Monday, June 25, 2012

Daily 5 Linky Party, Chapter 2

I'm a little late with my chapter 2 post!  My sisters and I had a fun get-away weekend, so I was playing instead of reading and thinking.

Chapter 2 is all about the Foundations of the Daily Five.  As I was reading this chapter, I didn't find anything that was really "new" or "outstanding" to me as far as reading theory or tips on how to get started with the Daily Five.  What I DID, strongly appreciate about it is the compact overview explaining why I would implement the Daily Five and why some of the procedures are important.

As I think about this, it makes me reflect on how I will communicate some of these policies and procedures to my para professionals who work with me.  When I start working with a new para-professional, I usually give them simple "homework" during pre-planning week.  I ask them to tell me what is the classroom activity or thing the love to do most with the students.  Conversely, I also ask them to tell me what is the worst job I could ask them to do throughout the day.  Then I also share with them, my own personal answers to those two questions.  It helps us to build communication with each other and gives us a little bit of knowledge about things each of us like and don't like so that we can get all of our classroom tasks done.  It also helps me to plan who will lead specific activities or groups based on my para-pros interests and strengths (when possible.)

I think I would like to use chapter 2 as a communication tool for us next year, too.  I'd like to earmark some time during pre-planning so that they can read it and know the foundation of what we will be implementing.  I can't always explain every single instructional decision that I make.  Much of it is based on what I know about children from their individualized testing, what I learn from them through observation, what I learn about them from our STAR and SM reports, what I know from previous experience, what I learned through college and training, etc. etc.

I can't always take the time to explain everything, but chapter 2 does a great job of explaining the habits we want to develop and the ways in which we can go about doing that.  I think it would go a long way into ensuring that all of our classroom staff is on the same page.  After they read chapter 2, I'd like us to have some time to discuss it and explain how it will impact our reading block time and other reading and writing times during the day.

I think this is especially important in a self-contained classroom where I rely on my para-pros to help make our classroom more effective.  They are invaluable!  I think the ides of "trusting the students, building stamina and staying out of the way" are things that we will definitely have to have conversations about.  You'll remember from my previous post about chapter 1, I am trying to figure out in my head how I (personally) will release some of the control to students.  I also have to figure out how to ensure that my para-pros can also release that control. 

It's tough.  Sometimes, I think even more so in special education classrooms because you want to support the child.  Hopefully, we'll be able to come together and re-frame our concept of what it looks like when you are supporting a child.  It doesn't have to be with constant attention and prompting (In fact, I loved the story about how the authors trained they kids to rely on their praise and attention.  Then had to go back and work on it again.)  We can support children by helping them to build their stamina and become independent readers and writers.  I'm hoping our implementation of the Daily Five will help us get there next year.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Daily 5 Linky Party, Chapter 1

This is my first attempt to join a Linky Party, so Mel D. at Seusstastic Classroom Inspirations or Nicole at Teaching with Style, if I'm missing some piece of linky etiquette or rules, please correct me!  I take critical feedback well.  :-)

I am not teaching summer school this year!  This is the first time since my first year of teaching that I have not worked at a summer camp or taught summer school.  I'm into one week of summer without work and I have so many things checked off of my home "to do" list.  :-)

Anyway, since I'm not investing my time into setting up a summer school classroom, setting up a program and learning new children and families; I thought I would take the time to really get into and read the Daily Five.

If you've been to my blog before you know last year I taught a third grade, self-contained class for children with mild to moderate disabilities.  After completing the year, I felt pretty good about our reading gains, our reading procedures and our reading rotation.  However, there are always things that I want to revise and refine.  I thought the Daily Five would be a great book to offer new information and opportunities for reflection.

Daily Five Chapter 1: Reflection

On pages 4-6, the authors present two different pictures of their classroom.  In thinking about and reflecting on your own practice, how would you characterize your literacy block?  Does it look more like the first scenario or the second scenario or in between?  How would you change it?

I think, overall, the reading activities/lessons in my class are somewhere in between.  If you take a look at previous reading posts, you'll see that I have a lot of staff supported lessons in our rotations (between myself and my 2 assistants). Since my class is a self-contained class for children with special needs (and that includes children with behavioral disorders), I could never imagine myself sitting at a reading group with my back to the class.  I always situate my group in an area where my back is to the wall I and I can see the whole room.  I don't see that aspect changing.  These two aspects keep me in that "teacher controlled" part of the continuum.

