Reading with Meaning

Winston Churchill once said, "I am always ready to learn although I do not always like being taught."  This quote resonates with me as I dive into Reading with Meaning by Debbie Miller.
 Click Image to Preview Online
My previous Professional Development (PD) provided training with most of Debbie's first chapter entitled, Guiding Principles. I was eager to learn the content presented; However, the PD hadn't provided the level of instruction to make it meaningful to me.

Debbie Miller reaches into my inner thoughts and connects with me professionally.  She provides the right combination of dialogue and descriptive examples with research. It's her way of guiding you through a calm outcome in which the child learns by example that keeps me hanging on her every word. 
I found this image of Debbie Miller on 1st Graders: My Toothless Wonders' blog where Debbie Miller visited her classroom earlier this year.  Just look at the evidence from Reading with Meaning in action on Miss Mary Beth's walls. 

As I began reading the introduction to Reading with Meaning, I was given a comparison of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and Common Core (CC). With NCLB, comprehension was grouped with phonics, phonemic awareness, fluency, and vocabulary.  Each received equal importance. CC emphasizes high level of comprehension by making meaning.  This is limiting, leaving teachers to determine how to read results defined by common core. 
The monthly chapters include plans for in depth teaching and learning.  Included in the plans are big ideas, summative assessments, guiding questions, learning targets, and formative assessments. 
In the video below, you'll hear Debbie Miller describe new thinking in Reading with Meaning.
Chapter One Summary and Reflections...
Debbie begins her chapter with the principles that guides her teaching and reading comprehension.  In a nutshell, she emphasizes expectations, goals, managing time, starting with trust, and supporting responsibility of new learning from the start. 

Debbie identifies with the pressure to teach programs with fidelity.  She states teachers so often know in their hearts the programs required to teach go against what works best for kids.  Debbie encourages teachers to find balance when presenting opposing points of view by using research and asking questions.
Also emphasized are reading workshop principles.  These include time, choice, response, and community.  This format allows in depth teaching and learning, flexibility, differentiation, and independence. 
The traditional workshop could use a revision.  The format so widely recognized includes...
Mini Lesson: 10-15 Minutes
Work Time 30-40 Minutes
Reflection/Sharing 15/20 Minutes
Why a revision?  Over scaffolding diminishes student energy, engagement and motivation and increases conformity and compliance as stated in the section, Creating a Framework. 
Debbie Miller states, "It's messier nurturing creativity and independence always is - but now the children are the ones digging in, figuring out, and working hard to read words and make sense of stories, content, and big ideas."
Key Point... When stamina is fading or important information has been learned, don't wait for share time or a new lesson.  STOP!  Bring the kids back together.  Address and move forward by sending the kids with a renewed sense of purpose. 
Debbie Miller provides a fisherman analogy to explain the key point above, describing teachers as fisherman and students as fish.  If a fish is caught and held from water too long, what happens?  If stamina is fading, all the fish need to be caught and gathered collectively for a teacher talk to show or remind students of the task before throwing them back into the water.  Fish need more time swimming and less time out of the water to target learning effectively. 
Developing the workshop will take 4-5 weeks for students to reach the full 60-90 minute block of instruction.  Patience and persistence will be needed. 
When planning, focus on content standards and the skills/strategies children need to actively engage with content, construct meaning, and grow their understanding of the big idea.

Debbie describes her previous answer when asked what she was teaching.  She responded, "Inferring" or "Synthesizing" or "Asking Questions".  Looking back, Debbie is surprised someone didn't ask, "What are you synthesizing or inferring about?"  Now when asked, Debbie responds, "We're synthesizing our learning about life cycles."  OR, "We're building background knowledge of people around the world."  The power in our understanding will drive the student's understanding!

The use of essential questions have guided my lessons for years, but when I look back 10 years ago and I used the strategy as an answer for my instructional focus, too.  I'm certain that came from years of using a basal. 

When planning instruction, ask yourself questions like:

What essential questions will guide us to our big understandings?
What are our long term goals?
What skills and strategies will children use?
How will kids demonstrate understanding?
How much time do I have? How many days?

