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Sunday, November 4, 2012

My Reading Corner

Most fiction books are located on these shelves.  Subject area books are located in their respective areas:  math, language, science, social studies, and writing workshop.  Students simply write down their name on a clipboard along with the name of the book they want to read.

My reading charts hang just to the right of the bookshelf area.  
An easel is actually JUST to the left of this picture.

Characters in Fiction

For the past week and a half my students have been studying characters in fiction.  Characters are critical to learn and discuss.  Characters are connected to the plot and make a good story great!

We have focused on the following:

Character Traits--words that define characters, both good and bad.

Types of Characters--main and secondary, as well as the difference between secondary and nonessential characters.  It was important for my students to understand that the man serving pop at the restaurant counter (in a given story) is not a secondary character, but rather a nonessential character.

Roles that Characters Take--Mainly, we discussed the protagonist and antagonist and how each are super important to the plot.

Characters Thoughts and Action--Why do characters say what they say and do what they do?  This was a fun discussion, and an important one.  Many of my students identified with a character's thoughts and actions, but many also commented on why they would never do what a character did!

Now my students may respond in their reading journals and discuss characters!

I should also point out that we don't have as much to write about for the past 4 weeks due to testing.  Many days of school in October were test days and that meant adjustments to our RW schedule.  We didn't cover as much to make sure that what we covered would count.

**I would love to post my charts but they all keep loading sideways, despite the facts that they are saved vertically in iPhoto.  Some days...sigh...

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Getting to Know Your Reading Self

I believe Lucy Calkins calls it, "Building a Reader's Life."  In either case, we also spent the month of September getting to know our reading selves!  I can't stress how important it is that children be given the chance to learn about themselves as readers.  Consider this:  when was the last time you were asked what books you like to read and the person asking really wanted to know?  Then...that same person asked you to set goals for yourself as a reader?!

This is just one of many questions I ask my students in September.  I also ask (Thanks to Amy Buckner):

  • What is your history as a reader?
  • What keeps you reading?
  • What I know to be true about reading...
  • Books I love!

We also set reading resolutions (A lesson I stole from the Units of Study), discussed how to read faster, stronger, and longer (again...Units of Study), plus learned and practiced the importance of working with our literature partners.

I am excited about the possibilities this year will continue to offer for my students.  I am choosing to embrace the Common Core standards as a way to deepen my instruction and to make my instruction more valuable!

As we worked through this first month we read the following books:

(I'm probably missing one or two..)

We are now reading the following chapter book by the awesome Montessori-trained Lee Wardlaw: 101 Ways to Bug Your Parents.  The lessons we have pulled from this book have been useful for both reader's and writer's workshop.

People have asked, what program do you use for your reader's workshop?  I don't use any one program.  I jumped into Reader's Workshop before it was the "in" thing in my district.  I read Amy Buckner and Frank Serafini in the summer.  I had just finished reading and using the Writing Workshop Units of Study.  I figured that I could do this for reading!  My RW is my own creation.  It is not a curriculum or a program, rather my RW is a framework for instruction.  I use my student's needs to select lessons and guide student learning.  That's how I, "get it done!"

The Genre of a Test

The month of September was a busy one!  In our Reader's Workshop we focused on two main areas--a quick review of the genre of a test, and getting to know ourselves as readers.

Frank Serafini states the following, "When students are familiar with the tasks required by the tests, they are better able to focus their attention and energy on the content of the test and to demonstrate their abilities."  He continues to point out in his short article that the skills needed for a standardized test may be different than the skills supported in the reader’s (and writer’s) workshop.  Think about it, when do you give children a question and ask them to pick the least likely answer or the most likely answer?  Most of the time we are having deep discussions and conversations about text-what we agree or disagree with in the story or article, symbolism, inferring and synthesizing information, and among other things, making connections between stories, articles, and the media.

I agree that we must show that a test has value if our students are to take it seriously.  On my end, we do discuss in our workshop unit all the ways that tests can be useful and brainstorm ways that the test helps my teaching. Between you, the Internet, and me it’s not the test that’s the problem it’s the crazy directions (Really, no water bottles on tables for 4th graders testing for 80 and 60 minutes??) and the way the tests are used.  (Home real estate values, teacher evaluations..)

My unit, the genre of a test, includes the following lessons:
  • Test vocabulary and language
  • How tests are set-up
  • What we know about tests
  • Test reading tips (Using deductive reasoning to evaluate answers)
  • Using the QAR strategy (which becomes a BIG strategy for the whole school year!)

