Monday, May 6, 2013

Ideas, Thoughts and Wonderings

What I did: This was my first attempt at a thinking routine, and for some reason the terminology of the Think, Puzzle, Explore routine intimidated me.  I actually had to go back and reread a few times, before I found routines that felt just right for my classroom.  We did this particular revised routine after a nature walk, and surprisingly, even though I sort of messed it up by tweaking it, the conversation it sparked was remarkable.  Because we were exploring my student's backyard, they had really interesting thoughts and wonderings.

Connect:  This conversation launched our study of animal habitats.  Children wondered about different habitats on the chart and I was able to sort those into research groups.  Then my first graders began to look in books to learn more about the particular habitat that they found interesting.  They were able to work in pairs or on their own.

Extend: Once I used this routine to spark interest and conversation, I discovered that I could just dive into the other routines and not be afraid.  This routine allowed me and my first graders to "get our feet wet".

Challenge:  As always, the challenge was to facilitate research in a first grade classroom.  Teaching them to fish for and catch information that might not answer their question, but was related to their topic, is such a huge goal for us.  Also, because it was the beginning of the year, finding 24 non-fiction books that first graders could read independently was tricky.

See, Think, Wonder--take 2

What I did: Following our ant inquiry circle, I wrapped up our unit with a presentation, and finally with a see, think, wonder that was the same as the one I did to introduce the unit.  Same format, same images.

Connect: I wanted them to go through the same routine with their new ant schema. I was hoping that the kiddos would use what they learned through our research process and add more to the routine.  I was especially hopeful that my first graders wonderings would get deeper.  Some of my student's thinking definitely improved with the knowledge they gained during the research process.  They looked at the images in a whole new way.  Happily, the wonderings did get deeper for some of my students. Even the students that were still stuck in surface wonderings, were able to ask more specific questions.

Extend: I did a See, Think, Wonder to start our civil rights unit, and now I wish I would have wrapped that unit up in the same way.  I think that the civil rights images would have been much more meaningful after some background. 

Challenge:  It was hard to keep this interesting because I didn't change anything.  I am not sure how I could've made that better.  Maybe someone has a good idea...

Step Inside

Connect: As we've been studying different time periods of Colorado history the kids have been asked to synthesize all of their learning and thinking around the time period and show off their understanding of the content. For both our Native American and trapper, trader, & explorer units students have taken their understandings from a variety of sources to write from the perspective of someone who lived at that time. My goal is for them to use fact to create a sensory image in the readers' minds. The reader should feel like they are with the character.

Extend: This is one of the thinking routines that I can honestly say I'm using as a routine. Throughout our Colorado study and the remainder of the year we are focusing on synthesis as a tool for understanding. So in my conferring (more with fourth than third) I've been asking students to share how they are synthesizing in order to complete their pieces. I know it's still at a surface level, but it's been great to talk through our strategy study in writing as well as reading.

Challenge: When completing our initial 'Step Inside' some kids had an easier time than others writing a 'story' per say. My wonderful teammate (Sarah) had made a graphic organizer containing prompting questions from the Making Thinking Visible text. Many of our third grade students wrote from a perspective of a Native American, but they simply listed answers to the prompting questions. I truly wanted them create a 'snapshot' or small moment of the person's life. We're currently in the second round of these pieces narrating the lives of either a trapper, trader, or explorer traveling through Colorado. With these pieces I decided to use our writer's notebooks instead of the graphic organizer-focusing more on the sensory images. So far I see less list like facts and touching stories.

See Think Wonder

Connect- Just like with earth day and sending a message to students that earth day should be every day, I pulled this picture from a book called A Dream of Freedom just recently for them to think about prejudice, even though Martin Luther King's birthday has passed The students in the photo were being escorted into a high school in Little Rock once schools were desegregated.  First I put the picture on the data camera had them fill out one column at a time.  Some of their responses in the "think" section were pretty deep like, "I think soldiers are following them because they have dark skin."  And some were able to infer this was taken in the past based on the women's clothing, which led them to wonder "why did people dress so weird in the past?"  After I showed them the caption and we discussed the event, I asked them if they think prejudice only happens when people have different skin colors.  Most thought yes.   We then looked at the word "prejudice" written on the board and thought about what small word sounds like "prejudice"? (judge). Next, we brainstormed all the ways people judge (appearance, houses we live in, cars we drive, money we have, etc).
Extend- After an hour of discussion (very few were off task!  It was lovely! Almost every single student shared a time when they felt like someone judged them. ), one student piped up and said "Mrs. Smith, I wish everyone just always the followed the Golden Rule.  Then the world would be nice all the time.  Treat others the way you want to be treated!"
Challenge-Just like with  any of these thinking routines, I expect them to go WAY deeper than they do. I forget that they're only 6.  I have to remember that if I'm exposing them these thinking strategies now, they'll surely have it down next year.  The more you exercise, the stronger you'll be!

