Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Book Clubs in the Classroom

Do you use literature circles?
Literature circles are a great way to get your students excited about reading. I utilized literature circles for years. Over the years, I found that I needed to adjust how I ran these literature circles based on my students' needs.  I finally found a system that worked for me. I created Book Clubs.

Book Clubs

I called my literature circles "Book Clubs" because I wanted my students to love books like I did with my own book club.  At the beginning of the year, I told my students about how I belonged to a book club and  I explained how book clubs work.  In my own book club, we all read a book chosen by the next hostess.   I told my students that they were going to be a part of their own book clubs. They were thrilled!

How do you run Book Clubs?

Instead of using different "roles" or "jobs" like with literature circles, I created groups with just one person "running the show".  With adult book clubs, the host or hostess usually guides the discussions. My students followed this same example and we had a "host or hostess" each time we created a new Book Club.  That person became the Book Talk Leader.  Each week, the Book Talk Leader would be someone new.  This leader was in charge of leading the discussions and posing questions when there was a lull in the conversation.

I grouped students based on their MAP testing and Lexile levels and I usually had 6 groups going at a time.  Each group would consist of about 3-6 students.  Once I saw the dynamics of the group (based on Lexile) I started looking for books. I would then give each group a choice between several books and they decided as a team which book to read.  I explained that this is how my own book club works, too.

I had a subscription to EdHelper and it had "Literature Units" database.  Just looking under the 4th grade book list alone, there are hundreds of books that have story questions (and high-level, questions, not JUST basic recall information).  I didn't want to limit my book selections to JUST the books that I've read. Therefore, I used these questions and answers to help guide my students in their book talk discussions.  You can also find a wealth of book study resources on Teachers Pay Teachers.

How do you start?

I made a file folder with the questions printed from EdHelper.  I made one for each student.  I distributed these folders at the beginning of each new Book Club session.  Each student had the questions BEFORE reading that would be discussed during the Book Club's book talk.  I had my students look over the questions before reading, so that they could use this to guide their thinking while reading.

I had my students get with their book clubs when I first assigned the book so that they could preview the book and decide as a group how they want to break up the reading.  They knew that they would have three weeks to finish the entire book.  As a group, they decided on how many chapters to read each week.  It worked very nicely.  Then, students read their book during their "Read to Self" time of our reading rotations.  They also had the option to read the book at home, during free time, etc.

We would then meet to have our "Book Talks" each Thursday.  During this time, the students got together and started discussing the book first.  Listening to them talk about the book was my favorite time of the week.  I would walk around during this time soaking up all of the "book love".  At the beginning of the year, I modeled how this should be done.  I "pretended" with several student volunteers that we were sitting at my dining room table talking about a book.  We practiced with the read aloud that we had just completed.  We just talked.

*Did you like the book?
*What did you think of _______________?
*Why did this character do _________?
*Can you believe that he __________________?
*I was shocked when _________________.

I had also given my students "thinking stems" for their Read to Self letters and sometimes I would have students pull these out if they were struggling with what to talk about.

When they were finished chatting, I would tell them to pull out the questions from their folders.  They discussed these questions and where the answers were found in the book.  Sometimes, there would be quite the debate over a particular question.  That is when I remind them that they must refer to the book and "prove it" to the other person by citing the text.

I fell in love with Book Clubs and my students did, too.

Do you use book clubs?  How do you make it work for you?  Leave me a comment and let me know!

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

How Do You Stay Informed?

A few months ago, I was working on a team for my district to research methods and strategies that would provide rigorous, engaging and authentic instruction for our students.  When completing the research, I ran across several articles published by Education Week that were relevant to the research we were doing.

Have you ever started researching an idea and fallen into the pit of the web and wondered how to get out?  That is essentially how I felt when I started reading articles on their website, and I knew that I needed to subscribe in order to stay up to date with current events and issues that we, as educators, face daily.

I turn to Pinterest, Instagram and Facebook for inspirational ideas for my classroom and for teaching tips.  I turn to Education Week to learn more about how we can make a difference as teachers in our profession.  I also turn to Education Week to understand policies that are being implemented.

Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)

Do you know and understand the new Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) that was signed into effect by President Obama on December 10, 2015?  Do you realize the implications for English Language Learners?  With the passing of ESSA, English Language proficiency will now be determined at the state level by their own accountability systems.  This will have a huge impact on the ELL community in our country.  It could be a positive impact if we all continue speaking up for the needs of all ELLs.  Now, we will focus our attention at the state level.