Frank Serafini calls this demystifying the test—it’s an excellent description.  I am teaching the kids it’s just another unit of study!  This year I added one additional element to my mini-lesson, which was to make a connection from the daily mini-lesson to our study of non-fiction.  For example, we do and will use the QAR method quite a bit when we are reading non-fiction.

To read more of Frank Serafini’s short article on the genre of a standardized test go to the following link:

Happy Reading!

Mrs. Perrien

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Running Records revisited...

I'm bumping this from Fall 2011:

I've had a few questions about when I complete my running records.  Simply put, I do them during my workshop conferring time.  My district requires a running record score on all students in the fall and again in the spring.  For my 4th graders this means I need to complete running records by the end of September. (I usually have scores on my 5th graders form the spring; many of them have tested out of the Rigby Running Record scale).

If I complete two running records each conferring session I'm able to have these completed by the September 30th deadline.  If I feel further assessment is needed, I will complete an authentic running record (using a book of the student's choice), an Informal Reading Inventory (My favorite is the Bader Reading and Language Inventory), and usually I will use the QRI site word assessment to get a balanced view of the reader.  I have found the QRI assessments to be useful when my students are reading past Rigby's level 30.

I personally feel that a running record on a 4th or 5th proficient reader to largely be a waste of time.  At that point it's time to move to an IRI or QRI inventory for a useful, authentic assessment.

Fall 2012 Comments

I used the QRI assessment inventory to get a clearer picture of all my readers last spring.  What a difference!  Rather than stating that the student was an above average reader, I was able to more clearly articulate what I noticed in my readers and give them directions for next steps.  I highly recommend using an IRI model to assess your upper grade readers!

Conference deadlines

Conference deadlines are tricky!  Yikes!!  I had planned to submit a proposal to the Michigan Reading Association about presenting once again on Reader's Workshop, but this time focusing on "using materials you have."

Unfortunately, my memory failed me as I was thinking the proposal was due by Sept. 30.  I was off by several weeks and I should have submitted my proposal in early September.

So...a moment of sadness ensued...

Then I realized that I have others to consider!  I've decided to look into the American Montessori Society and write a proposal regarding reading workshop in a Montessori classroom.  After all, this is what I do every day.  I teach in a Montessori classroom.  I use the reading workshop method.

Whatever happens, I will continue to research and refine my study and use of the Reading Workshop method.

Reading Workshop.2012

I've hit the ground running this year in my reading workshop.  We've been so busy!  I'm copying a few comments from a post I wrote a year ago because some of my lessons these past three weeks have been the same.

Here's what I said last year about these early days:

In the state of Michigan students take the MEAP test in October.  We have only a few weeks (approximately 3-4) to remind kids of all the great skills, strategies, and knowledge they learned in the previous school year.  Since I am not a policy maker I have no control over the testing date.  For what it's worth, it makes absolutely no sense to me whatsoever to have kids take the summer off, and then take a test in the fall when they are first back to school.  The test should be at the end of the school year!  At the end of the third grade year, take the third grade MEAP.

But since I am not in educational policy we are taking the MEAP in October.  So that's it then.

This year we are once again doing a reading workshop unit, "the First Ten Days," from the Oakland Writing Project, Eastern Michigan Writing Project, National Writing Projects of Michigan, and the Oakland Intermediate School District.  I really like this unit!  In these first ten days the students study the GENRE of tests--what they look like, sound like, etc.   They look at test language, practice writing test questions, and get to know the test from a practitioner level.  It's very empowering to the students to take apart the test and learn about its construction.

Here's a sampling of the work we did this week:

Doesn't it make sense to study what tests look like?  Yes, it does!!

After we talk about what tests look like we talk about how to make them easier to take.  This is only one of our test reading tips posters.

Finally, we look at reading strategies that are useful with all tests.  Here's one we talked about on Thursday and Friday:

The QAR  strategy is one we refer to all school year!  When we looked at MEAP release items from years past we discovered that most of the MEAP questions were either "author and me" questions or "on my own" questions.  That tells us that the MEAP requires us to do more than just read the question and find the answer.
Finally, this year (Fall 2012) we spent a great deal of time on the QAR strategy.  Students read lots of QAR questions and then tried their hand at writing their own using our National Geographic Explorer magazines. I've been incredibly impressed by the work my students have been doing this year in working with informational text.  It's not about the test, it's about informational TEXT, as this type of text is what students will encounter for most of their educational career, and professional life.

