Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Literacy Retreat, Session 2 Recap: Executing Complex Tasks After Reading

Welcome back to learn more from the Smekens Education Literacy Retreat I recently attended.  If you would like to view my first post in this mini-seriesAchieving Complex Thinking During Reading, click HERE.  Let's get started!
Session 2: Executing Complex Tasks After Reading

You may be wondering What makes a task go from simple to harder to complex?  Well, when students have to juggle multiple thinking processes to complete an activity, the complexity increases.  Having students simply regurgitate information from a text is easy, as can be summarization of a text, which is recalling events and details in the students' own words.  However, when students are asked to break something down, the task becomes much more difficult.  

Kristina Smekens discussed how teachers need to be able to recognize the characteristics of complex tasks before they can create tasks for students to execute after their reading.  Using Norman Webb's Depths of Knowledge (DOK) levels and following the close-reading framework can help guide teachers.

Some attendees at the conference asked Smekens, Is DOK just a new name for Bloom's Taxonomy?  The answer is no.  Bloom's Taxonomy consists of a variety of verbs, but DOK is not about the verbs.  DOK is about the context or the depths of thinking.  Click HERE to get a betters sense of the difference between the two. :)

As an introduction/example activity, the attendees were given strips of paper and asked to place them in order based on complexity of the task.  At our table, we discussed what made each activity more complex.  The example of the strips are placed in order of complexity below.
  • Execute a concept I read about in a professional book using the ABC chart.
  • During a team/grade-level meeting, summarize the ABC lesson I executed.
  • During a faculty meeting, brainstorm applications of the ABC Chart in all content areas/elective courses.
  • Plan and present a conference breakout session on 20 different applications of the ABC Chart to target persuasive/argumentative, informative and narrative writing in k-12 classrooms.
Are you able to see in terms of what makes a task more complex based on this example?  It certainly helped me have a better understanding.  At the retreat, we were told to think of the standards as a ladder starting with shallow [tasks], then going into the deeper end of the [task] pool. 

 Teachers need to ask themselves when planning for students How cognitively demanding do I want the activity to be?  In terms of standardized tests, about 20% of the test questions fall under DOK Level 1 and DOK Level 2, while 80% of the questions fall under DOK Level 3 and 4.  This means all students must be exposed to complex thinking and complex tasks. As we know, students are not all on the same learning and thinking levels. Teachers must be prepared to vary their level of support.  Scaffolding is KEY!

In terms of matching the level of the reader and the level of the text, there is definitely a place for that within the classroom.  As it was mentioned at the retreat, the place for leveled texts is in literacy stations and at home for nightly reading/homework, not necessarily guided reading.  Say what?!  Yes, it's true according to Kristina Smekens.  She mentioned  teachers can not have students live in the leveled book zone, if you want them to think on a more complex level.  This is the same claim I heard from Timothy Shanahan at the Illinois Reading Conference last October.  (He's one of my favorite literacy researchers.  He goes against the norm!)

Complex tasks and complex texts should always be done and used in class with scaffolding.  If teachers are there to offer a variety of support to their students, staying on "instructional level" material is not always necessary.  Teachers need to honor different levels of support and guide students to the answers using prompts and cues.  For example, teachers should guide students' eyes to the visual cues in the text.  As teachers, we want students to grapple with the text and their thinking.  We want them to still feel the frustration, but have them know they're not, in Smekens' words, "left alone on an island of complexity!"   
Teachers should allocate time for whole class discussions.  Discussions permit students to pool their thinking together.  Remember, these discussions are complex, so allow collaboration!  We were told to consider it similar to a college study group after a lecture.  You may leave a lecture clueless, but hearing others' thinking in a study group may help you understand concepts more clearly.  

A heed of warning: students can hide in whole classroom discussions.  Have you ever noticed the same three kids participate every. single. time, while others seem to make themselves "look busy"?  That is the time to intervene!  It is important for teachers to move to the small group format for certain students to scaffold their thinking.  Make sure to provide various types of scaffolding, such as teaching comprehension strategies and defining key words for students.  The point of the lesson is not to figure out the meaning of a word.  Teachers, you need to act like a dictionary and define the word for the students, then move on to the heart of the lesson!  

