Teaching With Intention Book Study - Chapters 5 & 6

I'm back from my week of professional development with the Hawaii Writing Project! Today we will be chatting about chapters of 5 and 6 of Teaching with Intention by Debbie Miller.

To start at the beginning of this book study with me:
If you are interested in getting college credit from Concordia University for joining this book study, you can get all the details hereIt costs $127 and you can join in just by following along and sharing your thoughts in the comments. At the end of the book study, you will have to complete a written assignment summarizing what you learned and how you will apply it.

Don't forget to make your Book Study Journal!


Chapters 5 & 6

My favorite quote of this chapter was on page 68.  Debbie tells us that the point of her telling us about the schema lesson isn't so we would duplicate it (which, of course, we are free to do).  But "the point is to know who you are and what you're about when you're teaching based on your beliefs, your students, and the environment you are creating."  That is so powerful.  That gives teachers the reassurance that we are doing good work in our classrooms.  It helps us know that if our hearts and heads are in the right place, we will make good decisions for our students. 

On page 69, Debbie quotes Frank Smith, a psycholinguist who was an important contributor in reading process research:
We can only learn from activities that are interesting and comprehensible to us; in other words, activities that are satisfying.  If this is not the case, only inefficient rote-learning, or memorization, is available to us and forgetting is inevitable.
I have had a lot of training in teaching ELLs.  I am GLAD (Guided Language Acquisition Design) certified, took a college course on the SIOP model, and was trained in Susana Dutro's Focused Approach to ELD.  Even though I only had 4 ELL students last year, I still teach my lessons with ELL strategies in mind because I feel that they help make knowledge accessible and comprehensible for all students.  So, for example, I try to be very explicit in my thinking while I am reading aloud, no matter what the purpose of the book is.  I may be reading a book about the pumpkin life cycle, but I'll still think aloud about words that are tricky or new information that I think is interesting.  I also try to teach with a lot of visuals.  I am not an auditory learner, myself.  I would never expect my students to be.  I've blogged a lot about GLAD and ELD.

To make lessons interesting, I try to add in elements of fun, ala Mary Poppins ;)  I try to plan lessons where kids are out of their seats and working with partners or groups.  I also try to choose text that is interesting and fun for them to read.  Adding in technology is a great way to get student buy-in and automatically makes the lesson more fun.  My classroom is definitely not one where students are seated working silently.

The Shark File lesson is a great example of making learning fun and comprehensible.  Students had to get out of their seats to post their sticky note.  They got to work with a partner to read the book.  The teacher helped them think through their schema to help them notice similarities and misconceptions.

I made a printable version of the file folder for you to print, assemble, laminate, and hang in your classroom.  All you need is text and sticky notes!

I've noticed that with the basals I have taught, they focus on skills and not necessarily reading strategies.  This coming year, my school has purchased a new reading curriculum that I will be required to teach.  However, I'll be allowed to supplement based on student need.  I plan to do most of that supplementing in my small groups.  I feel that is a great way to deliver instruction that individual students really need and is a great time for strategy instruction.  Last year I made a set of the beanie baby reading posters and plan to use then with my firsties this year, too.  You can grab your set for free, here.

I also really love the series Comprehension Toolkit.  There are a lot of wonderful lessons around comprehension strategies that can be taught whole group or small group.  I plan to utilize these, as well.

When I was getting my reading endorsement, I made a list of picture books that help teach each strategy.  These titles would be great to add to your "picture book" tab in your Teaching With Intention journal, along with Debbie's awesome list of shark books on page 67.

1. Schema and Connections: What you know about what you are reading 
The Relatives Came by Cynthia Rylant
Fireflies by Julie Brinkloe
My Great Aunt Arizona by Gloria Houston
Koala Lou by Mem Fox
The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats
Hazel’s Amazing Mother by Rosemary Wells
Ira Sleeps Over by Bernard Waber
Amazing Grace by Mary Hoffman
Oliver Button is a Sissy by Tomie dePaola
Roxaboxen by Alice McLerran
The Two of Them by Aliki
Now One Foot, Now the Other by Tomie dePaola
2. Questioning: Expert readers ask questions before, during, and after they read
All I See by Cynthia Rylant
Amelia’s Road by Linda Jacobs Altman
An Angel for Soloman Singer by Cynthia Rylant
Fly Away Home by Eve Bunting
Grandfather Twilight by Barbara Berger
The Lotus Seed by Sherry Garland
Monarch Butterfly by Gail Gibbons
The Stranger by Chris Van Allsburg
The Trumpet of the Swan by E.B. White
Why is the Sky Blue? By Sally Grindley
The Wise Woman and Her Secret by Eve Merriam
Yanni Rubbish by Shulamith Levey Oppenheim
3. Creating mental images: Make a picture in your mind.
Close Your Eyes by Jean Marzollo
Color Me a Rhyme by Jane Yolen
Creatures of Earth, Sea, and Sky by Georgia Heard
Footprints and Shadows by Anne Westcott Dodd
Goodnight to Annie by Eve Merriam
Greyling by Jane Yolen
I Am the Ocean by Suzanna Marshak
Mountain Streams (CD)
The Napping House by Audrey Wood
Night in the Country by Cynthia Rylant
Night Sounds, Morning Colors by Rosemary Wells
Putting the World to Sleep by Shelley Moore Thomas
Quiet, Please by Eve Merriam
The Salamander Room by Anne Mazer
Say Something by Mary Stoltz
What Does the Rain Play? By Nancy White Carlstrom
When I’m Sleepy by Jane R. Howard
Wild, Wild, Sunflower Child by Nancy White Carlstrom
The Zoo at Night by Martha Robinson
4. Inferring: Figure out things the author doesn't tell us (meaning of a word, author’s message, how a character feels, overall events of the story)
Creatures of Earth, Sea, and Sky by Georgia Heard
Fireflies by Julie Brinkloe
Fly Away Home by Eve Bunting
For the Good of the Earth and Sun by Georgia Heard
Grandfather Twilight by Barbara Berger
How Many Days to America? By Eve Bunting
If You Listen by Charlotte Zolotow
Miss Maggie by Cynthia Rylant
Mother Earth, Father Sky by Jane Yolen
Oliver Button is a Sissy by Tomie dePaola
The Royal Bee by Frances Park
Something Beautiful by Sharon Dennis Wyeth
Where Are You Going, Manyoni? By Catherine Stock
Winter Fox by Catherine Stock
5. Determining importance: Find out what are important details in the story you are reading
Dorling Kindersley Readers
I Can Read About…
First Discovery Books
Eyewitness Books
National Geographic for Kids
Time for Kids
Ranger Rick
Zoo Books
Kids Discover
6. Synthesizing: The way your thinking changes as you gather new information
The Alphabet Tree by Leo Lionni
Charlie Anderson by Barbara Abercrombie
Fables by Arnold Lobel
Fredrick’s Fables by Leo Lionni
Oliver Button is a Sissy by Tomie dePaola
The Rag Coat by Lauren Mills
See the Ocean by Estelle Condra
Smokey Night by Eve Bunting
The Story of Jumping Mouse by John Steptoe
The Table Where Rich People Sit by Byrd Baylor
Tea with Milk by Allen Say

