We have received many requests from teachers looking for ways to use charts that reinforce their teaching of information writing, so when Katie Wears, a staff developer at the Reading and Writing Project, shared with us some photos of science writing charts her teachers at Kiel Elementary School in Kinnelon, New Jersey had made during their “Writing Like Scientists” unit, we immediately asked if they would share their process with all of us at here at Chartchums. They generously agreed and the following guest blog post is the result. Our thanks to Liz Mason, first grade teacher, Jenna McMahon and Nicole Gillette, second grade co-teachers, and to Katie Wears for bringing us all together!
We are honored to be contributing to Chartchums; a place where educators from all over come to collaborate and be inspired by Marjorie, Kristi, teachers, and the students they work with. Thank you for letting us share some of the things we have been working on.
When spring arrived, the teachers at Kiel Elementary School were excited to think more about science and science writing. We planned with each other and brainstormed many possibilities for the science units and how to inspire science writing and thinking. Currently, First Grade is finishing up their study of Properties of Matter and Second Grade is studying Forces and Motion.
One goal was to help students better understand the scientific process and be able to feel successful with this “new” kind of writing. We created these two charts to provide a scaffold for the students and to support independence with the scientific process and writing about science.
Exemplars were created to give the young scientists a vision of how their writing could go. This chart was created to support students with the procedure part of the lab report. It was exciting to see the children discuss the things they noticed in the exemplars and put those things into their own lab reports. The children were eager to use the exemplars as models for their own writing, to set goals, and to become independent. Young scientists looked at their own writing alongside the exemplars and used the exemplars to give their partners “stars” and “wishes” or compliments and tips.
Here are some other exemplars that were created during the first part of our units.
Another goal of this unit was to increase academic vocabulary. These charts and tools give students the vocabulary they need to share their learning and thinking during discussions and through their writing. The vocabulary was introduced and reinforced through real alouds, shared reading, video clips, experiments and writing. The young scientists use these charts to show everything they know.
We also wanted the young scientists to be able to use writing and the scientific process to be able to deepen their understanding and thinking. Scientists analyzed their results to draw conclusions and share their thinking. The writing on this chart was done with Jenna’s second grade class during shared writing. The chart was then created during writing minilessons when Jenna and Nicole were teaching students how to develop their conclusions and revise their thinking. They give students a model of how to share their learning through their writing.
Small versions of the charts were made and are available for the young scientists to use.
The young scientists are now using these charts and tools to support each other and work collaboratively in science clubs. In their clubs they make decisions, have different roles, formulate questions, and go through the process of gathering the materials to conduct experiments.
The prompts on the charts guide the students and help them have more meaningful scientific conversations about their learning and discoveries. As a result, each student has developed an identity as a scientist who is curious about the world and knows how to search for answers and share scientific results and thinking with others.
Best of luck,
Liz, Jenna, Nicole, and Katie
April is Poetry Month and poems are everywhere – on the web, in classrooms, in subways, and in pockets. Teachers are teaching how to read poems and how to write poems. And they are making charts to capture it all. This week we highlight how charts can be used to capture our lessons, provide examples, offer strategies, and create challenges to strive towards.
Immersion Into Poetry
Charts capture our teaching and provide helpful reminders for our students in the way of tips and examples. How this might look in poetry is really no different than any unit where we begin with immersion into the genre or form we plan on reading and writing. Every poet will tell you that in order to write poems, you need to read poems – lots of poems. Poems of all shapes and sizes. Poetry is meant to be seen, heard and felt.
The chart below was built with some second grade students at Glenwood Landing Elementary School in North Shore, Long Island who were learning how to read poems closely. Marjorie (inspired by Rachel Rothman, one of our colleagues at the Reading and Writing Project) introduced three lenses they would listen through: movie, message, and music. When thinking which kind of visual supports would be most helpful, Marjorie decided to use examples generated by the students themselves. What she prepared ahead of time were the three prompts written out, enlarged copies of the poems (in this case two poems from Nathaniel Talking by Eloise Greenfield – “Education” and “When I Misbehave”) and some blank, large sticky notes.
Each reading of the poem was prompted by one of the lenses. This let the children know what to pay attention to as they listened. Then the children turned and talked to their partner, and came back together to share out what they had talked about. Examples of the children’s visualizations, feelings, and thinking were written down. This became an exemplar chart the children could use as a model when they went off and tried this on their own with another poem, “When I Misbehave” and any time thereafter, whenever they read a poem. The children actively listened and excitedly shared their thinking and ideas with each other and couldn’t wait to go off and do it again on their own.
Starting to Write Poetry
As with any writing unit, learning to generate topics is always one of the starting points and poetry is no different. A repertoire chart can capture possible options when reaching for something to write a poem about. The brilliant poet, Georgia Heard, offered many possibilities for poets and teachers alike in her book, Awakening the Heart, where she suggested that poets found topics by entering different doorways, such as the observation door, the heart door, the wondering door, and the concerns about the world door (as a start). The chart below is an example of a repertoire chart used in a first grade classroom at PS 192 in Brooklyn. First, Marjorie knew that kids love looking for things that hide, so used that idea
to create a heading that would grab the students’ attention and lead them on a search to find ideas for poems. Then she started by presenting a repertoire of strategies for generating poems: looking closely, feeling strongly, and things we wonder about. The idea of starting with a few options is important since not any one strategy will work on any given day.
