Wednesday, July 25, 2012

What Happens In Vegas...


What a whirlwind it was! FOUR days in Vegas for two National Conferences! Crazy? Yes! But not a bad place for teachers to go. A lot was learned and hopefully a lot of F-U-N was had!  I was too busy working to really see it all. In fact aside from getting there and leaving there I never stepped foot out of the hotel! I will admit to a few glasses of wine at LAVO, the restaurant inside the hotel.  I didn't go to the CLUB (this year). You had to stay up until 11pm just to GET IN! That is what time it opened! Are you kidding me? Give me a club that opens at 8pm so I can be home and in bed by 10pm! If you think I'm kidding... I'm really not!  

Vegas was full of WORK, WORK, WORK for me and I thought I'd share a few lines about each of the 15 (yes-15) trainings I did in those 4 days! See...now you see why I have to be home and in bed by 10pm! 

National I Teach K Conference 
Tuesday and Wednesday

Balanced Literacy Components: Tying Them All Together 
I love when I get to work with teachers and adequately EXPLAIN Balanced Literacy- what it is and what it is not and how all of the pieces work together. What I love about Balanced Literacy (besides the fact that it is an effective framework for teaching the Common Core State Standards) is that it is about teaching WELL.  Sometimes it is teaching LESS but teaching MORE in depth! Giving kids the gift of TIME and having a structure through which you can teach into the TIME they spend reading and writing. 

Blogging: A Terrific Tool for Teaching Writing 
One of the biggest things learned in this session is a tool for easy blogging with students.  Also of note is that we talked about how technology does not REPLACE the need for writing instruction, but rather gives us a venue and a vehicle for sharing our writing with a global audience. Of question was whether or not teachers should write FOR the students so their writing can be "read" online. The answer to that was NO! I could go into detail... but I think I will wait. I now have a topic for another blog post! I'm starting to really get into this so you all better keep reading! 

Number Sense and Fluency: Building Strong Math Skills
This may be one of my most favorite sessions- and it is MATH! Can you believe it? It is full of oldies but goodies! Meaning what was good instruction in number sense and fluency is STILL good instruction for number sense and fluency! It may still be marketed as a MAKE and TAKE, but we more DO and TAKE the ideas with us.  There are a lot of materials for sharing and using as we participate in the activities. I firmly believe that having teachers participate in the activity themselves makes the learning stick when they return back to their classroom and have some chicken scratch in their notes.  However... Kindergarten teachers in a session RIGHT after lunch... I earned every penny in that 75 minutes! I kept saying, "Teachers...stay with me!" 

Center Management Made Simple
Very, very simple! In this session teachers took a "tour" through my classroom. I told them to set LOW expectations before the show began as NONE of these pictures are Pinterest worthy.  We saw how simple centers can be. Melissa Leach is all about simple centers so I can spend more time thinking and planning for my Guided Reading teaching at the table. We remembered over and over again not to throw the baby out with the bathwater and that it is not about a ONE SIZE FITS ALL approach to centers, but rather finding what works for you and WORKING IT that is key.

Designing Differentiated Mathematics: Math Centers and Small Groups
I really wish I could have taught this topic ALL DAY with teachers. We know so much about differentiating reading and using a Three Tier model- meaning Tier One teaches whole group, small group, and with learning centers. However, we have yet to get much help in implementing the same learning methods in mathematics. Until NOW! There are two powerful books out there at the moment that guided me in my planning and preparation of this session. Guided Math and Math Exchanges.  This session had teachers participating in 5 different math stations (which can be tweaked to actually be closer to 10 or 15) and then they began to brainstorm their own implementation of math centers in their Kindergarten classroom.

On Safari with Differentiated Instruction
This was my smallest session at the conference- perhaps because on the level just upstairs were 6,000+ teachers at the DI Conference? Maybe teachers didn’t feel like attending a Safari? Maybe they headed down the strip to Half Price Tickets when they opened at 10? Regardless… our small group had fun. This was an active session full of talk and movement. After all- that is what a DI classroom is all about.  Kim Adsit (another fellow presenter with SDE) attended my session.  She has a full day training on DI and I was so mad at her for coming to my session! She already KNOWS all of this stuff, right? She told me I still managed to teach her a few things and for that I am happy!  The goal for this session is to teach in a way that is differentiated for participants and then help them make connections to what I did and what they can do in their own classrooms.  Kim said she is going to use the idea for Savings and Loans from my session in her new packet on early numeracy on TPT. It's not ready yet, but it is coming soon so be sure to check it out.  She showed me her ideas and I like it! 

