Gradual Release of Responsibility

What does the gradual release of responsibility mean to you? What does it look like in the classroom? After grade level and (pre-) professional development meetings today, this was a topic of discussion. There still appears to be varying levels of understanding of this concept.

The gradual release of responsibility is a model of instruction that shifts from guided instruction to collaboration to independent work. Teachers who embrace this methodology begin with focus lessons that model their thinking and the purpose of the lesson. Background knowledge is built and the teacher learns the extent of student understanding. It then moves into guided instruction, whereby the teacher questions, prompts, and guides students to a deeper level of understanding. Guided instruction can be whole group or small group; however, reading instruction should be in small groups based upon reading research. Collaboration is the next step in gradual release. Collaboration provides students the opportunity to delve deeper into a topic, problem solve with their peers, and think critically. Students work together to apply what they’ve learned. Finally, students work independently. This is the last step of the gradual release model where our expectations as a teacher is to see what the student can do on her own, how she can apply her skills and knowledge, and synthesize the learning.

The gradual release model of instruction was embedded into the ELA curriculum my district is using. Different levels of understanding appeared today. It is my hope that teachers see how effective this model of instruction is and fully embrace it. For some, it is a different way of teaching because you are showing yourself as a learner at times, and it takes time! Yes, precious time is built into each lesson but each moment provides you with a glimpse into your students’ thinking – you witness their ah-ha moments and see what makes them stumble. I encourage you to delve into this methodology. Try it.

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Spreading the Storybird

For the past few years I have introduced my students to storybird.com, the collaborative storytelling site. Today was introduction day for this year’s bunch. They LOVED the site!  I share this site with them for a few reasons, but mainly as a writing tool. The artwork is inspirational and some of the pieces are just so whimsical and cute, while others evoke a seriousness and warmth. The illustrators are top-notch! The creativity this site lends itself is practically endless. 

Thank you, Storybird creators! I look forward to another year of honing our fourth grade writing skills with your motivating artwork.

Professional Development

Words are close to my heart. I was asked to present at today’s professional development to our devoted paraprofessionals as part of our district’s official implementation of Words Their Way. Having used WTW for about 5 years, I was thrilled to share my knowledge of this developmental word study program and how it works in my classroom. As a bonus, I was able to present with one of my dear colleagues – what a treat.

I applaud our paraprofessionals for their interest and eagerness in their work. It helped to make for a rewarding and productive day!

Reaping the benefits and Webinars

I feel I am beginning to reap the benefits of of our newly aligned curriculum. Our district spent HOURS reading, researching, and aligning our Massachusetts standards to the CCSS. As a member of one of the committees, it is rewarding to see it in practice. While I cannot speak for all, and I am sure there will be tweaking and refinements as the units progress, it is a good feeling to have this work accomplished.

Professional development opportunities are all around, and many of them are free!  Webinars hosted by numerous organizations seem prevalent lately. I registered for a problem-based learning webinar in October. After a conversation with a colleague, I’m anxious to get some direct knowledge on this topic and what better way than a webinar!

Stay active and keep learning.

Embarking on a literature journey, and no room for excuses!

We give a big THANK YOU to author Grace Lin for her well-written, engaging story Where the Mountain Meets the Moon.  My students are captivated once again as Ms. Lin weaves her tales with a story-within-a-story. We have created a story map to help us track the characters, adventures, and events. My students are captivated by Ba’s stories!  It is wonderful to read this aloud and watch their expressions change as the story unfolds.

I did assign brief place value homework activity – and not one student grumbled!  Hooray!  There may have been a few who tried a weak excuse but we diplomatically found solutions to those issues, and one of the inspirational posters I display served as a worthy reminder:  “Don’t make excuses, make improvements.”

Learning quote…thanks Albert

“Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning.”  Albert Einstein

Back at it!

It is refreshing to return to the classroom!  This group of fourth graders seem plenty comfortable – not only with their peers but in the school. Once again I feel privileged and inspired to be here, ready for another school year.

With a new curriculum in hand, I am eager to put to task this work that many of us so fervently worked on. It is a “work in progress,” but exciting nonetheless. There will be pieces to tweak and lessons to refine, but this is part of the learning that I enjoy. 

Here’s to another great beginning!  Happy 2012-2013 school year!  Image

School’s Out

This classic rock song rings true – at least for the summer. While I am doing some curriculum work and teaching some summer “camp,” it is a useful time to gather my ideas and recharge for the upcoming school year.

I had a great visit to our U.S. capitol, Washington, D.C.!  There is much to see and learn here. When I was younger I went but really didn’t appreciate the sights as much as I do now.  The museums and architecture of America’s historical buildings are spectacular. One of the highlights for me was seeing the REAL signed copy of our Declaration of Independence, Constitution, and Bill of Rights in the National Archives. Sadly, the Declaration is very faded from being displayed near a window for ten years. I could read many signatures, such as John Hancock (barely) and John Adams, but not Benjamin Franklin’s.  😦   I left with information to use in school from their teacher-friendly research room. We also visited the Supreme Court, U.S. Capitol building, the Lincoln and Jefferson Memorials, the Washington Monument (named a “monument” and not memorial because he was still alive when it was presented), and the many war memorials. It is very moving and humbling to be in the presence of these memorials.  It wasn’t until our visit to Arlington National Cemetery that I became more aware of the sacrifice many citizens have made for each of us living in America today. The changing of the guard is quite poignant (which means very emotional). After the changing, I couldn’t help but sing Lee Greenwood’s “Proud to be an American” in my head.

As I am, I hope you too are busy reading during these summer days. I have two books started and will finish them before picking up another. I have a book list and a goal – we’ll see how I do in between curriculum work and summer camp.

Enjoy these summer days and the waxing moon!

Bridge building

Despite the mid-90s heat today, students did super work in their planning and construction of a bridge. Teams had to build a bridge to hold their Student Reference Book, which is about the size of a small dictionary, for 10 seconds. Materials consisted of straws, twist ties, 2 half-pint milk cartons, tape (some had A LOT of tape), and paper clips. The team members then had to tally the cost of their bridge and then prove its strength before the class. Each team was successful, with one team needing to do some post-construction repair to strengthen their bridge.

We are writing a letter to next year’s third graders. The letter is to inform an incoming third grader of some of what he or she will be learning, while honing their paragraph and organization skills. We have two other writing pieces to complete in just a few weeks – but they can do it! They are great writers!

The World of Roald Dahl

We’re diving into the world of Roald Dahl this week. Students are enjoying The BFG, James and Giant Peach, The Giraffe the Pelly and Me, and The Magic Finger. Dahl’s books are humorous, suspenseful, and vocabularyicious (Roald would like that word, don’t you think?)! As a read aloud, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is entertaining despite many of you having seen the movie. Once it’s completed, we will partake in some delicious Wonka candy and compare the book to the movie, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.

Also this week, we’re beginning to explore the world of bridges. We’ll explore different types of bridges and design and build our own models. Of course there will be a catch, which I will wait until later to share!

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