Hi all! Here are my thoughts about Chapter 2 of the book The Literacy Teacher's Playbook: Grades K-2. This is my second post as part of the book club run by Abbey Giombetti Bannon over at A Teacher Mom.
I think this book is really great for first grade teachers. As a kindergarten teacher, though, I feel that the author doesn't focus enough on important details about kindergarten, which is where we have to spend a lot of time teaching children the basics of how to read and write. I can see that the author's purpose was to write a book that could be useful to K-2 teachers, but it just doesn't do it for me.
The author writes a great deal about running records. I don't know about the rest of you, but I have had SO much training on running records. I already know what to look for. She does mention that kindergartners should be working on retelling and answering comprehension questions orally. She also says that observations are the best way to assess whether children are comprehending what they're reading.
There's nice information in the book about what teachers should be focusing on when choosing DRA levels. For example, for levels 1 and 2 they're really not expecting fluency because the children are reading with one-to-one correspondence. For levels 3 and 4 they're linking words together and starting to see more phrases in sentences. And really beyond that, you can look for fluency. As my husband was reading this book to me and I was thinking about my higher readers at the end of the year (levels 8 to 12), he pointed out that if they're reading with expression and fluency, their eyes are tracking ahead to look at the punctuation. I thought about it and realized that he was right. I've also noticed that my high group really does have a lot more expression and emotion when they read.
The author also reinforced the fact that turn-and-talks and think-pair-shares are helpful to improve students' speaking ability. Every day, during my morning message, after about 3 or 4 sentences about what we were doing that day, I would put in an open-ended question for the kids such as "If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you like to go, and why?" In the first few weeks of school I modeled doing this, and after about a month my kids would actually turn to a partner, ask the question, and answer the question in a really collaborative manner. Let me honest about this. I had 24 kids this year. Most of my children were ESOL. I usually had one or two who really had trouble with the turn-and-talk. When that happened, I would go over and talk to that child. Sometimes it was just that they did not have enough vocabulary to answer the question. I found sometimes that if I stuck to subjects like toys, TV shows, and where they went the night before, it was easier for the kids to answer and talk about their feelings. The problem is you can't talk about their favorite things for 180 days. I'd be very interested in the kinds of questions that other kindergartners ask their kids during whole group sharing time. I also attended a workshop this year where the presenter said that a good conversation between children should go back and forth several times. I've noticed that I ask questions like "Did you have fun last night?", to which the children often just answer "Yes" or "No" and do not wish to elaborate. I realized this last year and tried asking questions like "What did you do last night?" and got fuller, deeper responses. If they responded "I went to Chuck E. Cheese," for example, I would respond "That sounds cool. Tell me what you did at Chuck E. Cheese."
With regard to writing, I like the descriptions the author gave for narrative writing, opinion writing, and informative writing. In my experience, kindergartners do the best at opinion writing because they can use "I like..." sentences and explain why they like that person, thing, or place. I think they also do pretty well, with assistance, at narrative writing (drawing lots of pictures), but I think the most difficult thing for them is to write to inform. I started making writing prompts (such as Fall and Winter) for my kids this year to help them write about different times of year. I tried asking them to look at the picture and say what they could see, hear, touch, smell, or taste within the scene. I also made a diary cover (you can see/download it below) so the kids could just write whatever they wanted in individual composition books. They felt it was really neat because every day they got to write "Dear Diary..." and something that was special to them.
I'm actually at Myrtle Beach right now, and I think I'm going to collect some seashells so the kids can have real artifacts to examine with magnifiers. I hope all of you had a great 4th of July and weren't affected by Hurricane Arthur. The waves were really big here, and it was extremely windy! My sister-in-law teases me that whenever my husband and I travel we bring bad weather with us. If we go to New York, we bring snowstorms. If we go to Myrtle Beach, it's a hurricane.
I would love to hear what worked in your classroom last year for collecting data.