Guided Reading: Soaring to the Next Level
While this session is titled “Soaring to the Next Level” I always have a differentiated group.  Some are using Guided Reading and perhaps consider themselves experts- and are really there needing the “next level”, others could not define Guided Reading to others.  This session provides “ah-ha’s” and “affirmations” for many.  The best part of this session would have to be the video I share teaching a Guided Reading lesson in a classroom in LA.  I do not travel with my own videographer but you can surely get a feel for what a lesson at the table is supposed to look like and the clear roles of the teacher before, during, and after. A teacher who was in Vegas last year and attended my Guided Reading session came up before another session and told me that, “Could it be…” (which is a teaching point from this session) changed her teaching practices at the Guided Reading Table! THAT right there is why I fly all over the country and feel like I live out of suitcases… THAT right there folks! I am making a difference- be it small- but made a difference for her! 

Web 2.0 Tools for Your Teacher Toolbox
Web 2 point WHAT you may ask? Many who came didn’t know what Web 2.0 is and that was the first item of business. Then we powered through over 30 FREE, yes I said it, 100% FREE, tools for teachers!  These are websites that help us do our teaching work and do it easier!  One tool is a Wiki which allows teachers to post and collaborate on a website with a few easy clicks.  Wikispaces gives free websites to teachers and would allow a grade level team to make a collaborative site with many pages where they could collect resources and always make live updates.  In my opinion the best thing about this training is that teachers receive a link to a Wiki that I will continue to add to as I learn and discover new tools.  I wish I could tell you about all of the tools, but you’ll just have to be sure and attend the session next time you see me presenting it at a conference near you!

So that is two days done... only two more to go!

National Conference on Differentiated Instruction K-12
Thursday and Friday


Guided Reading: A Powerful Tool for Differentiating Reading Instruction (K-3)
Another Guided Reading session, but with a different crowd.  I'm always amazed at the variety of instruction that is taking place across our country and this is the session where it stands out the most! Those WITH assessments to determine reading levels of students, those without. Those with resources (i.e. a Guided Reading Leveled Literacy Library) and those without.  Those who are told to DO Guided Reading and have received little IF ANY guidance as to what that really means.  The first soap box I have to stand on is that Guided Reading is not an intervention. It CAN be used as intervention- but it's what should be happening for all students regardless of additional work in Tiers as Tier ONE instruction.  Can I get an Amen!? Some teachers actually SAY amen when I say this in the training. I also love the teachers whose eyes and heads are just NODDING at me! Encouraging me on to say the things they know but want the people around them, or at their campus to hear vocalized! Another successful session. 

Become a More Confident Classroom Manager (K-3)
Or as I called it, Managing the Differentiated Environment from A-Z.  This was a new session for me! And timing was everything. We did it though! There was a lot of note taking, a lot of learning all sprinkled with laughter. I have to tell you that laughter is the best way to learn.  I wish I would have taken a poll of the room (mental note- add that to a slide before I teach it again) of the years in education that made up the classroom. It really looked to be a mix of experiences which I love! You are never too experienced to learn some new things about managing the classroom.  I really hope there were also some brand new teachers in the bunch! Overall- it was a great session. A was for Anchor Charts. If you don’t know what those are… take a look at my board on Pinterest… I will admit I’m a little obsessed and wish I could have had cuter anchor charts when I was in the classroom. Pinterest really has upped the “cute” factor in education. I’m scowling just a bit… but I did just get another idea for a later blog post! You better keep reading… ‘cause now I am fired UP to keep writing!

Liven Up and Differentiate Literacy with Learning Centers (K-3)
This session was fun. Much like the math session on centers- we don't talk about centers- we participate! This session is about simple.  Not only simple, but better than that is simple that can be easily changed to represent lots of different concepts and content related to reading, writing, speaking, and listening for students.  If you were there, what did you think? What did you like best?

Over the Rainbow with Phonological Awareness, Phonics, and Letters (K-1)
In this session teachers get a solid understanding of the difference between Phonological Awareness and Phonics along with effective strategies for teaching both in their elementary classroom.  I think most helpful for teachers in the PA Continuum/Staircase.  We talked about the progression of PA and at what point we integrate PA with Phonics instruction.  Another active and fun session for teachers.  

