Monday, February 22, 2016

i am ME Podcast

We had the good fortune of collaborating with Laura Henderson of Epiphany Learning. Laura hosts an amazing blog centered on the Personalized Learning movement! Join the movement on Twitter and check out the intro video below:

It was our first podcasting experience, and neither one of us really knew what to expect. We were both a little nervous about the situation, but Laura is a pro and really made us feel so comfortable. It honestly felt like having a fantastic conversation with someone that is just as passionate about PL as we are--it just happened to be recorded on Skype at the same time! :)

We are the 30th episode that Laura recorded. When we look back on those that recorded before us, we feel truly honored to be included with this group of AMAZING educational leaders! So many people that have contributed are people that we truly admire and could only aspire to emulate. If you have not subscribed or listened yet, we HIGHLY recommend you do so (and not just because we are featured :)

Without further ado...Here is Episode 30 of the wonderful i am ME podcast! Thank you, Laura, for this incredible opportunity! We enjoyed sharing our journey, experiences, and thoughts on personalized learning. We loved every minute of it!

What is your "i am ME" statement? Share in the comments section below! 

Click to listen to our PODCAST!

~ Kate & Angela

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Book Bands: Changing the Conversation

Our district has a great literacy department! We have amazing reading specialists that have been highly trained, having made multiple trips to New York to learn directly from the Teacher's College. We also have a fantastic communication and roll out system through what they have coined "Literacy Leaders." Each grade level, at every building has one (or sometimes two) "literacy leaders." These teachers receive professional development and have helped to organize our reading units to best meet the needs of Elmbrook Schools. They work hand-in-hand with our amazing reading specialists. I have the good fortune of sharing this role for our 4th grade team with our amazing teammate, Lynn. 

Recently, we had a literacy leader meeting that focused on the research happening surrounding "Book Bands." Many of you, like us, utilize Fountas and Pinnell leveling with our classroom libraries. The research and information that has been coming out lately surrounds not just the individual levels, but rather BANDS of levels. Each band of books carries with it specific characteristics that are often found in books at those levels. Knowing these levels and the attributes of each, can really change the conversation and awareness of reading.

In our space, we used our historical fiction unit to introduce these ideas to our kiddos. We incorporated it into part of our launch. We took each band of books, and went through what kids could expect from the bands. We referred to them as "Pillars of Reading"--because like structural pillars, this knowledge will support our comprehension and work while reading. It will "hold us up" as we read. 

We, then, had them take the conversation to their book clubs. Within their book clubs, they discussed the bands, and what tricky parts they might encounter. We, then, had them set a personal goal of a component to work on or make note of while working in their book club book.
We also created "pillar" anchor charts that will now permanently hang in our classroom.

Following this work, as kids continued working in their book clubs, we found they needed something more immediate to support this new learning. So, I created a personal bookmark for each band. It works just like a personal anchor chart, is two-sided, and it also has a spot to write their personal book band goals.
Click the image to download this for free! :)
It certainly has helped keep the book bands in the forefront of the conversation and their independent reading.

Have you been using book bands? If so, how? We'd love to learn with you! Sound off below!

Happy Teaching!


Saturday, February 6, 2016

Launching Historical Fiction

We are entering into our first book club unit, and we couldn't be more excited! Historical Fiction is not my personal favorite genre to read on my own time (Confession: I'm a die-hard fantasy girl!), but I absolutely LOVE exposing it to kiddos! They are fascinated by the different time periods. They are wowed by how different things were "back then." They are sickened by cruelty. Kids cannot hide their emotions well, and it is one of my favorite things about being a teacher--they are raw with compassion and questions. The discussions these children have would put adult book clubs to shame! Needless to say, this unit is FUN!

Kate and I were recently introduced to a fantastic new tool: PEARDECK! Friends, this tool is AMAZING! It is transforming the way we do mini-lessons! It is a digital tool that allows all kids to interact with your lessons. No need for whiteboards or markers anymore! Kids can log in and view the lesson on their device (Chromebook, ipad, etc.), and respond to your questions during your lesson! I no longer have to call on only 3 kiddos before I move on. EVERYONE can respond! I can show their responses (anonymously) on the screen, or I can view the exact answers on my own device while they are responding! Our good friend, Mike Mohammad introduced us to it when his AP Physics students came to work with our littles. We were blown away. He does a great job explaining how it works in his blogpost HERE. We do use the PAID subscription, but it is totally worth it! We got ourselves hooked up with Peardeck, and the customer service was AMAZING! So, we have been using it whenever we can in our classroom! We chose to use it to launch our historical fiction unit, allowing us to activate prior knowledge and encourage discussion about the different eras.

We first created a Google Slide presentation about the different eras we were introducing the kiddos to. We had LOTS of books on these different eras, so it made sense to use them. We know there are MANY more, but this is what worked for us!

Next, we uploaded the completed Google Slide presentation into Peardeck! From there, we were able to add whatever interactions we wanted. You can do short response, drawing, dragging shapes, multiple choice, and more! 

Our kiddos were able to respond with their own background knowledge about each era and get a brief overview along the way. We shared their ideas on our projector (without names), and Kate and I could see the exact child's name on our own screen (private from the kids!)

Once they were introduced, we had them VOTE on which eras interested them the most! We used a simple Google Form for that:
Then, we viewed their responses, and put them into era-alike groups based off of their interests. Each child was able to research one of their top 3 choices! We tried to keep them in similar reading bands, to help access content, but each group did have multiple levels within it.
At this point, we wanted them to get a better understanding of their era. This background knowledge building stage was incredibly important! It allowed our kiddos to understand allusions and references made in their historical fiction texts. When a book mentions Gettysburg, the kids instantly recognized it as a real place/event, and knew the context or its importance!

Within their book clubs, kids began researching their eras using sites, books, and articles. They were furiously jotting notes down and sharing their "ah-ha's" with their peers! Our room was extremely loud, but completely engaged in meaningful discussions. Once they had a firmer understanding of their era (after about 2 reading periods of research), we had them write a large sticky note. We posed the question: "If you had to tell your friend about the most IMPORTANT thing(s) to remember about your era, what would you tell them?". They collaborated to create one, long & strong. They, then, put this long and strong on our class timeline of eras!
Now, came the most exciting part...they got to PICK THEIR BOOK CLUB BOOKS! Clubs had to come to consensus and use what they knew about their book bands to self-select a book to read together. The buzz in our room was electric! It absolutely warms my heart every time I see kids SO excited about books that they are literally bouncing! Then, they had to write "norms" that they would follow within their club!
My favorite part...almost every group wrote "Have fun!" as one of their norms! {she sighs with a happy heart}.

Our clubs are up and running! We will update you soon on how it is going! How do you run book clubs? We'd love to hear from you!