Positive Reinforcement in the Kitchen

I’m a laughable cook, but a pretty proficient baker. That doesn’t mean I don’t still have sizable lapses in my knowledge. This morning, I engaged in a Twitter conversation with MJ, a representative at King Arthur Flour. Here was my takeaway:

Not only did MJ provide fabulous customer service, our conversation also mirrors what I hope a writing / math / literacy conference looks like in my class.

Walk with me through our exchange. I’ve bolded critical moments that we both took as student and as teacher.

First, I took a risk. I started with a vanilla scone mix and made the choice to cut up some fresh raspberries. I also ran out of regular milk, so I used almond milk instead. Struck with a lack of confidence, I Tweeted:

Often my Twitter appeals are made to the ether, but I received this:

It was a timely response from MJ, which offers a suggestion with “as long as the dough is not too wet,” as well as encouragement, “nice and tender and light.” Both comments are immediately practical and specific.

I recognized my error, but I persevered and shared my results:

And bam:

There’s the positive reinforcement. MJ recognized my effort with a specific compliment, “I love the pink color,” and she also nudged me further and gave me next steps with “just a little cream on the side.”

Then, she gave me this Lucy-Calkins-esque “off you go” statement:

Finally, as I was typing this post up, surprised that just three tweets could have such a huge impact on my baking experience, I realized the last key to this effective conference was that MJ kept it brief.

Here are my scones!

Where do you find conferring moments in your extracurricular activities?

Reader’s Workshop Trading Cards

I recently led a mini-PD on reader’s workshop for my district’s new highly capable teachers. I was concerned about making the material relevant for them, as I knew they were already familiar with a five component model of literacy instruction.

I also know that personally, when I receive a handout on white paper, it will get lost. If it’s hole punched, that chance is reduced by about 30%. So I try to make sure any information I give out is either on nonstandard-sized paper or is on colored paper.

Back when I did SFA, I shamelessly bribed my students into being interested in texts they’d already read 289365 times by making and handing out trading cards related to the books they were studying. So the day before the HCAP training, inspiration struck! Literacy resource trading cards!

The document is available here: HCPguidedreading

They’re not the most beautiful cards ever, but they suited my purposes just fine. I was also able to use them as a mini-assessment when I asked teachers to hold up the card they were most excited about using and a card that didn’t strike them as particularly useful.

Let me know if these were helpful! Comments make me smile.

Book of the Week: The Runaway Dinner

Every Monday, I highlight a book from our school bookroom along with lesson plan suggestions. I hope you find this useful, and please leave a comment with any suggestions or additions!

The Runaway Dinner, by Allan Ahlberg

This is a great silly, nonsense book that reads like an extended version of “Hey Diddle Diddle” plus The Gingerbread Man.

Also, apparently I read this back in January 2011 and book talked it, whoops…

Allan Ahlberg has a bunch of other books, especially poetry books, that might be worthwhile to investigate.

There is a CAFE menu included with this mentor text, and I’ve highlighted these as suggested lessons:

  • Infer and support with evidence. At the beginning of the story, and several places in the middle, the author insists the story is completely true. Ask students if they agree, and ask them why the narrator would have purposely, blatantly lied like he did.

  • Reread text. A cumulative story like this has reread text kind of built into it. To infuse a lesson on author’s craft, talk with students about why the author may have chosen this device for the story. It’s not quite as sing-songy as “There Was an Old Woman,” so why does it still work?

  • Ask someone to define the word for you. Items like ketchup, carrots, and french fries can’t be easily defined using a dictionary. In younger grades, consider using realia to support this lesson so students will be familiar with the dining utensils and foods they encounter as they read.

Please add any lessons or supplemental materials to the book bag so future teachers can utilize your good thinking!

Comments and constructive feedback are always welcomed. Please let me know if these lessons were useful in your class!

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Do you have an old iPod?

I’ve buried this as an old post because I don’t want my students to see it when they stop by our website. Look below for a sweet opportunity to help my fabulous students!

This year, I’m looking to expand our listening library. We are already fortunate enough to have three computers and a bunch of cassette players, but I think we’re ready to step into the digital age. I’d LOVE to unveil a brand-spanking new listening library as a holiday gift for them this year!

