An Interpretation of Phenomenon Based Learning

I work with 8 year olds.  They are ambitious, creative, determined, and real.  They want to be heard and take action to make a difference. And they can.

On Monday I started a rather scary (for me) project with my students using the Finnish approach to PBL – Phenomenon Based Learning.  In essence we started with a phenomenon – in our case book deserts in our community – and dove deep into the study, interconnecting subject areas and relying on both teacher expertise and student constructed learning.  There was only so much I could prepare before Monday since I didn’t know what my students would need.  That’s what made it scary.  Would we have enough to do each day? What if I couldn’t give them what they needed?  What if they didn’t care about book deserts as much as I thought they would? What if they got bored?

I kept in mind a line from one of the few English translated pieces on Phenomenon Based Learning – the teacher initiates the learning while the process of learning is negotiated by both the student and the teacher.

Hesitant to step completely out of my comfort zone at first, Monday and Tuesday consisted of much teacher initiation – questioning, writing, collecting data, reading and reflecting.

By Wednesday we had enough momentum that I didn’t even put a schedule on the board aside from the designated “project times”.  The students were perplexed.  What are we going to do all day?  With a list of student generated questions (we used the QFT approach) and ideas they created to collect, analyze and examine data to understand book deserts, they negotiated the work.  I was there to support, guide and occasionally assign.  I was there to push, offer advice and organize.  I was there as the overseer of all the parts and the glue that held them together.  At the end of that day (one that flew by for us all) students shared their learning and made connections to others’ work.  8 year olds discovered:

  • The average amount of books we have at home is 315.
  • Our school has over 37,000 books.
  • No one in our class lives in a book desert.
  • The amount of books in a book desert is equal to each child in our school getting to take one book home for one day in the year.
  • Books teach us knowledge but also teach us to love reading.
  • More girls in the world can’t read than boys.
  • No one should grow up in a book desert.

Let me just restate, 8 year olds discovered this.  I did not tell them this information, nor did I explicitly show them how to find it.  I initiated the inquiry, but they negotiated the learning space to make these revelations.

I was scared to take this leap. I surrendered control in my own classroom. I had to think on the fly, teach multiplication, averages, literary analysis and more without a lesson plan.  But my students trusted me and I trusted them.  Together, we are creating something more than parts to a whole.

Along the way, students began prototyping ideas of how we could help with this problem.  We love books, we don’t live in a book desert, and we want to help.  After daydreaming, wishing and brainstorming, the children settled the idea of creating a class company to make and sell books, generating revenue to donate to a local book charity.  And that is our work for next week in school.


Introducing, #GlobalGoals

Last month I joined an incredible group of global educators as a #TeachSDG Ambassador.    Charged with teaching and spreading awareness of the Global Goals, I’m diving right in.  Yes, this blog historically features literacy-specific strategies, inquiry and revelations in the classroom.  But what better way to develop independent readers than to develop compassionate, globally minded independent thinkers?

So I did what any teacher does when charged with a new challenge – I tried it out with my students.  Let me just put it this way – if you are feeling the need for a change, some inspiration in humanity, a rekindling of why you joined the teaching profession – TEACH THE SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT GOALS.  An underestimated statement, the past two week my students’ thinking, interest and commitment to a better world surpasses most adults I know.

Recently, #TeachSDGs started a slow chat with the first question as “Where is the best place to start when introducing your students to the SDGs?”  My reply was a natural point in the curriculum.  The goals should enrich learning rather than be seen as an add on or extra.  To her credit, Noa Lahav, the Digital Literacy Pedagogical Coordinator for CET Around the World,  pushed back to say with curriculum so closely tied to standards there is often not enough time and space to do this.  Agreed – education today is standards obsessed, often leaving little space for experimental, new, and different approaches. But we must start somewhere.

Here’s a few highlights from my introduction to teaching the Global Goals and the entry points in my curriculum.

IMG_1415My school, as many US schools, celebrates Martin Luther King Jr. Day in January.  This year we collectively read the book We Shall Overcome by, Debbie Levy, telling the story of a song that transverses generations to inspire a better world.
Teachers created individual class representations of the book to make a collective art instillation.  My class focused on our local community and represented how the Global Goals can support a more sustainable local community.  In order of the goals, 2nd graders created this vision.IMG_0188Following our school’s MKL Jr. assembly and a beautiful community sing of “We Shall Overcome” led by our incredible music teacher, my students reflected on the words:

IMG_3163   We shall overcome,
We shall overcome,
We shall overcome, some day.

