Monday, July 24, 2017

Dynamic Teaching for Deeper Reading #cyberPD: The Author in the Room

about the author
interactive read aloud

"Your ultimate goal is to help students become inquiring, inquisitve, and indepedendent readers who seek to understand through their own agency."  
                             -Vicki Vinton, Dynamic Teaching for Deeper Reading p. 155

This post is a week 3 of 4 in the #cyberPD community conversation hosted here:  #cyberPD Google Community.  Stop by and join the conversation.

The Author in the Room
It's not uncommon, as a teacher of writers, to think about the authors that surround our students.  We search for books that help learners envision the possibilities of writing.  We pay attention to organization, structure, and crafting techniques that will grow our writers.  In reading, the author is equally important, but I'm not sure I have spent as much time being intentional in helping students to see how the moves the author made help us to understand the intended message.

One of the pieces that struck me in this third section of reading was often Vinton refers to the author.  On page 113 she reminds, "As teachers, our goal should be to help students to develop coherent interpretations that are personally meaningful and supported by the text."  It seems a fine line, but Vinton has me thinking about reading to determine the author's message instead of understanding the story.  In this thinking, more attention is given to the decisions the author made to help strengthen their message for the reader.  What are the patterns the author used?  When those patterns were broken, what did that mean?

Thoughts to Grow
As Vinton demonstrates her work in fiction and nonfiction with readers to help them understand how to develop and understanding of the whole (synthesizing) while noting patterns and details (determining importance), she utilizes the interactive read aloud.  Teaching through the interactive read aloud provides a high level of support as readers (including the teacher) work together to create an understanding of the author's message.  Vinton takes careful steps in determining student need, selecting a text, planning her language and determining the level of support needed in this shared experience.

A few takeaways:

Considerations, Cautions, Concerns
1.  Make the Task Expansive (p. 127):  Vinton reminds us to teach into what students are doing instead of teaching them what to do.  She makes an analogy to the "rich tasks" presented in mathematics.  These tasks allow for different entry, a variety of possibilities for solving, and more than one response.

2.   Develop Reader Thinking Around Author's Purpose (p. 130):  Young readers often have a simplistic view of the author's purpose, often thinking the author is "recording something that happened or making something up to entertain her readers (Vinton, p. 130)."  Vinton reminds us of the importance of helping readers to understand the author's intentional decision-making.

3.  Readers Need to Interpret Before They Can Analyze (p. 131):  Readers need an understanding of the whole before they can start looking at the small pieces.

For the Toolbox 
1.  Help Readers Learn to Attend to Patterns:  "Notice and question patterns, then keep reading with those questions in mind, using them, in effect, as lines of inquiry that lead to the deeper layers of a text (p. 115)." 

2.  Value the "MAYBE" Statements:  "In addition to deliberately using the word maybe to help students stay in that 'Yes and...' creative-thinking mode, try to also use words like could and might when talking about students' ideas (p. 130)."  

3.  Value Confusion:  "Invite the students to see if they notice any places where we might need to figure something out that the writer hasn't fully explained (p. 151)."  (Vinton charts "confused/understand," reminds that being confused helps the reader to see there is something to puzzle out.)

4.  Use Text-Specific Questions:  "Text-specific questions are more oriented toward process than products - that is, they're ot intended as comprehension checks as much as gauges of understanding - and the answers they invite are often not found in the text, which is why I call them text-specific versus text-dependent (p. 156)."  

As we near the end of this book, I'm finding I am wrestling over a few questions:

  • How does this work impact independence?  (Most of what we have seen our interactive read aloud examples.  What are students taking away that helps them to deepen their understanding of self-selected texts with independence?)
  • How does this work look different for emergent, beginning, transitional and fluent readers?
  • If this is a grade 3-8 way to think about supporting readers, what is essential in grades K-2?

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Dynamic Teaching for Deeper Reading #cyberPD: Deeper Thinking (week 2)

"Create a culture of where multiple ideas can exist side by side, without needed to find consensus (p. 105)."
                              --- Vicki Vinton, Dynamic Teaching for Deeper Reading

This post is a week 2 of 4 in the #cyberPD community conversation hosted here:  #cyberPD Google Community.  Stop by and join the conversation.