One of the most delightful aspects of poetry is word play. Poets use words in delightful and unexpected ways. The more words you know the more options available to you. Words are a poet’s paintbrush that create images as vivid as a painting or photograph. Creating a chart that collects and sorts words poets can use can be a most useful tool. The following chart was launched by Marjorie in a second grade classroom at PS 192 in Brooklyn, but will grow and expand as kids find and discover more and more examples of specific nouns, vivid verbs, and descriptive adjectives. The thing to note is that each category is color-coded so when kids discover other examples they will write them on the colored index card that matches the category.
Another aspect of word choice is how words are used to compare one thing to another, called similes and metaphors. Similes help children go beyond literal observations towards adding in their imaginations and connections. It comes from the latin word “similis” to mean “like.” This might explain the misspellings on the chart. The word should be spelled “simile” not “similie.”
The teacher had previously defined what a simile was by giving some examples. The lesson Marjorie taught was designed to help children understand the many ways they could come up with similes by using their senses. Each post-it is a reminder of just how to do this. The visuals are familiar icons from earlier lessons when the senses were used to describe and elaborate writing.
Poetry offers so many opportunities to get excited about language, structure, and process. Another possible chart to create might highlight revision and all the possible ways a poet might revise a poem: changing words, layout, repetition, additional stanzas, or taking away unnecessary words.
Charts can be used to help students reflect and make goals based on what they have tried or not tried, or to create a rubric. This final example shows how this end of unit reflection happened in one first grade CTT classroom at PS 176 in Brooklyn. The children were taught to ask themselves two key questions, “What have I learned about writing poems?” and “What do I still need to work on?” They used a checklist to help with these questions by tallying each time they had used a particular strategy on the checklist. The strategy they had used the most was the one they were then expected to teach others.
The checklist included the things the teacher had taught during the poetry unit of study. They included “I used my senses,” “I used comparisons,” “I used repetition,” “I used special words,” and “I used white space.” Examples of each of these were included to the left of the checklist. In other words, this was a miniature version of the strategy chart created during this unit. Charts, as always, are only as effective as they are used.
Until next time, happy charting!
Marjorie and Kristi
Hi Everyone! We hope you had a few days of relaxation over the long weekend (or week for some of you!) Marjorie went to visit her daughter in Israel, and Kristine went to visit her sister in California. Now we are back from our far flung (ish) adventures and ready to talk charts! Kristine has had chart puns rolling in her head for days: unCHARTered waters, Top o’ the CHARTS, Conversation CHARTS (a play on conversation hearts- for a Valentine’s themed post) CHARTlize Theron (she also understands that many of these are going nowhere), and Ready, Set, CHART! (As an aside, we would welcome your chart puns in the comments!) Sadly, none of them quite match the idea of today’s post, co-creating charts with children.
In our book, Smarter Charts, we talk about the challenges of creating charts with children. We want them to look good and be clear so that children will use them again. We also want children to be off the rug as soon as possible. Now that Kristine is with 4 and 5 year olds all day, the question that haunts her every day is, “How can I make sure this is as powerful as possible in the least amount of time?” Small children + Extended time on the rug as one searches for the red marker = Nightmares beyond what was ever imagined.
This is where some of the advice we give in our book comes in handy: act like the chef in a cooking show. We have all seen cooking shows, Kristine herself is obsessed with the Barefoot Contessa (that house! that kitchen! her own boat?!), and one of the advantages to being a chef on a cooking show is that most of the prep is done for you, ahead of time. The Barefoot Contessa is not chopping every item in front of you, she only shows what she needs to show, and the rest is prepped off to the side for her to use when she needs it. That is the key to quick and clear charting: know what to create in the moment, and what to prep ahead of time.
The following two writing charts were created by Kristine (The Barefoot Chartessa? You decide) with her kindergarten class using this method.
Chart One: The Writing Process (A Process Chart)
This writing process chart has been hanging in Kristine’s classroom for months, but somewhere along the way it became unused. Kristine was finding books with no words or no pictures. Books with one page done, and books that were just scribbled on. To address this, she decide to revisit the writing process with her class in a more interactive way. Before the lesson, Kristine prepared the matching colored paper and drew the pictures. She left the words off the smaller paper and covered the backs of everything with the restickable glue stick (a favorite tool that turns any ordinary piece of paper into a sticky note).
For the lesson, a blank piece of chart paper was hung on the easel and all the pieces placed on the ground in front of her. The class sat in a circle around the rug. Kristine presented this issue: “Last night, when I was reading your “done” books at home with my hot chocolate, I noticed a problem… Friends, not all the books were done!!! Some of them were missing parts! It was so very sad to miss out on parts of your amazing books. I thought today we could explore all the things we need to do to write a book — and make a new chart for us to follow!” Kristine spread the pictures out so they could all be seen and asked the class, “What do you think we do first?” The students came up to put the pictures on the chart in a sequence that made sense to them. On the first attempt the order was a little scrambled, with turn the page coming very high on the list. Other students suggested revisions to the order until this one was reached and agreed upon by everyone. (Which, by the way, was the order of the original process chart) Kristine then put the smaller pieces of colored paper next to the pictures and asked children to go “knee to knee” and think about what we could call each step. Since children in Kristine’s class are familiar with the language of writing, this went very quickly. Kristine wrote the label next to each one, everyone reread the chart, and then the children went off to write.
Because of the prep work ahead of time, the entire lesson was 8 minutes — most of that was spent on revising the order of the steps, thinking about what would make sense for writers. And the best part was seeing the children renewed spark and interest in making sure their books used all aspects of the writing process from start to finish.
Chart 2: Easy to Read Writing (An Exemplar Chart)
In NYC select students come in for early morning support. Kristine used this time for interactive writing to support the group with hearing beginning and ending sounds and writing a story across pages. She then took one page from the book that the small group wrote to use in her writing workshop minilesson. Before the lesson, Kristine had the small group work on the interactive writing page, and she also pre-cut colored paper. She wrote on some of the papers: spaces and sight words and drew the pictures. The other pieces of cut paper she left blank.