The process seems daunting.  It's not! Think about the big picture, determine the outcome, and ask the above questions. Daily planning happens backwards from this point.  Once you know what to teach, think how you will teach it.  This is widely known as Understanding by Design (UbD). 

Benjamin Franklin was quoted saying, "Tell me and I forget.  Teach me and I remember.  Involve me and I learn."  This sums up why we use the Gradual Release of Responsibility!

The above graphics shows The Gradual Release of Responsibility Model.  I've taught under this model for several years and speak of this model when implementing my interactive journals

In Reading with Meaning, Debbie has the reader make connections to their own learning about various topics.  For instance, how to canoe, play golf, or drive a car.  She says, "If you watched somebody do it first, practiced under that person's watchful eye, listened to his or her feedback, and then one fine day went off and did it by yourself, adding your own special twist to it in the process, you know what this model is about."  She really has a way with words!

In the video below, you will hear professor Jeffrey Wilhelm, of Boise State University, discuss The Gradual Release of Responsibility.  This three minute video gives background similar to that shown in the graphic above!

One point that resurfaces several times in Reading with Meaning is that Gradual Release of Responsibility isn't linear.  We can begin with guided practice to quickly learn where the children are and then model our explicit teaching. 
Teachers need to be flexible in their learning.  David Pearson is repeatedly sourced in Making Meaning.  One of the most profound comparisons came with Gradual Release entitled the "Goldilocks" phenomenon.  We want balance in releasing responsibility: not too much, not too little, but just the right amount.  Needless to say, we should demo less and provide enough scaffolding for students to perform.
The next video is a real treat!  Marten Frazier, a 5th grade teacher from Citizens Academy Charter School in Cleveland, uses Gradual Release with his students.  When you watch his lesson progress, you can see the power in releasing responsibility. 
When you hear about culture and climate for thinking, what comes to mind?  As Debbie points out, creating a culture and climate for thinking is more than the design, promise to each other, or portraits and photographs hung around the room.  It's real communities that go beyond the design and includes the voice of students.
Culture and climate is achieved by forming genuine relationships and mutual trust is established.  Building relationships comes when you teach children how to listen and respond to each other in a respectful, thoughtful way.  This can help foster new relationships and caring communities. 
Modeling how to take interest and ask questions will help build relationships.  Share how you are paying attention to the little things: haircuts, clothes, discussions AND how to ask questions about recitals, family visits, or new additions to the family.  Each of these go a long way to building trust. 
Debbie emphasizes the power of small moments by giving a rock to a student to add to their collection or writing a poem about cats for a little one that loves the feline variety.  Tapping into what drives a student will help the bond between student and teacher flourish. 

The best opportunity to show kids expectations, like listening respectfully, happens when you acknowledge and give immediate feedback.  Ask the students why it's important.  Use their words in combination with your own to explain.  Once students understand what you want them to do and why it's important, the expectation becomes habit.

Debbie miller gives a few teachable moments and how to approach the topic with a gentle reminder!
 Click image for teachable moments.
I'm overjoyed to share this experience with you!  I will be back to share more on the following chapters.  It's my goal to share these experiences as they are implemented with the kids throughout the year, providing meaningful images of plans in action.  I encourage you to pick up the book, read, implement, and share any reflections you may have.  


Shape Monsters (Updated)

Summertime provides the opportunity to refine our teaching practices!  As a creator of my own resources, I work to update these units to ensure expectations are being met.  AND frankly, the clipart available now is MUCH better than those offered in 2011 when I opened my store! 
This post is a visual post with my newly updated unit!  I combined prepositions and shapes, integrating literacy and math for my littlest learners.  If you previously purchased, you can scoop up a copy with the additional 40 pages for free.

A link is provided to my unit in the first graphic!  Stay tuned for new units and updates by following along!  I have links to my blog, blog lovin, pinterest, instagram, facebook and twitter accounts on the sidebar! 

