Tuesday, April 3, 2018

A Peek into Some Emergent Strategies from Serravallo's "The Writing Strategies Book"

Have you perused Jennifer Serravallo's The Writing Strategies Book: Your Everything Guide to Developing Skilled Writers, yet? After getting my hands on The Reading Strategies Book: Your Everything Guide to Developing Skilled Readers back in 2015, I was ecstatic when I heard a writing version of the book was in the works. I waited on pins and needles for it to be delivered, since I preordered months beforehand. Once the book arrived in February 2017, all I could say was Ooh la la! 

Oh, Jennifer Serravallo! What can I say besides she is like no other. If you follow my blog, you know I consider her to be one of the most genius literacy consultants and authors out there. I had the pleasurable opportunity of meeting her in person at a conference I attended at the tail end of the 2016-2017 school year, but was able to catch a few of her sessions at the Illinois Reading Conference this past October. She is an accomplished, yet, genuinely kindhearted and down-to-Earth person. She was willing to sign all of the books I currently own that she has authored, as well as take the time to sign books from the hundreds of others who attended.  
Before moving on, I'd like to preface that much of this post has been sitting unpublished for many, many months. It has been revised over and over, but to no avail...until now. I was going to participate in a comprehensive book study with some of the wonderful members of the #ReadingStrategiesCrew like we did for our previous book study on The Reading Strategies Book. However, for a handful of reasons, we decided to cancel the study. 

Nevertheless, I figured I could share some of the emergent strategies I used with my students and my own kids at the tail end of last school year. Since I'm in a new school this year and in a new role as a Literacy Coach, alongside being a K-2 Reading Specialist, I tested out some strategies that could be used to support kindergarten and first grade students. Praises for Jennifer's work deserve to be sung worldwide!

Since I mostly work with very young students, I tried out a few strategies with my emergent writers from last school year, including my own kids who were in preschool at the time, but have now moved on to kindergarten. I wanted to give you a peek into a few strategies represented in Goal 1.

Goal 1 is Composing with Pictures. There are eighteen strategies within this goal to support pre-emergent and emergent writers. This goal is mostly used to support students in pre-Kindergarten through 2nd grade. However, Serravallo mentions that students throughout the primary grades benefit when they are given time to sketch their ideas before moving into the writing process. 

Below is a snapshot of the strategies reinforcing this goal. Just like Serravallo's The Reading Strategies Book, the format is not the typical front cover to back cover type of read, but another handy guidebook to support your instruction. The format allows teachers to pick and choose from researched-based strategies that will best scaffold students. Serravallo states, "I streamlined the language and examples, and I present the strategies in a format that is organized so that the busy teacher can find just the right strategy at just the right moment."  Ahhh, music to my ears.  
For each strategy, once again, Serravallo includes a description and helpful prompts to use with students. Many of the strategies also provide Teacher Tips and samples of Lesson Language to use when putting the strategy into practice. The strategies can be demonstrated to individuals, small groups or whole class. In addition, along the sidebar of each strategy, Serravallo indicates the level (emergent to grade 8), genre/text type, and process(es) in which to focus. I find these to be invaluable features of the book (just as in The Reading Strategies Book) because even a novice or experienced classroom teacher without a writing background can fully support and guide his/her students in writing. This book elicits powerful writing instruction!

In view of the fact I work with struggling readers at school, which often correlates to weak writing abilities, as well as have little ones at home in the early stages of writing, Goal 1 suited me perfectly. An example of Reread Your Pictures to Teach (1.4), Label Your Pictures (1.6) and A Series of Pictures to Show Change (1.13) are discussed in this post. All eighteen strategies within this goal are worthwhile, of course

If you teach young students or have little ones at home who are budding writers, you're aware of how tricky writing letters and words can be for some. Serravallo explains that writing instruction can begin well before students are even able to connect letters into words and words into a piece of writing. She added the work of researchers Ray and Glover stating, "By teaching children to compose with pictures, they can be freed up to create texts in any genre and to understand that meaning comes first, long before they are ready to spend lots of mental energy hearing the sounds in words and writing down what they hear (p.34)."