I really loved the Lesson Design tool that Debbie shared on page 80.  I think that the questions really help us think about why we are teaching the lessons we are.  It helps us evaluate the lessons.  This is true for any basal we teach, too.  If we can't say why the lesson is important, which standards it covers, or why we are teaching it, then we need to skip it and supplement with something more meaningful.

I think that using this planning sheet for each lesson might be a bit cumbersome.  However, I can see myself using it for units and key lessons.  Hawaii just adopted a new educator evaluation system.  In it, we have to do things called SLOs - Student Learning Objectives.  It's basically a SMART goal with data to prove that our students made progress.  I think that if I used this lesson design tool in conjunction with my SMART goal, I will be able to write a very effective SLO.

By using these, I'll also have a really great outline of my best lessons to use in following years and to share with my colleagues.

I think I am good with the explanation part of the tool.  I like to show kids why we are learning something and how it affects their lives.  I am also good with the explanation/modeling aspect.  I am reminded of when I taught kindergarten in a high ELL school.  80% of my kids did not speak English at all, so I modeled, modeled, modeled! I love to use cooperative groups.  In fact, my students sit in groups at their tables and have an elbow buddy.  Then they sit in assigned spots on the carpet and have a carpet partner.  They also do math centers with a math partner.  THey have multiple opportunities to work with a variety of other students throughout the day to help enhance their understanding of concepts.

Student feedback might be an area that I'll have trouble with.  Last year I implemented a 1-4 formative assessment strategy.  Students could give me a 1-4 hand signal to tell me their understanding.  I also used it to grade their papers.  I felt that since we were both using the same system, they would understand the grading much better.  This year, I want to get better at using the students feedback and recording it for my use: to make my lessons better and to provide necessary review opportunities.

Now it's your turn! What did you think about this chapter? Just chime in on the comments!


  1. Nicole,
    I have a question for you and other teachers. How do you stay current on children's books? I don't know the many of the books that you listed. I seem to be in a rut, using the same titles that I've used for the last ten years.

    1. Hi Brandy!
      I love browsing the children's book section at Barnes & Noble and also Costco for new children's books. Also, checking out the yearly Caldecott lists help find high-quality books.

  2. I'm back wit my thoughts on the chapters. I think that all the years that I have taught kinder and 1st has helped me to be really good at modeling and using gestures to help with understanding. I love using literature to teach and use YouTube quite a bit to make learning fun and connectable. My basal does have strategies to teach but I tend to teach more of the reading strategies outside of the program using big books and other picture books. I want to work on being more planned and deliberate with the strategies I am teaching. I fly by the seat of my pants more than I should.

    Chapter 6 had a lot of good information , but as I was reading, I kept thinking. daily 5 steps to indepence are spot on with what Debbie Miller was saying. I agree with Nicole though when you mentioned how time consuming this would be, especially with first grade where we are constantly switching lessons and activities. I had the same problem when our old principal wanted detailed lesson plans for everything we teach. We had words, since he was a high school teacher. Using the lesson design for big units would be great. I do think it is important to have a plan and reflect on it. Reflection is an area I want to improve, especially having the kids reflect. I want to worry less about the timeline of everything, and reteach when I know it's necessary.

  3. I also agree that as I read Chapter 6, I kept thinking about elements of the Daily 5. This will be my first year implementing it into my classroom.

    I think that Debbie's lesson planning tool may be helpful to use as I think about the big picture of what standards I want to teach and what I want my students to accomplish.

    I think that I do a good job of modeling but would also like to pull in more technology to hook my students. I'll have access to youtube in my classroom this year and my school also bought a subscription to Brain Pop Jr., which I am beyond excited to try out!

    Thank you for all of the wonderful book suggestions and for doing the hard work of matching them up to different skills!

  4. To make lessons interesting I try to plan lessons where kids are out of their seats and working with partners or groups. By choosing text that are engaging and have real world connections children are able to relate and share. I also use the brain files technique, sticky notes, check ins, turn and talks as a great way to keep children motivated and actively engaged.