Padding down the carpeted stairs
In the morning’s blue light
With my six-almost-seven-year-old
To watch him gleefuly draw back the patio curtain and whisper:
We’re not the only ones awake
The neighbours’ windows glow yellow rectangle cutouts
He smiles and leans in to my shoulder
The rising sun dissolves the scene
* It seems colour has been on my mind these days. This is poem two in what’s turning into a series, I guess. Thanks for bearing with me, dear reader, for using my teacher blog as a writer blog. If I plan to ask my students to try poetry then I should try it, too. I think it’s important for a teacher of writing to be a writer, so I #amwriting
Poetry matters. Jason Reynolds talks here about how poetry can be a gateway for non-readers, those who don’t get lost in the pages, and I finally connected to why teaching poetry might be important.
Jason Reynold’s Long Way Down is a wonderful read for middle-years students. It’s a quick read with a powerful message. I won’t share it with my Grade Threes but it was a good read for me and I think the author has an important point: the text in the book is not dense and I can see how it would be a “gateway book” for reading.
On to the books I will be using this year:
The breathtaking book, This is a Poem that Heals Fish, is about a little boy seeking the definition of a poem who finds that poetry is everywhere if we only bother to look for it.
The final pages caught me by surprise in their simple beauty. Finally, I found a poem I LOVE! And it’s available in its original French, which is a HUGE plus for immersion teachers who work so hard for students to experience original texts in the author’s first language.
While writing, I’m planning to have students focus on colour through mentor texts. The following books are beautiful, poetic inspiration.
The Black Book of Colors is full of descriptive language that invites students to explore colours with all of their senses. Each page has a black-on-black illustration that invites children to explore through senses other than seeing.
Green spends an entire book exploring every shade of green and I’ll invite students to choose a colour using a paint swatch and to turn it into a colour poem. The author, Laura Vaccaro Seeger, has also recently published Blue, which I’m excited to add to my collection.
An experiential exploration that makes the quotidian magical: What Color is the Wind?
Blue isn’t typically a happy colour. But I feel happy when I wear it. So my blue is happy, too. What colour is happy for you?
Poetry is small marvels; The Heart and the Bottle is a breathtaking book about a girl who protects her heart from hurt by bottling it up. Students might use the story to write about the small and large marvels in the world that touch their hearts.
The Important Book seeks what is essential:
Sometimes when students are stuck on finding their own words, it helps to have words in front of them that can be pushed around and rearranged without a lot of effort. I’m going to try magnetic poetry. I purchased a couple of sheets of magnet that can run through a printer and found some words here.
Wordle Can be used to create word clouds, a beautiful representation of descriptive language or try a collaborative word cloud with the whole class using Mentimeter
Finally, Celebrate Poem in Your Pocket Day is at the end of the month. I look forward to sharing beautiful language with students and inviting them into a world of reading and writing through expressive language.
I would love to hear your ideas. How will you celebrate poetry with your learners and use it to invite them in to reading and writing?
My everything notebook took a long time to perfect for my personal needs, but it’s something I’ve adapted for my classroom needs. The everything notebook is just that: a place to record everything. Scholar and writer @raulpacheco has written about his everything notebook here. I would say, draw from example and tailor for your needs. When I first heard of bullet journaling I thought it would be a brilliant idea to try with students but it didn’t work for me at all.
The reason my everything notebook works for me is I know I have one place to keep everything: reading journal, writing, journaling… I used to be the teacher with buckets of notebooks I mostly kept out of student hands because I didn’t like them to get beaten up in desks. Upon reflection, I think students benefit from being in charge of their own notebooks. I always provide some instruction on organizational skills: how to organize a page and how to track work inside a notebook, but ultimately the work has to belong to students and I have seen them become proud owners of what’s inside their notebooks when they are in charge.
The student version looks like this:
Personalized cover: I wanted to buy hard cover notebooks but those are EXPENSIVE! And given that most students go through a couple of notebooks in my classroom, we opted for less expensive but still personalized covers stapled over the store bought cover.
Front: the first pages are reserved for an index. Each page gets a month and each line is numbered by date. As we work through the notebook, students are asked to go back to the index and make a running record of the work we complete.
Inside cover: I printed out a copy of our reading/ writing routines and asked students to glue it here.
Colour coding: I asked students to highlight the top corner of the page: blue for French green for English. As we move through the year I have found that we don’t really need this; we divided our day instead. If it’s before lunch work is in French. After lunch: literacy work is English.
Write: write every single day! Writing is often choice work for my students. I offer a topic most days with front loaded vocabulary and sentence starters, but students are always welcome to write something else, too.