Reread Your Pictures to Teach   
The Reread Your Pictures to Teach strategy focuses on students orally explaining facts about a chosen topic. Here are the *Who's this for?* stats: Level: emergent, Genre/Text Type: informational/nonfiction, Process: reading writing aloudThis strategy encourages students to retell their *writing* in picture form. Be mindful when thinking about writing children's words for them on their pictures. The Teaching Tip for this strategy comes with a forewarning: 
"Some teachers record students' speech right on their writing/pictures, but many believe this negatively impacts a student's agency and confidence for writing words when she is ready. When an adult writes on a child's paper, this may communicate that the child's attempts at making meaning don't make sense without the teacher's written words, which may undermine her future attempts at writing pictures and/or with words (Ray and Glover 2008)." 
Image from The Writing Strategies Book
After reading about this strategy, my own preschool kiddos popped into mind. At the start of Spring in 2017, they began learning at school all about the the life cycle of a chicken. We took a family trip to the library, checked out a few books, built a little background and then began extending our learning about chickens. Below are some pictures taken in their preschool classroom and at home.
Once my kids learned a bit more about the life cycle of the chicken, my daughter began drawing what she learned and then reread her pictures to teach her father all about it.
To get a better sense of the Reread Your Pictures to Teach strategy for informational/nonfiction writing, here are a few ideal prompts found in the book:
  • What does this picture teach about?
  • Point to a part and tell me what I can learn from that.
  • Do you know other facts?
  • What does this part of the picture teach?
  • Sound like a teacher.
  • Your drawing teaches a lot of facts about the topic!
Label Your Pictures
The Label Your Pictures strategy is self-explanatory. Students draw a picture, then use sounds they know to label their images. Here are the *Who's this for *  stats: Levels: emergent-K, Genre/Text Type: any, Process: draftingThe Teaching Tip suggests students be assessed on letter-sound identification prior to use of this strategy. If students have a strong foundation of letter-sound correspondence, they are typically ready for for labeling. However, the Teaching Tip also forewarns:
"Pushing the conventional writing/print too soon could overly focus the child on getting down words rather than other qualities of good writing such as structure and elaboration (p.43)." 
Image from The Writing Strategies Book
My son, on the other hand, began drawing what he learned and then labeled his pictures to teach his father and me all about his newly found knowledge. His pictures are below.
The Label Your Pictures strategy can be used with any genre. Serravallo suggests using prompts such as these:
  • What sounds do you hear?
  • Say the word slowly.
  • What letters make that sound?
  • Write the letter down, and say the word again?
A Series of Pictures to Show Change

A Series of Pictures to Show Change strategy focuses on students being able to depict how real life things can move or gradually change over time. Here are the *Who's this for?* stats: Levels: emergent-2, Genre/TextType: narrative, informational/nonfiction, procedural, Process: drafting

Image from The Writing Strategies Book
For this strategy, I enrolled some of my willing and eager first grade boys last year who were really into learning about frogs. The book How Frogs Grow found in the F&P LLI kit is what piqued their interest, so I found some other related titles I had on hand. Below are some snapshots of their work, as well as a video of one who wanted to share his learning.
The prompts for A Series of Pictures to Show Change strategy can be used with narrative and informational or procedural genres, so below are some recommended prompts that compliment this strategy:
  • Who's that? What's happening?
  • What did she do next?
  • Can you draw that next part in a new picture?
  • What's the next thing she does?
  • Draw a picture to show what it looks like when it starts. 
  • Draw a picture to show how it changes. 
  • Draw a picture to show how it changes again.
So, there you have it, a few strategies to implement in your classroom with emergent-level students. The book is worth owning, so if you don't already own a copy, hop on over to Amazon A.S.A.P. ;)

Happy Tuesday, folks!

Sunday, November 26, 2017

"From Striving to Thriving: How to Grow Confident Capable Readers" by Stephanie Harvey & Annie Ward- Valuable Quotes, Tips & Tweets (and a Give Away!)

From Striving to Thriving: How to Grow Confident Capable Readers, written by Stephanie Harvey and Annie Ward, has been receiving top-notch praises by valued literacy professionals, including Debbie Miller, Kylene Beers and Penny Kittle, for a variety of reasons. However, my favorite reason being their determination to let go of labels. Right out of the gates, the authors state their book 'grew out of a shared and evolving recognition that far too many striving readers are suffering unproductive and unintended consequences of the very instructional tools and approaches designed to support their growth (p.11).' This statement refers to book leveling systems. Educators need to remember leveling systems are a teacher's tool, not a child's label. 