Building Deeper Thinking
In our district, we use Fountas and Pinnell's Benchmark Assessment to take a closer look at our readers.  Not only does it allow us to look at the way readers sustain their reading by providing a picture of accuracy, self-correction, and fluency for problem-solving a new text, but it also provides a window into a student's thinking by taking a closer look at comprehension within the text, beyond the text, and about the text.  It is not uncommon to find students who are able to talk about their literal understanding of the text, but have difficulty moving to the more inferential thinking required in thinking beyond the text.  It is often challenging for readers to consider the author's purpose in sharing particular information to deepen the understanding for readers.

Thoughts to Grow
In chapters 5-6 of Dynamic Teaching for Deeper Reading by Vicki Vinton, Vinton helps us to think about the ways readers move from figuring out the basics of a text to more complex thinking.  In these chapters, we are able to listen in as she talks with large groups about determining the basics in a text and moving to more complex ideas.  In these examples, the community works together to solve the challenges of the text and come away with a deeper understanding.  The group uses a variety of thinking strategies to understand the complex messages the author conveys.  Vinton shows us the way the basic information (literal understanding) is necessary if students are to walk away with the deeper understanding of the text.  Vinton reminds us, "Readers have to know they're confused or don't know something, and students who continue reading without actively connecting details or being aware of what they don't know often wind up lost in books that are supposedly just right for them (p. 62)."  

Considerations, Concerns, Cautions
1.  Readers Can Get Lost in Books (p. 62):  Readers often get lost in books because they don't realize they are confused or missing important information.
2.  Be Thoughtful About Scaffolds (p. 72):   Be careful to determine the appropriate scaffold, or if one is needed at all.  Scaffolds can take the opportunity away from students to do the work of complex thinking according to Vinton.
3.  Don't Wait Until the End to Discuss Theme (p. 87 & 90):  Instead of waiting until the book is over or just considering what a character learned, open the conversation to theme up as students read so they can weigh new information, the questions they have about a text, and new possibilities as they deepen their understanding.

For the Toolbox
1.  Thoughtfully Select Texts:  "For a problem-based approach whose end goal is meaning, you'll want to choose a text based on two criteria:  Look for a text that's relatively accessible at the word level but is complex because the writer conveys information and meaning indirectly and that presents the specific kind of problems your students could use practice grappling with (p. 65)."
2.  Craft a Teaching Point:  "At the beginning of a problem-solving session, you'll want to offer an initial teaching point that sets students up for the thinking work you'll be inviting them to do (p. 67)."
3.   Notice and Name the Work Students Do:  "Noticing and naming is, thus, a form of feedback --- and a powerful one, at that.  It helps build students' sense of agency and identity as readers, makes the invisible work of reading more visible, and by employing generalized language, turns one student's thinking into a strategy (p. 73)." 
4.   Probe Student Thinking:  "Asking students not only what they think but how they arrived there, [opens] the door wide enough for them to show you both what they're able to do and what they still may need to learn (p. 77)."  
5.   Value Open Ended Thinking:  "Students need lots of time to talk about their reading, not to present ideas as claims as much as to collaboratively generate and grow them (p. 101)."  

By allowing students to integrate strategies as the text requires and remain open to possibilities readers can work toward a deeper understanding of the text.  It seems, in a problem-based approach, there is a seamless integration of the comprehension strategies that support a reader's understanding:  connecting, predicting, questioning, visualizing, determining importance, and synthesizing.  No one strategy stands alone, but instead readers are asked to adjust based upon the demands of the text.  The teachers role is to determine what students are able to do, name it, and look for the next steps needed for readers to gain a deeper understanding across texts.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Dynamic Teaching for Deeper Reading #cyberPD: Week 1 Better Late Than Never

"Considering and constructing an understanding of a text's meaning should be the purpose of reading, rather than practicing strategies or skills or meeting a particular standard."   
                                        -Vicki Vinton, Dynamic Teaching for Deeper Reading

#cyberPD:  Week One Reflection
Well, I'm a little late to the party.  I've been out traveling America's beautiful northeastern states and got a bit distracted.  In this time, I did manage to read the first four chapters of Dynamic Teaching for Deeper Reading by Vicki Vinton.  I'm excited to finally be joining the conversation.

