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It's here!

I am so excited...I have SO much enjoyed interacting with you during my place value webinars in June...and I can't wait to share some more ideas with you in my new problem solving webinar!  (You missed the place value one?  No worries...due to popular request, I've added a few new sessions!)

One thing that I have always been passionate about is trying to get students AND TEACHERS excited about math--and my goal with my summer webinar series has been to share a little of my knowledge, share some research, and then give you LOTS of tips and strategies to use in your classroom to make learning math meaningful and fun--and teaching it easier and more enjoyable.

I really hope you'll join me to keep the conversation going...we can work to make a difference in how students feel about math and how we can be more effective in delivering the rigorous curriculum expected of us.  I hope you find it helpful.  To keep things fun this summer, I am also entering all registrants into a drawing for a $10 voucher for my store--each webinar will have a winner drawn.  If that winner is in attendance at the end, they can pick out $10 of resources to use!

Click the image below for the freebie note taking document and to see the sign-up schedule.
Miss the place value and number sense webinar? I added a few July times!

Click the image below to see the details or to sign up.

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problem solving webinar

Kylene Beers
It's time to share our thoughts about the second section of "Disrupting Thinking" by Beers and Probst--a week late but here nonetheless!  Sorry about the delay--it's been an eventful few weeks for me.

When I first read this section, I think that what first piqued my interest was that we truly got into the "meat" of this book--this idea of "disrupting" our thinking and reading to be changed.  If this idea that reading should trigger change in us is new to you--you aren't alone.  For years we have read (and had our students read) to make connections, to find out how it ends, or to make a story map--but to be CHANGED by it?  Certainly not something most of us have discussed with students, especially at the elementary level.

Without giving away too much of the book--because no one can state it as articulately and as passionately as the authors, the gist of this section revolves around reading around what is in the book, what is in your head, and what is in your heart.  A simple formula, right?
Kylene Beers
If you haven't read the book "Notice and Note", you might want to grab a copy of it to help you understand more about what the "signposts" are.  These signposts truly changed the way I interacted with students about texts--and they helped ME be a more thoughtful reader.  Again, it's too much to include in a blog post (#readthebookitisworthit) but giving students language and ideas to dig deeper into texts is so powerful.

So after this next section, I have a few MORE questions that I need to ponder--and would love for you to add your thoughts about!  If you haven't read the book, feel free to add your comments as well, but if you HAVE read this section, I'd like to know your reflections on all or some of the following:

1.  What are some of the best questions you ask to get these deeper discussions going with students?

Like I said last week, I love our social issues unit--but I have found that by carefully choosing texts to read aloud (picture books, articles, novels, etc) students have NO shortage of ideas they wish to talk about!  I really love it when we find connections between texts.  For example, we read "The Tiger Rising" early in the year and later in the year read an article about poaching.  I didn't have to plan out too many questions because the text selection made it happen.  I think I said something like, "Hmmm...so what are you thinking?" and that's all we needed.  Some of the best questions I use aren't specific to the text but are more general--like "I wonder what the author was thinking when she wrote that..." or "What choices did ____ have?".  What are YOUR thoughts on quality questions?

2.  This section also refers to the idea of teaching social activism through our reading instruction--at a developmentally appropriate level, of course.  Think about texts you have used that might lend themselves to this idea and share them.

It's interesting because I teach in an area with very mixed political beliefs and have always been extremely careful about how I present social topics.  That being said, by tying everything back to EMPATHY, I think I am always helping students look beyond the obvious, beyond what they see on the news, and beyond what they hear at home.  We want students to be thinking about the impact words and actions have, right?  It can be a slippery slope if not handled with finesse.  Thoughts?

3. The book refers to the BHH framework (book, head, heart).  What are some ways that we can work to get students thinking about texts (both informational and fictional) at each of these levels?

I think by their very nature, children are curious.  As teachers, I believe we need to put them in positions to be able to tap into that curiosity, share their ideas, and LEARN about their ideas.  Being mindful of how we introduce texts, how we create a climate where reading to learn and reflect is expected and enjoyed, and how we reward "good" reading...and by "good" I mean thoughtful and meaningful.  I think we need to have more discussions as teachers about what "good" readers are!  I'd love to hear your ideas as well!

I hope you are enjoying the book and are starting to do some thinking about the implications for you and your students.  Like last week's post which you can find by clicking HERE,  I'm hoping to get some great ideas from the rest of you!  Still need a copy of Disrupting Thinking?  Here is an Amazon affiliate link if you are interested.  Stay tuned for the ending next week--and please share your ideas below or on my FB page.  Let's learn from each other

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Kylene Beers

It's officially time to share our thoughts about the powerful first section of "Disrupting Thinking" by Beers and Probst!

When I first read this book, I think that what first piqued my interest was the title of the section..."The Readers We Want".  Interesting, right?  After all, we've talked about "backward design" when designing our units for years.  Doesn't it make sense to start thinking in reverse--when students area finished with us, what DO we want them to look like and do as readers?

I'm guessing if you take some time to reflect on this, that none of you would say any of the following statements...