Friday, August 24, 2012

The Grand Plan...

I've laid out my plan for my reader's workshop.  Remembering that it is just that, a plan, I share it here.  I'm excited for my workshops to begin!

My Reader's Workshop Plan:


  • Establish workshop routines
  • Learn the genre of a test
  • Getting to know oneself as a reader


  • Launching the Reader's Workshop (continuation from September)
  • Moving into Strategies


  • Reading Fiction--focus on strategies
    • Visualizing, Schema, Questioning


  • Reading Nonfiction


  • Reading nonfiction


  • Reading Fiction--focus on strategies
    • Metacognition, inferring, and synthesizing


  • Reading Fiction
    • Literary Elements
    • Literary Appreciation


  • Reading poetry


  • Genre Study
  • Author Study
**This is a pretty basic structure.  I hope to write more at the beginning of each month as I lay out the month's lessons.  Finally, I am a Montessori teacher.  That means that I will adjust the plan when needed to meet the needs of my students.  That's just good teaching...really!  One final thought, each month's work should build upon the last.

Happy Reading!

--Mrs. Perrien

Monday, August 20, 2012

Back-to-School Resolutions!

Resolution setting is not necessarily my thing, as I have trouble keeping them!  However, I stumbled onto this Back-to-School Resolutions LINKY PARTY (Hosted by Teaching Maddeness) and decided to join in the fun!  I'm more likely to keep these resolutions because I'm making them public on my blog.  

Here are my Back-to-School Resolutions!

1:  My first resolution is to keep the paper trail under control in my classroom.  I'm resolve to PREVENT piles from forming by filing things immediately and using electronic filing whenever possible!

2:  I resolve to keep myself from overcommitting!  I am a full-time teacher, wife, and mother.  I need to keep my focus on my family and my work and say NO when something would take away from my kids, my husband, and my students.

3:  Remodel my master bathroom!  I know this isn't a back-to-school resolution, but it's something that needs to get done and we need to do it this year!

4:  I resolve to keep the focus on work when I'm at work!  It's easy to get roped into hallway conversations and lounge gossip.  While at work I need to be working and keep the focus on my students and their needs.

5:  Finally, I resolve to blog each week about my reading workshop!  :)

That's it!  Do you have resolutions to share?  Comment on this post or link to your own classroom blog.

Happy Reading!

Back to School and Back to Blogging!

I have been absent for several months, yep...I can admit it!  Things really got away from me with work, kids, dance competition, graduate work, etc... I really had to stop blogging.  But I'm back and my reading workshop is also back!

I'm really excited to get back to reading with my kiddos, and working in our reading workshop each day.  I've been focused on setting up the workshop for the past few days; I've been planning for the year, setting up the scope and sequence and picking books for read aloud.

For now, I'm going to write about the books I use to set up my reader's workshop and tell what I love about them.  By no means is this the complete list, I have others I use as well, and other books I've read over the years that have led me to where I'm working today!

Let me begin by saying that working in literature circles/book clubs got me started in reading workshop.  My book club program was already in full swing, humming along nicely, when I realized that my students needed a new format for whole group reading instruction.  Using book clubs and having "centers" wasn't working well and I felt as if we were fragmented as a class when it came to strategies.  That's when I started researching the method of reading workshop.

The following resources have been my guides in reader's workshop:

  • Day-to-Day Assessment in the Reading Workshop by Franki Sibberson and Karen Szymusiak
    • (useful for strategy lessons and small group instruction)
  • Lessons in Comprehension by Frank Serafini
    • (Comprehension lessons)
  • Around the Reading Workshop in 180 Days by Frank Serafini with Suzette Serafini-Youngs
    • (I use this for research on structure, forms for the workshop, a month-by-month plan, mini-lessons)
  • Reading Essentials by Regie Routman
    • (This book has wonderful notes on the usefulness of assessment feedback, and a GREAT section on conferring!)
  • Mosaic of Thought by Ellin Oliver Keene and Susan Zimmermann
    • (Comprehension mini-lessons!)
  • Comprehension Connections by Tanny McGregor
    • (Strategy instruction focus.  Her ideas for introducing each strategy are amazing!)
  • Comprehension & Collaboration by Stephanie Harvey and Harvey Daniels
    • (I use this most for inquiry circles research and apply that most often to my content area instruction and research.  It's a great way to teach non-fiction reading strategies within the context of REAL work.)
  • Notebook Connections by Aimee Buckner
    • (I use this for workshop structure, strategy instruction, the first month [unit] of the workshop...)
  • Engaging Adolescent Learners by Releah Cossett Lent
    • (An excellent resource for content area instruction, with excellent strategy examples.  This book is actually a text I use for my GVSU graduate students.  It's a GREAT book!)
  • Solutions for Reading Comprehension by Linda Hoyt, Kelly David, Jane Olson, and Kelly Boswell
    • (I use this book as a resource for small groups, especially for working in intervention groups for "striving learners.")
  • Conferring with Readers by Jennifer Serravallo & Gravity Goldberg
    • (A focus on conferring...excellent resource.)
Finally, I also use several web resources, including the teacher's college site.  Click on their "resources" tab, it's amazing!  (

