[Differentiating 2]

Winter break is officially in session! I’ve have had an overwhelming November consisting of the loss of my grandfather, grades being due, and my engagement! Now that I can breathe a little, I thought I’d share how I use menus to differentiate response to reading in my ELA classroom.

During my transition from science to ELA, I have transferred my use of menus across content areas because I found them to be extremely beneficial when assessing content knowledge and analyzing misconceptions. In an earlier post, I raved about how the Differentiating with Menus: Science has transformed how I assign homework and the type of products my students create. It still holds true today in my ELA classroom. I wish I would have photographed all my student work, but here are couple pictures to represent the range of products that my students created last year.

Science Acrostic Poem

Science Acrostic Poem

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Front Cover of a greeting card

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Hallway Display

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Front Cover of Greetings Card

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Comic

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Inside of Greetings Card

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Inside of Greetings Card

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Hour of Code Acrostic Poem

Sorry, Laurie. I didn’t purchase the language arts menu book, but I did use what I learned from the science menus to create my own response to reading menu for my middle school ELA classroom. As part of my two hour reading block, students begin the period reading independently for 15 minutes and responding to their reading in their journals or on their blog. This was scaffolded from the beginning of the school year when building stamina as part of the Daily 5. 

Fostering a classroom of independent readers is essential. Nancy Frey and Doug Fisher have an awesome chart illustrating the relationship between independent reading and student achievement in their Rigorous Reading book. Essentially, the data shows that students who read independently are extremely successful academically, are exposed to more words a year, and they are out performing students who are not reading independently.

In addition to the scheduled independent reading time in class, students are assigned twenty minutes of independent reading for homework. In efforts to hold students accountable for independent reading, students complete an interactive reading log and a book report every Monday. Students have choice in selecting their weekly independent reading book and they way in which they complete their book report. It is recommended that students pick “good fit books” at their Lexile and interest, but students are allowed to read any text they want because the goal is to foster a love of reading in all my students.

Book Report Menu

Book Report Menu

Book Report Rubric

Book Report Rubric

Reading log with accountability

Reading log with accountability

My students have blown me away with the products they have created. I only have a few pictures, but I will be sure to post more of the awesomeness after break. Projects have been so great that my students and I have even tweeted the authors our work. Darren Shan, author of Cirque du Freak,  has constantly responded to our tweets.

Letter to Darren Shan

Letter to Darren Shan

Darren Shan tweeted us back!

Darren Shan tweeted us back!

T-shirt book and alternative book cover book reports

T-shirt book and alternative book cover book reports

Letter to April Henry

Letter to April Henry

Pg. 2

Pg. 2

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Pg. 3

Design a T-shirt

Design a T-shirt

I'm a minimalist when it comes to designing bulletin boards. Standard, check! Title, check! Rubric, check! Work samples, check!

I’m a minimalist when it comes to designing bulletin boards. Standard, check! Title, check! Rubric, check! Work samples, check!

Hope everyone has a rejuvenating winter break!

chrissy

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[Linky Partying]

Can you believe November is already here? This month I decided to link up with Oh’ Boy Fourth Grade for November’s Currently linky party.

Currently...

Currently…

Listening: I’ve been up since the crack of dawn. In between lesson planning, laundry, and Sunday laziness I have been watching Neighbors! Seth Rogan and Rose Byrne are hilarious!

Loving: I am amazed by all of the talented do it yourself costumes that are being posted on social networking sites. My party pooper friends had a costumeless shindig this weekend, however I am totally dressing up next year! Here is a picture of what I wore to class on Friday. Cute and inexpensive to make! Too bad some of my middle schoolers didn’t pick up on the fact that I was a Care Bear. “Are you a rainbow kangaroo?”-7th grader

Cheer bear! 12 sweatshirt and twenty cents for each color felt!

Cheer bear! 12 sweatshirt and twenty cents for each color felt!

Thinking: Who doesn’t love “fall back” in November? (raises hand) I’ve been up bright and early since 6:45. It is only noon and I already need a nap!