We’ll walk hand in hand,
We’ll walk hand in hand,
We’ll walk hand in hand, some day.

We shall live in peace,
We shall live in peace,
We shall live in peace, some day.

The whole wide world around
The whole wide world around
The whole wide world around some day.

Returning to class, (yes, I did rearrange our schedule for the urgency to connect this experience to the real idea that children can do this work) we finished writing our 2018 new year resolutions.  Connecting to the SDGs, students explored ways they can personally make a difference.  These goals range from “making a vegetarian food choice” to “using a metal fork” to “turing off lights” reflecting real ways kids can be part of real change.IMG_0733.JPGTo keep their goals going, next week students will engaged in a math project with one of their goals “ask for book donations instead of birthday presents” as the context.

Each of these opportunities to infuse learning with the Global Goals was not separately created from the curriculum, but tied to the learning we already do – community studies, MLK Jr. celebration, writing new year resolutions, math problems.  Keep an eye out in your curriculum – you might be surprised how #TeachSDGs can reframe a lesson creating relevant, authentic connections beyond the classroom.

Boredom: A good reason to read

Just before a long weekend I gave my students one homework assignment: to carry a book wherever they go.  I said it doesn’t matter how much you read or what book it is, just bring it with you.  You might be stuck waiting for your parents (it was parent teacher conference week), you might be in the car, you never know when you might be bored and need a book.

Fast forward a few days at one of my parent conferences.  As our conversation turned to reading a parent remarked on how independent his child now seemed with books.  He said, “I mean, she is even insisting to take a book in the car and wanting to read all the time!”

Boredom, or lack of anything else but a book, is a good reason for kids to read.  In fact, it might be one of the best motivating factors of reading aside from having that just right book that can’t be put down.  Here are four intentional suggestions for getting kids to read during those boring times, such as a car ride (tried and tested with my own first grader).

Explicitly suggest reading, but not at that moment.  Chances are if you tell a child to read they probably won’t do it right then and there.  Plant the seed about reading in the car or doctors office before it’s going to happen.

Define free reading. Sometimes beginning or reluctant readers think of reading as a chore, and rightfully so, it can be.  Free reading, anything outside of school or homework, should be just that – free.  That means reading only the pictures, reading your favorite part, or just looking at the book.  Chances are this will eventually turn into some actually reading with zero pressure to perform.

Secretly plant highly engaging books in the car or other “readable” places.  This one might seem a little strange, but it works.  Graphic novels, nonfiction texts, and magazines are all great choices because they can easily to read for a few minutes or a long time.  They can often be opened up at various points and you don’t have to remember the story from the beginning to engage in the text.  The secret part gives novelty to the situation.  Who doesn’t want to pick up a new book laying on the seat?

Zip it. The other day I got into the car and within 30 seconds asked my son “How was your day at school?”  When he didn’t respond I looked in the rear view mirror to discover him reading a book.  Sometimes it’s best to follow your child’s lead. Talk if they want to talk and be quiet when they need it quiet.  Chances are with the other three things in place, a book will eventually find its way into those eager little hands.

My commute to school and back is a lucky 12 minutes a day.  Over five days that could be up to an extra 2 hours of reading for my son.  So whether you are a parent or teacher, simply telling kids to read when they are bored might just increase their time with text dramatically.

The Intersection of Curriculum and Community

When I first started teaching I thought it was the “answer” I wanted students to uncover at the end of my lesson.  I was skill hyper-focused.  But over the years, I’ve mellowed as an educator, as we do. I think most of us could agree it is not the answer we strive for children to understand – but the understanding itself.

Reflecting on how students, specifically readers and writers, develop an understanding of the art and science of literacy I’ve come upon an idea.  Or rather an inkling.  As a blogger in my tucked away corner of the web, I’m turning to writing as an attempt to hash out my thoughts.

Anywhere teachers turn in the educational world today we are inundated with curriculum, best practices, new practices, change, and a never ending struggle to reach our instructional goals.  No complaining – this exists and is necessary in many ways.

On the other side, we have the children.  The real, soulful, inspiring, curious creatures entrusted to us for more time in the school day than their own parents.  We are their caregivers, mentors, facilitators, and ultimately teachers of the human condition.

