Sep 2, 2013

Building a Firm Foundation for a Literacy Workshop

Hello, hello, hello!  Thanks for all the sweet emails checking on me! I took the month of August off from blogging simply to get my feet on the ground for the new school year!  We are off and running and had the GRAND OPENING of our workshop this week.  My little workers were trained and ready! :)
Vista Print!  Amazing :)
In case you are wondering why on Earth I would need such a large sign, let me explain. I make a huge deal about training my students for their "jobs" in our workshop before we can begin. I always ask a student to name a place they might work. This year, I got BURGER KING!  I guess that's what I get for asking, but it did work perfectly for my analogy. ;). I then proceeded to explain that I certainly wouldn't want to eat a whopper by a man that wasn't properly trained!  I proceeded to explain that we would use the first 5 days of class to "train" for the jobs in our workshop, referring back to the whopper analogy way more times than necessary over the week, for effect. ;)

A few things we did during our "training":

Reading is Thinking!  Believe it or not, kids can actually make it all the way to fifth grade by just calling the words on the page and not digging in any dipper!  Lesson #1 for building a FIRM FOUNDATION is understanding that reading only occurs when you mix the WORDS ON THE PAGE with the THOUGHTS in your head!

Lesson #2 is always a brief introduction to the Six Plus One Traits of Writing.  I like to give this brief intro so that my students and I have a common language right away to use when we discuss their writing, or the writing of others we find along the way.

Another important part of sharing a common language for writing is knowing that there is a difference between revising and editing.  Many kids think that checking over their writing means making sure they don't have any grammatical mistakes.  I want them to understand during the first week, that writing is more than GRAMMAR in our classroom!

One of my all time favorite lessons to teach involves these glasses!  It is important to me that my students know that there is more than one type of reading required in our WORKSHOP.  Each and everyday they will be required to read for pleasure with a book of their own choosing, where they can kick back and simply enjoy a good read!  Other times, they will need a pencil in hand for serious close reading of a text that requires digging in, making notes, rereading, and responding to the informational text they have been assigned.

While doing our close reading, I like to set my students up with a model for how to respond to informational discussion questions.  I found this fabulous APE model some time ago on the internet.  Not sure where it came from but it is wonderful!  I made labels with the model for my students to add to the Literacy Notebooks for future reference, and made an anchor chart for the wall.
A-  Refer to what you are ASKED
P- List PROOF from the text as evidence
E- EXPLAIN your answer thoroughly

And last but not least, I want my students to understand the "WHY" behind why I often give them Social Studies documents to read and analyze during our Literacy Workshop.  Okay, let's face facts, I am responsible for our state's social studies standards.  I posted a few weeks back about my Social Studies Story Board, and it is working beautifully with one exception.  I was planning to use incomplete notes that come straight from our support documents as part of their reading material.  Then it occurred to me, that I really didn't understand the "WHY" behind why the blanks in the notes were needed.  If my goal is for my students to comprehend the text as they read it, why did I feel the need to leave holes in the text for them to fill.  In the hopes of getting away from the traditional Social Studies textbook and notes to memorize, why did I need this traditional method?  So, out the window it went!  And if "because we always have" wasn't a good enough reason for me to teach that way, I certainly don't think that it is a good enough reason for kids to understand why they needed learn that way.

So, we are taking a different route this year!  We will be using EDMODO to view and reflect on videos, we will be reading lots of lots of historical fiction, primary and secondary sources, and talking about how we feel about what happened in HISTORY, rather than reading the notes and hoping for some memorization!

I opened my first Social Studies lesson with this video!  I think they totally got the "WHY" behind why we learn HISTORY!

So that's it!  Our first week in a nutshell!  I truly believe that you can't effectively teach until you have a full foundation of what is expected, along with a clear understanding of why what you are teaching is important. Take the time to build a firm foundation in your classroom and you will be off to a terrific year!

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  1. Good to see you back! I was a little concerned:).

  2. Welcome back and THANK YOU for such an amazing post! I am pinning this and plan on sharing it with my team! I hope the school year started off fabulously for you and your little man!
    Short and Sassy Teacher

  3. So glad to see you back. I was starting to worry about you. :) Thanks for sharing about your week. I love the big sign!

    Hunter's Teaching Tales
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  4. YAY!! You're back! Now I can stop stalking you on email. :)

    I really respect your choice to change things up because you realize that it was working for your kids. So many times, people say "but that's the way we've always done it". Phooey! :)

    Have a great week!
    Mrs. Laffin's Laughings

  5. I love the APE stickers- is there any way I can have the file? This is exactly what we need in our SS notebooks!

  6. I am glad to see you back! I've been wondering about you! :)

  7. Good to hear from you again!! Love your post on your reading notebooks!
    A Tall Drink of Water

  8. How funny that someone responded, Burger King. Hey they need workers too {ha}! Glad your back. Thanks for sharing.


  9. Glad you are back. I have taken a break as well. It has been crazy adjusting to a new grade and a new school. Have a great year! I enjoy reading your blog. It inspires me to push myself.

    Blessings of a Teacher

  10. Welcome back!! You are such a great resource. Period. I love all of your ideas and need to be sure to keep everything in mind as I start pulling kids.

    Don't Let the Teacher Stay Up Late
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  11. Love these ideas! Would be great mini lessons to kick off balanced literacy/workshop! :)

    The Sweetest Thing
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  12. Glad to see you back! I was wondering about you. :) Great ideas and I love how you teach your students reading is about thinking and writing is not all about grammar!
    Conversations in Literacy

  13. I love the use of the video clip, and the awesome opening day banner idea. Glad to see you back as well :)
    The Wild Rumpus 

  14. Hey Brandee,

    Great ideas! I especially like the one about the glasses and talking about different purposes and functions for reading and how as readers, we have to be able to change these gears. Awesome post!


  15. Great post! Enjoy reading as always... Love the sign!

    Sarah @ Hoots N Hollers

  16. I LOVE the guiding texts that you use for integration. Do you have a TPT store or somewhere than I can purchase these? Thanks for all your GREAT ideas!!


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