Saturday, October 14, 2017

Celebrating Conversations

 I am celebrating conversations this week.  Conversations that could have been difficult but turned out to be wonderful.  The first round of parent teacher conferences are complete, and I am thankful when I am discussing my learners with their parents, and we are on the same page.  I don't have to be on the same page; however, when it happens I breathe deeply.  

Have you ever had to say the difficult thing?  Practicing on the way to school, hesitating to share, and feeling nervous. I waited for that moment and I said it. Pausing,I breathed deeply and waited....choosing my words carefully and having the best intention were my focus.

Finally, one of my favorite parts of being the elder in our school is sharing ideas and mentoring strength.  I am always learning, and I am celebrating our weekly team meetings. This week was extra great because we were talking with our math coach about recent changes to the standards.  All four of us trust each other which is so important as we dig deeper into the curriculum. Mentoring is where my heart is.  I am thankful when I am asked my opinion, and I can share 30 years of experience.  Encouraging young teachers to trust their judgement and try some new strategies is a celebration every time

I am celebrating because two weeks in a row I am able to blog on Friday evening. Some might call that strange, I call it contentment. I am thankful for joining my Saturday celebration community. I am looking forward to a beautiful, cool fall weekend. 

Found this special nest in our grain truck. 

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Celebrating Speed Poetry

My passion is collecting words! I notice unique features in words. I love to lift lines from books because of the beauty of the language.  I purchase books for my classroom based on having fun with words.  I love poetry.....not all students love poetry. 

First week of school, we spent a huge amount  of time discussing our classroom library and how should we organize our library.  It is still color coded which continues to make my heart happy.  All of my beloved poetry books just continued to sit on the shelf without an ounce of love given to them.  I watched my poetry shelf and not once, not even a passing by, did one reader choose to pull a book off the shelf.  Something had to change.  Yesterday was the day!!

I turned their frowns upside down.  As we started our official Poetry Friday celebration. We sat in the circle and discussed poetry - have to admit I almost dozed off from the lack of conversation.  Finally I had two students walk over and choose 12 books apiece. Each reader had a book.  Welcome to "Speed Poetry"  30 seconds with a book and pass.  I suggested having their Literacy Spiral open because you never know when you want to write down a title that you might want to read later........ GO!!

It was one of those priceless moments as a teacher...everything was perfect.  Everyone was talking, laughing, telling their neighbor to look at a certain poem.  I had to pause longer than 30 seconds because there wasn't enough time to write titles.  It was heaven with poetry in Room 234.  

I am celebrating because once again I have a little time on Friday night to blog for Saturday morning.  I am celebrating joining my Saturday Celebration community.  But most of all I am celebrating 24 smiles and perhaps a change in heart for poetry. 

Icing on the cake:  "Mrs. Caplin, can I take a poetry book home for the weekend?" 

Friday, September 29, 2017


In math there are always "firsts"  We explored exponents with the power of 10s.  After the opening mini lesson and some practice on dry erase boards, they went off to work with their partners.  You could see the smiles on their faces. The felt like they were doing BIG math.  The next morning as I stood at the door greeting my class as well as most of the fourth graders, J. stopped and told me he had a great evening. His older brother was doing math HW, and he was able to help him with exponents with a huge smile on his face.

$345.20 was spent on their family vacation.  There are four members in the family.  How much money did each person spend?  Long division has not been introduced.  Division is the process of dividing large amounts into groups. 
  • "I can't do this."
  • Mrs. Caplin, "You can't divide money into parts."
  • "Didn't you know that money can't be divided?"
  • "This is one really rich task, Mrs. Caplin."
  • "Really on a Friday, you're pushing my brain."
Math talk and conversations continue to be the focus of workshop.  Perseverance is the power word in our math class.  I am not the keeper of the answers, and they are still learning what that means.  After three different groups of  mathematicians circled around the table, and they opened the bank. Math got a little bit easier. Collaboration and conversations were flowing, and they all finally had the answer. 

Friday morning I walked into my school through our morning latch key program. There are at least 30 K-5 students there.  As I was walking, Maria came up to me and said, "My uncle died yesterday."  I stopped, knelt down to her level and said, "I'm sorry."  And Maria continued to tell me everything she needed me know.  The special part of this story is that my name is Maria and two years ago in kindergarten Maria saw my name tag and said that's my name.  We've been connected ever since I see her almost everyday, and we always exchange a smile. Today she needed me, and we needed each other..

Thanks Ruth for encouraging me to Celebrate.  It was a great week, and  I am thankful. It's going to be a fun weekend.  Celebrating my birthday by going to a Bob Seger concert. This will be the highlight of my Saturday evening listening to this song :)

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Celebrating: Status of the Class

Celebrations are crucial. Some days I search for a celebration; however most days celebrations come knocking at my door.  We are off to a great start in Room 234. 

Choosing to spend the first four weeks discussing and creating our new community. 

