Posted in Misc. Ramblings, Reading

Growing Readers with Reader’s Notebooks…Part 2…Grades 3-5

“Free!”  It’s amazing how one little four letter word can generate so much excitement in the teaching world!  About a month ago I create a post titled Growing Readings with Reader’s Notebooks with a subtitled of FREE Notebooks Included.  Well…let’s just say it was one of my most viewed posts to date.  In that post I shared my reader’s notebook templates for grades K-2.  In response, I had a lot of upper grade teachers (3-5) asking for my templates for intermediate notebooks.

I have always felt that my K-2 notebooks should be a stepping stone to a more traditional regular old spiral or composition book style reader’s notebook.   I really feel like in the upper grades the notebooks need to be more flexible as a tool.  But…how would I roll out and use a blank notebook in these grades?

A colleague and principal friend of mine, Carly Pumphrey, shared the book, Notebook Connections; Strategies for the Reader’s Notebook by Aimee Buckner, with me just after my first blog post.  She said that it was suggested to her by another teacher and she was eager to read it.  Well…that’s all I needed.  I was on Amazon placing my order before I left the parking lot of her school.  Now, mind you, with a copyright of 2009 this is not a new book but after reading the book I found it to still be relevant and helpful.

Before we talk about the “how” of the notebook it is important to keep a few ideas in mind.  First, student should have choice as to how they respond to reading.  Buckner says, “Sometimes being too open-ended is overwhelming and being too restrictive leads to contrived responses.  It’s a delicate balance” (15).    I want students to use the reader’s notebook as a tool to capture their thinking and understanding of the text.  If we give students a structure and closed prompt every day this is not likely to happen.

Modeling is the second, important idea to think about as a teacher.  We, as teachers, will have to model the many different ways that we can respond to what we are reading.  If you find that your notebooks are not turning out as you would like or envisioned then think about what you need to model to help improve students responses.

Another key component to the reader’s notebook is the  importance of students collaboration and conversation.  If you want students to develop their ideas about what they are reading and writing they need to TALK before, during, and after they write!  Buckner says, “I’m not asking questions and looking for specific answers.  We’re talking about our thinking during our reading of the book.  As I teach comprehension strategies and the children become used to thinking while they read and to recognizing that thinking, the conversations initiated and generated by students become easier and more natural” (106).  These conversations lead to better written responses.  You will notice that every single lesson idea posed in this book has a component where students are TALKING about what they are reading.

So…how do we start with Reader’s Notebooks in the upper grades?  First I would suggest that you need to determine your purpose for the notebooks in your classroom.  Ask your self these questions (Buckner, 115):

  1. What reading curriculum objectives/standards am I trying to accomplish using the readers notebook as a tool?
  2. What writing curriculum objectives/standards will the reader’s notebook support?
  3. How often will students write in their reader’s notebook?
  4. What will students be responsible for having their reader’s notebook.

I would suggest writing down your answers to these questions.  They will help guide your instruction with the notebook as well as help you reflect and refine your notebooks throughout the year.

Then…where next?  The really neat part of this book is that the author poses lesson ideas and then shows you what it looks like and sounds like in action along with sample student responses.  Here is the progression of notebooks in the course of a year:

  • Getting to know students as readers (Chapter 2)
  • From Comprehension Strategies to Notebooks (Chapter 3)
  • Reading Like a Writer (Chapter 4)

The book finished up with how to dig deeper and assessment as a tool for teaching.

This book contains many mini-lessons to help roll out the notebook and writing responses as well as strategies to comprehend and go deeper with the texts we are reading.  To help you get started I pulled out the first four lessons she writes about using to jump start the year.  Most of these lessons can and should be revisited throughout the year as well.  I pulled out lesson and then included some of the information from the text that would help you grasp the full concept of the lessons.

Here are those lessons:  Reader’s Notebook Lessons from Notebook Connections . If you haven’t not read this book and want to dig deeper (because there is so much more that she says that is fabulous that I couldn’t possibly capture in one blog post) you can find on Amazon for $21.  It is a small and fairly short book only 145 pages!  Check it out!

Be sure to keep checking in on the link above as I’m going to continue to add more lessons which are modified from the book.  If you are a google drive user and you “add the folder to drive” you will automatically have the latest and greatest lessons.

