Making Thinking Visible Compass Points

Today I began studying chapter 5 in Making Thinking Visible by Ron Ritchhart. Before beginning a new chapter in nonfiction, I usually review the past chapter – old habit ingrained in middle school. When considering the tool of Compass Points where a student reflects on a recent lesson using Excitements, Worries/Concerns, Needs, and Stance/Steps, I realized a connection to how I approach reading intervention/groups. First I start with a compliment, followed by an observation, then an area of improvement, concluded with a strategy.

The past two years I’ve successfully used Jennifer Seravallo’s Reading Strategies book. It’s my favorite reading resource book. I take her anchor chart images, simplify them, and draw a suggested strategy on an index card in sharpie. Depending on the student’s ability to write clearly, either the student or I write the strategy at the top of the image. Students keep these index cards on a shower ring which we review every time we meet. The cards go home in their book bag so parents can see what strategies are being practiced with the vocabulary being used in the classroom. Students’ success rates have exploded using this resource.

So how does this connect to Compass Points?
For documentation, I usually write tiny notes on a classroom grid, but I haven’t really recorded my compliments. I created a Compass Points organizer to display in writing, with the student, the process used in conferences. This will stay in my data binder under individual sections, but the student and I will review and reflect as needed. The student will continue to use the index cards as a personal tool. Imagine with time how a student can use this Compass Point as a self-reflection, first with the teacher, then independently because they’ve seen and discussed the model throughout the year! Also, because Compass Points in used in reading, students will better grasp how to use this tool in other content areas (of course, with modeling :)).

Seriously, I just love teaching. I’m doing all of this for fun right now as I hope/work towards a new job. It’s out there and I am ready!

The organizer? I won’t leave you hanging. The first page is a more elaborate template as I teach/model using Compass Points for reading. The second page is a condensed version to save paper once the student understands each step. I will explain that we are going from east to west, which seems counter-intuitive in reading (right to left), just like the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, then we cover our strategies from top to bottom (north to south) as we understand what we need so we can apply an appropriate strategy.

Making Thinking Visible Chapter 4

I love getting into the nitty gritty or meat of a book.  Now I can explore new routines to use to prompt further thinking and use for assessment!  In chapter 4, you are introduced to 7 new routines.  At our last school, we were already using See, Think, Wonder in response to a visual in math and science as a tool to understand where students are in their understanding or to prompt discussion.  Also, Think, Puzzle, Explore just sounds like an alternative to a KWHL chart.  Zoom In is similar to See, Think, Wonder but focuses on a small piece of an image, then yielding to a larger view.  I think this would be handy as a lesson to show students the value of close reading and reviewing material.  It also gives a different perspective to how you see something.  Chalk Talk is similar to how we opened up new units in our International Baccalaureate program: Ideas?  Connections?  Questions?  These were all valid tools, yet I didn’t feel like it was anything truly new from what I’ve been practicing.

So let’s get to the 3 which I found the most interesting:

3-2-1 Bridge

Here is a quick method to stimulate background knowledge, promote thought, then assess connections/growth.  The idea is that a student provides 3 words, 2 questions, and 1 metaphor/simile in response to a topic, then repeats the same activity after learning more about the concept.  If time, I might would ask students to write a brief explanation and draw a diagram to show their thinking.  At a minimum, I would ask for because to be added to each of the 3 words to deepen the activity and provide a better understanding of what each student is thinking.  Otherwise, you’re just playing word association – I can do this without really knowing what I’m saying.  Because is such a powerful word in education.  I’m always about students writing down their thoughts to practice explaining ideas.  If you’ve ever taught, then you know a student saying the sky is blue because of the angle of the light coming through the atmosphere sounds like he/she has some understanding.  However, when you ask for an explanation you might get something quirky such as, “because the aliens from other planets are shooting rays of light from different places, which planet is shooting rays decides which shades of blue you see or if it’s red,” which means Suzy actually doesn’t understand at all and has access to alien movies at home.  Ah, small moments such as these bring joy to teaching, almost as well as that aha moment by little Suzy.  I’d like to play with this routine several times to see what types of assessment I can gain.

