Friday, September 23, 2011

I am Excited to be a Versatile Blogger

This past week, I had time to go to my favorite place at my house-I went to my dock and had time to read all of my favorite blogs. As I read A Year of Reading  I found out that I had been nominated for the The Versatile Blogger award. Thanks so much to both of you for all of our conversatoins as well as encouraging me to jump into the world of blogging. I will always be grateful to both of you!

Once I accepted the nomination there are a few rules that I
have to follow. 
#1 Thank the person (people) who nominated you and provide a link
back to their blog.
#2 Share 7 things about me
#3 Pass this award along to 15 other blogs that you have discovered.

Here are 7 Things about me:
1.  I was scared to death to start my blog and without many friends encouraging me I don't think I would have but now I am so thankful that I did.
2.  I have been teaching for  23 years. I started as a special education teacher but have spent the past 14 years in 5th grade.
3.  I LOVE words and constantly on the look out for fun ways that the students can use words including picture books, Hallmark cards and comics from the Sunday paper.
4.  This past year changed my teaching when I got an iPod grant for my classroom-each student has their own iPod.
5.  Because of my grant, I found an amazing website called Wonderopolis, and I have had wonderful opportunities to represent NCFL 
6.  Because of Wonderopolis, I have made some amazing friends and connections around the country. In addition, I have become addicted to twitter to keep in contact with my friends.
7.  I am very thankful for a wonderful opportunity everyday to participate in a profession that I LOVE and the BEST part is the time with my students.

Here are 15ish bloggers that I follow (not in particular order) 
  Dorene @ Learning Technology
  Bill and Karen @ Literate Lives
  James @ James Prelller's Blog
  Joan and Gayle:  Two Writing Teachers 
  Jon on twitter @Mr_Fines
  Kevin @ Kevin's Meandering MInd
  Kirby @ Kirby's Lane
  Melanie @ Organized Inspirations
  Melissa @ Technology (figuring out how all the pieces fit)
  Steven @ Web 2.0 Classroom
  Tracy @ Thinking Stems
  Troy @Digital Writing, Digital Teaching

Thanks again Mary Lee and Franki I had lots of fun gathering my lists and reading from some of my favorite blogs.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Extending Summer into New Technology Goals

This summer was amazing for my own professional development, and I am hanging on to those summer conversations.  I have set some BIG goals for this year's class with technology and pushing the 21 Century skills:  collaboration, creativity, communication and research.
*Extend the day through the use of technology (Class Blog)
*Expand students' learning with instant conversations (Evernote)
*Change my record keeping system to digital (Evernote)
*Continued focus on expanding Wonderopolis into all parts of our day

All teachers try to figure out the time aspect in their classrooms-we are constantly making choices and often having to complete the "requirements."  I believe strongly that I need to set goals for myself perhaps as important as setting goals for my students.  I started one year ago jumping into technology, and I am thrilled to start this school year - a little smarter but better yet with bigger goals.  So here we go.........

This past week Mr. Mark and I introduced my class to our class blog which students can access from my teacher web page. I chose this goal to work on first because I am excited how I will be able extend our school day into the students' homework. I am just beginning to learn about the "flip classroom" and I am very interested in that concept.  I plan on uploading a video that connects to a content area (first video is about building milk carton boats for science) and the students will watch the video at home and leave a comment on a focused question that I have posted. My goal is to use the video several times with a different focus questions not only teaching the students that they can learn different concepts from one video but also begin to talk about perspective as well as view points. I am very excited to bring the 21 Century skills into the students lives at home and then connect back to our classroom.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

the BEST WONDERful Wednesday

Hooray for Wonderful Wednesday-it is my favorite day of the week and the students were ALL STARS.  For our opening the students WONDER about words and work on word ladders Every Wednesday, our spectacular librarian, Bill from LIterate LIves includes our preschoolers and kindergartners in the library schedule. So as classroom teachers, we choose to have a shorten library so all students at our school can have a chance to visit the library. Here is a picture walk of our Wednesday-come along and enjoy! 

We always start with a focus: practicing reading strategies: applying background knowledge (BK), choosing important new facts, choosing vocabulary and writing sentences that show context of words and finally an enrichment opportunity using the wonder links. I always build an anchor chart so that the students can refer to it later in addition the writing on the right was new thinking from last week's ideas.  Next we look at the wonder of the day.

 As we look at the wonder, we start to have a conversation about our BK and I chart this also on paper.  This was an interesting conversation because all my students knew that computers don't have "real" bugs they have bugs that cause problems, so they were feeling super smart! We then clicked on the wonder and watched the video which they loved and always do! Next we read the next 3 wonder statements and continued our conversation about BK. I am really trying to reinforce the importance of using their prior knowledge often kids skip that part and need reinforcement. 

Next I had them work with partners and using their iPods they read the rest of the article and recorded their new facts, vocabulary words and then checked in with me. Once again, I was totally impressed with their conversations and thinking.  I just would drop in and listen-wow they were really having a higher level conversation.  
 Once I approved their work, they were able to do the enrichment activity which was a link on the wonder-Ladybug Maze which was awesome.  Because it involved math: measuring, angles and cardinal directions. It was a HUGE challenge for the students-great thinking.