Before the session ended, two technology resources were mentioned.  The Fotobabble App (or website) and the Skitch App can be useful when students are analyzing a text.  Fotobabble enables students to take a photo of any text, photo, illustration, graph, etc. and record an audio analysis of the image.  Skitch allows students to annotate their thinking on any document, including a PDF, photo, chart, map., etc.  I've used Skitch with my students and they love it!
The professional texts recommended during this session were 50 Common Core Reading Response Activities and Reading to the Core.  I do not own these books, but they've been added to my Amazon wish list! 

I hope this information was useful to you.  Thank you to Teaching Super Power and Kimberly Geswein for the clip art and fonts in my DOK image.  The next session I will be discussing relates to writing: Building Stronger Beginnings and Endings.  Stay tuned!

Monday, June 29, 2015

Great Times at the Chicago Area Teacher Blogger Meet Up!

This past weekend I attended my very first Blogger Meet Up with these magnificent ladies!  It was hosted by Kirstin from Hip Hooray in K, Diana at My Day in K and Marie from Once Upon a Classroom. They organized an amazing meet up.  We played games, received goodie bags, had lovely conversations and learned new ideas from one another.  I'm fortunate to have met these women and delighted to have made some new friends.  I can't wait for the next one! 

Enjoy your last few days in June. :)

Friday, June 26, 2015

Announcing a Book Study for Jennifer Serravallo's *The Reading Strategies Book*!

I am so excited to announce a blogging book study for The Reading Strategies Book: Your Everything Guide to Developing Skilled Readers by Jennifer Serravallo!  I am joining forces with 12 fabulous bloggers to discuss reading strategies from this amazing professional text, in hopes to help you get your school year off to a wonderful start.  The book study will begin on Monday, August 3rd here at Literacy Loving Gals.

There are 13 goals in Serravallo's book.  Twice per week until all of the goals have been covered, bloggers will be discussing highlights, sharing freebies and offering challenges to complete, based on the book's strategies.  We hope you will purchase a copy and follow along with us!  

Take a peek inside the book via the video below, then stay tuned for more details! :)

P.S. I just want to thank Sarah from Mrs. B's First Grade for creating the adorable image for our Book Study!  You're awesome, Sarah!


Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Literacy Retreat, Session 1 Recap: Achieving Complex Thinking During Reading

Let me start off by saying, the Smekens Education Literacy Retreat was amazing!  I learned a great amount in such a short 2-day time frame.  The main presenter, Kristina Smekens, is highly knowledgeable. The way she shares information is entertaining and fun, which is always a bonus when sitting for 2-days.  If you ever get a chance to attend the retreat, take it!  I'm hoping to attend annually, since the topics change each summer.  Anyway, in the upcoming weeks, I will be sharing information from the eight sessions I attended.  I don't have specific dates of when I'll be posting, since I am supposed to be taking a break from educational-related things (Yeah, right!), but here are the session topics: :)

  1. Achieving Complex Thinking During Reading
  2. Executing Complex Tasks After Reading
  3. Building Stronger Beginnings and Endings
  4. Teaching Academic Vocabulary with Six Interactive Strategies
  5. Differentiating to Support English Language Learners
  6. Inferring Ideas from Visuals & Multimodal Texts
  7. Revitalizing the Writing Process
  8. Using Mentor Texts to Teach Sentence Variety

One more thing before I fill you in on the first session.  I strongly recommend getting Chart Sense K-2Chart Sense 3-8 and Chart Sense for Writing written by Rozlyn Linder.  I purchased these professional texts last summer and have certainly not regretted it.  
I have used Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and this blog to get the word out about these books.  The reason I am referencing them is because of their repeated mention at the Literacy Retreat.  It seemed as if a high percentage of the mini-lessons discussed at the retreat were taken from these books!  Rozlyn Linder, the author of the Chart Sense books, is a genius.  There are tons of Reading mini-lessons organized by the standards and each mini-lesson contains useful and extremely easy-to-implement anchor charts.  My Chart Sense books have been tabbed, dog-eared and highlighted and are definitely some of my "must-have" resources.  