Compass Points

In second grade, we teach interpreting information on a map including orientation and legends.  How fun to tie in the compass points with a method of sharing our ideas.  In this routine, E = Excitement/advantages W = worries/concerns/problems (which leads to action needed), N = needs, and S = stance/opinion.  I see this as a different structure for a concept wheel.  I can imagine using this when researching landforms, considering how people settle according to their environment or considering the concept of saving money.  I think I will tie in the Carousel Kagan structure with this routine for a unit allowing for movement with activation, the revisit the same activity for assessment.

The Explanation Game

This routine allows for a student to look closely at one piece of a larger concept and consider its function or role.  The steps are Name it, Explain it, Give reasons, and give alternate reasons/possibilities.  I like that it is asking for reasons, then asks a student to delve more deeply into possible alternatives.  I will need to really work on modeling this to promote thought beyond the superficial, but it allows for a natural differentiation with infinite growth.  This is an excellent match with open ended projects in science and social studies.  In a way, I think Number Talks provide this type of thinking in math naturally.  Students are describing their observations/steps, explaining them, then discussing alternative perspectives.  I’d like to try this with the program SeeSaw, allowing students to record their thoughts individually or in pairs, then discuss as a class.

Overall, I’m always looking for engaging ways to get my students thinking about their learning and better understand what they know.  I’m excited to implement these ideas in my next job.  I can’t wait to be back into the classroom to try these ideas.

Get Your Teach On – Dallas Day 2 Review

Day 2 was all about Writing, More Games, Technology, Back to School, and Top Tips.  It was just as jam packed with new information as Day 1; I believe I enjoyed it even more, excited to try new ideas, excited to get back to school.  This is something because I love summer time with family and friends.  To be honest, something most teachers understand, school breaks and summer are practically the only time I get to visit with friends.  Luckily I have some golden ones.

However, back to GYTO.  I will give a general review because it would be unfair to give away someone else’s material.  This is to spark interest or remind myself of specific action points.

Writing is an area in which I feel confident.  Yet I feel I will be a stronger teacher this year due to the ideas presented by Hope King.  She has a way of breaking information down for students that stays relevant, yet gives easy clarity for the students.  I kept thinking, “Ooh, I like that one.  Let me add it on my “Try It Out” list.  The index is long enough that I’ve decided to use a Table of Contents this year for Professional Development ideas.  It’s not even August.  I’m even going to follow the suggestion to move out of my comfort zone by trying a couple of content songs taught by the King team, one being about the writing process.  Poor children :).  For writing, Hope uses a hamburger paragraph with on point explanations that are fun for the students.  There were also new ways to learn grammar.

For technology, I plan to look further into tes teach, formerly blendspace,  to congregate links for students and parents under concept categories.  It was a little awkward to be presented with blendspace, then find out the name/format of the website were all changed 10 months before the conference.  There were 4 ideas in this session that look interesting.  Some I already use, but again, the session was worth my time.  For a two day conference, there were no sessions where I didn’t come away with several new ideas.   For games, again, I received new ideas.  One used the human hippos you may have seen on Pinterest, but in an educational fashion.

Amy Lemons presented more math games and fresh back to school ideas.  For math, I really like using the Origo Fundamentals books so this part of the day was probably the least exciting, but only because I feel I have a really strong set of games.  I already own the orange and purple books, and I will buy the green book this year, dependent upon the job I receive.  However, there were still games I can use.  For Back to School, I was excited to see something beyond the same quilt, t-shirt, or books for the beginning of the year.  The games were highly engaging.

Lastly, were the Top 10 Tips for Teachers.  Think of this as the motivational session.  I left feeling as if I had a new perspective on Engagement, new strategies, and new lesson ideas.  Five out of five stars for a comprehensive professional development – definitely worth the money.  Check them out to see if they are presenting on your grade level in an area near you (two at my table were from out of state) Get Your Teach On.  I receive nothing for my review; I’m just a teacher who loves to teach and share.


