I want to draw your attention to the four stations. They are Picture of the Day, Fluency, Technology Project and Vocabulary (Shades of Meaning). Before I start guided reading, I also teach students what the independent literacy stations are by doing the station WITH them first before I expect them to do it as a group without me. This is very important, and you have permission to do this, you SHOULD do this. Teachers sometimes say, "...but what if an administrator (or a literacy coach, or an evaluator) walks in and I'm not doing a guided reading group at my kidney table?" My response is: Are you providing guided instruction and modeling the literacy behavior? Are you teaching them how to communicate and modeling the literacy behavior? Are you teaching them how to collaborate and modeling the literacy behavior? Are you teaching them how to be critical thinkers, how to agree and disagree with each other and the author and justify their thinking to their peers and modeling this literacy behavior? Yes. Yes. Yes. and Yes. Absolutely, you are! That's what good teachers do, they provide scaffolding "on location" at the job site. It is unreasonable to expect that you can give students everything they need from your rolly chair behind your kidney table. Life is not like that and nor should the life lab called your classroom be like that. We cannot expect that students are going to know what to do during independent work unless they have seen it modeled. When first introducing a new center, you have permission to "do" the station with them, model the "talk" of the station, facilitate the conversation, as if you would during a guided reading lesson... encourage students to agree and disagree with each other and tell why, show them how to take turns, teach the Rules of Discussion during real text based discussions. Yes, teach them how to take turns. Most kids don't play games like Sorry, Monopoly or Life anymore, so they don't have much practice taking turns...they all want to talk and "go" at once. This too needs to be practiced, modeled, shown, explained. It's so basic, but so needed. I also tell students that when we/they are having text based, opinionated discussions, not to raise their hand. I want them to learn to listen to each other, and get the green light to speak, from each other. This too, must be taught. (I always ask them, "Do you think Oprah and everyone in her book club sit around together and raise their hand when they have a turn to say something?...They don't. They listen to each other, they look at each other, they make eye contact, they jump in at the pause, they respectfully agree and disagree...")
To introduce Picture of the Day, I always do it whole group. You can read my post HERE about how I introduce and explain to students Picture of the Day. After we practice it whole group for a week, it can become an independent center.
To introduce the Shades of Meaning Vocabulary center, I always do it AT the center with them. Here is a picture of me AT the center with them.
The fluency center will not be every week, but I wanted students to know what to do in case I did add it back in at some point. Fluency practice is also one of the options students have to do in the event that they do finish their center early, or cannot move on without my assistance and I'm unavailable.
I use a variety of fluency resources for my fluency center, including my own one page Fluency passages, and one page Fluency Sentences, but I also love the fun fluency cards by Primary Polka Dots. The kids love them too because there are silly phrases to practice that progress up to a full connected story. They work in pairs (I always have students work with a fluency partner) and listen to each other read, critique (RBT5) each other (they know that means to tell their partner what they did well, and something specific they can do to do it better) and answer the three comprehension questions on the last page.
Here a link to Lindsay Flood's Fluency Cards (cheap, too!)
I cut them apart, added them to cardstock and laminated them using my new Scotch laminator (cheap, too.) I also made an accountability sheet for the cards, which I'm happy to share with you. It's generic enough to use with any of her packs.
Download the response sheet HERE if you like.
As far as whether or not students need fluency practice, and clearly, not fluent readers do... to me, that's not really the question. I believe ALL readers need fluency practice. Even fluent readers need to grow by at least one word per week to stay on target for meeting the next quarter's fluency benchmark. So, if there are 16 weeks between the first benchmark window and the next benchmark window, a student must grow at least 16 words per minute in 16 weeks, that's a word a week. Most of the students in my group are technically considered, fluent. Do they know it? Not really. Can they identify why fluency helps a reader? Not really. Do they have what I call, "fluency awareness?" No. We are working on this awareness.
