Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Important Conversation #AgeOfLiteracy

Kid Sitting with a Tablet

The International Literacy Association has declared April 14, 2014 Leaders for Literacy Day. Twitter conversation will be heard around the world with #AgeOfLiteracy.
Through #AgeofLiteracy, advocates have already shared on social media what they will do to further literacy around the world. On April 14, that hashtag will be used for one-hour intervals of discussion focused on the most important topics facing the literacy community. All discussions will be nonconventional Twitter chats where conversations will develop organically outside of a standard Q&A format. Bloggers are also encouraged to join the conversation!
The conversation on the pre-event Twitter will include:
How to Engage Today’s Students (12 p.m. ET): keeping interest in the classroom while competing with ever-evolving education reform and technology.
How to Take Charge of Professional Development (1 p.m. ET): going beyond one-sided lectures to interactive and cyber-propelled PD.
How to Become a Powerful Literacy Advocate (2 p.m. ET):  what to do in your neighborhood and around the world.

Little Girl Reading a Book

How to Become a Powerful Literacy Advocate
Right Where You Are!

When you think of being a powerful literacy advocate, do you automatically feel overwhelmed?  Where do you start? What does that really mean?

For a teacher, it can mean finding time every day for children to read books that they have chosen and write about things that interest them. Creating a classroom library that reflects the needs and interests of your students. Helping parents to understand their child's reading and writing life, as well as growth opportunities. Joining in the conversation about literacy with their colleagues. It might mean moving beyond the building to community-based projects that support literacy. Teachers that are passionate about literacy can change their classroom, grade-level, building, and community.

For school leaders, there may be a need to develop a belief system.  What do we believe that students need to become lovers of books and great thinkers and writers?  When someone walks in the building, is it obvious that literacy is important? It is vital to have leadership that monitors and supports the growth of reading and writing. Leaders carry the vision of what a literacy-rich school looks like and support all stakeholders as they grow readers and writers,

Parents can be great advocates for their children and literacy. Provide opportunities for parents to get to know you. Help them understand what you believe and how you will teach their children. As parents increase their knowledge about literacy, they become more confident and vocal in their involvement with teachers and leaders. This creates a positive environment where parents are more likely to participate and volunteer at school. We need to break down the barriers that keep parents away. We need to find areas in the community where parents are involved and take our beliefs about literacy to them.

There is a wealth of information online and the ILA is a great place to start your journey to understand and support literacy in your school and community..

Monday, April 6, 2015

Literacy Planning for Back to School in April and May

School Kids at Schoolo

Literacy Planning for the Beginning of School at the End of School!

What can we do NOW to ensure that children have a seamless transition to the next grade and teacher? I think there are some simple ways to make this happen! Let's scaffold our readers and writers and provide them with a great beginning!

Kids Holding a Welcome Sign

*Have students write about what they like to read. Interests surveys are great and you can find those online.  Have students identify their favorite authors and book series.  It may be hard for them to do this in August or September after many have had a summer of not reading.

*Create a book bag for each student and send it to the next grade. Have students choose some of their favorite books, magazines, and articles. Think of the time it will save when they open that book bag (or device) and start reading in the fall.

*Make a list of possible book selections from the library.  This is a time for students to look at their reading goals.  What are their favorite genres? What books do they want to re-read?  What books are a little too hard for them, but they want to read them?  What non-fiction topics interest them?  What have they wondered about this year?  Creating interest for the library will help your media specialist plan.  Share this information with them and see if they need to order more books!

*Complete those benchmarks and make sure students are leveled appropriately for guided reading. The last benchmark should tell next year's teacher where to start!  Be sure to complete each section and create a plan for the student's next steps.

*Analyze student writing. The connection between reading and writing is so strong!  Let next year's teacher know what the writer's strengths are as well as areas of needed instruction. 

*Identify all struggling readers.  This is so important!  If a child is below grade level, then have a thoughtful way of sharing this information with the new teacher.  Send as much information as possible to them.  They need to know what you have tried. What worked?  What didn't work?  

Have you thought about creating a literacy portfolio?  Here are some artifacts to include:
  • Individualized reading and writing goals
  • Spelling inventories
  • Word identification assessments
  • Copies of published writing pieces from each unit of study
  • Formal running records
  • Record of reading progress-benchmarks
In addition to the portfolio components for grades 1-5, kindergarten portfolios include:

All of your hard work will be worth it!  

Children and parents will be less anxious about starting school!  You will already know about your students.

Teachers can start guided reading right away!  Think how easy it will be to form guided reading groups and gather materials.

Independent reading can start on day one!  No more finding books, if you have book bags ready.