Color Symbol Image

Connect- I read  a story called Mardy Murie Did, written by Grandmother of Conservation.  Mardy Murie was an environmental activist who always knew she loved the earth and wanted to protect all that live on it.  This is only the 2nd time students have used this thinking routine but most really connected with the story so I feel like they did well.
Extend- Because they have such an interest in nature and animals, and the author made so many references to animals, they felt empowered to create a symbol that would strike a cord with anyone who read their response. The overall theme of "One person CAN make a difference " kept showing up in all the students thinking throughout this unit.
Challenge-  I tried to push them to create a color that wasn't so obvious like green or blue.  Only a few were really thinking and were creative.  One student chose "red" because he wants to spread the word and warn others about the dangers involving earth destrucion.


What I did-  I just finished teaching the students about earth conservation for earth day.  Some of the topics included natural resources, reduce, reuse, recycle, greenhouse effect, carbon footprints, and organic farming.
After all topics were covered, I asked students to create a headline about earth day so I could see their thinking about such big issues.  
Connect-  By using this thinking routine I was really able to see how seriously they took the topic of earth conservation.  Most students took from the unit that one person can make a difference, even if they start small.
Extend-We have taken an oath to never forget about doing our part to conserve our mother earth, every day!  Not just on earth day. (We'll go the rest of the year w/o turning on the lights in the classroom. Some even said they will encoourage their 2nd grade teacher to do the same next year.  Just think...if all teachers in all grades, in the whole school didn't turn on their lights!)
Challenge- Not all students were able to see the importance and I think it has a lot to do with habit and what they already have been exposed to. 

The Micro Lab Protocol

Connect: Having meaningful conversations is such a large focus in our classroom, and now that it is in the standards it is even more concrete. We had recently been on a field trip, and Val and I decided to have our kids discuss the field trip, what struck them, and what questions they have by using the Micro Lab Protocol. The purpose of this protocol is to ensure all voices are heard and ideas attending to before actually discussing the topic of conversation. It is very structured, but it was unlike anything we had done before. Here is how it works:
-Share: The first person in the group shares for  a set amount of time while the other members actively listen without talking. ~2 minutes
-Pause: Take thirty seconds of silence to absorb everything that was said.
-Repeat: Follow the same routine for the other members.
-Discuss: As a group refer to comments make, make connections, and share ideas around group member's ideas.

Extend: After having our group discussions we not only reflected on the field trip-but also the protocol that guided our conversation. What did they think about using it? Did it help their conversation? If so, how? The kids had varying feelings about the protocol, but most seemed open to using it again during conversations. We did all agree the thirty minutes of silence was awkward, but after laughing we concluded it could be beneficial for some groups.
 Some quotes from their reflections were:
                                    "It helped me not talk when other people are."
                                    "Normally it would be really hard to work with the whole group was talking all at
                                     the same time. This way we all got to have one minute to talk."

Challenge: Oftentimes I struggle with protocols that are so struggled and feel anything from authentic. But I remind myself that perhaps this is how we learn to be really good speakers and listeners. We have to slow down to reflect on our actions and how they effect conversations. Now, I'd like to continue to use this protocol, but it does have to be in the right context. This type of structured format doesn't work in all conversations.

I used to I think

Connect: While studying the Native American's of Colorado's past, I wanted to let the kids research and discover information on their own via a great website we found for Colorado history. In doing this, I still wanted the kids to be deeply thinking, asking questions, activating their background knowledge and making inferences as they looked a the photographs and read the captions.

Extend: Before we even got on the website kids organized their notes by sections of Native American history. Then, they went through and wrote what they know today (what I used to know) and what I know now (now I think). By activating their background knowledge they filled in what they already knew. As kids explored the website on the Ipads they jotted down noticings. Finally, students reread their notes, determined what was important, thought about how their thinking changed, and filled out the 'now I know'. Overall, I think students were rather amazed at how much their schema grew from looking at the website and conversing with their partners. It is really powerful to see-especially for some of those kids who were apprehensive to write they didn't know anything or very little about a topic before we began. What a great visual.