In reading those previous posts, you'll also see we did a lot of work in building stamina, reading to self and reading to someone.  That puts a little bit closer to the other end of the continuum.  I also spent a lot of time working with the students and my assistants to let them know they DO NOT interrupt reading groups.  Kids do not ask questions about their independent tasks and teachers and aides do not give assistance to kids at the independent area.  This was huge and it took a lot of work to make sure this was a habit for both the students and my assistants. Not only did I have to make the expectation clear for the kids, I had to make sure my assistants knew I did not want them leaving their group to support kids at the independent area.

What I see as potential changes for my class for next year, is refining that stamina to include the writing and word work.  We had a journaling time period during the day and it was ok, we also embedded phonics and word work into the reading lessons and that was pretty good because it gave the kids the support the needed, but I think it could get better.

I also really liked the small group/independent time transition from whole group mini-lessons.  This structure gives a good opportunity for me to make sure that all students are introduced to grade level materials/focus skills.  It also provides a natural opportunity for movement.

The typical teacher is very busy having students do lots of different activities.  How is what you are doing in your classroom now creating quality readers and writers?

I actually don't have a lot of busy work during our reading block.  It's pretty structured between my station of guided reading work, my assistant's station of robust vocabulary and exposure to grade level materials; and my other assistant's station of SRA phonics work.  Our independent area was typically reading choices on the computer: Tumble Books, SuccessMaker,; Hear Builders, etc.  During my actual reading block, I didn't have much of the Daily 5 reflected at all.  I was pretty rigid.  It was during our Individual Instruction Time and our Sustained Silent Reading time that I started to use pieces and parts of the Daily 5.  I think these structures helped children to develop their reading skills.  I'm hoping to make it more cohesive next year and also improve my ability to develop writers!  I don't think I did such a good job with that this year.

I'd like to get better at fostering independence in authentic reading so that my students will view themselves as readers.  By this age they know they are in a "special" class.  They talk about it.  Since they talk about it, I feel like I need to address it with them too.  Most frequently, students are in my class because they were struggling with reading in the general education class.  They remember these struggles and it impacts how they view reading activities and their reading abilities.  I'm hoping that the Daily 5 structure will help me to foster that internal view of themselves as readers.

What sets the Daily 5 structure apart from what you are doing in your classroom?

Right now in my reading block time, I have 3 main stations (teacher, 2 aides) that are controlled by me.  I choose what each assistant will be doing (and consequently the kids at her table) and I choose what I am doing (and consequently the kids at my table).  Within the reading block, the students don't have a lot of control or choice in what they are doing.  

The Daily 5 requires a release of this control.  I'm going to have to think more about this.  There are things that I have to do to meet the direct, specialized instruction component of my students' IEPs.  This means they need specific, specialized instruction at their instructional levels.  I also have to expose them to grade level materials.  However, many of them don't have grade level skills.  This means they need support for this.  I am going to need to figure out how to do the things I'm required to do that require support, but still embed that student choice and independence components that I"m longing for to help them view themselves as readers.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The Last Month of School

School's out for summer!

As I reflect on the year, I've realized some of my favorite memories of the year happened in the last month of school.  Two of my favorite didn't even relate to all of the hard work we did on academics, but they are (in my opinion) important none-the-less:

Adam redirecting another student who said something that was rather mild, but not very nice.  "You know, you really shouldn't say that because it's not kind and we are a kind class."  (I didn't say a word.  Adam handled it beautifully and the other child stopped.)

A group of students making up a table hockey game on the last day of school.  On the last day of school I gave them some extended "choice time."  (It's similar to "free time" but I won't let them call it that because if they don't make a choice, then I make one for them.)  They made up the rules, figured out how to keep score, took turns playing and had fun playing.  It was great!  (If you teach a self-contained class, you know that some year's you need to work on cooperative skills all the way up to the last minute of the last day.  This group "got it" and it was wonderful to see and hear.

photos courtesy MicroSoft Office ClipArt