Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Notice and Note: Nonfiction

I began this week's common planning time with 4th and 5th grade by asking the teachers to listen to the following quote from Kylene Beers and Robert E. Probst's new book Reading Nonfiction: Notice & Note, Stances, Signposts, and Strategies.

"When we rely on lectures and our own explanations, instead of having students read, we imply that someone else knows and all students have to do is listen.  This disenfranchises them and leaves them vulnerable. It suggests they should let others tell them what to know. It doesn’t raise students who think independently...when they encounter a difficult text in their adult lives, they will again look up and say, “I don’t get it,” and wait for someone else to tell them what they should know."

The majority of their comments included: "That makes sense."  From here I passed around the following survey:

I asked them to notice if they see any patterns in their answers and if there is anything they would like to change.  Here are some of the responses:
  • I am large, and in charge.
  • This sounds like what we are trying to do with personalized learning.
  • This seems like a lot of student talk, not much teacher talk.
  • This goes along with our book study, Learn Like a Pirate.

 Then I moved into teaching the first big question, What surprised me?

The following came from page 83 of Reading Nonfiction: Notice and Note.
“We suspect that at some point you’ve talked with a friend and heard that friend say something that you just can’t believe is true.  The comment was so surprising that you find yourself saying “Really?” and you want to know more.  

Or you’ve been riding in a car and something catches your attention and makes you say to others, “Wow!  Look at that!”  You notice things that are meaningful to you. And once you notice what you found to be surprising information, that’s probably what you most want to discuss with others.  And if you found nothing surprising, you would consider it a dull conversation or a boring ride.

In a similar way, an entire ball game with nothing surprising would probably leave you complaining about how dull it had been. The same is true of nonfiction we read. If we finish the text and nothing has caught our attention, nothing has made us say, “Really?” or “I didn’t know that!” then we probably think what we’ve just read was dull. If, though, as we read we notice some fact that surprises us-maybe just a little or perhaps a great deal-what we’re reading will be more meaningful.

So when you read nonfiction, you should read with that expectation of surprise.  A stance that says, “I will be surprised” will help you see information as more than just facts; you will see it as information that is new to you.  Remember-if you want to find a surprise, you actually must look for one.  If you decide to stay alert for those passages that make you say, “Really?” we suspect you will be pleased with what you discover.

We then watched a video of 6th graders in action using this first Big Question.


We concluded by discussing what this discussion looked like and sounded like, and thinking about the student conversations that are happening in the classroom. Is this what it looks like/sounds like in our classroom?

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Middle School Professional Development Part 2

This is a continuation of my previous blog post, which used this slide show to lead teachers into thinking about the kinds of reading they were asking their students to do.  You can read it here.

We began by passing out this article , Why Being Good at Language Arts Means That You Can Do Math. The article had two purposes. The first was to show the link between math and reading.  The second was to give the teachers an article to practice close reading with.  We asked the teachers to read the article through one time.  Then we had them get into groups and choose a paragraph to reread and closely look for patterns that they see, maybe evidence, data, or words/phrases.  They were to "make careful observations and then interpret those observations with their colleagues.  Then we had them share out.

Lastly we asked teachers to think about the following close reading chart and how it can be used with the piece of reading they brought along. The reading was to be something they were going to ask their students to read in class during the next two weeks.  We gave them some time to process this and encouraged them to lean on any of us with questions or thoughts they had.

We received positive feedback from teachers on being able to grow professionally instead of discussing student behavior or day-to-day logistics of the school during their staff meeting.  I have had follow-up discussions with teachers about reading in their classrooms and look forward to seeing  the level of reading instruction across our building continue to grow.