For the minilesson, Kristine put a piece of unreadable writing up on the document camera and said, “You guys, when I got home yesterday, Geoff (my husband) said he had left me a note on the fridge and this is what it looked like!” Kristine gestured towards the “writing” and the kids responded with the appropriate amount of shock. One student exclaimed that it was “just scribble-scrabble!” Kristine then put up the piece of interactive writing the morning group had created (with no papers attached) and said, “I think I need to show him what we know about easy to read writing!”
The class then read the writing and Kristine asked them to go “knee to knee” to study and say what made the page so very easy to read. As children named spaces and sight words (which Kristine had anticipated since they had focused on that as a class) she handed the pre-made papers to children to stick up on the piece. Then as other children named that the letters were “good” (renamed clear by Kristine) she quickly made another paper to put up, and did the same when another child noticed the “punatation” (a good attempt at remembering and saying the word “punctuation”). Kristine reviewed all the things that made the writing easy to read and asked the children to set a goal for the 1 or 2 things they would really practice to make their writing easier to read that day (and every day). The chart was hung up and next to it was Geoff’s “note” (poor Geoff):
The whole lesson, start to finish, was about 8 minutes, thanks to the work that had been done already. Having some items prepped, and then having the children help to co-create the chart kept these charts looking clear and useful, while maintaining their useability for children. Both of these charts are referenced by the children frequently, in part because they are the ones who built them for the class.
In other, unrelated, news, we have a new app to tell you about! Valerie Geschwind, Kristine’s colleague, introduced Kristine to ifontmaker for the iPad. It allows you to make your own font from your handwriting and use it with Microsoft Word. It is easy to use and addictive. Two classroom uses:
1. You can create a class font from student handwriting for use on family letters
2. You can make your own wingdings — which Kristine used to draw some frequently used chart icons so when she types up charts, she can just insert the same icons that she would usually hand draw.
We are sure you have many more ideas for how this exciting app can be used, and we look forward to hearing about them in the comments.
Kristine and Marjorie
Hi again! We are back with a bonus mid-week post to give some more tips on drawing for your charts that will help every child in your classroom achieve independence in learning. We have also noticed quite a few new visitors, so before we get to the drawing bits, we would like to take a moment to reintroduce ourselves. Chartchums is made up of Marjorie Martinelli and Kristine (Kristi) Mraz.
Marjorie Martinelli is currently a literacy consultant at the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project, which works in schools across New York City, the country, and the world. Marjorie is also an artist and was formerly a New York City public school teacher.
Kristine (Kristi) Mraz is a current kindergarten teacher at PS 59 in Manhattan. She was a literacy consultant with the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project before returning to the classroom. Kristi is a crafter, which means she has a lot of yarn taking over her apartment.
Together we have written a book called Smarter Charts about building independence through effective charts (available now-click on the picture at the right!). We also consult in schools, present at conferences, and lead workshops, all on charting, independence and accountability.
One aspect we ALWAYS cover is drawing, (no matter what!) because drawing is a quick way to bring our words and concepts to life. Our new book has lots more on the importance of visuals and their role in memory, but for this post we want to cover one more quick and easy art lesson: figures!
Call it a bias, but we don’t do stick figures. There is nothing inherently wrong with a stick figure, but more well rounded figures (pun intended) are more expressive, easier to manipulate, and more like what children do naturally and thus able to do independently. Even if you never explicitly teach drawing (through we think you should!) children will learn from watching you make these simple figure drawings capture complex acts.
So first, warm up:
Can you draw an O shape? Yes? Great. Make a few quickly.
Can you draw a stick? Yes? Perfect! You now know EVERYTHING you need to draw people.
The Body and Beyond
Draw one O on top of another O so it looks like an 8. Don’t worry about a neck, simple is better.
Now come the arms:
Lots of times arms are drawn sticking straight out of the ribcage (as shown on left). Look at your own body, wave your arms around and you will see that your arms really come out at the very top of your body (as shown on right), which is good because otherwise you could never scratch your head.
Once you have the figure on right, you can move to legs:
Again, this is a place to slow down and study your body again. If you have a history of drawing stick figures, you will likely draw legs like the figure on the left. Be kinder to yourself, your legs do not shoot out at funny angles from the middle of your body. Instead they come straight down at about the width of your head (see the figure on the right). That is pretty much it! If/when you teach this to your students, it is helpful to do lots of studying of bodies to really see how arms and legs fit together. It is also a great opportunity to build language and vocabulary, not just of body parts, but words like: above, below, longer, shorter, and so on.
Once you have the basic figure, you can bend the arms and legs to show basic movements.
On the left is Kristine trying to find the adult scissors she knows she put somewhere under the pile of math manipulatives that still need to be sorted. On the right is Marjorie enjoying a little time off to practice tree pose (before she is back in the hustle and bustle).
Figures can easily be turned around:
Add feet at an obtuse angle (larger than 90 degrees) on your forward facing figure (on far left). To turn a figure sideways, start with the same double O body shape, but only add one arm and one leg, both in the middle. Add one eye and a foot facing the direction the figure is looking and the body is now in profile (in middle). Last, draw the same exact body, arms, and legs as the front facing figure. Now, draw the feet at an acute angle (less than 90 degrees) and color in some hair. You are now looking at the back of the figure (far right). Voila!