This seemed like such a natural way to use this routine because when we're reading to learn new information  our thinking is changing so much. I've struggled with how to help kids realize what they thought before reading, researching, etc. Hence, that is why we wrote what we knew today prior to looking at the website. Hopefully, that will change over time. I also can't help but think about how our study of synthesis ties into this as well. Maybe kids will embrace more of their evolving thinking rather than feel inadequate. Perhaps someone else has been successful with helping kids truly reflect on their evolving thinking after the fact, not during?

The 4 C's

Connect: Our third & fourth grade interdisciplinary unit is around rights. One of the recommended texts is The Story of Ruby Bridges. After reading the text I felt like we needed to go further, and I chose to use the 4 C's routine in order to help us do this. Knowing that we are constantly working to improve our conversation skills I thought the routine would provide us with content to discuss. The routine ask students to think about the following after reading a text:
-Connections (What connections can you draw between the text and your own life or learning?)
-Challenges (What ideas, positions, or assumptions do you want to challenge or argue with?)
-Concepts (What key concepts or ideas do you think are important and worth holding onto from the text?)
-Changes (What changes occurred in the text, characters, or your own thinking?)

Extend: I knew that it would take time to review what each of the c's meant, especially for third grade. Therefore, we started off our lesson with a big class chart-defining what each of the c's meant. I didn't expect the kids to completely understand concepts-but we used words like theme, moral, and then for kids who were still stuck I just said in one sentence what would you say this book is mostly about. Then kids had at least something to write down on their own chart.

As you can imagine kids had a lot of different thoughts. For example, some third graders wrote down connections like Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King Jr., I won't lie-I was a little worried as I read some of their thoughts on their charts, but I was pleasantly surprised in the way they helped each other synthesize and clarify the information through conversation.

Challenge: Like I said before, my students and I have been working really hard on conversation skills and how we can deepen discussions. As we broke into our small groups for conversation,  my students reverted back to robots as they read their thinking from each box. I had to pull everyone back in for a quick 'catch' and review how we build on each others' thoughts. After this, most groups were able to deepen their conversations. So, my challenge wasn't necessarily around the 4 c's thinking routine-but the conversations that came with it. Overall, I was pleased with the 4 c's routine. It was challenging for the kids, but it pushes us out of our comfort zone. It's also nice because it can be used with fiction or nonfiction texts.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

What I think I Know About Farms

Connect: I decided to give the I used to I think routine a try with my ECE students. I however felt the need to modify the routine despite what it said in the book. I felt that preschool aged children would not be able to differentiate between what they new before and new learning or how their understanding had changed. So I decided to use it as an opportunity for a pre-assessment and to help the children understand that what they know already know is valued and important.

Extend: Instead of using the routine over the course of one time or one lesson, my plan is to use it throughout the unit in stages to help the children connect over time how their understanding of farms has changed. My hope is that by doing it in stages the children would be able to see this progression through their drawing and dictation.

What I did: I used the routine as a pre-assessment tool and an assessment tool throughout the unit to determine what the children had learned and how their thinking and understanding about farms had changed. Before doing any instruction on Farms I wanted to see what they already knew about them so I gave the children a sheet of paper that had the writing prompt "What I think I know about farms" and had the children illustrate and dictate whatever they had in their schema about farms. We then delved into our unit with a focus on traditional farms. The next time, I showed them what they had "written" earlier and tlaked with each of them about my expectation that they must write about "new" information they now know about farms. I then gave them a sheet of paper with the prompt "What I now know about the traditional farm is..." for them to illustrate and dictate any new learning.

Challenges: The challenge during this lesson was to determine when to prompt the children with a new writing reflection and how to do it. WOuld it be best to show them their illustration before having them write to the new prompt? or would that cloud their thinking and stagnate it to just copy what they had written before. I decided it would be best to show them their material but model how I wanted them to reflect new thinking through a different illustration and dictation. 