Get Your Teach On – Day 1 Review and Reflection

Wow – I have met the energizer bunny in human form.  Hope King brings a dynamic presentation about bringing engagement into the classroom, as well as close reading, which is one of the main reasons I chose this workshop.  In addition to Hope, Wade King, her husband, and Amy Lemons of Step into Second Grade.  I don’t want to share too much – you can find the daily breakdown on the website Get Your Teach On as I linked earlier.  However, I have to tell any readers that may wander upon this blog that it was worth it.  I came away with several ideas, and fresh enthusiasm.  After giving our heart and efforts throughout a school year, isn’t this what we are often looking for beyond rest and relaxation?  (On this note, kayaking is in my near future, “Oh yeah!”)

There was so much information that I believe participants can come away with many varieties of strategies that differ from one another.  My takeaways?  To try to insert something different (or novel) every day and to add a smile.  I thought about this.  My students (actually I often call them my children – borrowed, but teachers understand what I mean) know I care about them and try to bring their interests into the room, but during today’s presentation I had to ask myself how often I am not smiling.  I like people.  I enjoy life.  Yet, I don’t think I’m walking through the day with a smile persistently on my face.  When I see someone in the hallway?  Yep.  When I greet or say good-bye?  Yep.  Well, that’s a small portion.  What about during lessons?  Certainly, when I share a great book or a new math game, but the students are seeing my face ALL day long.  I think that’s worthy of upping the smile quota so I’ll add it to my yearly goal.  By the way, the close reading presentation was exactly what I needed.  I can’t wait to implement what I’ve learned.

In addition to these ideas, we learned many new math games.  I look forward to incorporating these.  I’ve been researching more on Guided Math trying to decide if I would like to try rotations.  Right now, we have a number talk or CGI word problem, mini teach, whole class practice, partner or individual practice, then games to reinforce/review concepts.  During this time, I work in small group on concepts missed or number sense.  I’ve asked mentors to observe my lessons with good reviews, but I still have this feeling that I can improve it.

It was a fabulous day, which is ending in solitude in a hotel room.  Happy lady.  Review  for day 2 coming soon!

Interactive Charts

Going through all of my anchor charts, posters, and large items from my old drawers, I’ve needed to reflect on what has worked well and what needs tweaking.  Much of what I own, I’ve decided to take a photograph, then recreate it once I need it in my new classroom.  However, some are gems that will move with me.  One of my favorites is an interactive Story Map, which I downloaded FOR FREE from Create Teach Share.  Pinterest and Teacherspayteachers are brilliant sites, which take up too much of my time.  Because we have many ESL (English as a Second Language) speakers, I added visuals to my poster.  This chart was used throughout the year as students and I discussed story elements.  It was also used if a student needed some movement towards the end of independent reading or as a lesson extension for an early finisher.  I have to confess to being a post-it snob; I only like the bright colored ones because the adhesive is so much better.  The pale yellow post-its always fall off; I save these for students to record their thinking when reading or for bookmarks.  As for the charts, I have a book called Smarter Charts K-2 by Marjorie Martinelli that I hope to browse through this summer while the teenagers sleep in the mornings.  I included a picture of my Summarize Interactive Chart that I recreated from a pin I found – another favorite.



Get Your Teach On Conference – Dallas!

