Guided Reading Made Simple

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Guided Reading is appropriate for any grade level and is part of a balanced literacy program. Even as adults, we gain skills to understand new or difficult texts (epubs, infographics, poetry, microblogging). Guided reading helps educators differentiate in the classroom and aims to “develop independent readers who question, consider alternatives, & make informed choices.” – Mooney 

By the time students enter the third grade, they have decoding skills and guided reading is used to provide explicit instruction to develop powerful readers. Reading is understanding! And through guided reading students continue to add strategies to their toolbox that will help them understand any difficult text they encounter.

Before starting guided reading:

  1. Establish routines that support independent work and classroom management so small groups can be pulled for instruction.
  2. Identify groups of 5 or 6 students that read at the same instructional level or who have similar strategy needs.
  3. Groups are temporary and dynamic, based on need and should be changed when assessment and behavior dictate.
  4. Older students are less likely to display reading behavior because most processing is done automatically and unconsciously, but they are able to write and talk about their understanding and reading processes better than younger students.

Once groups have been established:

  1. Select text based on the instructional level of readers.
  2. Introduce the text, modeling strategies good readers use to understand what they read.
  3. Students read the whole text or designated portion of a longer piece. This is done independently and silently. During this time, teachers can observe and note reading behaviors, have individual students read a portion orally, work with another small group or conference with individual students.
  4. When the everyone is done reading, students discuss the text with the support of the teacher.
  5. Based on notes or the discussion, the teacher models 1 or 2 strategies students need and then apply to the text.
  6. Two optional guided reading components include an extension activity. Students continue learning through writing activities,  sketchnoting, or even a multimedia response. Word work is another option that could take place after the text is read.

Guided reading is effective and efficient to boost student achievement in the area of reading comprehension.  Often it is met with hesitation, educators are unsure of how it “looks” in the classroom. Following the framework above helps to alleviate those  fears providing structure to a powerful balanced literacy component.

Source: Fountas and Pinnell

 

 

Current Brain Research Tells Us…

File_000 (3)The traditional model of “School” was created to support the Industrial Age, pushing out workers into an economy that valued monotony and the algorithmic routines of assembly lines. Students learned the same thing, at the same time, and developed the same skills necessary for the type of work environment most would enter after graduation. Current brain research reveals 4 important truths that have been missed in the past. This understanding of the brain supports the current economy which places value on skills such as critical thinking, creativity, global connections, and heuristic means to create novel ideas.

Do This

Not This

#1   Intelligence is Variable

We think, learn, and create in different ways. Intelligence is multifaceted and students need a range of opportunities to discover varied intelligences.

Intelligence is Singular

Intelligence is developed and demonstrated in one way. There is only one right answer and one way to demonstrate understanding.

#2   The brain is Malleable

Intelligence can continue to grow and be strengthened. Intelligence is NOT fixed, the capacity to continue to learn is immeasurable. Provide students with varied and rich learning experiences to strengthen multiple intelligences.

The brain is Fixed

Intelligence is fixed and determined at birth. Only the earliest years in a child’s life are important for brain strength and growth. Educators can not fill the gaps from home.

#3   The brain hungers for Meaning

Learners seek to make sense of information and recognize patterns, connections to prior knowledge and experiences and organize their learning around larger concepts.

The brain recalls Information

Learners retain information best when imposed upon them. Teaching students important test-taking vocabulary and information in isolation ensures understanding.

#4   We learn best with moderate Challenge

Learners retreat to self-protection mode if faced with too tough of a challenge or have been allowed to continually fail. If the task is too easy, motivation and interest wane. A task that is challenging for one learner may not be for another, therefore differentiating tasks is key.

We learn best through Success

Learners who succeed will continue to learn and push themselves. Tasks should be designed so all students experience immediate success. Any difficulty in learning is met with resistance and the learner gives up.

(Information in part via Tomlinson)

As educators, this information helps to inform practice and remove outdated bias we hold on students, learning, and intelligence. With the understanding that the brain is malleable and intelligence is variable, differentiation in the classroom and rich learning experiences support all students. Tasks and units can be designed to support inquiry, provide choice, and are tied to conceptual thinking. Students grow and strengthen intelligence in multiple areas and leave our care with the ability to think, learn, and create differently.

