Reading Workshop

Thinking Maps and Anchor Charts–The Brace Map

I love Thinking Maps! If you haven’t heard of them, a quick search will help you find lots of information. In a nutshell, Thinking Maps are a set of 8 specific graphic organizers based on 8 cognitive skills. They are meant to help students visually represent content based on relationships. The focus of this post will be on The Brace Map.

Brace Maps are used to analyze the structure of whole/part relationships. The Brace Map is quite popular in my classroom.  Here are two ways we have used it this past year!

At the beginning of the year while setting up reading workshop we always discuss genres.  This is a great opportunity for a Brace Map.  You can see we started with genre and categorized it into fiction and non-fiction.  We then took it one step further and broke each of those into parts.

A Brace Map we created at the beginning of the year when learning about different genres.

A Brace Map we created at the beginning of the year when learning about different genres.

Ok, this next one is a little funny.  I have to say that my anchor charts don’t always turn out like those glorious ones you see on Pinterest with all of the color and professional illustrations.  Someday I fully expect to see them on a FAIL meme.  I was not blessed with artistic talents.  Nope.  But this does not stop me in adding illustrations to my anchor charts!  It is important for students to have illustrations to accompany new vocabulary.   ELL students really need these and the brain loves color and novelty, so illustrations are a must!  I don’t pre-make my anchor charts.  We gather together to record our thinking and I’m usually in a hurry to keep up the momentum, so I quickly sketch!  My students and I get a chuckle sometimes (OK, often) at the drawings, it gives them something to look forward to when we meet on the rug, and it lets them know that it is OK to take risks and laugh at your mistakes.  Oh, and we label things a lot so that it is obvious what was drawn there.  Here it is folks…a Brace Map of human body systems that we created during our health unit.

A hilarious anchor chart on human body systems.  We used a Brace Map to sort the whole into parts.

A hilarious anchor chart on human body systems. We used a Brace Map to sort the whole into parts.

I hope you got a chuckle, and perhaps learned a little about how to use Brace Maps in your classroom!

–The Pensive Sloth


I Escaped the Zoo Cage!

I read a blog post earlier this week by Common Core Galore and More! and it was hilarious.  You should read it.  It gives a very honest look at one teacher’s perspective of centers from the “zoo cage.”  It was as though she took a photo of my classroom when I taught first grade and wrote about it.  Spot on.  Now that I’m an intermediate grade teacher, things aren’t much different during centers.  We call them stations now.

So last week, I left the zoo cage.

If you are wondering what the zoo cage is, it is the teacher’s seat at the small group table, tucked away to the side of the room where much maneuvering is required to get out.   The problem is that the kids know you are trapped, and while the cat’s away, the mice will play…

Last week, quite by accident, things changed in my room and I escaped!  In all the hustle and bustle of teaching and meetings and trainings and tutoring and paperwork and the various other minutia that makes up a large percentage of a teacher’s job, my small group table has become a pile of projects and it just wasn’t suitable for children.  But, this was no excuse not to meet with my kiddos who needed a refresher on multiplying and dividing with decimals.  So, I moved to the rug.  With clipboards in hand, my students gathered eagerly (well, obediently) around my easel and all was right with the world!  Things weren’t perfect, but I certainly had a better position in the room.  I could see more, get up and around faster, and interact more openly with the others who were working on tech projects.

It has been over a week now, and I plan to continue my experiment and let you know how it goes.  Happy teaching!

reading groups, guided reading, guided math, math groups, small group teaching

Teach small groups somewhere other than small group table? Challenge accepted!

When I read a science text i can...Anchor Char

Reading Strategy Lesson…In science class?

While reading a short text on climate zones and the mountain effect, my kiddos struggled with some of the ideas that were being presented.  I decided that it was a perfect time for a reading strategy lesson!