Happy Reading!


Tuesday, March 27, 2012

When we talk about writing good summaries, which we do often, we refer to the following chart.  Writing summaries and giving oral summaries are a big focus for us this year!  I have found my students are able to give more succinct, yet thorough summaries when we follow this chart.  All students have this chart copied into their reading journals!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

A few thoughts on structure

As I begin my Reader's Workshop each morning I have a firm structure that I use to begin EACH day.  Let me explain:

My students come to the meeting space (a rug near my easel and rocking chair) with three things:  their reading folder, reading journal, and a pencil.  I don't allow them to bring their books for one simple reason.  They read instead of listen to the lesson!  :)  Imagine telling your students NOT to read, but sometimes it's necessary.

Students sit next to their literature partners, without exception.  This person is the workshop "turn and talk" partner.    I have assigned them partners, thinking of reading levels, attention concerns, genre interests, etc.  Some partners switch often, but I have a few that are static.  It all depends on the needs of the readers.

All students must be able to see the easel.  They occasionally take notes or copy anchor notes into their reading journal.

Journals:  Notes go in the back, work goes in the front.

This is how we start each day:

  • Students come in when the bell rings and begin the day's morning message.  This could be a math review, question generating task, or content area prompt.
  • After 5-10 minutes of work (during which time they must also make their lunch choice, turn in lunch money and library books, etc...the usual morning routine tasks) students do a "Fit with Fred" warm-up.
  • We are now 15 minutes into the day.  After FWF, students take out their reader's workshop materials, find their partner, sit down, and the lesson begins!
Please let me know if you have questions, another way of starting or organizing your workshop, or ideas to share!

All mini-lessons are approximately 12-15 minutes in length or less.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Welcome MRA attendees!

I want to begin this post by saying thank you to everyone that attended my Michigan Reading Association presentation on the Reader's Workshop method.  I strongly believe in this method and hope to help and encourage other teachers interested in running a reader's workshop in their classroom.

For MRA attendees, the following handout link will take you to the handout I ran out of on Sunday.  Sorry!  Within the next week or so I will add several posts to this blog, all addressing components of the reader's workshop.  I strongly encourage you to also check out the following:

To follow most efficiently, please click on the "follow" link to the right of this post.  If you have questions about my use of the Reader's Workshop method, feel free to send me an email ( or comment on this post!

Monday, February 27, 2012

The Hunger Games

I just posted on my classroom blog about 4th grader's reading The Hunger Games.  Some of you exploring Reader's Workshop might be interested in my comments.

Thanks for reading!


Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Today we have a guest post...

What I like about Mrs.Perrien’s readers workshop structure and lessons…

I like the strategies we use to respond to our reading. Some are hard, but some are easy. You can choose to be challenged, or choose to just take a break. Something else that helps my class understand the strategies is how Mrs. Perrien presents them to us. She gives us a whole example about what the new strategy is. She makes it easy for all of us to learn, and trust me, my class needs to learn in so many different ways.

I also like the non-fiction lessons we have. We do a hands-on activity with magazines. Mrs. Perrien gives us a list of questions that we need to find in the magazine. We have so many different questions we can ask which gives us a little freedom to do what we want to in our “non-fiction coding.” We then read our question out loud to our class and hopefully they may have an answer. If not, the question remains to be found…

A third thing I like about our reading workshop structure is how we compare our writing to our reading. That helps us improve on our writing and our responses. It helps our responses because we can respond with a comparison, our book, to our writing, which we call “text-to-self.” It helps our writing because we know what, and what not, to do when we write our stories.

Lastly, the fourth thing I like about Mrs. Perrien’s readers workshop is our genre focuses. We choose a genre from a hat and that’s the genre we will either study or do a huge project on. I like how we have to study each genre so we can learn more about it. I also like this idea because it forces us to vary what we are reading. I like it when I don’t read the same genre books all the time. I like my books to be different.