Near and Far
Perspective begins with setting a horizon, for most instances, that can be the middle of your paper. Anything drawn below that line is “near” and therefore larger, anything on or above the line is “far” and smaller:
Usually the near figures will take up most of the frame, and extend above the horizon line.
For More Information
Here is another favorite book to teach you and your students more about drawing figures:
Make a World by Ed Embereley
Here are a couple of books about teaching and using drawing:
Talking, Drawing, Writing by Martha Horn and Mary Ellen Giacobbe
Smarter Charts by (us!) Marjorie Martinelli and Kristine Mraz
We will be back again soon with another new post. In our upcoming installments we will be tackling charts at the beginning of the year, charts across grades, adaptive charts for students with special needs, and more!
Until then, happy charting!
Kristine Mraz and Marjorie Martinelli
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In full disclosure, this post comes with heavy coaching from an amazing teacher we met at the August Reading Institute, Alli Newell. Alli teaches in California at a school that values and supports technology in the classroom. She generously shared her tech knowledge with other first grade teachers in her section, and we wanted to pass on one tool that has huge applications in the primary classroom, for charts and beyond. Thank you Alli!
You know those codes – they are black and white – and are everywhere! You can scan them with an ipad or iphone, or just about anything with an app. And those codes bring you to some sort of content (usually trying to sell you something). They look like this:
Alli taught us how we can make those codes and attach them to audio content.
Consider this for a moment… All one has to do is scan this code with some sort of device, be it an iphone, ipad, or other app-enabled piece for equipment and it will talk to them. Now imagine: what if you put this code next to a display of children’s writing, so parents could scan and hear their children reading the story? What if you placed it next to a display of student art and someone could walk by and scan the code to hear children talking about the process? What if you attached it to a book and made every book a book on tape? Just imagine, what could you use it for in reading workshops? Writing workshops? Homework?
The one catch is that to create and listen to the QR codes, one needs access to some sort of smart phone, tablet, or computer. Think though for a moment. How many families in your school have access to a smart phone? We know in some communities, computers and tablets are not as accessible to children outside of school, but smart phones may be more common. On the other hand, in some schools iphones may be banned, but many schools now have a bank of tablets that classrooms can borrow, and if not, there are many grants available to support technology in schools. We have worked in a number of schools that have gotten ipads through grant writing.
We imagine this first as a powerful tool for parents, QR codes on homework, student writing, bulletin board displays, etc, and as the year goes on, finding other smart ways to make this a meaningful scaffold for students: directions in a center, an audio post-it, a book on tape, an additional reminder on a chart… the possibilties feel endless! We are sure you have even better ideas, so once you learn how to use these tools, let us know what happens!
Step One: Download the Apps
You will need two apps: QRafter Pro ($2.99) and Audioboo (free)
Step Two: Record Audio Content
Open audioboo and click record on the homescreen, it will bring you to this screen:
It will only record about 3 minutes at a time, and you can pause and resume recording at any point. Once you have captured the audio you would like (say a child reading his or her writing), hit publish. You will be prompted to name it, let’s say “Kristine’s Book” and then save and upload the recording. You then go to ‘My Boos’ and select one of your recordings. It will bring you to this screen: (Kristine recorded in Greenpoint- hello to fellow Brooklynites!)
Click on the upper right hand corner (box with arrow shooting out) to save it online. You will get several options, Alli suggests saving in Safari. To get there, clink on “More…” and choose Safari.
This will bring you to the internet where your recording now happily lives, and you are ready for the next step – generating a QR code that will play this recording for people. Before you open QRafter, take a moment and copy the whole URL from the top of the webpage. URL codes start with http://
Step Three: Attach a QR Code
Once you have copied the URL, go to your home screen and open up the QRafter Pro app. It opens with option to scan an already existing QR code, go to “create” on the bottom menu instead. It will want to know where the content is:
Click on URL, and it will prompt you to enter the URL. Just click in the space and paste the URL you copied from before:
Delete the extra “http://” and then select “preview content” from the upper right hand corner. This will show you all sorts of technical information that no one really needs to know, but from there, hit create in the upper right hand corner. This will generate a unique black and white QR code. Alli recommends saving it to your photos, and from there you can print it or email it. That’s it!
To see what happens when you scan it, use your Qfactor app on the one below (You can do it on the computer)
So, just to recap how to:
“Make it talk!”
- Open audioboo & click “Record”
- Record (3 mins)
- Name it, save it, upload it!
- Go to MyBoos & click arrow (upper right corner), then “More…” & save to Safari
- Copy URL
“Make Your Own QR Code!”
- Open the QRafter Pro app
- Click on URL & paste URL
- Delete extra “http://” & select “preview content”
- Hit “create” (upper right corner)
- Save it to your photos
We’d love to hear how you innovate with this technology in the upcoming year. Our deepest thanks to Alli Newell for teaching us about this tool. Until next time, Happy Charting!
Kristine Mraz and Marjorie Martinelli
As the new school year quickly approaches (or for some, has already begun), teachers are thinking and planning for those first weeks in school. Teacher stores are overflowing with welcome banners and signs announcing the arrival of caring kindergartners, stupendous second graders, or the next crop of quality first graders. In each of these cases the ultimate goal is to set the scene for creating a community of learners by labeling them in positive ways. The banner titles that keep popping into our heads have been influenced by the recent Olympic games and sound something like, Welcome World Class Students or Class 1-141 is Going for the Gold! or Meet the Next Dream Team! But there is more at play here than simply coming up with catchy titles or headings. The Olympics can provide a backdrop for what teachers always want for each year’s class: to become a great team and to aspire to be the best they can be.