Okay, moving on. There was so much information shared at this session.  I will be sharing a few key points, some anchor charts, a fun activity and three online resources mentioned within the session's duration.  Here we go! :)

Session 1: Achieving Complex Thinking During Reading
The essential question for this session was based on the image below: How do you get kids to think across the continuum of complex thinking? 

When students are asked to read a complex text, they first need to learn how to peel back the layers of a text before digging in.  We, as teachers, need to get students to think at different levels starting with the Word Levels and then progressing to the level of Discerning Greater Meaning.  As you may already know or have personally encountered within your classroom, students have a hard time with thinking in terms of "the bigger picture", which includes thinking about characters across a text.  

The Critical Consideration level is where teachers begin asking students to analyze more deeply about a text.  For example, a prompt used at this level may be, What is the character's purpose for doing this?  Kristina Smekens mentioned the Critical Consideration level is where teachers often start to lose kids in terms of comprehending a complex text.  However, once students are more secure at this level, asking them to begin synthesizing across multiple texts can begin to happen.  Synthesizing happens in the Discerning Greater Meaning level.  This last level on the continuum is where students are asked to do something with what they learn during reading.  

Underneath the continuum, you'll notice DOK Levels, which stand for Depths of Knowledge Levels. Students need to be able to think at a variety of levels.  Click here to learn more!
Phase 1 is considered *Simplistic Thinking* where students are asked to recall, draw, list, illustrate, etc.  It's important for students to start at this level.  As teachers, don't jump into complex thinking questions during the first read!  Stick to the standards- R2.1, R2.2, R2.3 and have the students reread a text multiple times.  Always ask face-value questions when students first read a text.  
Phase 2 is known as *Moderately Complex Thinking* where students are asked to assess, compare, conclude, revise, etc.  In this phase, students need to question the author and analyze his/her choices of why certain portions of the text were added, as well as think about figurative and technical meanings, author's purpose, and vocabulary.
Phase 3 is *Complex Thinking*.  Students need to apply concepts, analyze, connect, create, critique, prove, etc. during reading.  This is the point where students go complex!  Teachers need to get students to zoom in on some portions of a text, but zoom out again to synthesize information across multiple texts.  For example, students may be asked to look at arguments in various informational books or make text-to-text connections.  Teachers may want to give students books on the same topic to compare or books written by the same author or with the same theme.

Anchor charts are known to support students' thinking on more complex levels.  Students usually are able to retell what happens in a text, but teachers need to get them to discuss, for instance, how the characters interact with one another, too.  They need to be able to track events in sequential order.  Start simple by asking students to discuss a particular character: How is the character acting?  Then move them onto more complex questions about multiple characters: How are characters interacting with one another? What sort of relationships do they have? Below is the Interaction Tracker used as an example at the retreat.  Click on the image to download two available versions.
Students are used to What is the answer?  However, the times have changed, as we all know.  With the Common Core State Standards, teachers need to ask students What is the answer? Why? What's the evidence to support your thinking?  This is a HUGE shift in thinking.  Krista Smekens said "Do not be satisfied with students' *right answers* to your questions because they could have been a guess.  Instead ask, Where in the text are you getting this?"  

Discussions about textual evidence were a strong focus in this session.  The retreat attendees were warned to remember: All evidence is a detail, but not all details are evidence!  Teachers need to make students become aware of what constitutes as strong evidence.  Just because it's in the text doesn't mean it backs up and supports the evidence.  Writing details from a text is NOT EVIDENCE, but citing directly from the text IS evidence.