While reading, I modeled and had my kids participate in a few things:

1–Drawing a picture to show the mountain effect, labeling the windward and leeward sides and which side would be dry

2–Substituting the words ‘in the middle’ for the word temperate to help kids understand temperate climates

3–Discussing the connection between river currents (that students were familiar with) and ocean currents

When I read a science text i can...Anchor Chart

When I read a science text I can…Anchor Chart

3 Ways Nancie Atwell’s “The Reading Zone” Has Changed My Classroom (originally posted 12/9/13)

Reading Zone, Reading Workshop, 5th Grade

3 ways The Reading Zone, by Nancie Atwell, has changed my classroom

My principal recommended Nancie Atwell’s book, The Reading Zone, at a meeting early in the year and I finally got around to checking it out.  I’d heard of it before, and that it was great, but the recommendation was just the encouragement I needed!  I have to say that it is one of the few teacher books I have read cover to cover.  As a habitual skimmer, I usually just read the parts that fit my classroom, but all of this stuff was relevant, and Atwell’s honesty is refreshing.  Here are three things I am now doing consistently that have changed my classroom.

FIRST, I am giving my kiddos time to get into ‘the zone.’ This means that we read every day.  For 30 minutes.  Every day.  I don’t skip independent reading to make up teaching time because there is an assembly or field trip. It is too important.  Atwell stresses the importance of voluminous reading, and in the 5 short weeks I have devoted to daily reading, my students have already been lost in books for 750 minutes and they are behaving like readers.  It wasn’t instant reading zone magic.  I started the year with great intentions, but I wasn’t consistent with reading time and my kids weren’t living as readers.  They weren’t prepared with books to read because they weren’t sure they would have time in class to do so.  Despite the ‘Independent Reading’ anchor chart on my wall, they still asked to go to the nurse or library or restroom or chatted or got up for tissues or to switch books or drew pictures…  They don’t do this anymore because they come to class with books they plan to read and THEY hold this time to be as precious as I do.  It took about 2 weeks of consistent independent reading time before this happened, but you can hear a pin drop in my room while we are all reading, and an occasional giggle from someone who is reading something silly.  The routine is set and it takes about one minute for everyone to settle down to read, and then the magic happens.

no squirrel independent reading

NOOO! You mean it is time to stop reading?

SECOND, my students and I are really talking about books.  Atwell does a great job of explaining the conferences she has with students, but I didn’t start out conferencing during reading time.  I started out reading independently with my students.  First, I didn’t want to circulate about the room and disturb anyone until I knew my kiddos were able to dive into a book and ignore my moving about.  The other reason I started reading independently during this time is because I wanted my kids to see what it looked like to be in the zone.  I sat in a chair and read the entire time.  I wanted them to see that I thought reading was important, more important than grading papers or setting up for science.  It was important to spend time lost in a book.  After a few weeks, I started walking around and conferencing with my students.  Atwell does a great job explaining the reading conference.  It’s not fancy, just a quick discussion with each reader.  Some discussions are longer than others, but most are drive-thru chats and I’ve learned so much about what my kids are reading and why.  I have learned who has books of their own at home, that my class really loves series books, and that they talk to each other about what they are reading.  In fact, this is how most of them decide what to read next.

reading workshop, indendent reading

In the book, “The Reading Zone,” Atwell has a page of reading conference starters. I carry a copy on my clipboard as I chat with my kiddos. It is very well organized!

THIRD, we have started weekly book talks.  Basically, a few readers advertise their books to the class.  Students who have a book they think others should read spend a few minutes telling us about it, without giving too much away.  A few kids ask questions about who the author is, if we have the book in our library, and if they can have the book next!  The speaker shows us the cover on the projector so that anyone who wishes can add it to their ‘someday reading lists.’ It is great fun and is a super easy way to encourage readers.

I plan to add reading letter-essays to my classroom like Atwell uses to converse with her readers more formally, but I’m taking things one step at a time.

If you read but ONE book this semester, I suggest this one.  Go forth and inspire your readers!

Dog likes to read

What is that fabulous book?