Thursday, July 17, 2014

OLW: Choice and a Little Reflection

It's been a great summer as I continue to implement my One Little Word: choice. A friend posted on my face book page that she was sure there would be a “reflection” post coming soon from a similar photo. I took this picture last night while reading on our dock.  I never saw the clouds in the pond until I took this photo. It is a perfect visual for my last three weeks.  I never knew how I would feel if I chose to slow down and shift my time. I feel more balanced with altering my choices including not focusing primarily on all education. I learned that you never know what you might find if you choose to take the time to take the photo. My reflection involves a happier more relaxed feeling with one of the best parts more time to read.

Here’s the summary of Absolutely Almost by Lisa Graf.

Albie has never been the smartest kid in his class. He has never been the tallest. Or the best at gym. Or the greatest artist. Or the most musical. In fact, Albie has a long list of the things he's not very good at. But then Albie gets a new babysitter, Calista, who helps him figure out all of the things he is good at and how he can take pride in himself.

Albie is an enduring character that you will to succeed, and he has several obstacles to overcome. Life never gets easy for Albie, and Calista gives him the best advice, “Find something you like…keep doing it forever…even if you stink. And then if you’re lucky with lots of practice one day you won’t stink so much.” This quote hooked me and will encourage strong conversations in our classroom.

My other favorite is by Holly Schindler, The Junction of Sunshine and Lucky. Here is a summary

August “Auggie” Jones lives with her Grandpa Gus, a trash hauler, in a poor part of town. So when her wealthy classmate’s father starts the House Beautification Committee, it’s homes like Auggie’s that are deemed “in violation.” Auggie is determined to prove that she is not as run-down as the outside of her house might suggest. Using the kind of items Gus usually hauls to the scrap heap, a broken toaster becomes a flower; church windows turn into a rainbow walkway; and an old car gets new life as spinning whirligigs. What starts out as a home renovation project becomes much more as Auggie and her grandpa discover a talent they never knew they had—and redefine a whole town’s perception of beauty, one recycled sculpture at a time.”

Auggie's perseverance is her strongest character trait. She is amazingly strong with not only loving where she lives, but she also shifts the surrounding community viewpoint. Auggie learns about friendship issues and best of all she fights through them with total class. The secrets she finds in the closet, literally, will steal your heart.

Albie and Auggie have traits that I want to discuss with my new class too as well as use the text for amazing mentors in writing workshop. The choice of words and beautiful description drew me into each book. Reflections and choices are a perfect combo as July turns the corner toward August. 

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Slice of Life

I am excited to join Two Writing Teacher for Tuesday Slice of Life writing community.  

I continue to celebrate my One Little Word: choice.  I've been slowing down the past two weeks which is pretty ironic since it is summer. I put the breaks on my summer PD and made a difficult choice and chose not to attend Nerdcamp. I chose to stay home and reflect on my learning from Allwrite. There were so many great ideas that I want to implement this year.  Thinking about this slice allowed me the time to lift the highlights.

  • Kelly Gallagher reminded us to frame the problem. The importance of reading and writing intertwined is the key to students' success. My favorite quote, "Make sure you are the best writer in your own classroom." 
  • Ruth Ayres: "Everyone has a story."  "Just because things get hard. Doesn't mean hard has to win." and finally "Quit trying to get it right, celebrate imperfection."
  • Kristin Ziemke: I loved how she discussed active literacy and how it is multi-layered not only with different types of technology, notebooks, and books, but also the instructional practices. Finally she shared how she captures her students smart thinking through photographs by having students airdrop them to her. 
  • Chris Tovani shared how she implements thinking sheets.  I love this idea because it felt different than a "worksheet."  She reinforced how workshop allows time for students to read and write. Time for both is crucial for students' learning.
  • Stephanie Harvey spoke about thinking intensively all day. I listened carefully when she spoke on how the tougher the text requires readers to use a wider variety of strategies in addition allows for the teacher to observe the breakdown for further mini lessons. 
As I read back through my notes, I am excited about the new opportunities that I have this school year.  I will be self-contained for the first time in 15 years.  I moved classrooms to have a bigger space. Sarah and I will be welcoming two new team members which will be exciting as we implement Common Core Math and Language Arts.  We want to create time for conversations, and I am sure I will be sharing the key points from above.  

