Saturday, August 29, 2015

Celebrating: Letting Go!

let go the first day of school.  

  • I was nervous to leave the supplies open ended, they were thrilled.
  • I was hesitant that everyone would be included, everyone was successful.
  • I was leery when I gave only one direction "Build the tallest free-standing structure" they worked together to build their structure.
  • I wanted to "jump in" and make suggestions, I kept quiet.
  • I wanted to offer encouragement, but I knew that would be teacher "approval."
  • I wasn't sure of the connections they would make, and they made better connections that I could have imagined.
We discussed their learning experience and created the chart above.  I asked them what did they learn as a team?  We connected these ideas to our new school year.  I was impressed with the last one: say something positive first before you make a suggestion.  WOW!  If we accomplished that on day one I think we are set for the year.

TAKE AWAY:  When we step away and allow our students the opportunity for open ended learning (projects, #makespace) there is more commitment and ownership.  Students find creative solutions and most of them I didn't even consider.  I'm excited for the opportunity to continue challenging my students and learning along side them.  It's going to be a GREAT year - Let's celebrate!  Thanks to Ruth for reminding us to celebrate every week. Here is the link for this week.  I'm always thankful for our Saturday time together in the blogging community.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Letting Go - Celebrating Creativity

After reading several blogs, attending Dublin Leadership Academy and having several conversations with colleagues, I am embracing the idea of “letting go.” I spent the summer with my #OLW: reflection.  Thinking about how I can let go and as important allowing students the choices they need to be more independent.  Every step doesn’t have to be planned and every outcome doesn’t have to be known.  I’m doing a little self-talk: take a breath; if you know me this will be a huge learning curve. A focus area for me as a learner and a teacher is going to be celebrating creativity

It’s important to build on what I know. I know the center of our classroom will still focus on inquiry and wonder, which goes hand in hand with allowing students choice especially with collaboration and the opportunity to create. Wonderopolis will continue to be my go to website to celebrate choice in reading as well as allowing students to eventually create their own wonders. 

In the past, my students have completed several first day activities: building a class puzzle, building marshmallow and spaghetti structures, playing fact and opinion. These are all great ideas but again I structured them tightly by Limiting supplies and giving specific directions.  Granted they enjoyed it, but they didn't have the chance to choose their supplies which is a huge part of collaboration with a new group of students. 

The table is set to greet them as they arrive to fifth grade on their first day.
Spaghetti, toothpicks, marshmallows, Duct tape, different size construction paper and containers.
Tomorrow when my students arrive, they are going to see a variety of supplies and my only directions will be to create the tallest structure on Wednesday; Thursday build the strongest structure. After each structure is complete we will discuss the following:
  1. ·      What did you learn about structure as well as working as team?
  2. ·      What are you proud of with the structure and as a team?
  3. ·      What would you change with the structure and as a team? 

I will record their thinking on chart paper..  I will ask each student to write a reflection in their notebook, so that on Friday we can come back to both experiences and compare/contrast them.  My goal is that as a class we will write a class motto for the year and will continue to reflect on these experiences throughout the year.  More to follow who knows what will happen after all I'm letting go.....

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Why I Blog.

Why blog?  I've been asking this question frequently in my mind and even asked a few close friends. The answer has been blurry for me and lately I have had more reasons why not vs. why to continue to write.  I've been struggling last school year and even more this summer.  I've been thinking about it all the time: lying in the hammock, morning walks, gardening, and sitting in the rocking chair. I've been searching for answers.  Here is what I've figured out about blogging.