I Can Read: Interventions for Readers who are Struggling (K-1)
Many come to this session thinking about Interventions as in Tier 2 and 3. Don't let the title fool you! We have daily interventions happening at Tier 1 as well- but we don't call them interventions! We call it good teaching in an environment that supports all learners. This session is less about what to do at a table with Tier 2 or 3, and more about what should be happening all day long in our environment and with our teaching to help kids say, "I can read!" The ideas are simple, yet powerful. I always get some of the best complements on evaluations from this session. 
  
Inspiring Young Writers with Writer’s Notebooks (K-2)
This was another new session for me! I have kept a Writer’s Notebook for years (blog post on this topic coming soon to partner my Reader’s Notebook post) and it was my honor to present it to teachers. I had a few teachers in the room who already had their own Writer’s Notebooks (I only wish they had had them THERE with them) and then the idea of Writer’s Notebooks was new for many!  We spent the session collecting our own PERSONAL ideas for writing because let’s be honest- write about a time when you were brave, doesn’t excite anyone to put pencil to paper! I guarantee you every teacher left the session with plenty of ideas for personal narrative writing and even some procedural and argumentative ideas!

Reader’s Workshop: Strategies for Engaged Independent Reading (K-3) 
Last session! Do I dare say we saved the best for last? Maybe it is true! Reader’s Workshop! A format for teaching the Common Core State Standards that involves explicit lessons about what readers do and time for readers to read. What a brilliant idea.  We talked in this session about management of books, time, and space. Most importantly however we learned lessons for cultivating readers and a community of readers in the classroom. I think teachers left with their first months “plans” in place. Like a train getting started… chug… chug… chug… that is how we start a workshop (whether it be reading or writing) in our classrooms. SLOW DOWN to SPEED UP- a tidbit from our colleague Debbie Diller.  I still had more to share and several slides to go- but I looked up and the participants eyes were GLAZED OVER! Not only had I taught 15 sessions… but they had attended 15 sessions.  Teachers know when to keep going… but the best teachers know when to stop! And stop we did. No one complained!  My favorite part of the day transpired after that however- a few teachers from Detroit stayed after to talk with me.  Motown is my hometown.  Hoping to hear from them again. I think they got a lot of Leach at this conference and I am hopeful I caught them on fire with my enthusiasm.

I realize this turned out to be a MUCH longer blog post than I had expected… however 15 sessions is a lot to talk about! I did make it out on Friday night to Phantom and I've been singing the songs ever since! I was so close I eve felt the breeze of the chandelier y'all! 

If you attended any of the sessions above… please make a comment! What do you remember from these sessions? I love hearing from teachers.

Until next year teachers… let me sign off the same way I did at the end of every session in Sin City. What HAPPENS in Vegas… STAYS in Vegas but what is LEARNED here… LEAVES here!

Melissa 


Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Reader's Notebooks

I love notebooks! I've been an avid keeper of a Writer's Notebook for years! I had not however ever thought about a Reader's Notebook and how that could serve me as a reader, a teacher of readers/reading, and a teacher of teachers until this summer.

I was in Memphis TN when I decided to make one! I was teaching teachers the next day, but I had a rental car and I had passed a few dollar stores on my way to my hotel. So off I went.


   
The picture below is what transpired with a few items from the Dollar Store and a little scrapbook paper.  The only thing missing was a little mod-podge but I knew I could do that part at home.


So what does a teacher DO with a Reader's Notebook one might ask? 

I divided mine into SECTIONS first. Each page marking the section decorated with more scrapbook paper of course! 

My Life as a Reader
My Life as a Reading Teacher
Independent Reading
Read Alouds

My Life as a Reader

I am going to use this section to PAY ATTENTION to the kind of reader that I am! There's a list of my likes and dislikes in reading. Pictures of my favorite books and favorite genres and the reasons why I read them. I am using this section to write down lines I love from books I have read and will continue to read. 

I used this section to write down my reading memories too. Thinks like Book It and trips to the used bookstore with my Grandma as a kid.  My reading memories become reading memories I can share with my students- thus helping them connect to reading memories. 

My favorite item in this section is my Reading Timeline. I got the idea from Julie Ballew! When I do this activity with teachers, you should just see them LIGHT UP! Readers have memories of books- books that stand out in our history- books we will always remember. I challenge you to make your own reading timeline and see what shows up for you! Here is mine...



