Archive for January 1, 2013

Pathways to the Common Core: Part 3

Here is Part 3 on Pathways to the Common Core that I shared on my staff blog in my Monday Musings Post.
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Monday Musings – Pathways to the Common Core: Part 3

I’ve finally made it to the section on Writing in Pathways to the Common Core.  I will be completely honest with you all and admit that when I taught in the classroom, writing was my least favorite subject to teach.  Ironically, I’ve now grown to love writing and think if I were teach again it would probably be my 2nd favorite (right along with reading).  This is only because I continue to write myself on a regular basis and enjoy it just as much as I do reading.

Prior to the CCSS, there really hasn’t been much for writing standards, because NCLB put emphasis on phonemic awareness, phonics, vocabulary, fluency, and comprehension.  If you sit down and look at the writing standards in the common core, you will find that they are organized into three broad categories or types of writing:

  • opinion and argument
  • informative/explanatory texts
  • narratives
While we often put our focus on the writing process in our classrooms, the # of pages in the CCSS for writing actually devote 1/2 of the pages to the 3 types of writing. In addition, the standards call for a “distribution of writing experiences that gives students roughly equal amounts of time and instruction in argument, informative, and narrative writing” (p. 104-105).  Just like the reading standards, the common core standards for writing have a “shared responsibility” for other subjects to incorporate writing into daily learning. 
At Dodgeland, we have done a great job of shifting our literacy time to provide students with the time to read so they can become better readers.  The common core standards also call for students to write often; “write routinely” to make writing a habit.  
I was surprised to learn how specific the standards are on expectations for what students should produce in a sitting. For example, 4th graders are expected to produce a minimum of one typed page in a sitting, and fifth graders, a minimum of two typed pages in a sitting!
As I reflect on what I’m learning about the common core writing standards I wonder if our current instructional time allows for students to practice writing daily, not just for narratives (which I know we’re probably best at in the elementary)?  What does writing across the curriculum look like currently for our students throughout the day?
What should student writing look like at each grade level?  You have all of the annotated examples at each grade level in your binder from Appendix C (also found online HERE), but I’m going to include a snapshot from each grade level. Please note that for some of them, the pieces are more than a page and this is just a snapshot.

Pathways to the Common Core: Part 2

Here is Part 2 on Pathways to the Common Core that I shared on my staff blog in my Monday Musings Post.
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Monday Musings – Pathways to the Common Core: Part 2

Last week I shared my first reflection with you as I am reading Pathways to the Common Core. This week I’ll share what I’ve learned about Reading Informational Texts. (I will warn you, since it is informational text, it is a “heavier” read than previous Monday Musing posts…at least it is for me!)

The common core standards have increased our expectations of how much informational text students read. They provide the following recommendation for reading

One important clarification here is that this does not mean  that the CCSS call for dramatically more nonfiction reading within the ELA classrooms/literacy block.  This literacy expectation should be shared responsibility across the content areas, meaning that 50% of a 4th grader’s day (using the chart) would be reading informational text.

So, what is the CCSS expectations for reading informational text?  The CCSS emphasizes synthesis, evaluation, and comparative textual analysis. 

Got that?

I didn’t.  What exactly does that mean?

Let’s look at each standard…

The first 3 anchor standards for reading informational texts are the foundation for the rest of the reading work students will do.

Standard 1: Read closely and make logical inferences
This means reading the informational text to determine what it says and NOT focusing on how you can make connections to it.  This was a surprise to me, because I always taught my students to think of what they already know about the topic and make connections as they read.  However, the CCSS don’t concern themselves with what you know, think you know, or how you feel about the topic.  You need to focus on what the text says explicitly.

Standard 2: Read to determine central ideas and themes
This standard asks readers to determine central ideas and summarize the text, linking key ideas and details.  This is hard to do if you didn’t do standard 1 very well and you may have to go back and reread. (I found I had to go back to standard 1 several times as I read this book!)
To get to standard 2 you can ask yourself the same question that you would if you were reading fiction, “What is this article starting to be about?” Then as ideas emerge, gather up some of the information in the text as evidence for those ideas.

