The Last 20 days of Literacy Learning: 18 Days to Go, Book Clubs!

Post #3 in the Last 20 Days of Literacy Series… Written in a mad hurry as I’m leaving school soon to head to San Francisco with a few colleagues to see one of their sons in a play! Have to squeeze in some fun, as all work is just not good for this teacher’s soul. Never feel guilty about having a little fun.

All posts in this blog series can be found here.

Our final round of book clubs is going strong! Right now, some of my fifth graders are finishing up their journeys to Hogwarts, The Land of Stories, and Where the Mountain Meets the Moon (I still need to travel to this last one, myself!). While some are finishing their journeys, others are just now embarking on new adventures with Roz the Robot and Mibs as she discovers her Savvy.

The fifth graders are all in different places in their club reading- which has been a huge adjustment for me as a teacher. Some are finishing books, others are starting new ones, a few are in the middle of their books, and one club is taking time to seek out a new book. In prior years, I determined the focus of the club discussions and reading schedules so they would all finish at the same time and focus on the same ideas. I used to feel that I would be able to more closely keep track of their thinking and progress through a book by determining everything myself. Well, now that I’ve let go of control by allowing students to have complete choice of their book, club schedules, and how to run their discussions, I noticed they are more engaged while reading, and their discussions are much more meaningful with each other. **Huge note- it took a ton of modeling, lessons, small group work, and conferring for us to get to this point. It did not magically just happen back in September! Perhaps I’ll explain more in a future blog post.

Our book clubs will probably take some students up until the very last week of school. Because some clubs will finish before the last week, those students will decide if they want to continue reading something else together or if they want to focus on their independent reading choices during club time. The important thing here is that all students are engaging in reading and thinking- the rest is just the details.

The Last 20 days of Literacy Learning: 19 Days to Go, Reading with Our Buddies

Post #2 in the Last 20 Days of Literacy Series… written in a bit of a rush after school! All posts in this series can be found here.

One of the biggest joys as I have as a teacher is watching kids fall in love with books. One of the most effective ways to support kids in finding this love is by modeling it.

All school year long, not only have I modeled this love for my fifth graders, but my fifth graders in turn have modeled it for our kindergarten buddy class. My colleague, kindergarten teacher, Stephanie Han and I have developed a system where 1/3 of my class goes to her class three times each week for buddy reading. Sometimes we go as a whole group, but most of the time we go in thirds. Today was a whole group day. Sometimes, the fifth graders bring a picture book to read to their buddies, while other times the kinder buddies read through their book stacks on their reading mats to the fifth graders. Stephanie and I plan to continue buddy reading up until the very last week of school.

The benefits of multi-age buddy reading are truly endless. In addition to the fifth graders modeling a love of reading for the kindergarteners, the kindergarteners are supporting the fifth graders in using the important (and often an afterthought in school) life skills of patience, kindness, empathy, and mentorship.

Buddy reading is a wonderful year-long endeavor that I will long hold tight to even with other interruptions and requirements abound. In elementary school, there is nothing more important than falling in love with books. One of the best ways to do this is by reading and talking with a mentor on a consistent, predictable basis.

The Last 20 days of Literacy Learning: 20 Days to Go, The Art of Comprehension

*Disclaimer- this blog series will most likely not include poetic, profound writing. Rather, it will consist of on-the-fly quick writes after my teaching day during the last 20 days of school. Reader, you’ve been warned.

Today marked day 160 of the school year. My fifth graders have 20 days left of elementary school. While we have many typical end of year festivities ahead of us- assemblies, kickball games, a pool party, promotion practice, a class party, a middle school tour, and the big promotion ceremony on the last day, we still have quite a bit of literacy learning ahead.

Rather than detail the entire day in each blog post in this series, I plan to share one or two things we did in class to continue the literacy learning through to the very end of the school year. I decided to write about the last 20 days of school for a couple reasons…

First, the last couple weeks of school do not need to be viewed as throw-away, meaningless days which often ends up being the case. These final days will likely be the ones many students remember. How do I want my fifth graders to remember their time together in my classroom?

Also, over the past few years, I have become increasingly interested in why many kids tend to read less and less on their own as they get older. So, I’m trying my best to help my students build a love of reading and writing as they leave elementary school, and hopefully continue that love in their own lives away from school. This has actually been my #1 goal all year.

As you can probably tell, I deem these last 20 days as critical ones- in my opinion, they are actually more critical than the first 20 days of school.