Often these two facets of teaching seem at odds with one another.  Yes, we want to improve instruction to meet. the. needs. of. our. students. But then there is the actual, acute needs of children that lie before us. In this teeter-totter dance of the classroom one of these aspects gets over looked for the other.  If we focus on the academics, the social-emotional needs of our children can get replaced with pre-assessment, post-assessment, covering curriculum and data.  And if we focus on the kids we run the risk of overlooking critical instructional time in honor of personal connections.

But what if our curriculum and instruction was a driving force for classroom and school culture? What if our students’ innate desires to explore the world in authentic ways coincided with our curricular goals?  What if the way that we taught consistently developed both academic rigor and a culture of life long learning?  I think this is what project based learning and the growth mindset get at, but I’m talking about more basic level.

If we can begin to envision the teacher’s role as participator, inspirer and leader of learning, children will follow.  Are there concrete, tactical ways we can capitalize on our curriculum and instruction to create a community of life long learners? I think so.

Teachers lead everyday. Mostly, we do this well.  But are we intentional? Are we purposely intertwining curriculum and culture, instruction and interest? Are we guiding students toward the understanding that learning is as much about the process as it is the answer?

Be Flexible with Flexible Grouping

Small group reading instruction should be flexible based on the needs of students.  As student needs are constantly changing, so should the small groups.  The make up of these groups should be based on assessments and targeted to lift each reader to a higher level based on their needs.

It’s easy for those looking into a classroom to say flexible grouping is necessary for reading instruction but in practice it’s much more challenging. Often groups don’t feel as flexible as they should.  Kids don’t always neatly fit into groups. Assessments take time.  Organizing takes time. Planning takes time.  Flexible grouping is a critical instructional strategy, but difficult to implement in a consistent, meaningful way.

Start with one group and just do it.  Instead of trying to orchestrate flexible grouping for all my students, I started small.  Working with one group of students who had a clear need for extending their reading, I started a small group book club.  The students read the same book and learned how to compose written responses based on their reading.  One group, one instructional focus.  After I organized that group, I looked for other children with similar needs and started another small group using reader’s theater to develop fluency.   You don’t have to put all kids into groups at the same time. Starting small and adding groups to an already existing reading routine ensures manageable success.

Assess in many ways. I started my small groups right after I administered the Developmental Reading Assessment (DRA) to all my students.  This assessment showed instructional next steps for each student, but I didn’t just use that data.  I considered my individual conferences, observations, and levels of engagement or independence.  Quantitative data such as reading levels are a good starting point for groups, but should not be the only measure.  Thinking about student personality, reading goals, or strengths also offers clues to what a reader might need next.  For example, I have a student that reads fluently but is not highly engaged.  I put that reader in my reader’s theater group as peers are a motivating factor to keep reading, allowing the reader to be successfully engaged.

Keep materials on hand. Pre-select books, organize supplies, and have it all in one central location.  This might sound basic but having books available that you might use with a group in a week or two speeds up the planning process.  Once I decided I wanted to form a group to work on retelling after reading, I could easily grab one of the leveled texts that I already selected from our book room, eliminating that step in planning.

Move kids around for a variety of reasons. My reader’s theater group was so popular that all students in my class wanted to participate.  Right now I have three reader’s theater groups with varying levels of text complexity.  Instead of putting all my top readers in the most challenging group, I mixed it up a little bit.  I put a few students who I knew could handle the challenge to keep my groups flexible for reasons other than text level. As long as this is done with intention, mixing groups for a variety of reasons supports and challenges all readers.

Set up groups all over the classroom. As teachers we often like our own routines.  But staying in the same place makes it harder to change.  Instead of always working with a small group at my “rainbow” table, I might start a group there and then leave them to work. I’ll gather another group on the rug or in our reading library.  Changing students, changing location and changing instructional strategies shows children that groups change.  Being flexible in more than just the students keeps the momentum going.

There are days groups won’t feel so flexible.  There are times when it is a struggle to plan, organize and implement flexible grouping on a daily basis.  Most importantly, students are reading books every day and small group instruction authentically matches their needs as readers consistently.  Start small. Know your readers. Be flexible with kids, spaces, and texts. Eventually, flexibility will become the routine.

