Tuesday, July 7, 2015

July 2015 TCRWP Reading Institute - Mary's section: Readers Notebooks

My work in Mary's section revolved around Historical Fiction Book Clubs - I was reading the children's novel, War Horse by Michael Morpurgo. (Others were reading the adult book Massie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear or the adult book The Eye in the Door by Pat Barker) The common thread was that all 3 books took place during WWI.

Mary first started by sharing research as to WHY we would want to spend time in a book club.
* A Carnegie Study showed how writing about reading raises the level of retention, comprehension and interpretation.
* Mel Levine's work shows that reading or listening or watching only places info our short term memory. It is when we do something with the info (writing, sketching, acting, talking) that the info joins our long-term memory.
* Pedro Niguere's work on peer culture points out that the peer environment will always win over an academic group so we need to make it cool to be doing school.
* Alfred Tetum's work shows that reading flounders when what is being read doesn't match the readers' lives. Mary pointed through choice and honoring the work of a reader who "reads" a baseball game help to make this match. She also shared that when Tetum worked with TCRWP he commented that he saw "too much strategy and not enough soul". He suggested more WHY and not only the HOW.
*Nell Duke's work shows that HS/College kids were dropping out because they had to read too much where they lacked the background knowledge to understand the reading. Research shows the importance of getting ready for a unit by coming to it with built background knowledge.

Using all this research, MARY said we should IMMERSE OURSELVES IN WWI this week. How could be do it? We brainstormed this list:
  • a big map of Europe focused on France
  • a big timeline
  • vocabulary word wall
  • photos from the time period
  • movie clips
  • primary source documents
Then she simply asked: What does your work group want to do? My table picked MAP. She came to us and suggested we use the document camera to project a map that we find online. And that maybe we tape together some chart paper so our map is BIG. Her coaching move here set an expectation but allowed us in the group to do the work.

Here is our map at the end of Monday's 30 minute work session (made by Kyle from CA, Adrienne from WA, Emily from TN and me from VA).
On Tuesday, Mary shared some TIPS that she modeled on Monday to help the work groups be successful. "Years ago, I would have all the handouts prepared for you and I would have done all the work." As teachers, always think about Efficiency vs Agency. Act more as a coach/guide instead of  handing out a project to be completed.
* provide research time around a text
* suggest possible sources that can help so kids aren't starting in a vacuum
* suggest very easy-to-read resources to build BK so it can be understood. (ex WWI for Kids)
* model how a work group can work together (role play)
My favorite quote: "Role play kids into the academic identities you want to achieve."

Her Tuesday tip was perspective. "Be sure to find ALL perspectives. Can you find primary sources from Germany's POV?" After looking all together at a WWI poetry text set, listening to Jerusalem by William Blake set to music and a trench scene from the movie Gallipoli (a war where 100,000 men died in 10 minutes), we got with our work groups again thinking about PERSPECTIVE and instead of going on to make a new thing, Mary encouraged us to look at the work from yesterday and try to raise the level of that work. HOW?
- Consider adding VISUALS
- begin to see your area (mine was the MAP) as a center that on Thursday the class will come look at to learn from. Do captions would be helpful to a visitor?
- Visit others in the room and consider the connections between each part of the room. Do post-it questions need to be added to help a visitor think?
And we were given 20 more minutes to work in our work groups.

My group laughed that we hadn't include Africa on the map made yesterday as we thought about perspective. So quickly we took it down, added more to the bottom. We also added the names of major battles and towns where the book club books occurred. Another group in the room asked to add their work around the leaders during WWI to be next to our map. Soon, our map looked like this:

While I was learning about WWI by construction a big map for our "Classroom Reading Notebook", others in the room created these displays for us to learn from and on Thursday, Mary gave us time to walk around the room in our BOOK CLUB group to specifically think about OUR story using the room to give us more background on this period in history.


The tasks helped my group really LOOK at the words in relation to our book, War Horse.