  • Blogging isn't necessarily about what ends up in the blog.  I compose posts all the time in my mind actually this is probably the number one reason I have a blog. I'm always thinking about what to share or what not to share.  How to say this but not say that?  The process is huge for me.
  • Blogging is my lifeline for my PLN.  I wouldn't be where I am today as an educator with out my extended learning including my NCFL family and support of twitter friends. There are numerous times when I was at the end of the rope and a comment, tweet or text pulled my through.  I wonder how someone in another state can know me better than my colleagues I work with everyday.
  • Blogging is my connection with reality. My reality of putting pencil to paper in my notebook or typing on Google docs. The reality of asking my students to write and seeing that look on their face of horror and being able to say I know how you feel because I felt the exact same way.  Then open up my writer's notebook and share my story with them.
  • Blogging pushes me in a direction that I am unsure but somehow want to end of there. Well doesn't that sound like life...pushing forward and not sure of the path your'e on.  
I'm not going to promise that I am back to full throttle, but I know that I need to continue to blog because the thinking in my head, the writing on paper and the commorodity with my PLN is something that I cherish.  Here's to another school year - welcome back to those who already started as well those of you who are still basking in the summer glow. 

Found this gem on our sailing trip this summer.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Digital Reading: Chapters 6 - 7

It’s always fun learning together and having conversations about books. This is true in my classroom and even more in the summer when I have time to reflect (OLW15) on my learning.  #cyberPD has been a perfect combo for summer learning. A huge thanks to everyone who has been posting their thinking and commenting!

Chapter 6:  Assessment: Keeping Our Eye on the Literacy
This chapter made my heart happy.  I have been shifting my literacy assessments over the past several years to more of a "conversation" with students about their books.  I've never done required reading logs (page number contracts etc) because I believe that killed reading for our own two children in elementary school. My students write me letters about their current reading book and I write back to them. A few years ago that switched from pencil/paper to Google.  That switch really helped me for convenience and also 24/7 communication with my students through commenting.  On page 98 "'s important to keep parents and families in the loop."  Google has allowed me to do this easily,  I often share a letter with a parent or send it as an attachment if they don't have a Google account.  Most of my shares are positive and allowing parents to see what their child is reading and to see their thinking about the book. At fifth grade, most students are still not sharing their HW with their parents, so this has been a positive communication tool with parents. Sometimes they even join in on the conversations by leaving a comment which is powerful.   

Chapter 7:  Beyond the Classroom Walls:  Connecting Reading at Home and School
I think I was most excited to read this chapter.  It our busy world I am constantly trying to connect home and school beyond the weekly Friday folder.  I know that  I have done that with the weekly reading reflections, but beyond that point I have not figured it out.  My first thought always moves toward the Flip Classroom and shifting HW.   It's been on my radar for at least two years now and every summer I try and tackle it a little bit more.  Time at school is precious but time at home is even more precious.  As a parent of two grown children, I remember the busy sports/CCD/scouts nights and then HW.  I am still pondering how to connect HW to school so that it's not an add on but in addition to the classroom learning.  It's still an enigma to me that I will continue to ponder.

Summer Blogging Break:
Summer has been refreshing, slowing down and reflecting (OLW15) has been exactly what I needed. As this posts, we will be on our summer vacation, and I'm sad that I am going to miss the final Twitter Chat.  A huge thanks to Cathy, Laura and Michelle for organizing another successful #cyberPD.  I will be back sometime in late August ready to share new ideas and ready for the start of a new school year.  

Monday, July 13, 2015

Digital Reading Chapters 3 - 5

Big Ideas from Chapter 3, 4 and 5
  • "Each day they used a new tool because it fit their need or purpose at that moment."p. 28
  • "They were using s particular piece of technology when it made sense for their learning." p. 28
  • "I use tools in ways that extend, expand, analyze and record my reading." p. 29
  • "Focusing on the learning rather than the tool created a more authentic workshop" p. 32
  • "Students need us to help them navigate the strategies and habits..." p. 47
  • "Sometimes the best strategy for a teacher is to simply get out of the way." p. 63

Knock me over as I read Ann Marie's tips....the idea of integrating tech tips into your weekly schedule.  I have read about this concept in different formats and still don't find time in our classroom schedule.  Last year, I did a much better job of building a Digital Menu.  Introducing our class to a new tool allowing time for exploration and practice then allowing choice in the lesson.  It was 50/50 some students went back to their favorite (Keynote, Explain Everything, Comic Life) others would try the new tool.  This year I plan to do a combination of new digital tools and allow the students to choose which one they are an expert in and letting them teach it to their peers.  Less reliance on me and more ownership on them.  

