Adventures in Literacy Land: Professional Reading

Showing posts with label Professional Reading. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Professional Reading. Show all posts

Word Callers Book Study ~ Chapter 3

Do you have Word Callers in your classroom?  I am sure you do because we all do!  If you are not sure if you have word callers, check out Wendy's post from yesterday to find out more about them.

And if you have the book, grab it and follow along today as I discuss chapter three!  If you don't have it, you need it!

Today I am going to present Chapter Three of Word Callers by Kelly B. Cartwright, which shows how to assess students to see who our inflexible thinkers really are.  This assessment allows us to assess students' flexible thinking about more than just the way the words sound but also their meanings.  It also allows us to do the following:

~ Explain the inflexible thinking we see in our students.
~ Determine which students need extra help to improve flexible thinking.
~ Measure flexible thinking throughout the year to see if it has changed.
~ Improve flexible thinking through intervention.

How many of you use sorting methods in your own classrooms?  Many of us do to help us teach and understand concepts our children need to master.  With a simple 2x2 matrix and word cards, we can tell who our flexible and inflexible thinkers are.  I assessed my own son, who is going into the sixth grade.  Here is what he {unwillingly} did.

When you purchase the book, you get a set of picture cards and words cards for interventions and assessments.

I showed my son how to do the assessment by placing the words into four categories by beginning sound and meanings.  This showed him what I was looking for.

Then I had him sort a different set of cards with the same parameters while I time him.

This is his finished product.

This shows that he is probably an inflexible thinker, but I know differently.  This is just an 11 year old who didn't want to help me out after a long day at camp.  

I only did this once with him, but the real assessment gives them more opportunities to show their thinking.  With a scoring sheet, there is data to show the flexibility of thinking in students.  A chart is also available to lead you in the right direction.

This year I plan to use this with many of my students who experience problems that are like word callers.  This will help them become stronger readers and comprehenders, an important part of reading and learning.

How do you think this will help you as you help your students become stronger readers?

Tune in tomorrow for Chapter 4 of Word Callers!


Word Callers Book Study Ch. 1 and 2

Welcome Literacy Land Readers! I'm so excited to kick off our Word Callers book study with you. Thanks for joining us as we learn how to identify the word callers in our classrooms and help them flex their thinking.

Word Callers: What to Watch For

Word callers. We've all had them in our classrooms. In fact, up to a third of our struggling readers are word callers. They are students who can identify and decode words but have difficulty processing their meaning. I bet you can picture one of these students in your head.

Characteristics of Word Callers

Word callers struggle with vocabulary knowledge, categorizing words, inferring meanings of unknown words from context, and monitoring their own understanding.

Additionally, they have difficulty connecting their prior knowledge with the text and reading between the lines.

While word callers have a difficult time with meaning, they have many strengths to draw upon such as cognitive ability, text memory, word reading speed, and an ability to decode text.

They seem to have "tunnel vision" when reading.  They focus on word-level features and miss the text's meaning.

My Thoughts

I think it is important to remember that word callers have many strengths that we can build upon. The key will be finding ways to help students "multi-task" as they read. The upcoming chapters will explore ways to help children break away from print and focus more on meaning.

Questions for Discussion

  • Is there a practice you've tried that seemed to help students improve their comprehension?  
  • Why do you think the practice was effective?
Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

The High-Low Paradox: Why These Children Struggle

Recent research on children's thinking has provided five important insights will help us understand the difficulties word callers have with comprehension.

Word Callers tend to focus their attention on the letter-sound information so intently that they are unable to think about the meaning of the text.

Word callers often think that the purpose of reading is fluency and accuracy. They focus the letters and sounds and not the meaning.

Word callers view the components of reading as separate from one another. Therefore they do not integrate letter-sound information with syntax and meaning.  

Word callers tend to have difficulty with executive functioning (goal-directed mental activities). Therefore, they focus on decoding rather than getting meaning from the text.

Word callers are less flexible with their thinking. They have difficulty integrating the many components of reading. 

My Thoughts

After reading each of the insights listed above, it's easy to see why word callers struggle to make meaning of text.  Reading is a cognitive task. Readers need to develop flexibility in their thinking in order to be successful.  In the chapters to come, Cartwright will share several strategies to help word callers flex their thinking.

Questions for Discussion

  • Have you had observed students who were unable to consider more than one idea or perspective?  
  • What practices might help students step outside their own views?
Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

Stop back tomorrow as we continue our book study with Chapter 3 -Who Are Your Inflexible Thinkers?


Notice & Note: Strategies for Close Reading

I hope everyone had a wonderful Easter weekend!  I spent part of the long weekend reading Notice & Note: Strategies for Close Reading by Kylene Beers and Robert E. Probst. I have a ton of thoughts running through my head now that I am finished.  I thought I would share two of them with you today to help me better understand what I have read.