Summer has been about slowing down and realizing that making choices that extend beyond school help me to find joy and celebration.  We are leaving for vacation at the end of the week and excited to spend more quality time together in a peaceful cabin in TN with some amazing friends.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Celebrating with Joy

It is 3:47 on Saturday afternoon. I have been thinking about this post for several days almost a week.  When I know that I'm going to be writing about celebrations, I think differently about my days.  When I know that my One Little Word is choice I think differently about my days.  Both of these pieces fit nicely together for me. I was going to post about my learning at All Write, but I realized I already posted with several-- possibly over a hundred tweets.  When I came home, I had to disconnect from social media and thinking about teaching. I was on Allwrite overload which was a fantastic thing, but I needed a few days to come down from the learning.

I just returned from my Choice Literacy writing retreat and the life lessons along with the gift of time to write was almost surreal for me.  A gift wrapped up in belly laughing conversations, rich talk about our biggest best question and then tie it with a bow for hours of writing time. A priceless celebration, thank you Brenda.

Finally I learned something about myself, and I have to give credit to Ruth for encouraging us at her keynote to make sure we tell our story.  In addition to my husband who has been gently nudging me this summer to realize that my fun time is mostly school related.  When I finished with my nightly responsibilities of being a teacher during the school year, I would spend the rest of the evening reading teacher blogs or checking in on twitter.  I would read another professional book or choose to blog about my day.  I have to admit most of my summer has had the similar schedule.

I am celebrating today that I found joy in my morning routine not checking twitter, Facebook or blogs.  Starting my day with eating some amazing granola that I brought home from the INN at Cedar Falls, weeding the gardens, visiting the farmer's market, going to the library to pick up five new books, fixing lunch and eating with my husband on the back deck.  Took a 20 minute nap (which my CL friends will enjoy knowing because our editor told us too) and read my new book:  brown girl dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson.

I made the choice to choose joy, and it was the best decision of the day.  Off to start dinner on the grill and keep reading. Thanks to Ruth Ayres for her weekly link-up, Celebrate this Week. You can link up  HERE

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Slice of Life: OWL - Choice

I am excited to join Two Writing Teachers for Tuesday Slice of Life writing community. I love the summer when I have time to slow down and read the different slices.  The power of comments mean so much to me, and I try and to pay it forward during summer.

Today’s Slice of Life is about my OLW – choice!  I have been explaining my choices to my family a lot lately.  Several times not complaining just inquiring “Mom why are you reading that book?”  “Which twitter chat are you doing now?”  “When does you summer vacation start?”  "Tell me again when are you leaving?"

My choices are centered on what I enjoy in the summer.  Long early morning walks, gardening, slow paced breakfast, and almost always time to check on newly posted blog posts. I explain numerous times that I enjoy reading professional books and taking notes.  It is fun to read blog posts and learn along with colleagues from around the country. This is the time when my Goodreads becomes my best friend, and I totally love reading  books to be ready to book talk in the fall.   

My summer professional life kicks into high gear starting this week and will continue for the next several. I am super excited about my choices for my upcoming professional development.
  • Google training and sharing about my 5th grade classroom with Dublin Colleagues  this week check out #dubchat
  •  #Allwrite14 starts tomorrow evening and goes through Friday (watch twitter for my learning along with several super smart colleagues)
  •  Choice Literacy Writing Retreat is the following week: a highlight with rich conversations about how to grow as a writer and the best part –time to write.
  • nERDcamp MI:  second week of July which is my first nERDcamp, and I am going with MS friends thanks to Gretchen for including me.
As you can see, I am going to be super busy by choice and continue my professional learning.  After that we have a short family vacation planned, so my blogging will be pretty sporadic for the next three to four weeks. I am extremely grateful for an amazing family that supports me and my OLW.