The motto of these Olympics, Inspire a Generation, is one we can carry forward with us into this new school year. In event after event, what kept being highlighted was how, regardless of the sport, each participant had a passion that they pursued, saw in themselves potential and possibility, and with the help of others, persisted and practiced intensely. This combination of process and effort is what we want to instill in all young people. The 2012 Summer Olympics can help us do just that.
They are also called the Olympic Games and games are supposed to be not only challenging, but fun. One of the most memorable aspects of the games was the shear joy on the faces of so many of the athletes. Sports Illustrated (Aug. 13, 2012) even dubbed the women’s U.S. swim team “The Fun Bunch,” because they hugged and smiled before their races! They approached each race with “joy and camaraderie.” This may be an even more important lesson to learn from these games considering the current climate in education. Competition is tough and rough, but when done with joy and a positive attitude, it can also become a positive, life changing experience. Providing children with challenges to aspire to, while coaching them along every step of the way, and bringing some fun into the mix can change their lives as well. With this in mind, we will show you a few ways the Olympics have inspired our own joyfully made charts, that will hopefully inspire you and the students in your classrooms.
Last week we had the pleasure of working with teachers from around the world at the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project’s August Reading Institute. Perhaps it was because the Olympics had just started and the games were playing in the background as we planned for our sections, but Olympic lingo kept seeping into our lessons and our charts. The first part of preparing a chart is to think about the big idea you want to teach and to find a heading that captures that idea. One beginning lesson was about encouraging readers to set themselves up for reading by getting their minds on fire. Watching the Olympic athletes prepare for their events, we noticed that they too got themselves psyched up. Michael Phelps put on headphones, hood up, head down. Jordyn Wieber acted out each move of her gymnastic routine prior to beginning. We want our readers to psyche themselves up in similar ways. This lead to the chart below with the heading, World Class Olympian Readers Psyche Themselves Up to Read! Now, rather than writing this heading in front of the students, especially if you want to include photos or pictures, you can prepare this part of the chart ahead of time. If you fear crooked writing and messy mistakes, you can also prepare the bullets ahead of time, as well, and then reveal the parts that match each day’s teaching point as you go along.
The next series of chart photos show how the chart was unveiled and used to reinforce the teacher’s teaching focus each day. It is important to point out that while the overall chart was prepared ahead of time in this case, it was not shown as a whole to the students. In fact, each bullet was taught into explicitly on separate days by breaking them down into steps.
Next, the teacher folds down the chart to reveal the first strategy she plans to teach for setting up to read.
The small sticky notes were added as the teacher demonstrated each step a reader goes through to prepare to read any book. For example, readers prepare by “thinking about the book right from the start.” They do this by first looking at the front cover, title, and back cover. Then they wonder about what will happen or ask questions. Finally, they read with their minds on fire. Notice how each sticky note reminds readers of these steps.
As the teacher explains how to think about a book right from the chart, she demonstrates how to do it with a book of her own, while adding the steps with icons onto sticky notes and putting those up on the chart next to the strategy. Each sticky note reinforces the teacher’s words and actions: look, wonder, read.
The rest of the strategies and the steps involved are unwrapped as each one is taught explicitly by the teacher. The second teaching point is to ask, “What kind of book is this?” This strategy is important at the beginning of the year when children are reading a variety of books with various forms and genres. “Finding time and space to read” is another important lesson when you are trying to set children up to read with increased stamina and independence. And all along you can emphasize that this is just like what Olympic athletes do to build stamina and independence.
Now, you won’t always prepare a chart ahead of time. You need to consider your purpose, all that you want to include on the chart, and how you will use the chart to support your teaching. You can always go back to a chart and add photos or have children illustrate pertinent parts. But back to our Olympic theme.
The Olympics can provide a fresh look at an old or familiar subject, such as partnerships. Partnerships take team work, and no place was that more obvious than at the Olympics. Whether you watched Beach Volleyball or Synchronized Diving you saw inspiring examples of athletes who worked together tirelessly and supported each other every step of the way. This is something our students can strive towards with their partnerships. This idea of teamwork came into play when creating a chart around reading partnerships.
The heading, “Partners work as a team!!!” is meant to excite and engage in the prospect of working together with a reading partner. Partnerships are often challenging, so anyway we can generate enthusiasm for this essential element of any workshop, the better. Photos of kids looking, listening, and talking to each other can add another dimension to the chart. During another lesson, some specific prompts kids could use when trying to “point out examples” was added.
In addition to the amazing teamwork seen at the Olympics, there were many individuals who achieved extraordinary results through hard work and strategic planning. Michael Phelps was one very familiar figure the world watched intensely. Seeing him come back again and again, even after a few disappointing events, made him the poster boy for resiliency. He did not give up, so we had to include him on at least one chart so he could inspire a few of our upcoming writers.
The 2012 Olympic Games provided us with two weeks of entertainment, but also showed us how to be in this world. The athletes approached each task as a challenge, saw failure as a chance to learn, and felt proud of their efforts that got them to London among all the other countries. Whether you use the Olympics or not, we know you will continue to find ways to inspire another generation of students excited to learn and try things out.
And as always, happy charting!
Marjorie Martinelli and Kristine Mraz
Chartchums is back after a bit of a rest, and we are excited to once again be sharing classroom stories, charts, and ideas with you. Now, if you are like us (quick check: Have you already started lingering over school supplies at Target? Then, yes, you are like us.), you probably never stopped thinking about teaching and are already imagining the myriad of possibilities for the upcoming year.
