Hello and welcome to week 1 of our Annual Summer Book Study! If you are new here, welcome! 🙂 But if you have been a follower for a few years, then you probably know that Mr. Greg from Kindergarten Smorgasboard and I have done a joint book study each summer. We both like to grow our teacher brains and keep up on the current research and best practices in education that will benefit our students! This year we chose the book, Shifting the Balance – 6 Ways to Bring the Science of Reading into the Balanced Literacy Classroom. Over the last year I have personally found the buzz around the ‘Science of Reading’ and language to be fascinating and I wanted to delve in and learn more. Taking on this book is the first step…so jump in and join us on our journey.
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Key Point from Shift 1 when Teaching Little Learners
Each shift (chapter) is broken up into misunderstandings, short summary of the science, recommendations for ‘Making the Shift’ and then bringing it back to classroom intro story and how it was applied. It is my intention to share the key point(s) that I feel will impact little learners (prek, kindergarten and 1st graders) the most.
Oral Language Development is Imperative
I think we all agree that developing oral language is so important, yet I often think that we as teachers forget how oral language develops. It happens by listening and talking. Yes…I said talking. Talking NEEDS to happen in our classrooms. It makes me sad when I go into a silent classroom. Children need to be talking. While listening is also a component to building oral language and comprehension, students need opportunities to talk and communicate. Here are a few ideas or reminders of authentic ways that this can happen in the classroom.
It breaks my heart when I hear teachers say that they do not have time for read-alouds. Or it’s even more troublesome when I hear that admin say that read-alouds can only be done once a day or from a basal. NOOOOOOO!! ALL children/students NEED read-alouds! Not only does this bridge the gap between written and spoken language, it provides multiple learning opportunities. Here are few tips from the book to make read-alouds more meaningful:
- Choose texts with more complex ideas, words & language structures
- Preview texts for interesting and unfamiliar vocabulary worth exploring with children
- Get comfortable using a parenthetical explanation of high-utility vocabulary
- Plan for meaningful conversation points in the text
- Have students utilize high-quality, turn & talk practices
But don’t forget that read-alouds can be for entertainment and fun too! I believe that teachers can read a book just for fun and it doesn’t always HAVE to require an academic discourse. I think balance is the key!
Create & Maintain High Level Instructional Routines
I whole-heartedly agree with this! And while it does take a bit to get used to and master, once you make it a routine, it’s like magic! Here are a few routines suggested from the book and I personally have found to provide success for my students!
- Make space for planned & incidental conversations! Allow students to have conversations, even if it is about a movie they saw over the weekend. Little Learners need to learn how to interact in a dialogue conversation and ask and answer appropriately. They often will do it naturally with peers, but may freeze up when they feel academic pressure or ‘stage fright’.
- Ask quality questions! I always try and phrase my questions, so it requires a response and not just a one word answer.
- Provide Wait Time. I think that this is challenging for most teachers. I like to keep my pacing fast and dislike ‘awkward silence’, but over time and through experience, I learned that think or wait time is important. One trick I do is to ask the students to close their eyes and use their thinking finger on their brain. Many times this alleviates the pressure a student may feel when everyone is ‘waiting’ on them.
- Repeat & Expand. Take the opportunity after a student has responded to repeat the question and/or their answer. Add in more detail and use academic vocabulary.
- Use interesting words. Vocabulary is so essential to growing and developing little learners oral language! Teach new vocabulary words, but not just in isolation, but within context too. Write the word out. Use explicit phonics to show them how to decode it. Use it in a sentence. Have the students use the word in a different sentence. I like to call these words ‘Million Dollar Words’, but other teachers call them Fancy Words. Have the students write them in a ‘Fancy Word Journal’.
- Teach with text sets. When I read this, I was so happy to hear that what many of us have been doing in the classroom for years has been proven! For instance, we do 2 weeks of learning about Apples in the classroom. I have informational books and non-informational books that we read together. This allows me as the teacher to build content knowledge from different author’s perspectives, as well as read about apples in a fun, entertaining way as well. It’s all so necessary and important!
If you are looking for more ways to teach your students HOW to ask and answer questions, I have an entire blog post of ideas HERE.
What did you think of Shift 1?
I love the confirmation that shift 1 provided to me! It confirmed that some of the practices that I have been doing are proven and work. That’s always a good thing to know that you are going in the right direction! But don’t forget…head over to my friend, Mr. Greg from Kindergarten Smorgasboard and check out his blog post for the day. And let me know in the comments or on my FB or Instagram page what you got out of shift !