Wanting: I’m not sure about what your fall wardrobe consists of, but mine includes gloves, cheese ball hats, furry winter coats, and scarves already. Too soon, Mother Nature. Too soon. We had a week of sweatshirt weather and I want it back.

Needing: My least favorite part of the changing seasons includes changing the clothes in my closet and storing them for next season. I can’t wear all of the sleeveless blouses and short sleeve cardigans in this 35 degree weather…I need to pull out winter clothes, but I’m not motivated for this day long ordeal. You know what I’m talking about.

Reading: Started reading Eleanor and Park last week and will be wrapping it up next week. I’m reading Mockingjay to prepare for the film release and I’ve started a couple others. I have about 6 books I’m currently reading at once. Terrible, I know, but hopefully I will finish them all before the new year…

I am prepping for a fun filled, intense week of argumentative writing. Here is an updated anchor chart of my argumentative writing chart from last school year. I’ll do another post in upcoming weeks.

Argumentative Writing anchor chart

Argumentative Writing anchor chart

Happy Sunday,

chrissy

QAR

My QAR anchor chart has been a hit on Pinterest. After 4.5 years of use, I finally decided to update it with orange and blue to match my classroom! Enjoy.

Updated QAR

Here is my new and improved QAR chart in orange and blue to match my classroom.

Time to replace this bad boy after 4 years of use! It was a hit on Pinterest when it made its debut a couple years back!

Time to replace this bad boy after 4 years of use! It was a hit on Pinterest when it made its debut a couple years back!

chrissy

[Formative Assessing Teacher]

In mid September I attended an awesome professional development with Dr. Policastro,  author of The New Balanced Literacy School. The professional development focused on formative assessment specifically during the read aloud. I am in love with Policastro’s book, appreciated the extremely engaging professional development, and could not keep all of my learning to myself.

In a nutshell, Policastro emphasized the importance of using the read aloud to collect data on comprehension, assess the use of skills and strategies, and foster the love of reading. Sounds like a lot, right? All of this is doable with the help of a clip board,  individual white boards and dry erase markers for all of your students, and intentional planning of your read aloud.

Are you clip board ready?

In previous professional developments with Policastro, my colleagues and I learned to be clip board ready which essentially means teachers have a way to collect anecdotal notes on students at all times. When thinking about the balanced literacy classroom, clip board readiness means that the teacher must include ways to record anecdotal notes about all aspects of the literacy classroom from read alouds to guided instruction.

White boards and dry erase makers for all? Say what?

If your school or district has not provided you with white boards for all of your students, start your Donors Choose grant now! While reading aloud, ask students to make predictions, inferences, answer text dependent questions, and more. Teach your students how to respond to the read aloud using their white boards!  Students will then hold up their responses and the teacher will quickly observe who is on track and not on track. Recording anecdotals during the read aloud can be tough, but again, it is totally doable with practice. Do you have a paraprofessional or co-teacher in the room during read alouds? This could be a perfect person to assist in the data collection.

White boards, rubrics, and ipads are located in baskets on each table in my classroom

White boards, rubrics, and ipads are located in baskets on each table in my classroom

Intentional Planning

Read alouds are the perfect opportunity to model skills and strategies of a great reader. Good read alouds require precise planning. If you plan on collecting useful data, you probably should know what data you are collecting ahead of time. No need stress out about what your read aloud lesson plan should include. Think about what standards you are teaching, map out questions you will ask, identify what strategies you will model, and make connections between your read aloud and your mini-lesson.

My Implementation

When reflecting on my practices, it is clear that I’ve been collecting formative assessment data on my students, but the organization and consistency of my data collection needed to be improved upon. Last school year, I created a document to collect data on my students during guided groups in the science classroom and this year I modified it for ELA.

