Friday, May 13, 2016

Celebration: Creating Lifetime Memories

Only 15 days of school are left and as the year comes to an end, I am celebrating the moments that my students might remember.  It's not the moments that were on my lesson plans most of the time.  Or the "must do" check off list that all of us are faced with in the classroom.  Finally this year the life memories are the ones that I stepped back and allowed my class to lead me.  I will be completing year 28, and I have never pushed the pause button as much as I have this year. Pause on on  interrupting conversations to add my thoughts. Pause on what I believe book clubs should look like the last weeks of school.  Pause on creating the rubric for the three types of government.  Pause on our lemonade stand.  

Completing a busy two days, they were exhausted, but a great kind of exhaustion.

  • reading the book to the preschool units
  • answering questions from the kindergarten
  • serving over 500 students
  • counting numerous coins into $20 piles
  • cleaning up the floor after spills 
  • most students gave up recess for their shift
  • wearing yellow shirts so as a class we would stand out (thanks to my husband for a last minute shopping trip to purchase mine)
  • setting up and tearing down our stand 
We raised $700 in two days and although they were overjoyed with the total most of them relished in the learning experience.  Thanks to Ruth for encouraging us to celebrate.  I appreciate all the support of friends and colleagues it was an amazing learning celebration for all of us. 

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Celebration: Lemonade is a Quest

II’ve been writing this post for the past week. Each day as my students prepare to open for business. I am so proud of each student as they step up to create posters, commercials, announcements along with counting raffle tickets.  To be honest, I rarely needed to step in and use my "teacher talk."  Realizing it's the end of the month again, I've been thinking about my OLW: quest. I appreciate the reminder to focus on the positive throughout the week in both my personal and school life.  Thanks to Ruth for the reminders to celebrate weekly.  

Our lemonade stand is my celebration. OMG (is that allowed in the blogging world?) it has been an amazing journey. Thursday we had our last meeting with principal.  I couldn’t have been prouder as every student shook his hand and thanked him for coming in today. The schedule is set after a zillion revisions including selling to our preschool unit to the supplies; which are loaded on the table. With this past week being state testing there was a rainbow in the afternoon as they finalized the plans for our stand which is opening this Tuesday and Thursday.

It’s been a “quest” for me although one without a road map.  I wasn’t sure several times what the class vote would be when making huge decisions. Sitting back and listening not adding my voice to the conversation wasn’t easy; however I am thankful that I did.  I have received several parent emails expressing how much their child is enjoying the process.  It’s so much fun when students enter the classroom saying, “Only four more days until we open for business.”  It’s been an amazing 

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Wednesday Words: Continue the Conversations

Compliments of Google Images

It's Wednesday and I continue to think about the conversations in our classroom again. Who's leading them?  Who's waiting for approval which could be a head nod or even the proverbial "Good job."  I already know the answers to all of the questions above and the visual that I think of is Charlie Brown's teacher. 

Shifting the conversations has to start with me.  The definition of conversation is "information interchange of thoughts, information, etc. by spoken words; oral communication between persons." I like the word interchange - I am drawn to the interchange on highways.  Several cars going slow, too fast and just right.  Similar to learning in my classroom.  It helps me when I am making a shift in my teaching to have a visual.  Charlie's Brown's teacher has been at the forefront of my thinking for several weeks.  I am ready to shift gears to the analogy of the interchange. 

I feel like I have adjusted to the differentiation of learners by using the cheat sheets that I mentioned last week.  I have questions/statements for all my learners.  Where I haven't transitioned is the need for teacher approval. I know I always give verbal reinforcements; however, I never considered the message I was sending.  

  • The teacher is correct when she says or writes, "Good job."  
  • Some (most) students wait for that approval.
  • What message am I sending when students wait for my approval?
  • I am going to continue thinking about the the language of conversations in my classroom.  Any thoughts?

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Wednesday Words: It's About the Converations

When I first started posting every Wednesday, I planned on focusing on word study. What does instruction look like? Sound like? Best practices?  I've been posting since February 10 every Wednesday, little over two months. I just realized this week as I was thinking about what to post today that the key word in my Wednesday's post is "word." and that's what I have been pondering lately.  Words, vocabulary in the classroom, questions, teacher talk. What ever synonym you want to use that's what I've been contemplating. Like the world of blogging, my thinking ebbs and flows. I find myself getting caught up in one idea - immersing myself in it by reading blogs, reading professional books, sending tweets and joining twitter chats.

I find myself being robotic with my questions that I ask in the classroom. After 27 years, I am extremely programmed. This year, I read Readers Front & Center by Dorothy Barnhouse. I also reread Choice Words, by Peter Johnson for the umpteenth time. Both of these books help me organize my thinking, and I started making cheat sheets (small index cards) so that I could reprogram my brain when asking questions. I put the index cards on my clipboard or hold them as I am teaching. These helpful hints help me to ask questions at a higher level both in whole group and small groups and has made a huge shift in my instructional practices.