A few resources that have shaped my teaching and thinking with small groups:

Teaching Reading in Small Groups:Differentiated Instruction for Building Strategic, Independent Readers by, Jennifer Serravallo.  A practical guide to implementing multiple types of small groups

The Reading Strategies Book by, Jennifer Serravallo. A recipe book of sorts with specific lessons organized by reading goals

Units of Study for Teaching Reading by, Lucy Calkins. Four units of study by grade level to teach reader’s workshop style, with detailed information on how to support small groups embedded within lessons

The Next Steps in Guided Reading: Focused Assessments and Targeted Lesson for Helping Every Student Become a Better Reader by, Jan Richardson. A great first resource to improve guided reading instruction beyond the use of a leveled text



Who are we writing for?

In my first year of teaching, in a DC neighborhood encompassed by poverty, a student gave me the most thoughtful gift of my career.  The battery operated window alarms were a mystery to me for years. I finally realized my student just wanted her teacher to be safe.  Her gift sincerely reflected the reality of her life outside of school and a deep connection to me.

This year, among all the generous and thoughtful gifts my students and their families gave me, I received three journals, pens and pencils, a picture book and a gift card to purchase more books.  Of course these are gifts all teachers would like, but I can’t help but wonder if my intentionality of building my own reading and writing life are reflected in these gifts.  While many of my current students come from highly literate families, do these gifts also reflect their connection to me and our shared love of literacy?  I hope so.

A few months ago George Couros wrote “Blogging is your job” to which I replied – that was going to be my next blog post!  In response, my school librarian – who is always pushing me to think at the edge of my learning – asked me who my audience is and how I know what they want to read.  I stopped to think.  As this conversation unfolded over Twitter on a Saturday morning I realized I am writing ultimately for my students.  She showed me my audience is someone who will actually never read my writing and THAT is why it is so powerful.

Writing pushes me into unknown realms as a teacher.  Sometimes I write a blog post before I even teach a unit and revise and publish it afterward.  I envision the learning and articulate it through the blog and social media.  Of course it changes through the reality of the classroom, but writing as a form a professional development helps me define change in my classroom.  A writing professor of mine always said “keep your pencil moving,” a quote my students hear daily as a tool to generate new ideas.  It is true, the more you write, the more you think of to write.  Continual writing can only help us as educators to push beyond the traditional methods of instruction to find new ways to authentically engage our audience – our students.

It is important for us to feel safe – as writers and agents of change.  It matters to our students that we are safe.  It is equally important that we are active participants in literacy.  It matters to our students that we engage in writing to chart, share and most critically, explore our practice.  Maybe those journals and books weren’t a coincidence. Just maybe, it resonates that reading and writing matter so much that they are authentically in my own life and in my teaching.

The Immersion Blender Effect

I recently received two immersion blenders for my birthday.  Two.  This was not a coincidence, but a direct result of an ongoing learning process.  About ten years ago I lived in Scotland where vegetable soups are pureed.  I thought, what a novel idea – very different from our chunky American version.  I bought cookbooks, blended in my blender and often had a mess of soup exploding everywhere.   I kept talking about immersion blenders, apparently to everyone who buys me birthday presents, and voila – made delicious pureed soup in a mess free, almost instantaneous process.

What in the world does this have to do with teaching and learning reading?

Everything.  It was an authentic learning experience led by direct models, trial and error, intrinsic motivation, conversation and failure before success.

It is basic. Today’s education world is inundated with digital tools, personalized learning, tactics to engage all learners, the list goes on and on.  I agree, these evolving  ideas move education forward and aligning learning with real world and future demands.  They should not go away.  However, in the education fog of trying to figure out which method works best for each unique group of students, I am reminded that the basic elements of learning are fundamental to increasing student achievement.

This process relates both to soup and our recent reading unit – Reading About the World with Nonfiction

Authentic experiences provide models for what the learner will achieve.  Scotland showed (not taught) me a new way to consume vegetable soup.  For our first lesson on reading nonfiction, my class visited the library.  We explored nonfiction topics we might want to read and built excitement around a new genre by naming and exploring it.  This connection to the library helped my readers connect our learning in the classroom with expository texts in the real world.

Readers need time to practice, experiment, experience failure and continue to work toward a clear goal. It took me many years to practice making soup, but then again, I was my only teacher.  With my readers, providing daily reading instruction with short mini lessons about how real readers read nonfiction is critical.  Coupled with ample time to read nonfiction every day students practice reading this genre regularly.  They have time to practice alone, with a reading partner and with experienced readers such as their teachers and parents. Also, strategy-based small groups support readers with skills they need, focusing on compression, fluency and accuracy.

