Back in early September we wrote a post, Keeping Charts Close, about ways to deal with chart clutter when wall space is at a premium and also suggested how to make charts more accessible to kids by using presentation easels and table tents. We were recently reminded of this need for alternatives to hanging charts up in the classroom when we presented a Smarter Charts workshop for the Cypress-Fairbanks Independent School District in Houston, TX where many of their school buildings have open-concept layouts and lots of windows, which means that walls are at a minimum. Combine this with very strict fire codes and you have a real chart challenge. We had brought some examples of our portable table tents and the teachers were thrilled at seeing some possible solutions to their chart dilemma.
Then this past week, several of the teachers in our afterschool specialty group ( using charts to raise the cognitive demand on students) brought in examples of chart systems they use to keep charts up close to their students. They agreed to share them with our Chartchums teachers, so let the sharing begin!
In order to help her EL students remember all that a true story should contain, Isabel Calderon, from PS/MS 5 in the Bronx, made small versions of the class chart and then attached them to construction paper that was folded into a triangle to create a free-standing place card for each table. A simple, quick, and inexpensive solution.
Valerie Geschwind, from PS 59 in Manhattan, found that her Kindergarten children needed lots of reminders when it came to some of the conventions of writing, like spacing and using lowercase letters, so she decided to put these reminders right in front of them as they wrote. She found a creative new use for some old bookends. She printed out copies of the class chart, “My writing is easy to read!” onto card stock and then laminated them. She stapled two together across the top and sides and slid them down over one of the bookends. Voila! A freestanding chart stand for each table.
When it came time for her Kindergarten children to revise their “All About” books, Katie Lee, also from PS 59, decided to make the elaboration strategies she had taught accessible by first photographing her revision charts, then making color copies of them. She then made use of some 8-1/2 x 11 in. acrylic vertical stand-up sign holders (available from many office supply stores). She slid the photocopies in so the signs became two sided. One side gave strategies for how to say more, the other side included tips for adding details by using the senses to describe. What’s nice about these is they do not take up much space when placed in the middle of the table. The charts can also easily be changed out for newer or different ones depending on the needs of the students.
So as you can see, challenging situations inspire ingenious solutions, or as Plato once said, “necessity is the mother of invention.” Thanks to all the teachers who continue to share among each other and we look forward to hearing about more clever ideas that result from trying to help children learn to help themselves.
Kristi and Marjorie
Much of our conversations about charts are about how charts help make our teaching visible so our students understand and use what we are teaching. Developing student independence is a constant pursuit. In other words, charts are for the kids. Right? Of course. Who else would they be for? Administration? Parents? Classroom visitors? Yes, yes, and yes. But as we have been busy launching units, planning and delivering lessons, reflecting on what is working, what is not, we have come to realize that the person the charts are most helpful for is the teacher. Yes, the teacher. And this is why.
A teacher’s plate is always overflowing with stuff to do, deadlines to meet, paperwork to complete. Weekends are spent planning lessons for the week ahead. It is enough to keep anyone’s head spinning. So to keep from becoming dizzy, we suggest planning the chart simultaneously with planning your teaching as a way to maintain focus and clarity. Here is a case in point.
Marjorie has been working with teachers in Van Buren, Arkansas (hello Central and Tate K, 1, 2 teachers!), PS 192 in Brooklyn, and North Shore Long Island (Glenwood Landing) to find ways to help children synthesize their reading and to increase their conversational skills. The challenge was how to plan a lesson that would get children to say more about their books than just what was already stated in the book or just presenting a one-sentence idea like it was a fact carved in stone. After many minutes staring off into space (and a trip or two to the refrigerator) Marjorie started to think, “What might a chart look like that might help kids know what I am trying to teach them?” Thinking about the key characteristics of a good chart made the planning process much easier and helped smooth the way.
The heading is key because it announces the big idea or goal of what you are teaching. It can be a question, a statement, or a reminder. Trying out a few possible headings is a good way to check whether you have a clear goal in mind. For example,
“Looking for ways to expand your thinking?”
“Ways to push our thinking!”
“Don’t forget to say more about your ideas!”
…then choose the heading that you think will grab your students attention and help make your teaching memorable. Marjorie chose to go with a statement because of the strong verb “push” which was what she wanted to challenge the kids to do—to push their thinking. It was also very visual—forces pushing forward.
Type of Chart
Thinking about the type of chart you need is also helpful in clarifying what you want to teach. Ask yourself, am I teaching a routine, a skill with strategies, a process, showing an exemplar, or teaching about a genre? This leads to thinking about whether you are teaching something that requires steps or items to choose based on need. Or do you want some kind of model students can use to guide them. In the case of the “Ways to push your thinking” chart, Marjorie decided she was actually teaching a process that would eventually lead to the skill of synthesizing. Knowing that a process chart might work lead to imagining some clear simple steps: first ask questions about your idea, then imagine possible reasons, then try to come up with some new ideas.
Now, what words to use? Do you want to introduce certain vocabulary or use known words. Will you use these words in phrases, sentences, or as labels? Then consider how you plan to use the words. If you want to repeat these words over and over so that the children begin to chant them, then short phrases might be best. In this case, a lot of prompting would be needed so short phrases were decided upon.