Each summer I like to learn something new, usually choosing a subject focus such as reading or math. However, I want to try something different, so this year I plan to look for workshops that catch my eye or have been on my never-ending to do list. To Do list – check. That would be the book study Making Thinking Visible for the summer. I’ve already written a couple of posts. To Do list – check again – working to add readily available resources to my Writing Resources page. Eye Catcher – chaching. This came across my Facebook page: Get Your Teach On Dallas Conference. Check out the two day agenda.
I’ll attend the second through fourth grade block. The best ideas often come from our coworkers at large and this conference will give me a little bit of everything: math, reading, writing, technology, and engagement. Deeana Jump and Hope King both hold master’s degrees in education with over 10 years experience so I think I’ll come away with a lot. Deeana is going to talk about close reading, which I’ve tried, but would like to learn more.  Amy Lemons will also present; it was her Facebook post that inspired me. Amy has a reading program, Rooted in Reading, where she focuses on one mentor text a week. The books she has chosen are amazing.  I’ve used her idea some this past year with success. Students feel comfortable with the familiar text, showing higher engagement and thinking.  In this conference, she’s going to cover math.  I have great games and love to use number talks, but I’m looking forward to seeing something new.

I can’t wait to learn from these guys. Let’s be totally honest – I also look forward to Me Time, alone in a hotel room at night. Of course I’ll geek out pouring through my goodies from the day, clicking down internet rabbit holes influenced from my fresh ideas. I bet every teacher can relate.

NPR Is Launching Its First Podcast For Kids With Updated Review| USA Extra News

I am so excited! I just stumbled across this on Facebook. I have another way to bring relevant current events to my students. I’ve received great interest from my kids when I use newsela. Now I have podcast to add to the agenda. I’m thinking writing responses, persuasive essays, research inquiry, and teaching standards such as generating questions. This is technology I can use well. I love a good story, but nonfiction fosters engagement and discussion so easily. Click on the title below to learn more.

Wow in the World: NPR for Children Ages 5 – 12

Update Review May 22, 2017

This podcast is divided into multiple segments with highly expressive presenters, Guy Raz and Mindy Thomas.  When I first saw the podcast was 24 minutes, I thought, oh no, this is simply too long.  Once I began listening, I realized the format covers multiple topics.  This means a teacher would need to preview, then notate the beginning/end of each segment.  Since this a method that is effective for auditory learners, plus provides practice in active listening, then my opinion is that it’s worth my time.  Each episode, written by number Ex: Episode 1, has Conversation Starters for the family/class and links to written articles.  If you use only one section in the podcast, you could push the link to the entire podcast and included features through an app such as Bloomz, Remind, or your website.

Introduction 0:00 – 1:44

Planet 9  1:45 – 7:12

Conversation and Creative Story told by young girl, Birdy 7:14 – 9:05

Commercial 9:05 – 9:50

Origin of Humans and How our Brains became Smarter with Seaweed 9:50 – 17:50

Conversation with Kids 17:55 – 18:30

Gratitude is Healthy 18:35 – 22:20

Conclusion 22:21 – 24:16

In the first segment about the search for Planet 9, I thought about how it could be used during a solar system or for a research unit. Questions I would model during this podcast would be: How can kids and adults with simple telescopes help scientists with sophisticated technology find this planet?  Why do scientist estimate the size of this planet to be 15 times the size of Earth?  Visuals could be present for groups to collaborate in putting the planets in the correct order, generating questions, and coming up with a practical plan of how to answer these questions.

How our brains become smarter was mildly interesting.  Mainly I wondered if so much seaweed and eating diet evolved our brains, what will be the long term effect of how we eat today?  I could research, but I might not like the answer. 🙂  In the Gratitude segment, I can visualize setting up a classroom environment of respect and appreciation.

As you can see by the time segments, I’ve noted you can move the cursor forward and backwards to play only the parts relevant to your lesson.  My final thoughts:  I think I will use pieces of this.  The hardest aspect will be making the time to preview and jot down the times.  It helps that the conversation starters and article links included tell you which topics will be presented.  This will save time because you know if a topic may coordinate with the current or future standards which need to be addressed.


Get Them to Read

Achee_Reading2014 (2)

Teaching 3rd grade, I feel there are two main goals: solidify number sense and read, read, read. The math can feel a little frustrating if number sense hasn’t been gained as the curriculum moves along. I bring in games, review, small groups, more games, and more review. I still feel some frustration with wishing I could just focus on number sense for the small fries who desperately need to focus on the basics. However, I work as hard as I can to reach and teach.

