Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Informational Text

Most children like to read informational text. If they are interested in the topic, students can engage in this genre with excitement. There is no disagreement that children will need to be fluent readers of informational texts as they move forward in their learning. So, what do our students need to know about informational text?

Google or Pinterest the topic and you will see that the main focus of instruction is text features. I call these the "tricky parts" of reading informational text. While they are important, there is so much more to teach. 

Out goal is to create readers, writers, and researchers. Students must be able to comprehend informational texts and use them in authentic ways. This requires the teacher to model the reading of informational texts and teach reading strategies that will promote reading comprehension. Explicit teaching of comprehension strategies can foster comprehension (Duke & Pearson, 2002). Here is a book that will help you understand the importance of comprehension strategies!

Teachers must differentiate instruction within the classroom. Selecting books on different levels will help teachers meet the needs of their students.   Here is an exceptional article with videos that will encourage you to support all students. Don't forget to refer to the Continuum of Literacy Learning to see what the text demands are at each level. 

Mentor texts are a vital part of informational text reading and writing.  Lynne Dorfman and Rose Cappelli in their book NonFiction Mentor Texts, offer a wide range of mentor texts and show how these models illustrate the key features of good writing. This is a great resource!

I encourage you to think beyond the "tricky parts" and go for the development of the genre. We want our students to comprehend and enjoy a wide variety of informational texts. To authentically read and write about topics of interest. 

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Background Knowledge

A person's background knowledge, often called prior knowledge, is a collection of "abstracted residue" (Schallert, 2002, p. 557) that has been formed from life experiences. 
In the context of schools, background knowledge can be defined as the knowledge students have learned both formally in the classroom as well as informally through life experiences. Previous studies (Alexander, Kulikowich, & Schulze, 1994; Shapiro, 2004) have shown that background knowledge plays an enormous role in reading comprehension (Hirsch, 2003).

So, how do we build background knowledge?

In this article by  Douglas Fisher, Nancy Frey, & Diane Lapp, you will find ideas that will work with students of all ages. It is written for middle school, but the ideas will work with elementary.

"The first step in addressing background knowledge is to determine what core background knowledge (as opposed to incidental knowledge) students will need to understand the new information to be learned. We must ask several questions:

1. Representation: Is the information foundational or essential to understanding the main concept (core), or is it merely interesting but peripheral (incidental)?
2. Transmission: Does the information require multiple exposures and experiences (core), or can it be easily explained or defined using a label, fact, or detail (incidental)?
3. Transferability: Will the information be required to understand future concepts (core), or is the information specific to one topic and not likely to be used in the near future (incidental)?
4. Endurance: Will the information be remembered after the details are forgotten (core), or will it likely not be recalled in the future (incidental)?"

The next step in the process of building background knowledge is to determine the extent to which students possess relevant core background knowledge. They offer several different ways to assess students. I like the idea of asking students to write captions for illustrations or photos. They discuss the importance of vocabulary and how to model new vocabulary for students.

I encourage you to read the article and find ways to build background knowledge. It starts with what students know and leads to what they need to know!

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Reflection 2016

Hi, all you lovely but weary educators! The race for this school year is almost over. You are heading to the finish line!
Now is the time to reflect on the previous year with all of its victories and struggles. Ask yourself some questions and jot down your thoughts.
What did you learn about this year that changed your teaching?
What worked?  Why?
What didn’t work? Why?
How can I use this experience to grow myself as a teacher or grow my students next year?
Knowing what I know now, what would I do differently next time?
What do I need to do to prepare myself to start next school year strong?
Find another educator to do this reflection with you. There is something powerful when you share your best and worst moments! I will meet with my small group next week to reflect and plan. I am stronger with others to surround me on the journey.
Have a restful summer surrounded by friends and family! Try something new and refresh your spirit! I am so thankful for all you do for children and for those who serve them!


Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Online Safety

Our students love to surf the internet at school and at home. We need to teach our students how to collaborate with others and remain safe online. I just finished an online safety course where I learned about Common Sense Media. This is such a great resource for educators and parents. I wanted to share a few of the excellent lessons for elementary students offered on the website. 

Going Places Safely (K-2)
This lesson teaches students to be safe by following rules when online. 
Students will be able to ...

  • discover that the Internet can be used to visit far-away places and learn new things.
  • compare how staying safe online is similar to staying safe in the real world.
  • explain rules for traveling safely on the Internet.

This lesson teaches students how to search for pictures online using the alphabet.
Students will be able to...
  • learn how to search online by using the alphabet.
  • understand how to search for a specified letter of the alphabet on a children’s directory site.
  • apply the results of their alphabet search to create a picture dictionary.

Keep It Private (K-2)
This lesson helps students to decide what information is private and what can be shared online.
Students will be able to ...

  • recognize the kind of information that is private.
  • understand that they should never give out private information on the Internet.
  • learn to create effective usernames that protect their private information.

One of my favorite parts of each lesson is that you can download a fact sheet to send home to parents. They are available in English and Spanish.