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!
How do you keep a year’s worth of inquiry visible?
As we make our way through our year long inquiry, I have been struggling a little with how we can track a year’s worth of learning and keep it present and visible.
I wrote here about the wonder wall, which has evolved over the years. This year, the wonder wall evolved into a project where the entire bulletin board evolved into an augmented reality (AR) target that triggered a video about our reflection. I used the living bulletin board for two reasons:
I didn’t want to spend the time creating an AR trigger related to each image
I didn’t think each learner’s process video would be that different than the others
This resulted in a final AR bulletin board that triggers a video of a class discussion about our process. I have yet to have parent feedback but I’m not surprised parents haven’t really checked it out yet. I’ll leave it up through parent-teacher-student conferences and encourage them to try it then.
But… I have been stressing about taking the wonder wall down because it is physically an AR target. Once it’s gone the trigger is gone. The goal has been to track our learning through a year-long inquiry into connection but I have been stumped as to how to track a year’s worth of work and keep it all visible in a room that has no walls (seriously… one wall is smart board and white board, one wall is windows, one wall is a curtain between my classroom and my teaching partner… which leaves one wall) Enter a digital solution! The solution for now is to print the photo graph which we can keep on our blog and catalogue via tags, post beside the bulletin board as an evolving wall, and, at the end of the year (maybe, maybe, I’m not sure on this one yet) print an AR capable photo album that links back to our learning reflections.
*the featured image on this site functions as an Aurasma target (although, as a technical glitch I have not entirely solved yet, I think you need to follow our channel to view it. We are at: tcevans)
What if a classroom looked more like an artist’s studio?
I have spent a lot of time lately thinking about student agency related to creativity in the classroom. Too often art supplies get shut away in a cupboard, or worse yet, rolled down to the storage room, only to be dragged out for art lessons.
This year, I’m trying something new to me: I moved art supplies out of the cupboard and onto the counter where they are accessible to kids as they need them. In our classroom set up we talked in depth about how to use materials responsibly and, in turn, they are given freedom to use them as they see fit. This means not only are they encouraged to create during art period, but they are also encouraged to use art to express understanding in other curricular areas.
Pre-cut artist trading cards in a variety of paper textures (water colour paper, bristol board, construction paper)
Print making supplies (foam blocks, ink)
Texture plates and stencils
Our “maker space” includes a variety of materials (bits of paper, cardboard, yarn, etc.)
Table supplies include scissors, pencils, glue and erasers
I collected supplies over the years, holding on to bits and bobs forever (teachers are the worst hoarders, aren’t we?)
In preparation for art making, we spend time analyzing art work, being clear that it’s good to critique artist, style, and piece of work. In analyzing work, we have discussed line and colour theory and students picked out shade and tint as being something they wanted to work with.
Inevitably, almost, some students don’t use supplies properly, not out of malicious intent, but because of inexperience with the supplies (there is a technique to using a paint brush…) Students have been good about giving each other constructive feedback about art work how to use and care for supplies. I have been stunned by their willingness to make multiple drafts of work and take risks with technique and colour. We watched Austin’s butterfly, a video about using feedback in building excellence in student and the Class Dojo videos about Growth Mindset. Students have been thrilled to look at the results of their drafts.
We spent a lot of time setting up students to use their visual journals as their own. I often demonstrate something and ask that they try it but then they are free to make creative decisions about their own work.
All feedback is made in pencil or on sticky notes so that students are free to move or erase as needed. I have noticed that many students want a “perfect” draft without teacher marks on it and I respect that.
The sign for me that they take ownership is the number of them that ask to take their work home to work on it or share with parents.
If it matters that there is colour then it matters that there is artistic decision making.
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!
The further I dig into Regie Routman’sRead, Write, Lead, the more I feel that The 2 Sister’s (also here) Daily 5and Caféliteracy structures help teachers meet the criteria of an effective literacy classroom. My own interest is technology-supported second-language literacy, lately with a focus on disciplinary literacy.
