Friday, April 11, 2014

Slice of Life: Connected Readers

I'm celebrating on a Friday night. I'm happy on a Friday night not because it's Friday although I am thankful for this weekend.  If you're reading this I hope you're a teacher because you might just think I am a little crazy. For those of you who know me, I can hear a few snickers.  I'm celebrating because I have been reading my students' Google JR reflections for the past few hours. Although I stopped to make my fish sticks and brought them over to the computer so I could keep reading, I stopped to get more Hellmann's Tarter Sauce because it's the best. And I kept on reading, I couldn't stop.

I introduced digital reading logs this week. My students are going to track their reading along with setting their goals for the week and we have started reading reflections.  This was a crazy but fun week.  Only one afternoon was normal and so something had to go. I wasn't going to lose the chance to set up 24/7 reading connections with my students. The power in 24/7 talk is huge. I was feeling horrible that I had not conferences with every student about their book this week, but now I have. At the time of this post, three students already commented back to me, and they have a new plan for reading this weekend. I would not suggest all 24 on the same day, but I am thrilled to know that all my students are connected and ready to read this weekend.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Pondering Process vs. Product

Last week I had three meetings about literacy.  All three meetings were optional, and I chose to attend them because the focus was on how to use technology within workshop. I am always interested in how other teachers are choosing to use technology especially in the elementary grades.  All three meetings had a consistent theme: 

Value the process of learning as much as the product. 

This really gave me reason for pause.  I value all my fifth graders gathering together for our mini lesson. Although mini and gathering have shifted the last several weeks in my class, mini is not the word I would have used to describe the opening of our workshops.  Three weeks prior to state testing, I have to admit the mini have become maxi. As far as gathering, always it seems after Spring Break, I have several students that ask if they can bring their chairs and sit on the outside edges of the circle.  I don’t mind, I guess, well maybe I do?  It just seems to me that there is not the same feeling of collaboration with 1/2 on the floor and 1/2 on stools. To be honest they have hard time writing on their lap and the "drops" happen quite frequently.  But I am getting over that because there are too many fish to fry right now.

Back to the process, if I am honest the process is what I care most about.  The whole class conversations, the turn and talk, and light bulb moments that happens in workshop. Those are the power moments when I think silently – yes we made it to the top of the mountain today!   My shift includes switching to Google for small groups of collaboration.  This week two of my groups will to collaborating through Google docs. 

  • The first group will be studying individual Seymour Simon books and creating one or two digital pages within a class book. Their focus will be on searching for cause/effect relationships. 
  • The second group will be reading a story from Cynthia Rylant's book: Every Living Thing and answering questions through a form that I created. In addition sharing their thoughts about the story with members in their group. 
In these incidents, I am excited about the product as well as the process. I am happy that the small groups of 4-6 students will be able to collaborate and share their thinking. I know I will continue to ponder this dilemma (question) through out summer.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Celebrate Saturday

Today I had the opportunity to attend Central Ohio's Literacy Connection and listen to Ruth Ayres talk about celebrating readers and writers. When the alarm went off this morning for the exact time that I get up through Monday-Friday, I popped out of bed with a quicker step. I was excited to see Ruth today because for several weeks her 40 Stories  posts have really touched me.  Her strength and convictions are inspiring to me both as a mother and teacher. I will be reflecting on all of these take away moments for several days if not weeks probably though the summer.
  • Does it make a difference?  It only takes one person to help someone not feel invisible.
  • Take the time to tap your visual story.
  • This is what we've been discussing in workshop. Where do you see it in your writing?
  • Sharing books outside of school like a doctors office. Widening the audience.
  • Teaching 1 or 2 points is better than focusing on several points.
  • Teach the craft and the process.
  • Celebration = reflect + response + rejoice
For more celebrations head over to Ruth's blog: Discover, Play Build. Thanks Ruth for continuing to remind all of us to find the celebration in every life moment.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Nonfiction Digital Research Projects: Part 3

This is the last of a three part series.  Part 1 was about my shift in thinking about nonfiction and part 2 was about the instructional practices.  

I heard about Thinglink several times in twitter chats especially #5thchat. I was intrigued by the opportunity to combine facts, photos and videos. I sat up a teacher account for free, and I received individual emails and passwords. It is very teacher friendly. I wanted to continue our writer's workshop but integrate technology. The power of connecting their writer's notebook and their final digital presentation was important because my goal continues to focus on the best tool for the project. I have never assigned research topics, but I am totally guilty for spending way too much time on one research project.  From start to finish, we completed our first round of research in two weeks.  The students really enjoyed this project, and I want to share some of their reflections. There was a huge shift in their thinking about technology and how they have redefined research. 

Here are a few example enjoy!

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Google and Fireworks a Great Thing

Digital writing has skyrocketed in my classroom since I introduced Google. To be able to connect with my students 24/7 is really exciting. I thought I would be overwhelmed, but I am still in control of my own timeframe. It’s been exciting to give feedback on stories that my two girls are coauthoring. To see them using the writing process digitally is powerful, and they started with a web of ideas and quickly figured out each of them should use a separate color font to differentiate their ideas. In addition, my students are willing to try all different (types of tools) within CREATE:  (see I'm so new I don't even know what you call these).

Google exploded into math class last week because I gave the option for our students to write about their cooking homework using Google. It was exciting because one girl learned how to insert photos and add captions sharing how she was making pumpkin bread. Another photo was of a student in the grocery store in front of the dairy counter comparing quarts and pints. Smiling proudly holding milk, who knew digital learning could include grocery shopping?

Where do I start with Spring Break conversations? Fireworks are exploding. I tossed out an idea to consider your life as a writer during Spring Break. Think about this question: How do your five senses influence your vacation?  I suggested taking photos or writing down ideas in Google.  I just finished checking my Google account, and I am super impressed with the writers of 228.  I also just posted my attempt to share with them. Tomorrow we will start our writing workshop conversations looking at authentic student work. I’m excited to see where this conversation leads us.