Building Our Toolbox
Having spent many years beside readers, I find myself continually puzzling over the many opinions about reading instruction.  Listening to a variety of perspectives, and being willing to weigh them, helps to provide new insights.  So many people find themselves a vocal proponent in one camp or another.  In my opinion, this is always the problem.  Reading isn't all one thing or another, instead, it is a difficult process that some master in what appears an effortless progression while others find themselves pushing against obstacle after obstacle.  To complicate these challenges, everyone is different.  If there was "an answer" to teaching reading, it would have been discovered long ago, but every reader brings different experience, different strengths, and different needs to this learning process.  Teaching reading is always ultimately about knowing our readers.

As reading teachers, placing ourselves in one camp or another can be a detriment to our readers.  Instead, we work to grow in our knowledge and expand our toolbox to better meet the needs of the readers we sit beside each day.  Reading to determine the meaning of a text requires an integration of skills, strategies, knowledge, and thinking.  "Reading is also highly complex because it involves a slew of cognitive, linguistic, and sociocultural processes that all must somehow work together, often simultaneously (p. 3)," Vicki reminds.  As educators, our beliefs can shape the way we support our readers.  It seems that our goal has to be bigger than being college and career ready, becoming literate matters to our very existence.

Thoughts To Grow
Reading Vinton's book gave me much to ponder.  In this first section Vinton shares her thinking for a problem-based approach to reading.  To me this means entering a text with a sense of inquiry, a willingness to puzzle through and question the meaning.  To me, this means keeping reading focused on the whole of meaning instead of isolated skills.  To do this, Vinton reminds that our focus has to stay on our readers.  We have to know our readers, allow them the space to grow, and provide opportunities that will help in next steps.

Considerations, Concerns, Cautions 
In the first section Vinton cautions about:
1.  The "Skillification" of Reading (p. 5):  the focus on isolated skills and pieces of reading instead of the complex thinking required to determine the author's message.
2.  Over-Scaffolding (p. 10):  Vinton's concern that we may over-scaffold for our readers, instead of giving them the opportunity to productively struggle with the text to puzzle out the its meaning.  (I'm wondering if we over-scaffold for texts instead of supporting readers next steps.)
3.  Reading Isn't Extraction (p. 17):  Reading really isn't just about finding answers to text-dependent questions or staying within the four corners of the texts.  Reading isn't simply extracting meaning from the text, but is instead a transaction between the reader and the text.  This implies that what the reader brings to the text does truly impact meaning.

For the Toolbox
1.  Teach with the Whole in Mind:  "Thinking involves putting the pieces together, rather than taking them apart, [which] allows you to see connections, relationships, and patternss of interactions (p. 4)."
2.  Use a Problem-Based Approach:  "Let the text set the agenda by putting you in a problem-solving stance where you read not to practice a strategy or skill or to answer a text-dependent question, but to wrestle with the 'real problems' these texts pose (p. 11)."
3.  Shift from Complex Texts to Complex Thinking:  "I propose that rather than using problematic Lexiles and vague rubrics that contain circular reasoning, we assess a text's complexity by how much a reader has sto figure out that the writer conveyed indirectly (p. 22)."
4. Utilize the Components of Balanced Literacy (The Literacy Framework):  "For planning instruction focused on readers, you'll want to use variations of the components of balanced literacy:  read-aloud, shared reading, small-group work, and independent reading, plus word study (p. 23)."
5.  Bring Creative and Critical Thinking Together:  "With a problem-based approach to reading, however, we can create situations that position and invite students to think both creatively and critically in ways that will prepare them to deal with the problems in our complex world (p. 36)."

It seems to me, that what Vicki is talking about is putting readers first in our teaching.  Instead of teaching a standard because it is time, a book because we've always taught it, or a strategy because of some preset order, that instead we keep our focus on the reader and provide opportunities for real thinking around real texts.

