Inspired by Michelle McGarry

whole_school_library_handbookAfter reading an article today in The Whole School Library Handbook I went searching for Michelle McGarry’s project: The School Library link newsletters. They sounded exactly like something I have been thinking of adding to my new school webpage as I work on updates this summer.

Along the way I discovered a few other things that made me feel like I was reading the blog of a kindred spirit.

1. Michelle operates a school reading challenge in her library program for 3rd, 4th and 5th graders. The reading team at my school is exploring a variety of reading challenges to move our teachers away from setting reading goals using AR points. Reading about the reading challenge led me to her Book Tracker Google Form. I’m totally flat out stealing this idea. Currently, my students who read a book on our Virginia Readers’ Choice Nominee list just need to tell one of our library staff a little about the book and then they get to sign our posters. Sign four posters (and read four books) and then I take pictures to put on our Wall of Fame. This works really well for us, but I like the idea of integrating a little writing.

tsll_sample2. Here’s an example of Michelle’s The School Library Link. I can’t wait to read more of these and share them as a resource with my school community.

3. Michelle uses Book Boxes. I’ve blogged before about my unending enthusiasm for Book Boxes (that post is formatted a bit oddly from the transition to WordPress). I love them. Can’t say enough about them. You should use them!

4. Michelle advocates for free voluntary reading and loves reading middle grade fiction. I usually have to work to remember to read middle grade (I navigate to YA a bit more), but reading for pleasure and making personal choices is very important to me. I’m constantly trying to get out from under the stress of running a best practices library in an AR environment.

reading_picture_books5. Michelle teaches with Visible Thinking Routines. I love Visible Thinking Routines!! After reading Making Thinking Visible I’m always trying to find ways to add routines into my lessons. I can’t wait to read this book that Michelle recommends on her blog for reading picture books with a Whole Book Approach and thinking routines.

Finally, to Michelle, who I have gushed about but don’t know–thank you! I love meeting new people through their amazing work! I’m so glad I got to learn from you this week!

Lesson Planning Reflection

RF_unitplansAmy B. and I challenged each other to revisit some of our past blog posts to reconnect with why we love to blog. We have both gotten to be sluggish bloggers. I LOVE to write posts for this blog, but I’ve been in a slump. It’s time to let the sun of summer rejuvenate me. Amy and I agreed to revisit a previous post and reflect on the topic once again and then to write one post with new content later in the week.

One of the first topics that interested me when I started blogging was writing about lesson and unit planning. I continue to find it difficult to successfully record what I intend to teach, plan to teach, and actually teach. I revisited three posts I wrote highlighting my approach to unit planning, sharing those units with teachers, and then writing lesson plans.

Five years ago, I came to the realization that 3-4 week units were all I could mentally handle. That remains true to this day. After 4 weeks the unit is stretched out over too much time, even if I’ve only seen the students for 2 instructional hours. I also feel at loose ends when I hop from week to week and topic to topic. This is a topic I’ve been thinking about for the past two months because I’ve spent a lot of time creating my pacing guide for next year.

I have been faced with different unit planning challenges in the last four years because I see students on a limited rotation and our fixed classes get scheduled about 12 times a year (every three weeks). Continuity is challenging. I’ve taken my grid for unit planning and planned one focus for K, 1st, 2nd, and 3rd that will stretch the entire year. Grades 4 and 5 will have two units during the year. For example, in second grade I will be focusing on nonfiction. I will teach how to find your favorite nonfiction books in the library, how we read nonfiction texts, nonfiction text features, how to use the Visual Search in the Destiny catalog, and do mini author studies of favorite nonfiction authors. In fourth grade we are focusing on accessing and organizing information (searching and note taking) for about 7 lessons during the year and then doing a memoir genre study for 5 weeks.

In 2010-2011 I was diligent about writing “Unit Shares” as a one-page flyer to let teachers know which books we were reading and what skills students’ would be practicing. This is something that I have not done since leaving that school in 2011. Differences in schedules and learning a new curriculum kept me from writing these documents after moving to Virginia. It’s something I might consider to go along with the units on my new pacing guides.

I’m hoping that with these very focused plans that I can keep up with writing lesson plans. I have changed my habits when writing lesson plans. It shouldn’t take longer to write the lessons than it does to plan them. I now keep one document with my lesson plans in a table format. I record the date, classes, learning targets, brief description with assessment and differentiation highlighted, and then a column for notes and reflection. This helps me keep up with plans and it makes it easier to submit to my principal.

Reading these old posts is a great reflection for me. I feel like I’m headed into the next year with a solid instructional plan! I’m including a snapshot of my current draft for my pacing guide. I know I love to read about how other people plan their lessons. If you read these, please keep in mind they are drafty-drafts and not fleshed out with many instructional strategies or complete objectives. In first grade, in particular, my goal is to teach with a lot of visible thinking routines. I may not have matched the right routine to the right text–I still have to read some of the books on our Virginia Readers’ Choice nominee list!