As teachers across the world ready themselves for the new school year ahead, we thought we would clean house a bit and first organize the past year of posts here at Chartchums by creating a table of contents for the 2013-2014 school year. Most of these posts are universal and do not expire simply because a new school year is upon us. We hope you find this helpful and use it as a reminder of things past that worked and an inspiration for your charting as you begin another school year.
Chartchums 2013-2014 School Year Table of Contents
- Charting the Past: A Table of Contents (2012-2013)
- Working Smarter Not Harder
- Tools of the [Chart] Trade
- Technologically Speaking
- “I’m done!” Planning for the Predictable
- Answering Readers’ Questions
- Getting Off to the “Write” Start
- Method to Our (Charting) Madness
- Presenting the Podcast, Pondering the Past and Looking to the Future
- Transforming Charts into Tools
- Non-Fiction, Non-Problem Revisited
- Want Kids to Walk the Walk? Then Chart the Talk!
And along with our new book, Smarter Charts for Math, Science and Social Studies (#SmarterCharts), we’ll have some new posts coming soon. Until then, Happy Charting!
Marjorie & Kristi
We were thrilled to see and reconnect with so many teachers and Chartchums followers at the Teachers College Reading and Writing Workshop 86th Saturday Reunion. We were inspired by Kathy Collins who reminded us that we are teaching children for life, not just for school and she suggested we find the simplicity, the essential elements that stand the test of time, like Shaker Furniture, in our teaching. We agree and try to do that with the charts we create. This week we are revisiting an earlier post on nonfiction charts that can support both reading and writing since many of you have told us you are trying to help your children actively read and write informational texts.
With the adoption of the common core state standards, many schools have seen an increased emphasis on nonfiction reading and writing. Many of the schools we work with across the country are beefing up nonfiction libraries, working on nonfiction writing year round, and incorporating plenty of nonfiction into their read aloud and shared reading time. What can happen when we teach nonfiction is that we get caught up on the content and forget the valuable reading skills that children can gain from reading informational books and will further develop through the reading of just right nonfiction texts. In this post you will find a variety of nonfiction reading and writing charts intended to support a classroom of second graders, but can easily be tweaked to support any grade level.
This chart supports a classroom of children who, when asked, “What is this book teaching?” give the most basic and undeveloped of answers. You may teach, and subsequently chart, that the questions nonfiction readers ask themselves to make sure they are getting all the information the author is offering. The quick sketches could be from a read aloud that you did ahead of time, or you could even use the photos from that book. You may need to teach all of these questions, just a few, or maybe none at all. As you may recall from a previous post, the magic number on a chart is four (+/- 1). More than five things on any chart means that one thing is likely to be forgotten or never used. Sometimes less really is more. After teaching this big work, you may do what Alyssa did (our guest blogger from a few posts back) and make a smaller version of these questions for certain readers to keep with them at all times.
This is a chart that might be used to support nonfiction readers who hang on to the coolest fact as the most important one. You know the experience; after reading an entire book about sharks you ask about the most important information, and all you hear echoed back is the one line about how sharks can smell a drop of blood from miles away. (true- its why Kristine gets knee deep in the ocean and then runs back out). The tricky part is, for some children, that is THEIR most important part, but that may not be what the author was trying to emphasize. There are a few strategies listed to tie children back into the text. Depending on the level and style of nonfiction book your children are reading, these strategies may not work. If your children’s books have no headings, well then using the heading is going to be awfully hard. It is helpful to study your students’ materials before jumping into your teaching. Again, this chart would be stickier and stronger if the samples were from texts you read aloud or from leveled texts you used during your lessons.
When teaching any strategies around a big skill, it is helpful to think about teaching a few and then spending a day or two reminding children to use the chart and to choose whichever strategy will work for them in the book they are reading now.
Starting in Kindergarten, children are expected to name a topic, then in first and second grade the CCSS talks specifically about children being able to introduce a nonfiction topic in their writing. It seems worth assessing if children can do this well. If not, you might teach, and then chart, some of the above strategies. This chart could look many different ways. This one lists the strategies out of context, but you could take a great nonfiction introduction from a read aloud, write it on chart paper, and mark the same things in context on that introduction. If one introduction doesn’t support the strategies you want to teach, you could mimic Rosie’s chart, “Leads to Hook Your Reader!” from “Checking in On Charts” and replace the fiction mentors with nonfiction ones. Finally, you could use student work to show examples of what each of these things look like in action. There is a very fine line between inspiration and copying, and when children mimic examples that you have posted they are using them as a powerful scaffold. The next introduction they write may not need to lean so heavily on the models.
