Friday, July 24, 2015

Reading & Reflecting on Student Goals Increase Literacy

I love making goals! In fact, when I thought about writing this blog on goal setting and reflecting on reading,  I thought back to some of my life-long accomplishments that were a result of setting goals, and was surprised to realize that my earliest goal was at the age of four. Now I have to admit, that particular goal came about because of a sad home life, so this introduction is a bit sad, but the ending is quite joyous! So stick with me.

I remember looking into the refrigerator and seeing a keg of beer and a jar of mayonnaise, and saying out loud to myself, "Someday I'm going to have a refrigerator with food in the frig instead of beer." Unfortunately I did say that same phrase many times.

Haveing dealt with hunger at a very young life, I often wonder what my my students are dealing with. I know that there are life circumstances that hinder efforts in the classroom, so I try to make learning as enjoyable as possible. I was lucky. I had grandparents to help out and then later foster parents. Somehow I knew that to have food in the refrigerator, I would need money. To have money, I would need a good job. To get a "good" job, I would need to go to college which meant that I needed good grades. Nobody told me these things, but somehow I figured them out. I didn't know it then, but I was at the bottom of my class in reading, and I was lucky enough to be at the top of my class in math. There were very few word problems, so I could get by with pictures.
Courtesy of Educlips

I started making little goals while in elementary school (although I didn't know they were called goals at the time). I looked at the other kids and wanted to fit in. I wanted to be able to read out loud so I practiced little parts of the reading and waved my hand like crazy so the teacher would let me read. I wanted to create cool reports the ways the smart kids did, so I asked them where they got the pictures or how they knew to include certain things, and those same kids were generous and explained it to me. I wanted to be friends with the smart kids, so I hung out with them (I didn't ask permission)  .... the story goes on, and I accomplished all of those early goals, and continued to set goals. One Jr. High goal came from sitting at one of my foster sister's high school graduation. I noticed that some kids had white tassels and some gold. There were a few kids that had gold cords around there necks. I asked another sister who was also watching the graduation about them. She explained how those were extra smart kids and that the gold tassels were special achievements. I told her I would be wearing two gold cords when I walked down the isle for my hight school graduation. Her response was, and I quote "No way! you have to be very smart. You'll never make it." It was at that moment, I began to work for those gold tassels, which now sit in my office and smile at me as they collect dust. It was also during that same graduation ceremony
Public Domain
that the dream of going to college began. Without parents, college seemed an impossibility; however I sat there and observed four students being awarded a 4-year college scholarship. Of course those graduates had on two gold cords each ~ so now I had a way to go to college, and you can bet I started working toward that goal. Not being a naturally smart kid, I had my work cut out for me, but I did reach my goals. As a teacher I realize that I set goals, and then put in the action. Without putting in the action, I would not have made my goals. Action is the key!
Public Domain at drop by to see hundreds of great clip art.

So onto "Reading and Reflecting"

I begin the year with students drawing their hands and writing 5 goals. They decorate their hands, and I hang them up. (I created a powerpoint for this - which of course is on my school computer, but I'll retrieve it later and post it when I can). This was one of the first pictures I found on Pinterest and it is still one of my favs. My students do this on the first day each year.

Later in the day I introduce this booklet to my students and we discuss how to set goals. I use
these 1/2 sheet pages and the student write down three things they can do to reach the goal. Last year I used a whole sheet where students wrote down their reflections, but my students did have success with that part, so this year they will just highlight the thing they did to help them reach the goal, and in small groups we will orally discuss the successes and challenges to see what can be done to improve themselves. I will also group the students based on their AR points, personalities and not worry so much about their reading level for these discussions. I tried this out last year and discovered that students really began to encourage each other and meet outside of class to read. Many of them read the same books. It was a magical moment because students really bonded over reading. They had fun with it and shared excitement with each others accomplisments. As a result, I saw some amazing leaps in DRA scores as the students developed a "love of reading". And let's face it, as teachers,  "Love of Reading" and "Life Long Learners" is what we are all about!

I have them set the goal of 5 AR points for the first month. Since many students get stuck on what to write down, I use the brainstorming my class from last year created...
I also show an example graph that students will fill out:

I will also have students track their monthly AR percentage on tests.

The materials above can be purchased in my TpT Store in two forms:
  1. My Monthly Reading Goals ~ Beach Themed
  2. Beach Themed Reading Tools ~ Triple Treat 3 bundled products.

Back to Goal Setting:

I have a minumum goal for students each month. Last year, I was a bit over zealous with my goal setting, so this year it will be more realistic. The goals begin in September because we often have technological difficulties that prevent students from using the computers at first. I still have August listed on the graphs in case we get a quick start, which will only help them achieve their goals.

Here are the Minimum Monthly AR Points:
  • 5:     September
  • 10:   October
  • 15:   November
  • 20:   December
  • 25:   Vacation
  • 30:   January
  • 40:   February
  • 50:   March
  • 60:   April
  • 75:   May
  • More Levels for students who do above the minimum: 
    •   85,   100,   110,   
    • 125,   150,   175,   200,   
    • 225,   250,   275,   300,   
    • 325,   350,   375,   400,
    • 425,   425,   450,   500
I use a classroom clip chart to showcase student progress. Here is a picture of my last year's clip chart. You will notice my levels were a bit harder to reach, so I have to modify it before my new class arrives.

I was taking every thing down when I realized I did not have one picture for my glog, so I threw a few flip flops up. Next year I will have surf board clips, because the flip flops actually go with a writing clip chart that needs its clips back.

If you are interested in more of my Beach Themed Products, click on the link for more information.

Reward System:

I do have a reward system, but this blog entry is getting very long, so I will discuss my reward system tomorrow.

I would love to know how you promote reading in your classrooms, so please drop me a line.

1 comment:

  1. Wow, very inspirational personal story and a great lead-in to the "goal setting"
    I enjoyed all of it.