiar with books- even if they only see them at school. Contrast this familiarity with journaling or single sheets of paper that aren't in a publishing format. Picture books are the kind of writing young children know. That holds great significance. 

Picture Books Expand Avenues of Meaning Making
In picture books the weight of meaning is carried as much through the illustrations as in the words. Readers oftentimes extend meaning by talking about the illustrations in books. Our youngest writers need to see there are a variety of ways to capture their thinking.  

Making Picture Books Forces the Issue of Composition
When making picture books children extend their writing to another page and then another- connecting each new idea to the one before it in a meaningful way. 

Simply put... paper matters. When a child is given a single sheet of paper then all of the meaning is contained on that one page. Capturing meaning through a single drawing or sentence does little to help young writers understand composition. 
When a teacher asks a child to dictate a sentence to go with a drawing and then writes the sentence for him, the meaning is reduced further- to no longer being considered composition. Composing includes putting ideas- sentences- together in ways that they make sense. Single pages, illustrations, and sentences do not show this. 

Making Picture Books Helps Children Read Like Writers
Everytime you share a book, seize the opportunity to notice what authors and illustrators are doing in books. Then turn that noticing into an invitation for your students to try it out in their own books. 

For example: Add Speech Bubbles to Your Writing
From the book Is Everyone Ready for Fun? by Jan Thomas
I love Jan Thomas! 

Making Picture Books Builds Stamina
A picture book format, which includes multiple pages waiting to be filled, encourages children to stay at their writing. 

Making Picture Books is Fun
There is a fine line between "I can do this" and "I'm way too frustrated by what you are asking me to do". Saddle up next to your young writers and help them do things that are just a little beyond what they are capable of doing on their own (Vygotsky, 1978). Make it fun, give it meaning, keep it developmentally appropriate and they will like it.