The standards for nonfiction writing mention “developing” your topic, which to us sounds like elaboration. For each strategy, there are multiple ways this can be done. For example, to give definitions you could: use a word box, a glossary, or an in-text definition. Even when something is named in the standard, like definitions, we want to give children choice in how they approach it in their own work. To make this more powerful, you could again use mentor texts that you have studied or samples from student work. There are countless ways to elaborate nonfiction writing, so the best place to start is with assessing the ways your writers use and don’t use elaboration strategies. You can scour nonfiction texts for examples to share and then put them on the chart with a descriptor so children will be able to recreate it in their own work.
Just like with the reading skills, when you teach a big skill like elaboration you may want to spend a few days teaching all the different ways, and then another day or two in using the chart to make smart choices in our own writing.
Remember Kathy Collins’s suggestion to find simplicity when teaching. Charts don’t have to be fancy or perfect, but they do need to be simple.
Marjorie Martinelli and Kristine Mraz
Class charts are just that – for the class, the whole class. They capture your teaching and provide a resource for children when they need a quick reminder, a guide for how to do something, or an exemplar to view as a model. We have talked about ways to make charts interactive with the use of post-its and making smaller table-top versions or individual copies for kids folders or book baggies. While all these options have been used successfully, there are always children who need something else, a variation, or a complete new kind of chart. Turning charts into tools that can match individual needs is one way to do this.
Marjorie recently worked with some first grade teachers at PS 256 in the Bedford Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn who were trying to figure out some ways to get the kids rereading their books repeatedly without just repeatedly reading each and every book in the exact same way. The whole purpose of multiple reads of a text is that both fluency and comprehension improve. In other words, the reading gets better. How to solve the problem then of when a small group of students don’t seem to understand the value in rereading their books multiple times and therefore not progressing as readers? For this small group of children something else was needed. The teachers and Marjorie came up with the idea of teaching the children a routine for rereading that laid out a different focus for each time a book was read.
They came up with five different ideas for rereading a book. A first read was usually figuring out the words, the second read was often to smooth out the reading, the third time was to look more closely at the pictures adding to their understanding of what the book was about, the fourth time was to read with expression, matching one’s voice to tone and mood, and lastly rereading to post-it important parts worth thinking and talking more about. Marjorie then sketched out a bookmark with these five ways to reread a book. The teachers immediately thought that all their students could benefit from such a support, but for some children, five ways might be too much. Variations were made by simply removing some of the options, so that there was one kind of bookmark that had only three ways and one that had four ways to reread a book.
Also, how the children used the bookmarks could be adjusted depending on needs. For example, in one class there were a few children who would benefit from rereading each book three times in a row and using a paper clip to keep track and prompt them to keep going. Another class thought the sliding paper clip idea might work for all the children and make it feel like a game.
The bookmarks became helpful tools to put into each child’s hands and set them up to take on more ownership of their reading and responsibility for rereading with intention and purpose. And each bookmark could quickly and easily be adjusted depending on needs and reading levels. Any chart can be transformed into a tool and even more importantly, be customized for each student.
Marjorie & Kristi
In the NCTE position paper on Formative Assessment (October 21, 2013) there is a handy list of ten elements that make up formative assessment. Number five on the list reads:
Requires development of plans for attaining the desired goals.
