Saturday, August 20, 2016

Celebrating First 3 Days

Wednesday, August 17 9:05 AM
Welcome to my 29th year of teaching. First day. Envisioned my new classroom for at least 6 months prior to this date.  Several conversations with my principal, coaches, self-talk, colleagues. I had it perfect in my mind.  Open seating, no set desks, space for supplies, and tons of open floor space. Enter 27 students.  I felt like a rookie.  I had never taught a day in my life.  I looked up from the carpet and wondered what had I done.  So many things I never considered.  


Thursday morning, 1:00 AM
What had I done?  How do I learn their names when they don't have assigned seats?  Even though we spent all day building community - I've made a mistake. My husband reminds me, "You've got this."  I am reminded of the sweetest comment after I called MP the wrong name twice, "It's ok Mrs. Caplin, it's a lot easier for me I've known you since kindergarten and you didn't know it." 

Thursday, August 18 7:05 AM
Couldn't sleep,  Couldn't get to school soon enough. Turned on my Jimmy Buffet CD to remind me of summer.  Took a deep breath. Sat down on the couch and looked around.  Changes have to be made.  Moved one table out.  Moved three desks out.  Moved "typical" chairs out. Stacked the nesting table. 27 students arrived - more space.  Better job with names (two hours looking at their first day photos last night really helped).  Built bridges with pennies had a tremendous Thursday.


Friday, August 19
Starbucks Friday! Class meeting.  Students share about their week.  "Love open seating." "Couch is the best."  "Never had nesting tables."  "It's not so crowded."  "I've never had a class pet."  "Thanks Mrs. Caplin."  I guess I still got it.

Thanks to Ruth Ayres for encouraging me to Celebrate.  I sure couldn't have celebrated on Wednesday, but now I realize I had three days of growth. 


Building bridges #happyfaces
#happylearners choosing their own space







Thursday, August 4, 2016

Shift #3: Classroom Conversation

Shift #3 will be the toughest challenge for me.  I had the opportunity for coaching last year, and it really helped me to notice my talk. Classroom talk is a two way street and in the past I have been more of the director of conversations. My other guilt is that I tended to be the answer keeper (not all the times) but especially when I was rushed for time and for sure in math. 
Compliments of Google image

I'm excited about this shifting teacher talk to include more question because I believe it could be the game changer.  I have read several articles, chapters and twitter chats to help me change my thinking.  I am going to have a cheat sheet index card to help me the first few months of school.  It has a huge question mark and a few prompts to remind me to stop and ask questions.  My go to questions include

  • Explain your thinking NOT explain your answer
  • Justify your answer with support from your notebook NOT show me your work
  • Turn and talk with a friend who has a different answer/solution NOT just turn and talk
My biggest learning happened in math the past few years.  I needed to make changes with how they responded with answers. I have shifted from: What's the answer? to Which strategy did you use to solve the problem?  It's a double dip question both the answer and the thinking. This change was important because I used to want the "right" answer. Focusing on strategies which are crucial for math since there are so many different ways to solve a problem. Our conversation is centered around the strategies and their thinking not just the answer. 

Shift #3 will be a year long commitment. I have been thinking about gentle reminders to help me remember these changes. I'm getting excited about implementing my thinking from the summer when school starts in two weeks. I appreciate the comments because they always help me grow as a learner.



 




Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Shift #2: Ownership with Jobs

I wonder if I am old fashion?  Do you still have classroom jobs?  I love the idea of everyone has their "job" to do in our classroom.  This is a message that I send the first week of school.  It could be a shift for some students because your job is not just individualized it is a community responsibility.  Just like at home, you have a job to do.  It is not a chore it is a privilege because your job is supporting everyone in our class. 

I get some interesting looks when I say it's a privilege to have a job this year. And before they even ask, "Yes everyone will have a job."   Every Friday during our class meeting, I choose names out of the bucket and they can choose their job.  There is no right to "pass" either.  And yes the last name drawn gets the last job.  While I am on my soapbox for a moment, I always ask who has a job at home?  It saddens me as the hands that are raised up have been dwindling over the years. Most of these are self explanatory; however, the two shifts this year are with Twitter and Quote Master.