I look forward to continuing the conversation about Reader’s Notebooks throughout the summer and this upcoming school year!

 

Posted in Reading

You NEED Nonfiction Mentor Texts to Teach Text Structure!

As teachers we constantly seek to refine our practice of teaching so that we “open up a world of possible” for our students through reading!  Teaching text structures is one such way to help students make sense of their reading. Respected reading expert Stephanie Harvey says, “text structures gives readers a better shot at determining important information when reading nonfiction text.”  Whether or not a reader is a striver or a thriver text structure will help students make sense of what they are reading (or even listening to or watching, i.e. audio or video).

In my county (Washington County Public School, MD) we teach 5 structures for nonfiction and 1 structure for fiction.  The 5 nonfiction structures we focus on are:

  • description,
  • sequence,
  • problem & solution,
  • cause and effect, and
  • compare and contrast.

I have created an overview sheet of the 5 structures that WCPS uses.  Click here for a link to this document.

The fiction structure we teach is the rising action structure of plot. The image below is from thisreadingmama.com.  Click the image to see the original document.

On a side note, I had a teacher ask me via a Facebook post if 5 structures I mentioned above for nonfiction could also be seen in fiction.  I do believe that within the rising action structure a character can experience problems and solutions, cause and effect, etc…  but the general structure for a “story” still generally follows the rising action structure.  So, for this post I am focusing on nonfiction.  

When modeling the use of text structures in read aloud or shared reading it is really important to, as a teacher,  be able to quickly put your hands on mentor text for each type of structure.  So yesterday I started creating separate lists of mentor text for each nonfiction structure.  I wrote a post on both the Notice and Note Elementary and the Reading and Writing Strategies Communities on Facebook asking for suggestions from teachers.  Between the time I posted and when I finally went to bed I had many book suggestions and even more people wanted a copy of the “final” product.  It just goes to show you how valuable social media is!  I took all of the nonfiction suggestions and added my own as well.  I felt it was really important to have some “newer” texts on the list.  Additionally, WCPS teachers, will find that I tried to incorporate some of the books that we received this spring.

Keep in mind that these lists will be an ONGOING project.  They are in a google form so that I can add to them at any time as I find books or as teachers suggest and share books with me.  So…I wouldn’t suggest printing this.  If you are a google user just use the “add it to my drive” feature.

Also note that I tried to sort them by grade band; primary (PK-2) and intermediate (3-5) but this in itself was different.  Many upper grade people can, very skillfully, use a lower level text to teach intermediate concepts.  So…keep that in mind when looking at the list.

In several cases there were entire series of books that could have been added to the list.  Instead of listing every title as a separate line item I made a note under the author’s name.

I want to give a special note of thanks to my colleague and friend, Kevin Sandall, for suggesting that I add the articles from NEWSELA to the list.  Kevin pointed out the NEWSELA already has currated lists for each of these nonfiction structures and he used a bunch of them with his fourth graders this past year.  I simply linked their lists to my sheets.  Thanks Kevin!

So…where are this magical mentor text lists?

Follow this LINK to access my folder of the 5 nonfiction mentor text nonfiction text structure lists!

Feel free to keep suggesting nonfiction books for me to add!  These sheets will get better and better and longer and longer as a collaborative effort.  You can always email me at brandeli@wcps.k12.md.us or just leave a comment below.  Thanks again to all the suggestions made by teachers all over the world via the Facebook post!

PS…don’t forget bookoutlet.com is a great place to get cheap books in hardcover or softcover.  They may say scratch and dent but I’ve never bought a book from them that didn’t look nearly perfect!  Oh and through the end of July 2018 they are have a 25% off sale on all children’s books.

Posted in Reading

Growing Readers with Reader’s Notebooks

One common comment I hear teachers make is, “My students are reading and can talk about what they are reading but they do not respond well to what they are reading in writing!”  Reading and writing go hand in hand…the more the read the better they should be able to write.  But, often times the writing is a barrier for students.  How can we begin to break down that barrier?  I think the answer partially lies in the use of Reader’s Notebooks.