Reflection: The children's illustrations were still often quite basic with the addition of perhaps more animals or buildings. But with prompting and asking open ended questions i.e. "What more do you know..." during the discussion and dictation,  I was pleasantly surprised by the effort and elaboration of most students on what they had learned about farms. Only a few got really stuck and were not able to reflect too deeply on new understandings. In the end, I attributed the rather basic illustrations as more of a limitation of fine motor than in thinking. In other words, it was just challenging for them to draw everything they knew in a picture. When putting myself in their shoes, I thought it would be hard to illustrate what I was asking of them even considering my stronger sense of mental imagery and greater fine motor ability. So in the end, I was very proud they knew as much as they shared through their language with as much support as possible through their writing. Their thinking is the important part. 

What Makes You Say That?- Take 2

Connect:  After using the "What Makes You Say That?" routine with my 4th graders surrounding a Volcanoes book, I decided it might be interesting to use the same idea with a 2nd grade reading group.  This is an interesting group to work with because it is three boys, two of whom are ELA students.  Although this text was a very simple fiction story about the "Fixit Family," I thought it presented an opportunity to make a prediction and then dive into the information the students used from the text to "make them say that."

Extend:  The most interesting, and surprising, outcome of doing this simple routine with this specific group of students was the formative assessment it became for me.  This group of boys fearlessly dove into using the graphic organizer to capture their thinking, and made attempts at using the language of the book in their predictions and explanations.  Even without the support of the spelling in the story (they did this with the books closed), they used other information to help them in supporting their thinking.  They even wrote their answers using complete sentences, re-writing the sentence stems in each of the thought bubbles (without being told to do so)!  I was so impressed, and realized this was a direct reflection of the writing they have been doing in their regular classrooms!  And... their predictions were spot on! 

Challenge:  In the future I would push myself to use this routine with this same group of boys, but in a text in which they would have to infer more deeply. This prediction was very surface-level, but it did give me some important information about their vocabulary use in English, as well as their success with using English language sentence structure- really important aspects of reading instruction and speaking that I often overlook!

Step Inside

Step Inside

What we did:  As literacy teachers, the shift to Common Core State Standards puts more emphasis on using increasingly complex text and academic/content vocabulary.  At Roberts, although we platoon content, we are planning our non-fiction unit around a social study of Colorado History.  This allows for meaningful collaboration with our teammates and deeper understanding for students.  For two months, students read difficult text about the Puebloans, Native Americans, Explorers, Miners, Cowboys, Farmers, and current people in Colorado. They annotated text as they made sense of primary and secondary sources.  As a mini-closure to synthesize each learning, students did the Step Inside routine.  This provided the way to take all the facts, find the perspective of a person in history, empathize with their story, decide upon the most important story to tell, and describe a snapshot in their life using sensory details and figurative language.

Connect:  This routine reminds me of the RAFT (role, audience, format, topic) exercise for students.   I have always loved the synthesis and empathy of that activity. I like to stop at intervals during a study to make meaning, and have found Step Inside to be a great  formative assessment. 

Extend:  My ideas have definitely broadened since I first began this routine with my students. At our professional learning community last week, I was given the opportunity to share the work of Step Inside with my colleagues.  One of the teachers at the table, Annie, shared the way she used it with first graders. Her students created masks to help them understand the perspective of characters in a story.  I believe that drama and art are a natural way to connect with all types of learners and make perspective meaningful! 

Challenge: I am planning to take this to the next level with the Circle of Viewpoints from Making Thinking Visible.  What better way to take all the perspectives to the table and share multiple viewpoints?!

What Makes You Say That?

Connect:  I decided to focus on Predictions with my group of 4th grade intervention students as we were concluding a short novel in our Lit Circle.  The premise of the entire novel was the question of whether or not there were occasions in which little white lies MIGHT be appropriate.  The majority of the novel focused on the main character's problem of having dropped her grandmother's favorite necklace down the toilet:  should she just flush it and never tell, or somehow get it out before anyone would know (quite the problem for a 3rd grader...the story does go a little deeper than this!).  Throughout the chapters, the main character is challenged by her twin sister not to tell any lies, which compounds her problem of the necklace.  Anyhow, before the conclusion of the story, I asked my students to write their predictions on a graphic organizer, and then justify their prediction by answering "What makes you say that?"

