Janice Smith

JANICE SMITH

Um Janice Smith, I teach seventh grade at Rayburn Intermediate School in Clovis Unified and um I forgot what else you asked me.

Oh, OK. J-A-N-I-C-E Janice Smith is S-M-I-T-H.

OK

OK. Um before I began to teach reading and I had my degree I taught academic block here in the valley and I taught history, reading and writing together. And so I believe very strongly that kids needs need to be engaged in literacy activities such as real experiences, high interest um text, that they feel like they can make connections to, making that text a text self in world connection. Um and because we do those kinds of things in my classroom I think we ultimately help the whole child become a more literate person, rather than I could be teaching my reading class with workbooks and that kind of thing but instead I’ve learned so much from being here at this college with through Learning Edge and Dr. Mason that it’s um it’s made my kids want to know things, to learn rather than me teaching them how to read, they read to learn.

Well, I really feel strongly that the fact that in elementary school we spend a lot of time on teaching kids narrative, teaching kids about story and responding to story. Maybe not even responding, they end up summarizing. And that’s good but we need to do more of that analytical kinds of thinking and getting them to respond to reading. But when they come to me I find they’re they’re limited with informational text, expository text and they really don’t have the background to be able to read articles that um of interest that they’ve never heard about. So what I try to do is get them involved in uh things that they like to read about teenagers and about heroes and about bullies and about their heritage and what have you. And um connecting them more with informational and persuasive text. That’s where they seem to struggle. And then that carries over into the content area of his, of science and um other areas because that’s where their reading is hard. And so I try to support that in my reading class.

Uh hmm

Well, um when I started at this school three years ago I was the seventh grade reading specialist. And we would, I was designed to help, our class was designed to help the students with their history and language curriculum which is what I still continue to do but I mentor other teachers in science showing them how to make responses to information they read, to graph uh information that that’s all text that they need to learn to understand whether it’s for test taking situations or real world experiences. Um, we now have a teacher that I’ve just hired, in eighth grade reading strategies who will support the science curriculum by giving them and showing them how to just make logs of entries um to go outside and check out the environment um with real world situations um giving them articles to read and showing them how to take notes from them, showing them how a textbook works, supporting the science curriculum with um the language uh by giving them opportunities to read aloud stories that relate to the content area, uh do projects related to the content area. Ah keeping kids interested but yet in that they don’t realize they’re actually learning more about reading and more about writing. Teaching them that um science has to be written. It’s got a subject matter and they’re gonna be a reader as well and they have to write and so helping them make all these connections together I think is important. And um---

clears throat

OK. I’ll relate that to history because that’s what I’ve used in the past rather than science text. But um for example if we were learning about um the middle ages and my kids are second language learners. I’ve always taught ELD classes and SNY (sp?) classes. So one of my classes would be the children and those students who had a second language, English as a second language. And so we would spend time reading together in partnerships, um (clears throat) looking through the whole chapter, kind of skimming it, showing them the titles, um the side sections, all those wonderful features that textbook people say they put in to help our students but nobody as a teacher kind of sometimes points that out for them. And helping them close the book and saying to them ‘OK let’s just think about what was it about. Those big ideas rather than getting them weighed down in words because kids stop reading and they become disinterested and discouraged because they can’t read that. But when you when you have that whole class discussion or those partnerships and you say ‘Oh, it was about castles.’ OK and writing that on the board. And ‘Oh, it was about kings.’ OK. And so when you put all that together then becoming that chunking situation where you show them Hah, that chunks together. And maybe visually, artistically drawing things or building something and using those sign systems of art and those kinds of things to help them understand all that relating back to ‘see how simple the text is to read.’ And not making it so frightening or um somewhere where they can’t reach because they can’t read the words.

clears throat

For my bilingual students as opposed to my non-bilingual students, their reading needs, their writing needs?