Monday, July 10, 2017

The Countdown to August's Picture Book 10 for 10 Event Begins

Dear Mandy,
This morning I woke up, looked at my watch, and realized it is July 10th!  July 10th means it is only one month until my favorite school year kick-off event:  Picture Book 10 for 10 (#pb10for10).  I then opened up my Twitter account to find a link to your announcement post, a nice walk down memory lane about how this event began.  You see, I too remember reading your post about the books you were considering for your classroom collection.  I remember wishing I could step into your classroom to see which books you knew had to be a part of your classroom collection.  As we went back and forth about our favorites via Twitter and your blog, we both began to wonder about the books other teachers thought were "must-haves" for their classroom library --- and an event was born.

This year will be the 8th year to take a peek into classroom libraries everywhere and share our favorites.  I'm so excited!  I always look forward to seeing the recommendations of other educators, librarians, parents, and picture book enthusiasts around the world.  I'm sure by now you already have your books picked and your post is nearly written.  (Keep in mind Tony Keefer has had his post written since last year.  He's always ahead of the game.)  True to form, I'm still weighing the possibilities.  I know that in the next month I will change my mind about my topic and the books I will share at least ten times.  Two days before the event I'll be frantically making decisions.  So many good's so hard to decide.

Yes, it's true.  I'm a bit offline right now.  I'm busy enjoying the beauty of the northeast, but know the possibilities of the books I might share continually swirl in my mind.  I'm so grateful you reached out and started this conversation about books all those years ago.  I'm also grateful so many of our friends and colleagues have jumped in to join us in celebration of picture books year after year.

I know you will not disclose your list before August 10th, even to me, your co-conspirator, so I'm counting down the days until I get to see which books you know are must-haves for your readers this year.  I'm hoping our friends will join us once again on August 10th to share our favorites.

Counting down the days,

Here's how you can participate:
  1. Grab a Badge (just copy the URL address of the one above or take a screenshot)
  2. Join the #pb10for10 Google Community
  3. Choose Your Favorites:  All you need to do is choose ten picture books you cannot live without for whatever reason.  In the first days of this event, everyone shared their ten very favorite titles.  This still works.  You will notice, however, that many past participants choose some type of theme to determine their selections.  We'll leave this up to you.
  4. Narrow Your List to Ten:  It isn't easy, is it?  We've seen some crafty ways to get around that number.  
  5. Write Your August 10th Post:  Write a post about the ten books you cannot live without.  Share your post on August 10th and link it to the Picture Book 10 for 10 Community.  
  6. No Blog?  No Problem:  If you don't have a blog, this might be the perfect time to start one --- or there are a million digital ways to join (see post below).  Of course, now with the Google Community it is quite easy to just post your favorites directly into the community without a blog.  We will also be tweeting from the #pb10for10 hashtag.    
  7. Comment:  On August 10th (and maybe for a week --- there are a lot of posts) take some time to read posts from other participants.  Please comment on at least three. 

Pull out your library cards, load up your Amazon accounts, or better yet - plan a trip to your local bookstore on August 11th because you're going to be unable to resist checking out (or purchasing) a few new picture books.  We hope to see you on the 10th!

A Few Historical and Informational Posts:

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

It's Coming! July's #cyberPD Event Schedule

Last week we shared our selection for July's #cyberPD book talk.  We're excited to have selected Dynamic Teaching for Deeper Reading by Vicki Vinton for this year's conversation.  (You can hear her talk about the book here.)  This will be the seventh year for our virtual book group which reads and collaboratively discusses a professional book each summer.

2016:  DIY Literacy:  Teaching Tools for Differentiation, Rigor, and Independence by Kate Roberts and Maggie Beattie Roberts
2015:  Digital Reading:  What's Essential by Franki Sibberson and Bill Bass
2014:  Reading in the Wild by Donalyn Miller
2013:  Who Owns the Learning by Alan November
2012:  Opening Minds by Peter Johnston
2011:  Conferring:  The Keystone of Reader's Workshop by Patrick Allen

July's Professional Book Chat:  #cyberPD
  • Week of July 2nd:  Into & Section 1:  Chapters 1 - 4, digital response by 7/6
  • Week of July 9th:  Read Chapters 5 - 6, digital response by 7/13
  • Week of July 16th:  Read Chapters 7 - 8, digital response by 7/20
  • Week of July 23rd:  Read Chapters 9 -10, digital response by 7/27