"I want them to be able to test well."
"I want them to be able to make 3 text-to-self connections per chapter."
"I want them to be able to able to improve their fluency rate by 25% over the course of a year."


So what DO we want?

In the STEM fields, we constantly talk about preparing students for the ever-changing world of science and technology. We tell them that we are preparing them for careers that may not even exist yet! So...Beers and Probst are sending the same message--but are we thinking differently about how we teach reading to meet this changing world as well?  The more I think about it, the more I realize that we aren't.
In this section, the authors write about being "responsive" and "responsible" readers.  They say it isn't enough to have students attend to the messages in the text but is equally as important to pay attention to their feelings and reactions to the text and how the two interact. This is directly related to the ideas shared about reading the news and other information responsibly--and making decisions on what to do with the information (true or not) that we read.  With social media at the tips of even our youngest readers, the power to share information is often more accessible than the mature thought processes needed to make these decisions.

Finally, the fourth chapter refers to the "compassionate" reader; and I know that in my fourth grade a word we use a great deal is EMPATHY.  We try to empathize with different characters in books to "feel" their side of the story.  We try to empathize with people and animals that we read about in the news to more deeply understand the experiences they are living.  After reading this chapter, I realize that I am on track--but need to do more. Much more.

So after this first section, I have a few questions that I need to mull over--and would love for you to chime in about!  If you haven't read the book, feel free to add your comments as well, but if you HAVE read this section, I'd like to know your thoughts about any or all of the following:

1.  How much does this idea of  "empathy" come up as you do your literacy instruction?  Are there resources you have used that are helpful?  For example, I think Eve Bunting's picture books are AMAZING for this...as are many quality novels...from The One and Only Ivan to Out of My Mind to Rules and TONS more.  Feel free to add other titles to the comments as well as ideas, grade levels, or other ideas to help teachers know how they could best be used.

I love that we have a "social issues" unit with book clubs we do at the end of the year...it's so great to really push their thinking outside themselves and see how these stories unfold and impact all the characters.  This year, I read several of the books I listed above plus "How to Steal a Dog", "Hoot", "Because of Mr. Terupt", and "Shredderman".  I also used many different picture books to get students thinking and talking.  I also did searches on Amazon and our local library for books on all sorts of issues from race to gender equity to homelessness and more.  We had some amazing discussions--so make sure to share any book titles that would help others!  To tie in, we also read a variety of articles and nonfiction texts to help us build our understanding of some of these issues.

2.  How do you balance the amount of informational reading and fiction reading in your class?  What is the ratio you currently have?  Is it what you want it to be?  What are your thoughts about increasing the amount of reading done with these more intense "social issues" texts?

Over the last years, our district has worked hard to incorporate far more informational units into our curriculum from kindergarten on.  I still see many students self-selecting primarily fiction texts, however.  For every content topic we study--human body, forces and motion, chemistry, pioneering, immigration, etc--I try to immerse the class in informational texts to help build background for deeper understanding.  Share out any ideas you have for getting more varied texts in your students' hands!  

3. What strategies have you found most helpful in developing readers who are thoughtful and responsive?  What can INTERFERE with this?

I think the selection of powerful read alouds is the great equalizer!  Not all students need to be reading at grade level to be exposed to deeper ideas and discussions about quality texts.  Finding texts with interesting characters, problems, and issues can help teach students to think deeply and talk meaningfully about texts.  I also think providing students with lots of independent, "just right", self-selected reading is critical.  There are lots of things that can interfere with this of course...challenging schedules, curricular demands, and behaviors.  Sometimes resources are scarce as well.  Often certain texts and reading lessons are prescribed and mandated which may make teachers feel as if there isn't time to do more.  What do you think?

I hope you are enjoying the book and are starting to do some thinking about the implications for you and your students.  One thing I am ALWAYS worried about is finding ways to impact and motivate my most reluctant readers.  I'm hoping to get some great ideas from the rest of you!  Still need a copy of Disrupting Thinking?  Here is an Amazon affiliate link if you are interested.

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It's almost here!
Congratulations to Karen Freemantle who was the winner of the Disrupting Thinking book giveaway!  I hope you are all as anxious to get started talking about this powerful book as I am!  As a reminder, the discussion schedule is as follows:

June 7:  Discuss Part 1
June 14:  Discuss Part 2
June 21:  Discuss Part 3 and the Conclusion

Participation is easy!  Just get the book (I have included an affiliate link below if you need it) and be ready to add some comments in on June 7 about the first part!  I will be posting about it both on my blog AND on Facebook, so you can participate in either location.  Be ready to share "aha" moments and goals.

There will be more information coming soon about my Summer of Learning Webinar Series as well...but I am excited to say that the first webinar is ready to roll!  This one is all about teaching place value and number sense in the upper grades, and I hope you will join me.  There is a freebie handout in my TpT store to use to take notes if you want--or just tune in and listen!  There are currently 5 dates available for this webinar (It's free--don't worry!), and I can't wait to release information about the second webinar in the series--all about word problems. Stay tuned for FB live and email reminders as well.  Interested in signing up?  Click the image below to take you to the freebie and sign up link.
teaching place value and number sense

Still need a copy of Disrupting Thinking?  Here is an Amazon link if you are interested.

