The Upside of Downtime

Hi Everyone!

As the days get longer, many of you are transitioning from the hectic day to day of school to a new summer routine. During the school year it can be easy to let less urgent things slip to the side: from doctor’s appointments to reading that book everyone is talking about. The summer is the time to rejuvenate yourself as a person, and as a professional. Here are our suggestions to make the most of these restful days:

1. Read. Correction, read EVERYTHING: The best teachers of reading are readers. Challenge yourself to read in a genre you have often shied away from or try to balance your reading diet with a steady mix of fiction and non-fiction. Apps like “indiebooks” and “goodreads” can get you pointed in the right direction, as well as a talk with your neighborhood booksellers.

Here are some of our favorites:

Fiction:

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

Fun Home (Graphic Novel) by Alison Bechdel

Fantasy:

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

Science Fiction:

2312 by Kim Stanley Robinson

The City and The City by China Mieville

Non-Fiction:

Sugar Salt Fat by Michael Moss

How to Stay Sane by Philippa Perry

Professional Texts:

Already Ready by Katie Wood Ray and Matt Glover

Young Investigators by Judy Harris Helm and Lillian Katz

Opening Minds by Peter Johnston

Smarter Charts by Marjorie Martinelli and Kristine Mraz (c’mon! We had to!)

Common Core Aligned Units of Study for Teaching Writing by Lucy Calkins and others (including Marjorie and Kristine, you will see our charts sprinkled across the books, as well as in our books: Grade 1: Writing Information Books (Kristine) and Grade 3: Crafting True Stories (Marjorie).

2. Use this time to get smarter about technology,

BLOG! Start one or read them:

We recommend checking out: twowritingteachers.wordpress.com, christopherlehman.wordpress.com, kateandmaggie.com, investigatingchoicetime.com, and www.heinemann.com/digitalcampus

Blogs (like this one) tend to be bite sized and easily digestible. Reading a few can inspire you to start your own (and let us know so we can follow you!)

TWEET! Or just follow along!

Kristine thought twitter was just a way to find out what Kim Kardashian was doing on a minute by minute basis, but it is actually so much more! There are chats almost every day talking about important educational topics. You can rub elbows with the celebrities of education: Kathy Collins, Kylene Beers, Seymour Simon, Fountas and Pinnell, and so many more!

If you would like to get your feet wet with twitter chats, you can check out one at 8:30 PM est on Monday June 17. Kristi will be hosting one that discusses building strong relationships with parents. She will be tweeting as @MrazKristine, Kristi and Marjorie will also be participating in the chat as @chartchums. Just type in #tcrwp to find the talk, or sign up to follow us!

Check out podcasts: for pleasure and for professional growth!

Podcasts can be a great way to pass a workout or long car ride. You can listen to ones on a myriad of topics and tune into ones that speak to your interests in particular. One we love (and will be featured on in the late summer) is the Choice Literacy podcast. You can find out more about this great resource at http://www.choiceliteracy.com/articles-popular-category.php?id=10018

3. Write: One can write for pleasure or for purpose, but it is essential that teachers of writing write as much as they can. You can join a writing club, start a blog, or pick up that diary that is dusty in your drawer. For a treasure trove of inspiration and models of writing, visit www.brainpickings.org . You will find advice from writers like Kurt Vonnegut, a description of James Joyce’s writing routine, and Joan Didion’s reasons for keeping a notebook.

You may not have much opportunity for charting over the next few months, so in the interim: Happy learning and happy resting!
Kristi and Marjorie

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Whether Gearing Down or Revving Up…Setting kids up for independence

For some of you the 2012-2013 school year has come to a close, for others this week will be the last, and here in the northeast many schools won’t finish until the end of June. And then there are the many year-round schools across the country and lastly, summer school. So whether you are gearing down or revving up, here are a few ideas to encourage your students to practice what they have learned with increased independence using charts and checklists to help them along.

Setting kids up to have the mind frame that they can be in charge of their own learning and can help themselves solve problems as they arise is a life skill that will carry them far. At PS 176, an amazing school in Brooklyn where the majority of students are ELLs, Marjorie set the first graders up in Valeria’s class to ask themselves questions whenever they got stuck or weren’t sure how to solve a problem when reading and to use the charts and other resources in the classroom, not only as needed, but with flexibility as well. Bringing some of the strategy charts down and putting them back in front of the children also helps children reorient themselves to what you have taught. At this time of year, it is not so much new learning, as it is maintenance learning and review.

The left side highlights the questions, the right is one of the reading strategy charts.

The left side highlights the questions, the right is one of the reading strategy charts.

This idea of asking questions was extended to the writing workshop and used when the children were given a checklist to reflect on the poems they had written. The two key questions were “What have I learned about writing poems?” and “What do I still need to work on?” Putting the questions inside of speech bubbles was a visual reminder that these were questions that were to be spoken both to themselves and to their writing partners. The checklist includes examples and space for children to make tally marks each time they find a poem where they have used one of the strategies on the checklist. Rather than one “check and I am done!” it becomes “look how many times I have used repetition!”

Questions to ask when using a checklist.

Questions to ask when using a checklist.

Close-up of the checklist.

Close-up of the checklist.

Another area to build independence is with book clubs and conversations. Setting up a checklist to remind club members of how to get ready for a conversation and then to keep it going is one way to do this. In Florence’s first grade class at PS 176 Marjorie showed the children a system to get their talk going by having each child choose one of their big idea post-its and put it on a talk mat (in this case it was just a piece of paper with a star drawn in the middle). Then the club decides on which idea they want to start with and moves that post-it to the middle of the star. The goal is to talk as long as they can about this idea before moving on to the next big idea. The photo below shows what it looked like at the end of the lesson once the children had tried this out on a shared class book, Worm Builds by Kathy Caple (Brand New Readers). Some of the ideas generated by the class were, “Worm used to be worried, but now he is confident,” “Worm learned not to give up,” and “Friends should say sorry,” which they chose as the one to start the conversation with. Each club was then sent off with their own star talk mat and checklist to remind them of the steps without the need for a teacher nearby. The children in each book club were focused and intent, the talk energetic and dynamic.

Make your book club ROCK!

Make your book club ROCK!

In Pamela’s kindergarten class at PS 176 she was revving her children up for first grade by showing them ways they could post-it in their books during their final unit of study on character. The first lesson Marjorie taught was on noting character feelings and when a character’s feelings change. Once again she used some of her favorite books from the Brand New Readers series to model and practice with (Worm Builds and Piggy and Dad “Play Ball!” by Frank Remkiewicz). The photo below shows the beginning of a strategy chart. The chart includes not only visuals, but some sample post-its kids can refer to as examples. Pamela did a follow up lesson on revising some of the feeling words that were very general like “happy” and “really, really happy” since one of the goals of this unit was increasing vocabulary for her large percentage of English Language Learners. Another follow-up lesson was on using the post-its to do inferential retellings of stories.

Post-its help track when a character's feelings change.

Post-its help track when a character’s feelings change.

We hope this helps whether you are gearing down or revving up for the days ahead!

Happy Charting!

Marjorie and Kristi