Motivating students to read is my candy. I use several avenues. If students have an interest, I find matching books in multiple genres. They learn quickly that they can write a desired book, author, or topic on a post-it and I will try to fulfill that request.

Read Across America

I use “Read Across America,” an idea inspired by my team when I was student teaching, with my personal twist. The original plan gave the students prizes when a Reading Log page was completed, plus showed a graph of how many pages each student finishes. Every 4 pages, a state was colored on a United States map. There was a competition between the classes to see who could color the most states within the year. No one is competing with my class, which means it needed an additional driving force. When a student has 4 stars on the graph, he or she colors in any state. Then I purchase a matching state book for our classroom library, plus a book set within this state, hopefully with a focus on that student’s interests. These two books receive a dedication sticker to the student and reside in his/her personal book box before going into the library. My goal here is to leave a strong impression that reading truly does take you places – always a Seuss fan!

Bluebonnet Book Club

My favorite program right now is the Bluebonnet Nominee Club. Each year in Texas, 3rd through 5th graders at registered institutions, receive an opportunity to read (or hear read aloud) a minimum of 5 of the 20 Bluebonnet Nominee books in order to vote for the personal favorite in January. After reading each book, they must complete a form which proves the book was read. The Texas Bluebonnet Award is presented to the author of the winning book.

In my school, the librarian presented the 20 nominees to classes. She has a graph within the library for each class. My students were excited about the books which gave me an idea. I offered for each student in my class to choose their top 3 books they wished to read, then write me a letter explaining why I should buy their top chosen book to add to our classroom library. I promised to buy 5, but ended up purchasing 9 of the 20 books. I created a “Bluebonnet Book Club” with images of each book where students received their names above each book read with a summary submission form completed. Between the school library and mine, most of my students have a Bluebonnet book in their book box at all times. Many ask for a new one, once a form has been submitted.

I love the enthusiasm and interest this program is bringing to my room. Students are enjoying sharing their opinions of each book read. I’ve just bought 5 more Bluebonnet books to keep the interest fresh.


We also have a pair of vultures nesting on top of our school roof. The students have taken a huge interest in vultures. I’ve bought Vulture View and two other books about vultures to present to the students once Bluebonnet enthusiasm wanes. One of the books is by Sandra Markle, a favorite author of mine. I’ve made several Animoto Book Trailers which are assessible on this blog, but haven’t needed to use them yet. I need to build my collection of videos for the spring.

If you’re not moving or sleeping, consider reading. Pick up a book :).

Beyond the Content

Content is important.  Everyone should have access to a broad range of understanding our world in order to interact successfully, make intelligent decisions, and enjoy life more fully.  When I look at content I try to keep this in mind.  Consider persuasive writing – vital to understand for any child who wants to swindle, I mean receive as an investment into personal education, the need for the new Lego Movie lego set.  Fast forward several years, when the same child now needs to buy life insurance for his/her family.  On the receiving end of persuasion, this same person needs to be able to evaluate which persuasive strategies the agent is employing, then sort through the extra information, to determine what best meets the needs of the family.  Watching commercials or listening to a politician requires the same skill.  When I taught persuasive writing in a third grade classroom, first we looked at the character in the mentor text, I Wanna Iguana by Karen Kaufman Orloff, to decide which techniques he was using to persuade Mom to let him has his friend’s iguana.  Then the students discussed favorite commercials, talked about the purpose of the commercial and what tools were used to get the buyer to purchase the product.  Of course, all of this was written on a handy dandy anchor chart, some by me and some by the students – shared writing!  Finally we looked at an OREO graphic organizer to begin our prewrite to persuade people to protect the earth.  The next day we viewed “The Great Kapok Tree” on youtube (the book is by Lynn Cherry).  The students compared persuasive techniques from the day before, went through their organizer to see if they wanted to make changes/additions, then began their first draft.  By the way, when discussing persuasive techniques, the students were highly engaged, taking turns respectfully at a higher level than usual which earned a gumball for positive communication skills towards a class reward.  It was a great feeling!!