In the last school year our entire county focused on getting back to the basics of the Reader’s Workshop model and getting kids to LOVE reading.  Sessions were offered last summer and throughout the school year for teachers in our county as well as the specific professional development in our own building.  One part of that professional development was based on the 4 ways that readers respond to what they read.  Readers can…

  1.  react to the text by telling what they learned.
  2.  ask questions about things they read.
  3.  make a personal connection to what they read.
  4.  learn something new about things they read.

About mid-year one of my Kindergarten teachers, Mrs. Jen Barlup, came to me and said that she wanted to start teaching her K students to respond in writing to what they were reading.  She really felt like they were in a good place with reading and wanted to push them to that next level.  So she and I crafted our first version of the Reader’s Notebook together.

Kindergarten Notebook File (FREE)

Kindergarten Notebook File with Lines (FREE)

In our notebook, we incorporated the four ways to respond with a structured notebook that allowed students to write and still allowed them room to draw pictures if they needed to.  We both felt it was also important that this what not something they had to write in every time they read a book…we wanted to keep the joy of reading.  Jen decided to use this notebook a couple of times a week.  Sometimes she would ask them to respond to one of books they were reading by choosing and writing ANY one of the 4 responses of their choice.   Other days she would ask them to choose a book and have everyone write a specific response.  For example, she would say, “Today I want you to choose a book and respond in your reader’s notebook by writing down a questions that you thought of while reading.”  No matter if it was a day when she gave them choice in their written responses or a specific response at the end of her workshop she would have students share those responses with the class.

By the end of the year word had spread about our Reader’s Notebook in Kindergarten.  In fact grades 1 and 2 asked me to craft a version for their grade level.  Keeping in mind that I want students to, eventually by intermediate grades, use a blank notebook to respond so I wanted to scaffold a little less in my grade 1 and 2 notebook.

Grade 1/2 Reader’s Notebook File (FREE)

In this next notebook we wanted more space to write.  You will see in this version that students have lots of room to write and the back of the notebook includes a genre list and log.   

In addition to using Reader’s Notebooks when sharing in whole group, this is also a great tool when conferencing with students.  It is helpful to be able to see not only how they are responding to text but the types of text they are reading.  This notebook is a great way to set goals with students.  I encourage teachers to use post-it notes to record student’s strategies and goals to follow up with inside the notebook.

Keep in mind that it is really important to TEACH and MODEL how you students should respond to their reading through the reader’s notebook.  This is not a notebook to just put in their hands and expect them to do well.   It might take a week or more of mini-lessons to model the use of the notebook.  Also keep in mind that we DO NOT want to kill the LOVE of READING…students do not need to write about what they are reading for every book or every day.  It’s all about balance!

If you choose to use this let me know how it goes.  I really feel like everything I do on my own and with my teachers is a work in progress.  I’m open to feedback and push back because it only makes us better teachers!

Printing notes…in our school system we are VERY fortunate to have a Print Shop.  We are able to send this file to printing and they make our books.  We have used spirals in the past but we really love this printed on 11×17 paper and folded and stapled in the middle.  Our print shop prints on both sides of the front and back covers as well.  If you choose to use these files you may not be so fortunate but know that this can also just be run out of standard copy machines and bound as well.  

Posted in Book Reviews, Reading

Who Doesn’t Need Some High Interest Non-Fiction?

As an elementary teacher I’m always on a mission to find high interest books for our classrooms; both fiction and non-fiction. Here in our last few days of school many of my teachers are inventorying their libraries and preparing for next school year. Several have mentioned to me that they would love to get some new and fairly inexpensive books for next year. So…here I am…once again on a book hunt.

Many of you know that I really cannot resist buying books and I also love a great bargain. So many teachers purchase booms with their own personal money so I try to find good deals wherever I can. One of my go to places for quality cheap books is Bookoutlet.com. You can find hardbacks and softcovers of many wonderful children’s books at this site. I have even purchased books in hardback for less than $7 and found that they were signed by the author when they arrived! I often will get 15-20 hardback books for less than $100! Tomorrow (June 12) they are starting their 15% off sale. Check it out!!!!