Hallelujah, we say! So often all we think about is what kids need, or what we need, without quite figuring out how to get there. Its like saying, “I need a million dollars” without having any actual plan to save money, increase your income, or play the lottery. Sad to say making a wish or stating a need alone does not get you the million dollars (but if it does, we will leave our contact information in the comments). Carol Dweck, author of Mindset (2007), and all around intellectual crush of Kristi’s and Marjorie both, speaks to this idea as well. She cites research from Peter Gollwitzer that finds just declaring you will change results in no change at all. Knowing how to get what you need is as critical as knowing what you need. More from Mindset:
What works is making a vivid, concrete plan: “Tomorrow during my break, I’ll get a cup of tea, close the door to my office, and call the graduate school.” Or in another case: “On Wednesday morning, right after I get up and brush my teeth, I’ll sit at my desk and start writing my report.” … Think of something you need to do, something you want to learn, or a problem you have to confront. What is it? Now make a concrete plan. When will you follow through on your plan? Where will you do it? How will you do it? Think about it in vivid detail….These concrete plans – plans you can visualize – about when, where, and how you are going to do something lead to really high levels of follow through, which, of course, ups the chance of success (Dweck, p. 228).
This, dear friends, is where charts come in!
Co-creating a personalized or class chart helps children visualize the attainment of whatever goal they have, which in turn will lead to increased follow through and success. We write down recipes and directions for a reason. It is not enough to know you want to make lasagna, you need the steps to be successful. Once your formative assessments have helped you and your students identify areas of need, charts help everyone get there, they provide the steps. We refer to these particular charts as process charts, and have more about them in our upcoming book, Smarter Charts for Math, Science and Social Studies.
1. Use your goal (or destination) as your heading. This keeps the focus on the big idea, not the ticky tacky bits that make it up.
2. Use numbers or arrows when appropriate, these small reminders help children be organized in their thinking and their work.
3. Co-construct the chart so that the children visualize alongside you, using their language as much as possible to make the chart meaningful and personal.
4. Use visuals that break down the steps quickly and easily.
Supporting an Individual Child’s Growth in Reading
Step 1: The Formative Assessment:
Kristi found that this student had a host of snap words he knew by heart in isolation, but when it came time to reading books, all that knowledge flew out the window. His running records showed many miscues for words that he knew on sight. Usage of these words as he read would help his comprehension and his accuracy. As an English Language Learner, this child was at a disadvantage in relying on his syntax, but sight words could be a strength for him to depend on.
Step 2: The Plan
Kristi sat with this child to explain the conundrum, ending with the reason why snap words matter to readers. It helps us understand and read the book, saving our brain energy for the tricky words. The child and Kristi co-constructed a plan: first warm up to remember all the words he knows, then take a book walk to see if he could find any of those words in the book he wanted to read, then read the book.
The when: Before you read
The where: On the snap word list, and in the books
The how: Warm-up and then go!
Supporting Whole Class Growth in Comparing and Contrasting
Step 1: The Formative Assessment
Marjorie asked a group of students to compare and contrast two photos of classrooms from long ago and today and found that many children struggled. Some did not know what to write, some just wrote about one photo, some described what they thought was happening.
Step 2: The Plan
Marjorie designed lessons around the lenses children could use to look at photos, emphasizing that when you look between two items, you always want to ask yourself: what is the same? what is different?
The when: Whenever you have two things in front of you, it is a worthy endeavor to figure out out how they are the same and how they are different.
The where: In social studies, science, reading, writing, math – any of these times could work for comparing two things.
The how: Go slowly and systematically, when you try to see everything you see nothing. Choose one lens at a time and repeat the plan as needed.
Just One More Reason To Love Charts!
Charts are not just descriptive: here is how we did something, they can also be prescriptive: here is how to do something. In a classroom you may have charts that represent both ideas, but the important thing is that you have charts. Charts serve as a way to grow independence, but also as models of ways to achieve success. A thoughtful recording of the where, when, and how is a skill that will help children (and teachers!) for a lifetime.
Share your thoughts in the comments below! Happy Charting!
Kristi and Marjorie
We love being part of a digital age that allows us to connect with teachers across the world via Blogs, Twitter, and Facebook. Besides the many notes of support and thanks sent our way, we also receive lots of questions sent by teachers who are constantly exploring ways to improve their practice in order to help their students become more knowledgeable and independent each and every day. This week’s blog attempts to answer some of these questions in the hope that these could be useful to most teachers out there in the world. Our thanks to all of your for your continued passion and commitment to what matters most – our students!
“Trying to address all areas requested by admin…learning targets, essential questions, look fors???? Help!!!!”
