Saturday, February 18, 2017

Celebrating Being on my Quest

I held onto my OLW - quest for 2017.  I knew that I wasn't finished with the journey that I would be on to as I continue as a student of writing.   I am excited to be celebrating Ruth's writing courses.  She hooked me when I watched her first video and she discussed how overwhelmed she was with grading 100 writing assignments. I've read several different articles about becoming a stronger teacher of writing, and for now,  I have a system that is working for me.  I am quite excited about it because it's manageable which is the key to implementation.

Collaboration:  During our workshop, we discussed what were the key components that everyone focused on while writing their informational essay.  My writers came up with a list of five. Done, simple,  and most importantly easy to assess.

  • strong opening (lead)
  • content specific vocabulary
  • body - flow and stronger sentences
  • choosing important evidence
  • strong closing (wrap it up)

Grading:  I have 26 writers in my class this year, and I read and evaluated 6 a night which I could manage.  I had a goal, and I succeeded. I only graded for the five components and wrote down notes for each writer, so I could gather information to inform next week's instruction.

Grouping:  On the fifth night, I looked for patterns which would be a an important review for mini lessons.  I have read several articles about writing partners, and intentional talk.  

I've had some time to reflect on this process, and I am celebrating my quest for being a stronger teacher as well as implementing several ideas that Ruth has shared with us.  I am anxious to return to school on Tuesday and share the plan for the week with my writers.  Thanks friends for sharing in this week's celebration and continuing on my quest with me.  


This warmed my heart as I read Tara's comment.
I am thankful to have friends like Ruth and Tara to lead
me as a writer. 



Saturday, February 11, 2017

Celebrate: Yes to Parent Teacher Conferences

I am thankful for a long busy hard week.  That doesn't mean that I am not exhausted and barely made it through yesterday teaching. We just finished parent teacher conferences which are in the evening at my school for two nights from 4:15-9:00 if you're last conference ends on time.  Spring conferences are different for me.  When I speak to the parents, I know their child much better.  I know what their child likes to do in/out of school, their friends, their favorite subjects and areas of growth that we will focus on as we complete the second trimester of fifth grade.  I am celebrating that my parents genuinely were interested in the areas I mentioned above and not test scores.  Test scores are not a dirty word in my vocabulary; however they are a small part of the puzzle.  Nothing makes me happier than when I share celebrations that include:

  • --- is a vivacious reader reading twice as many books this trimester.
  • ---is a stronger mathematician and persevered with long division
  • ---is a growing writer who is writing longer paragraphs with amazing vocabulary
  • ---is a historian who loved our European Explorer unit
  • ---is a wordsmith and collected 28 idioms in her word notebook
  • ---is a friend who is willing to help all students when they struggle with learning
  • ---is a hugger and everyday before she enters the room I get a good morning hug
This week I'm celebrating parents who support teachers and appreciate our hard work. I am thankful that I had a busy, tiring week, and I am anxious to read other celebrations.  Oh yea, and take a nap too. 

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Celebration: Update on Horizontal Thinknig


Last Saturday, I posted about "Horizontal Thinking" and the changes I made this year in my instruction about research. Several comments asked me to explain the shift.

BACKGROUND: I have to admit I was that teacher who thought after my students finished their research, they were ready to take their new learning and present it. I thought I was doing a great job with allowing students choice in topic. Mini Lessons including nonfiction text structures (which they have had for three years in a row) focus on summaries and finally choice in their presentation tool.


Ryan says it all....I am thankful for his honesty.
Also he made a pocket book out of envelopes. His research
was inside the pockets. Super creative.
CONVERSATIONS: I worked with our literacy coach, Heather, and we discussed how I wanted to dig deeper in the craft of writing. I wanted to have my group of writers think deeper than just repeating the answers to their 4 questions. This is where I labeled the term vertical vs horizontal thinking. I wanted my writers to look across the research. The link to how this was accomplished is here.

INTERVIEW WITH MY WRITERS in ROOM 234 I shared the comments from last week blog's post with my class, and they were excited that so many teachers had questions about this process. I asked them to share their thoughts:.

EF: horizontal means we look at all of our research and see how it is similar/connects

BV:  you have to dig deeper in your research because you want more than one piece of evidence

AD:  I want to advance my learning, so I asked more advanced questions

AM:  thinking horizontal means not thinking about one question but thinking about all questions

HA: once you found facts that were similar you wrote the facts in your own words

RS:  as a writer you had to choose the best structure which includes sidebar, timeline, index, maps, glossary, photos with captions

LS:  have to organize your thinking (chronological order) so the facts make sense
Students loved learning about sidebars and creating their own model.
JB's dad is an engineer and JB chose his topic because he wanted
to learn more about his dad's career.
FINAL THOUGHTS: As I read through their books, their writing was stronger because they saw connections between their research. Their thinking was deeper because they connected data and built their own graphs, charts or timelines. They didn't just "copy and paste" from the internet. They showed higher level thinking in the craft of writing their research.

