See, Think, Wonder

See, Think, Wonder is a question-asking strategy particularly useful for primary sources. I learned of the activity at a summer workshop with Kristin Fontichiaro who blogs at School Library Monthly.  A friend of mine who also attended the workshop put up a great bulletin board with the See Think Wonder triangle on it. I (naturally) napped a picture with my phone because as I told her, I intended to steal her idea in a big way.

I had a bulletin board space that just needed a display. Putting one up that will last most of the year is especially wonderful!

I printed outline letters on black construction paper and cut them out, cut out a triangle from bulletin board paper, then cut the second one an inch larger. On sentence strips I wrote: I see, What do you see?, I think, What do you think?, I wonder, and What do you Wonder? and had those laminated.

Then I posted a picture of one of the Wright Brothers’ early crashes. I can swap the picture weekly and keep the display up all year.

See is a statement directly related to the picture. A statement of fact. “I see a broken glider.”

Think is a prediction. It’s a guess of what might be happening. Stating the “I see” before the prediction gives students working in groups a chance to talk about the picture without one student immediately ‘figuring it out’ before others have had a chance to express their thoughts. On my example I wrote “I think someone crashed.”

Wonder is the chance to ask a question. This is a great opening into writing research questions. “I wonder who was flying?”

I love the fact that this model can be used with all ages of students. I’m exploring several sources for primary sources, but as I stated previously, the Library of Congress is a great place to start!

Pig Out on Chaos

I am privileged to teach two amazing classes of boys with Autism. There’s been an intense focus on Autism in education and mainline news in recent years. But what I know about these students is I get the sweetest hugs, see joy for stories and books, and feel their appreciation of having me for a teacher.

One day I was absent because of a medical appointment. Just a regular thing and nothing serious. I had to miss one of these classes. Their teacher didn’t tell them why I was out and they came to checkout books with their teacher. The next day one of the students sweetly said, “Were you at the doctor? Did you have to get a shot?” He had such concern over my well being.

It’s definitely love all around!

With a class of kindergarteners with limited speech information skills lessons are a bit out of reach. I set a basic routine for class. We listen to an audio book, read a story, do an activity and then check out books. Some weeks go better than others. Sometimes the lineup I had planned takes ten minutes and other weeks we are so engaged I stretch to the next week.

This post is definitely going somewhere….I’m just slow like that.

One thing I know about Autism is that students do better with routine. I can do routine.

But good golly do I love a bit of chaos!

When the class walked into the library, I apologized to the teacher assistant who stays with them. I said, “it’s going to be a bit crazy!” She insisted it was okay. She knows how I operate!

We listened to our audio book and then I pulled out my two laundry baskets full of puppets and masks. First I offered animal puppets to each student. The took turns going behind the puppet theater to move their puppet around while I narrated a silly story for them. Then after each boy had his turn we just let them be imaginative and play.

I have serious love for these boys. And only one of those reasons is that they like a bit of chaos just as much as I do!

Lesson Plan Therapy–Just Lay Me on the Couch

Why I said I was going to write about lesson plans this week, I’m not sure. I don’t have the best track record for writing lesson plans. I usually have a plan in my head and something on the schedule, but the written plan in the past hasn’t always happened. I’ve been doing a lot better with that this year. Umm….up until this month. Where exactly did February go?

So that’s a big whoops right there!

If I didn’t get a plan written in advance, then I get it written after the fact. I like to have the record of what I taught and the reflection of it helps me. I will use the same lesson plans as a baseline for future years if it’s a unit I teach again.

So my lesson plans….

They start with what is now a one-page template. I use check boxes to quickly indicate the level of collaboration in the unit, if it’s focused on reading promotion or information skills, if there are parts of the Big 6 or Super 3 embedded in the lesson, and if it’s a single lesson or multiples in a unit. Then I quickly type in a content area correlation if there is one, a list of materials, title and grade level. Putting in Learning Targets (‘I can’ statements such as “I can identify tall tale characteristics.”) and state objectives goes really fast now that I include them on my Unit Share. I just copy and paste.