 

Sources:

  • Carol Ann Tomlinson
  • Howard Gardner
  • Carol Dweck

Technofy Your Vocabulary Instruction

Technofied Vocabulary Instruction

I do love a challenge, and my friend and fellow Certified Google Innovator, Alicia Brooks offered the perfect one a few weeks ago. Alicia wanted ideas for blending sound vocabulary instruction with intentional technology. I gladly accepted the challenge, it was a way to blend my passions in literacy and technology.

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Technofied Vocabulary Instruction  (1)All learning is based in language! It is also a part of the Common Core State Standards, based off of the work of Isabel Beck.  But instead of aligning vocabulary instruction to a mandate that could change as quickly as politics, I like to instead anchor my beliefs in what’s best for kids. Word learning is a way to understand concepts more deeply, connect to topics and information intentionally, approach challenging words with strategies good readers use to make sense of complicated texts, and to transfer this understanding into consumption and creation! Along with those beliefs, I also knew there were two important research-grounded assumptions on word learning.

  1. Word learning is not incremental – it is not like an on – off switch; instead, it is more like a dimmer switch, strengthening what we know.
  2. Students learn many more words than we can teach them during school hours or with direct vocabulary instruction.

Understanding these two assumptions, educators recognize vocabulary instruction must be multifaceted. Student learning of vocabulary and instruction of vocabulary must come from multiple angles. Students must have multiple exposures to build depth and understanding . On average, students learn 3,000-4,000 words a year from grades K to 12th. This amount of word learning far surpasses what can be taught in the classroom. Learning of words happens incidentally and from all types of contexts; in school, out of school, from communication and conversations, television, social media, and music. Students are constantly learning words!

When determining how to teach vocabulary, I like to use the following neumonic developed by Blachowicz & Fisher.

Flood – Flood your classroom with words related to your concept or topic. Not all learning requires intentional and teacher-directed instruction. Enriched environments that promote interesting encounters students have with words increases incidental learning.

Fast – Use fast instruction when an easy definition or analogy will build on knowledge the students already have. Instruction is fast paced where the teacher identifies the word, provides a synonym, gives an example of use, and then asks students to provide their own connection or synonym

Focus – Use focus instruction for words where deeper, semantically rich teaching of a new concept is required. Instruction involves both definitional and contextual information, multiple exposures to the word and it’s meaning, and deep levels of processing so that students develop a rich base for word meaning.

Technofied Vocabulary Instruction  (2)Technology provides support to both educators and students on vocabulary instruction and word learning. For instance, applying the 4 components of a multifaceted and comprehensive vocabulary instruction, students are encouraged to identify vocabulary that is unfamiliar to them in their independent reading, mentor example, or nonfiction article from another class. This choice recognizes different needs, prior knowledge, and interests students have in your classroom. Use semantic mapping to aid in the learning. Try Coggle, as a way students can organize and group their word work.

Technofied Vocabulary Instruction  (3)Hyperslides (a dynamic presentation in which different slides are linked together, providing choice to the student. Think a digital form of Choose Your Own Adventure.) can be used for a short student analysis, or to provide students with a quick way to strengthen their understanding and exposure through a “Would you rather” question. I have found it best to model an example and provide as a future option for student creation. When students construct their own understanding, word learning is deepened. Click here to experience a short demo I created with Google Slides.

Technofied Vocabulary Instruction  (5)Model it – word learning is supported through enriched environments where students are word aware! Educators must do their part as well, seeing that vocabulary acquisition is largely incidental. Crosswords, word games, vocabulary websites, thinking aloud your own struggles when encountering a difficult word, videos, images and word walls demonstrate the constant vocabulary learning by the teacher. I am a collector of moments and beautiful words, and one of my favorite things to do is identify and Pin literacy devices I find on Pinterest. This modeling is one that students enjoy and frequent, noticing the additions and pinning some to their boards.

Technofied Vocabulary Instruction  (6)Graphic Dictionaries are great for Tier 3 words that are content specific. Have students create their own graphic dictionary according to content or unit. Use Google Docs and the (g)math add-on to create a Math Term Graphic Dictionary! It is not only functional and individualized by each student, but it provides an opportunity to utilize a digital resource available.