As I anticipated the arrival of my copy, I looked toward my PLN to learn more via tweets, blog posts and reviews featuring its high standing on professional literacy bookshelves. 
Before the book was even in my hands, I was ready to *table the labels* and empower children to grow from being striving to thriving readers. When the book finally arrived, I began to delve into its greatness. The book lived up to the hype!  

Today, I'm here to share with you a bit of its greatness. However, please realize, this post scarcely highlights the vast prowess of the authors. I'm here to bestow upon you a multimodal praising and sharing of quotes and tips taken directly from the book, in addition to tweets dedicated to it. Since the framework of this professional text encompasses three parts, TRUST, TEACH, TRANSFORM, I've decided to organize the tips and tweets to follow suit. Read along to get a glimpse of what the book offers.  

  • We replace the dooming label "struggling reader" with the dynamic, effort-based term "striving reader" because it connotes energy, action and progress (p.10).

  • In short, with this book, we seek to close a massive "knowing-doing gap" by doing the best of what's been known for decades: providing all children with daily access to books that jolt their hearts and turbocharge their minds, abundant time to read, and sound instruction in essential skills and strategies grounded in close observation and conversation (p.12).
  • We're simply asking that you think beyond your students' scores and any labels they've been given, and get to know them as multidimensional people (p.13).
  • Remember, we are always teaching the striver- not a program (p.13).
  • Always, the key is to give our strivers access to the full force of language: reading, writing, speaking, and listening (p.21).
  • A reading level certainly indicates to some degree a reader's proficiency. But reading is about much more than levels (p.23).
  • Our goal is to make sure that our students remain students and don't become labels (p.27).


Chapter 1: Table the Labels
  • Teaching reading to striving readers is rocket science! Learning how to teach them to read is an ongoing, lifelong process (p.38-39).
  • Kids view themselves as learners based on how we view them (p.39).
  • Rather than simply telling kids to work harder, teachers can share strategies and resources that help kids engage in the learning process, believe in themselves, make progress, and come to understand that intelligence is not fixed and minds are malleable (p.44).

  • We need to offer strivers content they simply can't resist (p.45).
  • The more we focus on engagement, the less we need to focus on grit and stamina. Change the book, change the reader (p.46)!
  • Whereas proficient readers are often encouraged to read about and investigate their passions, strivers are so overloaded with worksheets and assorted "edu-tasks" that they rarely get time to do that (p.47).
  • We have found that referring to mistakes as attempts decreases kids' fear of being wrong and increases their desire to have a go (p.49).

Chapter 2: Cultivate Curiosity
  • Researchers conclude that many children spend hours a day in school without asking a single question (p.73).
  • We need to cultivate that innate curiosity and capture our striving readers with compelling ideas, artifacts, issues, and generally irresistible content (p.73)

  • We make our curiosity visible by modeling our thinking and questions so kids see that adults are continually asking questions (p.77).
  • The tech opportunities from apps such as Google Docs, Drawing Pad, Edmodo, and Padlet are endless for inspiring curiosity, asking questions and doing research. We recommend apps like Drawing Pad, which allow kids to draw rather than write their thinking, giving striving readers a boost (p. 83).

Chapter 3: Ensure Access to and Choice of Books
  • Build a library for the readers you expect; customize it for the readers you meet (p.94).
  • Access and choice can't happen without offering students a full range of genres and formats (p.99).
  • Series books are to the striving reader what spinach is to Popeye: a super food (p.101)!
  • It's therefore imperative that teachers partner with school and community librarians to assess kids' interests, book-match relentlessly, and maximize circulation (p.111).