Some of my new question from the article 
I just found “100 Questions That Help Students Think about Thinking” on twitter. These questions are categorized and it will be my go to for the rest of the school year. I especially like the idea of Maker Space and helping students be more reflective as learners. With six weeks of school left, I am going to structure workshop around stronger questions and allow myself some freedom to make mistakes at the same time begin to mold my new language of questioning.  My cheat sheets are growing.... So perhaps Wednesday's blog isn't going to be just about instructional practices with word study.. Perhaps it's going to be just about words a pretty lofty topic.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Celebration: Student led Writing Workshop

I had one of my favorite weeks of teaching. Writing workshop allows for students to enter at any point into the conversation. I have several quiet learners who sit back and listen. Breathe it all in and then put their pencil to the paper. I have several loud energetic learners. This group believes if they talk louder their point will be heard more clearly. Finally I have my group in the middle who waiver on either side of the above mentioned group of learners. All together I have a very thoughtful and considerate group of learners.

Prior to Spring Break, our focus in writing workshop was on two questions which opened our opinion writing for our last trimester.
  • What does it mean to STAND UP for something?
  • What does it mean to SIT IN for something?
We read several articles, picture books and watched a few videos. After watching this Wonderopolis video, our class was a buzz about Alex's lemonade stand. The next day I read the book to the class and the buzz was a swarming bees everyone wanted to have a school lemonade stand. Fast forward to the best part. I stepped back actually I stepped out of the process. I became the official secretary and just recorded thinking. The class broke into four groups and we did interactive writing for a week. Finally each student wrote their own opinion statement and we presented them to the principal the past Wednesday. His final comment made my heart sing, "You have answered all my questions boys and girls, how could I say no?" There was a gigantic cheer and now we're on to planning the next stages of our lemonade stand.

I've always heard get out of the way of student learning and you would be surprised and even shocked. I have never totally gotten out of the way like I have for this project. I am so glad I am a secretary. Thanks for encouraging us to Celebrate each week Ruth. This week it was super easy to choose a celebration.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Wednesday Word Work: Power of Virtual PD

This past Saturday I had the chance to spend the day with The Educator Collaborative Gathering. This is an unique learning experience because I was able to choose from a menu of presentations. The power of of the Google Hangouts and You Tube videos made this multi-dimensional learning experience.  All the sessions were archived so when I couldn't decide between two or three of them I can refer back to the link above and continue learning.

Opening Session with Sara Ahmed and Harvey Daniels
  • it's important to lean into the learning  (I'm working on this by not going into conferences with preconceived ideas or questions. Allowing the students to guide the conference.)
  • diversity is different for everyone (this was huge for me - I know my experiences impact my teaching but thinking about how each student comes into my classroom everyday with a different perspective is crucial.)
  • students come to school curious (although the graph they showed scared me to death that by fifth grades students' curiosity drops considerably)
  • if the work that students are doing in my classroom involves curiosity and inquiry then I don't need grit because the grit is built in (I don't get hung up on grit, but I am thinking about inquiry in all my lessons more than I have in the past)
I attended three other sessions and they were just as powerful I spent the day comfortable, part of the time in my pajamas, and learning. It's a gift to be able to learn along with so many smart educators, and I truly appreciate this amazing opportunity.  Follow them on twitter it's a wealth of information. And the icing on the cake, I've already calendared in the next #TheEdCollabCollabGathering

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

#OLW16 Quest and Saying Hello

Today is a combo post. I'm reflecting on the importance of taking the time to say hello and my end of month reflection on my #OLW16: quest. 

Monday was my first day back from Spring Break. My husband and I took a seven day cruise. Even with being empty nesters our lives are filled with jobs and daily projects which in the spring on the farm are adding up quickly.  The biggest decision would be which deck chair to choose in the "Serenity" over 21 area which was in the front of the ship.  I always wanted the front row (that's the teacher in me) so we could look out over the tranquil blueness of the ocean.  I have to admit I'm a people watcher and enjoy conversations especially on a cruise.  The first piece of advice from our Cruise Director Adam was to say, "Hello" because everyone has time to talk.  The stories we listened to the past week were touching, funny, and a little out of my comfort zone. 

Life is so different when I allow myself the chance to slow down and say,"Hello." We met a 73 year old gentleman who was born in France and lived there most of his life.  Moved to Canada to get duel citizenship and while on vacation in Amber Cove, Dominican  Republic he decided at age 48 that he was going to move there because of the blue skies, water and of course the warmer temperature.  He opened his own business which is a tourist company that has zip lines and helicopter rides.  He's brilliant and still flies his own plane and helicopter.  In addition, he also owns thoroughbred race horses.  Sitting on the bench, visiting with him was a quest.  A chance to remember the importance of saying, "Hello" and sharing a story.  I appreciate the kindness of his voice, and I am thankful to be reminded every quest continues to lead me to my story.