Here is the chart that ended up helping make the lesson clear and successful:
This was also a chart that was used across the day, during the read aloud, reading workshop, social studies, and science because it was a big, huge idea that the teacher knew would need lots of practice to become a way of thinking. It was simple, accessible, and do-able. And for the teacher it took a complex idea, synthesis, and helped make it crystal clear to both teacher and students alike.
Here are a couple more charts that helped the teacher plan lessons that were explicit and clear. The charts also made the planning easier and kept the teacher focused as she implemented the lessons.
Using charts as a planning tool, no matter what the subject, will help make planning simpler and more effective because it will help you, the teacher, focus and help keep your main goals always in sight. So perhaps the chart does come before the teaching. Let us know what you think.
Until next time, happy charting!
Marjorie & Kristi
Happy New Year! It’s been a while, we know, but we are back and so appreciate your sticking with us through our absence! As happens, life happened, and the hiatus gave us a chance to get some things in order. Actually, it was because of life that Kristi had to miss a few days with her kindergarten class which got her really thinking about how important independence, routine, and expectations are for children. No one loves the day after a substitute, and that feeling forced Kristi to ask: “What do I ‘own’ in the classroom and what do the children ‘own’?” This lead her to explore this question with her colleagues and we are all the fortunate recipients of all they tried.
Charts and tools are one way we look to transfer ownership over to children, as well as to provide opportunities for self-reflection and goal setting. The teacher can not be the regulator, corrector, and director at all times. Children learn to become responsible when given responsibility. With this in mind, Kristi and her colleagues dove in using that idea as a guiding principle. Below are some of the things that resulted from this inquiry.
Helping Reading Workshop Become More Independent
Self-assessment is a tricky thing – for adults too! – and so creating a rubric that would help kindergarten children assess their reading time seemed like a daunting challenge. Kristi first tried this:
Almost every child immediately selected “Superhero,” with a few exceptions who labeled themselves as strong. Kristi realized that self-assessment without some practice was going to be hard, so then she created this chart with her class:
To make it even more concrete, the class decided that more than 3 reminders from the teacher to read books would make it an “okay” day. Between 1 and 3 teacher reminders would make it “strong” and no reminders would make it a “superhero” kind of day. Alongside this chart was a chart that listed ways to stick with reading even when you felt tired or hungry. After a week or two of group assessment, children were ready to self-assess with more honest, reflective results.
This time of year is also the time when many teachers are working on partnerships. The always wise team of kindergarten teachers that Kristi works alongside at PS 59 in Manhattan developed some playful tools to help partners be productive and stay engaged.
The folder made partnerships feel a bit like a game and the partner activities inside were taught a few at a time, then the process of working with a partner was revisited throughout the unit.
Helping Writing Workshop Become More Independent
Kristi’s mom, who was a teacher for many years, always advised her to “teach yourself out of a job”. It is a beautiful concept, but one that can feel frustrating when you have 24 five year olds clamoring for your care and attention. Kristi used her all about unit in writing (a genre many of her children had been dabbling with since September) to teach towards independence. This happened in several ways. First, Kristi stopped teaching children how to write, and started teaching them how to teach each other. Children who had experimented with something that would be great for the whole class to know were invited to teach alongside Kristi during some minilessons. Then the class reflected on who they learned from, what the apprentice teachers did to teach them, and how they did it. The chart below shows how Kristi made this public with her students.
After that, Kristi started getting children ready to lead small groups. She selected a few children who had something they could teach and met with them in a small group. The first step was to identify HOW to teach. The children thought through WHEN writers should do what they did and HOW to do what they did. Then the other students signed up for these student led seminars (keep in mind that these are Kindergarten students).
The “teachers” showed their own work and taught the others how to do it. Kristi coached in to the seminar teachers with prompts like, “Ask her to try it” and “Say your steps again.” It was incredible to see how the children rose to the occasion of being teachers, and how much more likely children were to use what they were taught when it was presented by a peer. Was it perfect? Absolutely not, but it was a start. Kristi is planning to do student-led seminar workshops every Friday, starting with writing and extending to reading and choice time over the next month. She’ll keep you posted on how it goes!
Making Choice Time Matter
Kristi’s brilliant assistant principal, Alison Porcelli, wrote the book on choice time – literally – with Cheryl Tyler. It’s called Language Acquisition in the Choice Time Workshop and everyone should buy it and read it RIGHT NOW. One BIG idea in the book is that children should be setting goals and reflecting on them within choice time. Since Kristi’s kindergarteners are staying in the same centers for 3-5 days, they were ready to take this on. First planning a project was modeled, and then the children took it on. Goals ranged from building on to a city in the block center to throwing a wedding in the drama center. Art center caught wedding fever and decided to spend the week making decorations, cakes, and clothes for the event.
This hung in their center while they worked. At the end of the week they told Kristi what to take a picture of to show how they had met their project goal.
Kristi’s next step is to hand the camera to the children so they can capture the work they did that meets their project goals.
