In part one of this series, I introduced the following model as a representation of how proficient readers are able to make full use of both the print information and the meaning information in a text.
I also described two variations on reading process, which illustrate the ways students may be better at using one or the other source of information.
Look closely! What happened to all the missing socks?
Author: Jan Burkins & Kim Yaris
Illustrator: Marce Gómez & David Silva
Reading Level: A
Here are some highlights from the collection:
There is one title that is specifically about starting school. It is a Level E text about a peacock who is nervous about the start of school and afraid to display his feathers. When his teacher asks him to introduce himself and share one thing he is good at, he is much too shy. After making friends on the playground, he musters his courage and shows his true self.
There are three titles in the collection that relate to mindfulness. Happy (Level C) is about a little girl who is exploring different kinds of happiness, such as the calm happiness of a breeze vs. the palpable happiness of a surprise birthday party. Hurry Up, Slow Down (Level D) is about a little girl who is walking to school with her father and is caught up in the simple beauty around her. Finally, Everyday Beautiful (Level H) is about two boys who have been asked to find something beautiful. One boy overlooks the natural beauty around him while another shows him how simple things can be beautiful.
There are five titles in the collection that use science related to light and shadows to tell a story. They range in levels from C-J. We wrote these to align with science standards. If you teach light and shadows, you may find these texts a nice way to integrate your science content into your reading instruction.
If you already have the Who's Doing the Work? K-2 Lesson Sets, these digital versions of some of the books should be helpful. Although you don't need the lessons to use the books, if you are interested in the lessons that go with the books, they are available from Stenhouse Publishers.
For the last couple of weeks I have been making something for you.
Inspired by my son's pen pal relationship this summer, I ordered every book I could find that involved characters who write letters. I read them all carefully, considering how some could work together around the theme, Mail Myself to You.
Finally, I wrote a set of K-5 lessons--including Reading Art, Read Aloud, Shared Reading, Small Group Instruction, and Independent Reading. I've assembled these lessons in a tabbed hyperdoc--a pdf that links to sections within the document, as well as to sources outside the document. It includes videos of me describing the books and the lessons, written descriptions of each lesson, and ideas for extension. The lessons are clustered: kindergarten-1st, 2nd-3rd, and 4th-5th.
The lessons are free, with a subscription to my blog/newsletter. If you complete the contact form below, I will email you personally, including the 25-page, linked PDF as an attachment (Please, give me 24 hours to respond). Or, if you want to write to me directly to request the document, my email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
I am excited to share this collection of resources with you. They have been a labor of love.
Wishing you all good things,
Here's what you will need:
- Tracing paper (I used parchment paper out of the kitchen, but any thin paper will do.)
- A pencil or pen that won't bleed
- Adhesive/removable film. I used Cricut Removable Vinyl.
Here's the process:
- Choose a book. You will need books where the faces of the characters are large enough on the cover. You need their faces to be unobstructed by their hands or the faces of other characters (unless you want to do a more complicated masking job). Also, the placement of their eyes, nose, and mouth matter. If the nose is almost on the same plane as the eyes, then it becomes hard to draw a mask on the face. I was also intentional about selecting books with slick covers, as it seems that would make it easier to eventually remove the masks.
- Trace the face. Use tracing paper to trace the face of the character on the cover. I found it helpful to include the ears, eyes, and mouth. I even traced the hair, just because it gave me a better sense of how the final product would look.
- Draw the mask. Draw a mask on the tracing of the face. Start from the top of one ear and go to the top of the next. Repeat, drawing a line from the bottom of one ear to the next. On the sides, the mask curves in. You will have to modify this, depending on how the characters are drawn. For example, I put a mask on a bear and a fox, neither of which had ears that easily translated to drawing a mask.
- Trim the tracing. Trim down your drawing by cutting widely around the mask. This will involve cutting up the drawing of the face, which is okay, since you are only going to need the mask.
- Cut the vinyl. Cut a piece of vinyl a little larger than the mask. Put the vinyl behind your drawing. If your vinyl and your tracing paper were both in rolls, you may find it helpful to make sure they are both curved in the same direction, so that they don't fight each other. Also, when I used a light color, such as yellow, I found I had to double the vinyl.
- Cut out the mask. With the drawing against the vinyl, cut through both to cut out the mask. You will have to make sure that you don't let them wiggle, but keep the same alignment through the whole process.