Standard 3: Reading to analyze how individuals, events and ideas develop and interact 
Here is where you need to notice the sequence of events, analyze relationships and connects and determine cause and effect.  As readers, you should be able to analyse all of the individuals and events and be able to see how they are connected.

I’m sure you’ve read enough by now, so here’s a short summary of the rest (you can borrow my book if you want to read more!):
Standards 4-6 get into the the craft or how the text is written.
Standards 7-9 require the reader to integrate knowledge/ideas by reading other texts on the same topic.
Standard 10 read/comprehend those informational texts at grade level

If you’ve read this far, then I’d ask that you reflect on informational reading in your classroom…Are your students spending 50% of their reading each day in informational text? Are you teaching your students to apply reading skills aligned to these common core standards as they read informational text?  How do you support students that are reading below level to read and analyze informational text?

Pathways to the Common Core: Part 1

Each week I share a “Monday Musings” post on my staff blog.  I use this weekly post to share my own professional learning/reflections with staff.  I am currently reading Pathways to the Common Core and plan to share what I’m learning in several parts with staff.  Here is what I posted for them last week.
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Monday Musings – Pathways to the Common Core #1

I am currently reading the book Pathways to the Common Core, which I am finding to be an incredible resource to gain a better understanding of what the ELA Common Core Standards really mean.  Wait, don’t close this yet, I know you’re sick of hearing about the common core, but at least save it to read later when you have time!  If I could, I would buy this book for everyone to read, but there’s probably not enough $ and I know that many of you would be worried about when you’d have time to read it. For now, I plan to share some of the “nuggets” from my reading in my next few Monday Musings posts to share my learning with you.  By doing this, it is also helping me to process what I’m reading.

My first take-away from reading this book is that it is not enough for us to have our Common Core binders and remember there are 10 anchor standards in ELA or even to know the CCSS really well for our grade level.  We need to really dig into what it means to apply each of the skills in the standards…How often do we we actually read complex text and apply the skills in the standards? You’d be amazed at what the common core expects!  We also need to know the standards for the grade level above and below so that we can differentiate for the variety of readers we teach.

A great way to think about the ELA standards  reading standards is to picture a ladder, with standards 1 and 10 as the crucial struts that form the two sides of the ladder.  Standard 10 carries increasing levels of text complexity up the grade levels and into College and Career Readiness.  Standard 1, the other side of the ladder, asks readers to “read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it.”  The remaining reading standards form the rungs of the ladder.  The authors write that it is the rungs linking the 2 main standards that are important, because “although it is crucial for students to be able to handle increasingly complex texts, reading must never be mere word calling; accuracy without strong literal comprehension is not reading.”

As I read the authors’ section on implications for instruction, it affirmed all of the literacy work that we have been doing.  The following steps for schools to put in place are things we are already doing with Daily 5/Cafe:

  • Assess your readers and match them to books that can be read with 95% accuracy, fluency and comprehension.
  • Make reading plans with students and help support them to reach those reading goals.
  • Provide students with an extensive collection of high-interest books and allow them choice. 
  • Provide students with long blocks of time to read. 
  • Provide students with explicit instruction in the skills of effective reading.

If you made it this far in reading…good for you and Thank you!  Next week I’ll share what I’ve learned about Reading Informational Texts.  I am also considering using one of the reading activities (for teachers to get practice in the standards) in our next grade level meetings.

On another random note, I wrote a post on using Goodreads, which is one of my Reading Resolutions. You can find it HERE if you’re interested in learning what Goodreads is.

Everything I love about Goodreads

One of my Reading Resolutions for 2013 is to use Goodreads to track my books, maintain a to-read list and connect with others for reading.  I used Goodreads years ago, but switched to Shelfari when I wanted to have a widget on my blog to show what I have been reading.  Over this time, Goodreads came up with that widget I was missing and a lot of other really cool features that make it the best place for book nerds to go!