A Final Word
This has all been messy and, at times, terrifying – but it has always, always been fun. Kristi’s colleagues at PS 59 have put their brains together to develop ideas, put themselves out there to try it, and laughed when the results were a disaster (most of the disasters were happening in Kristi’s room). Kristi cannot say enough about the brilliant team she works with: Kathryn Cazes, Valerie Geschwind, Mollie Gaffney, Katie Lee and Andrea Mackoff who are incredible teachers and incredible people. Anything you see here that catches your eye was always the result of a team effort, and Kristi wishes to thank them for letting her share them all with the world. Thanks guys!
Grab your team close and dive in! Until next time, Happy Charting!
Kristine Mraz and Marjorie Martinelli
Kathryn Cazes is the type of teacher that you read about in articles and say, “There is no human teacher who can possibly know that much and do that much for her students.” Well, Kathryn Cazes can and does. Kathryn’s kindergarten inclusion classroom nearly gave Kristi a heart attack of joy when she first walked in. There was an independent happy buzz among the students, and all children, regardless of skill level or special need, were engaged in writing workshop aided with well thought out and personalized tools. Kathryn is here at Chartchums to teach us how to achieve the same for our classrooms, or perhaps give us some tools to help out that one student you worry about in the wee hours of the morning.
Kathryn Cazes has been a special education teacher in kindergarten for the past three years. She spent her first year at PS 59 in a general education kindergarten classroom. Prior to that, she worked for 2 years in a self contained preschool classroom at YAI/NYL Gramercy School. Welcome Kathryn!
Part of what makes the workshop model so successful is it’s strong allowance of differentiation. It’s during independent work times when the real teaching happens. We regularly confer with children and pull small groups based on needs; often leaving behind small copies of charts or goal sheets for our students to reference while they work. Independent work time should never look the same for each student. In reading workshop, children have personalized book baggies filled with Just Right Books. It’s a very easy time of day to differentiate. But, what about Writing Workshop? How can we make it “Just Right” for everyone?
Sometimes we under estimate the sheer amount of executive functioning, aka mental organization, required to be a successful member of a writing workshop. A child needs to be able to organize their materials, pick and plan a topic, visualize and draw pictures, spell to their best phonemic ability, neatly form letters, spell sight words accurately, stretch their pieces across several pages, remember to put spaces in between their words, decipher when to use upper or lower case letters and use punctuation. We also ask them to do this confidently and joyfully. Sometimes the execution of these many components can overwhelm a child, or for a child who already has executive functioning and processing delays, it may simply be too much.
Visual cues and personal schedules are one of my favorite ways provide access to an otherwise overwhelming situation. Sometimes, children just need to have a finish line in site with clear road markers along the way.
The key below explains what each icon means. The icons used on the schedule were already familiar to my student and the class. They are the same pictures we used as visual cues on charts and during lessons.
The above schedule was created for a child who became so fixated on perfect pictures that she completely neglected words. She also had difficulty stretching her work across several pages. She would pick her topic and then cram everything she possibly could onto her first page. I made her a schedule that would involve sequencing photos of her engaged in whatever activity she was writing about. Then, over the next 2 days, she would read her pictures, act out each page, write her words, and reread. When introducing the schedule, I would meet with her at the beginning of writing and review what the objectives were for the day. Because the symbols were already familiar to her, she was fairly independent with her schedule from the start. She kept track of her progress by moving a chip with Velcro along the schedule.
The schedule was later modified for another child who needed more support during the planning and preparation process and again for a child who just needed to know that it was okay to do one page a day.
Schedules can also be made into book format for children who are overwhelmed by seeing the tasks of the upcoming days across one sheet of paper. The book provides the opportunity to focus on the expectation of one particular day of writing while keeping the other days’ tasks hidden from view.
But sometimes, a child needs greater support. I once had a bright, verbal, and enthusiastic boy in my class who presented with significant fine motor delays, impulsivity, distractibility, a low frustration tolerance, and sensory processing delays. Due to these many challenges he was not able to represent his depth of knowledge on paper.
His picture schedule involved him finding his just right paper from the “yellow dot” tray in the writing center. It provided him the opportunity to set up like any other member of writing workshop while practicing his ability to safely walk from Point A to Point B. Once he set up, he would complete one page of writing, engage in a word study activity, and then do handwriting practice using the program Handwriting Without Tears developed by occupational therapist Jan Olsen. In the beginning, his one page of writing consisted of scribbles. It then evolved into a semi-representational drawing with letter like shapes. As his letter formation and phonemic awareness improved he began to add labels to pictures. On occasion he would build his pictures using legos, playdough, or clay and we would insert a photograph of his creation to his writing.
Writing schedules are versatile and can cater to many different skill levels and needs. Before creating a writing schedule, ask yourself, “Why does this child need a schedule?” “What is my goal for this student?” “What steps need to be scaffolded in order for him or her to achieve this goal?” Writing schedules will provide your struggling writers with successful access to the curriculum and increase their confidence.