So although I like so many different things in our reading workshop I have to stop at these 4. I really enjoy reading in Mrs. Perrien’s classroom!


Thursday, January 26, 2012

Reading Non-Fiction

I will start this post by admitting that I didn't plan my literacy instruction very well for January!  Although we are reading non-fiction, we are writing poetry.  Yeah, yeah...we should be reading AND writing non-fiction...but it's working out because the students feel refreshed every day we approach writer's workshop.  They have been so excited about writing poetry!

In the Reader's Workshop we are working on non-fiction text features (some call it conventions).  Here's a sampling of the work we are doing:

While the 5th graders have been creating "show and tell" projects about various text features, the 4th graders are creating these dynamic and fun booklets of features.  We've been using our National Geographic Explorer magazines to find the pictures and examples.  We write the definitions together as a group after we'd studied and learned about the individual feature.

At the same time we are using non-fiction articles to learn more about types of print in non-fiction as well as practicing our strategies of questioning, metacognition, visualizing, schema, and determining importance in text.  My students are becoming non-fiction experts!  :)

For teachers looking to "beef up" or improve their non-fiction lessons, check out this Scholastic link:  I have found some really useful tips at this site.

Finally, a special thanks to Laine, a 4th grader in my classroom.  She let me photograph her features booklet!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Mobile Presentation Desk

We Montessori teachers rarely give presentations in front of the whole class, nor are we usually standing in front of the white board or any board for that matter!  I am perennially forgetting to have all my supplies with me when I do a math presentation in the math section, give a language lesson on infinitives to students who are ready,  or stop to work at a table with three students working on the same Geometry practice card.

I think I have come up with a solution:

In this little "mobile desk" I have post-it's, markers (and Sharpies), note paper, paper strips (perfect for language lessons!) dry erase markers and eraser, paper clips, one highlighter, two pens and two pencils.  When I'm getting ready for a lesson I can just grab the box and go!  How easy it will be to take it anywhere I have to give a lesson in the classroom!

Questioning Chart

This one is thanks to Tanny McGregor's, Comprehension Connections.  It's very straightforward and very helpful to my students!

Monday, January 16, 2012


Asking questions as we kids were shocked to discover we are questioning all the time.  Questioning can be seen as scary.  How often has an inquisitive 5-year-old been told to "Stop!" or "Be quiet" when they are on a "How come?" rant.  Kids don't easily forget all the times they were shut down when they were knee deep in those never-ending questions!

As so it goes.  Kids go to school and answer lots of questions, but when and what do they ask?  I think that's where this strategy comes in to play!  We begin by showing our kids that they are generating questions all the time whenever they are reading.  Every time a child struggles to put down a good book they are questioning, "What will happen next?"  It's hard to put down a great book when you don't know the answer and you have to find out the answer!

Questions in reading?  Begin by teaching your students that they should be asking questions, all the time.  Let's help build their curiosity as readers and thinkers!  Second, sometimes the best questions have no answers.  These are questions that encourage us to think deeply about life and the world around us.  These are questions to ponder.   Third, although I don't require my students to record their thinking about this strategy all the time, I do talk with them often.  I like to find out what they think, what they wonder, what they disagree with, and what they want to do next.

Tanny McGregor introduces this strategy with a great sensory experience, holding and asking questions about a rock.  It's a great idea!  When I read her idea for the first time, I thought of a social studies strategy I'd learned from a education professor parent a few years ago.  Are you doing Artifact Analysis in your social studies classes?  If not, stop reading this and go here instead:  Artifact Analysis has transformed my teaching in social studies!  We use this idea to study specimens, objects, etc., all related to a particular time in history.  There are many options for document analysis and artifact analysis on the National Archives website.

Studying the rock and asking questions is a lot like the artifact analysis, it's document analysis or artifact analysis for reading!  She also suggests bringing in an unusual food, such as quinoa, for students to question and eventually try.  I would recommend bringing in sardines!  All of these concrete experiences get kids thinking about questions!

Questions:  get kids to wonder, question, express uncertainty or confusion, ask what if...  Work with kids on artifact analysis, the work they do will translate into other academic disciplines!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

And so the non-fiction goes!

We are knee-deep in non-fiction in my classroom.  This year is going particularly well!  I will post on this again this week and next week as well.