Ancedotal Notes Guided GroupsMy clipboard includes a couple copies of the above form for data collection during guided instruction. This form includes a spot to record the text my students are reading, check off for before/during/after reading activities, includes a spot for NWEA Des Cartes standards, and a spot to record my observations of fluency, strategies, comprehension, student comments, etc. Did I reinvent the wheel? No way, but I did use ideas from the hundreds of ELA blogs from primary through high school to create a tool that fit my classroom and my teaching needs. In addition, I have a laminated copy of the Busy Teacher’s Cafe upper grades anecdotal form handy to help help guide me.

Clip board Ready

My clip board with guided group notes

My guided group binder includes all of my anecdotal notes.

My guided group binder includes all of my anecdotal notes.

Also, my clip board has a roster printed from my district’s online grade book, which is used to record independent reading data and active listening/speaking. What does independent reading look like? How do you know when students are actually reading? What behaviors do good readers engage in? My network has a rubric with a scale of 1-4 with specific look fors during independent reading. I simply circulate, observe, and then add the appropriate grade that fits each student. In addition, I selected common core listening and speaking standards to focus on each week. Using a similar 1-4 scale, I record listening and speaking data during centers, guided groups, and the read aloud.

Independent reading, annotations, accountable talk stems, questions stems using bloom's taxonomy, and writing rubric.

Independent reading, annotations, accountable talk stems, questions stems using bloom’s taxonomy, and writing rubric.

White boards and data collection during read alouds have been the hardest to implement and I can be honest, I have yet to master this art. My kids love getting to share their responses on the white board and it really allows all students to participate, but this is not a concern. Recording observations without assistance of a paraprofessional or a co-teacher is challenging. What if 1/2 the group does not answer the question correctly? Do I write notes on each student everyday? What notes do I take? How will I support my students during tomorrows read aloud to address today’s data collection? Ahhhh!

Part of my troubleshooting must include consistent use of the white boards (I’m using them once or twice/when ever…#sorrynotsorry) and scheduling days to record specific anecdotal notes on specific students because you can’t possibly take notes on 36 students at once…yes, I have a class of 36. I know I also should probably modify the anecdotal note form my colleague created with open space to write comments to include a check list of some sort for quick notes… I haven’t gotten to this point yet, but it has to be done.

Best of luck in your data collection!

Ms. G

[Determined]

Five weeks into the game and I’m already overwhelmed, excited, optimistic, etc., but this year it is definitely causing me to feel a different kind of anxiety in comparison to previous years. I mentioned in earlier posts that I have moved to ELA after 4 years in science… How did this happen? Admin’s request… Don’t ask questions, just appreciated the fact that I still have a j-o-b.

Despite the fact that I concentrated in ELA during undergraduate years, I feel like I have spent the last couple weeks in ELA boot camp while establishing classroom norms and expectations, developing our balanced literacy routine, and learning a new curriculum. I’ve always infused science non-fiction and  writing into my instruction so I feel confident in my ability to teach literacy (all teachers are literacy teachers), but this year just makes everything feel brand new, like I’m starting over. My administration has done an excellent job in tapping into outside resources such Dr. Policastro from Roosevelt University. This is an awesome read that I totally recommend and I plan on sharing how I use it in my instruction later this month.

Great read on balanced literacy and common core.

I guess the part I’m struggling with is how large the range of ability levels are in each of my middle school classes. I mean a HUGE difference to the point where even some of my small groups have had to to be divided into ability level pairs and one-on-one because the reading level gap is enormous. I have a BR with zero foundational skills for crying out loud! Rather than complain about who is at fault, I am determined to transform my classroom into a space where diverse learners are successful. WTF, right? It sounds fine and dandy, but I’m dedicating my year to intentional planning, collecting and analyzing formative assessment data, differentiating instruction, utilizing paraprofessionals to the max (that their contract allows, hehe!), and tapping into community resources to help my kids become successful.

Book Worm Angels grant by Open Books donated 5 boxes of books to my middle school classroom. All books were pre-leveled with Fountas and Pinnell levels. My sister and I added lexile levels to the front covers. :)

Book Worm Angels grant by Open Books donated 5 boxes of books to my middle school classroom. All books were pre-leveled with Fountas and Pinnell levels. My sister and I added Lexile levels to the front covers. 🙂

Thank you Donors Choose for allowing my students to develop fluency, comprehension, and auditory skills with our new audio books!