Thank you Kathryn! Leave comments and questions for Kathryn in the comments below, and until next time,
Kristi Mraz and Marjorie Martinelli
This week chartchums has been all over the map, metaphorically and literally. Marjorie attended the annual NCTE conference held in Las Vegas, and chartchums guest posted on the amazing blog: Two Writing Teachers. You can check it out here. We posted some charting thoughts on Non-Fiction writing, which many teachers will be beginning soon. Two Writing Teachers also has a review of Smarter Charts and a Smarter Charts Book giveaway! Check out the blog for tons of useful information about the teaching of writing.
Since we touched base on some of the upcoming literacy work in that guest blog, we decided to dedicate the post this week to other types of classroom charts, and ways they can be used to create an independent, active, and inspiring classroom.
Community Building and Classroom Management
A few weeks ago Kristi posted some charts from her classroom to help with classroom management, most notably the “Glitch-Bummer-Disaster” chart (which was so thoughtfully created and shared by Kat Cazes, another kindergarten teacher at PS 59 in Manhattan). Many teachers asked to see a better picture, so here it is again:
Children come to the area where this chart is posted and decide which kind of problem they have, then select which solution they will try. Underneath the “bummer” ask a teacher is listed as an option of last resort, and one that has not been used lately. There were many class discussions around what constituted a disaster, and there has yet to be (knock on wood) any classroom disasters. In a case of “life imitating chart” a parent told Kristi that when her son and another child from the class were playing over the weekend, they encountered a “glitch” and created a solution center in the corner to talk it out.
In the weeks since the creation and usage of the “Glitch-Bummer-Disaster” chart, one issue has arisen, which is that children are having a hard time communicating how someone’s actions have affected them. Often the talk in the solution center was a list of what happened and the recurring prompt was, “and how did that make you feel?” To help children gain more language and comfort with expressing their feelings, some of the read alouds in the intervening weeks have been about feelings, and the ways to talk about them. The Pigeon Series and The Elephant and Piggie Series (both by Mo Willems) are classroom favorites, and clear examples of feelings that become too big to handle. The class began to create scales of feelings (for more on this see the post on vocabulary). This was the resulting chart:
The pictures come from the above-mentioned series and go in order of least intense to most intense from left to right. The class started by first trying to use this chart to talk about feelings that resulted from particular actions. Next the class is working on ways to change feelings. On this blog we talk a great deal about helping children feel like active participants in their academic life; the same is also true of their emotional life. It is important to Kristi that her students see that one can change how they feel and name what they need to make that happen. This is the beginning of that chart:
This chart is in the beginning stages. Children are co-creating signs of things they may need to feel okay. Among the ideas generated by the students are: a hug, you to stop, and a drink of water (the miracle cure!). Currently these two charts are hanging by the rug, where they can be used for role playing and during class community meanings, but soon they will head to the area by the solution center, where they can be used in the context of problem solving. The big idea here, the one we want to stick, is that everyone will have problems, but you have the power to solve them and to make your life and the classroom community a better, happier place.
For the past five years, Kristi has eaten, drank, and dreamed literacy, so it was a bit of shock to be teaching math once again. She was helped along a great deal by the wise folks at Math in The City (a math professional development organization based at the City College of New York) Math in the City adheres to many of the principles of workshop teaching, and focuses on building number sense and problem solving, not just the memorization of algorithms. One way to do this is through meaningful daily routines, especially attendance. This is Kristi’s attendance chart:
It is a laminated piece of posterboard with thirty squares. The squares are in rows of ten, with five red and five white making up the row. This is based on a tool called the rekenrek, which was designed to help children understand the relationship between numbers. Every day children come in and put their first initial in one of the boxes (it is partially erased in this picture) and Kristi asks, “How many friends are here today?” In the beginning children said things like, “64!” But in the last few weeks, these kindergarten children have begun to develop different strategies to help them answer this question more efficiently.
In an attempt to help other children sample these alternate strategies, Kristi charted them. The strategies are named for the children who used them (the chart now has photos of the children next to their names). The first strategy, named by the child who tried it, has a speech bubble saying, “Count by 1′s” and then an illustration of what that looks like. When children use this strategy they say they are using ____’s strategy. The strategies then become more sophisticated, with the next strategy involving jumps of ten, and the final one counting back from 30 (since there are ALWAYS thirty squares, according to the student). Just like literacy strategy charts, we have one big skill: counting the number of students, and several strategies to do it. Just like in writing or reading, children select the one they understand and are ready for, and there is room to add new ones as they develop.
Writing… Because We Could Not Resist
Last, but not least, lets look at a few writing charts. Right now in Kristi’s kindergarten classroom, children are writing for many purposes. The most exciting part of this unit has been the increased independence and reliance on the charts and tools in the classroom.
First up: types of writing. The class went on a walk and took photos of different kinds of writing in the school. Children use this as a constant resource for what they will write.