Kristina discussed various mini-lessons to bring back to the classroom.  Many of the ideas to get students to achieve complex thinking during reading were directly taken from my favorite Chart Sense books.  I used my copies of the books to take pictures of some charts mentioned at the retreat.  If you're interested in a viewing a previous post I wrote regarding textual evidence using a few of the charts, click HERE.  This post will also lead you to a textual evidence freebie I've created. :)   
One of the best highlights about the Literacy Retreat was the giveaways.  The attendees were given numerous goodies.  One of the goodies was a set of bags called Finding Author Evidence.  I love them!  I'm looking forward to this activity in the Fall.  Even if you don't have a set, any gallon-sized Ziploc Bags will do.  You can have your students create their own. :) 

For this activity, once students finish reading a text, the teacher should start by providing a claim or inference for the students.  Be careful not to start off too complex by having students think up their own claim or inference.  As an example, the teacher may state the claim: "I think this character is a bully!"  Have students work together in small groups to support the given claim.  

Kristina stated that finding textual evidence should be a kinesthetic activity.  Students should record text evidence on sentence strips, notebook paper cut into strips, Post-It Notes, or whatever else you can find.  They must be able to move sentences around and discuss their reasoning for the evidence with peers.  Sorting sentences to prove the claim (ex: the character is a bully) will allow students an opportunity to rank the evidence in order of importance.  The discussions with peers is what gets the ideas and learning started.  Students need to see others' perspectives!  I've provided the corresponding graphic organizer for this activity, if you would like to give it a try with your students, too.  Just click on the image to download.
Last, but not least, below are some online resources teachers can use with students in the classroom to develop complex thinking skills.  I'm only familiar with Time for Kids, so the other resources are on my list to investigate when school starts again. 

  • VOKI: Have students apply Point Of View in Finish the Story narrative prompts with VOKI.  Use this online resource to design an avatar emulating a character.  Voices are recorded into a computer and recited back as a character.  Fun! 
  • Time for Kids and are great resources for students to analyze and evaluate arguments.  According to Kristina Smekens, students need to learn to distinguish claims versus reasons versus evidence.  These online resources were recommended when teaching students how to track an author's claim with his/her reasons and support.

I hope you found this information useful.  If you liked what you learned, stay tuned to Literacy Loving Gals via Bloglovin', so you don't miss a post.  As I revealed, I'll be sharing information from each session attended at the Literacy Retreat.  Before I go, I want to thank A Little Piece of Africa for the arrow graphics and Kimberly Geswein for the fonts in my images. :)

Friday, June 19, 2015

Summer Blog Party Kick Off Hop- Book Suggestions, Parent Tips and Reading Contracts

Welcome to the Summer Blog Party Kick Off Hop!  I want to start by thanking Carla from Comprehension Connection for organizing the hop.  Seventeen literacy bloggers from The Reading Crew are participating in the hop to share suggestions, tips and freebies to help prevent the summer reading slide.  The Crew is also supplying two $25 TpT gift certificates for those of you who enter the giveaway found along the hop, so let's get this party started! 

Isn't it wonderful summer has finally arrived?  Students have packed up their belongings and headed home for the summer. Hopefully, they'll continue to read throughout the summer to keep their reading progress advancing in the right direction.  However, we, as teachers, know that is not always the case for some of our students, so we offer tips and resources, then hope for the best! Right?

I think the most advantageous thing we can do for our students is to get parents invested in their child's education.  Don't you agree?  We all know students perform better academically when their parents are involved in their learning, so it's our job to offer parental support. When teachers assist parents in navigating any educational challenges their may child be encountering, everyone benefits. 