But I digress…In my most recent order I purchased some Ready to Read Science and History Fun stuff books; each was $1.79 in paperback. They came today and boy…these are fabulous! These are short chapter books which are geared toward 2nd-3rd grade levels. Each book is filled with colorful and inviting illustrations. In addition, the text is highly engaging. The topics in these books will entice your readers to add these titles to their reading list. A few of these topics include the secrets behind candy, the scoop on ice cream, history of cookies, secrets behind fireworks, the deep dish on pizza, the innings and outs of baseball, stellar space travel, and many more!

These books would also make fantastic read alouds for teachers to model great strategies that good readers use. In fact, our WCPS teachers have a few Ready to Read cultural books in our grade 2 text sets that were purchased this spring. This Ready to Read series focus on countries and their cultures and is titled the “Living in…”. If you want your students to learn more about places in the U.S. be sure to check out the Wonders of the America series also. All of these books are just as fabulous as these Science and History of Fun Stuff books.

If you are interested in a complete lists of the books in the three Ready to Read series I mentioned above here is a link to each set of books. If you decide to purchase be sure to check first and see if you can get them on sale from Book Outlet!

Be sure to check out the book trailers for these books on the Simon and Schuster Youtube Channel.

History of Fun Stuff Series

Science of Fun Stuff Series

Living In…Wonders of America

 

Here is a book trailer for one of these fabulous books titled, The Innings and Outs of Baseball!

 

 

Posted in Math, Misc. Ramblings

Fact Fact Off!

Who couldn’t use a quick and easy new game to practice addition and multiplication facts that is fun and involves a little bit of strategy?  My eleven year old son, Ben, and I dreamed up this little game this evening.  This is a game that you could use in your classroom OR played at home and can be adapted in lots of different ways.

Materials:  You will need a standard deck of cards with jokers.

Card Values:  For this game we designated the Joker as a wild card, meaning you could make it any number you want when it is played.  We made all of the Aces = 1, Jacks = 10, and Queens and Kings = 11.

Directions:

  1. Shuffle all of the cards and place them face down in a pile.
  2. Each person takes 3 cards (and hides them so that no one, but themselves, can see them).
  3. When each round begins, each player chooses a card from their hand and lays it face down in front of them.
  4. After both players have a face down card each player takes one of the remaining cards from their hand and places it face up beside their opponent’s face down card, as shown below.  So, in fact you are giving your opponent a card which they will use to make an equation in the next round.
  5. Both players turn over their original card and multiply the card they were given by the card they had placed face down.
  6. The players both state their equation and product.  For the hand show above Ben had 6 x 11 = 66 and I had 8 x 10 = 80 so I would win all 4 cards.
  7. The player with the highest product wins the round and takes all of the cards on the table (4).
  8. At the end of the round each player will have 1 card left in their hand.  They will save this card for the next round.
  9. At the beginning of each round players take 2 more cards so that they have a total of 3 cards in their hand (this gives players some choice in what they play) and repeat steps 3-8 until all the cards from the face down pile are gone.
  10. When all rounds are complete players count the cards they won and the player with the most cards wins.

Special notes:

  • If a player places a joker on the table they will state the number they want it to be when they state their equation and product.
  • If the product is the same, play a second round and the player with the highest product will win all 8 cards instead of 4.

Variations:

  • For younger grades use addition.  Players will find the sum of the two cards.
  • To make the addition more difficult you could have players take 4 cards and lay 2 face down in addition to the one their opponent gives them.  Then players would find the sum of 3 addends.  In this variation, the player with the highest sum would take the 6 cards on the table instead of 4.
  • You can always change up the value of the face cards.  For example Jacks could be 10, Queen could be 11, and King could be 12.

The possibilities are endless!  We made a little video to help explain the rules.  We hope you enjoy the game and share it with your students!

Posted in Social Studies

Where in the World…A Way to Engage Kids at the End of the Year

 

 

Where in the world is…(go ahead….say it, or sing it, you know you want to)…Carmen Sandiego?  Now there is a blast from the past!  The geography game (circa 1985) and show, of the same name, was all the rage in the mid 1990’s.   The show came out as a response to a National Geographic survey that showed that Americans had very little knowledge of geography.  So…what does this have to do with engaging kids at the end of, what seems like a crazy long school year?  Lots!  If you loved Carmen Sandiego, want to engage kids, help them become better at geography and at the same time want to build their problem solving and critical thinking skills then you need to check out GeoGuessr!

