Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Digging in with Read To Someone in the Daily 5

Reading to a buddy is a favorite among readers.  Every year my students enjoy the Read to Someone component of the Daily 5 probably more than any of the other components.  I introduce Read to Someone by creating an anchor chart  with my students.  Across the top of the Chart we list the reasons why we do Read to Someone; To become better readers, because it's fun, etc.  Next, we record what the students will be doing.  Finally, we record what the teacher is doing.  I don't know about you, but when I create these anchor charts with my students, my handwriting is not as neat and polished as I would like it to be.  I tell my students that I will be rewriting the chart in order to make it presentable for hanging.  Once the anchor chart is rewritten, I laminate it.  This ensures that I can reuses it year after year.  Next year, after I've created another anchor chart with a different group of students, I won't need to rewrite it, I simply pull out the copy that I originally laminated.  The information is basically the same, and my students have no Idea that I use the same anchor chart every year.  It's our little secret.

There are two ways to Read to Someone.  The first way is having partners reading the same book and the same page.  This is called, I read, you read.  During I read, you read, the higher reader should read first. This helps lower readers with word recognition.  The second way to do Read to Someone, is allowing partners to take turns reading their own books, a page at a time and applying the "Check for Understanding" strategy.  Partner one reads the first page of his or her book, and partner two does the check for understanding".  Next, partner two reads the first page of their book, and partner one does the "Check for Understanding.  Using the "Check for Understanding" strategy, the student listening to the reading will answer two questions, who? (Who is this page/part about?) and what? (What just happened?).  In the book, The Literacy Cafe, the authors suggests making check marks out of wood or some other material for students to use.  The whole thought of that was way too overwhelming for me.  Instead, I made bookmarks out of precut, rectangular shaped foam.  On one side of the foam shapes I drew a check with the words "Check for Understanding" written on the check mark.  On the other side of the foam I wrote the letters EEKK (Elbow to Elbow, Knee to Knee).  Next to the EEKK I also wrote, Who? and What?  The purpose of doing the "Check for Understanding" is to ensure that each person is listening while the other is reading.

Having kids model the right and wrong ways to do Read to Someone is very critical for a successful launch.  They should model sitting elbow to elbow and knee to knee, and holding the book in the center between them.  Additionally, I like to select one of my good readers to help me model how to do the "Check for Understanding". 

When I introduce Read to Someone, I have my students choose from a sets of multiple copies of books that I have at different levels.  Once Read to Someone is up and running, I allow my students to choose books from their book baskets.  In my opinion, Read to Someone is one of the most challenging Daily 5 components to get up and running smoothly.  With my first graders, I tend to launch Read to Someone slowly.  I usually start with, I read, you read, only.  I want to make sure students are successful with this part first.  Within the next month or two, I introduce Read to Someone again with each reader reading from their own books and doing the "Check for Understanding" strategy.  I probably could start this sooner, however, I believe it's best to go slow, in order to go fast later.  The best advice I can give to someone just beginning the Daily 5, is to dig in and make it your own!

Sunday, November 27, 2011


What is the Big Bad Technology Wolf?  Who is the Big Bad Technology Wolf?  It's not really a thing.  Nor is it a person.  It's more of a state of mind.  It's the resistance you feel from others when you share some technology related information, application, or tool.  Let's face it.  Technology isn't going away.  Quite the contrary, it's becoming increasingly more a way of life.  If you are at all like me, you're so dependent on technology that you have to regroup when you are forced to do without it. I remember once a colleague's IWB had a burned out bulb.  The replacement cost was about $400.  Needless to say, it took a few weeks for her to receive a replacement.  She was so anxious during the time she was waiting to have the bulb replaced.  You would often hear her say, "How did I ever manage to teach BIWB?" (Before Interactive White Boards).  That's how much she depended on it, and how much she enjoyed using it.

Although I'm writing about technology from an educational perspective.  I think this issue has implications in other professions too.  Schools are becoming more and more technology driven as is business and society in general.  However, what concerns me is the apprehension and trepidation that some educators feel towards technology, even though we live in a world that is driven by and inundated with technology.  The implications that technology has for education is enormous.  Many students are more computer literate than their teachers.  I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing either.  I think learning is a two way street.  Naturally, students expect to learn many things from their teachers.  However, I think really good teachers try to learn something from their students too.  This is how we should look at technology.  As teachers we should embrace the idea that what we don't already know about technology, we can learn from colleagues, friends, family, and our own students.