A Modern Teacher Planner! {Giveaway}

Congrats to all who successfully completed another school year!  I envy your ability to rest and relax for the next several months.  I'm still plugging away at the year with 5 full AND 2 half days remaining with the kids. 
As I submit all my documentation and work through end of the year paperwork, I think ahead to the changes in my life, personally and professionally.  Summer is a time to reconnect with mind, body, and spirit.  I also use the extended break for professional development and organize my ideas for the following year. 
How do you organize and prioritize? 
My life is a big list!  I cannot function without a calendar. I'm L.O.S.T without it!  I sure hope I'm not the only one that keeps more than one...
In my current county, I'm responsible for keeping my own plans in the format that best meets my needs. To record my plans and meetings, I keep a planner for school only!  This book comes home on weekends but otherwise remains in class to keep me on track! 

Life at home is literally on rotation.  My husband is an officer and has three schedules that rotate.  Keeping up with Tuesday - Friday or Saturday - Thursday AND Thursday - Tuesday shift rotations can keep life at a consistent bobble.  To ensure we get our two weekends off together, I plan out our personal schedules, off duty jobs, meal plans, bills, and primary graffiti in a personal planner that remains on the end table at our house. 

SO, Who is A Modern Teacher?

A Modern Teacher

The brains behind A Modern Teacher is April, a Texas native.  April taught 11 years with the majority of her years in 2nd and 3rd grades.  She works to empower the modern teacher with resources and simple solutions for both the classroom and home. 

I'm featuring April for her "OVER-THE-TOP" Modern Personal Planners!  There are several different color options to drool over... 
Rainbow Chalkboard
 Black and White Polka Dots

Each planner includes:
• 12 Monthly Calendars August 2015-July 2016
• Weekly Calendars August 2015-July 2016
• Colorful Laminated Tabbed Dividers

The above featured planners are currently sold out.  They will be available for sale on July 17th.  Each planner measure about 1 inch in thickness.  They're printed on heavy white paper that measures 8x9.  The high gloss sturdy front and back covers are bound by copper colored coil binding making it very durable! 

If you are interested in purchasing, I encourage you to sign up for April's Newsletter.  She plans to give updates on in stock planners scheduled for July.  You can sign up for the newsletter by linking here

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Teacher Anchor and Appreciation Freebies

Time is fleeting, precious and irreversible!  Get organized in 2015-2016 with The Teacher Anchor created by Chandra from C. Jayne TeachHer yearly classroom planner is dedicated to making each day count!

There is something magical about a blank calendar or plan book.  The possibilities are endless.  I'd anticipated this perfectly polka dotted, organization tool since researching The Teacher Anchor several months ago.
Upon opening the package, I scampered over to the computer.  With fluttering excitement, rare and short lived during this time of the year, I was suddenly embraced with hope for next year. 

I was eager to make it official!  Within pen to paper, I created perfectly poised doodles and practice my best font formations as I filled in ownership basics like teacher and school information.
I felt the urgency to fill the planner full as I flipped through each page oo'ing and aw'ing. 
The first few pages included parent contact information, volunteer schedule, communication log, birthday planner, account logs, favorite websites, and yearly at a glance calendar.  The placement is key!  Most planners put this in the back.  The Teacher Planner has the information upfront and readily available!
This planner has sections divided by red inserts.  Each insert has a title and helpful tips for the section. 

The first section includes a monthly planner.  My wheels were spinning upon first glance!  Chandra included a  yearly planner that is Simply Brilliant!  The yearly planner is designed to record the progression of common core and state standards.  Planning can be daunting so crossing off this task will break up the planning. I'm confident, the specifics will fall into place!
Have I inspired you to reach for the stars?  If not, stay with me!  There is so much more to learn about The Teacher Anchor

Remember my eagerness to plan?  The monthly planner has been updated with all the important district dates for next school year. Check one for planning prep!

