Sunday, February 23, 2014

A New Twist on Literacy Stations

Don't you just love when you get to go to a conference and you are presented with so many excellent ideas, you don't even know which one to do first? Me too! It makes me feel so inspired and rejuvenated (which I know we all need this time of year).

I had the opportunity to attend the Abydos Writing Conference in San Antonio, Texas. Abydos is the Texas version of the New Jersey Writing Project. I got so many ideas (and I promise I will share others), but the one that was my true a-ha! moment of the conference, the one that is just hands-down brilliant, was the concept of the Reading and Writing Kiosk presented by super genius teachers from Donna ISD, Sylvia Vela and Maritza Park (who also credit Dr. Joyce Carroll in giving them ideas to get the ball rolling). Since these are not my ideas, copyright prevents me from just recreating blackline masters to distribute to you. However, I am happy to share photos I have taken so you can recreate them in your classroom.

A kiosk is essentially a portable, targeted, skill-based literacy station (although I see no reason you couldn't do them for math, science, and social studies as well). The presenters had theirs created on trifold poster boards, but the samples they gave us were made from two file folders glues together. I am toying with the idea of making mine on trifolds, but cut down so they are not so big and bulky to store.

So, instead of your more general literacy stations, you have kiosks that each focus on a skill you have already taught. It is important that it be something the student can practice independently or with help from a partner. The kiosk has two basic parts: the anchored reference information that students may need to remind them how to complete the practices, and the actual practice parts. Most of the kiosks we saw had two or three practices for the targeted skill.

The teacher's role is that you assign specific kiosks to specific students depending on what skills they struggle with. The possibilities for skills on kiosks are choose based on what your standards are, what you have taught, and what your students need to practice. These are three that the Donna ISD ladies shared with the attendees, and that I will share with you.

The first kiosk they shared was for Inferencing. What student at any grade level doesn't need practice with inferencing? Here are photos of the anchored reference parts (obviously this would change based on your grade level and standards and your strategies for teaching the skill):

The practice parts on the inferencing kiosk really focused on images, but you could also do passages or even something they had been reading in class. One side had them look at an image, glue it down and complete an OWI chart (as seen in the references). The other side had them look at an advertisement and complete a sheet making inferences.

The second kiosk shared was on Hexagonal Writing. Hexagonal Writing is a strategy devised by Dr. Joyce Carroll, who heads up Abydos. This strategy alone is brilliant to get students thinking more deeply about their reading...and the strategy double dips as a prewriting strategy. In this strategy, students think about six comprehension sections after reading a piece: plot summary, personal allusions, theme, analyze (for literary devices), literary allusions, and evaluation. Students can complete this after reading any material...even a short poem. Again, this should only be a kiosk AFTER you have taught students about Hexagonal Writing, explaining all the parts. Here are the anchored references in the kiosk:

The activities in this example, were based on poetry. The poem was included in the pockets, and then materials would be available for students to complete the hexagon. And as shown in the "Oranges" example, it doesn't have to be a true hexagon. It could be theme-based.

The last one the Donna ladies share was on Transitions for Writing. The writing kiosks had a slightly different format. Yes, they still had the anchored reference material, but the practices were always in three parts: Find It in My Reading, Find It in My Writing, and Revising and Editing. The Find It in My Reading was based on a reading passage, and you could have students highlight what they are looking for or even color code the different types. In Find It in My Writing, students use a piece of their own writing to look for the skills (and add it in if it is missing). And finally, in Revising and Editing, students  look at another student's piece of writing and look for the skill in their. Again, they could highlight, color code, or even cut apart the writing and put it back together using the skill practiced.

My jaw was on the floor the whole time during these presentations. My brain was spinning out of control thinking of the possibilities. The Donna ISD ladies cited that this kiosk strategy has improved their reading and writing scores tremendously... not to mention made their students better readers and writers!

I have two more weeks until Spring Break. I know over those next two weeks, I will be really honing in on what exact skills my students are missing...and then over Spring Break, I will be a kiosk-making fool!

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Feeling the Love...

...that I survived this week. This time of year the drama among fourth graders is reeling out of control. Top that off with a reading benchmark test, flu running rampant through the school, Jump Rope for Heart, Valentine's Day, and a full moon, and you have nothing but pandemonium! Somehow, I made it through the madness and even had some fun along the way.

The Valentine's Day party was really my highlight. I had asked in a group of teacher-bloggers who had ideas for a class party that was meaningful, fun, and low-key, and Tonya Roller of Tonya's Treats for Teachers came to the rescue. She does a brilliant activity for Valentine's Day, and I "stole" it and put my own twist on it for my class. I call it Valentine Compliment Posters, and here is Tonya's post about how she does it with her class.

Most of what I did was very similar to her, but I did it all at school. I sent a note home to parents explaining what we would be doing so that they knew not to buy the cheap paper Valentines that get thrown away the next day. I had each student write a compliment about every other student on strips of paper. Then we organized the strips into baggies, one for each student's compliments. My school provides poster board, so we used that. And I had students donate other Valentine-themed craft supplies such as stickers, paper, foam hearts, pom poms, etc. All this was done prior to party day in spare time as students finished other work.

Yesterday afternoon, on party day, I gave each student a poster board and ANOTHER student's compliments. They could choose the craft supplies they wanted to use to create a compliment poster for a student (not themselves) in the class. The results were beautiful! I loved reading all the good things they had to say about each other, and they really worked hard on creating posters for each other.

I did have one student absent for the party, so I let early finishers work together to create his poster. And other early finishers worked together to create a lovely one for me as well. It will hang in a coveted spot on my classroom wall for as long as it lasts.

I loved this project, and the students did too. They all went home happily with a poster describing just how awesome they all are. How much more meaningful than a Spongebob Valentine?

Stay tuned soon to see how my Go For the Gold Division Facts Olympic Challenge went in my class. Here's a hint: everyone earned a medal!