Students approach technology with a fearless attitude, while some teachers approach it with apprehension and trepidation.  sometimes, there is not even an attempt made by teachers to make an effort, to step out into the unknown, to simply give it a try.  Isn't that what we tell our students?  To at least try!  We expect our students to trust us when we ask them to try learning new things.  However, a lot of teachers are not willing to do the same thing when it comes to technology.  If we no longer have an open mind, we are really doing our students a disservice.  When we fear technology, because embracing it causes us to step out of our comfort zone, we prevent our students from technology related learning opportunities in our classrooms.  I recently read a blog, 5 Big Education Technology Questions, Answered, written by Jeff Dunn who shares a similar sentiment.  Jeff says, "My methods of delivery and engaging students have been modified to keep up with changing technology.  We owe this to our students if they ever want gainful employment upon graduation.  We as instructors need to step outside our comfort zones and do them this service."
Friends, we can't allow fear to prevent us from being the best we can be as educators.  What many teachers can't seem to live without, others see as The Big Bad Technology Wolf.  Don't fear technology, be fearless!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Digging In With Read To Self

Of the five components of the Daily 5, I would have to say that Read to Self is my favorite.  Why?  I'm glad you asked.  It's because my students are more focused and productive during Read to Self, than any other time in my classroom and during any other component of Daily 5.

When I launch the Daily 5, I always start with Read to Self.  Reading to self is also known as independent reading.  It's important that my students are building stamina, and able to read independently for at least 20 minutes before I introduce the other "Daily's" (the other parts of the Daily 5).  In my first few mini lessons for Read to Self, we address the importance of selecting good fit books, choosing a good reading spot, and building stamina. We also create the Read to Self anchor chart which is covered in the book.  First, we discuss why reading to self is important, and that information is written on the top of the anchor chart.  Next, we discuss what the students will do, and I record their responses on the chart.  Finally, we discuss what the teacher will be doing, and I record those responses too.  Modeling appropriate reading behavior is also very important, and it's my students' favorite thing to do.  Two or three students are selected to model the incorrect way to read during Read to Self, followed by the correct way to read during Read to Self time.  The book suggests selecting a student who would typically have trouble staying focused or engaged.  The modeling gives them the opportunity to get silly and play around in front of an audience.  However, they are also required to model the correct way for the class.

During Read to Self I gather my students on the rug in the meeting area.  I start with a short focus lesson which lasts about 6-10 minutes.  Your focus lesson should be about 1 minute per the age of your students. Since I teach first grade, my focus lesson should generally be about 6 minutes long.  When I'm looking for a text, I always look for quick reads so that my focus lesson stays within the 6-10 minute time frame.  After the focus lesson I send row one off to find a reading spot quickly and quietly (Q and Q).  Then rows two through four are sent off in the same manner.  Since we are gradually building stamina, we start with reading independently for 3 minutes, and increase the time by one minute each day.  The most important aspect of the stamina building, is to stop Read to Self when things begin to fall apart.  Even if only one student is not reading or is off track in some way, the entire class is signaled over to the meeting area, and the reading is stopped.  This prevents the reinforcement of negative reading behaviors.  I ring chimes to signal my students over to the meeting area.  Some teachers signal with bells, music, drums, or simply call them over with a verbal signal or chant. 

Having students self-evaluate and reflect is very important during the share time.  We share and reflect on what went well and what we can improve on next time.  This year my students and I graphed our reading stamina each day.  After each 10 minute increment was reached we had a classroom reading celebration.  From time to time you may find that you have to refer to the anchor charts when things are not running smoothly.  I have found that it is helpful to share the anchor charts after holidays or other extended breaks as a reminder of what the expectations are in our classroom.  In this way the anchor charts seves as a community building piece as well.

During our Read to Self time my goal is to conference with 2-3 students, and meet with 1 or 2 strategy groups each day.  Once I have my entire Daily 5 up and running, I continue to keep my first round a whole class Read to Self round.  This is a little different from what most teachers do but it works for my students and my classroom.  When all of the Daily 5 is up and running, the rounds tend to get a bit noisy.  Having one round of Read to Self ensures that I have at least that round each day, when things are a little quieter and much more manageable.

This year I incorporated Flashlight Friday (see my parent letter below) to my Read to Self time.  I asked my parents to send in a small flashlight with their child, and I informed them that flashlights could be purchased at the Dollar Store.  Of course flashlights of all sizes were sent in.  I also purchased extra flashlights and batteries to keep on hand as needed.  Currently, we do Flashlight Friday during the last 10 minutes of the day on Fridays.  My Daily 5 rounds remain the same, but the students are getting a little extra reading time, and they love it.  During Flashlight Friday, we turn off the lights and the students read by flashlight.  It's another way to encourage reading.  I love when I say, "It's time for Flashlight Friday" and my students respond with, "Yes!"  
Flashlight Friday Letter

Read to Self looks a little different in my classroom.  However, the most important thing about digging in with the Daily 5 is to "Make It Your Own".