Hope these ideas are helpful.  I would love to hear from you!


Saturday, March 21, 2015

Genius Hour

"Talk at me and I struggle to learn. Actively involve me and I achieve. Empower me to lead, and I take my new skills wherever I go."  Paul Solarz

Have you heard of Genius Hour?  Classrooms everywhere are trying this idea and finding that it encourages student excitement and engagement.
It is all about student-led learning environments where students develop confidence, curiosity, independence and collaboration. 
So how do you start this in your classroom and what does it look like?

Chris Kesler is an 8th grade science teacher who shares great resources on his website, Genius Hour.  Follow him on Twitter!
Paul Solarz is a fifth grade teacher in Illinois.  He calls his genius hour "Passion Time" find out more Here on his website. Follow him on Twitter! He has also written a book, Learn Like a Pirate! You can find it on Amazon.  If you have Kindle Unlimited, you can read it for free!

For resources and inspiration:
Genius Hour Wiki- Denise Krebs and Joy Kirr organizers
LiveBinder by Joy Kirr
Read: "Genius hour": What kids can learn from failure, by Emanuella Grinberg, CNN.
Twitter #genioushour

What do students have to say about Genius Hour?

I hope that I have inspired you to investigate Genius Hour, or maybe even try this in your classroom with your students!  I would love to hear from you!

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Connecting Children with Nature

Today’s children and families often have limited opportunities to connect with the natural environment.  What can we do as educators to help children experience and enjoy nature? First, we need to understand why it is so important!

The benefits of connecting to nature have been well documented in numerous scientific research studies and publications.  Collectively, this body of research shows that children’s social, psychological, academic and physical health is positively impacted when they have daily contact with nature. (The Natural Learning Initiative)
Positive impacts include the following:

Supports multiple development domains. Nature is
important to children’s development in every major way
—intellectually, emotionally, socially, spiritually
and physically (Kellert, 2005).
Supports creativity and problem solving. Studies
of children in schoolyards found that children engage
in more creative forms of play in the green areas. They
also played more cooperatively (Bell and Dyment,
2006). Play in nature is especially important for
developing capacities for creativity, problem-solving,
and intellectual development (Kellert, 2005).
Enhances cognitive abilities. Proximity to, views
of, and daily exposure to natural settings increases
children’s ability to focus and enhances cognitive
abilities (Wells, 2000).
Improves academic performance. Studies in the US
show that schools that use outdoor classrooms and
other forms of nature-based experiential education
support significant student gains in social studies,
science, language arts, and math. Students in outdoor
science programs improved their science testing scores
by 27% (American Institutes for Research, 2005).
Reduces Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) symptoms.
Contact with the natural world can significantly reduce
symptoms of attention deficit disorder in children as
young as five years old (Kuo and Taylor, 2004).
Increases physical activity. Children who experience
school grounds with diverse natural settings are more
physically active, more aware of nutrition, more civil to
one another and more creative (Bell and Dyment, 2006).
Improves nutrition. Children who grow their own
food are more likely to eat fruits and vegetables (Bell &
Dyment, 2008) and to show higher levels of knowledge
about nutrition (Waliczek, & Zajicek, 2006). They are
also more likely to continue healthy eating habits
throughout their lives (Morris & Zidenberg-Cherr, 2002).
Improves eyesight. More time spent outdoors is
related to reduced rates of nearsightedness, also known
as myopia, in children and adolescents (American
Academy of Ophthalmology, 2011).
Improves social relations. Children will be smarter,
better able to get along with others, healthier and
happier when they have regular opportunities for free
and unstructured play in the out-of-doors (Burdette and
Whitaker, 2005).
Improves self-discipline. Access to green spaces, and
even a view of green settings, enhances peace, selfcontrol
and self-discipline within inner city youth, and
particularly in girls (Taylor, Kuo and Sullivan, 2001).
Reduces stress. Green plants and vistas reduce stress
among highly stressed children. Locations with greater
number of plants, greener views, and access to natural
play areas show more significant results (Wells and
Evans, 2003).

I don't know about you, but I am impressed with the benefits of exposing our kids to the natural environment!  I want to provide you with a few resources to add this element to your classroom.
This article tells you how to incorporate a nature wall in the classroom!

You will love this post and the ideas presented!

Image result for toddlers nature
Little ones love nature! 

Bing : Reggio Emilia Schools-- love the leaves on the windows! http://www.pinterest.com/search/pins/?q=reggio%20emilia&rs=ac&len=9
How about a Pinterest Search?

Create a nature library for your kids!  Children love to read books about nature!
Images of natural environments, such as jungles, are declining in some children's books, a study finds.

I hope you are inspired to bring nature to your classroom!