Thinking Back Thursday: Organizing Record Keeping


Thinking Back Thursday

 

Reading gurus Debbie Miller and the Sisters, Gail Boushey and Joan Moser, are some of my go-to experts when it comes to reading instruction. They are masters at creating a Reader’s Workshop, and their strategies have proven to be essential for many of us over the years. While keeping those strategies intact,  the time has come for a 21st century update.

Reading with Meaning

The Daily 5 & CAFE

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There is no doubt among these experts that the greatest power for teachers in a reader’s workshop lies in conferring with students. The tricky part is organizing the notes you take from these conferring sessions. In her book Reading With Meaning, Debbie Miller states, “I’ve experimented with many different ways of record-keeping, and have finally settled on small 4-by-6 inch notepads that I keep in a basket near my desk. There is a notebook for each child, and every day before our literacy workshops, I scoop up four or five from the front of the basket. Throughout the work sessions, I confer individually with these four or five children and make notes about what I’ve learned about them as readers, writers, and learners. Entries might include words the child wrote on a sticky note, oral responses, a quick running record, and/or strategies the child uses for decoding and comprehension. I also make note of a child’s specific strengths and areas where he or she needs more support. Listing specific examples from conferences and observations keeps my comments real and in context, and puts me back in the scene when I need to refresh my memory. ”

In their book, CAFE, the sisters write, “In this age of accountability and increasing diversity, we need records that document how we are assisting each child with exactly the skills and instruction he or she needs.”  They state that one of the core elements in the CAFE system is conferring: “Children meet with the teacher during literacy workshop conferences to be assessed, to receive focused, explicit instruction, to set goals, and then to follow up on progress. The teacher keeps track of progress on the goal sheet in the notebook and schedules the next conference on the calendar, and the child posts his or her goal on the class CAFE chart.”  They call “the notebook” they refer to a pensive, like the one Dumbledore uses in Harry Potter to keep all of his important thoughts in one place. In their notebook or pensive, they explain that, “Each child has his or her own section of the notebook so that we can easily flip to that child’s name when we meet with him or her in conferences or record notes after a small-group session.”

Debbie Miller, Gail Boushey, and Joan Moser all state that they have tried MANY different ways to keep track of these anecdotal notes–me too! And if you are one of those people who are really organized and make sure that you file each paper in the right spot by the end of the day, you’re probably thinking, “What’s the big deal?” If you’re like me and the phone call from a parent, the lingering student who wants to chat, or the text from your husband distract you before you end up filing that paper with important conferring notes, you are swimming in papers! Enter technology solution . . .

Even if you are one of those people who can keep your conferring notes organized, upgrading to a tech solution will benefit you too. Not only can you keep track of your anecdotal notes, but you can keep recordings of a student reading, pictures, and videos of each child right at your fingertips. Then you can share that information with other colleagues who work with that child.

1-Logoevernote

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There are A LOT of tech solutions out there for organization, and I’m going to share 2 that I have tried with success. Fetchnotes is a great place to start if you are a beginner when it comes to technology. It’s very simple and straightforward, but it will simplify conferring notebooks for you. You can organize your fetchnotes by #hashtag. That means you can create a label for each student like this:

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You won’t have to worry about flipping to the right section in a notebook–just start a new note with #Nani, for example, and start typing. Then move on to the next student by starting a new note with #(their name). You can make a separate fetchnote each time you confer with the same student. When you want to see all your notes about that student, just click on his or her hashtag and name on the left and it brings up all the notes labeled with that hashtag. Simple!

Fetchnotes will let you attach a link or picture, but if you want the power of filing anything (like videos and recordings) in a simple way, Evernote is the tool for you. It is the cadillac of note-taking tools. Even the free version of Evernote gives you more options than fetchnotes. You can set up a note for each student and search for it in a similar way to fetchnotes, but Evernote is a much more robust option. Click here to see the website review from graphite. If that seems a little intimidating, fetchnotes is a great place to start. I still use it for keeping notes at conferences.

Both Fetchnotes and Evernote are free on the computer and on the iPad. Using the iPad version gives you the mobility to walk around the room and confer with your students, which is more convenient than a paper notebook! It also gives you a much simpler way to review your notes when filling out report cards or deciding on next steps for a student. Both tools also allow you to easily share your notes with someone else if you have other teachers who work with that student, or if you are having an RTI meeting.

I know there are MANY more great organizational tools out there, so I started a list on List.ly: Organizational Tools for Conferring Notebooks. Please add a tool to the list, or link with your own post below!

An InLinkz Link-up

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Flip Your Instruction for Daily 5: Work on Writing


Thinking Back Thursday

Students become better writers when they have a lot of opportunities to write, but what if they are practicing bad writing habits? In the Daily 5 reader’s workshop structure (or any reader’s workshop model), students “Work on Writing.” One common way students “Work on Writing” in a primary classroom is by adding to class journals about topics such as ‘My Pets,’ or ‘My Family.’ These are great writing opportunities about common themes that students love, but it is impossible for teachers to give feedback on every piece of writing that students do in this format, and it is unrealistic, not to mention un-motivating, to have students polish every piece of writing. So the result becomes an opportunity for students to do a lot of practice writing poorly. And if no one is really reading it anyway, it becomes like the busy work stapled in packets lying in piles around the room.

