Nov 11, 2015

Evolution of a Veteran Teacher

I was asked over the summer to talk about how my teaching has changed over the course of 16 years. When I look back and thought about it, it's really changed and so have I as a teacher.
I hope you enjoy it. It's about 25 minutes long (sorry but it's hard to condense 16 years into 10 minutes)

Oct 25, 2015

What I Learned From the Literacy Summit in Calgary

I just want to start off by saying, my head is full of information and I'm going to try my best to articulate all that I learned these past two days. I attend the Literacy Summit 10 in Calgary put on by the organization Vulnerable Readers. 
This summit had come to my area last year but because of a demand, I was unable to attend. It was a shame because attending it twice would have helped to reinforce what I learned this time around. Regardless, I'm happy I went and here is a brief breakdown of what I learned. 

Richard Allington's Presentation: 
  • Teacher's make the most amount of difference in a student's school career. 
  • Instruction should be support on sound research
  • They can have a positive and negative affect on what a child learns and what a child doesn't learn. 
  • Research shows that 20% of children (1 out of 5) will not learn from a teacher
  • 20% of teachers will do a great job of teaching ALL children in their classroom 
  • The other 60% of teachers will do an okay job of teaching
  • Teachers need between 60 - 90 hours of literacy Professional Development to become effective teachers of reading and writing 
  • Between K - 3 with quality, intensive instruction children learn to read and write. If they struggle with poor teachers, the gap widens and they fall further behind
  • Programs do not work - quality instruction and trained teachers work
  • Educational Assistance delivering literacy support does not work 
We have the time and resources but we need to stop doing the "fluff" (my words, not his)
Eliminate all those activities that research indicate are largely a waste of time. 
• Worksheets
•  Round robin interruptive oral reading
• Low-level interrogations
• Isolates skills lessons and skills tests
• Fluency tests
• Unit tests
• Test prep 

Pat Johnson - The Essentials of Word Work - Catching Reader's Before They Fall 

- I don't do a good job of teaching spelling or word work 
- There are 14 principals of how words work - if you want to know them, you can ask me or you can buy her books to find out what they are but every teacher should search them out because it will make a difference to how you teach the process of spelling.
- I do a terrible job of  teaching spelling but I will do better from now on, or at least try
• Word Solving involves - Meaning making, syntax and visualizing - all work together 
• Sometimes, it's not about accuracy but about taking on a part of a word solving strategy or strategic behaviour. 
• Students need to be flexible when solving words - only teaching that the a can have a short or long sound does not help, we need to show several examples of the sound
- Compare the sounds to each other

Lori Jamison - Shared and Guided Reading - Guided Readers: Making the most of an 18 minute guided reading lesson
I always learn from Lori and today was no exception. 
- It's okay to reread a book, poem, stories, recipes, non-fiction books over again because there is always something you can teach from the books. 
- Shared Reading - work on the same texts for 4 or 5 days (plan to use one text for all fives days of the week but you're only going to do 10 minutes of work)
• Day 1 - Introduce text - work on comprehension
• Day 2 - look at lines of text - maybe rearrange the sections, read them and resort the lines in order - text matching
• Day 3 - Focus on words - antonyms, homonyms, synonyms, sight words, words that rhyme
• Day 4 - Focus on letters - word work, blends with certain letters, digraphs, spelling pattern (not too many just enough to expose them to it) Perhaps 1 of the 14 principles of how words work. 
• Day 5 - Perform the lines of text together - have them fill in a sheet with the missing sight words - have them complete the missing sounds you worked on - something to do where you might be able to assess what you've worked on. 