Students are doing three things, at the same time!  (Who says kids can't multi-task!)  First, all students are learning to apply reading strategies to non-fiction material.  We are currently working on questioning when reading non-fiction. (I will write more about this tomorrow!)  Secondly, all 4th graders are making a Non-Fiction Features and Conventions booklet.  These are pretty neat!   In the meantime, 5th graders are developing teaching lessons based on a grade-level's Michigan GLCE's.  Working in teams, the 5th graders have developed teaching lessons for Kindergarteners, first graders, etc.  Their units are turning out to be FANTASTIC!

Pinterest and Buttons

Wow!  These two things have become addicting!  I have discovered both recently!  Pinterest is an online tool, allowing one to keep virtual pin boards of ideas.  These can be grouped in any way one would prefer.  I have started following the "education" boards and have discovered great teacher's sites with vast amounts of ideas and...FREE stuff!  You should check it out if you're not already on Pinterest, if for no other reason than the teaching tips and ideas!

Buttons are another tool I've started using on my class page.  While I'm not quite down the "I love buttons!" road as some of the teachers I've read online, I have found these to help me remember sites that I want to visit again and again.  If I find good quality reading workshop blogs I'll add the "button" to the right of this page.  Enjoy!

Monday, January 2, 2012

The Reading Log & State of the Class

I don't admit this easily but when it comes to my students completing their weekly reading logs, I have failed as a teacher!  No matter how I collect them, grade them, provide feedback, etc., SOMEONE forgets to fill out their reading log, someone changes a book without checking in first, and I continue to be frustrated.  Of course, there is something in my teaching that isn't going right...and that's okay, because we all struggle somewhere!

Over break I read two things, Day-to-Day Assessment in the Reading Workshop by Franki Sibberson and Karen Szymusiak and the following blog,  Both waxed poetic about the benefits of using State of the Class and made me a believer!  When we return to school this week I plan to implement this idea.  For now we're going to use this in place of the reading log until I reconsider how I want my log to look and what its purpose is in the classroom.

Rebecca Rojas has created a wonderful State of the Class document!  You can see it here:

Take a look at this idea if you're not already using State of the Class.  I plan to update my blog after a few days and share my class results.  I'll let the students post their thoughts as well!


Schema is a confusing word and most people in education-students and teachers alike-think it's a weird word!  Why could't we just say, "thinking" since that's what it is anyway?

So how do we teach our kids to think as readers?  I think the first thing we need to do is teach our students that they are thinkers as they are reading.  Even if they're reading directions for their Xbox Kinect, directions on how to build their Lego Harry Potter castle, the back of the cereal box, they are thinking!

I typically begin my reading lesson on Schema by taking my kids to the back filing cabinet.  They are always so confused and invariably think I'm taking them over to give out worksheets (which I find interesting since I don't use worksheets that often).  We begin by talking about how the filing cabinet is like our brain, it holds files just like our brain holds files-the more activities we experience, the more museums we visit, the dance lessons/soccer games...they all add files to our brain.  For example, every time I learn a new dance step I add a "document" to my brain's dance "file."  Students are totally fascinated by this information and spend the next few weeks telling me every times they are adding a file, or adding a page to the file!  "Mrs. Perrien, when you told us that today about multiples we added a new file to our brain's cabinet!"  **I wish I could take credit for this idea, but I heard it  back when I was student teaching.  To this day I teach the mini-lesson every year!

The next day we continue talking about schema by creating Tanny McGregor's reading salad.  This is brilliant!  Click here to find the directions for the reading salad and readymade "text" and "thinking" tags for building the salad.  (I think you have to scroll down a little bit for the reading salad.)  The book I used this year was Too Many Tamales by Gary Soto.  This book keeps the students' attention and it  has lots of places to stop and think aloud about the story.  As explained in the book I use a bowl and student volunteers put in "text" and "thinking" tags as I read and think aloud from the story.  The most important message we walk away with at the end of the two days is that schema is thinking and we are thinking all the time!

After these two lessons we begin documenting our thinking in our reading journals.  Students make a T-Chart detailing "text" and "thinking" and keep track using their reading workshop novel.  We share thoughts, thinking, ideas with reading partners, in small groups, in large groups...for several days.  Additional mini-lessons include Text Connections, the Concentric Circles of Connections (Again, from McGregor.  It's a way to teach text connections at a deeper and more meaningful level.)  The reading journal response starters for schema include, "That reminds me of..." "I have a connection to..." "I have schema for..." (These are also from McGregor.)  My students are usually most attracted to the T-chart when documenting their schema.

All in all, by the time we are finished discussing schema my students are considering it at a much deeper level!