As a teacher, I philosophically agree with the idea that students need lots of opportunities to write, but giving them opportunities to write poorly feels like a coach that says, “Yes–keep practicing even though you’re doing it wrong. It’s better to practice wrong than not practice at all.” THAT doesn’t sound right either! The philosophy and research behind the structure of Daily 5: Work on Writing is a sound one, so what do we do?

Because many of our littlest (and biggest) writers struggle with the open-ended task of generating a story idea, Daily 5 classroom journals solved the problem by focusing writers on a topic. But what if we take it one step further — students focus on a topic AND a writing strategy. For example, when students write in a class journal about “Things That Scare Us,” their focus can be on descriptive writing and using the 5 senses to describe what it is that scares them.

Then the question becomes, “When will I have time to teach mini-lessons like this for each class journal?” This is where blended learning has earned a growing reputation for being the answer to legitimate concerns like this one. I used Educanon to flip this lesson for the classroom journal ‘Things That Scare Us,” using the book I Need My Monster as a mentor text.

Click here to see it.

You can also give students a more authentic audience by having them publish their class journal entries on a blog instead of in a composition notebook. This gives students the opportunity to have their writing seen by other classmates, parents, and even students around the world! Just like dressing up for the choir concert performance, students will want to “look their best” when writing for a larger audience.

Click here to see my unit plan for Daily 5: Work on Writing Gone Digital

Education in the 21st century is anything but static and constant, but that does not mean that we should throw out everything we know about teaching. I believe that the Sisters’ Daily 5 & CAFE structures and strategies are solid teaching practices, but I saw the need for a 21st century update. Summertime is a great opportunity to slow down and reflect on our teaching philosophy and teaching practices. That is why I decided to start this linky party called:

Thinking Back Thursday

Reflecting & building on past teaching practices

Link up and share how you are updating your teaching practices this year!

TBA's Ultimate Linky Party

Quick Tip: Use Google Forms to Organize Your Parent Volunteer Sign Up


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I know it’s hard to believe, but it’s time for many of us to start getting ready to go back to school! But you don’t need to spend a lot of time and money printing papers and mailing them to parents (which may or may not make it back to you). Here is a quick technology tip for getting parent volunteers signed up easily and efficiently.  Click here to watch a tutorial for embedding a google form into your classroom website. Click here to make a copy of this form for yourself! Once you make your own copy, you can personalize it for your classroom. Here’s hoping your ‘Back to School’ rush is productive and efficient!volunteering in the classroom: Use a google form

June’s 21st Century Tool of the Month: Google Apps


What are google apps? They include google docs, google forms, google spreadsheets, google presentations . . . you get the idea! Any of those collaborative tools from google that you can access from google drive. You may also have heard the term GAFE (Google Apps for Kids). It’s the same thing, but geared specifically toward students. Google offers school district packages.

I think google apps are absolutely imperative to education in the 21st century. I don’t know what we ever did without it! There are A LOT of great tutorials and explanations out there. If you are brand new to using google apps and looking for a beginners guide to getting started, here are some of my favorite tutorial series:

Tutorials from Anson Alexander

Tech with Jen’s Teacher Training Bootcamp

Google apps also include add-ons from the chrome web store, and more options are being added all the time. This is a really helpful organizational tool for the ease of creating student accounts. When students are logged into their student gmail account, they can access add-ons such as powtoon, voicethread, narrable and automatically set up accounts using the credentials from their account. Trust me, you will be very grateful for that lifesaver!

One of my new favorite add-ons from the chrome web store is fetchnotes. I learned about fetchnotes from this blog post by Teaching With Technology. With fetchnotes, you can add hashtags # to organize your notes in different ways, and you can share your notes with others!

This article from Edutopia, written by Beth Holland, outlines how to apply higher level thinking skills with google docs using the add-on screencastify. It’s brillant! I tried this with 5th graders this year, and they were VERY motivated to do some higher level reflecting!

 

http://blog.techwithjen.com/search/label/Flubaroo

Here are some amazing teacher organizational add-on tools have been added to the chrome web store: flubaroo, doctopus, goobric, and common curriculum lesson planner. These tools will be huge time-savers and help you on your way to becoming a paperless classroom!

Here are some more of my favorite add-ons with links to the chrome web store:

– Class Dojo

edmodo

storybird

Boom Writer

prezi

glogsterEDU

simplebooklet EDU

powtoon EDU

voicethread

pinterest

padlet

dropbox

Vocabulary Spelling City

Khan academy 

Summer is a great time to get to know google apps, which is why it is our 21st Century tool of the month for June. I promise you will find it worth the time and effort!