My students are honestly perplexed by tape players, and I can’t say that I blame them. For our highly visual kids, the idea of not knowing what track/chapter they’re on is crazy, and the idea of flipping over a cassette seems odd. I think we’re ready for iPods. Plus, we mostly use our listening library for picture books, and I think it’s time to provide chapter book listening opportunities as well.

I know a lot of charitable organizations are looking for your assistance this year. If you’re already feeling pulled in many directions, perhaps you could think of my request as one of environmental recycling rather than charity.

So do you have any old iPods? I know I’ll be chipping in three of my own, but I’d love for us to have a few more. I’m not aiming for a full class set of 25, but on the off chance that we receive extra, rest assured I’ll pass them along to my teammates.

I’ve done the math — if you send us your iPod in a small padded envelope, you won’t even need to go to the post office, just slap on $1.50 in stamps. (probably less for an iPod nano. I weighed my first-gen iPod touch using the sweet scale Scott Porad got us for our wedding.)

We don’t need fancy iPods. In fact, if you got us a new one, I’d probably actually be a little disappointed because that $100 would be better spent on books or saved for an iPad.

So why haven’t I asked before? Our district has just recently become more open to technology. Having non-school-purchased tools in the past was frowned upon. Now is the perfect time!

What will you get in return?

  • Personal thank yous on this site, in your inbox, and in your mailbox.
  • Recognition on a sweet, official plaque in the listening library.
  • The satisfaction of knowing that your iPod isn’t leeching chemicals in a landfill or sitting on a lonely Goodwill shelf.
  • My students’ eternal devotion (they really love and attach themselves to people who support our class)
I hope you’ll consider our classroom as a loving home for your out-dated iPod. If you’ve packed your device up, please send it here:
SHANNON HOUGHTON
WIldwood Elementary
2405 S. 300th Street
Federal Way, WA 98003
Thank you so much in advance.

Book of the Week: Diary of a Wombat

Every Monday, I highlight a book from our school bookroom along with lesson plan suggestions. I hope you find this useful, and please leave a comment with any suggestions or additions!

Diary of a Wombat, by Jackie French

Didn’t get enough of wombats from One Wooly Wombat? Take a look at this book by Australian author Jackie French. And if that’s still not enough, the author and illustrator also teamed up to write How to Scratch a Wombat.

Writers Workshop Mini-Lessons

  • The text in this book is pretty minimal, but I’d definitely use it in a writing workshop mini-lesson about avoiding bed-to-bed stories. The wombat’s diary entries start out as bed-to-bed stories, but they become more interesting as he adds details from specific moments in the day.
  • Additionally, Diary of a Wombat was based on an actual wombat living under the author’s house, so it’d be a great way of showing students how their personal narrative ideas can be reused for fiction stories.

There is a CAFE menu included with this mentor text, and I’ve highlighted these as suggested lessons:

Comprehension

  • Use main idea and supporting details to determine importance. The wombat sleeping is mentioned in every entry, but is the main idea of the text necessarily that wombats sleep a lot? This might be a good lesson to use to refine what the main idea is, because a strategy often used in test prep to determine the main idea is to count the number of sentences in the passage that contain a particular idea.

Fluency

  • Adjust and apply different reading rates to match text. French repeats the beginning and end sentence of every entry for comedic effect. Ask students to look at how including pauses or saying these sentences the same way every time can impact the humor of the passage.

Please add any lessons or supplemental materials to the book bag so future teachers can utilize your good thinking!

Comments and constructive feedback are always welcomed. Please let me know if these lessons were useful in your class!

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Book of the Week: There’s a Zoo in Room 22

Every Monday, I highlight a book from our school bookroom along with lesson plan suggestions. I hope you find this useful, and please leave a comment with any suggestions or additions!

There’s a Zoo in Room 22, by Judy Sierra

By this point in the year, I thought you might be getting close to exhausting your “beginning-of-the-year-school-story” collection, so here’s another one to use. This text has the added benefit of being a book of poetry, so you can spread out the poems throughout the next few weeks, or even the next few months (there are 26 poems — one for each letter of the alphabet). It’s also excellent for teachers helping students build a poetry anthology to use throughout the year.

There is a CAFE menu included with this mentor text, and I’ve highlighted these as suggested lessons:

Accuracy

  • Use beginning and ending sounds. Many of the words that are the rhyming words in the poems are more than one syllable. Talk about how anticipating the word ending can cut your work in half — now you only need to decode the front part of the word.
  • Trade a word / guess a word that makes sense. This really goes along with using beginning and ending sounds, but it adds an additional challenge because most of the words you’re guessing aren’t simple rhymes, but multi-syllable words.