I have to tell you that my teenager introduced my husband and I to this nifty game a month or so ago and we’ve been hooked ever since.  Geoguessr can be played from the website as well as from the downloaded app or any device.  You can play as a single player (which we do but we tend to play it together) or compete against others.  The premise of the game is simple…you are dropped in the middle of google earth and you have to figure out where in the world you have landed!  You can use your ipad or keyboard keys to navigate in the google maps…traveling as far in any direction as you like.  Along the way you look for clues as to your location.  When you think you know your location you open the world map and drop a pin.  Then it calculates and scores you points based on how close you are to the location.  The closest we have been able to get is 13 meters.  The closer you are…the more points you gain.

Now…my husband and I believe that smart people use their resources and tools…so when we see things we use another device to look up more information to help us.  My teenager thinks this is cheating.  Regardless, you learn a lot about geography and problem solving skills no matter how you play the game.  Sometimes it is very tricky…you might be dropped in the desert or if you are lucky, in the middle of a city where there are lots of road signs.  We use geographical features to help us, languages on signs, and even things written on the sides of vehic

There are a couple of differences between the app and the website.  If you play the app, you will need to gain points to unlock specific regions.  If you play online, you can choose locations without gaining points.

If you decide to use this in your classroom there are lots of options.  The first time I would suggest that you play as a whole class with the site projected on a screen so the whole class can see it and interact together to learn how it works.  I would also suggest making a process chart of “clues to look for”; things like geographic features, road signs, the language on signs, street and route names, etc…    Then you could have students play in teams or compete against each other.

I’ve made a quick little screen cast to show you what this looks like in real time.  I hope I’ve peaked your curiosity enough to check out this little gem!  If you use it, be sure to tell me about your classroom experiences.  I would love to hear what happened in your classroom!

Posted in Math

Number Chart Routine…FRACTION STYLE!

Wow, isn’t it amazing how something that can start out as a small idea can explode into something much bigger than you ever anticipated.  That is how my Number Chart Routine has become for me.  I started small, modeling this routine in a few primary classes and coaching teachers on using this routine to build number sense with students.  Now, this has transitioned into my intermediate classrooms as a way to help students develop their decimal, and now fraction sense.

For those of you who are reading about my Number Chart routine for the first time, I would suggest that you go back and read my first post and watch a sample video of how the original routine works.

After modeling the whole number routines in various classrooms I felt like it was time to “take it up a notch” and use this routine to build fraction sense.  We know it is important to learn to count whole numbers before we compute with them.  Students who can count forward and back by numbers can more easily compute those numbers.  So…why don’t we do this with fractions.  We seem to just jump from representing fractions to adding and subtracting.  The Common Core emphasizes the use of the number line to help students bridge this gap.  With this thinking in mind I created the fractional Number Charts.  Each one counting up by fractional units.  Keep in mind that routine works the same way as the whole numbers.

So, Mr. Jeremy Wood, another one of my fabulous fifth grade teachers agreed to try the fraction routine out with his students.  Much to my delight his students did well with the routine and didn’t want him to stop (there’s a win!).  He felt like it really helped students see patterns and be able to count forward and back in fractional units.

After Mr. Wood tried out the first board we felt like it might be helpful to create boards the counted by fractions like 1/8, 2/8, 3/8, 4/8, 5/8, 6/8, 7/8, etc…  as well as a board with eighths but also equivalent forms of numbers.  For example this board has 1/8, 1/4, 3/8, 1/2, 5/8, 3/4, 7/8, etc… as shown below.

 .         

If you are interested in trying out the fraction boards they can be found here:  Fraction Number Chart Routines.  These would be great for classrooms from grades 3-5+.  I will continue to add more fraction variations as time allows and as my teachers request them (lol…things always get done faster when someone asks me to create them for a lesson they are doing).

If you would like links to all of my Number Chart Routines be sure to check them out on the Number Chart Routine Page.  Be sure to download the PowerPoint and click the present button so that the animations work on the third slide.  Note, the first 2 slides for just for teaching background and information.