Matt Glover - Writing and Conferencing with Students 
- one of my favourite presenter because he began his keynote with:
- Conventions vs Composition --> Conventions are important but they are not the most important part of writing and as teachers we tend to focus the most on them. He showed us several examples of writing where conventions were not used but the composition of the writing was outstanding. 
- if your going to teach a unit of study, for example on factual fiction - you need to have a STACK of books to help support this type of writing and it needs to be visible for kids to use. 
- don't teach the structure or type of writing if you can't find quality published books - eg. Why are we teaching journal writing? Can you find published pieces of journal writing? NO! How about book reports? Can you find published pieces of book reports? NO! They are called book reviews, so teach book reviews and have published examples. Then you shouldn't have kids writing journals. Besides they are painful. 
- When conferencing with students you need to have a mentor text that is published to show an excellent example of writing. Walk around with it when you confer. 
- You also need to have examples of your writing and student samples. Your writing is an example of you or an adult trying the idea and the student sample is that of a student trying it. Don't use student samples as the best example because it isn't always correct. 
• Mini-lesson is 10 minutes - so you don't always have to read the whole story or model writing during this time - it should be short and to the point so then kids can go and try the teaching point. 

Conferencing with students - Matt Glover
• Do some research with child before hand - ask them to read it to you, ask them about their story, etc. Get some initial information about their writing. 
• Name their strength - compliment them on that strength
• Decide on the Teaching Point - Do you want to work on composition/conventions/process of writing?
• Teach - Mentors - Published texts, Teacher Writing, Child's writing - this should not be - "Great work!" or "I like how you...!" It should be an opportunity to teach the child something about writing which means you need to know somethings about what your expecting from the child in regards to the unit of study you're working on. 
• Conferences should be about 5 - 7 minutes long

Well, there it is. It's a lot and now I've got to put all that I learned into practice. Looking forward to having more of a thinking classroom. Sometimes I attend conferences and I come away with feelings of inadequacies but not this time. It confirmed that I was on track with some of my writing but needed work in some areas. 
I know have some resources and placed to go for teaching words better and I've got some ideas of how to weave it all together. It's going to be a struggle but we'll get through it. 

Oct 14, 2015

What we've learned so far about liquids.

We've been working on Exploring Liquids for the past couple of weeks and I wanted to see what they knew. I love Padlet for several different reasons but one of them is to quickly get a snapshot of what they know and don't know about a topic. Yesterday I had them tell me at least 3 things they knew about liquids. Please comment below if you wish. 

Sep 13, 2015

Perseverance and Rock Holder Task

It's that time of year again when I introduce the word Perseverance. As part of the Rock Investigation, I use the Rock Holder activity to see which students persevere and which have difficulty. I want students to always try their best and in grade two some really don't know to do that. By introducing perseverance, my goal is to get students to keep trying until they are successful with their task. We revisit tasks and discuss how they could be improved. As I've been this year, "You're never done!" A student actually repeated this to another when he said he was done. You could see the grin on his face as he was saying it to another boy. 

The Rock Holder task involves this:
• They are only allowed one piece of paper
• No glue, tape or staples
• The rock holder must be stable. Should support a rock either by itself or with one hand. 
• I'm watching to see who can persevere and what questions they are asking me. 
This task is possible for grade 2's to accomplish with some perseverance. 
Here's what my students came up with this year.

Jun 13, 2015

Happiness is...

I decided to try something new this year in art. We always assume that students just like working with paint, paper and other art supplies to create images, designs and to express themselves. I come from a graphic design and art background but that doesn't mean I always like using the traditional mediums to be creative. 
This year, our classroom received Chromebooks and many students seemed interested in playing with Google Draw after we had done several activities with it in social and language arts. I took that interest and used an art project I usually do with construction paper (in the past, it has turned out fabulously) and modified it to be used with Google Draw. 
I think the results are outstanding. We worked for 3 45 minute periods. The students learned to overlap, copy and paste, add colour, different line thicknesses and to be creative in a totally different way. I even had a student who accidentally figured out how to add colour to the background but it then disappeared. He spent 45 minutes trying to figure it out and then proceeded to show EVERY student in the class how to do it. Good for him for problem solving. 
I am completely impressed with the amount of work students put into these images. If you feel like it please provide them with some feedback or comments.