Thursday, January 5, 2012

Setting the Bar High...

A new year means we have new, increasing expectations! Prior to break, students prepared for their literature discussion groups by reading their assigned pages and flagging 3 - 4 thoughts on post-its using our codes. We discussed summarizing earlier in the year, but we also started to revisit it just before break. For those of you who are asking, "What does flagging your thoughts mean? What are these thinking codes?" Click on this blog post and scroll down about half way through! You'll see several anchor charts and video clips to catch you up on all we learned regarding purposeful talk and thinking prior to our winter break. :)

Students will be getting a new literature discussion group book next week but rather than just needing to read their assigned pages and flag their thoughts, students will also need to write a response in their Thoughtful Log prior to a literature discussion group meeting. To help remind students of these new expectations, I had them glue a gold reminder sheet in their Thoughtful Logs so they could always find my expectations, even if they're working on their responses at home.
Yesterday I introduced my expectations for an entry and modeled for students how to write an acceptable response. I pretended that Ramona the Brave by Beverly Cleary was my book for my literature discussion group. I read my 'assigned pages' aloud to my students and flagged my thoughts while I read. Right after I got done reading my assigned pages, I got my Thoughtful Log out (a.k.a. chart paper) and started drafting my 3-5 sentence summary of what I read. Next, I started a new paragraph to write 1-2 sentences about a reading strategy I used and a final sentence that started with one of our conversational moves. I also modeled this process again today. Here is my response:
After two days of me modeling, it was time for students to practice this themselves. I had students read from their independent chapter books for about 10 minutes. Students flagged 3-4 thoughts while they read. After those 10 minutes, I had students get out their Thoughtful Logs and turn to the page where they glued the gold expectation sheet from yesterday. I moved my own modeled response anchor chart to the front of the room for students to refer to, and they began writing their own responses. Summary paragraph first; strategy/thinking paragraph second. Students referred back to their flagged thoughts to help them draft their second paragraph about their thinking.

Here is one student's response about the book she read today. Her summary paragraph of what she read appears at the bottom in this picture. 
And here is her second paragraph about her strategy use and thinking. I also had students put their post-its in their Thoughtful Logs after they were done writing their response.

Students need to be independent readers, writers, thinkers, and discussers (is that a word?!) of text. By assigning students to read a text, flag their thoughts about a text, write about their thoughts about a text, and discuss a text, they will push into the meaning of text at a deeper level. Students will be required to write a response prior to every literature discussion group meeting. Just before a group meets, students can read their summary to remind themselves of what the story was about and their paragraph about their thinking and immediately be 'back in the zone' of their text from the day before. It truly helps prepare kids to discuss a text at a deeper level.

Yes, these kids are 9. Yes, these kids are young. And YES, they CAN do it! You might say, "Whoa...that's a lot of writing." Well, we've been writing about our thinking since day one in our room. The kids know it's just what we do. They've gotten really used to the process of reflecting about their thinking. Obviously, it takes a lot of teacher modeling, but with the right scaffolds, students truly can become independent youngsters who can do a WHOLE lot. I believe it's ok to set the bar high, as long as I do my part to get these kids the tools they need to reach it. I think my kids surprised themselves today with all they did in terms of their literacy thinking. I even heard one girl say, "Oh, that wasn't too hard. That was actually kind of fun!" Let's hope that attitude continues.... :)

In other 4B news, students have been truly diving in as scientists. Yesterday they sported their safety goggles while taking apart 'mock rocks' (fake rocks). All real rocks are made of a variety of materials. Students sorted the materials in their mock rocks, and tomorrow students will try to figure out how to identify each of the materials based on a variety of tests.

Lastly, today we met with our second-grade buddies. Buddy pairs went on a scavenger hunt in both our room and Mrs. Adams' room to find a variety of things.
Hope you've all had a great week!


  1. You inspire me. Someday I want to grow up to be you :) I am slowly implementing things this year, but want to do a whole teaching style makeover next year. My one question is this. Do you have any students that are several grade levels behind? If so, do you modify the assignments, and if so, how? I have one student at a 1.5 grade level and three at a 2.5 level. I teach 5th. I find myself constantly struggling with if I should modify the 5th grade curriculum or make them a different curriculum. Any thoughts/comments are appreciated from anyone :)

  2. I too do reading response letters, but I have always had mine do them on an individual basis. I love the idea of having them complete one before they meet with their lit. circle. Hope you all are off to an amazing 2012!

    Adventures of a 6th Grade Teacher

  3. you are a true inspiration and i marvel at your teaching. it is wonderful that you set the bar so high, i do too. keep up the great work . my dilema this year is i have a large group who are 1.5 grade level behind so it has been challenging but we march forward. mary at

  4. I love your "Thoughtful Log Expectations" :) What a great idea to put into the notebooks to reinforce what students should be doing :) AWESOME :)

    Lisa :) (new follower)

  5. I actually do have some very low readers/writers in my room. Because I always model, model, model, and often have sample 'stems' for kids to use and copy to help them get started, the scaffolds are in place for many of my lower kiddos to try to write a response. I also encourage you to get parent volunteers, too! These extra adults, especially during your core subjects like reading, writing, and math, really help to keep our slow movers moving forward. The literature discussion books the kids are reading are at students independent reading levels so the focus can actually not be so much on reading 'tricky' material but instead the deeper thinking and the WRITING about their thinking. By giving students texts at their independent level, they can focus on many of these other skills (deeper thinking, flagging, writing about their thoughts, discussing their thoughts). That's truly my goal for these kids with the literature discussion groups. :)

  6. I so wish I could have interned in your classroom!!! You're an amazing teacher. I'm getting so many great ideas from your blog!

  7. Yes! Yes! Yes! I've been modeling and expecting thoughtful Reading Log entries from my 1st Graders too! Kids are so capable of going deep into their thinking if you will just show them how. You have to set the bar high, and help everyone get there! Thanks for sharing awesome teaching!