  • Having worked to build a robust and diverse collection, it's vital that we enthusiastically endorse wide and wild reading without judgement (p.114).
Chapter 4: Pump Up the Reading Volume
  • Like drivers, readers acquire confidence by logging miles in books; they recognize challenges they have seen and navigated before (p.124).
  • The overwhelming benefits of voluminous engaged reading compel us to give all kids a whopping daily dose and make it a foremost intervention for striving readers (p.126).
  • Children not only become better readers through voluminous, engaged reading, they also become more informed, principled, empathetic people (p.126).
  • We educators must vow to do no harm to striving readers and provide them with the reading volume they need and deserve...daily structures erode the amount of time striving readers spend reading in school and at home (p.133)!


Chapter 5: Book-Match Relentlessly
  • Book-matching is vital in putting striving readers on a a reading path. It's labor intensive, but it's a labor of love (p.144).
  • Book-talks and next-up lists...are effective whole-group strategies to help most thriving readers find appealing reading material (p.148). 
  • Even when a striving reader is off and running, it's important to monitor the match carefully. Like a delicate flame, the striving reader needs attention, but not so much that it smothers him or her (p.154). 
  • As we seek to move striving readers up their personal reading ladders, we must remember to keep pleasure and success at the forefront of our minds; there must be a favorable effort-to-reward ratio in each of the successive texts we recommend (p.155). 
  • Therefore, we can not emphasize enough the importance of sending kids home with books. While this doesn't guarantee that kids will read those books, it increases the likelihood dramatically (p.159). 

Chapter 6: Teach Thinking-Intensive Reading
  • When striving readers come to understand that reading is thinking and that strategies are tools to aid understanding, confidence grows, reading flourishes, and possibilities open (p.168). 

  • When striving readers come to understand that reading is above all about meaning making- telling a story or sharing information- rather than calling out individual letters, sounds, and words one by one, their perception of reading changes (p.171). 
  • The ultimate goal is for striving readers to have a small repertoire of strategies at their disposal to construct meaing and build knowledge (p.175). 

  • ...we take care to avoid "over-instructing" our striving readers. It is tempting to continually build in time to instruct striving readers. But there is a fine line between appropriate scaffolding and over-scaffolding (p.177). 
  • We hold kids back if we allow them to get information only from texts they are able to decode (p.181).
  • We don't read merely for the sake of it; we read to build our knowledge store. So, when we limit striving readers to only texts they can read, they may miss out on that important act (p.190). 

Chapter 7: Assess Readers in the Round
  • Yetta Goodman, who coined the term "kidwatching", and Gretchen Owocki explain the power of kidwatching: Rather than viewing some children as "low", "behind", or "lacking in skills", teachers who kidwatch view all children as creative, capable learners- on their way to "achieving control over the conventions of language- always in process," always moving forward (p.208-209). 
  • The most powerful way to reach a striving reader is to spend five or ten minutes engaging with him in what Annie refers to as a "reader-to-reader, heart-to-heart conference" (p.211). 
  • First and foremost, remember: Assessment is inquiry. You might think of yourself as a researcher in your own classroom, gathering data that you can use to shape your instruction and help your students see concrete evidence of their learning strengths (p.224).
  • The ultimate goal of assessment as inquiry is to draw students into the inquiry and help them self-monitor, track, and document their own progress (p.226).
Chapter 8: Advocate Tirelessly
  • It is a cruel irony that striving readers, who deserve and urgently require the greatest access to captivating books, often have the least access (p.232).
  • "There is no secret ingredient. It's just you." This means you must double down to provide access, choice, and time for each of your striving readers by insisting that each one has appealing independent reading books every day, whether or not he or she receives additional interventions (p.239).
  • Above all else, own the all-important responsibility of being the guardian of kids' reading lives; don't abdicate it or assume someone else is doing it (p.240).

Discover any new insights? I hope so! If you're on Twitter, my all time favorite platform for impromptu professional development, you can track down some great content under the hashtag #FromStrivingToThriving. For literacy insight on a daily basis, give Stephanie Harvey and Annie Ward a follow on Twitter. You can also see Stephanie Harvey on YouTube. I've linked her Ten Tips below. Just click on each image to be directly connected to her YouTube videos discussing each tip.

Last, but not least, I have a copy of the book to give away! Please leave an insightful comment about how you are growing confident capable readers in your classroom to be entered for the drawing. I will randomly select a winner from the comments this Saturday, December 2. Click HERE for a sneak peek at the book's Introduction. 

Happy Learning!

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