How to Participate
  • Join the #cyberPD Google Community to connect and receive updates 
  • Read the selected chapters each week 
  • Respond digitally to each section by the Thursday of the assigned week 
  • Thursday - Saturday take time to reply to at least 3 participant responses

Ways to Respond
  • Respond on your blog and link your post to the Google Community or
  • Post your thinking directly in the #cyberPD Community or
  • Create a digital response and post it in the Google Community 
  • You can also share thoughts on Twitter using the hashtag #cyberPD 


Saturday, June 10, 2017

Maintaining Ownership in Personalized Learning

If you follow my blog, you know I've been giving Pinterest a hard time lately.  I miss being able to socially bookmark with people in my network I trust.  Often when I log into Pinterest I find a bunch of pins this "personalized" website thinks I want to see.

The truth is....they're almost always wrong.

The same is true with Facebook.  Most of the promotions they send my way are often items I've already purchased, merchandise I'd never consider, or links of little interest (don't get me started on virtual school posts that make their way into my feed).  Let me step off my soapbox to get to my point:  the only person that can truly personalize for YOU is YOU. "personalized" learning what we want for our children?

I continually read posts from people who are adamantly against personalized learning.  Their argument is that big business wants to personalize for students.  Like these advocates, I share their concern.  When I see Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg want to help personalize learning, I get a bit apprehensive.  As an educator, I've seen programs where students sit down and the app "personalizes" for them.  I've watched them robotically work through menus with new levels pushed their way.  I've sat through sales pitches in which companies hope to sell content that is collected and given to the learner.  When I think about the way we live, the jobs that will be available, and the possibilities that abound, I don't consider this enough for our children.

Personalized learning, to me, isn't about programs that try to use algorithms to determine next steps for children.  Personalized learning, to me, is personal.  It's learning that allows learners to assess their own understanding, determine their own goals, and design their own learning.  Personalized learning changes my role as a teacher.  It doesn't make me one stop in a rotation of "personalized programming products," but instead shifts my role to a co-learner in our classroom, albeit one with experience who can sit beside students as they design their next steps.  As I like to say, I'm now "coach on approach" for the learners in our community.

Here are a few of the characteristics I see as essential in personal learning:
  • It's Learner Driven:  Learners truly know what is next, set their own goals, and design their own path.  
  • It's Collaborative:  True learning never happens in isolation, but is part of a larger conversation.    Learners know the experts in the room (and outside of the room), reach out to peers for feedback, and have opportunities to learn alongside others.  Learning is part of a bigger conversation that is taking place in the community.  
  • It's Authentic:  Learners have the opportunity to solve real problems, ask genuine questions, and seek new understandings.  They are able to select their own books, choose their own topics, and follow their own interests.  
  • It's Connected:  Thanks to the internet, learning no longer happens in isolation.  Students now have a platform to share their work, reach outside of their classroom, and connect with other learners, authors, and experts.  
  • It Allows for Creativity:  While paper, pencil, markers and paints are certainly still important tools in creating, digital opportunities now allow for new ways to share our thinking with others.  
Is personalized learning what we want for our children?  I guess it depends on how you define it.  If it is spending our day handing students devices with programs that feed information to them, then I wonder as well, but if instead, it is creating learning environments in which children truly own their learning then it is absolutely what I hope we will continue to work toward.  

Thursday, June 8, 2017

In Case You Haven't Heard: #cyberPD Selection

The calendar has turned to June and, as educators, our attention has turned to our bookstacks.  This is the time of year that we can catch up on professional reading, children's literature....and of course a few pleasure reads.  ;o)  It's also the time of year our #cyberPD community starts thinking about its selection for our summer booktalk.  This will be our 7th year collaborating and learning together.

We began, as usual, by sharing our summer bookstacks.  That was dangerous!  It always results in adding more books to my stack.  You can check them out in our #cyberPD Google Community.

By now I know you've probably heard, but just in case --- and because I'm just thrilled about it --- I wanted to share the good news.  This year's #cyberPD selection is....

Dynamic Teaching for Deeper Reading by Vicki Vinton.

If you'd like to participate in our July conversation, stop by our #cyberPD Google Community and join us.  You can also follow the events on Twitter using the hashtag #cyberPD.

Find Out More:

Stay tuned.  We'll be sharing our July schedule and more information in the weeks to come.