- Adhere the mask. Remove the backing from the vinyl. The adhesive vinyl I used was pretty forgiving; I could pull it off and reaffix it as I needed to. There was a bit of trial and error with applying each of the masks.
- Cut and affix. If you want to cut thin strips of white vinyl to make the elastic for the mask, then that is the last step. I found it easier to remove the backing from the vinyl before cutting these really thin strips.
Here are a few images of the process:
While this is not a sophisticated or comprehensive solution to softening mask-wearing, it may prove a conversation starter or at least something to engage students. At the very least, this is a fun way to think about how masks can cover our expressions. You could even pull back the film to reveal the expressions of the characters. This project seems to be fun, whether you are sharing books virtually or in person.
Perhaps, if you begin school "face-to-face," they should go on your shelf six-feet apart.
Note: After I had completed the project, my children pointed out that the bird on Rocked Writes a Story didn't get masked! I had already put up my materials, at that point. If I were sharing the book with children, I would mask all of the characters on the cover.
Before social distancing and home learning began in March, schools were already wrestling with the role that computers should play in classrooms. Whether weighing the decision to go to one-to-one devices for all students or navigating district mandates to use a certain program, reflective educators have long known that what makes technology helpful is the way it is used. But figuring out how to use it often means navigating a maze of mandates, program implications, and student needs.
A couple of years ago, in one elementary school where I consulted, the district required that schools use a particular program to identify and address reading difficulties. I walked into a first-grade classroom in October to find about half of the first-graders working on iPads. They were using a computer program to learn phonemic awareness, letters, and sounds. Their iPad screens were filled with images of things like an apple, to which the narrator would say something like, “A is for apple. A says /a/.”
It seemed strange to me that in October of first-grade so many students would need such rudimentary skills work. I asked the teacher about it. She said that all of her students had taken a placement test with the same computer program and that they were doing the lessons that the computer indicated they needed. I was skeptical.
I asked the teacher if I could administer individual assessments with the students. When she agreed, I took each student out into the hall one at a time and administered Hearing and Recording Sounds, Marie Clay’s (2013) simple, first-grade assessment. Students had to write two connected sentences: I have a big dog at home. Today I am going to take him to school.
Many of the students that the computer indicated should begin with lessons like, “Apple starts with A” were actually able to write the two sentences perfectly! Most of the other students were able to write reasonable sound-spellings for each of the phonemes in those sentences (e.g. skool for school). Every single child in the class already knew the sound for short A.
I talked to the teacher. She explained that she was required to follow the directions of the computer program. I talked to the principal, who described the same district requirements and said there was no way to skip lessons in the program. All those children had to sit through all the very beginning reading lessons, even those who already knew all the letter sounds.
Now that distance learning is the norm, reliance on large expensive programs to discern what children need--and to address those needs instructionally--seems to be on the rise. However, children actually need real teachers now more than ever.
In a conversation with the literacy leadership in an elementary school where I am working throughout this school year (virtually and traveling by car when it is safe), they are dealing with district requirements to use a widespread monster program. They are frustrated, but they are trying to make it work for them. If you are trying to make the most of a required, comprehensive computer program, here are some things to consider:
- Are there aspects of the computerized assessment that you can easily use to inform your instruction? For example, does the program record children reading? If so, great! Listen to those recordings yourself, analyze the miscues, and add them to your body of data about your students. Does the computer offer you timed readings? Great! Calculate words-per-minute and see where students fall along fluency norms for their grade.
- Does the computer confirm or refute what you know about your students? Listen to your students read and consider whether your observations align with the results the computer found. If there is a discrepancy, dig deeper.
- Do you have the option of assigning lessons rather than letting the computer assign lessons? If so, assign lessons to students based on your assessments of them, even if that includes your considerations of the results from the computer.
In the end, computers can’t serve children well unless we use them well. Making the most of the tool you have been given, or even that you are required to use, means knowing that tool and knowing your students. This knowledge will help you maximize a program’s benefits while sidestepping it’s limitations, navigating the maze to your students' advantage.
Clay, Marie M. (2013). An observation survey of early literacy achievement (3rd Ed.). Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
Dr. Jan Burkins is a full-time writer, consultant, and professional development provider.
Back To School
Preventing Misguided Reading
Science Of Reading
Sources Of Information
The Great Debate
Virtual Guided Reading
Who's Doing The Work?