Farnsworth Instagram TemplateFinally, try using social media to engage, create, and collaborate digitally with students through Wuzzles (word puzzles). Share a class Instagram account in which all students take turns posting to, or utilize your own Snapchat app and stories to post Wuzzles to extend learning. Another alternative is to create and use templates that models form and structure found on social media platforms. Create a Vocab-O-Gram with an Instragram template found HERE.

Source: Gambrell, Linda B. and Lesley Mandel Morrow, eds. Best Practices in Literacy

Instruction. New York: Guilford. 2015. Print.

 

Digital Literacy: Teaching Infographics, a sub-genre

infographic components

During the past few months, I have had the pleasure of teaching a Digital Storytelling course. The focus was on how students can use digital modes to communicate their understanding of concepts, topics, and problems. Recently, the learning was on infographics. We live in a visual world, digital communication makes up most of the reading one does daily. Videos, images, and infographics are commonplace and examples of reading and writing digital literacies.

Digital modes of communication are best taught as sub-genres in the classroom. When considering Infographics and how best to teach students to consume and create them, the following are guidelines that will assist you in this endeavor.

First, start with an inquiry lesson in which students investigate a collection of infographics that are considered to be of high quality. I like the ones listed in the article entitled, 11 Best Infographics of 2015. students will find a variety of designs, structural examples, along with content areas. Students are charged with Identifying Commonalities, Naming Components of Good Infographics, and Providing Reasons to Justify Claims. (All which are aligned to the Common Core Writing Standards).

Second, identify a mentor “text” (in this case an infographic) in which students can use to refer back to when making decisions on their own infographic. Remember, a mentor text is one that has many access points students can use. It can be one that is teacher-created, or student-created, as well as one from an expert. It does not need to align to content, instead, the focus is on skills and components students use and show when designing an infographic.

Third, good writers/designers plan before they start creating an infographic. A storyboard or checklist containing components of an infographic will provide structure to budding designers. Check out Google Templates for examples, or better yet, have students create their own. The more complete their planning is, the more successful their creation of infographics will be.

Finally, provide a checklist containing the 7 Elements above with explanations, examples, or other activities that allow students to dig into the different areas while constructing their  own knowledge of this sub-genre.

  1. Topic: Student-Choice should be given when selecting a topic. Remember, we are working on skills and components of stellar infographics that they can use from this day forward, not the content! The topic should be relevant, engaging, as well one that is not currently an infographic that they can Google and copy.
  2. Audience & Purpose: Identifying audience and purpose of communication provide a lens in which to look through when sharing information. Just as in all types of communication, the skills students use to demonstrate their understanding through an infographic are transferable to multiple digital and text-based modes.
  3. Structure: Infographics have structure similar to what a reader may notice in non-fiction. Description, Compare and Contrast, Order, Sequence, Chronological, Cause and Effect are a few of the ways students can consider when structuring their information and flow.
  4. Hook: Good Infographics have a catchy title or image that “hook” the viewer at first glance. Students should identify this, not only in mentor examples but also as a skill that is transferable to all forms of communication. Taking time to practice this skill is essential!
  5. Balance: Infographics have a balance between text, images, icons, and white space. Succinct communication through words, phrases, and images demonstrate a command of the information and also design elements.
  6. Design: There are many different strands to infographics when dissecting design elements; start with the basics and build from there. Notice color schemes, fonts, and images. How do they promote or detract from the message? A site for those of us that are clueless when it comes to color choices is Coolors which generates possible options for users. When deciding on fonts, Canva’s Design School provides examples as well as reasoning.
  7. Sources: Finally, when students cite their sources, they not only enhance their credibility when providing data, support, etc., but they are also demonstrating good digital citizenship by avoiding plagiarism and recognizing copyright.