Monday, June 16, 2014

The Comprehension Experience: Chapter 2

Chapter 2:  The Power of Story Supporting Students’ Reading of Narrative Texts

“Students increase their capacity for comprehension more readily when they are focused on the story, not on learning or practicing a so-called reading skill or comprehension strategy.” 

·      FOCUS question for students: When you are finished reading, consider whether or not the new information changes your thinking? and What interesting words or phrases helped you with understanding the story?
·      PLANNING: includes careful orchestrated experiences
·      PREDICTIONS: generate curiosity, curiosity generates motivation. It is important to notice how students change their initial prediction as they obtain new information from the text.
·      More IMPORTANT than skill building are regular experiences with complex text, each with its own challenges and opportunities.

Again this chapter helped me to think about my presentation of narrative text. Like the first chapter, I am borrowing several ideas about asking deeper questions and allowing my students time to learn deeper.  I appreciate the reinforcement of curiosity because I believe that choice along with curiosity encourages students to be active learners. Finally, the opening quote is one that I agree with but occasionally get caught up with because of "needing" grades.  I need to remember this as the year begins.

Friday, June 13, 2014

The Comprehension Experience

 At the end of the school year, I started hearing about The Comprehension Experience. Several coaches had been given it as one of their summer PD books to read. I didn't know much about the book except I like the title. I want to think deeper about how to instruct my students to think beyond what they already know.  This was my mantra the last trimester of school.  I tackled the issue, but my tool box is shallow and needs reinforced.  Enter The Comprehension Experience Chapter 1:

·      READING is active, meaning-seeking process, equates reading with thinking and points out that meaning cues helps readers recognize and process words.
·      READERS must give more attention to certain words and less attention to others.
·      TEXT provides information; the readers, interacting with the text, generate meaning.
·     STUDENTS use background knowledge + vocabulary + purpose
·      PREDICT with narrative text and HYPOTHESIE with fictional text
·      COLLABORATIVE construction of understanding
·      EXPECTATIONS are critical
·      LEARNERS’ purpose and expectation are critical elements of comprehension which are influenced by intentions and mind-sets

Chapter 1 is about the history of comprehension. I am pretty sure I would have skipped this chapter in the past as recent as a few years ago; however I am now intrigued about how and why students learn.  In 26 years of teaching, I have observed huge changes in the way my students learn. The idea of being entertained, some having the lack of desire to push through hard learning, and finally very busy lives. 

 This first chapter made me realize that I am a part of the problem.  I tend to give too much away at the beginning of my mini lesson. I ask for background knowledge and even if it isn't relevant to the lesson, we discuss it.  The key points above are so important for me as I begin teaching deeper about ways to reinforce my comprehension toolbox.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Summer Road Map for Common Core

I love gardening and this little purple flower reminds me of all the learning I look forward to this summer.
One goal for this summer is to wrap my understanding around Grade 5 Standards. I have worked with them for the past three years through my involvement in Language Arts Council. I worked with K-1 and 2-3 implementation but now it is my turn to dig deep into Grade 5. 

I saved several articles and this past Sunday it was cold and rainy so a perfect time to start digesting the big ideas.  The three articles I focused on included:
    "Closing in on" by Nancy Boyles (Educational Leadership Dec. 2012)
    "What Students Can Do When the Reading Gets Rough" by Sunday Cummins
My goal was to define what Close Reading means for me in my classroom.  I took notes on several key points and developed questions that I now will focus on:
·      Careful systematic analysis of text (What are my students’ systems that they bring to fifth grade and how will I continue to enhance the system?)
·      Students must self-monitor their own reading (What do they do when they understand and don’t understand?)
·      Helping my students to uncover the layers of meaning in the text that requires several readings of it.
·      How will I teach my students to sustain their thinking for excerpts and continue to think critically in longer text?
·      Continue to teach my students to ask questions as they read but close reading occurs with the transfer of their new knowledge to the next text.

This last bullet point was a light bulb moment for me.  Connecting texts not on what is similar, but what was the new learning that the students can take to the next text. My take away from this final point is that it is not about text-to-text connections, but text-to-text learning.  I finally have a handle on how to scaffold my summer thinking.