Along with district dates, I will use the calendar planner to order and organize my monthly themes.  There are several pages of notes preceding the calendar each month.  This will be a perfect spot to map out needs and wants when implementing each theme! 
Remember the red inserts?  Section two has a weekly planner.  Pretty standard section for a plan book; However, I've never had a plan book that included the weekly standards and big ideas across the top of the page.  Well done!  Another placement that I find key for planning was a notes off to the side of days.  Normally this might fall at the bottom where I, all too often, overlook.
Section three includes a grade book so let's fast forward to sections I really find useful!
Section four includes the sprinkles on top!  Seriously!  This section includes master copies for progress monitoring and data collection.  The templates a crisp and clean!  You'll receive pre-post test class checklist by standard or skill, common core or state standard class checklist with a place to date attempts and mastery, small group schedule for planning interventions, multiple pages to successfully implement guided reading with documentation, a slamming small group conferencing form, an individual conference form, a sight word tracker for each season, running records, substitute notes and a parent-teacher meeting notes.  Score one for organization, right?!?
I prefer printing over copying so I have to let you know you'll need to take your planner to the copier for multiple uses!
The fifth and final section is the CHERRY on top!  Having the common core standards checklist, with places to record for mastery, made me a happy teacher. 
Something unique to The Teacher Anchor is a professional development log.  A place to record date, type of PD, and hours logged.  Say What?!?  Keeping track has never been so easy!  Following, you have pages of professional development notes, regular notes, and grid paper to finalize the planner.

Each year The Teacher Anchor gets better and better. Here's what's new with the updated 2015-2016 plan book:

- New design on the front cover featuring pretty silver polka dots.
-Sturdier cover made of synthetic plastic which is virtually indestructable.
- Quicker shipping options (no pre-orders, planners will ship within 3-5 business days).
-Binder shell (not pictured) now comes in 12 different color choices.
-Student Data Sheet Pages inserted inside the planner.
-New dividers to help separate each section.
-No 3 hole punch.
Please see more specifics with Chandra's video! 
I hope you are having a perfect appreciation week!

 I prepare a little gift for my team and wanted to share since it was a hit!  I hope you find the tags useful as you appreciate educators this week!  Grab a copy of my tags here!

Click for link to clipart!

In addition to her Teacher Anchor, I am in love with Chandra's other products. They are so beautiful!
To check out more of C. Jayne Teacher Click Below.


Understanding Paleontology {Themed Unit}

This past week was filled full of thematic learning!  Integrated instruction includes a combination of subjects, has an emphasis on projects, goes beyond a textbook, includes flexible schedules and flexible groupings.  Watching students form relationships among ideas and concepts they experience during themed-based inquiry is rewarding.
I do have a curriculum that I use but thankfully the prescribed lessons last only a few days.  This allows for me to plan meaningful instruction that is FASCINATING to a seven year old!

Say Paleontologist!

This past week, I incorporated DINOSAURS into my instruction!!!!  My students embraced me today at recess.  I was told that I'm the coolest teacher they've EVER had! This is a true honor coming from a very short but hopefully long lived educational path!  In all seriousness, score one for the "at the moment" cool teacher.

My young paleontologists needed a work environment!  The excavation site is key for buy in!  Only a few items made this experience magical.  Supplies I used were orange construction tape, a paleontologist sign, a party tent, dinosaurs, a hat and vest!  Party tents are a dime a dozen.  Ask your faculty or staff, I'm certain several on staff have one! 

 So here's a glimpse at my week...
I began with vocabulary each day.  Two words were selected and I tailored my content to support the vocabulary.   

This unit offers several formats for responding to vocabulary. 
Below you can preview most words included in the pack.

I shared a few videos, on day one, about paleontology and paleontologist, Barnum Brown.  The song I'm a Paleontologist was highly requested throughout of the week. 
*Warning* You'll be asked to replay the song!!!
When I introduced my developing reader, I projected the color version.  This was the instructional read. I assisted students blending or segmenting new words.  We used my vocabulary cards to infer or read the meaning of the underlined vocabulary from the text. 