Thank you Donors Choose for allowing my students to develop fluency, comprehension, and auditory skills with our new audio books!

Blogging about all the awesomeness that goes on in our classrooms is cool, but blogging about the journey to the awesomeness is even more valuable for us teachers and our teacher readers. Be ready for the good, the bad, OMG moments from teaching literacy during the 2014-2015 school year. Thank goodness for Pinterest because definitely needed found a first grade anchor chart for sentence writing to use with a small group. It is going to be a long year…

This student needed a mini-lesson in sentence writing. We have a lot of learning to do this year.

This student needed a mini-lesson in sentence writing. We have a lot of learning to do this year.

I definitely recreated the first anchor chart on Life in First Grade’s blog. Find the original here: http://lifeinfirstgrade1.blogspot.com/2012/08/my-week-in-review.html

May the force be with you all,

chrissy

[Prepared]

Can you believe summer break is really over? The first month of school is always extremely hectic. I mean I planned, over planned, and planned some more, but nothing can prepare you for the sudden scorching summer temperatures in a hundred year old building without AC, the handful of new students, teaching routines and expectations with fidelity, and the data analysis from quick writes and other back to school pre-assessments. Despite the quasi chaos, the  second week of school is off to a great start in terms of instruction.

Jokes on us!

Joke is on us!

This is why I taught Friday's last period class in the hall way. Flexibility is part of the Charolotte Danielson framework, right? hehe

This is why I taught Friday’s last period class in the hall way. Flexibility is part of the Charolotte Danielson framework, right? hehe

I’m a little late on all of the classroom reveals, but better late than never. Similarly to my blog facelift (thanks Diary Sketches for my awesome new logo), my classroom decor received a facelift as well. I’ve moved to literacy this years so you will notice that there are some literacy themed work areas added to my classroom to ensure mastery of common core ELA standards and the development of literacy strategies.

1. I’ve expanded my classroom library. I have a leveled section, section grouped by genres, and section dedicated to science non-fiction. I could not give up my science library especially when the Common Core expectation for middle school includes 50% fiction 50% informational texts. All of my books are labeled by genre and Lexile allowing students to easily find the “good fit book” based on lexile from NWEA. My classroom librarians from last school year helped with labeling and my new librarian will take on that job as we get new books to the library.

Science Library

Classroom Library

Library 2. Middle school students need to practice fluency as well. I requested materials from Donors Choose to create a listening center to model and practice fluency. My project was indeed funded and parts of my listening center are arriving. We just got new Sony headphones today! Yay! My special education co-teacher provided the beautiful lamp for the our center!

Listening Center

3. Every balanced literacy classroom needs a writing center. I found cheap blank books in packs of eight from the dollar section of target so my students can publish their narrative writing. Awesome steal!

4. As part of the Roosevelt University Reading Grant, I have included a language wall into instruction to include important words, phrases, and graphic organizers that are current and can easily be replace. The thinking behind the language wall is that it is versatile, meaningful, and displays what students are focusing on at the moment. How many of add vocab to the word wall that rarely gets used or even notice by students? Language walls allow student to participate in the learning of new language being used during instruction.

Language Wall: We are studying how to infer character traits.

Language Wall: We are studying how to infer character traits.

5. During my MSU professional learning this summer, we spent the summer exploring our wonders about the world. Instead of having a research center, I’ve decided to include a “World of Wonder” center in honor of my summer program and to integrate STEM into the classroom. Students will be challenged to look at the world with the lens of a kindergartener and ask questions about what we observe in the natural world. Students will spend time here researching their wonders and creating presentations to share their learning. Cool, huh? Thanks, Punya!

6. I’ve moved my focus wall to the front door so admin and other guests know exactly what they are walking into in my classroom. In addition, I have pocket charts in the main part of the classroom reiterating what the focus wall say for students.