Extend:  The interesting this about this routine was that each student's prediction was different, but all of their What Makes You Say That comments were the same. This helped me to know that the kids had, in fact, determined the imporatant lesson from the story:  that telling the truth can be the best option, and sometimes keeps you from getting in to trouble.  It was so facinating that each prediction contained individual synthesis of the events in the story and each student's schema from their own personal experiences.  For instance, one student said that Grandma will figure out that the neclace was in the toilet, and be very understanding of the fact that it was an accident (personal experience, perhaps?).  Another prediction was that the girl was
going to reach in and get it out so she wouldn't have to lie, or tell the truth-  a good, conflict-free ending?  And the final prediction was that the girl just tells the truth so that someone ELSE can get it out- sometimes it's best to get help!  All answers to the question of "What makes you say that?" focused around the tenent that the girl decided that however the problem was solved, she had to tell the truth.  My favorite resonse, however, went as far as to state that "in a lot of books that I read, everything turns out all right."  Hilarious!

Challenge:  I think that the more I use this routine, the deeper the kids will get in making inferences.  Although they used a lot of their own background knowledge and the overt facts from the book, the responses were still a little surface.  I think the simplicity of this book lended itself to simple responses, so I might need to use this routine with a text that has a more complex problem and perhaps doesn't come up with all of the answers for the reader.

Think Puzzle Explore the MOON by Kim

What I did:  I had two groups who were studying the moon. It was a nonfiction unit.  I wanted to help them clarify that some of the things that they had learned through recess/cartoon culture (that is can bounce, that is is made of cheese, that is a famous because it is big) were not true.  Also, they had little understanding about the historical importance of the space race/getting to the moon/the space program.

Connect:  This was perhaps the third time that this group had used this routine. I had learned to draw a light bulb and puzzle piece to help them focus their writing on the appropriate part of the poster.   I also folded it in such a way that I could use the poster with both groups and initially they couldn't see what the other group had written.
Extend: Some of their puzzles were thought provoking and provided me with valuable information so that I could facilitate their learning (why is the moon big? is it a star?  why does the moon change? what is gravity? why does the moon have holes?  how old is the moon? why does the moon space not have air?)  We used a text and other print materials, as well as demonstrations and the ipad to answer these questions.They kept a month long moon chart, learned the names of the various phases, and  better understood  (from a demonstration) why the moon looks different.

Challenge: As in many studies with my population, building background and vocabulary for them is crucial. I often wish that I could spend every Friday taking them on field trips so that their schema would be enhanced.

I Used to Think, Now I Think

I Used to Think, Now I Think

Connect:  I decided to use this routine in a different way with a group of 2nd grade reading intervention students.  Rather than using it in the context of a text we were reading, I decided to use it as a "check in" on the affective beliefs of my students as readers...  I wanted to make sure that these kids, with whom I have worked with for 2-3 years, were now truly seeing themselves as readers, and not strugglers... I must admit, it was a little scary for me! What if participating in my groups for so long had actually "damaged" their view of themselves as readers?

Student Thoughts:
I used to think:
"...that I would never be able to read."
"...reading was very hard.  I felt not very smart."
"...reading was super hard and I was not very good at reading.

Now I think:
"...I am one of the best readers in my class!"
"...I am a great reader. I feel great because I can read!"
"...I am so good!  I think I can read 100 chapter books!"

Extend:  Whew!  What I learned from the student responses was REALLY gratifying.  These three really do see themselves as readers!  I love their authentic and honest responses.  This routine helped them to articulate how their view of themselves as readers has altered over time, and that they truly have come so far.  It helped me to see the resilience in young children, and the impact that their fantastic classroom teachers have had upon them. It takes a village, and in this one the kids are enjoying the rewards of hard work and are moving forward in an environment full of support and recognition of success.

Challenge:  I am shocked that such a simple routine could have such an impact upon me!  I am hopeful that it had an impact on the kids in terms of actually thinking about how far they have come and that they are successful.  My challenge is to integrate this routine in to all of my groups so that it can be used as a simple check-in of synthesis, as well as determining importance within text. In terms of using it as an "Affective Check, " I would love to use it in the same manner again with all of my intervention groups.

See, Think, Wonder

Connect:  As an intervention teacher who pulls small groups of students for a limited amount of time a few days a week, I have really struggled with how to implement the thinking routines into my program.  I have wondered how to use a routine within the confines of a fairly strict reading "program."  I finally realized that I needed to take the risk, detour from my curriculum and just see where the kids thinking would take us.  I AM SO GLAD I DID!  Rather than using the typical picture walk and vocabulary discussion to preview a book I was going to be using in a guided reading group, I decided to use See, Think, Wonder around an interesting photo I took from that book.  What the students did not know was that the title and topic of this non-fiction book was Volcanoes.