It can be hard to balance the many demands placed on us as teachers. When it comes to charts, we have one clear answer: charts are for students first and foremost and be wary to clutter them with things children do not need. Something like an essential question can be posted in the same area as the charts. If it is an over-arching central question, then it can go on its own small paper using shared or interactive writing to compose it. Essential questions are what our teaching (and our charts) strive to help children answer, so having that posted and clear is helpful.
As for learning targets, those goals are often what inspire the headings on any one chart. If you have a learning target to help students write with sight words, spaces, and most sounds represented by a letter, then the chart heading will address that target: “I can write in an easy to read way!” and the bullets underneath address the specific ways to do that. You can always go to your administrator to show the ways you are co-constructing meaning and purpose with your students on your charts! If your administrator wants it written in fancy teacher language, you can always post a small sign outside your doorway which conveys this information to the adults entering the room. This will help clarify the difference between communications helpful to adults and communications helpful to children.
The chart below makes it very clear the focus being studied in this class. Using the title of a current unit of study is one way to satisfy an area that is often a “look for” when administrators visit a classroom.
How do I order the e-book version of Smarter Charts?
It can be ordered directly from Heinemann.com. To get it on an iPad you just have to download “Bluefire Reader” a free app.
Two questions from the Chartchums blog:
“I’d love to see a post on charting in the older grades. Many of our intermediate teachers struggle with this. Love your book…blog…everything!”
“Hi! I love the charts and I wanted to purchase your book. We transitioned to Reader’s and Writer’s Workshop this year. I teach 6th grade Language Arts and Social Studies and I wanted to purchase your book but I saw it’s for K-2. Is it still beneficial for 6th grade? If not, is there something that you can recommend I purchase. I love making charts, but I want to make sure that they are effective and I would love some guidance. Thank you!”
If there is one thing we have learned since the publication of Smarter Charts, it is that the principals of good charting hold true regardless of the grade or the age of the students. This is because the principals are based not only on educational pedagogy, but on brain science, design theory, and advertising results; all having the overarching goal that information be presented efficiently and effectively in order to see results. The result we are all after is that what we are teaching (or selling) is remembered and used long after it has been taught (or sold).
What this means on a very basic level is that the effectiveness of a chart is directly related to its accessibility and its impact or use by the learner. What we sometimes see on charts as we travel up the grades is an increase of print and a decrease of visuals. There is very little research that supports this trend. All learning is aided by visuals. John Medina (Brain Rules, 2008) did studies where he gave adults a written text and found that 72 hours later they recalled 10% of the information, but when he added visuals participants recalled 65% after 72 hours.
Below is a middle school chart created to support writing from an upcoming Middle School units of study book (Calkins, Ehrenworth, Minor, 2014). The visuals were carefully considered and only added to make the text more memorable. They were not added as mere decoration or to make the chart look pretty. The visuals incorporated were added to trigger students’ memory of the steps or the strategies they could draw upon if stuck or if they forgot what to do, efficiently and effectively. With use these strategies will become internalized and the chart will no longer be needed.
From the Chartchums blog:
I am interested in having my students participate more in the chart making. Right now they do a lot of suggesting in terms of content, illustrations, etc. But I think having their handwriting will make it more authentic and engaging. Suggestions/advice?
One idea is to create the chart through interactive writing where kids share the pen with you. This works well when you want the children to participate in the composition of the chart, have the kids’ hands show, but also want the conventions correct because the chart will be hanging up in the room as a model. You can also ask kids to make drawings to add to the chart or include copies of their work. This also contributes to students feeling empowered and known as those who can and do. Kids are drawn to emulate their classmates and quickly get the message that the classroom is full of teachers and models we can learn from. The chart below was written with students in Kristi’s classroom using interactive writing to highlight one student’s strategy for writing. Not only does the chart involve the students, but it makes a student famous by naming the strategy after him.
How can we arrange for you to come to our school/district to present a PD day on charting?
We are available for full day author visits. You can contact Kathy Neville at Kathy@readingandwritingproject.com for pricing and availability.
We hope these questions and answers help provide some direction and spark further ideas as to the many ways we can use charts to help our students learn what we are teaching, help themselves help themselves, and provide guidelines that will aid in developing realistic goals. Keep your questions coming and share your charting insights and solutions as well, so we can share again in the future.