Intrinsic motivation promotes trying something slightly different than before, even in the face of failure.   My motivation was simple – to recreate something I experienced  a world away.  Nonfiction reading can be challenging to some students, but every reader can connect to learning about something interesting. While I encouraged my readers to explore new topics, I also led them to become experts on a particular topic, exploring how they can add new ideas to already existing schema.  Searching for new and exciting key words within nonfiction motivated further.

Talking with peers propels the process.  I talked with anyone who ate my soup -how good the soup tasted, what I could do better, the funny stories of it exploding everywhere.  My readers partnered with peers on a daily basis to talk about reading strategies and new content knowledge.  Interacting with a variety of people helps readers construct and solidify their understanding of expository texts. We had a party to mingle and share ideas and created VoiceThreads to record strategies with others.

Success prompts more a recursive desire to learn and try new things.  Now that I have an immersion blender, I want to make soup all the time.  My readers became empowered with concrete reading strategies to decode and comprehend more complex nonfiction texts.  More importantly, when given the option, they still keep nonfiction texts in their reading baskets, with the drive to articulate information about an interesting topic and share their love of learning.

If I had a soup teacher, this process would have taken far less than ten years.  Teachers matter to these readers more than any tool, theory or educational product out there.  Yes, we use digital tools and differentiation to read and communicate our learning. But real understanding of new genres comes from the immersion of learning to read while simultaneously reading to learn.

Diving Into Nonfiction

It is inevitable.  Every time a reader turns a new corner previously learned skills and strategies that were turning into habits fall apart.

This week we dove head first into nonfiction reading with a Reader’s Workshop field trip to the library. There was a buzz of excitement as students explored books, attempting to evaluate if they were a just right fit.  Engagement was high with kids suggesting we use the nonfiction section to research our social studies unit and realizing we could read nonfiction books to write more in Writer’s Workshop.  They were instantly sold on reading this often daunting and challenging genre.

Now, they are also swarming in books that are too tricky.  Beginning and transitional readers often display an optimistic outlook on their abilities, ready to conquer the world through reading.  As we solidified the ability to select just right books in more predictable genres, I opened a new can of, well, books. And now I need a plan to help my readers reevaluate just right books.  Luckily, they have strategies to lean on from previous instruction, but I hope to expand their ability to navigate this new genre.

Do I have the schema? Most non-fiction is heavily dominant on content vocabulary.  The more a student knows about a topic the more likely she will be able to read unknown words in context by asking “What makes sense?” Strategies to activate this background knowledge such as taking a sneak peek before reading and studying the pictures on each page during reading will alert the reader to content she already knows.

Anchor Book In the first week of our unit, my conferences focus on helping each reader identify a just right nonfiction text.  This book will become a reader’s best friend – staying near by for the next few weeks.  When selecting new nonfiction books, he can refer to the anchor book.  Do the text size and pictures look similar?  Is there significantly more or less text on the pages?  Is the topic related?  While this strategy is not exact, visual similarities in nonfiction texts can often lead to similar readability levels, providing a tool to quickly gauge if a book is too tricky.

Recommendations and Ratings Since our reading partnerships are ability based getting recommendations from a reading partner can spread just right books. It might even spark conversations about how schema effects readability and allow students to deepen their understanding of finding just right books.  This strategy also encourages thinking and writing about nonfiction after reading – an added bonus.

I am teaching in unfamiliar territory with a new unit in nonfiction without leveled texts.  Please, share in the comments ways you support readers in nonfiction texts. I want to try your new ideas.  For now, I’ll be riding on the waves of engagement, reading and learning with my students.

Set Reading Goals, Not Reading Levels

Recently, I commented about removing the levels from my classroom library on a post from Irene C. Fountas and Guy Su Pinnell’s Facebook group.  Their post was about using reading levels as a tool for teachers, not a tool for students. One teacher responded that giving children reading levels at least ensures they have books they can read.  And I couldn’t agree more.  That is exactly why many teachers use this practice in their classrooms.  I did for years, knowing that if I assigned children levels from my diagnostic reading assessments I could assure they had books they could read.  This works for many students.  But for some kids, it doesn’t.  Here are some potential situations readers find themselves in when assigned levels.  These kids are the reason levels should not be a tool for students.

Setting unrealistic goals – “I want to read the highest level in the class because I want to be the best in the class.”  But right now, that reader is reading below grade level and reaching that goals is not only unattainable, but it is also a hinderance to the work he needs to do.

