Sunday, September 15, 2013

Planning for Classroom Literacy Events

Inspired by @GigiMcAreads post at The Late Bloomer"s Book Blog, I decided to list literacy events that I do in my classroom.

Today is officially International Dot Day.  I will celebrate with my class this week by reading the book, making dot art and skyping with Mrs. Morgan's class from Texas.

We will participate in the Global Read Aloud once again this year.  It runs from September 30th to November 8th.  We will be reading Marty McGuire by Kate Messner.

Last year I organized a Mock Caldecott Awards for our second grades to participate in, and I will do the same this year.  We were able to watch the awards live, which was so exciting.  The ALA Youth Media Awards will be held on January 27, 2014.  I held our Mock Caldecott during January and we were very rushed, so I think I might start in November or December this year.

During November we read several versions of the folktale, Stone Soup.  We have a culminating celebration by making our own Stone Soup and enjoying a feast.  Parents come in and help the students cut veggies, cook the soup and prepare the serving tables.  We even do some folk dancing and collect canned food for our local food pantry.

Once again my class will participate in World Read Aloud Day which will be March 5, 2014.  Last year I invited parents to come in and read a favorite picture book to the class.  I had also planned a Skype with another school, but the weather caused us to cancel!  Hopefully this year I will be more successful.

Children's Book Week is May 12 - 18th.  Last year I organized our school's first Author Visit with Peter Brown.  It was a happy accident that it was during Children's Book Week.  I hope to invite another author this year and expand activities for this week long celebration of children's books.

April 18th is Poem in Your Pocket Day.  This will be a new event that I add to my classroom literacy events and celebrations!

What Literacy Events do you celebrate?

Friday, September 6, 2013

Homework Reflection - Do I really need a homework reading log?

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School starts on Monday for me and like most teachers I have been spending time reflecting on my teaching and thinking about what changes I will make in my classroom this year.  One area I continue to revisit is my homework policy.  I am not a huge fan of homework.  My goal has always been to give work that my second graders can complete independently for the most part.  I also think time after school should be spent playing and enjoying family time.  Generally, my students are expected to read each evening, practice math facts or complete a math review worksheet, and do some word study work.  But I still worry I am giving too much.  After all, I don't think there is any research that supports the use of homework.  Is there?

But here's the BIG thing I am ruminating about - READING HOMEWORK AND READING LOGS.

Here's what I have been doing for the last 4-5 years:

Monday - Friday students select a book from their "just-right" reading basket to bring home and read.  They write the title on a reading log and mark if they finished the book.  In the beginning of the year these take-home books are often rereads from the school day.  As second graders progress in their reading ability they begin reading longer books, and my goal is for them to continue reading the same book they were reading at school for homework.  Each morning I do a quick check-in with each student.  I collect the logs monthly.

Here's the problems I encounter.  First, students often don't fill out the log until they check in with me.  Some fill out the log, but aren't reading.  So, I have been asking myself - do I really need to keep using this homework reading log?  After all, my students already keep a log of all the books they read throughout the year, which is very valuable.  Why do I need another piece of paper?

So, I need to think, what are my goals for reading homework?  Why do I use a reading log? Should I replace the log with some type of reading response log?

My goals for reading homework:  I want my students reading every day outside of school for at least 30 minutes.  I want them reading independently.  That means they can read and understand the book all by themselves.  (And I hate calling it homework!  It gives reading a negative feeling.  But that's another conversation.)

Why do I use a reading log for homework?  It gives me an easy view of what they have been reading recently.  It gives me a starting point for checking in with them.  Hmm... and now that I type this I understand why I have been unsettled about using this homework reading log.  So, I think I will be getting rid of the homework reading log.  It doesn't help students and it certainly isn't giving me any more information about my students that I can't get when I confer with them regularly.

As for adding a response log to my homework - I don't think I will be doing that either.  My students do enough reading response during the school day.

So, now I can focus on the important part of "Reading at Home", which is motivating my early readers and helping them to become lifelong readers inside and outside of school.

And maybe I will get rid of more homework too....

Want more thinking on the homework issue?  Try these sites.

Rethinking Homework by Alfie Kohn

Pernille Ripp has numerous post on this topic and writes about it in a straight forward, thoughtful way.

What is your opinion on the homework topic?