The most popular of all the types of writing has been signs and charts, so to support students, a chart was created of popular symbols that students could use to help their signs and charts become more effective and readable to the public. This teaching resulted in signs that overran the classroom, home and school:
- No smoking (now hanging on the school gates)
- No Moms Allowed (hanging on a child’s bedroom door)
- No running (hanging in the hallways outside the classroom)
And the ever useful:
- No kicking in the penis (to hang up during wrestling matches at home)
Since signs have become so very popular, it has been a great opportunity to work on adding letters and sounds into writing, since most signs have pictures AND words. To help children do this, a variety of strategies have been taught and charted:
Just like the math chart above, there is a big skill and a variety of options for children to select from to create powerful writing. As children turn to charts across disciplines, times of the day, and for a variety of purposes, they learn that help is often just a glance away. Now granted, there are always hard days and easy days in any classroom, but bit by bit when we create and use tools that empower children, we help them learn to help themselves. Across reading and writing, across the day, and hopefully in life. And that is one way we want life to imitate charts.
On Friday, Marjorie presented a workshop at Teachers College on vocabulary acquisition with Ken Pransky. Ken is the author of Beneath the Surface: The Hidden Realities of Teaching Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Young Learners K-6 (https://www.heinemann.com/products/E01202.aspx ) and My Fantastic Word Book: Young Student Thesaurus. The student thesaurus is a wonderful resource for vocabulary acquisition that uses graphics, font size and pictures (the key elements of any good chart) to illustrate useful vocabulary. The words are clustered by meaning or placed on a continuum to show gradations of intensity. The book is currently only available through the Collaborative for Educational Services (collaborative.org), but will also be available from Amazon soon.
Teaching academic vocabulary, or the vocabulary of school, is something every teacher pays attention to, but is often an area of concern, and even frustration, when students don’t seem to internalize and use the words taught each and every week. While immersion is important, it is not enough because the teacher is doing most of the work. Ken Pransky advises teachers, “Never work harder than your students!” and this could not be more true than when it comes to teaching vocabulary. Just think about how much time you spend choosing words, making worksheets, designing crossword puzzles, and grading spelling tests. What are the kids doing? Often they are the passive receivers of all this information, not active participants or creators.
In Smarter Charts we talk about the power of visuals, or the picture superiority effect, for enhancing recall beyond that of words alone, especially when exposure time is limited (and in schools, time is always limited!). Using limited, but strong graphic elements like bolding, font size, and symbols can also make information compelling and memorable. This is why we are so excited by Ken’s My Fantastic Word Book. It makes use of all of these elements to show children how to expand upon overly used adjectives and verbs.
We have also talked about making things memorable by using music, chanting, and rhyme (Smarter Charts, p. 47-51) just like advertisers do to make their products stick in your brain. Ken refers to the stuff that makes things stick in your brain as “goop” or the myelin sheath. And it is repetition and practice that helps make things stick. Teaching through songs and jingles is one way to do this, and then pair it up with gestures and hand signals to really reinforce the concept or word. During the vocabulary workshop Ken asked teachers to come up with songs using familiar tunes to teach some key academic vocabulary that we often assume kids understand, when in reality they often do not. Here is a song Kat Yanez shared to the tune of “The Bear Went Over the Mountain.”
Infer, so we can make meaning (repeat x3)
We read between the lines.
What can we figure out?
What are these words about?
Infer so we can make meaning
We read between the lines.
Charts can support the teaching of vocabulary by making a visual record of what is being taught and learned. Reading aloud picture books and chapter books is a great way to highlight the power of vocabulary to impact readers, whether narrative or informational, and to anticipate what will be needed to strengthen children’s reading and writing. For example, we often find young writers using very passive verbs in their writing, like “I went to the park” or “I was eating pizza.” So teaching vivid verbs might become one possible vocabulary focus when reading aloud. The chart below is the start of a chart showing three verbs the teacher and the students noticed upon a second reading of Those Shoes by Maribeth Boelts. They talked about how the words were used and what the words meant. Then the students were asked to be on the lookout for these words across the day – when they saw them or used them when reading, writing, or talking. One thing that ended up being discussed was how certain words showed up more often or were used more often than others. Using the words when talking is extremely important as a precursor to using the words in writing.
Shared reading is another component of balanced literacy that can be used to highlight vocabulary and show ways to develop word meanings. One thing that Ken Pransky pointed out was that when teaching children to use context clues to figure out a word, the text should be at a just right level. In other words, children should know 18-19 out of 20 words before having them guess meaning from context. Below are some examples from big books where this has been done during shared reading. The teacher, Kelly Holt, returned to some words that her children did not seem to understand clearly. For example, on the page that said, “You can clean a car.” the children kept saying “wash” instead of “clean.” In this case, it was the syntax, more than the meaning, that seemed to cause some confusion. The teacher used a wikki stix to highlight the word and point to the clue in the picture to show how to figure out what the author meant.
On another page, it was the meaning of the word that was unfamiliar. Most children had never gone snorkeling or if they had ever seen a snorkel, did not know what it was called. In this case, the teacher was teaching the name of something, but it is not a vocabulary word that is high on the list of important nouns to learn.