This year will be a slightly different one for Chartchums. Our book comes out September 1 (click on the picture to purchase it), and we are already thinking about the next one. Kristi is heading back into the classroom to be a kindergarten teacher and Marjorie will continue to work in schools across the country and world as a seasoned staff developer at the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project. As we both prepare for the year ahead, we find ourselves talking constantly about plans and systems and routines for the upcoming year to keep ourselves (and the teachers and students we work with) successful.
Routine is an essential component to any teacher’s classroom. Think about your own life and the routines that sustain and comfort you on a daily basis. For us, it is turning the coffee pot on BEFORE stepping into the shower so it is ready to greet us once we emerge. It is laying clothes out the night before to avoid the “I have nothing to wear” conundrum in the early morning hours, and finally it is finishing up emails before dinner, so we can truly be present with our partners and families for the rest of the evening.
Principles of Management and Routines
The same is true for the students in your classroom. Routine is calming, comforting, and sustaining, especially for students who may have less consistent routines at home. Our brilliant colleague at TCRWP, Shanna Schwartz, has some words of wisdom when it comes to teaching management and routines to students. Shanna speaks of five principles of management:
- Be consistent: Once children learn a routine it becomes automatic and takes none of their mental power to execute it. Each time you change a routine, it requires learning and brain power from students. Choose one way to do things and stick with it, so children can attend to the important parts of your teaching.
- Have reasonable expectations: Seventeen-step routines might be a bit complicated for first grade. Create routines with 3-5 steps and children will be more successful in learning (and remembering) them.
- Teach the routine, don’t just tell it: Give children the opportunity to practice the routine again and again until it becomes automatic. As with all things, the learning is in the doing.
- Practice what you preach: If one routine involves walking quietly from one space to another, keep your own voice quiet as well. Students are learning far more about the rules of the classroom from what you do, than what you say.
- Put yourself out of a job, foster independence: Sometimes it feels like it will be faster and easier to do things yourself: hand out the paper, collect the markers, pass out the books, but part of what every teacher is teaching is how to be a citizen in the world. Children learn responsibility and active problem solving when they are given responsibility and chances to solve problems independently. This can be supported with the work you capture on charts.
Sample Routine Charts
Routine charts are likely the most common chart teachers make in the first few weeks of school. There are a few basic principles that will help you tackle these charts in ways that will support student learning and develop independence.
1. Make them with the students.
2. Use student photographs to make them stick.
3. Write them in steps, like a how-to.
4. Reread them daily as a part of shared reading.
With all things charted, once the majority of students know the routine – retire the chart. You will certainly need that space for charting the next bits of your powerful teaching.
Other “Starting the Year Strong” Supports
Want more beginning of the year charts and ideas? Then check out these posts from earlier in our history:
Last, but Not Least
Chartchums is available to do work in your school to support you and your colleagues in creating powerful charts, independent students, and memorable teaching. Contact us directly at: email@example.com or through the Heinemann website.
As always, happy charting!
Kristine Mraz and Marjorie Martinelli
We are very excited to introduce this week’s Chartchums guest blogger, Chris Lehman. Not only is Chris a dear colleague and friend, he is the author of several professional books, including the brilliant Pathways to the Common Core: Accelerating Achievement (with Lucy Calkins and Mary Ehrenworth), the highly helpful Reviving Disengaged Writers, and his newest book, Energize Research Reading and Writing: Fresh Strategies to Spark Interest, Develop Independence, and Meet Key Common Core Standards, Grades 4-8. In his latest book, sure to be another big hit, Chris tackles one of the most talked about issues among teachers: research reading and writing. Chris shows how he works with students and teachers across the country and around the world to engage kids in real study, real excitement for learning, and real understanding. We’re so excited about this book and so thrilled to have Chris share some of his latest thinking with us here at Chartchums. (In fact, the book is available for pre-order right this second HERE.)
Chris also has an active education-focused twitter account – @iChrisLehman – we suggest you give him a follow. Without further ado, please join us in welcoming, Chris Lehman!
It is such an honor to post with Chartchums, not just because I think Kristi and Marjorie are two really brilliant people—who are awfully funny, I might add—but because the mission of this blog/community/love-fest embodies all that research should be: digging deep into a topic you love, grabbing every single piece of possible information you can, and then sharing it with others. “How can we harness the visual power of charts to support our students’ independence” is a battle cry for teachers in this community; in every post (and every post comment!) we see that call being answered over and over.
Researching a cool topic—like charts—isn’t just fun, it’s an essential life skill. In fact, the Common Core expects that every child will research “to build and present knowledge.” From shared studies and writing in kindergarten, all the way up to intensive, individualized research with cited sources in upper grades, every child should learn to find information they need, learn from it, and share that learning with others.
But here’s the thing. Walk the halls of nearly any school and you are certain to find projects that, though colorful and well-intended, are either plagiarized directly from sources or are filled with regurgitated facts formed into the shapes of paragraphs. Even more concerning, walk up to any of the creators of those posters or essays or booklets and ask, “Can you tell me about your topic?” and a great percentage of them will look at you as if you are out of your mind (imagine a typical pre-teen look of disgust here).
There is lots to say about this topic, but here are two ideas to consider. First, students come with loads of expertise, even in methods of research. Secondly, writing about research is about teaching others, not just proving you read something. I’d love to hear what things each of you do in your schools, too.
Our Students Come with Oodles of Expertise, Even in Methods of Research
Often times in an effort to “help” we—how should I say this?—“over-help.” We dole out itty-bits of strategies on a daily basis, almost forcing students to wait for each new nugget, even when they may already know how to do it. Take for example, nonfiction reading. If we begin a first grade nonfiction unit by saying, “We’re now going to start a brand new type of reading in this unit. One you have never done before. It is waaaay different. It’s called ‘NON-fiction’!” we don’t take advantage of what children already explored when reading nonfiction in kindergarten. We can unintentionally act as if it’s brand new every year, even up through eighth grade and high school sometimes. Studying research is no different.