Extend:  The kids took some quiet time to look at the picture and notice the strange details.  As a group we then listed all of their "See, Think, Wonders" on a group chart.

What I loved about using this routine was that the students were able to go deeper with their thinking than just the surface "information" visible in the photo.  The "see" step in the routine allowed us to list those surface elements that we so often talk about when we do a book preview.  It was within the "Think" and "Wonder" steps that we could go beyond the image.  I was so impressed with the thoughts and wonderings the students came up with!  They came up with wonderings and questions about what happened to create such a scene of abandonment and destruciton.  They all concluded that some sort of natural disaster had to have played a part.  What astounded me the most was that the kids didn't just jump in to make a prediction about what happened!  They were lost in the wonderings!  I am always so quick to ask "What do you think happened" and this process helped me to slow down and let the kid think about the picture.  In turn, the payoff in slowing down with this routine was that when it came to reading this book, the kids were able to use thier thinking to help them with challenging vocabulary within the text.  I also believe it enhanced how they determined importance within the book and their overall synthesis of new information. 

Challenge:  I  discovered in doing this routine that the kids were already familiar with it (thanks to Val!). This made it SO much easier to jump right into the routine since the kids already knew the process.  It truly illustrated the power of routine, and how this can connect BEYOND the regular classroom in to other instructional groupings.  My personal challenge is to find a couple of routines that I can use as a regular part of my group rituals-  these can then become a direct connection to what the kids are using in their classrooms.  I  think this can be such a powerful connection for an intervention program that has (self-admittedly) been very disconnected from the classroom.

Connect Extend Challenge

 Connect Extend Challenge

What we did:  After our study of Poetry, third and fourth graders used the Connect Extend Challenge routine.  It provided us the opportunity to share background knowledge, capture new learning and ponder further study.

Connect:  At Bill Roberts, we teach literacy through genre studies.  It is based on the Denver Literacy Plan and we spiral learning from year to year, so I knew that our students have had the opportunity to dive into poetry already.  As a best practice, spiraling is appropriate as students develop and access deeper understandings and concepts, but the challenge is to make the genre new and interesting each year. The thinking routine of Connect, Extend, Challenge helped me to assess what they knew before the study and to assess their growing understandings.

Extend:  I had a lot of realizations from using this thinking routine as an assessment.  Often, my assessments are formative as we chart our learning each day, create writing, discuss, use daily exit slips, etc., but I don't often do a summative assessment in the form of a "quiz".  There was power in doing this routine at the end of our study.  I feel confident that I know the enduring understandings that students took away from our work.  Students stated thinking such as, "Words sound different when you articulate and that helps create sensory images.  Poetry can help us wonder.  You can pause and let it speak to you. Poetry can tell stories, be humorous, have invented words, and change your mood. Poetry can play on words.  It can represent your true nature.  One phrase can fill your mind with an image."  WOW!  I am also interested in their challenges.  One student wrote, "How does poetry affect our lives? Can it change our lives?", though most wonderings were not as profound. 

Challenge:  It is the area of challenge that I want to continue to pursue with my students.  This component of the thinking routine will help my students to be lifelong learners.  It is interesting that as I use this thinking routine in my own professional development, it is often this last piece that I find difficult.  Students asked questions such as, "When did people start writing poetry?  How old is it?  Who invented it?  How long can a poem be?"  I am not sure what I am looking for, but we are on the right track!



Connect:  The RTI team used the headlines routine at the end of our February PLC which focused on differentiation.  The focus of this routine was to synthesize the work the staff had just done in generating a staff-wide list of all of the different assessments we already have in place within our building.   Our PLC time is usally packed so full of information which can get overwhelming, so we thought using headlines would help the staff realize they already had many assessment tools in place to help them differentiate within the classroom.

Extend:  After generating lists of assessments used, staff participated in a group discussion about the differences between formative and summative assessments.  This staff discussion was so interesting to me because it confirmed what I already know:  we have an incredibly thoughtful staff that knows each student as an individual. The RTI team's ultimate hope was that through discussion, our staff could come to a more common understanding of how we use this information within our building throughout the whole RTI process.  We believe it is important for staff to realize that they ALREADY have the tools to differentiate their instruciton for ALL learners.