My last independent center is always an integrated center, (I technically consider all of my independent center, integrated) but this one is truly about standards 7, 8 and 9 "Integration of Knowledge and Ideas"...with science and social studies topics as the vehicle and technology use in the product. Explaining this is another blog post, and I promise when I get from my trip to Washington, D.C. this weekend, I will explain it...because it's fun, it will make you laugh, I promise. For a good laugh in the meantime, check out this "been there, done that" math video on YouTube.
Or enter Math Kid Snippets into the YouTube search box.
Did you ask your students what does "independent" means? Here's the convo from my room:
Me: What does "independent" mean?
Them: "Working alone, by myself."
Me: [baffled] "Really? What about yesterday when you were standing at the Shades of Meaning center with your group, discussing the order of these words?"
Them: [scratching their heads] "Oh, yeah, we did do that."
Me: "Is that alone, by yourself?"
Them: "No, it's with our group, but without you."
Me: "Yes, WITHOUT ME, but not alone, not by yourself."
Me: "What else? What else does "independent" mean?'
Them: "Quiet. No talking."
Me:[baffled again] "Really? What about yesterday when you were doing the Picture of the Day center with your group and you were discussing, talking, communicating, at your table about what you observed and what you inferred? Were you quiet? Did you use sign language? Were you mind-reading?"
Them: "We were talking, yes, we were communicating, we were speaking and listening."
Me: "Does speaking and listening mean no talking? or Does it require some noise?"
Them: "Yes, we have to talk to hear each other's ideas so we can agree and disagree with them."
Me: "Yes, exactly!"
Me: "All independent means is without me, without help, you can do it on your own or as a group and you can solve it together, communicate through it together, and work together, and accomplish your goal."
This is what my center board looks like this week:
And, I ALWAYS create this Problem/Solution T-chart before we begin so they can be problem-solvers during guided reading, where interrupting me is THE LAST RESORT. I have done this for years, and it helps a lot.
Also, in case you're wondering what they do in the Independent Reading center....they read. Just read. They don't respond, they don't check out books, they don't talk to one another...they just READ! for 30 uninterrupted minutes. That's it. Read to Self. From books, they self-select. Read. Read. Read.
Again, like I said in another part of this series, is this the message we are sending kids that they are to be working alone and quiet when they aren't with us for guided reading? Yikes! If so, I think it's time to look at this. I've said this before, and I'll say it again....teaching the Common Core way is no longer about teaching skills and strategies in isolation. Students must practice multiple skills and strategies at the same time, with others, in varying formats. I tried to make a Wordle out of the Common Core documents but I exceeded the word limit. I did however, cull, what I felt were the most important verbs, words and phrases, from the Common Core documents.
|Slide 10 from Fifty Shades of the Common Core|
Like you've heard me say before (at least for those of you whose schools I've been to)...the common denominator of these words and phrases is what? Critical thinking and Critical reading. And like I've said before, these things cannot be accomplished in a vacuum. Students must have lots of opportunities to dig into text, with each other, talk about text, talk about pictures, ideas, understandings, misunderstandings, problems, issues...with each other. It's really hard to agree and disagree with yourself. So when you're asking students to work independently, are you giving them engaging activities where they have an opportunity to practice and reinforce the same skills and strategies presented in the lesson and do they have lots of opportunities to communicate, collaborate, think critically and read critically so they can expand their ideas and learn from great authors, photographers and producers?
I've heard from many of you over the course of these posts, that they are resonating with you because they are conversations you are having in your building right now, too. Anything worthy of impacting children so profoundly is definitely worthy of a building wide conversation. I encourage you to create an operational definition of the term "independent work" in your building. Start from there so at least all teachers are on the same page, so we send students the right message and they understand the importance of not only what they are learning but why they are learning. Kids are not different than adults when it comes to wanting reasons (see Simon Sinek's TED Talk, The Golden Circle, on the importance of why)...we just have to be solid in the "why" ourselves first.
Thank you to everyone that commented on these last few posts, I do appreciate you chiming in and leaving comments. I know I'm not the only person passionate about literacy and I love reading your comments, I truly do. It's validating and feeds my Love Language...Words of Affirmation.
Until next time,