Having an screwed reading identity – This happens in two ways.  “I want to read level x books”instead of “I want to read more nonfiction or mystery books.”  OR (and I’ve had this exact conversation) “What is wrong with my reading, why can’t I read level x?” When in fact the reader is above grade level, but not reading the highest level in the classroom.

Reading less challenging books – Readability is only one measure of text complexity and does not take into account the reader’s motivation, interest or background knowledge.  Struggling readers will surprise you when they choose books just beyond their assessed levels and are motivated to read them.

So, how can reading teachers find a balance? Removing the scaffold of telling readers the levels they can read does not mean you leave them to read any book freely.  It means you must replace that scaffold with other supports.  Working with individual readers to set realistic and specific reading goals is one way to help them.  Teaching strategies to work toward those goals means they must pick books they can read to practice the strategies.  Here’s how I rolled it out with my first graders.

  1. Explicitly teach the options for reading goals.  I use the Reading CAFE goal setting framework including Comprehension, Accuracy, Fluency or Expanding Vocabulary.  Your students’ goals would match whatever reading benchmarks or goals you have in your curriculum.  Heinemann shared a great goal setting sheet created by Jennifer Serrevallo.  After sharing the goals, I ask students to think about what is tricky and decide what they would like to work on.
  2. Individually conference with each student to co-set a goal.  This take some preplanning.  After conducting reading assessments with my students I have a predetermined goal they each need to work on.  Usually in our conference, my goal matches theirs.   But when it doesn’t, I have two options.
    • Ask why they want that goal.  Recently, a six year told me she wanted to work on fluency while I thought she needed support in accuracy.  Her rational was that another student told her she read smoothly, but with little expression.  We went with her goal – she is motivated, has a clear focus, and fluency will also support her work in accuracy.
    • Listen to the child read, notice something he is already doing with your goal in mind and lead him toward it.  For example, a student who needs support in comprehension but is already making connections I name what he is doing and guide him toward the goal of comprehension.  This identification of one thing he is already doing it attainable and authentic.
  3. Use visual tools to teach strategies to habits.  img_2828I learned this in a workshop from Teachers College Reading and Writing Project.  By recording the goal and teaching specific strategies to work toward that goal students are empowered in their own learning.  Over time these strategies will become habits and we will co-create a new reading goal together.  This is an example of strategies to support a student’s goal of reading accurately.

Taking away reading levels does not equate to letting kids read whatever they want.  Setting reading goals and purpose behind reading ensures students select books they can read.  They know where they are headed and naturally begin to select books that are challenging, engaging and readable.


Solving Math Problems with Stories

When introducing word problems during our addition unit I began thinking about my math students as readers. Word problems reside in stories.  I am asking my students to visualize  the actions in the problem and schema to solve a new situation with a strategy they already know. There must be picture books to contextualize and connect with type of content reading. So I went searching.

screen-shot-2016-09-26-at-1-14-12-pmFirst we read Mice Mischief by, Caroline Stills.  This simple book about 10 mice illustrates different combinations of 10 with the corresponding equation.  We talked about how the pictures and words match the math.

screen-shot-2016-09-26-at-1-14-57-pmThen I read Two of Everything by, Lily Toy Hong.  This Chinese Folktale tells about a pot that doubles everything placed inside.  We learned some books have math inside the story that you have to discover.  We found the math on certain pages and wrote equations to match.

Then the children explored.  As they read from the selection of texts, they work with a partner to identify addition problems in each book.  They talked about the story, built context for the conceptual understanding of joining two parts (usually characters or items in the story) together to make a whole.  They wrote equations and shared their thinking with the class.  As we combined reading skills and math concepts they marveled at the fact that math exists in books.

This text set has a wide range of reading levels and math difficulty for beginning first graders.  I grouped the students based on both their reading and math needs to differentiate the content.screen-shot-2016-09-26-at-1-13-48-pm

After exploring how different authors used math within sorties we set out to create one of our own. Using Mice Mischief  and The Flashing Fireflies by, Philemon Sturges as mentor texts, we explored how the authors use a total amount of 10 to create a stories.  We decide our story took place in the forest with 10 total objects on each page.


Each student wrote an individual page for our class book.  We learned about addition concepts.  We learned about visualizing as readers.  We learned about writing to communicate one part of a collective text.  We blurred the lines between content areas and experienced how reading, writing and math are constructed in the real world as we became mathematical authors.