I didn't learn about all of the different aspects of the changes from NCLB to ESSA until finding the abundant information on  Because it directly affected the population of students I serve as an ESOL teacher, I knew I needed to do my own investigating.  In addition to the 37 issues of the printed newspaper, which I love, I have found countless articles on ESSA.  However, what I love most about the website is that it also links videos that answer many questions.  Below is a video I found that gave a pretty clear explanation of ESSA.

If you are interested in learning more about how ESSA will impact English Language Learners, you can also view this video that was shared by the Migration Policy Institute:

Taking Stock of ESSA’s Potential Impact on Immigrant and English-Learner Students from Migration Policy Institute on Vimeo.

How do you stay informed about what is happening in the world of education?  Do you have any more resources to share?

*This post is not sponsored by Education Week.  These opinions are strictly my own.  I just wanted to share with you a great resource for learning about what is happening in education.  

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Quick Tips for Back To School

Have you already hit the ground running this school year?  I've teamed up with some of my friends to give you some wonderful tips for back to school.  I hope you will hop along and check out some easy, QUICK tips that will help you save time, get inspired and ready for the Best School Year EVER!  Not only that, but we are each sharing a chance for you to receive a $25 gift certificate to Teachers Pay Teachers to get your year started right!  Make sure you visit each blog and enter. There will be multiple chances to win and several winners.  It could be YOU!
The tips I am sharing with you are simple ways to help you differentiate your math instruction. Often, so much attention is placed on how to differentiate in reading, but we lack ways to help meet the individual needs of our students in math. But, there are ways to make it work!

How do you differentiate math instruction?
Have you read Guided Math by Laney Sammons?  After reading this book, I knew that I needed to spend time finding ways help students individually.  Meeting the diverse needs of the varied ability levels in your classroom can be quite difficult- especially in math.

One way to differentiate math instruction is through a daily spiral review based on each student's individual needs.  Do you have students who haven't mastered the skills from the previous school year?  Perhaps you have students who lack basic computational skills that were covered 2 years prior. Allowing students an opportunity to complete math practice that is on their own instructional level not only helps them master skills they need, but it also builds self-confidence.

Why should you use a spiral review?
One of the most effective ways to foster mastery and retention of mathematical skills is through a daily cumulative review.  A daily math review should take between 5-10 minutes and should allow students an opportunity to be exposed to skills and concepts that touch all mathematical domains every single week.   Keep in mind, this is only one component of the entire math block, and not the sole method of math instruction. Students also need to be exposed to depth and complex problem solving while focusing on one skill/concept at a time, too.  However, why wait until May to teach any type of geometry?  In many cases, geometry isn't introduced until April or May...and we all know how busy and hectic those months can be.

How do I determine which grade level spiral review to use for each student?
If you are lucky enough to have access to a placement test, you could administer that assessment to determine which grade level your students need.  However, an easy way to determine the level for each student is to look at your content standards vertical alignment and determine if your student has mastered a certain (grade) level.  I wouldn't focus on every single standard.  That would take way too long.  Instead, get a general idea for a student and go with your instincts.  You can always bump a student up or down based on how he or she is doing.

How do I make this work in my busy classroom?
One of the easiest times to have students complete their spiral review work is during your "morning" routines.  Depending on which type of spiral review you use, student are only completing a few questions a day.  However, you can also have students complete the questions during stations, for homework, or as they complete other assignments during the day.

How do I use the information from their daily work?
Use the information that you gather from your students' spiral review work to build your lessons for guided math.  Are a few students not understanding how to find equivalent fractions?  That group gets pulled during Guided Math/ Math Workshop.

If you are interested in reading more about Guided Math/ Math Workshop visit the links below:

Math Workshop: Building Routines That Last a Year

Math Stations...Making It Work

More on Math Stations

Math Workshop Monday

Or, you can simply type in "math" to the search feature on the sidebar of my blog to find more posts about Guided Math or Math Workshop.

If you are interested in checking out my spiral review resources, click on the images within this blog post to find them in my Teachers Pay Teachers store.  Each one has one free week as a FREEBIE for you to try out.  Just download the preview for the free week!

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