Saturday, March 18, 2017

Celebrate: Yes During State Testing Week

Two out of six days of state testing are completed. That isn’t my celebration. Because we aren’t half way there yet.  My celebration is how we prepared for the states test the days prior.  Guess what?  Nothing changed in our classroom.  Reading, writing and word study continued as if there wasn’t a ELA test Thursday and Friday of this week.  We wrote together, read intriguing picture books together because we finished our class read aloud, City of Ember.  We celebrated with watching the move which is PG in class after our principal gave permission and the parents had to agree also  The students brought in pillows, blankets, stuffed animals, snacks and drinks;  We had a party the day before testing. Life didn't change this week in Room 234.  I am always thankful to join in the celebrations from the week.  Nothing is better than sharing and reading about friend's celebrations.  Thanks Ruth for encouraging us to celebrate here

Happy Learners in Rm. 234

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Celebrating: 28 Years of Teaching

I'm celebrating 28 years of teaching and the confidence to stand on my own two feet. I'm celebrating choosing to keep my #OLW quest for another year and not giving up on it because I knew that I was going to have more opportunities to follow my quest this school year.  It feels good when you write a blog post on Friday night, and you can look back over your school week and know that there were several amazing opportunities for the learners in Room 234.  State testing is looming around the corner and starts this week, but I didn't change my thinking and definitely didn't change my lesson plans.  I stayed the course and everyone in our class will be ready for ELA test next week because they are all readers and writers.  All of us have the confidence that we need to stay focused on strong literacy instruction along with continuing to to read thoughtful and amazing books.  I celebrate 28 years of teaching and the confidence to stand on my own two feet. Thanks to Ruth for encouraging us to celebrate throughout the week.  I'm excited to read other celebrations from the week. 

The mathematicians were hired for the week to work at Carter Candy Company. They spent two days building containers to hold 24 boxes of chocolate. There were six different combinations.  On Friday, they are trying to figure out which container will work best for shipping the chocolates.  I am celebrating 21learners who are all working together to try and problem solve.  I am celebrating how several students used different strategies and were able to share their thinking.  After all life is a box of chocolates.

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.