On Tuesday we kicked off our fall expedition with a morning full of fun science stations. The students visited four stations that helped them learn about adaptations that help animals survive in their habitats. They are each working on a blog post on Kidblog to share what they learned, so I won't give away too much here. I will leave you with these pictures so you can see for yourself how much fun they had. Thanks to all the parents who volunteered as station leaders or sent in supplies!
Students interviewed their reading partners to get to know each other as readers. Reading partners will keep each other accountable for working towards their reading goals.
Jackson Pearce, author of Pip Bartlett's Guide to Magical Creatures, visited Westchester and spoke to all of the 2nd and 3rd grade classes. She told many hilarious tales from her childhood and helped the students see how these experiences later became a part of her books.
Georgia Regions Research Teams
The students have been doing research on the five regions of Georgia--Mountains, Piedmont, Coastal Plain, Swamps & Marsh, and Atlantic Ocean. They've been learning about each region's land features, animals, and plants. On Wednesday they formed research teams and shared their information with each other. Each research team will become experts on one region, focusing on the adaptations that the plants and animals have that allow them to survive in that region. This research will be a part of the first case study in our fall expedition, which begins at the end of the month.
In preparation for the book clubs we will start when we come back from fall break we practiced having book discussions using picture books, short stories, and poems. Each book club had a leader who facilitated the discussion using prompt cards. Students used "talking sticks" to make sure everyone had the opportunity to participate in the discussion.
The Shoe Greeting
Every morning we begin our day with a Morning Meeting. This ritual helps students transition from home to school and creates time for us to gather as a classroom community before starting another busy day. Every Morning Meeting begins with a greeting. The students' favorite greeting so far is the Shoe Greeting. During this greeting everyone places one shoe in the center of the circle and sits so that no one can see the shoe they are still wearing. One student at a time chooses a shoe and greets the friend who s/he thinks is the owner of the shoe. This continues until every student has been greeted and every shoe has made its way back to its owner.
Third grade is an important year for reading development. Many researchers note that it is the year that students move from learning to read to reading to learn. They also emphasize the correlation between third grade reading ability and future academic success. (I've included the Center for Public Education's 2015 report on this topic below.)
The act of reading is much more than the ability to read words. It is a very involved process that includes phonemic awareness, vocabulary, fluency, and comprehension. There are also sub-skills and strategies embedded within each of these larger skills. And what makes reading even more difficult to decipher is that by third grade it all takes place inside the student's head. All this to say, students begin third grade with many different instructional needs in the area of reading.
So where do I start? During the first three weeks of Reading Workshop I spend a lot of time kid-watching. I observe their behaviors during independent reading and take notes. How do they interact with books (engagement)? How long can they read before losing interest (stamina)? What book choices do they make and how many of these books do they finish (volume)? At the same time I do lots of mini-lessons on building reading stamina, increasing reading volume, and choosing good fit books. I watch to see how the students responds to these lessons. My goal is that by the end of the first six weeks of school, most students can read fully engaged for 20 uninterrupted minutes, choose books that are a good fit, and can begin to monitor their own comprehension and recognize when their comprehension breaks down. During weeks five and six we begin reading partnerships. Each student is paired with a reading partner to encourage accountability and conversations about books and reading.
Last week the students graphed their reading from the month of August and made observations about their reading habits. Then they set a reading goal for the month of September. Please take some time this week to give your child an opportunity to share the observations s/he made and the goal s/he set for September. Most students set a goal related to the number of books or the type of books they want to read. As the year goes on the students will also make goals related to the reading comprehension strategies they are working to strengthen. Please check in with your child throughout the month to see how s/he is doing and celebrate with them as they achieve their reading goals.
Below are some links to articles, reports, and websites that have given me much to think about as I hone my own craft of teaching reading. There is a large amount or research dedicated to this topic and there are varying opinions on what is most important and what works when teaching young readers. I share these with you not to advocate for one side, but to shed light on the research that is available so that you, as parents, can build a toolbox of strategies that you can use to help your child at home.