Respond: I try to respond to written work as fast as possible (my goal is 24h but that’s not always possible) and to conference with my writers while they are working and feed forward can make a difference.
Final pages: Students create TBR (to be read) and TBW (to be written) lists. This is to support them in those moments when they want to write but are just not sure what to write.
Personal dictionary: I have found a personal dictionary effective in support of writing routines. Students are expected to add new words to it and refer frequently to it. It is separate from the everything notebook for now.
The everything notebook goes into the book box, which I’ll post about later. As always, I’d love to hear other solutions for organizing in the classroom.
Forgive me, here. I’m trying something new… I have long suggested that explicit vocabulary instruction is essential for students in learning how to read. In her book, Proust and the Squid, Wolfe discusses the importance of developing oral language in support of developing literacy, especially for second-language learners. She was speaking specifically about English Language Learners and I am applying her ideas to my context: French Immersion. My students, most of whom French is a second language, but some of whom are acquiring it as a third or fourth language, participate in a weekly PWIM exercise in which we use an image to shake loose as much vocabulary as possible and then use the vocabulary in context.
I recently had the opportunity to work with a teaching partner to team teach a PWIM lesson that lead into a beautiful math discussion, so I HIGHLY encourage the use of PWIM in support of learning. Mathematical discourse.
I have played with the idea of how to help the discussions from our PWIM work continue to live on so that students can access it later.
As a learner myself, I used CBC’s C’est la Vie podcast to learn French vocabulary. I liked that it provided a single word each week and provided multiple ways of using it. Information presented in English with word use in French. I’m going to try that context here and see what happens with not promises that I won’t adapt it at a later time…
So with that, the first of a (weekly) podcast series for my personal use with my students. If it’s useful to you in your context then I’m more than happy to share.
Bonjour! Welcome to The Value of Wonder! The podcast where we look at new French vocabulary for the Primary French Immersion classroom!
Today we’ll be looking at the word “lendemain”. Lendemain is a word that is used to mean “the next day”, so imagine telling a story in the past… “En vacances, je suis allée faire du ski. Le lendemain, c’était plus relaxe! J’ai pris in café avec ma mère, puis nous avons magasiné au centre d’achats.”
It might also be used in the sense: the day after. For example, if I were talking about a ringette tournament I might say, “le lendemain du tournoi de ringette j’étais fatiguée!”
If I were thinking in bigger terms I might want to use “Pensons au lendemain”, which means, “Let’s think about the future.” In this case, I’m not talking about a day in particular but a general sense of “the days that come after this one”. “Pensons au lendemain” might be used if I were trying to make a big decision… “Je pense à acheter une voiture très dispendieux… un Lambourghini… Mais je dois penser au lendemain… si j’achète un Lamborghini je n’aurais pas les fond pour acheter du café.”
The phrase “les lendemains” might be used to mean consequences. “Les lendemains de ses actions aujourd’hui seront grave.” As in “Les lendemains d’acheter un Lambourghini aujourd’hui seront grave! J’ai besoin de mon café!
The most commonly used way students in primary school will use it is the first meaning, “the next day”. We read the book together, “un dragon sur l’eau” where a little girl goes swimming with her class. She didn’t want to go because the water was cold, but “le lendemain elle est allée à la piscine avec ses amis.”
If you can use “le lendemain” in a sentence to mean the next day, then you will already be a master of its basic meaning. Donc, à la prochaine, les amis! Je vais rendre visite à mon amie vendrendi et le lendemain, j’ai invité ma mère chez moi!
I’ve been reluctant to write lately. I think this is partly due to being mid-masters degree and knowing what academic writing looks like and this blog being a weird hybrid between academic and “hey, friends, here’s what works for me…”
I write partly as a reminder to myself of what works, partly to share and seek feedback from my peers, and partly just because I think writing is fun.
Here’s a feedback strategy I have started to use for student writing, which is the latest iteration of my many varied methods of providing students with feedback over the years. I find this one suits my needs right now and is accessible for my young learners.
Highlighter & sticky notes
I use bright sticky notes with a highlighter in a matching colour. The goal of this colour-coded feedback is for students to be able to identify the error and how to fix it. For the moment, I am trying to stick with two stars and a wish, both of which should be specific. The sticky note feedback is a new iteration of my old colour-code system where I just marked with five highlighters the types of errors students were making without providing much for written feedback.
I have a love affair with coloured pens and many teachers I know do. I always sort of figured I wanted my words to pop out for students so they would find them, but the more I reflect on the purpose of feedback, the more I think pencil makes sense. Students generally want work that looks tidy and reflects their best work. When parents come in and thumb through their notebooks the thing that stands out should be the student’s work NOT the teacher’s. Those with anxiety or a bit of perfectionist tendencies can remove it and have “perfect” final work. My fear was always that students would erase it… “But it won’t show parents what I told the kids…” What is the purpose of the feedback? It’s for students not for parents.