My goal with this blog series is to do a little bit of writing on our literacy learning in class each day, but the reality may end up being that I write about it every few days- you know how crazy the end of the school year can get! However, despite the craziness, the literacy learning will go on. It will matter. It will count.

Thanks for sharing in the literacy love and learning of the last 20 days with me!

20 Days to Go, trying something new…

The Art of Comprehension

Finally, after reading Trevor Bryan’s fantastic book, The Art of Comprehension, I introduced his Access Lenses to my class earlier this week. The Access Lenses support students in thinking more deeply about viewing art, and in turn transferring that framework for thinking over to their reading and writing.

Earlier this week, we viewed and engaged in a wonderful conversation around The Library by Jacob Lawrence. Students discussed how color and body language can give us clues to mood. The conversations were vibrant as students openly shared their differing opinions grounded in the Access Lenses that Trevor offers in his book.

Then, earlier today, during our class read aloud of The Thief of Always, I noticed my students’ conversations shifted a bit. I heard them talk about mood in reference to how the author, Clive Barker, wrote about and described facial expressions and body language. Many of them even asked to look back in the book during independent reading time to think about earlier scenes in the book using the Access Lenses. WOW! They asked to look back in the book- sure, by all means, have at it!

Now that I have finally introduced my students to the Access Lenses and saw how they have a huge impact on understanding and response, I wish I started with this work earlier in the school year.

Next school year, I plan to start right away with The Art of Comprehension!

It turns out, the last 20 days of school is a great time to try something new.

The Last 20 Days of Elementary Literacy Learning Blog Series

So much is emphasized, written, and said about the first 20 days of school. Well, I’m entering my last 20, and the work isn’t even close to being done. This blog series will chronicle the literacy learning of the last 20 days of school in my fifth grade classroom.

The Last 20 Days of Elementary Literacy

How are you making your last 20 days count? Share your work!

Rethinking “I’m proud of you.”

Andi, a student of mine, was so excited during writing workshop today. After trying a few different things out, she finally wrote an introduction to her persuasive essay that she felt would really grab her readers’ attention. She excitedly requested a conference with me to ask what I thought about her introduction.

I didn’t plan to meet with Andi today, but she was so excited to share her writing that I certainly couldn’t say no. When we settled in for our conference together, I started off how I typically do with my fifth grade writers, “Hi Andi- what would you like to talk about?”

“I think I really wrote a great introduction! I want to know what you think!”

“Ok, can you read it to me?” I responded with a smile.

Andi then read her introduction aloud (which I have to say was very clever, and definitely made me want to read more!). As soon as she finished reading it aloud, she looked at me with a huge smile seeking out my approval by asking, “Do you like it?”

Some of you might be thinking- that’s great, she wants to share her writing! She’s seeking out the teacher to share her great work.

Well, I honestly had a different reaction. The last thing I want as a writing teacher is my students seeking out my approval. I don’t want them to look for the standard response of “I’m proud of you” or “Great job!” Their job as writers (readers, mathematicians, scientists, etc) is not to gain my approval. So, I responded with something else. I tried to respond in a way to get Andi to seek out her own approval and to notice exactly what she did as a writer to make her feel this way.

“Well, what do you think about your introduction? Do you feel you’ve accomplished what you set out to do?”

Andi quickly responded, “Yes! Definitely. I think my reader will want to keep reading. I think the statistic I shared will surprise them and make them want to know more about the topic.”

I looked at her, smiled, and said, “Andi, recognize how you’re feeling right now as a writer. Think about the decision you made to provoke this feeling in your future readers. This is potentially a strategy you can use again in your writing. I bet you can even share it with some classmates to support their efforts. Would you be up for that?”

“Yes! I’ll share why I decided to use the statistic to start! I really like how it sounds.”

“Take note of the pride you feel in yourself right now, Andi. Consider jotting down the decision you made as a writer in your notebook. Revisit it the next time you’re starting a piece of writing or perhaps when you’re conferring with a friend to support their work.”

“Ok. I will. Thanks, Ms. Nosek.” Andi then jotted down the strategy she made the choice to use in her notebook, and walked off feeling proud of herself as a writer. With that, our conference ended.

Now, imagine if I just told Andi that I was proud of her. If I used those words, it would have made her writing about pleasing me instead of empowering her. There is nothing inherently wrong with telling kids we’re proud of them. However, I’m making the effort with my teacher language to help them recognize when they are proud of themselves. The goal is helping my students empower themselves, not making me proud. Simple language choices make a big difference.