Challenge:  The headlines the staff came up with are great, and ended up being such a wonderful formative assessment for me. I noticed from the formative assessment headlines that teachers understand the importance of the information they gain from "everyday in the trenches."  Observation, quick tasks, and conversation are all critical tools to help scaffold instruction.  These headlines (generally) appear to have an optimistic tone to them: "You've come a long way baby," "It's all formative," "Just in time..."  The summative headlines, however, help to uncover and expose the pressures teachers feel everyday within their jobs:  "Teacher panics:  It's Too Late,"  "It's not who you know, it's WHAT you know," The Endless Road,"  "Where the Sidewalk Ends..."  It is amazing that such a quick routine can have such a powerful undertone!  From this information, I am challenged by my own next steps:  How can I help support teachers in their assessment process? What can I do to help alleviate the pressures classroom teachers feel? How can we streamline our assessment process so we are assessing "smarter, not harder."  Lots of directions to go with this one...

Chalk Talk

Chalk Talk

What I did: At the beginning of each year, we activate students background knowledge about literacy.  The purpose of this is to share experiences and beliefs.  This year, we used the Chalk Talk, a silent visual conversation, to share those beliefs.

Connect:  Last year, I used the Chalk Talk and loved the way that all student voices were expressed and "heard".  As we dove into literacy as a class, I was reluctant to do the usual charts as a whole class, "Why do we read?  Why do we write?  Why is literacy important?", so I was excited to use this thinking routine instead.  I know that our students come with a love of learning:  it was lovely to glimpse all their thoughts!

Extend:  As a result of doing this Routine, my thinking has broadened because I learned about the authentic student beliefs of all students in my classroom instead of a few that raise their hands.  This informs my teaching everyday.  Some students wrote that they read and write in school, at home, and in their spare time, that they read and write to learn more, or investigate weird things because they feel weird.  I learned about the kids who want to be authors when they grow up.  All of this information helps me craft my language and teaching throughout the year.

Challenge:  There are two areas that I want to develop as I continue to use this routine.  The first, is making sure that the topics of Chalk Talk are interesting enough that the students can really engage in the activity and share beliefs over time in a routine.  The book, The Inside Guide to the Reading-Writing Classroom, Grades 3-6: Strategies for Extraordinary Teaching, by Leslie Blauman, will help me to do that.  Secondly, I want to teach students how to go deeper and expand upon peer thinking.  I notice in all conversations in class, whether in triads about content, or turn and talk, or book clubs, that the students need to learn how to BUILD upon other's ideas.  I think Chalk Talk will be an excellent way to do that!

Saturday, May 4, 2013


What I did: Every Monday morning my first graders write a headline describing their weekend.  We then take every free moment in the classroom to discuss our headlines.  For example, while the student of the day gets the calendar and weather map ready for the day, we are sitting whole group and I read out one headline at a time.  Then, the child that wrote the headline gets to orally describe the article that would follow his/her headline.  While the "headline" student shares, the group is sitting with their knees pointed toward that student.  When the student is finished, someone in the group says, "Excuse me _________, but I have a question" or "Excuse me ___________, but I have a connection.  After one response (sometimes two or three responses), it is another student's turn.

Connect:  My goal was to focus on a couple of the thinking routines and make them part of our everyday rituals.  I really wanted my first graders to focus on their thinking and not the routines.  I am also always looking out for opportunities to model and facilitate polite conversation in my classroom and this activity lends itself beautifully.

Extend: We have capitalized on our practice of this routine by using the headline format to synthesize many events in our classroom, from field trips to the leprechaun visit. 

Challenge:  It has been difficult for some students to synthesize their weekend events down to a few words.  I also find that students that have difficulty articulating their thoughts on paper really struggle with the concept of a headline.  These children tend to write whole sentences.  I will continue to help them revise their sentences and determine which words they can cut out to make a snappy headline. 

Smith / Willett             2nd Grade
Thinking Routine:   Chalk-Talk
Connect:  CHALK TALK involves looking at the topic or question written on the chart paper and involves kids in the thinking questions below:
  - What ideas come to mind when you consider this idea, question, or problem?
   -What connections can you make to others’ responses?
   -What questions arise as you think about the ideas and consider the responses and comments of others?
Often, as teachers we instruct but rarely ask the kids why they think we should learn the material being presented.  This routine offers up a safe environment for kids to express their thoughts.
The purpose of this routine is to ask students to think about ideas, questions, or problems by silently responding in writing both to the prompt and to the thoughts of others.  All students can participate in the open-ended and exploratory nature of the routine.

