Saturday, November 15, 2014

Celebrating Firsts

It’s time to celebrate and I had two firsts in my world of education this week. One involved a new student in my class and the other our new interim assistant principal, Gabe. He constantly wanders into my classroom right when I’m ready to throw in the towel. He asks, “How’s it going?” and I start with my thoughts…..continue talking….and finally stop.  He is a great listener and has an encouraging smile even when I can’t find a smile. He always follows up with how can I help?  Having time to talk, and sometimes not even knowing the answer, is ok. Sometimes there may not be an answer or at least at that particular moment. Gabe has taught me an important lesson that I never learned in 26 years of teaching. Thank you Gabe, you’re making a huge difference at BES.  

The second "first" absolutely stopped me in my tracks.  Choosing (OLW) to allow those little moments the chance to flourish was exactly what I chose Thursday afternoon at 2:30. We were in the middle of math class, and it started snowing for the first time this year.  My students rush to the window. I of course said, "You've all seen snow before."  My new student from Bangladesh says "I haven't." He stands there staring out the window. To heck with math, I tell my class to get their coats on, and we're going outside to catch snowflakes.  He had a bright red sweater on and the flakes fell gently on it.  He looked at them with huge bright eyes and responded,  "They're beautiful." That is why I became a teacher.

Saturday is my day to take a moment and celebrate. I am thankful to Ruth for encouraging all of us to focus on our own special moments of celebration.  Click HERE for the roundup

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Creating Those Moments

Good night Jim Bob.
Good night Mary Ellen
Good night Elizabeth

Waltons was my favorite television show growing up. Being an only child I always wondered what it would have been like to be in their family or in the Brady Bunch? Life seemed so simple and uncomplicated.

Now life is busy and families are overscheduled.  Classrooms are busy and overscheduled.  I often wonder how to put the brakes on in my class?  I search for those moments that my students will remember from fifth grade. What will be their defining memory?  Will I know it before hand? Will that moment even be in my lesson plans? Probably not.

One third of our school year is complete.  I continue to unwind the State Standards while reflecting on the practices that will support the lesson. I desperately try not to lose the chance to create that elite moment.  I’m constantly weaving in opportunities to share a new picture book in my mini lessons. During math, we discuss multiplication and connect to a real life example even asking them to collect menus as they go out to eat. “How much would 3 pieces of chocolate pie cost?” Their writer’s notebooks hold treasured thinking, and I inquire about what they choose to write about each day. We share little snippets that might create that special moment for them. 

Life is busy. Life is complicated. Within the walls of my classroom, my wish is that there will be a certain moment that will resonate with my students, and someday they will recall their Walton’s memory. An extra thanks to Sarah for being my cheerleader this week and encouraging me to step forward on this post.  I had closed the door, and you helped me open it.  You're an amazing friend!

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Knock me Over Please

It's Saturday afternoon, cold and gloomy, typical Ohio weather first week of November. Winter is knocking on our door and letting me know it's right around the corner. Grocery shopping is done. Laundry is started. Dinner is almost ready for the oven, and I'm anxiously awaiting The Ohio State game tonight.  It's time to delve head first into grading the first round of persuassive essays.  There are 23 of them in a pile stapled together with their rubric, rough draft, peer editing, revisions and parent signature as the final editor.

First I read through them all quickly to get a feeling about the final paper. I have conferenced with every student at least once and most of them twice on this piece of writing.  It is considered a short piece with a strong lead and a strong paragraph with research to support their claim. We have already focused on research earlier in the year and created a persuasive poster with several different types of research. The lead was the focus for this piece and for most students their leads were excellent. Their research not so much.

Knock me over please (with a feather) I have preached and sermoned and explained and restated and what ever else I could say that research is NEW learning.  The focus word NEW. Not something you already knew. Research involves NEW facts that support your claim or can support what you thought you knew about your topic.  Stating the source is important.  As I finished grading, I realize where I need to begin next...with their own essays as their own mentor text. Giving them back their own writing and start with the same focus question: What is your NEW research? What didn't you know prior to writing this topic?  Hopefully they will knock me over with new insight about what research really means?  Any suggestions - I would love to know how you help your students with this issue.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Slice of Life: Sliver of Seconds

Almost everyday in school there are slivers of time when I pause and extremely thankful for the little moment that just occurred. Sometimes it is a split second. Those little moments are never on my lesson plans. My morning includes our specials and language arts block. A huge block of time which I am grateful for everyday, but still can't seem to fit everything in from my lesson plans.  Almost everyday at lunch Sarah asks me, "How was your morning?"  My response "Good except I didn't stick to my lesson plans again." 