More pictures should be found here: http://readingandwritingproject.org/resources/mary

NOW while my group was doing ALL this research on the setting of my book club book, I was in a different group reading War Horse (Eric - a staff developer at TCRWP, Barbara from VA and Jean from Buffalo, NY). On Monday we decided as a book club to read 5 chapters a night and to write about our reading by noticing the setting, the emotions of the characters, and the craft moves of the author. Here are some images of our writing about reading notebook pages (sorry, I need to learn how to turn the images around before posting!):

On Wednesday, Mary shared LOTS of examples from kids notebooks (can be found HERE ). Then she gave us 20 minutes in class to make one more page and she moved around the room, coaching us and reminding us to "add some color"!Here is what my group produced!!

I found it fascinating to see how we sketched, jotted, organized our thinking, all so differently. Knowing that I was responsible for sharing my thinking each day with my group, pushed me to READ and then to really THINK about the story. Each day I was excited to meet as I have new ideas I was pondering and couldn't wait to see what my smart group members were also thinking. PLUS, I really got my story more, because now my "classroom" helped me to find WHERE the story was occurring and the timeline helped me to understand when and the images and word wall helped me to understand concepts. WOW - what brilliant work!!

I asked Mary how young she'd do this kind of work with as I'll be teaching 3rd grade next year. She smiled in her always encouraging way and said she saw 3rd graders in one school do a Native American book club unit! Look out, 3rd graders!!!

One more brilliant thing Mary did with us was a Read-aloud of two picture books set during WWII.

She read the beginning of each book and asked us to notice the trouble being presented by the author.
She read a little bit more of each book, one after the other, having us notice who is telling the story and how that character responds to trouble. She read more of each pushing us to think about theme. Suddenly, we, the listeners, realized that these books overlap...the girl in Rose Blanche seems to be the Angle Girl! Only Mary would find a way to weave two read-alouds together at once to have us do powerful listening and talking and thinking about characters, settings, themes and craft moves.

MARY'S KEYNOTE (on Tuesday) - Remembering Grant Wiggins

The education world lost Grant Wiggins who died last month. He is best known for inventing backwards planning  and authored Understanding by Design. First Mary reminded us to make sure we are doing work that we love, like Grant who died so young at age 64. Grant pushed us to think of the child we want to have and then build backwards from there. Grant's latest and sadly last work dealt with the idea of transfer of skills. Grant reminded us that kids need LOTS of practice or scrimmages to try, mess up, get coaching feedback to grow their skills.

Mary modeled three ways to practice with kids:
1. Book to Book - we looked at the role of the woman (the mom) in the book Piggybook by Anthony Brown and the role of the girls in the video Maddie and Tae - Girl in the Country (which is just FUNNY to watch!) music video
My turn-and-talk partner could successfully discuss the role of the mom in the book and then transfer to a video and continue to do the work around these complicated characters.

2. One Reading Experience to Another Reading Experience
Mary showed a video of a baseball play and asked us to read the "text", transferring our school work to outside school work. (Look for article by Mary and Cornelius Minor in Journal of Ed Research coming out soon on this work of connecting the "reading of sports" to reading texts.)

3. Teaching for the transfer of a mindset by teaching toward the values related to reading we most want to instill. To show this, she shared this Kindle - Joy of Reading VIDEO

I feel so spoiled having Mary as a small group instructor and hearing her keynote!!

Next I will share about Emily and Nonfiction Book Club work...tomorrow!


  1. Thank you so much, Sally, for sharing such a thorough summary of your learning at TC. I'll be at the August Reading Institute, and can't wait to be immersed in this work!

  2. Reading this almost made me feel I was there. So many good ideas.

  3. Reading this almost made me feel I was there. So many good ideas.

  4. Your notes and photos are crystal clear. Thank you so much for your willingness to share what you have learned with all of us educators of literacy. Your enthusiasm and passion for literacy is simply contagious!!