In a second grade classroom, shared reading was used to show children how to use a glossary to figure out word meanings, but to add to it using their own words. In the case of the word extinguish, the glossary defined the word as “to put out.” The children used the picture to add to that definition, saying “to blow out.” Using their own words and understandings helps them to take more ownership of the word.
Interactive writing is another component that can help children become more confident vocabulary users. We often find that children may use certain vocabulary in their spoken language, but don’t use the words in their writing. This is often because they are insecure about the spelling and afraid to take risks. Interactive writing provides a nice scaffold and a safe place to try things out in a risk-free environment. Returning to a familiar big book is a nice way to revisit word choice and consider alternatives. In the book, Fire, illustrated above, the class thought about how information book writers often use very specific vocabulary words when teaching about a subject. With this in mind the students decided to revise the heading of the first chapter, changing the word ‘light’ to the word ‘ignite’ which they had come across in other texts about fire. They also changed the word in the text as well, immediately lifting the level of text complexity. The kids also felt rather superior as a result.
Lastly, charts can be used to remind children of the many strategies they can call upon when trying to figure out the meaning of unknown words. Remember, these strategies will be most effective when the children are reading books that are within their zone of proximal development.
The chart above was used often as the children came across words they did not know and were asked to share ways they figured out the meaning. Jamie Mendelsohn at PS 59 M came up with the idea of having a “Sticky Note Day” every Friday with her group of second graders. Each child was given a sticky note and told to be on the lookout for a word they thought was particularly important to understanding the book they were reading. Towards the end of reading workshop they would get together with a partner and talk about why they thought the word was important and what they tried to figure it out. Then the whole class would get together and talk more about one or two of these words.
Once again, it is the children who are actively figuring out possible meanings of the words, not the teacher or a dictionary. Kids love being word detectives and feeling smarter as they come to own an increasingly larger amount of academic vocabulary.
We hope to see many of you at the upcoming NCTE convention in Las Vegas. We will be signing copies of Smarter Charts at the Heinemann booth at 2 pm on Friday, November 16th.
Until then, happy charting!
Marjorie Martinelli and Kristine Mraz
On Saturday, both of us, Kristi and Marjorie, presented chart workshops at the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project’s Saturday Reunion. It offered a wonderful opportunity to see so many of you and to hear how things are going. We also found that many of you had similar questions about charts, so we decided to put together a list of five chart tips to help answer your wonderings. Some are recurring, some are new, but we hope you find these tips helpful.
1. Where do you buy those repositionable glue sticks?
These glue sticks are amazing because they turn any piece of paper into a sticky note. Just a few swipes across the top of a piece of paper, then let it air dry for about a minute, then you can stick it up on most surfaces. The best thing is there is no residue left over when this homemade sticky note is removed. Repositionable glue sticks are made by such brands as Elmers, Scotch, and Avery, and can be found in most office supply stores, as well as art stores and craft stores. We suggest the jumbo size because once you start using them you won’t want to stop.
2. Where do you find pink (and other colors) chart paper?
In addition to basic white, chart paper comes in pastel or brilliant colors. Brands such as Pacon or Top Notch can be found in most teacher specialty stores and some office supply stores or online. One way to use colored chart paper is to use one color for all the writing charts, another color for all the reading charts, and another color for all your math charts. For example, Tammy Marr, at City Heights Elementary, made all her math charts on pink chart paper to make it clearer that they all go together. But don’t worry if you don’t have colored chart paper. White chart paper provides crisp contrast to the print and the visuals you put on the chart which is highly effective.
3. What if I don’t have enough wall space for charts? (the fire inspector just came and told us we could only have charts on 20% of the walls)
We addressed this question in an earlier post and in Section 2 of our book on pages 43 – 46. Table charts or table tents are one solution and provide a portable method for bringing the charts to the children on an as-needed basis. They can be made from simple file folders or three-ring binders. Skirt hangers are another tool for collecting and storing like charts together that can be brought out as needed. A sketch book is another handy tool for organizing your charts.
4. What do I do with old charts?
First of all, a chart is old and ready for retirement when it is either dusty, yellowed, or no longer needed (see Section 3). Hopefully those beginning of the year routine charts are in this last category – no longer needed because your students have now internalized these classroom basics. Skirt hangers can come to the rescue once again by hanging old charts on skirt hangers and hanging them in a closet. Or you can gather them together and turn them into a big book by having the kids make an illustrated cover and put them with the other shared reading texts. And Janet, a Chartchums fan, staples one chart on top of another on a bulletin board. She loves when she sees children go up to the charts and flips through them when they need an archived chart. Of course, retired charts can be brought out of retirement anytime they are needed.
5. How do I get my students to use the charts?
The more you and your students touch a chart the more important the chart becomes. Bianca Lavey, a Kindergarten teacher at the Buckley School in Long Island, photographed her charts and added them to the children’s shared reading folders. Each morning the children start their day by reading the charts in their shared reading folders, along with the poems. She reports that the kids love reading them to each other and often quote the charts during reading and writing workshop time. How cool is that?
We hope these tips have been helpful. Let us know what other questions you have about charts or tips you can share that have worked for you in your classroom.