My Life as a Reading Teacher

In this section I'm going to keep track of what I'm teaching or could teach my readers.  I see this section as a personal brainstorming place or record of anchor charts I've used in the classroom.  I left a lot of room for this section.  One thing I do at the beginning of the year as part of the work of Debbie Diller and her book Reading with Meaning is brainstorm with students:

Where Do Readers Read?
What Do Readers Read?
Who Do You Know That's a Reader?
What Do Readers Do?

The answers from students builds a reading community in our classroom- a fundamental component of a successful Reader's Workshop. I then make Anchor Charts of these conversations and hang in the classroom. I've made samples of what these anchor charts might look like inside my Reader's Notebook. 

Also of note in this section is my Anchor Chart on Fluent and Not Fluent Reading.  Working with a class in Memphis we generated the difference. Asking kids to DEFINE fluency was challenging. I found them just saying "fluent reading is fluent".  We had to dig MUCH deeper into that together.  I of course was ready with possible responses. This was the anchor chart I brainstormed in my Reader's Notebook before I made an anchor chart with them.


Independent Reading

So far in this section I am keeping up with my reading goals. One goal is the Book a Day Challenge from Donnalyn Miller. I am keeping track of the books I read as part of this challenge- it is a challenge all right! As I read, I am keeping notes of ideas for use with these books in my Read Alouds Section. Nothing fancy- just small notes as to what I could demonstrate or model as part of an Interactive Read Aloud or even a Shared Reading lesson. Also part of Reading Goals is to encourage students to make and keep their own.  

I also have a page with a printout of my Shelfari bookshelf in here of the books I plan to read. To paraphrase Donnalyn Miller in her book The Book Whisperer, kids need to be guided to keep lists of books they WANT to read in order to keep reading.  Kids see reading as a one book at a time rather than a continuous cycle. 



I just finished a series of three books this summer (I'll let you figure out the series) and I am already on my hunt for a new book. Finish one and begin another. That is how a reader works! If you haven't checked out Shelfari you need to! That may be my NEXT blog post? Maybe I do have more to share than I thought! :) 

Read Alouds

Seems that my Independent Reading and Read Alouds section are working in tandem.  I am also using this section to write down thinking that is SAID during my Read Alouds when we are focussed on a specific comprehension strategy.  Tracking "talk" and "thinking" allows me to go back and make connections in my teaching and students learning. I can't always manage this while also teaching, but I sure do try! I most enjoy sitting in the back of the room while other teachers teach lessons and record student thinking FOR them! 

I can't wait to keep collecting ideas of what else could fill my Teacher's Reader's Notebook. The purpose of it for me to be reflective of my life as a reader so I can better teach reading to my students and be on the lookout for what I can encourage my students to do and think about in their life as a reader.

What are you waiting for? Start yours! You KNOW you want to make your lists... and your READING TIMELINE! 

Happy reading teachers!
Melissa 

Write About It Wednesdays...

Write About It Wednesday... why do I fear you so much? I am a writer so this should not be a big deal! I teach thousands of teachers in a year so why am I so scared to type a few tips for them? To be downright honest, its because I fear I am not blog worthy and the world of teacher blogging intimidates me a little bit... OK a LOT! Regardless... I can only be me! And there is a chance... just a small chance that there are people out there who want to read about me.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Write About It Wednesdays...

So I thought by TELLING over 100 people that I was going to start blogging every Wednesday that it would actually happen! Well... not exactly, but It's still the plan! Please don't judge... and extend a little more patience to me!

I am currently typing from the CAR on a 10+ hour drive back from Michigan (family 4th of July extravaganza) to Virginia! I'm hopeful I'll be able to get unpacked from this trip before I leave BRIGHT and EARLY Monday morning from DC bound for LAS VEGAS! Can you believe that is the location for a bunch of innocent teachers to have a national conference? I will be teaching two days at the I Teach K conference and it will be my first year to present two days at the DI Conference. Yes- FOUR days in a row! I'm going to be TIRED!

Not only do I get to meet a ton of new teachers (I have 220 teachers in one of my sessions) but I also get to see some of my MOST favorite presenters. Vegas really is like a big family reunion for the presenters.  I can't wait!  I've got my bags packed and maybe I'll get a chance to blog again on the plane?

Watch out Vegas... here come all the teachers! Promise me one thing though ladies- leave your RED BAGS AT HOME! Nothing screams teacher more on the strip than a bag with an APPLE on it!

I can't wait to meet all of you!

Melissa