When I first started my account I was a bit overwhelmed. I didn’t want to lose the books I had tracked in Shelfari. I was able to import my list, but 7 of them didn’t transfer and I couldn’t figure out which ones they were so I got over it and moved on. Then I was amazed by how many different shelves people create in their accounts and had to make a decision.  Am I book nerdish enough to create a shelf for each genre? The Book Whisperer would (and does) so she can easily refer back to it to help students find books, but it’s not ultimately my role each day as principal to do so.  I decided to stick with the 3 main shelves you are given–read, currently reading, and to-read. I added 2 additional shelves: Professional ed books and Books I read with my sons.  We’ll see in 2013 if I change my mind and decide to add other shelves…you can do that whenever you want!
When it comes to reading I am notorious for having several books going at one time. Ok, not at one moment in time, but you know what I mean…a book at my home desk, a book at my office desk, a book on my kindle, then quickly purchase a book from amazon that someone tweeted out for a book study.  Whenever I see a book title recommended by someone I respect greatly on twitter I go out and get it immediately and start reading. It’s time to get control of myself and utilize the to-read function on Goodreads.  I love how you can continue to add titles and then easily change the order they appear in.  
A few other features I’ve already been enjoying about Goodreads…
*You can enter your goal # of books to read for 2013 and will keep track of your progress as you update your books read.  I’ve added this as a widget on the right side of my blog.  Here’s what it looks like:
*When I am logged in I see the updates of any of my Goodreads friends. This lets me see whatever they have just added to their bookshelves or To-Read lists.  I’ve already found myself adding books to my To-Read list thanks to my friends.  Here’s a small screenshot of what this looks like:
*I am just beginning to explore the Groups and Discussions feature.  In discussions you can see what others have written on books and you can add to the discussion.  You can also join a group that looks similar to any other type of message board that people subscribe to.  I was invited to join the following group:
The only issue I have encountered with Goodreads is that when I first set up my account, I used the option to start an account using my Twitter account. Makes sense, since I planned to tweet about it anyways, right?  Unfortunately, Goodreads hasn’t fully figured this feature out yet, because I can’t update all of my profile or change my password. When I try, I get this message:
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It won’t take my Twitter password  and it only gives an option to confirm with Facebook…even though they let me use Twitter to start my account! Very confusing. You can also not login to the iPad app using Goodreads if you started your account through Twitter. I’m hoping it gets fixed soon, but I’m still using it now just going through the browser. 
If you’re wondering, “how on Earth do you have time for this?”  I spent an hour or two (off and on) exploring Goodreads on New Year’s Eve to find all this stuff. Now each day I just check in before bed to update my current reading progress and if I have time, see what other people’s updates are. 
There are so many great features to Goodreads that I’m still learning about. Please let me know if you have something to share and help me out!

My Reading Resolutions for 2013

For 2011 I read 26 books and then almost doubled it this past year with a total of 51 books. Out of that 51, 30 were fiction and 21 were non-fiction.  These titles included professional education books, novels for personal enjoyment, parenting books and chapter books I read to my 6 year-old.  As I’ve previously written in THIS POST I have learned that the more fiction I read, the more I enjoy reading and the more I end up reading.


My Reading Resolutions for 2013 are:
1. Use Goodreads to track my reading.  I’ve been convinced by Donalyn Miller to use Goodreads to track my books, keep a to-read list, and connect with others on books I’m reading. I spent time today exploring this site and can already feel a blog post coming on about how neat it is!
2. Have family “Read-to-Self” time with my kids. Read-to-Self is one of the components of Daily5 in our school that my son is familiar with.  This will be a chunk of time (at least 15 minutes, because that’s all he can handle right now) that he can read whatever he wants (not to me) while I also read myself.  This will be a win-win for both of us! (I realize I did say kids plural–I’m hoping that the 2 year-old can be quiet that long looking at books or listening to books on the iPad).
3. Read 1 professional book a month I will probably end up reading more, but I want to focus on reading more fiction so I’m not so boring!
4. Read 280 books. I’m not as crazy as I sound, I swear!  As I was exploring Goodreads today, my son thought it was cool and asked if we could keep track of the books I read to him (and his brother) on there too, so out of the 280 goal, I expect 225 to be for picture books and 55 to be for novels, professional books, and kids’ chapter books.