Stay tuned for more updates...and I hope you find this book as powerful as I do!  Want to make sure you don't miss any details?  There is a sign up link for my emails on the right side of my blog!  Watch for a FB live with more details Tuesday night...8 pm central.  See you then by clicking HERE!

last days of school
I know many of you are starting to celebrate--another school year is in the book!

For many of us, we have days or even weeks left--and it's hard to keep students motivated and focused and LEARNING until the very end.  I have a few tips today to help you keep your students--AND YOU--ready for a successful ending!  I know the paperwork for us is crazy--but that isn't our students' fault! Keep your stress under control, your "to do" lists handy, and check out these tips!

1.  Keep students busy doing meaningful work!

It's easy to forget that students crave routine...and when you throw in end-of-year field trips, assemblies, treats, assessments, and more--it's easy to let it all fall apart.  The more we can keep students doing quality, rigorous work, the better!  I know that I am always looking for that last minute data to help with report cards as well--but there is no reason it can't be made a little more fun as well!

I needed a few last reading grades, so I gave this easy to give demand prompt.  The students had a BLAST describing their "dream" classroom and I got what I needed for report cards!  (This and other prompts are available in THIS RESOURCE)
last days of school activities

I also use this time of year to do TONS of problem-solving...whether it's "themed" word problems like
end of school math activities
end of school year

or review problems with all the content from the year, keeping math going strong is super important...even if you have "finished" the curriculum.  Even consider having your students write some of their own!  Tell them that if they write some good ones, you can use them with next year's class!

Speaking of next year's class...I love to do this project with my students--and it gives me a perfect bulletin board for BACK to school as well!  I've killed two birds with one stone...there are a number of options included and the letters and everything you need are right there!
end of year bulletin board

I also keep up with our daily independent reading and writing times and make sure my science and social studies activities are meaningful yet fun.  We do "BizWorld" at the end of the year--and if you haven't heard of it, it is well worth checking out.  It's an amazing simulation.  I have blogged about it in the past...just click HERE if you want to see a few blog posts about it.

Now don't get me wrong...I sprinkle some "just for fun" stuff in there as well--especially in the final day or two.  Here are some of my favorites!
summer classroom ideas

2.  Take more frequent breaks and keep activities shorter.

I don't think this is rocket science--but just accept that the students are going to have a harder time focusing!  Instead of planning a 60-minute math lesson, plan three twenty minute ones!  Get them moving and transitioning and give them fewer opportunities to get off track.  For example, we are working on adding and subtracting decimals.  Instead of pages of practice on Tuesday, we are warming up with a summer word problem...

then we are getting out our whiteboards for some practice problems...

then I am introducing the swimming pool problem (involves adding money) for them to work on over the next few days...
end of year math

then we are going to do the book work in partners.

The same is true for all other subjects...keep switching things up!

3.  Choose a powerful read aloud.

One thing I started to do a few years ago is picking a very compelling read aloud book that I deliberately map out to finish on the very last day of school.  For the last few years, that book has been "Wonder" for me...it's an amazing book and it talks about transitions and growing up--and my fourth graders leave me to go to a new school and it's so fitting.  I've also read "No Talking" at the end of the year and "Out of My Mind"--both excellent "school" books that keep them interested and begging you to read more.

After we finish reading at the end of that last day, it leads into a perfect discussion about our year, their hopes for the next year, and so on.  It's a great bonding time as we finish our year together.

4.  Keep their bodies moving.

In addition to taking more frequent breaks, make sure that you are giving their bodies time to move and wiggle.  Whether you build in more time for things like GoNoodle (a favorite of mine!), can get them outside for some learning, or just have them out of their desks for centers, partner work, or projects--this can really help keep students engaged and on task.  Sometimes even moving the learning to a new place--a hallway, the cafeteria, or any extra spaces can be a great break.  We have an odd space by our elevator that is the perfect place for a quick task card exchange, concept sort, or partner editing!  Even doing a simple science lab instead of reading out of textbooks can be so much more fun and meaningful at this time of year.  Big number division is more fun on the playground with sidewalk chalk!  Build angles with your bodies on the playground!

5.  Keep yourself calm and maintain your classroom as a learning environment.

One thing I have noticed over the years is that despite our desire to wrap things up, students are acutely aware of these transitions as well.  When we start taking down bulletin board, boxing things up, and changing routines--they can't help but feel like it's all over. If you need to box things up, keep them out of sight.  Taking down bulletin boards really doesn't take that long--save it for the very end.  When students feel their classroom is "gone", they don't feel the need to be students anymore!

The more we can keep ourselves centered, calm, and happy in the last weeks, the more likely our students are to rise to the occasion!  Stress leads to stress...so plan ahead, take a few deep breaths, and do more than survive--THRIVE in those last weeks!

To say "thanks" for all your support over the year, I have marked every product listed in this post on sale for the next two weeks.  Just click any image to take you to the link.  I hope you find a tip or a resource that can help you enjoy the last days with this group of students...remember--you made a difference for them!

I wrote a different end-of-year blog post a year ago--if you want to check out that one, just click the image below!

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