Common Core Standards require students to closely read a variety of texts.  What does that mean exactly?  I have seen the posters everywhere on Pinterest and in the blogisphere that breaks close reading down to what you do each time you read the text (reading the text two to four times).  Many of those say that students should be annotating as they read.  My question has always been:  How are students supposed to know what they should be writing in the margins that is actually helpful in deeply understanding a text?  It seems too simple to just have them write a question mark next to a part where they have a question or an exclamation point next to something that was surprising.  If they are closely reading, there should be a transaction between the reader and the text.  Students should be thinking deeper about the questions they are having or why he or she finds the part surprising.  Beers and Probst give you six signposts that you can teach your students to help them dig deeper into the text and create meaning by transacting with the text at a deeper level.  What do you do to help your students dig deeper into a text without leading them to the meaning you derived from the text?

Another term that has risen to the top of discussion since the implementation of Common Core is 'text dependent questions."  In Notice & Note, the authors write, "We worry that a focus on text-dependent questions may create a nation of teacher-dependent kids...Text dependent questions usually suggest that a teacher has crafted the questions and the order of them to lead students to a predetermined meaning of a particular passage" (p. 43).   The authors suggest that teachers work with students to create their own text dependent questions.  They even provide a structure to help teachers do this with their students. (Clicking on the picture will bring you to Google Docs so you can download your own copy.)
I don't want my students to become dependent on me.  I want them to be independent readers.  Questions they create on their own are more engaging and authentic than any question I could ever write.  Students are trained that there is 'a right answer' when the teacher asks a question.  If I am the only one creating the questions, they will never fully engage in the text.

One sentence really stood out to me and I came back to it over and over again.

I would love to know:  What book has changed you?

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Are You Creating Wild Readers?

Reading in the Wild by Donalyn Miller is a game changer book. Check out this post to see how YOU can make your readers wild about reading.

Motivating readers can be a REAL challenge for teachers, so I'd like to chat about Reading in the Wild by Donalyn Miller. Several within our group of bloggers have read her books, and as you can probably guess, we loved them both of the books she's written! I will highlight what I've taken from the book, but by all means, if you haven't read it, please put it on your list of must reads after The Book Whisperer. If you'd like to check out the review of The Book Whisperer, you can access Lauren's blog post from February {here}.  

What does a wild reader look like in the classroom?  

Wild Readers Spend Time Reading

Donalyn introduces the book with discussion about how important it is to give students to time read during the school day.  Many teachers assign 20-30 minutes a day of nightly reading as part of homework, but she contends that we need to find time in the school day to hook the kids and help them recognize times when they can get their books out.  She uses a workshop approach to teaching reading and writing.  She offers mini lessons using mentor texts, anchor charts, graphic organizers, and materials common with most classroom reading instruction, and during the application of comprehension strategies, she pulls in independent reading and discussion.  It is through reader notebooks that her students reflect on their reading and practice using the skills taught.  She advises making use of time "on the fringes"  When might that be?  Here's a short list of times I came up with, and I'm sure you can add to the list.
  1. When kids are waiting for Library checkout, PE, or Music.
  2. During transition minutes between classes if you're departmentalized.
  3. After work is completed.
  4. While waiting for the bus at the end of the day 
  5. Before, during, and after lunch and recess.
  6. As students are arriving to school (This is a great way to de-stress and prepare for the day.)
  7. During guided reading rotations

Important point...

You must always be prepared for a reading emergency, and we need to help our students recognize the importance of carrying a book everywhere in order for them to open it and read.  To create wild readers, we each need to look at our day and find places where we can give 5-10 minutes blocks of time toward independent reading.

Wild Reader Self Select Reading Materials

Knowing your students' Lexile or guided reading levels has been ingrained in our heads over the past few years, and Donalyn advises that we not adhere exclusively to this.  Rather, we should consider interest and motivation when recommending books to students.  We need to be familiar with what our students are reading and know books well enough to offer options based on our students' interests. We need to remind our students that it's okay to abandon books when they aren't a good match and let book selection develop naturally.  When students make bad choices, they find the book doesn't hold their interest and eventually they'll abandon the book on their own, but if they are persistent in reading it because they are motivated, we certainly want to encourage them to push on. 

Donalyn urges teachers to read to their students high interest books that may lead to other reading options either by genre, theme, or by the same author.  Important point-To become familiar with what your students may enjoy, use websites such as, make lists of books recommended by your students, and consult your colleagues and librarian for ideas.

Wild Readers Share Books and Reading with Other Readers

One characteristic of young adult readers is that they enjoy talking about their reading, and through these conversations, comprehension improves.  In Donalyn's classroom, students keep (this star chart) and refer to it when they're giving book commercials or sharing with friends.  She also has her students read from all genre types in the 40 book challenge.  This form from Becca at Simply 2nd Resources would work well for students to track their reading genres. 