Shift #2:  Ownership with Jobs
  • The List of Jobs
    • Messenger
    • Friday Folders
    • Inspector
    • Twitter
    • Quote Master
TWITTER:  Our class has a twitter handle (@228bes) and for the first few years I sent all the tweets (I know I know not a good choice) last two years the students took over tweeting, but I only had them tweet at the end of day.  
The shift that will happen this year will be the student can tweet all day.  I even envision them taking the iPad to art, music, gym, and special classes if they want too. I will give them an iPad which will allow them to take more pictures even videos etc. Having the twitter job has HUGE responsibility and that will be an important conversation the first few weeks of school.  

QUOTE MASTER: is a new job this year.  I tried it out last year a few different ways. I used quotes in the morning message, wrote them on a small dry erase board and also a glitter board (thanks JoEllen). But again I felt like I had the ownership and honestly not much conversation happened from the quotes. This year, it's a job.  I purchased a few quote books to have in a tub and students are going to choose a quote from those books or find their own on the internet.  They will have the weekend and Monday to choose their quote. Their job is to write it on morning message by Tuesday and during Friday's class meeting the owner of the quote will explain why they chose it and write in our this year's quote book.  I will model for them the first week.  We will see where this leads us..... Check back more shifts to come.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Quest: Shift #1


Summer is my time to shift into longer leisurely mornings, more time on the dock to read or look at the clouds reflection in our pond, travel to places we've never visited and even back to some of our favorite locations.  But I am constantly on a quest to reflect and think about what shifts I am going to make in my classroom.  I think it's almost impossible to turn off my teacher brain in the summer.  Even in Key West, I was snapping photos that I will use this year in word work and science.  The clock is ticking two weeks left of my summer and we have one more excursion which I think will be the most fun. Spending next week taking our daughter back to Charleston and helping her set up her new classroom and "watch" her move to a new place will be a highlight of our summer.  I have to visualize where she is when we start again our daily phone calls after school.  It's never easy to say goodbye, but we are always connected.

FIRST SHIFT:  Student Ownership toward Independence
I've always thought I did pretty well with this concept. I typically allow long enough wait time. Students have constant choice in their writing and JR books.  Last year, I allowed for almost totally free open seating. I believed I had this idea under control.  However, through several opportunities this summer, I realized there are other opportunities for me to shift ownership.

  • Starting the fist day of school, I'm not making name tags, and I am not assigning seats. Students are going to choose where they want their home base to be for the year. This will not be where they are required to sit but where their supplies will live. The extra supplies will live in large gallon Ziploc baggies in a tub so if they need something they can go shopping in the storage cabinets.
  • I am going to have them create their own name tag which will be my first opportunity to learn about them.  I have crated my own with icons around it that tell a little bit about me.  My name tag will include books, flowers, map, stick figure 4 person family, OSU football, and a dictionary.  Nothing elaborate which will not only model for them but also send a message that we are all unique but similar.  I imagine playing the game if you have ---- then move to the north side of the room. 
  • Sending the message that we are all learners the first day of school will be an important message.  Sharing what we learned over the summer will introduce inquiry and curiosity. I envision a sentence strip with a new fact.  Same idea how are they similar & different. Could we compare or contrast our new learning.  
The first day/week is going to look very different for me. It won't be similar to the other 27 first days of school.  I'm excited about these shifts and there are more to come and I will be posting them.  Happy Sunday! 

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

DIY Literacy: Chapter 5 & 6

We are building a screen porch in our backyard this summer.  When I say we, there are three integral people.
  • our friend (the builder) who knows everything and is helping my husband learn about construction
  • my husband (the runner) helps with everything and is learning several new building skills
  • me (the supporter) cooking meals, filling drinks and helping when asked.  I am very good with the million trips to the lumber yards because I can follow a list extremely well. 

As I sit on our front porch writing this post, and I hear the saw cutting the cedar wood, measurements being told several times and the occasional, "I love it when a plan comes together."  That is how I am feeling as I finish the book.  I love it when my learning comes together.