Thinking about my lesson plans, I was trained 30 years ago on how to write my LP. Thank goodness for Bonnie Chambers at BGSU who stressed in 1984 the importance of strong book choices as the foundation for great LA lessons. Lately,the past few years, is that lately? My lessons plans haven't been about what I was teaching that specific day during that specific time. It's been about big thinking including conversations with my literacy coach (thanks Gretchen) rereading professional books, looking at summer notes from Allwrite etc. I am realizing that my lesson plans are the big ideas, and I know the standards as well as the implementation so I am not going to be so hung up on the what I typed inside the LP boxes.  There is a sense of freedom in not being locked into 11:00 Monday and more importantly I am open for those slivers of seconds which is why I am a teacher.   Thanks to all the slicers here is the link up for this week. 

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Slice of Life: Slow as a Snail

Yesterday in class, I introduced our class twitter account @228bes.  I purposely chose to hold back on our class account this year until the time was right. Last year, we sent a few tweets randomly and I wasn't sure of the purpose.  I knew the purpose, but I didn't feel like I did a good job for defining why we had a class twitter account.  I spent this summer learning and hearing over and over: break down the walls and allow students to expand their audiences.  I know this, but I didn't succeed last year.

This year, I chose to start as slow as a snail with technology.  A shift from the past but one that I wanted to try.  I was surprised as I introduced our twitter account to my class. Only two students knew what twitter was and a handful thought it was all about the #hashtags. Interesting....and we discussed digital literacy and the importance of knowing their tweets are alive and represent our class.  We sent our first tweet @katemessner to share that we started our new read aloud. I "promised" that she would reply to our tweet and luckily for me she did.  We are going to send tweets about our read aloud:  Hide and Seek.  The students are going to compose them, send them and then as a class we will share them.  I started as slow as a snail but this time around the students will have purpose along with ownership.  Already it feels better than last year.  I like slow as a snail.  Thank you to the Slice of Life Community of writers. You can check out other slices here at Slice of Life.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Three Days as a Gypsy - Invaluable

Sunday thoughts all rolled up into a Slice of Life, Celebration and my OLW which is choice.  We didn't have school this past Friday because it was our comp. day for evening conferences which were last Wednesday and this Tuesday.  My husband and I took our annual gypsy trip ending up in Kentucky. I love our annual three day trip and each year we plan less and less. This year we left without reservations for lodging, and the few decisions prior to leaving included exploring the Bourbon Trail and searching for a river which would allow us time to stop and enjoy the peacefulness as we listened to the gurgling as it moved swiftly along the banks. My favorite part of the journey is our quiet time for conversations and the opportunity to not have my life scheduled out for three days.  

Old barns and quilts two of my favorite. We learned at the National Daniel Boone park
office  that this is the Sunburst Pattern depicting all the different jobs that
were needed to live in the 1860's.  I think I would have enjoyed that era.
It seems as I reflect on this school year, my life has been extremely scripted. Tons of meetings, most of them I have chosen to schedule but still set times on my calendar.  Hard work as I made the choice to focus on starting math workshop while continuing to implement reading and writing workshop. As I sat and listened to the river and reflected on the past eights weeks, I realize that once again my OLW is upon me. The choices haven't been about a weekly blog post or my set routine for working out. It's about making the best choice at that specific moment in time.  Realizing and knowing I am ok with my OLW is what I figured out as we gypsied our way across Kentucky.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Late Celebrations: Saturday Literacy Connection

Today was perfect and it's not even over. A beautiful sunrise, cool temperatures and breathtaking colors as I drove to the Literacy Connection with Jennifer  Serravallo presenting.. Spending Saturday with friends and reading is just what I needed to energize me.

I am still wrapping my thoughts around Jennifer's presentation.  I have three pages of notes to reflect on. One of my biggest take aways is the importance of knowing our readers through purposeful conversations and lessons.  She continually had us stop ad jot, turn and talk along with modeling how important it is too see the text as she read aloud to us.

I've been stuck lately with my writing but I felt a breath of fresh air as I listened to her speak. I feel like I have several new ideas that I can implement this week.  Along with being a lucky winner of her Independent Fiction Reading Assessment, I am excited to learn more.  Just the golden ticket I needed. Thanks to Ruth for encouraging us to Celebrate every Saturday. Click HERE.for the roundup