In the days to follow, we continued to work on blending and segmenting, discussing new vocabulary and working on fluency using the student reader! We usually spent about 15 minutes on the developing reader.

The additional reading time was devoted to various dinosaur, fossil and paleontology books, allowing exposure to the topic with a variety of texts.

I prepared follow up activities for each day of the week.  The first day on site, students were enthusiastic and absorbing all the content.  I channeled their excitement for sharing with an open forum, charting their discussions.  Using graphic organizers, students shared all their new learning.

The daily reading content was driven by the featured vocabulary words.  Tuesday I introduced dinosaur and extinct.  After reading Meat Eaters and Plant Eaters, students worked in teams to discuss adjectives for describing dinosaurs.

Please see Mrs. Johnson's site.  She has a creative post and a freebie similar with additional activities to complete.  Link Here
Extinct! What could I use to help my kids understand extinct? Of course, Mo Willems!  Edwina, The Dinosaur Who Didn't Know She Was Extinct is an adorable tale sure to captivate your students! 
Wednesday, we worked with sedimentary and earthquake.  Having the horrific events recently in Nepal, many kids had a bit more background knowledge on earthquakes so we focused on sedimentary.  My sister was able to visit my classroom, volunteering her time.  She called two students over to the excavation site to make a sedimentary treat.  Others remained on the floor working by clipboards.  In an open forum, students discussed the visual of sedimentary layers.  I created a chart, recording the discussions.

So what is the treat?  See picture tutorial below...

Thursday was our highly anticipated, ready to explode with excitement, excavating day!  Paleontologist geared up and took pictures with the "massive" dinosaurs hanging from the ceiling.
The lighting destroyed the pictured effect but the impact was felt.  The kids really loved having the prop on hand!
  Paleontologist Craft from Deanna Jump's Dinosaur Unit!
Link Here for Craft!

I recommend having the kids assist in coloring the backdrop.  They show more ownership of the dig site.  The images below are from last year...

I choose to go big! In reality, the kids take on much of the work!
Determine the number of centers that works best for you.  I prefer partners.  Along with the featured centers below, I include dinosaur books to read and plastic dinosaurs to explore.  I also included vocabulary.  Students record each of the tools in their vocabulary books. Students excavated dinosaur fossils using various tools in the sand.  Each of the following centers provides little or no assistance which allows you time to focus on excavating the eggs and cookies.

The above excavation kit is available from Lakeshore Learning.
Click image below to link.

Lakeshore Learning has another great exploration kit and book about dinosaurs.  My kids were amazed with the artifact and fun facts!

 Unguals and Toenails! Ewww!
 Tyrant Tooth and Toothless Children!

Fingers and Fierce Claws!
The focus words for Paleontologist Day (Thursday) was excavation and fossil.  We began with the same routine from the previous days.  I introduced vocabulary words, read the developing reader for fluency, and introduced a few non fiction stories on topic.  For the remainder of the day, students rotated through excavation centers.

 Students used the dental flossers shown below for a pickaxe.


The following center incorporates writing from many different genres.  I had some students listing facts, others wrote describing sentences, one wrote a procedural paper, while many wrote narratives.  I love that the center always for practice writing in many genres!  The independence came from our combined science/writing lessons...

With district math tests next week, I kept my lessons consistent with the curriculum and provided center practice.  Normally, I would bring in theme to the math instruction!

I merged science and writing during PALEONOTOLOGIST week.  Check your library for a guided drawing book on dinosaurs!  This will set the stage for the independent center.  Follow a quick drawing session, I shared facts from my unit about one of the five featured dinosaurs: Brontosaurs, Pterodactyl,  Stegosaurs, Tyrannosaurs Rex and Triceratops.  Once all facts were shared, I took time to complete a shared writing.  Each day was a different genre for review.  Kid were asked to apply writing from the lesson and practice with their own papers.
Since the informational facts has a few new vocabulary words, I create a short list of five words to review prior to introducing the facts.
I sure hope you love all the featured content!
This item is listed on sale in my TpT store. 
Click the preview image below to link!