What I did:  I used this routine as a quick activity to assess students prior knowledge about communities before we began our Social Studies unit on communities.   I created 6 blank posters on chart paper with the following questions filled in a cloud in the middle of the paper:  What are your thoughts, ideas, questions or wonderings about ________?   I filled in the blank with communities, how communities change over time, how people behave in communities, how people use resources in communities, different types of communities and what you would like to have in your community.   Before the activity began, I read each chart question to the class.  Then I placed one poster at each table and gave students the instructions.  I put them in groups of 3 or 4 according to their home table.   Students that sat a table 1 started at table 1 and so on.  I explained that each group would get 3 minutes to write their thoughts about the question or another entry.   At the first stop each student chose a color marker that they kept with them throughout the activity.  There was no talking and I announced when it was time to switch to the next table.   They were excited to get started.   It took about 25 minutes to complete the circuit.  Next I posted the charts on the board and we came together on the rug to do a quick gallery walk and discussed the postings.  I let the students know that some of their questions would be answered as we completed our study and that their thoughts were recorded for us to revisit after the unit to see how our thoughts, ideas, questions or wonderings had changed. 

Extend:    I’ve used this routine several times over the past couple of years.   Initially, I used it as a pre and post assessment for our earth materials and communities units.   This year I decided to have the students do the activity at the beginning of the school year so they could record their thoughts about and knowledge about math.  Then at the end of the year we will do the activity again and compare the before 2nd grade and after 2nd grade to help them visualize how much they have learned this year.   I think it will be eye-opening for them and for me.

Challenge:  The challenge is to encourage students to take the time to write thoughtful entries that will show and record their reflective thinking.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Smith / Willett 2nd Grade Thinking Routine:   See Think Wonder
Connect:  You begin by looking at an image or a problem and asking the students “What do you See” and writing everything they say down in the column.  Then, you ask “What do you Think” about anything that they noticed.  This probes them to look a little deeper at what they noticed on the surface to see if there is any significance to it.  Finally, you ask students “What do you Wonder?”, which allows them to take what they thought about the image or problem and let their imaginations run wild…what is the setting, what happened to cause this problem, why did the author/painter/creator set it up this way, what are we supposed to take away from this?  These are all high-level inquiries that propel our students into discovering the “answers” for themselves.

What I did:  I used this routine as an introduction to our Tracks Science Unit Investigating Earth Materials.  The big idea for the unit is to discover the properties of natural materials that are at the surface of earth including rocks, soils and water.  I brought in poster size print of an Ansel Adams photograph of Canyon de Chelly National Monument, Arizona.  I chose this print because it shows a canyon with exposed sides, river flowing through the bottom of the canyon and a flat grassy area next to the river.  Someone with a strong background in geography would know that the river erosion carved out the canyon and exposed the layers rock and sediment that have been deposited over millions of years. 
The see-think-wonder routine was a useful tool to help me determine what my students knew about earth materials and how they change over time.   It also got them excited about this unit.
The students were silent and looked at the poster for about 2 minutes.   I asked them to use a stickie note and record what they saw.   Some were very literal.  “I see lots of rocks.”   “I see muddy water.”  A few were poetic.  “I see ribbons.”  “I see a snake.”  Everyone got to read and post their notes on chart paper.  Next we talked about what they thought the picture showed.   Again each person posted their I think post-it note.  Finally I asked them what they wanted to know about the picture and write their I wonder on a note to be posted on the chart.  Comments included, “I wonder how tall the mountains are.”  And “Are there volcanoes there.”

Extend:  The day after our routine, we went over some of the sticky note thoughts, sights, and wonders listed from our group of kids.  Students were given time to discuss their reasoning and thinking with each other through turn to talk, pair share. 
Students naturally chose posting that they thought were most insightful.   They were psyched to get started with the investigating earth materials.

Challenge:  My challenge is to create a learning environment where students know the expectation is that they will use their schema, analyze information and think deeply about whatever learning is taking place.   I think the more we use these routines, the more ingrained deeper level thinking will become in all the students.