Includes: Essential questions, standards, lesson plans, schedule, student friendly objectives, skills and strategies. The folders include copies of reading logs, book report forms, and rubrics.

Includes: Essential questions, standards, lesson plans, schedule, student friendly objectives, skills and strategies. The folders include copies of reading logs, book report forms, and rubrics.

7. My guided groups table is located at the front of the room with a storage unit next to it to hold data binders, group materials, the printer, and more. It probably looks a little cluttered, but it works for know. I probably will bring a plastic drawer unit to hide some of the clutter.

I wish it was this clean and organized everyday!

I wish it was this clean and organized everyday!

8. Coat racks are never used and are primarily what I used to store science kits. Since we are keeping the kits in my room due to limited space in the new science classrooms, I covered the curtains with two top sheets purchased from Walmart for less that 8 bucks each! They are fastened with thumbtacks to hide the filing cabinet and science kits.

Anchor charts of the week are displayed here before moving to the walls or being stored away.

Anchor charts of the week are displayed here before moving to the walls or being stored away.

9. I love being able to keep my lab tables in my ELA classroom. They are spacious are promote student centered learning and peer collaboration.

Read to Self

10. My data wall consists of NWEA percentiles. I do not have names or number identification posted, simple post its representing the number of students in each group. The data is telling and a stark reminder of the work we have to do this year! I’ve got my work cut out for me. I have to post what it actually looks like with the post its…

Data wall

Not too bad for my fifth year of teaching, huh? I have a ‘to do’ list that I’m still working on, but I feel like my kids and I are in a good place in week two.

Happy Reading,

chrissy

[Back To School]

Monday will be my first official day back to work after an exciting summer of relaxation, a little teaching, and a whole lot of learning. I’ve got a week of professional learning, community building, and adding the finishing touches to my classroom. Although many of you have been back in the classroom for a week (+), I thought I’d share some fun back to school videos to help prepare your mind, body, and soul for the amazing school year ahead of you. Thanks to dinoman and the bestie for sharing.

Feeling generous after watching those great clips? Visit my Donors Choose page to share the back to school excitement with my dear students! http://www.donorschoose.org/msgsclassroom/

Happy Back to School!

chrissy

[Reflective]

Summer vacation is quickly coming to an end and instruction has already started for some. The first month of school can be the most challenging: establishing routines, developing positive rapport with students and families, pre-assessing, analyzing data, hosting open house, and the list goes on. Despite the endless list of back-to-school must dos, it is important savor all of the fascinating things you have done this summer and find a balance between your teacher self and your human self during the school year. Sometimes it is hard to turn off the teacher, but it can be done. I thought I’d use this blog post to reflect on my summer shenanigans as a student, teacher, and friend.

 1I spent the summer engaged in professional learning via a STEM and leadership fellowship and I am amazed by how much I have learned through hands on, collaborative, and innovative instruction. Collaboration is an essential component to learning and I’ve recognized that as I continue to discuss with my peers from my cohort and other teachers via Twitter. Twitter is an amazing social networking site that can be repurposed for instructional use. It allows students and teachers to dialogue with engineers, authors, ecologists, astronauts, classrooms, etc. to make meaning of the world around them. It is empowering by giving students a voice, it promotes digital literacy, engagement in social issues, and gives students accessibility to diverse perspectives. Check out some of the my summer learning via the hashtag below:

2During my first couple years teaching, my friends and I regularly attended pub trivia, but for whatever reason we stopped. This summer my team reunited every Tuesday and it has been so fun that we will totally continue playing once the school year starts. Not only have we won first place, but we also earned tons of gift certificates to our favorite establishments because of our love of random facts and spirits. If you are interested in the fun visit the link, trivia, for events in your state.

3I taught summer school for a couple weeks and am pleased to showcase some amazing final projects for our ecology unit. It is extremely important to create authentic, integrated, and differentiated performance tasks for students to showcase their learning. I collaborated with my art teach pal to create amazing 3-D models of biomes depicting how energy flows within the biome. The products were beyond what I expected and I’m extremely proud of all of the hard work.

