Give them words

The further I dig into Regie Routman’s Read, Write, Leadthe more I feel that The 2 Sister’s (also hereDaily 5 and Café literacy 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.

We must know our learners as readers, but, more importantly, our learners need to know themselves as readers. This is where learning management systems such as the Calgary Board of Education’s IRIS are invaluable. Students need a place to reflect on their learning and they need agency.

Translanguaging is not interlanguaging

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:

  1. 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.
  2. When I must have been about 10 or 11 my mom went back to university and read Margaret Laurence’s The 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!

 

Engaging Every Reader Through Multiliteracies: audiobooks, talk-to-text, and video… Oh my…

When I meet a parent for the first time they want to know: can my kid read, write, do math, and get along with other kids? I outline for parents how we use Daily 5 literacy strategies in our class room and students interact with text I many ways every week. In order to be a reader a students needs to read A LOT! In order to be a writer a student needs to write A LOT!

One of my first goals is for every child to love reading, writing, and creating. If they’re not hooked on the amazingness inside text they’ll never see the value in working with it for work or play.

When I suggest multi-literaticies and adaptive technology I am often met with some resistance but here’s my personal experience: I blog on my phone 90% of the time. I dictate to notes while driving a 60 minute or longer commute. I listen to audio books. I read, highlight, annotate, collaborate, create for my masters class mostly on mobile devices. The future is already here. When I signed up for an online masters degree I committed to not printing any of the 100+ pages per week we were assigned to read. I do it all on my tablet and I’m going to argue that most of what readers consume is not actually printed.

Multi-literacies are for every learner not just struggling learners! Knowing how to engage with a story told orally is as important as reading a text. Reading a novel is as important as watching a documentary.

My classroom goal for every student is for them to experience success with text, but I think we need to be aware that text space is changing for kids. I used to pour over newspapers, to borrow stacks of books from the library and to fill piles of notebooks that were destined to be novels (don’t count me out on this one yet 😉

Audiobooks

But we need to be aware that students do not interact with text the way learners did 30 years ago. It is not static. It’s full of hyperlinks, it talks, it interacts. Multiliteracies allow an access point for every student; students who are struggling readers can access texts that would be too difficult to read but that they understand when spoken. They are capable of inferring, connecting, recounting, and otherwise interacting with this text. Students who struggle to read a long text often readily engage with audio books.

Short videos

Creating video responses is another important multiliteracy. It takes a great deal of patience and practice for students to create video representations they are happy with. Students repeat, provide and respond to feedback, revise, and perfect. Video has been a powerful tool in immersion as it allows students to hear themselves speak.

Long videos

Responding by creating is an important multi-literacy for children; when they know their creation will be consumed and enjoyed by others it gives them purpose. Create a book trailer, a puppet show, or an Explain Everything video.

Talk typing

Siri does a lot of my typing these days. I’m a commuter and spend roughly 90minutes per day in my car. This time is precious and I get frustrated when it’s lost but this blog post was composed while driving. Of course I came back later to edit, hyperlink and add photos but the brainstorming and first draft were spoken. For me this is still not a natural form of writing. I still compose quietly and then speak outloud, much like having a phone conversation with Siri, I guess.

Picture rich content

Ebooks arean accessible source of content and web reading takes up much of our time for text consumption. Readers need to know how to handle a text that is rich with images, titles, subtitles, and hyperlinks. What students interact with is no longer a static document and knowing how to interact with it is no less a literacy than knowing how to read a book. Don’t believe me? Head over to Reddit as see how long it takes you to figure out how to access the content you’re looking for.

Web forms

I recently filled out an application for something that I might fill you in on later (or I might not, ’cause that’s the way I roll and it’s my blog) and it required me to do some pretty deep thinking. I completed it on my mobile device. While adults might balk at completing work on such a small space, it’s not foreign to students and the ability to interact with online content is important. Have students create a plicker quiz, use google forms.
To borrow a phrase from Thomas King, an influential writer for me, “the truth about story is story is all we are.” Multiliteracies allow for mutiple entry points for every student to find a way to interact with story and to make their story known.

I would love your ideas on how you integrate multiliteracies in your classrooms!

10 Hooks for Reluctant Readers

 My own darling son is a take it or leave it kind of a reader; he loves to listen to stories, and likes to read, but all thing being equal he’d rather ride a bike, climb a wall, or draw. He didn’t see the joy in reading for fun until recently when he picked up Amulet, which was recommended to me by a colleague, and read for three hours straight! That got me thinking about my classroom reading hooks.

  

Book Pitch

Read a favourite chapter of a novel during your read aloud. That’s all. Sell the book a little. Better yet, have a student create a book pitch for a book they like and give them a minute of class time to present it.

The Highlight Wall

Leave out the books you share in class on a highlight shelf. There is something comforting about returning to a book students already know and love. Keep the highlight shelf down o a half a dozen books and limit the number of days a book gets to be there.

Reread

Especially with younger students,  a return to a book that’s already been shared allows the reader or listener to discover something new. This time let’s work on making a connection. Next time let’s concentrate on the author’s use of voice or conventions.

Graphic Novels

Many novels that are thick, intimidating novels also exist as graphic novels. This allows the reader to quickly absorb the story. If it’s good enough they’ll come back to read the long-form fiction version.