I feel a sense of gratitude for my Celebration Community. All week I had a smile on my face as I thought about this blog and writing it. I am so thankful for my writers, and our conversations as we processed the importance of horizontal thinking.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Celebrating: Authors Think Horizontal

I've been enjoying Ruth's emails encouraging different aspects of writing workshop.  I have watched several videos and shared snippets with my writers. This week the writers in Room 234 completed their research. Each writer had a choice on how they wanted to present their new learning. Most students chose to write their book.  The writing process and thinking through their research is a huge celebration!!  I worked side by side our literacy coach, Heather, who helped me think about the structures of nonfiction. The students started with 4 questions then I read their questions, and I wrote one question for each student to extend their thinking.  After they completed their research, the students were thinking "vertically" and ready to lift the facts and "just" write their book.  They were finished (or at least thought they were).  Enter horizontal thinking.

We focused on strong mini lessons, "How did the author share research in this book?"  We completed several circle book passes, and students found graphs, maps, sidebars, vocabulary charts, diagrams, sequence, timelines.  After creating a list, students completed chalk talks. I asked my writers to think "horizontal"  WOW! What a challenge for them.   Asking them to look across their 4 questions.  Prompts included

  • What do you notice about your research?  What do all 4 questions have in common?
  • Do you see any data in your research?
  • Could you create a sidebar with interesting facts?
  • Is there another way to share vocabulary besides a glossary?
  • Could you build a graph that would support your research?
Writing is messy!  I love that quote from Ruth.  I remembered that almost everyday. I am celebrating a writing process that encouraged my writers to think horizontally.  Research is not finished after you, "Google it."  Thanks to Ruth for mentoring me in my writing workshop. Here's the link up for this week's celebrations. 






Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Slice of Life: EnJOYing the Process


Slice of Life as defined by me is when I share small moments not always about my life as a teacher (which is a majority of my blog) but my life beyond education.  I am not sure why I see slices differently. Often I write slices in my notebooks or compose in my head, but I typically don't publish them. 
I believe that's why I chose to hang on my OLW: quest from 2016 you can read here why I made this decision. Our 2017 sermon series at church is entitled “Starting Something New.”  Last week’s sermon was about enjoying the process and not getting so wrapped up in the end result.  I listened intently and reflected about my OLW quest. Pondering about the process of being on a quest?  As I reflect on the steps I took to achieve a goal, most of the time this is where I learned the most about myself. The moments in the process that I didn't see coming. Those moments when I was unsure of which way to turn.  I don’t like to change directions unless I know the reason why. I am hesitant to switch my path once I have figured out which one I am going. But I have learned through life experiences, that my quest is not my journey alone. I am not an island.  I always turn to my family, friends, and prayer.  I am working on enJOYying the process and trying hard not to focus always on the end result. I am excited to be joining the slicing community. Perhaps it's another part of my quest. 



Saturday, January 14, 2017

Celebrate: Discovery and Conversations


Dropping in and listening carefully during reading workshop.  Choosing to be quiet and listen to the conversations around 8 vocabulary words: tobacco, pry, destination, conductor, quilt, beckoned, lineage, and station.  There were three directions: find a friend, discuss how the words are connected and make a prediction about what the play will be about.  Finally write your thinking down in your reading spiral.

I am celebrating allowing students the opportunity to think around 8 vocabulary words. Half of the words were unfamiliar to them, and I celebrate them working with a peer to discover the definition and confirming with a dictionary. Reteaching the importance of guide words and also choosing which definition works best for the similarities was a celebration. As students grouped the words, several comments were made about their predictions.

·      I think the setting will be a long time ago because of the word (quilt)
·      I think the plot will be about a family traveling (destination, conductor, conductor)
·      I think the characters will be a part of a big family (lineage)
·      I wonder if someone will work on a plantation and grow (tobacco) and call their brother to help them (beckoned)

Have you guessed the play? Henry's Freedom Box was our mentor text for the week.  I celebrate allowing students the opportunity to discover and make connections with an important story. Thanks to Ruth for encouraging us to celebrate throughout the week.  I'm excited to read other celebrations from the week. 


Saturday, January 7, 2017

Celebrate: Slowing Down First Three Days of January


Learners of Room 234 came back on Wednesday. We spent almost the entire day in conversations. I decided this year after sharing their favorite memory that we were going to discuss gratitude. I chose to open the conversation with a favorite picture book, Thank You, Mr. Falker. . I believe it is important to teach young learners about being thankful. I purchased thank you cards from Target, so students could have a chance to write a quick note. Most students wrote their parents, some wrote their grandparents and a few wrote a coach.  I celebrate not jumping right into curriculum the first three days back in 2017. I am thankful for my students who spent some time reflecting on their holiday vacation and writing about gratitude.




 I have been struggling with writing lately.  I know that my Saturday Celebrations are important to me in two different ways. First of all the community of writers and the comments that we leave each other encourage me. Second I live differently knowing that I will be posting a celebration on Saturday as I constantly search for that special celebration moment.  Welcome to my first celebration of 2017.