My love for infographics has been reawakened through the teaching of this course. It allows me to blend my passions in literacy and technology. Teaching digital literacy, and the modes that are associated with it as a sub-genre provide accessibility to educators and students for reading, viewing, and creating their own! Here are a few sites to support the creation of Infographics:

Day 3 Digital Storytelling

Google Draw

Canva

Piktochart

Easelly 

Blogging in the Classroom: Student Roles

blogging in the classroomIn 2009, I began my personal journey in blogging, as well as implementing blogging into my classroom. Josh, a senior that year, walked into my classroom and told me and his peers that he hated writing and was going to hate this class. Instead of questioning him, I simply stated that this year we were going to try something new with in our writing class and I hoped that it would change his mind – Blogging.

Fast forward 2 months, and Josh had a personal blog, a classroom blog, a large following of readers, and had changed his views on writing overall. In fact, I often brought him with me to speak with other educators and students on the power of blogging, student choice, and a public audience. Not only did he revel in this new found role in speaking, but he became a writer, and actually enjoyed it.

Blogging is the one strategy, that I share with other educators, as the most powerful shift in my teaching with the integration of technology into the traditional ELA classroom. My students were empowered to share their voice, honed multimodal communication skills, and wrote real pieces for a different audience than the traditional, lone teacher.

I am often asked for blogging advice to support educators new to blogging in the classroom, so, this will be the first post in a series I will write. You can find my “Classroom Blogging Expectations” HERE. Feel free to use these as a starting place for your own classroom.

When considering the roles of student bloggers I offer the 5 following considerations for you and to be shared with the students:

Student Roles

  1. Write, Write, Write – Blogging requires students to write, and write often. To maintain an engaged audience, students must write and publish frequently. On average, my students publish two posts a week. Not only did this require them to be constantly writing, but to have multiple pieces started and in different places in the writing process. The amount of student writing inside the classroom doubled, but the most interesting surprise was the amount they wrote outside of the classroom, to keep their readers satisfied and wanting more!
  2. Purpose and Voice – While this did not happen overnight, students soon realized their writing required purpose to appeal to their readers. Through blogging, students discovered their own, unique voice and their purpose for writing was uncovered. Starting off with a general blog was how many students began their journey, but the more they practiced and published, and the more they read posts from other peers and writers, they realized that most blogs had a niche; and they needed one as well. From original music, xbox tips and videos, to a co-authored blog publicly debating controversial issues; my students refined writing skills, uncovered and developed their own niche, and unearthed their voice as a writer.
  3. Publishing – Another student role in a blogging classroom is the responsibility of publishing regularly on a public platform. Publishing their work to someone different than the traditional, lone teacher increased engagement and developed explanatory and argumentative writing skills. It also provided students an opportunity to shift from digital consumers to digital creators. Having spent most of their lives reading online, students now created the same types of texts they read daily. This exposure to practice writing multimodal texts demanded knowledge and demonstration in structure, format, design, audio, visual, etc. (some posts were in the form of images or vlogs – video blog posts) .
  4. Community – Starting off, I knew the pitfalls of having students blog; one being who would read their posts. Before I introduced blogging to the students, I connected with other educators across the country to develop a blogging community for the students. This way, not only would they have their peers reading their thoughts, but also peers from around the country would be reading their work on a regular basis. This element is essential. Plan carefully to ensure someone reads what your kids post, or else it will loose purpose and engagement will dwindle. This community of writers was created to share ideas and encourage growth in all kids. Students commented on and followed each others blogs. Their charge was not one to edit or evaluate each other, instead, to be an active participant in this learning community and respond in a way that moved all writers forward. (How I taught my students to respond is found in the blogging expectations linked above). This collaboration and connection provided powerful reinforcement for writing!
  5. Finally, it is a student’s responsibility in a blogging community to not only reflect and respond on the other writers in the group, but also a personal reflection of growth as a writer. This was done throughout the year and ended in a reflection sheet containing links to posts in which they felt demonstrating their strongest displays of writing or which met standards. They reflected on their growth as a writer and their contribution to the community as a whole. They reflected and shared stories of their own writing, but also included stories how they helped other writers move forward!

There are many roles and responsibilities of student bloggers that could have been included on this list, but in retrospect, this list encompasses the top 5 roles my students found themselves in most frequently.

Next time, I will share the roles and responsibilities of the teacher in a classroom that blogs!