Rainforest Diorama 1

Rainforest Diorama 1

Rainforest 2

Rainforest Diorama 2

Coral Reef

Coral Reef Diorama

Prairie

Prairie Diorama

4

Always remember to have fun! I’m ecstatic that I got to spend a week in Mexico for my bestie’s wedding, was able to watch my favorite artists perform at summer music festivals, and was able to read for enjoyment. Continue to make time for fun during the school year however you interpret the word!

Relaxing after swimming with the WHALE SHARK

Relaxing after swimming with the WHALE SHARK

Fitz and the Tantrums, Foster the People, and Outkast all in one day was awesome!!

Fitz and the Tantrums, Foster the People, and Outkast all in one day was awesome!!

Summer fun!

Summer fun!

Awesome reads for the school year!

Awesome reads for the school year!

5Have you been reflective this summer? Part of my summer learning required daily reflections which had truly analyzing my instructional practices in relation to student achievement. During the upcoming school year, I highly recommend taking time to reflect on your practices to grow. Ask yourself:

  • How will I reach all learners?
  • How successful was my lesson?
  • How will I modify my lesson for diverse learners?
  • Are the technologies I’m using supporting my learning goals?
  • How can I incorporate inquiry projects to engage students?
  • How will I progress monitor and assess student achievement?
  • Am I really differentiating instruction?
  • How can I cut back on the number of worksheets printed? (Even if you created it, the fact of the matter is that worksheet is still a worksheet.)
  • How can I repurpose technology for my classroom?
  • How can I connect the world around us into instruction?
  • Are the texts I’m integrating into instruction culturally relevant?
  • What community resources can I tap into to make learning engaging?

Let’s step up our last year’s instruction!

Wishing you a fantastic school year,

chrissy

[Improving]

In addition to spending my summer with the MSU STEM program, I also teach summer enrichment with a non-for-profit organization that I volunteer with during the year. When generating classroom norms with my students a couple weeks back, I decided to add “Trust the process” as a norm. I planned on integrating conversation roundtable with my students and an art component to our science instruction because my sub (while I’m STEMing it up) is my talented art teacher co-worker. I was anticipating the push back because engaging in conversation roundtable fifty percent of a class period or more is not my students’ norm let alone creating a two week long 3-D modeling/ diorama project.

Six days into the STEM fellowship program I find myself constantly reminding myself to trust the process. I took an improv class today with Second City for crying out loud!!!

Second City PDCurrently I’m working on organizing my thoughts, professional learning, peer interactions, prior knowledge, current tech abilities, and fellowship coursework that will be completed in a twelve month period. In only six out of the ten day face to face days of the course, it amazes me how much I have learned, how many tech related products my team and I have created, and my new found understanding of STEM. My colleagues are talented humans with expertise in chemical engineering, computer engineering, graphic design, psychology, chemistry, education, electrical engineering, and I’m ecstatic for the opportunity to learn with them and to publicly share our learning.

I’ve been a science teacher for a few years, but I felt like I spent much of my career in the cloud. My undergraduate elementary specialization was in language arts, however my science endorsement is what got me my teaching job. I’d never tell my kids this, but I’ve thought of myself as a ELA teacher trapped in a science teacher’s body.

Science Endorsement ≠ Scientist?

The last four years have consisted of me being trapped in a web of trial and error, improving my way through learning to teach science, meeting the needs of my students, fostering critical thinking, sorting out my personal misconceptions as well as my students’ and encouraging science instruction in primary and intermediate classrooms.

After six days of learning, I have realized that teaching is a science. It is messy. It is collaborative. It requires critical thinking and inquiry. There is not one clear cut solution. It is emotional. It is analytical. It is personal. It builds on prior knowledge. It is innovative.

Maybe I’m a scientist after all.

Happy Wednesday,

chrissy