Um, (slight pause) I think that their confidence level is similar in that they have a l, a they don’t have much of co, of a confidence level. They’re, they don’t feel good about, because they’ve always been in situations where they had to get all the words right when then read or they had to have a perfect written paper when they wrote. And um a often maybe forgetting about the process. And I think they all kind of struggle with that simil, similar thing whether you’re teaching bilingual kids or or other students. They both have those challenges to face because my bilingual kids will come and they know all the syntax. They know where to put the periods and the question marks and things but they don’t understand that language is meaningful and that what they’re reading has a meaning. And um the same with my other students. I have about 240 students in my classroom, not all at once (giggle). I have twelve halves of classes and um they all come where they don’t read for pleasure. Um they’d never pick up the newspaper to read that informational text. And when I introduce them to persuasive kind of writing they all seem to really want to know how to do that. Because I ho, hopefully will teach them that they’re growing up to be in society and they have a voice and they need to uh share their voice and their opinions because they will be the leaders of the world you know when they grow up. So, I hope that answered your question, an answer.

Hmm

Well, when I first, the first year I taught, I guess I did what everybody else did. I grabbed onto every little booklet you could find to help teach that content. And the ‘Ahas’ have been through this college. Um I wouldn’t be the same person, um because I was supported. I was believed in as a learner. I felt um, I built confidence to know that I could do anything I set my mind to. And because of that um I think I discovered the gift that I have of passion for what I do. Um I love every single day I go into my classroom. And despite the fact that I teach twelve classes of reading, every one of them are different because the ‘Ahas’ are getting to know my students and building community. And once you begin to know the people in your room um it’s a remarkable change than just saying, ‘I have to teach these kids how to read.’ There’s all kinds of wonderful things that happen. So um in my years of experience it’s been my passion that has been driving me and um the Learning Edge program here with Dr. Mason has been a major Aha for me because she taught me that kids need to learn to love to read and write. And that’s what hopefully I teaching them. But at the same time building their spirit, building their um confidence level and um (giggle) I don’t know.

Well, I think in the beginning when the class comes in I spend a lot of time what my students reading with them, writing with them and just sitting down next to someone and not that readi you know reading aloud around a table, but just sharing kinda in the dialogue in a in a grand conversation type situation where you’re not the one asking questions to get answers, but that you’re facilitating and you’re working with students as I would with my adult friends reading that helps. I’m sorry I lost your question

OK

And so I use a variety of things. We have a literature log that we double entry journals with, um I keep a portfolio in my classroom whereby they collect articles and um we do poetry and ah everything that we do in our classroom is kept in there so at any point I can take home their interactive notebook out of there which is a place where they, we learn note taking, or whatever we learned during the course of the class time. We may glue something in there, we may write something. I take them after class and I skim through them quickly. That’s how I drive my instruction, to let myself know who’s got it, who didn’t get it, where where maybe the whole class is as a whole. And maybe this class is gonna be different from my next class so that’s why I think it’s exciting for me because they all are different and they learn so differently. Um I do an assessment in the beginning of the year that I’ve learned that how Bobbi, Dr. Mason, does things here at the college. I give them a narrative piece of reading, an expository piece of reading, and a writing small prompt and um I score that holistically. They get that again in about April or May and uh it’s remarkable, they all just zoom because they’re read so much all year. And um so those are the kinds of things, I do a pass / fail grade in my class. I don’t have to give them another grade.

Sigh

Yeah, I have many of those wonderful stories. On in particular was two years ago. One of my little boys came to me who hadn’t been in school for a while. Um family, in a situation divided where um he had only had a few years of schooling. And um I guess he was about when I did what we call an miscue analysis of reading about a second grade level, if he was that. And I’d, I found that I provided a lot of opportunities for him to be with kids uh partnering, reading out loud with each other. Just in snuggling up on the sofa enjoying a picture book. Um I used to send picture books and things that we would select together um for him to go home and try to read through, or his grandma would read to him. Uh spent a lot of time, my my instructional assistant read with him out loud, just letting him hear the rhythm of language and write about it, respond to it, and draw pictures of it, um all kinds of activities s, like that. And by the time he left at the end of that year he was able to at least respond to a prompt in his seventh grade level. No, it wasn’t the best but he had made remarkable growth and he felt good about himself. Because when you’re in seventh grade and you have to compete at a second grade reading level it’s really tough. So he would be one story that I know that, I have many but that one’s one that stands out.