Ever heard of the ABCs of Improved Reading?  It can serve as a simple, but informative, reminder of ways parents can engage their child in reading.  Children must have access to literature in order to become avid readers, so the first step is to make sure parents supply various types of reading materials for their child.  Of course, the literature has to be at a just right level for their child because, if it is too easy or too difficult, not much reading growth can take place.  Furthermore, the whole purpose of reading is to gather meaning from a text.  For this reason, it is crucial parents are asking their child questions before, during and after a story or informational text.  You'll find some helpful prompts below and HERE.
I also wanted to compile just a few of my favorite book suggestions containing fun and engaging story lines, but also teach the reader literacy tips along the way.  I figured these stories would be relevant to share with parents, since each book has a lesson in itself. The story titles listed below enlighten readers about some aspect of reading and writing: what it takes to become a good reader, how to choose a "just right" book, writing a story of your own, etc.  Just to give you an example, in the book Wolf!, the main character learns to read fluently to impress his friends, but he finds out he must practice often to get it right.  The moral of the story is Readers need to practice reading to become better readers!  

The two book collages found below consist of the thirteen titles geared mostly toward early primary students.  Each title is linked to Amazon, if you would like to take a closer look at any of them.  The books are How to Read a StoryWolf!The Best Place to Read a BookThe Best Book to ReadWild About Books,  Goldisocks and the Three LibeariansCharlie Cook's Favorite BooksHow Rocket Learned to ReadRocket Writes a StoryThe Plot ChickensLittle Red Writing, Pick a Picture: Write a Story and Tell Me the Day Backwards.
Last, but not least, I created a couple of freebies to help kids continue good reading habits throughout the summer and school year. The images below are linked to my TpT store. If you download the freebies, ratings are always greatly appreciated. The first freebie is a handout offering literacy tips for parents on how they can support good reading and writing habits at home. 
The second freebie is from a previous post.  It is a set of summer reading contracts for both students and parents, along with some reading logs. The logs can be valuable motivators for students because they serve as documentation of a child's dedication to read.  The contracts help secure a commitment between a parent and child to work together to keep reading growth soaring throughout the summer.  :)
Well, that's it from me!  I hope these book suggestions, literacy tips and reading contracts with logs help keep students reading all the way through the summer and well beyond!  Thank you to Paula Kim Studio, Kimberly Geswein and Whimsy Clips for the fonts and clipart in this post.  

Before you go, I'd love for us to stay connected!  Check out any of the social media buttons on the blog to follow along on Literacy Loving Gals' educational journey, or feel free to link your blog to the Blogs tab above, so others may find you when they visit Literacy Loving Gals. :) Now, head on over to Allie at The Positive Teacher for some more suggestions and freebies!
Happy Summer!

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

What I'm Loving Wednesday

Hello! I'm linking up with BigTime Literacy for What I'm Loving Wednesday to tell you about my brand new obsession and a few other loves in my world.  I'm absolutely, AB-SO-LUTE-LY (I can't stress this enough) loving The Reading Strategies Book by Jennifer Seravallo!  It will be my new go-to resource, besides Jan Richardson's The Next Step in Guided Reading.  

When I saw the Amazon package on my doorstep last week, I started clapping with giddiness!  I pre-ordered the book back in April, so it's been tough to wait.  The minute I started flipping through it, I knew this would be my new favorite professional text.  I posted a few pictures on my Instagram and Twitter account to seek out some possible Book Study participants.  It looks as if a Book Study will be under way sometime in the near future.  We're thinking August would be a useful time before school gets underway.  Stay tuned!

Another thing I'm loving on this beautiful Wednesday is the weather. I love long summer days.  Today, the sun was out along with a slight breeze.  It was a bit warm, but not as humid as I've experienced before, so I'll take it.  When I got in my car this afternoon, this is what I saw on my dashboard.  Yikes! 
No matter the case, it was still a wonderful day to have some Mama-Daughter time at the park, while my hubby and son spent some time together.  We flip-flop days so we can "fill the emotional tank" of our kiddos.  One on one time is always nice, but we make sure to have tons of family time, too.  Camping trips, here we come! :)
I'm making sure my twins don't have any summer slide in their hunger for books (even though they're only 3 years old) by visiting the library often.  I'm loving the library theme for the kids this year!  The League of Super Readers is a theme that certainly caught my son's attention.  He's a fan of Spiderman, even though he's never seen an episode or movie with Spiderman. He's loves Spiderman because of a shirt he received from his Aunt, which he happened to be wearing when we spotted Spiderman. Besides seeing a life-sized Spidey, my son also thought it was "way cool" the librarians were wearing capes.  What I found cool was seeing the shelves divided up for kids by grade-level interests.  It provided the opportunity for me to find some new titles for the various grades I service.  Cute stuff happening in our local library. :)
Last, but not least, on this Wednesday, I'm loving the VW bus my kiddos got for a Christmas gift.  Recently, it's been sparking some imagination in the minds of my little ones.  The bus has been used for all sorts of things, including an extended fort (yesterday) and, my favorite, a reading nook (today). 