Iris and student process portfolios
As I mark, I keep student profiles open to make notes. This helps with providing students feedback, meeting with parents, and providing next steps on summative reporting like report cards. If the stickies do get lost I have a copy of the next steps for each student, although I don’t take the time to copy everything into the portfolio.
Mark it twice
I have been trying to provide students with this actionable feedback and then allowing them time to respond to it and improve their work. This often leads to a mini-lesson but sometimes the written feedback is enough.
I certainly don’t have it figured all the way out and I’m feeling a bit lax for not providing citations for my writing here… it’s just a personal reflection and nothing more.
Happy teaching, colleagues. I’d love to have your ideas for feedback,too!
“How do you know if a book is a good fit for you?” I honestly asked the question to my class and quickly lead a conversation about how a good-fit book was a lot like finding a good fit shoe. The “five finger” rule was discussed. Then off to the library we went.
And some students still had a hard time picking a book. So I thought some more about how to pick a book. After all, finding a good-fit book is a lot like finding a good fit shoe, but you don’t wear the same shoe to run a 5k as you wear to your best friend’s wedding.
For many of us there is a visceral pleasure in walking book stacks and browsing titles. Being the first to discover a new book with the still uncracked spine or stumbling accross a well-worn tome with someone else’s annotations in the margins. But for many kids, the library or book store is too full of books and overwhelming or a place where magic simply doesn’t live. So we need to support them as a community of readers.
In my classroom, when students read something good they are encouraged to share. We save a few minutes each week for students to read aloud to one another and tell why the LOVED a book. Not for marks. Just because books are awesome and need to be shared. I also stock the classroom library with books from the school library, carefully curating for my students so that there is a little of everything. My goal in the coming months is for my students to take over the job of curating. How should we organize the library? What kinds of books should we include? What do the children in the stories look like? Where are the writers of the stories from? Why should we care?
Ask a friend
In addition to creating formal time for sharing books (we do a breakfast book chat 4 times a year where students eat breakfast together and talk books), I think there needs to be a network of readers built into our classrooms. We come to know one another’s tastes in books and know that Kevin enjoys funny books while Jane loves sweet stories about animals. If you’re looking for your next great read ask a friend.
Keep a list
My students keep a book box and I’m asking them to keep a TBR (to be read) list at the back of their Daily 5 journals. It’s a nice way for them to keep track of what they are reading and what to read next.
Find a topic, character, or author you love
When students are looking for something to read I often send them of in the direction of an author they already know and love or to check out a section of books on a related topic.
Try a new genre
Take a risk! You might find something you love! I always knew I loved wordless books but never considered reading graphic novels. Until I did. I’ll never look back.
Read to learn
Some kids really just don’t get into fiction. And that’s ok. If a made up story isn’t turning their crank how about a good non-fiction or a historical fiction. There are so many to choose from. So what are you wondering right now?
Read for fun
We have to let students read because it’s fun and interesting and not because they will be required to report on their reading.
Use technology and social bookmarking
Social platforms allow for interaction about reading. This is to be used carefully with young readers but they can easily use a classroom “tweet” wall where they share a thought through a sticky note or a quick book talk on a closed website.
Story many ways
I have had more than one student come to me in tears because their ability to decode text did not match their ability to understand story. Wanting to read a novel but unable to access the text they felt helpless. So we tried many ways, finally settling on reading the book with the support of the audio book. This can be an especially powerful tool for our immersion students who benefit from hearing words at the same time as they see them.
Pick a book off the shelf. Turn it over in your hands. Read the back cover and the about the author. Read a sample chapter. Give it a chance, but know that…
It’s ok to quit a book
Please don’t plod through a book you hate. If the book jumps the shark or just plain peters out it’s ok to walk away.
A word about the five finger rule
I respect this general guideline, but that’s all it is. In the end students need to understand that the goal of reading is to understand the text and I’m not sure many of them understand that, haltingly decoding their way through a book that exceeds their reading ability and confidently declaring their level but unable to talk about their book! It’s not about the number! Please let kids love books. When they stumble through it they enjoy it in a different way than when they read it for the fourth time fluently and with expression. I am living proof that I can read a book with fluency and expression and have no idea what the book says… hello bedtime stories. Sometimes I love them. Sometimes I have no idea what I just read… take chances. Read way above your level. But also take chances and read below your level and find a book that speaks to you in another way.
Happy reading everyone! I’d love to hear your ideas on how to hook kids on books!