July 13, 2013

Summer Reading with a Lesson on Conceptual Development

What are you doing this summer?  I’m doing A LOT of reading!  I mean, A LOT!  I have read a number of children’s novels, the three Hunger Games books (Boy, was my husband glad when I was done!), and a number of professional books and guides.  One of the books that I have read is by an author I know personally, Jodi O’Meara.  Jodi wrote RTI with Differentiated Instruction, Grades K-5.  It wasn’t the personal connection I had with Jodi that lead me to read this book, it was my drive to learn what the RTI process was really about, I mean, REALLY!  Boy, was I surprised. 

You see, we have been lead to believe that remediation is RTI.  Here’s the kids test score, fix them.  That’s the impression I had with what RTI was.  Do some stuff, make a cute chart, wham-done!  Now, before anyone starts “screaming” at me, please understand my lag in understanding. During the induction of RTI in my district, I was not in a standard classroom. I have had many wonderful teaching experiences, and at this point, I was in the Science Lab, where I saw every student in my school on a rotation of a 6-day wheel.  During RTI training, I paid little attention, literally, to the process and what it entailed.  That was a rarity for me.  I’m usually into this kind of stuff-but I was tuned out, literally.  It didn’t have application for me in that moment.  So, I’m behind.  In walks Jodi’s book, literally, in her hands!  (I'm saying literally a lot today!) 

What did I glean from this book-A LOT (Another problem word today!)?  How the real process works, how to differentiate to help the process through and have the time to possibly really make a difference because of that differentiation. How to make various charts that show real growth compared to expected and/or small group instruction, and about……drum roll please……..How to approach conceptual skills! 

I know, another thing we think we all know!  How to handle conceptual skills?  Now, here is where my first freebee, the FCAT Specs, comes into play.  When you really look at what the medium to high complexity questions lie, they lie in understanding at a conceptual level.  How, on earth, do we get them there and master them there, and know that they have??? And, folks, this is Common Core in a nutshell-How do we get them there!

Jodie offers a few really good points! Start with our thinking-how I can understand what is expected. And, most importantly, what are the criteria for mastery then!  Have we REALLY answered that for each conceptual benchmark presented to us?  Do we REALLY know what and how kids master those?  Should we be relying on what a company tells us??  All good questions to ponder-and work on!  Do I have all the answers right now?  No!  Will I be working at it?  Yes!  In fact, with my teaching partner Lisa, we have agreed on what is skill and conceptual, or a combo of each, for the present standards.  Knowing enough about the Common Core Standards, many of these will just transfer to that!   A real goal to work toward.

With that being said, here are two more items that will, at least, answer that for these benchmarks.

1.                     Weekly Nonfiction Reading Sheet: In this two-pack document you will find all you need to keep kids practicing text structure identification and text feature skills.  It can be used with any informational book.

2.                     Shades of Meaning Continuum:  Use any word group to have kids practice the shades of meanings of words.  I plan to pull my words from the Book Club books they are reading.  They fill in the continuum, write a sentence for each, use one more word in a sentence, and explain which word(s) they are going to keep on                  using!  Good way to assess something so conceptual!

     May I highly recommend Jodi’s book. As you can tell from the numerous post-it note flags sticking out, there are many ideas I will be coming back to the book to use for the school year.  I will be making a number of charts to collect data from as well.  It is well written and easy to read.  There are scenarios to help build conceptual understanding (many of the names I recognized!), as she practices what she teaches in the text!  Thanks for a good read Jodi!


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