Until next time,
Marjorie Martinelli and Kristine Mraz
Teachers are an amazing group of people. They are not only creative, conscientious, and curious, they are also incredibly generous and sharing. We have heard from many of you and want to share a few here.
Amy Newman is a teacher who has quite the way with words. She has created a wonderful assortment of headings for each of her charts that are designed to engage her students and draw them in to what each chart is teaching. She uses rhyme and rhythm to help make the headings stick in her students’ heads just like an advertising jingle stays in our heads forever. The headings make what she is teaching memorable and the students can often be heard chanting them as they head off to work each day. Thanks Amy for sharing your clever ideas with us.
|Reading Chart Headings:|
|Your reading can go far when you get to know who the characters are! (monitoring for meaning)|
|Read your book for a little bit, then jot what you noticed on a post-it! (monitoring for meaning)|
|Keep forgetting what the book is about? Stopping and thinking will help you out! (monitoring for meaning)|
|Found a part that’s tricky for you? Here are some things that you can do… (word attack strategies)|
|Our reading can go far when we think about what type of reader we are. (self-reflection)|
|Writing Chart Headings:|
|Want to make your writing great? Try these tips to elaborate… (elaboration)|
|Writers use what they know to help their writing really grow! (self-reflection)|
|Done, finished, think you’re through? Editing is the thing to do! (editing)|
|Use what you know to solve writing problems as you go! (revision)|
|Need some help figuring out what to do? Your writing partner is the one to go to! (partnerships)|
Nancy Burrill, a teacher from Seattle, Washington who has been teaching for 34 years, sent us a note letting us know how helpful the book has been in her first grade classroom and how well the ideas work with The Daily 5/Cafe. She also sent along a couple of samples of her favorite chart making pens. They are the Sharpie Flip Chart Markers. The colors are rich and they flow easily and without a stink across any kind of chart paper. Thanks Nancy for sharing.
Lisa Ockerman, a literacy coach from the Pinecrest School, was planning for a small group and remembered a chart she had used last year with a class of first graders. But when she looked at it she questioned whether or not it would support the young readers she would be using it with this time around. There was lots of print, very little visuals, and not very clear as a result. So she decided to revise the chart, making the text simpler, the graphics bolder, and with clear pictures as examples. She shared with us the two charts, one she labeled “Before Smarter Charts” and the other, “After Smarter Charts.” She said the new version of the chart was not only more effective, it actually took less time to make. Thank you Lisa for sharing the before and after photos.
So in the spirit of sharing is caring, if you have some charts, tools, or ideas you have found to be super effective you can email photos to email@example.com.
Upcoming events: We will be presenting two chart workshops at the Teachers College Reading & Writing Project’s Saturday Reunion on Saturday, October 27, 2012. We will also be signing books at the book sale. Stop by and say hi!
Until then, happy charting!
Marjorie Martinelli and Kristine Mraz
Hello again! Thank you everyone for your warm wishes and positive feedback on our webcast on Education Talk Radio with Larry Jacobs! If you did not have a chance to hear it, or would like to hear it again (and again and again) you can find it archived here.
We here at Chartchums have been busy; Marjorie just presented at a literacy conference in Boca Raton, Florida and Kristi has been ear deep in fingerpaint and emergent literacy. One of the wake up calls for Kristi as she moved back into the classroom has been the world beyond literacy. Social studies? Math? But there is one constant that carries through them all: if you want children to remember what you have taught, and work independently, you need charts. As you look through these charts, you will see many of the themes we have discussed in literacy charts: clarity, use of visuals, and color. The fundamentals of useful successful charts remain the same regardless of content.Here are some thoughts, ideas, and snapshots from Kristi and her wonderful Kindergarten classroom at PS 59.
Choice Time Workshop
PS 59 in Manhattan operates under the wise direction of principal Adele Schroeter and assistant principal Alison Porcelli. Along with being brilliant, thoughtful, and ethical leaders, Adele and Alison are former early childhood educators that believe strongly in the power and impact of play. Play is not separate from learning, play IS learning. You can learn more about making the most of play in Alison’s book, coauthored with Cheryl Tyler, entitled A Quick Guide to Boosting Language Acquisition in Choice Time available for purchase here. Part of the beauty of choice time is the way it mirrors the work happening in reading and writing. We use the same words: plan, revise, build stamina, and it follows the same structure: short lesson, followed by ample time to create, then a share at the end.
Children select their center on the choice board (the photo shows the top half, cardboard construction is an additional center on the bottom half – not pictured). The top section has the rug colors and matches the children’s rug spots. The order of the color squares indicates the order of the children choosing centers and rotates daily. Children stay in their center for 45 minutes. The pictures, routine, and daily use of this tool make it one that can be used independently by children.
What makes choice time different, is that we ask children to plan with their centers before they play. Children in the same center gather on the rug and decide what they will create, what they will need, and who will take each part. In the cardboard construction center children recently made a 6 foot long double decker bus, with one child working on the outside, one working on the steering wheel and buttons, one working on seats, and the final child making signs for each stop: Empire State Building, Statue of Liberty, etc. These plans often undergo revision, which is a wonderful analogy to share with children in writing. “Remember when you realized you didn’t have enough room to make the zoo in blocks so you moved it? That’s kind of what we do in writing workshop when we add more pages!” The simple language and accompanying text make it easy for children to use. It also mirrors the reading and writing routine charts in the room, making it three times as successful.