Yeah

Oh, yeah

Uh hmm

Well, one of the things that I think I promote at my school is we’ve built a Title 1 library with our funds. We call it the Title 1 Library. And I’ve built sets of books for them to do literacy circles together. Um, ah most of my seventh grade colleagues, and eighth grade colleagues, and tenth grade and eleventh grade colleagues come and they want to share my articles that I have crates of different articles. And we make connections together. That’s what happens, you know. I’m doing something with blank blank blank. What can you connect with. And I want them to know that I’m their biggest resource because I’m the person that has hopefully been able to make those kinds of connections by connecting with all the teachers you get things from everybody. So if you’re teaching Middle Ages or you’re teaching the Civil War hopefully, I’ve got an article or a pu piece of poetry or a great book to connect with aa or I can guide them to that place. Um teaching them that what did you children read today, what did they write today? I think that’s most important because we often get involved in answering the questions at the back of the history book or doing our vocabulary work. Or doing our line a day. And I don’t um support that very much because I think that kids need to be having discussions and reenacting and building and um writing stories in in perspective of the king or what have you. So my teachers do come to my classroom often to pick my brain or whatever to share. We sit down and we work together and we work on what they’re working on. Hopefully, I’m the person that they need that stuff from they can they can come get that or I’ll sit down and work with them or spend days off with them, go on field trips with them if I can you know, that kind of stuff.

Hmm

Hmmm. Well, I don’t know if it’s my main point, but one of the things that kind of is a pet peeve that bothers me is that we take language away from students when they’re little and then when we get to high school we want them to learn a language. And instead of preserving that beautiful language and culture that they have already. Um not thinking that children because they come from another language are stupid or they don’t have the knowledge. They have lots of wonderful stories. They have lots of wonderful things to share. And we should celebrate each other rather than worry about having so many differences. Um, I’m kind of blank.

Uh huh

Uh huh

Oh

Uh huh

I would want them to be patient as a teacher. I would want them understa, I wish the people above the people in Utah would know that we don’t have silver bullets for those children. That we need to let them um become the holistic child that they should be. Uh, they need opportunities to be able to read and write at their own pace without trying to test them and expect them to be at the same level as our children who have gone to school throughout the whole time they’ve been in this country. Um, to also recognize that they come with a wealth of wonderful things to bring, you know because if we’re learning about another culture in our class, well, maybe our Mong kids can you know help us out with those kinds of things. We need to uh know that they’re valued. We need to celebrate their their value in our classroom. Um coming from back East originally in my life, I didn’t have a lot of diversity growing up as I do here as a teacher. And um sometimes I think it’s difficult for teachers to differentiate their curriculum for the various cultures, the various levels, the various amounts of different kinds of things that are happening in a classroom. Uh you know I may have in one classroom ten boys who are at second, third, fourth, fifth, all different levels of reading. Um plus their language is limited as well. And um I need to provide them books with in their own language. I need to bring in guest speakers to help them understand. Read to them in Mong if that’s the case or Spanish or have aides that help and assist students with those issues to help understand the content because that here in California we’ve at least helped with SNY (sp) classes where we’re making the curriculum more comprehensible and our ELD classes we’re building language development. And I don’t believe that we understand that in other areas because um they think we abandon the curriculum and we just help them teach them English but that’s not the case whatsoever. We have to just help them understand it in a better way for them to learn it um rather than changing it.

That’s OK

Maybe a blitz of my little face will be on there I don’t know. Laugh

End of Tape

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Wise: BEEDE Fresno
Janice Smith