 

Fluency

  • Reread text. These poems don’t have the quick-hit rhyming scheme of Dr. Seuss, so it may take several readings to get the rhythm right. Include these poems in your students’ reading anthologies so they can continue to refine their oral fluency.

Please add any lessons or supplemental materials to the book bag so future teachers can utilize your good thinking!

Comments and constructive feedback are always welcomed. Please let me know if these lessons were useful in your class!

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A Hummingbird’s Life

Every Monday, I highlight a book from our school bookroom along with lesson plan suggestions.

A Hummingbird’s Life, by John Himmelman

I’ve been slowly processing the old mentor texts from the SFA Roots series, and I’m pretty excited to add these to our bookroom for several reasons:

  • Many of them are light on the text, making them perfect for primary read alouds.
  • Most sets have three or more copies, so an entire grade level team can plan their read alouds collaboratively if they so choose!
  • Quite a few of the books have a “sister text” pairing fiction with nonfiction, another powerful planning tool.

If you’re looking to celebrate the arrival of spring with a study of nature and/or of poetry, this website is a good place to start for some hummingbird-inspired poems.

There are no lesson plans included with this book. There is a CAFE menu included with this mentor text, and I’ve highlighted these as suggestions:

Comprehension

  • Use text features. Despite being narrative nonfiction and being such a basic book (its AR readability level is 2.3), A Hummingbird’s Life is chock-full of text features. There’s an info box at the front giving background information on the Ruby-throated hummingbird, a glossary, and an About the Author section.
  • Use main idea and supporting details to determine importance. Another great benefit of this text being so short is that you can copy the entire book onto a piece of chart paper, project it using document I’ve typed here, or give each student their own copy to mark what they believe are the main ideas.

Accuracy

  • Trade a word / guess a word that makes sense. Many primary science units (at least in our school district) are about animals, habitats, and ecosystems. Talk with students about how their familiarity with new vocabulary they’ve learned in their science unit can help them read accurately.

Behaviors that Support Reading

  • Increase Stamina. Because of the limited amount of text in this book, this might be a good book for young primary students to practice making it all the way through a read aloud without needing a body break.

Please add any lessons or supplemental materials to the book bag so future teachers can utilize your good thinking!

Comments and constructive criticism are always welcomed! Please leave a comment if you’ve found this helpful!

Book of the Week: A Hummingbird’s Life

Every Monday, I highlight a book from our school bookroom along with lesson plan suggestions.

A Hummingbird’s Life, by John Himmelman

I’ve been slowly processing the old mentor texts from the SFA Roots series, and I’m pretty excited to add these to our bookroom for several reasons:

  • Many of them are light on the text, making them perfect for primary read alouds.
  • Most sets have three or more copies, so an entire grade level team can plan their read alouds collaboratively if they so choose!
  • Quite a few of the books have a “sister text” pairing fiction with nonfiction, another powerful planning tool.

If you’re looking to celebrate the arrival of spring with a study of nature and/or of poetry, this website is a good place to start for some hummingbird-inspired poems.

There are no lesson plans included with this book. There is a CAFE menu included with this mentor text, and I’ve highlighted these as suggestions:

Comprehension

  • Use text features. Despite being narrative nonfiction and being such a basic book (its AR readability level is 2.3), A Hummingbird’s Life is chock-full of text features. There’s an info box at the front giving background information on the Ruby-throated hummingbird, a glossary, and an About the Author section.
  • Use main idea and supporting details to determine importance. Another great benefit of this text being so short is that you can copy the entire book onto a piece of chart paper, project it using document I’ve typed here, or give each student their own copy to mark what they believe are the main ideas.

Accuracy

  • Trade a word / guess a word that makes sense. Many primary science units (at least in our school district) are about animals, habitats, and ecosystems. Talk with students about how their familiarity with new vocabulary they’ve learned in their science unit can help them read accurately.

Behaviors that Support Reading

  • Increase Stamina. Because of the limited amount of text in this book, this might be a good book for young primary students to practice making it all the way through a read aloud without needing a body break.

Please add any lessons or supplemental materials to the book bag so future teachers can utilize your good thinking!

Comments and constructive criticism are always welcomed! Please leave a comment if you’ve found this helpful!