Thick Books with Limited Print

Bad Kitty is a good example as are Dav Pilkey’s Ricki Ricotta books, of a book that looks like a novel but reads like a picture book. It’s thick enough for those students who want to move on to the challenge of a chapter book but are not yet ready for that much text.

Change the Form of Writing

I have found that students who are good readers of fiction are not necessarily experienced consumers of non-fiction and vice versa. Exposing students to new forms of text takes away barriers.

Wordless Books

Wordless books fit into the graphic novel category in that stories are told visually. Reading a visual story is no less a form of literacy than is reading printed words. These multi-literateracies are increasingly important and students are exposed to different kinds of text than students of twenty years ago were. Often words and pictures are so interrelated that it’s important to develop an ease with reading the flow of a page.

Listen to Reading and Developing Multi-Literateracies

Listening to an audio book while following along with the print version is a way to develop that ability to “hear” the words we read. How many times as an adult reader have you heard someone say a word and are pretty sure they are actually pronouncing it wrong because you have only ever seen it in print? Seeing and hearing lows for multi-modal input. And listening alone while responding to literature is an important skill, too.

Read Instruction Manuals! 

Can’t hook a kid on books? Try a different form! Lego instruction manuals, Minecraft hacks, cook books, craft books: all a good way to blend text with images with student engagement and desire to learn about something of interest to them.

Model Reading Behaviour

One of the best things we can do as classroom teachers is model for students what gets us excited. Reading is fun! If we want students to believe it then we have to let them see us do it! Occasionally, spend your silent reading period curled up with a good book alongside students. Talk books with kids in the library as they browse. Listen to what they like about their books and tell them why you pulled the books you did!

Happy reading everyone! I would love to hear about how you hook your readers, too!

Reading Buddies

The best way I ever heard professional learning from our peers put was “steal something good”. It’s always very intimidating to have our teaching peers in our classroom when we feel that we are being “evaluated”,  but sharing something successful always comes more easily. My reading buddy structure is something I stole from @TSpasoff when we worked together #Hawrylak in Saskatchewan. I was always the big buddies and she was always the little buddies.

Each student in my class has a magazine box ($1 per 2 boxes from the dollar store) and each student has a pencil case ($1 ea from the dollar store). I could use plastic ziploc bags, but the canvas pencil cases are more durable and I have used the boxes and pencil cases for the past 4 years for various purposes.

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I spent one 30 minute session with the Grade 4 students, teaching them the routine. I walked them through the routine and modeled with them. The Grade 4 teacher, M. Corbeil, came to my classroom and spent the half hour with my students. After this initial training session, the Big Buddies know how to be a “teacher” for the Little Buddies.

Inside the pencil cases, I have placed flash cards that are leveled for my students. Some begin with letters of the alphabet, some with sounds taken from the “Village des sons” kit, and some are working with the first 100 sight words for Grade 1 French Immersion in Alberta, which I took from @Shannon_Wiebe who has her blog here. (I initially met Shannon online via Twitter when I first moved to Alberta and was looking to make professional connections)

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Inside each box is a pencil case for sight words, two or three books from our home reading program, and a notebook. You might notice that I’m slightly obsessive about numbering my students. That way it’s easy to put any missing pieces back in the right place. When I was a grade 4 teacher, I even had my students number each of the words in their pocket just in case of words that were dropped on the floor.

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The Big Buddies are in charge of running students through their flashcards and know that I only want them to give students positive feedback. When a word is read correctly, the Big Buddy puts a check mark on it. If it is read incorrectly, the Big Buddy reads it, the Little Buddy repeats it, and it goes into another pile for more practice. Once a word has three check marks the Little Buddy has mastered it and it goes home. When the pile of flashcards gets low the Big Buddy lets me know and I refresh the pile with the next level up.

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After working through the flashcards, Big Buddies help their Little Buddies move on to reading the books. Little Buddies are responsible for reading and Big Buddies are responsible for “helping” to read by using reading strategies (sound it out, use the picture cues, what sounds do you recognize).

After reading, big buddies must provide feedback, both by “telling” their buddy and by “writing” their feedback so that I can see it. I have trained the Big Buddies to share two stars and a wish: two things their buddy did very well and one thing they might keep working on for next time. This feedback is valuable for me and my mentor teacher also had big buddies prepare a feedback sheet for parents at the end of the term. My hope is to have big buddies prepare this to share with one of our “Sharing my learning” sheets for parents, which my Grade 1 team sends home approximately once per month.

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Little Buddies are then asked to write and draw about the story that they read that week by using words that they know, that they find in the classroom or that they have in their pencil cases.

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When students are ready for a new book, I have them make the exchange during a quiet reading time – 10 minutes after lunch recess – students know their reading level and are responsible for making the exchange. The books come from the baskets I have organized for our home reading program. I have the good fortune to be teaching in a school and in a classroom with LOTS of leveled books in our reading program. As a part of our home reading, the Grade 1 students take home 3 books per week. There are generally lots of books left over in the classroom to put another 2 or 3 into each reading box.

During the 30 minute buddy period,  M. Corbeil and I circulate, ensuring that all students are on task and giving Big Buddies feedback. So far we have found this to be very successful and we have had very little trouble keeping students engaged. The Little Buddies get good one-on-one practice and Big Buddies get to review reading techniques, modeling and mentoring their Little Buddies.

In addition, I find that the reading boxes are easy for me to pull out if I find that I have a quiet few moments in the class; it’s easy to pull a student and their box and do an intensive 10 minutes of practice.