Sunday, December 30, 2012

Conferring With Students During Reader's and Math Workshops

One-on-one meetings are the ultimate confidence builders for students.  They’re especially effective as follow-ups to (instruction), when students practice a strategy.  Your undivided attention to each child makes them feel that you care about their learning and will try to help them understand and improve (Robb 1998, 7-8).

What is a Conference?
A short interaction between teacher and student during the work time of Readers Workshop.


 The following may occur:
  •   Listen to a student read aloud or complete a problem to determine accuracy, fluency, and strategy use.
  •  Discuss goals have student reflect on them.
  •   Ask questions regarding what the student is reading/working on to determine comprehension, etc…
  • Demonstrate the strategies of proficient readers/mathematicians
  • Explain the value of using strategies/practices regularly
  •  Reinforce direct instruction done in whole-class settings by repeating a point, such as how to use the Reader’s Notebook/Math Notebook correctly
  • Converse with the student about any problem you have noticed or that the student has identified
  • Make recommendations regarding texts the student might enjoy or benefit from reading
  • Discuss reading habits
  •  Strategize with the student about what needs to happen next


Download the forms I use to confer with Readers and Mathematicians. Both of these conferring forms are aligned with the Common Core State Standards. The reading form considers text-complexity and the math form considers the Common Core Math Practices.





Thursday, October 4, 2012





Government? Why?




Looking for great ways to teach government to 4-6 students? With the 2012 Presidential election right around the corner, many teachers are choosing now to kick off their units on government and elections in social studies.


Keep a look out for my Elections unit- to be posted shortly!















Sunday, September 30, 2012

Facilitate Deeper Thinking with 
Open-Ended Math Problems






Costa and Kallick(2000) say that careful, intentional, and mindful questioning is one of the most powerful tools a skillful teacher possesses. Good questions are open-ended, whether in answer or approach. Open ended questions promote students’ mathematical thinking, understanding, and proficiency. By asking purposeful questions, dynamic learning environments can be created and students can make more sense of math.

One of my goals this year with my fifth grade students was to encourage deeper thinking in math. My reasoning was two-fold. First, with the the new Common Core State Standards, there is a greater emphasis on this. Second, I have a high population of students that are identified as being gifted in math. My students tend to always like to look for the quick or simple solution and they are used to solving problems very quickly, yet cannot explain or justify their reasoning. My colleagues and I have begun using open-ended questions to guide our instruction. 


These questions:
  • help our students make sense of math concepts.
  • encourage our students to find more than one way to solve problems or more than one answer.
  • empower students to unravel their misconceptions.
  • encourage students to make generalizations and connections along with requiring the application of facts and procedures.
  • lead to questions posed by students during their investigations that prompt deeper thinking. 






Wednesday, September 26, 2012


Check Out My Teachers-Pay-Teachers Store for all the resources you see here and much much more!

My Common Core Math Norm posters were Adventures in Teacherhood's highest purchased item this month... Just for that, they are on sale for a limited time




Click here to download
Thinking about Theme and Making Connections

My students have been reading Bridge to Terabithia and using it to discuss emerging themes and to make connections. We have also spent time analyzing songs, such as the one below, to identify theme and connect to the books we are reading.




Use these graphic organizers with your students to analyze subtext and use it to identify possible themes.








Use these graphic organizers to track common themes among fiction texts and make text-to-text connections.









Writing About Reading to Push Thinking

One of the greatest challenges I have encountered during reader's workshop is getting students to write about their reading. The argument my students give me continuously is "we love to read... we don't want to stop." I realize this is not necessarily a bad problem to have. A goal of reader's workshop is to create a classroom environment of voracious readers. At the same time, it is important for students to see how reading and writing go hand-in-hand. There is a big difference between just reading and reading to push your thinking. My students have the just reading aspect mastered. It's the latter that needs work.

I kicked off this part of our "Taking Charge of our Reading Lives" unit by brainstorming the differences between the two kinds of reading. Without prompting, the first suggestion students gave for what Reading to Push our Thinking looks like was using the reader's notebook and tracking our thoughts. The challenge, however, is that students don't always know what to write unless given a specific prompt. My argument against that is the fact that I want them to take charge and write about their reading on a regular basis, without being told to. I found a middle ground: Thinking Menus. These menus, which can be glued right into their notebooks, offer suggestions of things to write about, all of which will encourage them to push their thinking.

<-- Here is an example of the one I am using during our historical fiction book clubs.


Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Historical Fiction Book Clubs:
Beginning with Literary Webs

My 5th grade students are about to begin a second round of historical fiction book clubs. This year, in reader's workshop, students have been empowered to "Take Charge" of their reading and writing lives. The first round of book clubs were more structured and guided by the teacher. This time around, I am really pushing for students to be more independent and more in control. Much of our discussion this year in reading has been on pushing ourselves to think beyond a literal level of comprehension. We have talked about how we read differently when we are pushing our thinking as opposed to "just reading."

Historical fiction texts are complex and often complicated. My students will all be reading texts related to the Holocaust. Something that is going to be very important is keeping track of the story elements. Often with texts like these, students become lost in the story or confused with all of the historical details. To help with this, they will continually build on their understanding by tracking story elements as they read with literary webs. 

Literary webs serve several purposes. I have a very diverse group of learners in my classroom. Literary webs will help students who struggle with comprehension AND students that are ready to push their own thinking. Students will track setting changes, characters, emerging themes, symbolism, conflict (person vs. person, person vs. society, and person vs. self), and power (important with historical fiction).