A New Year, A New Start

Hello Everyone!

Happy New Year! It’s been a while, we know, but we are back and so appreciate your sticking with us through our absence! As happens, life happened, and the hiatus gave us a chance to get some things in order. Actually, it was because of life that Kristi had to miss a few days with her kindergarten class which got her really thinking about how important independence, routine, and expectations are for children. No one loves the day after a substitute, and that feeling forced Kristi to ask: “What do I ‘own’ in the classroom and what do the children ‘own’?” This lead her to explore this question with her colleagues and we are all the fortunate recipients of all they tried.

Charts and tools are one way we look to transfer ownership over to children, as well as to provide opportunities for self-reflection and goal setting. The teacher can not be the regulator, corrector, and director at all times. Children learn to become responsible when given responsibility. With this in mind, Kristi and her colleagues dove in using that idea as a guiding principle. Below are some of the things that resulted from this inquiry.

Helping Reading Workshop Become More Independent

Self-assessment is a tricky thing – for adults too! – and so creating a rubric that would help kindergarten children assess their reading time seemed like a daunting challenge. Kristi first tried this:

IMG_0505(For all the inquiring minds – the hamburger in the speech bubble represents talking about lunch during reading workshop!)

Almost every child immediately selected “Superhero,” with a few exceptions who labeled themselves as strong. Kristi realized that self-assessment without some practice was going to be hard, so then she created this chart with her class:


To make it even more concrete, the class decided that more than 3 reminders from the teacher to read books would make it an “okay” day. Between 1 and 3 teacher reminders would make it “strong” and no reminders would make it a “superhero” kind of day.  Alongside this chart was a chart that listed ways to stick with reading even when you felt tired or hungry. After a week or two of group assessment, children were ready to self-assess with more honest, reflective results.

This time of year is also the time when many teachers are working on partnerships. The always wise team of kindergarten teachers that Kristi works alongside at PS 59 in Manhattan developed some playful tools to help partners be productive and stay engaged.

Front cover with pictures of the partners. The partners are either apples or bananas to help with turn taking.

Front cover with pictures of the partners. The partners are either apples or bananas to help with turn taking.

Inside of folder with options for partners. One side says: to do, the other says: "done"

Inside of folder with options for partners. One side says: to do, the other says: “done”

The folder made partnerships feel a bit like a game and the partner activities inside were taught a few at a time, then the process of working with a partner was revisited throughout the unit.


Helping Writing Workshop Become More Independent 

Kristi’s mom, who was a teacher for many years, always advised her to “teach yourself out of a job”. It is a beautiful concept, but one that can feel frustrating when you have 24 five year olds clamoring for your care and attention. Kristi used her all about unit in writing (a genre many of her children had been dabbling with since September) to teach towards independence. This happened in several ways. First, Kristi stopped teaching children how to write, and started teaching them how to teach each other. Children who had experimented with something that would be great for the whole class to know were invited to teach alongside Kristi during some minilessons. Then the class reflected on who they learned from, what the apprentice teachers did to teach them, and how they did it. The chart below shows how Kristi made this public with her students.


After that, Kristi started getting children ready to lead small groups. She selected a few children who had something they could teach and met with them in a small group. The first step was to identify HOW to teach. The children thought through WHEN writers should do what they did and HOW to do what they did. Then the other students signed up for these student led seminars (keep in mind that these are Kindergarten students).


The “teachers” showed their own work and taught the others how to do it. Kristi coached in to the seminar teachers with prompts like, “Ask her to try it” and “Say your steps again.” It was incredible to see how the children rose to the occasion of being teachers, and how much more likely children were to use what they were taught when it was presented by a peer. Was it perfect? Absolutely not, but it was a start. Kristi is planning to do student-led seminar workshops every Friday, starting with writing and extending to reading and choice time over the next month. She’ll keep you posted on how it goes!

Making Choice Time Matter

Kristi’s brilliant assistant principal, Alison Porcelli, wrote the book on choice time – literally – with Cheryl Tyler. It’s called Language Acquisition in the Choice Time Workshop and everyone should buy it and read it RIGHT NOW. One BIG idea in the book is that children should be setting goals and reflecting on them within choice time. Since Kristi’s kindergarteners are staying in the same centers for 3-5 days, they were ready to take this on. First planning a project was modeled, and then the children took it on. Goals ranged from building on to a city in the block center to throwing a wedding in the drama center. Art center caught wedding fever and decided to spend the week making decorations, cakes, and clothes for the event.


This hung in their center while they worked. At the end of the week they told Kristi what to take a picture of to show how they had met their project goal.



Kristi’s next step is to hand the camera to the children so they can capture the work they did that meets their project goals.

A Final Word

This has all been messy and, at times, terrifying – but it has always, always been fun. Kristi’s colleagues at PS 59 have put their brains together to develop ideas, put themselves out there to try it, and laughed when the results were a disaster (most of the disasters were happening in Kristi’s room). Kristi cannot say enough about the brilliant team she works with: Kathryn Cazes, Valerie Geschwind, Mollie Gaffney, Katie Lee and Andrea Mackoff who are incredible teachers and incredible people. Anything you see here that catches your eye was always the result of a team effort, and Kristi wishes to thank them for letting her share them all with the world. Thanks guys!

Grab your team close and dive in! Until next time, Happy Charting!

Kristine Mraz and Marjorie Martinelli

Oh My! More Ideas About Goals, Rubrics, and Groups

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