Why Bring this up now?  Beyond the Math Classroom

One, summer is a great time for reflection.  I hate sitting idle, but also because I’m reviewing math concepts which may be used towards multiple grades.  Today, I looked at a couple of math books on fractions wanting to create relevance for the students in future years.  Math is so much more than computation.  It’s considering patterns, relationships, and promoting problem solving which is needed daily.  As far as relevance, I think for younger students, I will lean towards cooking and sharing food which is something all kids can understand.  With older students, I can really delve into shopping with real ads so the relations between fractions, decimals, and percents can be explored.  Recently, I purchased hamburger patty squares for concrete investigations into equivalent fractions, fractions to decimals, fractions to percents.  At a math conference last year, I saw this used with colored pencils – fascinating.  I plan to use a strip model more than circles because it is much easier to draw on paper without error for assessment purposes.

Note to consider:  One review center I want to keep in mind when exploring fractions will be creating pictures out of pattern blocks, then creating fractions out of the different shapes (using correct terminology).  For older students, I can change this to individually created flags which we can express in fractions, decimals, and percents.   Also, I want to use a paper balance for students to investigate comparison of fractions.  Return to page 259 of Elementary and Middle School Mathematics.  This can be done with discretely colored unifix cubes first, then expressed in a math journal or on a math balance sheet I can create.

A River Ran Wild

Currently I am serving as a long term substitute in a 3rd grade classroom at an International Baccalaureate school.  If you are not familiar with IB schools, it’s basically an integrated, inquiry approach to learning which looks at global/environmental relationships, changes, and interactive impact. Last week, we began a new unit “Sharing Our Planet” where the focus will rely on inquiry into changing adaptations of organisms to survive and thrive, how human processes impact nature and environment, and how the need for resources influences one’s actions.  The initial idea was to introduce the 3 lines of inquiry (previously mentioned) with pictures and allow for whole class discussion, followed with individual questions to begin the unit, but I thought of a book I used during student teaching and knew I had to use it again.

A River Ran Wild:An Environmental History is a beautiful story with complex, rich illustrations which tie into how a river in the northeast changed over time as humans thirst for greater industry grew without thought to the impact they were making.  It’s told in a beautiful narrative format, sharing the true story of the Nashua River.  The reader can listen/read the story of the words, yet also see the story unfold with the pictures, specifically the framework of pictures surrounding the text, similar to Jan Brett.  When I saw the opening lesson planned during a team meeting, I immediately envisioned the environmental focus of this book – a perfect avenue to provide a concrete frame of reference for a diverse group of children.  I made foldables with 3 tabs, each a separate line of inquiry.  Every once in awhile, I stopped reading the book to let the students interact with the story and each other, then journal in their foldable.  To discuss adaptations, I printed color copies of two of the animals mentioned in the story for one of the lines of inquiry.  The activity was a success with the students which means real connections were made.  I had shared my idea with my colleagues via email.  It was exciting when 2 teachers used the book.  I love the thrill of collaboration.  (I have one classmate from Texas State where we would just volley – going back and forth with ideas.  Love it.)

As a bonus, we will read The Great Kapok Tree: A Tale of the Amazon Rainforest later in the unit.  Same author!  Isn’t that fantastic?!  I’d love to tie this into an author study, but my assignment ends this coming week and the students are currently researching to publish an animal expository book – hands down, their favorite activity of the past 3 months.  We should have time for discussion to compare the styles and format of both books.  It’s my hope one of my students will discover the coincidence rather than I provide the information so a student can have a moment to shine and an “impromptu discussion”  begins which will miraculously occur when there’s a window of time for the discussion.

I love when an idea works in the classroom – the satisfaction when students experience the joy of learning.