Finally we came back together and shared our new learning which we post in the comment section of the wonder and send it off which is exciting for the students because typically by the end of the day we already have a response back-powerful!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Hanging on for the BEST Times

As I write this blog, I'm trying really hard to hold on to the BEST times the first few weeks of school because honestly I am overwhelmed with all the "requirements" that I have to complete as well as the time they take to complete and grade.  I started the school year with this list of  "requirements."
*Assess Multiplication and Division facts
*Developmental Spelling Assessment
*DRA (Developmental Reading Assessment)
*Reading Diagnostic Test-similar to OAA practice test *
*Math Diagnostic Test*
*Topic 1 preassessment in math
*Science Diagnostic Test*

 As I look at this list, all I really want to do is to learn about new students as readers, writers, scientists, word observers, mathematicians, and finally learners of history.  After all, I told them the first day of class, you are living history right now.  What is their history from the first two weeks of school? What will they remember?  Where is the time to build our new community?

 Here is what I know for sure from the first two weeks of school.  The BEST times are the ones when we sit on floor, and we shared many wonderful books together. This week we had our tornado and shared The Library and Miss Malarkey Leaves No Reader Behind.  The BEST times are when we share WONDER of the day and have great conversations and laugh out loud at the video.  The BEST times are when I finally figured out on the 4th day of math class that the kids need to build a number line and move numbers up and down it to understand how to compare whole number and decimals.  The BEST times are when we allowed the students time to redesign their airplane and then it flew 100 inches further, and the kids jumped up and down excited about science. The BEST times are when the students share their Social Studies spiral about their lives because they had warm, sad, funny and scary memories after listening to Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge.  I know there are many more BEST times ahead.  I just need to hold on to these moments and continue to check off my list of "requirements." Thanks for reading-I feel like I have been on the couch for a great counseling session.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Hold the Plane-A Science Blog Entry

Yes I know you are probably saying what a science entry? Science is not my favorite subject of the day but the best part of science is opening our wall and team teaching with my best friend, Sarah. Together we team teach Science and Social Studies every afternoon. 

We decided to start science different this year-we flew right into a science having the students design paper airplanes. Typically we discuss science tools, the scientific method, and typically "hand feed" the first experiment but not this year. We decided to allow the students time to explore, challenge their thinking to push to a higher level and more importantly setting the stage for future conversations. 

The goals were to fly the plane the longest and farthest.  We let the students choose their groups, gave them one sheet of paper, a stopwatch, and a tape measure. That was it and it was only the third day of school. We observed the groups and noticed some groups rushed into the experiment and wanted a new piece of paper quickly, other groups using their background knowledge designed their airplane, and even some groups drew their plane out and thought about how to accomplish the two goals. 

Finally they flew their planes, and that is where the learning curve hit the peak. Students forgot to time the planes, forgot to mark where they flew the plane from, they forgot to record their data from the 3 different test flights. So we reconvened had a HUGE conversation about those areas as well as the scientific term: variables. Also we had students share their longest flights times and why they thought their flight was successful.  Again students learning from students =the best learning!

Finally we allowed the students to redesign their plane and had the students complete the experiment again-all of a sudden the students understood all parts of the experiment! They did a wonderful job and most importantly they learned how to think like scientists. Next week, we are moving on to Lifeboats.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Unexpected Surprises with Wonderopolis

We just finished our first full week of school and like most teachers I totally overplanned the first week! I am still moving some plans into the next week, but as I reflect on our first week there were 3 exciting surprises for me. 

First we are continuing our tradition of WONDERful Word Wednesday with a little twist this year-we are looking at Wonderopolis every Wed. including "Mystery Picture" posted on twitter.  Our class got the correct answer last week-what a fun way to start the year!!  The students started their WONDER books and we previewed WONDER #332 about the Sun which connected to our Earth and Space unit perfectly.  For HW, the students had to watch the video, read the article, try a link and make a prediction for Thursday's WONDER. In addition, they had to write 5 new facts as well as use 3 new vocabulary words in a sentence.

Here was the surprise: As we shared on Thursday, I had the students read a friend's wonder book and share one fact that was strong!  We posted them on this chart and as I wrote them the students were commenting how their friends facts were better than their own-so we discussed why.  As a class, we came up with criteria for our WONDER facts including: using data to support thinking, using more details in the sentences, try to compare/contrast new facts and finally integrate the vocabulary instead of isolating it.  WOW that was a lot to learn from one WONDER HW assignment!

My next surprise was how quickly my class picked up on my suggestion to leave a comment on the site. In the left corner you might see a #9 circled which means 9 students left a comment on one of the week's WONDERS.  I am excited about that because of the home/school connection because to leave a comment the students had to talk to their parents and use an email address.  We set a goal to increase that number next week.

Finally the students were asking about how the WONDERS are chosen I told them that kids just like them can nominate one because there is a link at the top of every WONDER.  Samia actually went home that night and nominated -Why are there holes in cheese?  I was so excited and wouldn't it be neat if her WONDER might be chosen in the future-talk about opening the doors of our classroom.

It was a tiring but a WONDERful week, but I have to admit I am thankful for 3 day weekend.