The new Systematic Sequential Phonics Two - Prefixes and Suffixes book is NOW ready for ordering! The link is now on the site. I'll keep you posted as the new Four Blocks materials arrive.
I would like to put together a one day workshop for Literacy. I would be presenting along with a few other teachers who are using the Reading Workshop approach. We would be discussing the use of MOT strategy as well as the set up of the Reading Workshop. We are not sure of the interest in coming to a New Jersey (probably in the Perth Amboy area) location and/or a Staten Island location. It would be a one day seminar and before we go forward with all the arrangements we'd like to get some feedback on how many people would consider attending. The cost would be $100 for the day. We would have the seminar at a hotel and would work out the logistics once we know the numbers. We would like to have it on a Saturday so that no one needs to take off from work to attend. We are considering having four sessions to choose from and you could attend two sessions in the day. If you would be interested in attending such a session, please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org .
From My Classroom..........
We have concluded our three week strategy focus on Prior Knowledge. The kids have a good handle on what Prior Knowledge is, how to access it and how it helps them comprehend when reading. What I noticed at the end of this study was that the final piece - How do readers use prior knowledge to help them comprehend, was the most abstract for them to understand. This is most likely because they are only in the second grade, so I am not stressing at this point. I will continue to model the strategy when appropriate and monitor their use and application of it. What the children gained from this strategy is a full understanding of why teachers, when introducing new text have made those webs, or held brainstorming sessions trying to build background and access prior knowledge. They never knew this before, it was just something teachers did. Now that they know why it is done and how to do it, they can use it as one of the tools in their strategy toolbox.
We have now begun a new strategy focus in my classroom - What is listening? I know this is not one of the strategies outlined or discussed in MOT, but it is an area that many of my children fall short on. They are not able to actively listen. Many of the reasons for this are environmental and/or dietary. We seem to have a lot of children that are diagnosed, and sometimes I wonder if they are misdiagnosed, as ADD. They are unable to sit still for sustained periods, they are always in motion be it tapping a pencil, shifting their legs around or playing with anything that is near their hands. It is one of the reasons I teach in the nontraditional way I do.
We have been doing so much talking about the brain and its connection to reading and learning that I decided to branch out and try this strategy focus. During week one, we defined what listening is. The children defined it as -- focusing, concentrating, hearing and it involves the ears and brain. We worked through some listening activities throughout the week.
Day 1, I gave oral directions and asked the kids to sketch as I said each one as a motivation activity. We then did a read aloud of a fable. I asked them to listen to what was being read to them and try to focus on the details. We have had some experience with Determining Important Ideas, so they decided before hand to use the who, what, where, when, why, how questions to guide them. I read the fable and then gave them a few minutes to free write as much as they recalled from the fable. Most of them got the major details. Some even picked up a few minor ones and we celebrated those.
Day 2, we did some IQ type listening activities where I would say series of numbers and asked them to repeat them to me. First I made it simple and then we made it more challenging. When I asked one girl to repeat the numbers backwards she just repeated them. We discussed how not hearing that one little word changed the whole answer. They liked the game activities.
Day 3, during my mini lesson I read aloud a piece that was full of description and asked them
to close their eyes and get an image. When I finished reading I asked them to sketch what they had seen. We shared the sketches and discussed them. The kids then went off to read and were looking for good descriptive pieces in their reading that they could read aloud and others could sketch. We shared a few of these after and discussed what made the pieces good or not good for this activity.
Day 4, we repeated the imagery piece. We talked again about reading aloud and listening and getting those images. We talked about how this would be similar to reading books that do not have any pictures. They read again and selected pieces to share.
Day 5 we summarized what was done all week. The kids were asked to write their reflective piece answering the question posed on Day 1 - What is Listening? The responses were excellent and I will try to bring some home to share with you next time.
I am hoping this strategy study will help to improve the listening skills of the kids in the class over time. When kids take standardized tests, or any other type of assessment, we often wonder how they did so poorly when we know they are capable of so much more. I believe part of the reason is the format of the test itself. Multiple choice tests don't allow kids to justify their answers. If they would be allowed I bet many of them would make valid arguments for their choices. The written test we give asks for the kids to pull literal examples out of the text. Many of my kids make inferences and go off on incredible journeys. This is not what the test graders are looking
for and they are at times knocked down on content. There are specific answers that they are looking for -- not inferences and critical thought. Unfortunately, we can't change the format of these tests.
The other reason I think the kids do poorly is because they don't listen to the directions properly. They also are required to listen to a piece of text read aloud and respond in writing -- recalling details and information. They are not allowed to take notes as the piece is read. We must therefore, teach our children to listen, much as we teach them the other strategies. How does a person listen? What do we listen for? What is important information? All these strategies are so interwoven. Like everything else, I believe it must be a metacognitive approach. We need to have them define and understand exactly what we want them to do when they "listen" and then we need to show them strategies for "active listening." We can't just say -- "You don't listen" and expect children to know what to do to correct this problem. Like all the other strategies, we need to model it and then gradually release them to work through it alone. I am hoping this new
strategy study will help my students become better learners and readers. I'll keep you posted as we progress through it.