Conversations about how we will talk with each other especially when we don't agree (which happens in math quite often).  

Allowing time for everyone to learn about their life as a reader and lots of time searching the classroom library. Yet to be organized except by the color of the spines of the books which makes me so happy. Because it is their library. 

Celebrating that my learners know that I am a reader, and I will be checking weekly with them on how they are progressing.  

One of my biggest celebration was on Thursday - Weekly Status of the Class. At this time of year, status takes forever or at least it feels that way.  I have to admit every Thursday morning I selftalk myself knowing that this time is well spent.  There are two parts to Status of the Class.

  • Every reader shares aloud their current JR book and what page they are currently reading.  This is powerful because all 25 readers here a title, make connections and typically ends in at least one book talk. This process takes less than 10 minutes.
  • Second, I meet with every reader, one on one, short conference about their JR book.  They track their reading in BoB (Book of Books) and I ask them about their goals and to share their evidence.  This takes at least 30 minutes. I value this time because I am making connections, I'm able to ask hard questions if I need too. Finally I am sending the message that we all will value reading and every Thursday is a set time for this celebration.
Fast forward to lunch and I am getting ready to go to duty. I find a sticky note hidden under my keyboard just peaking out for me to see.  In  our class, on the first day, I tell them that space is my mailbox if you need to tell me something or we need to talk leave me a note. 

Mrs. Caplin, Thank you for status today.  I have always liked reading, I don't like goals. Last year's teacher had us set goals but never met with me alone.  Now I know the importance of goals.  Thank you :)

 Thanks Ruth for encouraging us to celebrate and encouraging us to join in a community of Saturday Celebrations. 

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Celebrating: Lifelong Readers

 I am celebrating an amazing group of learners that I get to spend everyday with in our classroom.  

I am celebrating finally wrapping my head around homework vs. home learning.  And loving my decision and where I finally ended up in this controversy. So many conversations, voxer and blog posts.  Thanks to my PLN in helping me.

I am celebrating several students who are choosing to do home learning (enrichment activities) and sharing their learning with the class the next day.

I am celebrating past learners who are in middle school and sending me photos and returning books to me when they come back to visit.  

I am celebrating with my Saturday colleagues who post every Saturday.  I have been reading your posts and celebrating with you although I've been absent.  Thanks Ruth for encouraging us to Celebrate

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Slowing Down on the First Day

I have to admit for 29 years this photo would have put me over the edge. This moment today didn't scare me; however, today I was looking around our messy classroom and breathing deeply.  First day of school - first two hours - first mess of the year.  It's ok.

At our convocation yesterday, we were reminded about gratitude and the importance of remembering to be thankful.  

  • I am thankful for this mess.  
  • I am thankful that I had extra supplies for learners who did not have any supplies today.  
  • I am thankful I was able to "sneak" the supplies to my new learners. 
The importance of breathing deeply the first day and remembering that all 25 learners are a little nervous and excited. Not much different than their teacher.

One of my favorite activities is Pick a Card.  I created this game because there are always at least 15 things that need to be completed on the first day.  I never remember all of them, so I wrote every item on an index card. Example cards include:
  • bathroom policy
  • class jobs
  • unpacking supplies
  • labeling folders
  • recess rules
  • internet guidelines
You get the idea....I allow students to pull a card out of the OSU bucket and then explain the new routine. I then put the index card on the board which helps students when they forget. It's fun and allows everyone to be involved in completing the long list. of things Here's to an amazing first day where I remembered to be thankful and slow down. 

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Dynamic Teaching #cyberPD

Here's what I appreciate about #cyberPD the month of July allows me to be integrated with an amazing group of educators learning along with them and having conversations to help me grow as a teacher. Thank you to Cathy Mere and Michelle Nero for hosting this summer.

Final Encouragement Nuggets
I love to read and a constant goal is that every child will have a book in their hands that they want to read in the first month of school. Learning about my students’ families, hobbies and favorite genres are the conversations that you would hear if you were a fly on the wall. I loved how Vicki mentions several strong pieces of literature in her book.  Most of the titles I knew and others that I will know soon when I check them out of the library.  I am still learning how to merge my time better in our literacy workshop. Looking at books as a reader and the craft of writing has really shifted my mini-lessons.  

Finally as I read the book in pieces and jumped around, I felt like my thinking did the same thing.  I found myself distracted and reflecting on what would this  new concept look like in my classroom? I typically write all over my professional books and sticky note the big take aways but in this book I did a lot more thinking in my head visualizing what could be?  It was a great opportunity for me to have as I know I will have readers this year who will have similar experience. They don't want to take notes or use stickies, and I will be able to connect with them. One of my favorite quotes that I will reference often this school year.  "Finally, if we're serious about helping students become independent readers who seek to understand their own agency, we have to be willing to release the responsibility to them before we're absolutely sure they can do it on their own." p. 159