Another routine Donalyn has implements in her classroom is conferring with students.  She uses this time to take a running record, discuss the book with the students, assist them in planning for future reading, check reader notebooks, and to assess application of comprehension strategies.  At the reading conference I attended recently, Donalyn shared that she found herself feeling frustrated that she wasn't conferring weekly with her students. She advised starting with the top of your class list and working your way down before starting over.  She has been able to meet with each student three times per grading period this way.  She uses Evernote to keep her conference records which allow audio of the child reading, but I haven't had a chance to check that out yet. She mentioned the usefulness of being able to readily access the information for child study meetings or parent teacher conferences. This form (questions created by Regie Routman) can also be used to guide your conferring sessions as well., students need to time to talk about their reading with each other.  This builds excitement and can also be used by the teacher for grading purposes.  Donalyn has time set aside each Friday for reading commercials.  Students are asked to prepare reading commercials at the end of their reading and present them to the class. These are brief talks.  She discourages the use of lengthy book reports that bog students down and may keep them from reading.  One idea that Donalyn shared at the conference was to dedicate a bulletin board space to book recommendations.  In Andrea's post about motivating struggling readers, she shared this form you could use for students to recommend books to each other.  Donalyn used index frills, but when the same book pops up on the board multiple times, students infer that it's a must read.

Wild Readers Have Reading Plans

As previously mentioned, helping students plan for future reading is an important step in the conferring process.  Students should keep a list of what they've read to feel a sense of accomplishment, but they also need a list of what they plan to read in the future.  This expedites the book selection process at library checkout and helps avoid wandering from shelf to shelf the whole period too.  Students have their lists together and can quickly pull together what they're wanting to read and get on with reading.  These plans develop from conversations between students and from the teacher, and like the students, we need to have our list together too.  Donalyn keeps a list of books her students recommend to her, and she reads them.  In our busy lives, we may not read cover to cover, but it is meaningful to students to see that we listen to them and can talk to them about the books later. 

Reading Interest InventoryWhat about the dormant reader?  You know...the child who abandons book after book and often fake reads?  One way to entice him/her is through the sharing of a new book picked especially for him/her that matches his/her interests. Giving students a survey at the start of the year may help you in knowing your students' interests and reading tastes. Donalyn mentioned that she often uses part of the conferring time to visit her classroom library with the child to find a stack to pick from.  If you haven't done an interest inventory, you could use {Donalyn's}.  There are many inventories available online, or I also like this one from Joanne Miller at Head Over Heels for Teaching.

Finally, since I mentioned the classroom library, I'll take a minute to talk about them.  Even if your school has a well stocked library, it is very important that students have access to an attractive and well organized classroom library.  Even if your classroom is small, dedicating space for a cozy reading nook sends the message to your students that you see this as an important component in your instructional routine.  Make the reading area inviting and organize books in a way that students can see them easily.  If maintaining the library is a challenge, put a responsible student in charge of taking in and putting away the books.  You might put together baskets of your recommendations and put on display seasonal books, books that fit a theme your studying, or books from various genres.  

Wild Readers Show Reading Preferences

As the year progresses, you will see that your students have reading preferences.  Their star charts will contain more books from a certain genre for sure, and reader bonds will form between students who gravitate toward the same reading preferences. This is a sign that you've created wild readers. By showing students various genres, we are taking them to the reading buffet.  They may do a taste test only for some genres, or they may discover they have a new favorite food to devour.  The key is for us to show them the buffet and help them develop their tastes. 

Are You Reading in the Wild?

Finally, I'll end with this question.  Are you reading in the wild? We, as professionals, should keep up with our practice.  We need to read professional books in order to keep ourselves abreast of current research.  We also need to read for pleasure.  We, like our students, need to read on the fringes and keep a book on hand for those reading emergencies.  We need to talk about our reading with colleagues and friends.  Aside from these two books, I'd also recommend a few professional books that I have either read or plan to read. Several of us are participating in a book discussion through our blogs for Teach Like a Pirate this summer, and we'll share more details about that later.  Others I'd recommend...
  1. Comprehension Connections and Genre Connections by Tanny McGregor
  2. Teach Like a Pirate by David Burgess
  3. Falling in Love with Close Reading by Chris Lehman
  4. Strategies that Work! by Stephanie Harvey and Anne Goudvis
  5. Daily Five and The Cafe Book by Gail Boushey and Joan Moser
What professional books have inspired you?  In the comments below, please give your book recommendations. You may share a professional book, favorite novel, or books you enjoy sharing with your students. If you'd like to encourage your students to write their own book reviews or would like to contribute a review of your favorite books, Donalyn has begun The Nerdy Book Club as a place for book recommendations.  You can also read her blog at [this link].

Now...go out and find a great book!

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Reading in the Wild by Donalyn Miller is a game changer book. Check out this post to see how YOU can make your readers wild about reading.