Posted in Reading

It’s Not a Stack of Books….it’s a Poem!

One of my favorite picture books is the a short and simple story titled, It’s Not a Box, by Antoinette Portis.  The premise is that a simple box could be anything within your imagination!  This past week our leadership team challenged our staff think “outside the box” to engage kids and “make a difference” in our last few days of school!

As our teachers filtered into our professional development we had 5 stations set up of activities to engage and stimulate their brains!  One of those stations was to create a Book Stack Poem.  We brought 3 crates of picture books and novels out and scattered them across the table.   Teachers were challenged to stack the books so that the titles on the spines created a poem.  They could use 2 or more titles.

Our very own, uber creative, paraprofessional Dottie Gruhler created the poem below.

Wonder
Can you what I see?
May B
The most magnificent thing
We’re all wonders!

Our fantastically fabulous fourth grade teacher, Lauren Wharton, created this short but, oh so meaningful short stack to express her thoughts:

Out of my mind,
Absolutely truly!

(Side note…this made me giggle AND these are two of my very favorite books!!!)

Ms. Wharton decided that her students would LOVE putting together their own Book Stack Poems and since her library was already in a bit of a disarray they could make their poems and then reorganize their classroom library just before the school year ends so that it is all back in place for incoming fourth graders next fall!  

Poems can often be intimidating for both students and adults to write.  With book stack poems the words are already there, you just have to craft the order to make your own poem.  For our staff it seemed to make it seem less overwhelming.  Not only did our teachers enjoy the challenge of creating a meaningful poem but, many were found books that they had not seen before and they were excited to borrow them for lessons.

If you have your students create Book Stack Poetry be sure to post them on twitter and tag me at @brandeli1974 and use the hashtag #bookstackpoems !

So in your last few days of school, I hope you are able to engage your students and think outside the box.  I would love to hear some of the fabulous things you are doing to make the most of your last few precious days of the school year!

Posted in Tech Tools

Five Nifty Tools for Teachers

This week while listening to my favorite 30 minute podcast…The Google Teacher Tribe, I was introduced to a new 30 minute podcast titled Shukes and Giff The Podcast.  As a tech nerd both of these ed tech podcasts are just what I need keep my mind busy on my morning commute.   Shukes and Giff is a new podcast with only 5 episodes so far (up to April 18, 2018).  The Google Teacher Tribe focuses on the Google Platform while Shukes and Giff goes into all types of educational tech products.  So, by listening to both podcasts I get lots of new ideas each week.  All of the things I am about to share here came from one of these podcasts this week.

Are you tab crazy??? If you have been near my computer you know that I often in excess of 20 tabs open….GASP…I know, it’s aweful!!!   If you too are “tab happy” then you need to download the free the  Google Chrome Extension called TOBY.   This morning after I heard about TOBY I knew this was the solution for me!  This extension allows you to save a collection of tabs that you can open with one click!  So, the first collection I created was my Daily Work Tabs – these are the essentials that I need everyday; my webmail, google drive, google calendar, my work log, and our school portal.  So, if I don’t need these tabs now I can close them because with one click they all come back!  The podcast suggested that if you teach multiple classes or multiple grades you could create a collection for each that would make it simple to open all he tabs for that class or grade by clicking the collection instead of having to open multiple tabs individually.    Once you install TOBY on your devices and create a login, your collections will sync across all of your devices!!  (WooHoo!)

The second nifty tech tool that Shukes and Giff talked about was the Noisli website.    If you like to have some background noise going while students are working this free web app is for you!  This site allows you are play and mix “white noise” .  You can choose from many different types of white noise (rain, different types of water, leaves, trains, fans, etc…), adjust the volume,  mix several sounds together, save your sounds, and even set a timer.  This free site might just be a nice edition to help your students focus.

The last three nifty tips I learned today that I would like to share are all for Google Drive users.  The first is a shortcut to change the view of your drive from grid to list form.  Instead of clicking the grid or list button in the upper right hand corner, just hit the v key while in your drive.  Each time you hit the v key the view will change.

There are many, many, many google shortcut keys.  Most of us are not familiar with many of them but they are easy to find.  In any google application you can press the ? key (shift ? key) and a box will pop up with all of the shortcut keys for that particular google app.  How cool is that????