So consider letting your students show you what they already know about research writing, before diving into instruction.
Here’s a version of this idea I had the pleasure of teaching with a 5th grade inclusion class in Harlem. We set up bins of nonfiction books on tables, some chart paper (yay!), kids arranged in partnerships or groups, and then took a few deep breaths to prepare us for whatever ride the class took us on.
I said, “Today, we become authors of nonfiction ourselves. We are going to find topics, organize them, and write not just for ourselves, but write to teach others to become experts on our topics as well. Today will be all about experimenting, just trying things out—who cares if one version doesn’t go well, we’ll just try another and another. To start, let’s take a look at what some of our fellow nonfiction authors are already doing in their books.”
We started with a chart on which we had written three categories:
Information Book Authors Write to TEACH!
• They choose topics (hobbies, ideas, places) they LOVE and readers will too.
• They organize (structure, sections) to teach readers.
• They use different (a variety) kinds of details.
I then led the class in all three, super fast, inquiries. I demonstrated with a book I was holding, then they spoke with partners about books they had in front of them. In the end, we ended up with this messy, but loud, energetic, idea-filled chart:
Inquiry work is often a messy process when kids are in the midst of making discoveries. Brainstorming needs to be fast and it is more important to capture these erupting ideas than worry about how the chart looks. As students get further into their experiments, they can then revise or create new charts with examples from books or from their own writing, with hand-drawn illustrations, or with photographs of themselves in action. Handing over some responsibility is always harder on the teacher than on the students, but the results are usually increased agency and ownership of the work being done in a classroom.
Right after our shared brainstorming session, the students were fully geared up and nearly bouncing out of their seats, so I let them loose by saying, “Right now, you are nonfiction book authors. Look up here for a moment (I pointed to the chart we had just completed) and make a plan for your work for the whole rest of this work time. Are you someone that will start with number one? Brainstorming lots of topics? You might decide to focus working most on number 1. Maybe making lists or webs or charts (I checked the first box for emphasis). Or maybe you have topics and want to try our ways to organize them, so you’ll work on number 2. Maybe listing possible chapters, or drawing sections, or coming up with subtitles (I added a check to the second box). Or maybe you already have the perfect topic in mind and you want to try other ways of teaching it. You could work on number 3 (another check). Maybe you will make some diagrams, or write what you know already, or jot down sources you could go to. Right now, show your partner with your fingers where you will start: 1, 2, or 3. I pointed to each category to emphasize that this chart contained different strategies they could try to get started with their research. Okay, ready nonfiction authors? GO!”
The results of one period were amazing. Some students made lists, some webs, some started writing sections, some brainstorming ways of teaching their topics. The other teachers and I were so impressed by the choices students were making and, even more so, by how much we could see they already knew. “Hmmm,” we thought, “so we don’t really need to spend too much time on collecting ideas. And for sure they get the idea of topics with subtopics, so we can go a little further and look at more sophisticated ways of organizing ideas.”
Writing About Research Is About TEACHING, Not Just Proving You Read Something
Once students show what they know, you can decide what to teach. One important shift for students (and, frankly, for us) is to frame writing about ideas as teaching others, not just as writing to show that you learned. To underscore this point, I’ll often hold up a nonfiction book and say to students, “The author of this book did not just write to prove to you that they know a lot of stuff. It’s not pages and pages of just facts. That would be SO boring to read. Instead the author of this book wrote to teach you. I want to read just a little of this book to you. Listen to how you can almost picture the topic, because the writer is being so careful with how they teach you. Listen….”
You then could teach students to experiment with many different ways to teach the same facts. Seeing which way can best teach others. Here is a version of a teaching-through-writing chart for younger researchers.
During shared writing, students can orally practice a number of ways of teaching the same fact using this chart while you write down the sentences (your older students can see how you practice writing these out, then try out some of these ways in their own writer’s notebooks). For example, if the class is studying cuttlefish, you might start by saying, “If we are teaching our readers that cuttlefish flash their skin to surprise other sea creatures, let’s try one way of teaching that fact by making a comparison to something else people already know….”
“Let’s try another way to teach, describing what the cuttlefish does, slow step-by-step style, so our readers can really picture it….”
“Now, let’s try telling a story, the cuttlefish can be the main character. Maybe start with something like, ‘deep in the ocean, the cuttlefish swims along’….”
Practicing ways of teaching-through-writing is not only good for leading to way, way, way better writing about research, but is also terrific for learning. The repeated practice means students are interacting with facts and ideas over and over, manipulating them in different ways. Research is fun again, charts help hold onto what was discovered along the way, and all of that work leads to what it should—greater expertise.
Marjorie Martinelli and Kristi Mraz
As you sat back and enjoyed the Memorial Day weekend, you probably could not help thinking about all that is left to do as the current school year begins to draw to a close. Relax. The most important thing you can do now is to help your students review all they have learned, strengthen what is needed, and celebrate how they have grown. Charts can help you do each and all of these things. Charts are like a scrapbook of the journey you and your students have traveled since the beginning of the school year. Like a scrapbook, there is much joy in revisiting each and every page. In this week’s post we revisit the idea that a picture is worth a thousand words and that charts can act as models and mentors.Back in the Fall we talked about teaching by example and using charts to create visions for what is possible, followed by models kids can strive towards and mentor themselves to while working in the writing workshop. Teaching by example helps review, reinforce, and highlight what is important to learn and know in each and every genre.