Finally I really enjoyed reading the Voices from the Classroom.  My biggest learning typically comes from hands and eyes on in the classroom. In all these sections, I learned a new strategy or how to modify ones that I am currently using.  It was fun to learn about a few new websites.  I am also thankful for the opportunity to write a section for a voice in the classroom and sharing my experiences with Wonderopolis.  Reflecting on my own practices helped me think deeper and becoming published in a book is now off my bucket list.  Thanks Franki for inviting me to write a small part in your book. 

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Celebrating #SummerPD at Home

Time to Celebrate thanks to Ruth for always encouraging us to choose celebration!
This week's link up is here.

It's still raining in Ohio...plans had to change and gardening has been difficult.  I kept thinking the rain would stop, but it hasn't  I celebrate the time it has created for my summer learning.   I didn't have to go any further than my back deck. I am celebrating a balance with my book choices: adult, children and professional books.  None of those decisions are ever easy for me and finding a balance can sometimes drive me crazy.  

My professional book:  READERS FRONT & CENTER by Dorothy Barnhouse is a grand slam for me.  I've been struggling with my reading conferences and here are several ideas I'm lifting from  this book which is why it s a home run.  

  • "I had fallen into the trap that if a student retells a story that means they are getting it" p. 16
  • "So you're rereading to try to figure it out. That's a great strategy. What makes you think it's a ----" p. 18
  • "Oh you're changing your mind: How come? What information in the text is telling you it could be a ----" p. 19
  • Staying in a researcher mode is key to a conference. "What can I find out about this student as a reader?" p. 20
  • "Every text has an opening that allows us to notice how our students are comprehending." Accepting this takes an enormous shift in attitude, frankly a text does have right and wrong answers. p. 22
I'm only on Chapter 3 and I had to stop and blog...needed time to start recoding my ideas and gathering great questions as I get ready for revamping my conferences this fall.  

Monday, July 6, 2015

Digital Reading: Chapters 1 & 2

How I read professional books has changed over the years.  I am curious about the author’s word choice so I find myself collecting vocabulary words and writing them in the margins.  In Chapter 1 & 2 I noticed:
·      Motivation
·      Intention
·      Flexible
·      Superficial
·      Rigorous
·      Interact
·      Ownership

In both chapters: Defining Digital Literacy and From Reading Workshop to Digital Reading Workshop, the first step is determining the intention of the lesson and increasing the motivation for all students. Motivation is varied among students: digitally it could include the flexibility of: BYOB device, class devices, Kindles as well as blogging, websites, and digital magazines. As the teacher I always take ownership of knowing my students as readers and writers through conferences. My goal is that the mini lessons will increase the rigor at the same time “being aware that some students may interact at a superficial level.” This was a key point for me as I read about Marissa. I reflected on this year’s class and know that I had a few Marissa’s.  How did I help them achieve ownership of their reading?  I was still giving them 2-3 book choices in March when they couldn’t find a JR book.

It is always gratifying to me when I read a professional book and in my head I can say “Yes I am doing that" or “Hooray I’ve tried those websites>" Sometimes in education we need to be our own cheerleaders.  As I finished, chapter 2, I started to think about the statement that was posed: What is my vision for my digital workshop for the 2015-16 school year.  I am constantly thinking about how to make it stronger and I’m sure as I continue to read the rest of the book I will continue to lift the best ideas out of Digital Reading:  What’s Essential in Grades 3-8 in addition to reading the blog posts.

I am excited to learn along with you, and I'm thankful to Cathy, Laura and Michelle for hosting #cyberPD.  Here is the link up for this week.