The last nifty tip I wanted to share was that you can have a file in multiple (yes, I said multiple) places in your drive without making a copy!  That means that if you make a change on the file in one location it will change it in all the folders where the document is located!  This sort of reminds me of when we used to make an alias with our office documents.  All you have to do is click on a file and then press SHIFT-Z.  Next a box will pop up for you to decide the additional location you want to put the file in.  Notice it does not say “move here”.  This is HUGE for me.  Often times we create lessons or units that cross subjects.  Now I can put it in all of the different subject folders that it applies to.  Or…if you want to share something in your team folder but you also want to have it in your drive…use shift-z and you can have it in both places!

I hope you will check out one or a couple of these nifty tools!  All of them are fairly simple and FREE!

Posted in Reading

We forget most of what we read…Confessions of a Binge-Reader

“Hi, my name is Beth and I am addicted to reading”…. there I confessed it…my kids are convinced that I need counseling and a support group.  I say….I just need a blog and a book club!  I have been a binge reader since I was a kid and I read so fast that  I can “put down” a novel in a few hours.  So…what’s the problem?  The problem is remembering everything I read.

Recently The Week, my favorite magazine, ran a two page article titled, Why You Forget Most of What you Read.  This article, originally posted at theatlantic.com and written by Julie Beck, caught my eye.  As an elementary teacher at a school that is on a mission to get all kids to read and respond to text, I was totally intrigued!  We teach kids to read so they can learn.  We read lots of content text (social studies and science) to help students learn new things.  Certainly I want them to retain what they read.   So, I poured over those two pages not once, not twice, but many times (so many times I have lost count) to glean some tidbits to strengthen my instructional practice.

So what did I learn?  First they talked about how in this internet age we are bombarded with information.  So much information that it is no longer as important to memorize as much as we once did.  As I read that, I thought….”then why hasn’t instruction and assessment, especially in our secondary classrooms and higher education, changed much in the last 50 years?”  The article states that research show that, “When people expect to have future access to information, they have lower rates of recall of the information itself.”  The articles goes on talk about how much of ancient history was passed down in stories from memory but that as they began to be written down we no longer had to rely on memory to pass on and document history.

The next part of the article really intrigued me.  It talks about a study of people that binge-watched tv show vs. those that watch the show once a day or week.   140 days after viewing the show both groups were quizzed about it.  The group that binge-watched the show scored much lower than those that watched it once a day or week.   Beck notes that we are not only bingeing on tv but also the written word.  Each day the average American encounters 100,000 words, even if they don’t read them all and that most of the reading we do is “consumption”; where we read to obtain information.  The implications are simple….read SLOWER and SPACE THEM OUT!

Instantly, upon reading this, I made a connection.  This fall I started reading From Striving to Thriving by Harvey and Ward.  I read pieces of it each night over the course of a month.  I took a lot a way from this book; probably more than I have ever taken away from a professional book.  In fact, I can still months later, flip into that book quickly and point out something to a teacher.  On the other hand, I read the entire book, Disruptive Thinking by Beers and Probst in less than 3 hours (yes, cover to cover).  I even marked it up and used sticky notes throughout.  Wouldn’t you know it…I can barely remember much of what I read just a couple weeks later.  Now, don’t get me wrong, it’s a great book…but clearly because I binge-read the book, I did not retain the information nearly as well as I did From Striving to Thriving.

So…what am I taking away from all of this for my instruction?  First I see the important of time and reading.  If we want kids to retain information it is critical that they spend time with it…not just bunches of minutes all at once but…over time.  This is why putting together units of study using the UBD model are so important!  We need to “marinade our students” in topics of study not just dip their toes into a topic if we want them to retain it.

Second, it is critically important that we continue to try to bring our instructional practices up to meet this information age.  Memorizing facts should not be front in center in our teaching….but problem solving to find information we need, synthesizing information, thinking critically, and doing something with information to go beyond facts should be what is driving our instruction in all subjects.

Well…that’s my two cents on the subject.  I hope you are intrigued enough to click the link above and read this two page article.  I hope it will impact you as much as it did me.  I’d love to hear your feedback as well!