In many schools and throughout many grades, the spring season brought about science based studies and inquiries that inspired children to become curious scientists actively exploring their world. These “inquiring minds” questioned, wondered, experimented, explored, manipulated, and maneuvered in an attempt to find answers and open up further questions. As scientists they needed to record their questions, their findings and then write about their discoveries, so as to present to other scientists in the community. Writing well becomes very important in reaching this goal. In addition to pulling out craft charts from previous units of study and showing how these moves can be just as useful when writing about science topics, there are a few charts that can be created that show specific examples of how science writers teach about their topic in clear and concrete ways.
One question that came up as we visited school after school was the issue of children writing less as scientists than as narrative writers. This worry was exemplified by the fact that it was one of the last units of study and was to measure all the kids had learned. The following charts were created in response to this concern, revisiting the idea that charting can create visions for what is possible.
Elaboration continues to be a concern, no matter the genre, no matter the grade. Charts such as this give concrete examples of how writers can elaborate on ideas and knowledge by explicitly annotating the questions and providing examples from a published text. Keeping the five W’s, plus the How, in mind makes it much easier to elaborate because it gives kids possibly six ways to elaborate each and every time.
Another goal for this unit was to teach children how to write well about their science topics. Writing was not just to record the results of experiments, but to turn this newly found knowledge into writing that would encapsulate all that was learned and could teach lots of folks about the topic. Once again, turning to mentor authors helps insure there is a clear vision of what is possible and how one might go about getting there. Yes, a picture is indeed worth a thousand words.
The purpose of this chart is to provide clear examples, while also setting clear expectations of what science writers should include when writing texts designed to teach. The next step will be to have kids use this chart as a way of comparing their own writing to the writing on the chart. They can write their names on post-its and put them next to the types of craft moves they have tried. Teachers can also photocopy student examples and hang these next to the published authors, which furthers children’s sense of competency and accomplishment.
This is an example of a chart that was created with students based on what they had noticed as they studied mentor texts. It also specifically highlights craft moves that have been taught and makes clear expectations for what writers should include in their own writing. It also provides multiple entry points for crafting writing. In other words, there is something for everyone. When asked to place their name next to strategies tried, everyone will be able to feel successful.
These types of charts can be used for any genre, any subject. If you are planning to end the school year with a unit on poetry, for example, you can imagine some poems you might annotate with the kids. You might highlight topic, title, line breaks, repetition, word choice, punctuation, last lines, and so on. This type of chart has endless possibilities, as do teachers!
Marjorie Martinelli and Kristine Mraz
Here at Chartchums we are excited once again to have a guest blogger. This week we will hear from Bianca Adamo Lavey, a staff developer at the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project, who works with the teachers at Holbrook Elementary School in Long Island, New York. She and the second grade teachers had been doing a lot of work this year on developing children’s independence and were inspired by last week’s blog to make this work not only visual, but also interactive. What follows is her description of what the teachers thought and did as they continued this pursuit.
I am so excited to share how teachers at Holbrook Road School were inspired by the idea of goal setting and rubrics written about in the Chartchums blog post, Goals, Rubrics, and Bears…Oh My! posted last week. It struck a cord because they too had been thinking about ways to help their students reflect, self-assess and set goals, but weren’t quite sure how best to go about it. The charts and rubrics shared by the teachers at PS 277 and PS 109 were just the thing to get all of us thinking and talking about how we might create some versions that would work with our kids. The second grade teachers, along with the help of reading teachers, Jen DeHayes and Jen Groen, got together and began to articulate their wishes and wants for the students under their care.
One big goal the teachers had this year was getting the kids to make the best use of partnership time and seeing this time not just as a place to give your ideas, but as a place to get and grow ideas. The teacher in this classroom, Julie Kelly, outlined some of the big goals her class has accomplished so far this year and then explicitly told kids what she’s noticed as possible next steps. Readers first reflected on what partnership time was like for them, asking themselves what they felt like they were doing well and what they felt like they could work on, looking to the goals chart for help. Partners also provided some feedback to each other and many kids decided to set partnership goals for them to work on together, rather than set different individual goals. Then her teaching assistant, Arlene Leporati, helped organize this information on a chart so it was clear and easily accessible.
Julie then looked to the chart as a way to form some small groups. She realized that although many of the readers in her class were quite aware about what things they needed to work on, they probably didn’t know exactly how to work on them. The strategy card above was given to the readers who wanted to work on “keeping the conversation going” during partnership time. Before partnership time they reflected on which of these strategies they had used in the past and made a plan for which ones they wanted to try today. During partnership time, they took the card out and referred back to it for tips.
Another goal the 2nd grade teachers had centered around getting kids to think in more sophisticated ways about their books and to show these thoughts with their jottings on sticky notes. So, we decided to look to what kids were thinking and jotting, create a rubric designed to help the kids work in more sophisticated ways, and then have kids look to their sticky notes to reflect and set goals. You’ll see from this chart that it is designed in a way to make it easy for the kids to think about where they are on the rubric. It also makes it easy for the kids to learn ways to move up to the next level. Once they match up their post it to the one on the chart, they can look to the next level and read the strategies listed to learn how to deepen their thinking and even set new goals. I feel honored to share what these awesome, thoughtful teachers are doing to create such reflective, involved students.
And we are honored to hear from all of the teachers out there who are doing so much to make teaching matter. We are also thinking about how the above ideas can easily be applied to other subject areas where children talk with partners and create goals for themselves like, math, social studies, gym, art, music, science . . . the list is endless.
Happy Mother’s Day and Happy Charting!
Kristine Mraz and Marjorie Martinelli