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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!