Sunday, November 23, 2014

Gratitude is an Attitude

This morning at church, our pastor gave a sermon about living a life of gratitude.  He said gratitude is unselfishly appreciating what you have, instead of focusing on what you want.  I think it's easy to say that we are "grateful", but living a life of gratitude is really not that easy.  Or maybe it's just not very easy for me.

I know that I am lucky.  I thank God each day for the health and safety of my family, the nice life we have, our home, our friends and my amazing job.  But here's the problem...I am a goal oriented person.  I set goals for everything.  I set goals for how much sleep I will get, how many emails I will answer, how many minutes I will exercise for the day, how many loads of laundry I will do in a week, how many things I can add to and check off my to do list each day and how many people I can help. When you are the kind of person (like me) who constantly looks to the future to figure out how to improve myself and how to make the things I am involved in better it is easy to forget to live a true life of gratitude.

I am grateful for...
My children, who are generally kind to others.
My husband, who knows how to have fun everywhere we go.
My parents, who taught me to work hard and to care for others.
Friends, who listen, advise, trust, share and care for our family.
My home, which is simple and safe.
The leaders in my district, who trusted me to have a new position this year.
The teachers I work with who are curious and passionate about making a difference.
Nature, which is usually a peaceful gift and a sometimes a powerful reminder.
God, who reminds me that he is in control 
and that I should take time to enjoy the things on my "gratitude" list each day.

This week as we talk about the things we are grateful for in our lives, I realize that I need to work harder to show that I am grateful and make time to reflect and pray about the amazing things around me.

After all, gratitude is an attitude...not just a goal on my list.  Wishing you a Happy Thanksgiving and lots of time to reflect about what you are grateful for in this crazy busy life!

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Professional Books for Small Group Reading Instruction

Since I started my new job as an instructional coach, it's been a little tricky for me to figure out how to keep blogging.  I've been super busy, but I love my new job.  We have a fabulous instructional support team and here I am posting about something that I love. So, all is good with my little world.

One of the projects I've been working on this year is facilitating discussions, providing training and leading reflection groups about small group instruction for reading.  During this process, I gathered my favorite resources for small group reading instruction.

As teachers, we often provide small group instruction to meet our students needs in writing, reading and math.  Guided reading is a model of small group instruction, but not the only model.  During traditional guided reading, students participate in a book talk introduction, spend time reading at their instructional reading level (either at or away from the table depending on their level) and participate in a group discussion based on teacher led questions about the book.  It is recommended that students who fall within the levels for grades K - 2 (levels A - M) also participate in word work during this time. In Irene Fountas' model of guided reading, students also write about reading.  The recommendation is that students who are level N and above write about reading daily.  It is also recommended that students below level N write about reading as much as possible.  Many teachers are using post it notes and/or reading notebooks for this purpose.

The pros of this traditional model are that it allows teachers to learn information from student discussions/responses that they can use to plan their instruction for individual students or the group for the next week.  In my opinion, a con is that the students have a limited amount of time to read at their instructional level when the teacher is doing so much teaching/talking during their small group time.

Less traditional models that I've tried and observed working well in classrooms over the years include groups that are more flexible in classrooms that are using the reading workshop model.  With focused mini lessons in a large group setting, independent reading practice time and teachers taking notes on specific things each student needs to work on instructionally, students tend to have more actual reading time during small group instruction.  Flexible groupings are sometimes based on reading level and sometimes based on strategy focus.  Word work is sometimes done at the table for struggling readers in this model.  Students who are on or above grade level tend to do this word work away from the table. Many teachers are using post-it notes and/or reading notebooks for writing about reading in this model as well.

Another option is students visiting the small group instruction table in a staggered way (not necessarily by strategy focus or level), because one student is called at a time to get started.  The seats at the table fill up in this model in a staggered method that allows the teacher to have a quick (1 minute kind of quick) discussion about today's focus with each individual student as he/she calls them to the table. After quickly talking to the student about what he/she noticed the student needs to work on, the student gets started and continues reading while the teacher repeats the process with another student.  Within a few minutes, the table is filled and the teacher can take notes, prompt students as needed, ask questions with individual students while everyone else keeps reading.  Word work is sometimes done at the table for struggling readers in this model. Students who are on or above grade level tend to do word work away from the table. Many teachers are using post it notes and/or reading notebooks for writing about reading in this model as well.

Nontraditional models of small group instruction take some time to get used to, but they tend to increase the actual reading minutes in a big way.  I found this extremely helpful to build reading stamina.  It doesn't work for everyone, but I find that I learn more when my students spend more time reading and I can spend more time listening, noticing and noting how to plan instruction to meet the needs of each individual student and the class. As a teacher, my goal was to aim for each student in my class to be reading (actually practicing reading at their level) for 90 minutes a day. My goal was based on the recommendation of the work that Richard Allington did with the International Reading Association.  When I first heard that recommendation, it caused me to reflect on how many minutes my own students were spending actually practicing reading (not me instructing them for reading) in my classroom.  I was shocked to discover that I was no where near that goal and worked for the next several years to include more actual reading practice time for my students. Adjusting my small group reading instruction time was one of the things that really helped me reach that goal.

Here are my favorite professional resources for small group reading instruction.

This book is a great resource for getting organized for small group reading instruction.

If you use Fountas and Pinnell leveling (A - Z), 
this is a fabulous resource for ideas of things to work on at each level.  
This is my old copy of the K - 2 version, 
but the new version has a white cover 
and has several different grade level combinations including a K - 8 version.

This is my favorite reader's workshop resource, 
but it includes lots of information about small group instruction as well.  

I purchased this book after participating in a webinar by the author, Jennifer Serravallo.  
Her webinar was about conferring and she also has a book about conferring.  Two friends who participate attend the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project in NY each year recommended this book as well.  The focus of this book is using assessment data to drive instruction.  
My copy is grades 3 - 6, but she has a K - 2 version as well.

This book has sample planning templates, ideas for working with students at different levels and ideas for scaffolding instruction at each level.

I'd love to hear about your favorite models of small group instruction and/or favorite resources for small group reading instruction.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Currently November

I am currently wondering why it doesn't feel like I had an extra hour of sleep last night.


It's time for Farley's Currently.  Farley, from Oh Boy 4th Grade, hosts this linky party monthly.

Listening - I love that my son and my husband have recap conversations about games from the previous day every morning.  Then I don't have to watch ESPN 5 times in a row like they do.

Loving - My parents are coming to visit today.  I feel grateful that even though they live in another state it is only an hour and a half drive to visit.  So, I'm thinking about getting up to clean.  I just cleaned yesterday, but with two dogs and 2 kids it doesn't really look like I did anything now.

Wanting - Taking the new job that I have now means that I needed to bring 32 giant rubbermaid containers and tons of classroom furniture home to my house.  I feel like I am suffocating when things are too cluttered.  I'll keep some of my things (just in case I go back into the classroom in the future) but in the spring I am going to have a GIANT teacher garage sale and get rid of most of this stuff so I can reclaim my house.

Needing - fresh appointment is next weekend thank goodness

Reading - Reading and Writing Genre With Purpose by  Duke, Caughlan, Juzwik and Martin
We've been talking a lot of content area reading and writing.  The book give examples of how focusing on content area reading and writing helps teachers focus their planning.  Traditionally, many elementary teachers relied on themes to guide their planning.  This book highlights how teaching strategies for reading or writing specific genres are different from each other.  For example, the strategies for writing an informative text are different from the strategies needed for research writing.

I need to finish a video presentation for my writer's workshop group.  Everyone loves pajama PD, right?