Then I put each lesson sequence on it’s own page and just type it out in a flow. I can’t use too much of a format for that part because I haven’t found one I like. I do highlight two aspects of my lesson plans: differentiation strategies and assessment strategies. I feel like I don’t do enough with these. And for someone who wrote her Masters case study on assessment, I should be doing better! It’s a work in progress.

So more than sharing, let me highlight what I need to work on.

I really would like to develop a tried-and-true list of differentiation strategies specifically for library. Particularly for whole-group library. I know there are teachers who run library centers. I’d love to observe and see how it’s done, but I have yet to get my brain wrapped around how I would do that. What I CAN do though is improve what I do instead of trying to reinvent what I do. I think there’s a difference. So I want to develop a list of strategies to use when reading aloud, for drama, for research, for different learning styles, etc. I should just start typing it, gather ideas, and get it all listed on one page. There have to be experts out there I can glean ideas from!

Assessment is constantly on my mind, and I feel like it goes constantly undone. Maybe this is the week to turn it around. Two years ago I was writing about assessment to complete my Masters degree. I had students assess their work. In fact, now that I recall….I had students assessing themselves on exactly the same PowerPoint unit I’m finishing with 3rd grade! Why didn’t I remember that before I started the unit? I put out chart paper after my lesson time and during our book checkout, students wrote a number from 1-5 indicating their skill level for the learning target. If the chart said “I can insert a picture in PowerPoint” they responded with 1 (I have no idea) to 5 (I’m an expert). I think I asked students to do the chart before the lesson and after the lesson and divided it in half.

Too bad I didn’t remember to do that this time around! Maybe for the next unit. I can only move forward.

So, assessment….similar to differentiation strategies, I would like to develop a quick checklist of assessment ideas. And I also want to further develop a tool to track information skills over time. I have a one page chart of our state standards. Even though I developed it last fall, I really haven’t implemented it yet. I need to do that. I wanted to pilot it with a few students at every grade level, but I’ve put it off and the master copy is still sitting on my desk where it landed after I printed it a few months ago. It seems like yesterday.

Since I’m talking myself into things as I write this, I think I’m going to take time this weekend to choose 6 random students from each grade to use it with. I want to see if it’s a tool that successfully communicates to myself and teachers over time. If I’m going to do that, then I really just have to do it, don’t I?

Well, thanks to the blog and any readers out there for this moment of therapy regarding lesson plans. Or not. Maybe you’ve gotten an idea? Have one to share? I think I’m going to put assessment more seriously on my plate. I’ll bring it back out in a few weeks once I develop flavors a bit more.

Jan Brett Rocks

Recently, first grade and I studied author’s craft in a month-long unit. I chose texts by Jan Brett from a variety of ecosystems so that we could discuss how authors research to write their stories. However, reading the text and then discussing the story is a lot of sitting for my first grade darlings. Enter the most amazingly simple, yet profound strategy for engaging readers. I learned this tip during a session at AASL 2009 in Charlotte. I always appreciate a strategy that will be a tool in my box of differentiation strategies and help diversify my lessons.  

It’s so simple, but if you haven’t stocked your desk drawer with badge clips, then you should think about it. The only other thing I needed for this lesson was Jan Brett and her finger puppets for The Umbrella.

I made enough copies of the finger puppets that I would have enough so that each student in my class would have one character. I did this batch at the last minute, so I wrote the character names in the space and did not color them. Quickly cute the shapes out, zip them through the laminator, and then re-cut them.

My cousin was a Stampin’ Up! demonstrator for a number of years, so I dashed off a note asking her if there was a hole puncher in badge-clip size. (I know very little about scrapbooking supplies!) There was! She ordered one for me and it has been worth the $12 I paid for it. When I need to clip stuff to kids, I have my badge hole puncher ready.


I can store the character cards in my files with a copy of my lesson plan and other materials from the unit. The badge clips are always in my desk.

The kids were excited to choose their own character for the story. Because of the character cards, students made stronger connections to the animals in the book. It was fun to learn some new animal names and to learn more about the rainforest ecosystem these animals inhabit. It made sitting for the last few minutes of the discussion easier for students because they had been more active during the story as they stood up when their character was called upon in the book.