Marjorie and Kristi
As the deadline nears for our next book (working title: Smarter Charts, Too!) we find ourselves a little strapped for time! This does not mean we are not going to continue to bring you great resources for your classroom, but rather it may occasionally be in different forms. Here are some of the options for keeping up with the latest thinking in charts and tools for independent readers and writers:
Come See Us!
We (Kristine Mraz and Marjorie Martinelli) will be featured speakers at the Literacy for All Conference in Providence, Rhode Island. If you will be in attendance, you can see us on November 4th and 5th. On Monday we will present a workshop titled “Visible Learning: Charts in Action” (which will be repeated on Tuesday) and then on Tuesday a workshop titled “Beyond the Basics: Optimizing Classroom Charts for Independence.” We hope to see you there!
We will also be presenting at the NCTE Conference on November 23rd in Boston, Massachusetts, with Maria Paula Ghiso and Patricia Martinez-Alvarez. Our workshop title is “Writing Workshop Is for All Students: Using Visuals, Oral Language, and Digital Tools to Maximize Success and Independence for English Language Learners.” If you have never had the chance to attend a NCTE Conference, it is definitely worth investigating!
We will also be signing copies of Smarter Charts at both conferences.
Tweet With Us
Chartchums’ twitter account (@chartchums) has been busily tweeting away. We are in the middle of our Fall project: chart-a-day, in which we tweet or retweet particularly powerful classroom charts. Here is a little taste of what we have tweeted thus far:
Growing charts across days!
We are 20 days in, which means 20 days of great classroom charts that can help you think (and rethink) about your classroom walls and resources. We hope you will join us on twitter and tweet your powerful charts at us, so we can share them with the world!
Now, back to our manuscript!
Kristi and Marjorie
In many writing classrooms the year starts off with children sharing personal memories and writing stories and teachers modeling how to find stories if stuck, how to tell a story sequentially, and how to elaborate a story using step by step actions and descriptive details. There are a few key charts you may want to consider making with your students to support this ambitious work – a writing process chart, a strategy chart, an exemplar chart, and a conventions chart.
Helping children understand that writing is a process is important work, especially at the beginning of the year. Donald Murray, author of A Writer Teaches Writing (1968, 2004), first described this process as a way of breaking down writing into understandable steps, to show how writing is made so he could teach others. Writers collect ideas, draft, revise, and edit. While there are many variations of the writing process this is a good basic one to teach our young writers. It lets them know that writing is not perfect the first time pictures and words are put down on paper, that it takes lots of starts and stops, trials and errors, before it ends up published. We typically show the writing process as a circle to emphasize its endlessness, although we know that that there are many times writers jump around for example from revising to editing, then back to more revising. The most important thing we want our student writers to know is that when a writer finishes one piece the cycle starts all over again. Below is a chart that Kristi made that continues to be a favorite of many teachers.
Another chart you will definitely need is a strategy chart, or what we now refer to as a repertoire chart. As we described in Smarter Charts, this kind of chart records a list of strategies for a big skill, which allows children to self-select the strategy that matches what they need to do. It also typically grows over multiple lessons. Increasing children’s skill of elaboration is one goal that encourages revision.
Setting clear expectations for what a well-written story looks and sounds like is best accomplished by showing children examples of books written by other children their same age. Then, by looking at the exemplar piece of writing together and naming what the writer has done to make it so good, can really underscore all that you have been teaching and even provide ideas for other things to teach and for students to learn. Once the piece of writing is annotated it becomes an exemplar chart that children can compare their own writing to or refer to when looking for other things they could try.
Editing is an important part of the writing process because writing is meant to be read by others. This means that writers work hard to make their writing easier to read by trying to make their pictures clear with enough details to show what is happening and where. They also write in a way that makes the words easier to read, like using spaces, punctuation, and the best spelling they know how to do. Creating a chart that highlights strategies for these types of conventions will be a useful tool for all your students. This is the type of chart that is often turned into an editing checklist to be used regardless of genre.
When deciding which charts you will need it always helps to start with the big goals of your unit and to use these as your guide for selecting which charts might be needed most. Too many charts can be overwhelming and become more like print pollution than helpful scaffolds. And, as with any chart, make sure you and your students refer to each chart often, celebrating their use by all.
Marjorie & Kristi