Part of the kindergarten curriculum is learning about community. One aspect of community is finding ways to work and live together. I learned about the “problem scale” from my brilliant colleague Kat Cazes. Kat is incredibly thoughtful when developing tools and charts for children.
The problem scale has two parts: the type of problem (glitch, bummer, and disaster) and ways to solve these problems. This scale is hanging in the Solution Center (salushen chenter). When two or more children encounter an issue, they bring it to this area and talk it out. There is a classroom job called “Peacemaker” who assists in solving problems. There are clear pictures, and color coding to help children understand the severity of each problem. Glitch is green because it is simple to solve. Bummers are yellow/orange, because you have to slow down and take some time to solve them. Disasters (like a volcano) are red because everything stops to solve them. Each step to solve problems is simply illustrated to assist in independence in this area.
Above are two children sorting out a “bummer” in the solution center. Nearby are speech bubbles with kind words and pictures that might be helpful when solving problems. This helpful reminder is just to the left of the two boys:
This sign was made during choice time at the art center by a child who wanted to make a gift for the class. Interestingly enough, she made a companion sign that said “No grabbing” in red (the opposite of this green sign), already using some of the color cues in the classroom and the world.
Social Studies and Science Inquiries
Another beautiful aspect of PS 59 is the emphasis on learning through inquiry. Valerie Geschwind, an incredibly smart, talented and accomplished teacher sets a beautiful model of using inquiry in the primary classroom. In her school study she has taken her class on several trips to the main office, even bringing back a walkie talkie the children can study and sketch over time. Valerie also has recurring “Think Tanks” where her kindergarteners gather around and talk about what they are learning about the school. Together she and the other members of the K team developed a chart for children to teach them more about the process of inquiry or investigation. Accompanying this version of a chart is an arrow that helps the class track their way through their investigation.
The simplicity of language, clear and consistent picture cues, and color choice helps this chart become a tool for children. For more information on the inquiry process in the primary classroom, you may want to check out Young Investigators, available for purchase here.
Below are a few classroom charts emphasizing the importance of drawing in writing workshop. We at chartchums cannot emphasize enough the importance of spending time studying and teaching drawing to writers. The work children do when representing a scene in pictures is no different than the work they do when composing with words later on. Katie Wood Ray has a beautiful book on this subject called In Pictures and In Words.
Each of these lessons was taught on the dry erase board, and then the chart was made from student work that was generated during writing workshop. These skills are on paper with restickable glue so they can be removed for close study by the other writers in the room. Once children began attending to the subtleties of the illustrations in read alouds and in their own books, they began innovating in their own books. “Dreaming” came about this way when a child saw it in a book, and recreated it for herself with no direct instruction besides, “Writers study other writers for ideas”
This student is an English language learner who does not yet write conventionally, but through an emphasis on drawing as a representation of ideas, she has clearly communicated a scene. This book was made after several short lessons that emphasized drawing. Note the movement up the stairs, the backs of the people watching, and the thoughtful and intentional use of color. Many of these things were modeled repeatedly on class stories, taught in short lessons, and noticed in books.
This chart deals directly with writing stories. The big ideas are simple and uses one word for easy reading. The color coding helps children identify what the big idea looks like in context. The post-its were put up by children to indicate the thing they wanted to work on that day. This chart has been reread many times in shared reading and also referenced during reading workshop to increase “stickiness”. Katie Lee, Mollie Gaffney, and Kat (three lovely and smart teachers) also have pages from read alouds on their charts. It is beautiful to look at their charts and see a child’s work right next to a a page from Caps for Sale! Kristi also added a photo of this chart in her parent letter as an easy way to let parents know what their children are working on in writing.
And last but not least, developing independence! The above chart started as just drawings and the children helped determine what should be green and what should be red. Accompanying it is a hat that Kristi wears when children need to be working independently: one side is red (closed for business) and that side is up when the she is conferring and meeting with small groups. The other side is green (open for business) which indicates the teacher is available to meet with anyone who needs her. The hat is almost now always worn on the red side, as children’s independence and confidence in their own problem solving has increased substantially.
Keep your eyes peeled for future math charts, guest posters, and even a book giveaway! As always, send us charts so we can share them with the world.
Until next time, happy charting!
Kristine Mraz and Marjorie Martinelli
PS: For all our Canadian friends and followers you can now order Smarter Charts from: pearsoncanadaschool.com
Just a heads up that Kristi and Marjorie will be guests on Education Talk Radio tomorrow, October 9th, at 3:30 pm Eastern Standard Time. You can tune in and listen live by going to http://www.blogtalkradio.com/edutalk. Larry Jacobs will be conducting the interview and asking about the new book, Smarter Charts and why charts are such an important classroom staple. You will be able to find it archived at http://www.education-talkradio.org if you miss the live webcast.