Well, that's it for this edition of What I'm Loving Wednesday!  Don't forget to link up with Michelle over at BigTime Literacy to share your loves for the day! 

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

FREE Book Lists, Activities, Online Resources and Apps to Support Kids' Reading During the Summer

Friday was my first official day of summer.  Woohoo!  It's been nice to relax the past few days.  I say relax in the loosest of terms, though, because it's tricky for me to really relax.  I'm a mover and a shaker.  There are always tasks to accomplish and most tasks usually involve something school related.  I have a handful of professional texts I would like to read, blog hop posts to prepare, and Back-to-School products to create.  

Why in the world have I already started preparing for the start of the school year when summer has barely started?  I ask myself this on a nightly basis.  The minute I hop into bed my mind starts racing with thoughts about professional texts I'm reading, activities to incorporate into my guided reading groups and fun projects to do with my own children at home.  I think it's because I've always been addicted to learning and teaching.  

The picture below gave me a laugh.  Toward the end of the school year, I was reading The Diary of a Wimpy Kid with one of my 3rd graders for the last 5 minutes of our time together.  It was the only book that seemed to interest him.  Even though it was a Level S, which was far from his Level J reading abilities, it was an amazing motivator.  Besides, levels aren't everything!  Anyway, now that I'm a teacher and a mother, I'm always turning things into a "teaching moment", not only with my students, but with my own children, too.  

Anyway, as I mentioned above, I'm now a parent and have my own kiddos to involve in fun reading activities throughout the summer. Which brings me to some resources I'd like to share in hopes to support and motivate kids to read throughout the next few months.  I've included leveled book lists, an online reading challenge, some summer reading activities, along with online read alouds and iPad story Apps.  Best part?  They're all FREE.

After reading Beyond Leveled Books, I have a new understanding of the purpose of leveled books.  Getting kids to progress up the guided reading levels isn't the end all be all.  It's about motivating our readers to find joy and pleasure in reading.  It's about them choosing to read even if they don't have to.  However, reading leveled books does have an important place in guiding students to become more proficient readers.  Knowing a child's independent and instructional level will help put him/her on the path to reading for enjoyment.  If a child is appropriately matched with texts, meaning he/she does not read books that are not too easy or too difficult, reading can become something pleasurable.

Because of this, I've added a resource I stumbled upon when viewing another school's website.  It contains a lists of books categorized by Levels A through Z to help parents seek out titles within their child's reading level(s). 

Books Arranged by Guided Reading Levels A-Z
Are you looking to have children participate in an online reading program?  Look no further!  Check out Scholastic's Summer Reading Challenge with options for students, educators and parents.  This is an annual challenge, so check back each summer. :) 
FREE Online Reading Program for Kids
If you're on the hunt for some fun summer reading activities, Reading Is Fundamental has some choices for you.

Are you seeking various read alouds children can listen to via the Internet?  Check out Storyline Online and Mrs. P's Stories.  They have a plethora of books to enjoy.  
Storyline Online- FREE Stories Read Aloud
Do you prefer using an iPad?  Check out the Apps below for some stories to read with your kids.  My own kids certainly love them. 
Booksy App (Free Version)

Before I go, I want to say thank you to EduClips for the cute clip art of the kids with books up above in this post.  I hope the resources I provided are useful to you this summer.  If you have other resources, please share them in the comments.  I'm always looking for more. :)  

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