Read. A lot.
I always hesitated to do Daily 5 in French and English in my classroom (Grade 3 is the first time students get English Language Arts in addition to French Language Arts) because it felt like too much time “lost” to reading, but Routman suggests that teachers don’t allow students enough time to engage in uninterrupted reading. That being said, the independent reading students do must be supported by the teacher. This is a fine balance; careful monitoring and support of student reading but not so micromanaged that it takes the joy out of it. That is the precise reason I am not a fan of home reading logs – tracking number of minutes and number of titles read in exchange for anything takes the innate joy out of reading. Reading is for fun and for information and I want my students to see it that way.
That being said, I conference with students about once a week about the books they are reading to ensure they are a good fit and that students are aware of and working towards their logical next steps.
Talk even more
In immersion, the cognitive load of students is double: not only are they acquiring the ability to interpret text, but they are also working to acquire a second language. Primary school students acquire language the same way any speaker of a language does (listen to small children learn language – every time I do I remember my love for linguistics). Students need to hear language but they also need to USE language. In our language classrooms, teachers need to ensure ours is not the only voice being heard. He who constructs the meaning does the learning; let students do the talking.
Agency and authenticity
How do you pick your next read? Are you aware of the cognitive processes that go into it? We listen to friends. We browse book stores and libraries. We dig into book reviews on Amazon. Sometimes we catch them in the wild. Sometimes we track our reading using social annotation or social reading sites like Goodreads or the local library’s tracking feature. We as teachers need to provide students with these same opportunities. The purpose of tracking reading cannot be accountability to the teacher but accountability to one’s self and working towards one’s goals. Let’s not forget that the ultimate goal of teaching literacy is to develop students who are able to interact independently with text for multiple purposes.
Translanguaging involves allowing students to access their full language repertoire. Many bilinguals are not even aware that they speak multiple languages. There are simply the words used with one audience and different words used with another audience. As immersion teachers, we tend to tamp out the use of a student’s maternal language in favor of the immersion language. Immersion tends to ignore the fact that students speak other languages but if we intentionally teach them metacognitive comprehension strategies that draw upon their first language student’s literacy skills will be enhanced. We do it in our first language, amassing vocabulary throughout our lives and building upon our understanding of linguistic structures as we learn. We need to leverage this for our second-language students.
A well-stocked library and accessibility options
Learners need access to high-quality, high-interest texts that will engage them in reading. While there is a time and a place for leveled readers, I am not a fan of them personally outside of teaching specific skills. I personally distinctly remember two events in my “learning to read” life:
When I was about 8 or 9 years old, I dug up a copy of W.O. Mitchel‘s Who Has Seen the Wind at my local book mobile (remember the old days when library books came to rural areas on a bus?) because I remember my mom talking about how it was an important book in Saskatchewan. The librarian made me put it back because she didn’t think it was a good fit for me. Crushed, I put it back. I hadn’t actually intended on reading it but on having my mom read it to me. To this day, I have not read that book.
When I must have been about 10 or 11 my mom went back to university and read Margaret Laurence’sThe Stone Angel. I found the book on the bottom shelf of the living room book shelf and settled in with it, reading the book and enjoying my mom’s annotations in the margins. Did I understand it the same way she did? Surely not. But I loved that book.
Just because a book looks like it might not be a good fit doesn’t mean that readers can’t access the story. As an adult, roughly 50% of my reading is audio books. I participate in endurance sports (and for many years participated in endurance commutes) which means that if I want to read, I have to do it while I do something else. One of my family’s favorite things to do on long road trips is to plug in an audio book. While we may not engage in close reading while doing so, we do engage in shared story. If we as teachers know that approximately 10% of our learners have difficulty accessing text, then we need to find accessibility options for our students to engage.
Above all else, our classrooms need to make space for joy in reading! If we take pleasure in books and help our students find the happiness in shared story everybody wins!