Chapter 5 Just for You
  • ...during  the preparation, investing time in the right tools and collecting them p. 72
  • look across the lesson and make predictions - where might students need support? p. 80
  • with the correct tools students can differentiate themselves p. 72
  • Which strategy are you going to try today? p. 74  (opening of workshop)
  • How did yo push yourself as a writer today?  p. 74 (closing of workshop)
Chapter 6 Nuts and Bolts
  • As I am considering my classroom design, I am now considering where the most foot traffic will be in our class?  p. 88
  • How can I support my students when they need fuel to keep them going when plugging away on the hard stuff?  p. 88
  • Kid friendly language - less is more p. 91
  • If students are shrugging... it's time for them to roll up their sleeves and take more ownership of their work. p. 93
  • Think of our demonstration notebook as a library book - it should travel around the room. p. 95
Every statement above has stumped me in the past.  I've said them aloud to myself in a questioning voice or have asked colleagues. I always feel a little better when I read my "problems" in a book because it's not so lonely.  One of my biggest take away from both chapters is that I need to spend more time thinking about these issues and how I can begin to make minuscule shifts in my practice.  One thing I know about myself as a learner in the summer is that I want to do EVERYTHING and I know I can't.  Already as I have read other blog posts and twitter chats, I realize that we're a community of learners.  It's not an isolated experience and learning with 50+ is so much better than learning alone.  I am thankful for comment feeds and a huge thanks to everyone who made a video or shared their own work by taking photos.  It's been another amazing summer PD.  Here's to the last few weeks of summer.  Thank you for the journey of #cyberPD.









Tuesday, July 12, 2016

DIY Literacy: Chapters 3 & 4

The conversations from week one have been amazing. I am so thankful for the opportunity to connect with so many smart educators.  The idea of all of us reading one book and learning together is such a smart lesson that I am already thinking about as a teacher. Some times the best learners are not always in front of you.  Expanding students' voice is so important and as I think about Chapters 3 and 4, I am focused on how I can accomplish that goal when I return back to school. 

Chapter 3: I had an AMEN! moment as I read p. 37  about sitting on your couch with a pile of notebooks and a feeling of dejection. I wish I could say that feeling goes away but it doesn't even after teaching 28 years. When I reflect on the layers of learning my students do each day and how I weave in "brain breaks" and tried to diversify activities so they are constantly moving/talking/sharing. I am going to add the idea from p. 42 "During the end of class, ask students to talk...which strategy they used during class ..."  I am excited to change the closing few moments of each class. 

Chapter 4:  Rigor has almost became a new buzz word lately.  The definition seems to ebb and flow in my opinion.  As I read p. 55 "We create a learning climate where students see the steps needed to tackle the tasks in front of them...."  I am thinking about micro-progressions and how I want to work with my fifth graders to create them.  Thinking about the different levels of learning and allowing every student an entry point.  I am excited for my AMEN moments and having my students more actively involved in their learning.  

A huge thanks for all the comments and conversations.  I am always thankful for my PLN and the opportunity to learn side by side.  Thanks to 

Sunday, July 3, 2016

DIY Literacy

Summer PD is my favorite time for personal learning. It's like Christmas when the book is announced. I have to admit that I pride myself on having it already in my TBR pile and this summer I did. Our district Grades 3-5 chose it as our summer read, so I am thrilled that I will be learning with both groups.  

Confession:  I watched all the videos before I even opened the book.  Love everyone of them and when I started reading I heard Kate and Maggie reading the book to me personally.  As I read chapters 1,2 and the Bonus several key phrases grabbed me, and I stopped to write them in my notebook.


  • We must first identify what the obstacle to getting the job done is exactly. p. 2
  • We are able to SHIFT CURRENTS in our teaching when we step back, reflect upon the root issue. p. 3
  • We hope they need us less, not more.  p. 3
  • The tools inspire the kids to work as hard as we are. p. 8
  • Every journey includes the need to solve problems. p. 11
I have been reflecting on how to shift ownership in my classroom. Wondering how my students can take more ownership in their learning. The first three sections felt like a counseling session that I didn't have to pay too much for.  I could hear both of them telling me, "We've been there."  there is power in knowing that you're not the only one questioning your practice.  

My lightbulb moment was with the first bullet.  I always jump right into the solution. I could list all the reasons why I do that but as a teacher we all know those reasons.  I am learning to slow down and becoming more of a diagnostician. Listening, observing, listening, observing more. Asking questions in conferences have helped me to try and assess the learning concern.  Last summer,  I learned the importance of the word "yet" I try to remember that as I can't find the best tool for the job. Now I have four new tools in my toolbox and I am ready to shift the currents in my classroom in August.  

Thanks to Cathy, Laura and Michelle for hosting this summer #cyberPD, I am excited to learn along with everyone.   


  • Week of July 3rd—Chapters 1- 2 & Bonus
  • Week of July 10th—Chapters 3-4
  • Week of July 17—Chapters 5-6
  • Week of July 24—Final Twitter Chat