For the first time in a long time, I feel like my bulletin board is useful. Students are going up to use it, they refer to it in discussions, they look forward to adding to it. It feels great.
Our current literacy unit revolves around an Author Study. During our Readers’ Workshop we are studying the craft moves an author makes in order to effectively tell her story and to cue the reader’s fluency. I chose an author with rather simple text so that my emerging readers could access this study as well.
I read a few of Donald Crews’ books out loud before we started to look closely for craft moves. Then, after reading Sail Away, we had a discussion about how an author cues the reader’s fluency. What does the author do to show the reader HOW to read the book? We read Sail Away again, slowly. When I read the phrase “putt . . . putt . . . putt” they noticed that my voice went low and slow. I explained the function of the ellipse in this sentence. and they remembered that the small size of the text means to lower your voice when you read. We jotted down their observations and continued reading. When the winds picked up and the boat raised sail, the students could easily tell by the size of the words on the page that excitement was building. They all joined me in an exaggerated panic as we read the page with the impending storm. I recorded their observations again and added them to the board.
The next day I added photocopied images of the pages they pointed to as good examples. The idea that I had the technology to do that amazed a few students, but that’s a story for another post.
My students need support to understand that the author is making conscious choices about how to place the text so that the reader reads the way the author wants the story read. The size and shape of the text makes sense to them. Some even noticed the repetition of words and phrases in the book Flying and connected it to the ways we can build rhythm in a poem. But for the most part, it seems really difficult for the kids to separate the story form the craft. The bulletin board, though, has been a great help. I refer to it when we are talking together and I’ve noticed a few kids bringing their independent and partner reading over to compare their own texts to Mr. Crews’.
The part I think that has been most effective with this difficult concept is that the children and I are building the board, and our knowledge, together. For the past few years, Literacy Coaches and my professional reading have been stressing the importance of Anchor Charts. I have not been very adept at creating these charts to be effective tools for the children. While we often build knowledge together, I had not successfully found a way to record that knowledge for effective use. The charts we made together were a bit messy and unplanned and I didn’t have a strategy for using them throughout a unit. It was rare to see a student return to a chart.
Here’s how this bulletin board is different. I looked at what we needed to know in the unit and read the articles related to it, as always. But then, I made a map of the unit as it would look on a bulletin board. I took the great ideas I saw for anchor charts in the articles, and used the parts that made sense to me. On the board, I essentially constructed a graphic organizer, ready for us to fill in together. That simple template may have been just what I needed. Our information is organized, there is space to add, and we still have flexibility to go off on a few tangents.
For big unit ideas, I think this will be a good method for me. I’ll still need to work out a better organizing tool for the smaller concepts – like those in word study – so that we have a good way to refer to our past learning, but this step has been important to me.
I’m taking pictures of the board along the way. As I become more tech savvy, I’ll find a good way to save the board for student reference through a picture file.
Any, and all, ideas for organizing and for keeping this work available for students after the unit is complete, are welcome.