Friday, August 31, 2012

OLW: August Reflection

A few weeks ago I had a once in a life opportunity. With my friend, Kathy, we were able to go to the Columbus Zoo and personally meet two 8 week old tiger cubs.  We were able to go inside their play area and  hold them and play with them.  The entire time I was in awe of the experience, and I couldn't believe that I was holding this cub.  It was so exciting to have this opportunity, and I am very thankful to Suzi for allowing me this privilege.

As I reflect on this opportunity and have almost completed my first week of school with my new students. I realize even more the  important words that Ruth told us at the All Write Consortium this summer: "Everyone has a story."  As I meet my students and have a chance to talk to them,  I am listening differently this year.  We  have completed several  get to know you activities that take time.  I realize how important these early conversations are to building community. There was a part of me that wanted to rush those first few days so we could jump in to academics. There was a part that felt like  I needed to follow the crowd of teachers who already started their diagnostics in math & reading.  But this year I slowed down, I took the time to ask those important questions.  I am excited about this school year because I chose to start slowly, and I am remembering "Everyone has a story."  Enjoy your first few weeks of school!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Teachers are Coaches

Let it be known that I am a huge (talking Mount Everest huge) Ohio State football fan.  Yes I bleed scarlet and gray.  And yes I am busy every Saturday starting in Sept. through November watching my Buckeyes.

Our family on the MI shoreline - celebrating OH-IO!

“Did you push yourself to be great today? Because if you didn’t you lost a day.” Urban Meyer, 2012 

Now that you are familiar with my background,  last week I watched ESPN series: All-Access: Ohio State Training Camp.  It was 5 shows 30 minutes long that allowed the viewer on the inside of training camp.  I thought I was watching the show because I love my Buckeyes, but on Friday after the last show I walked out of the room thinking about the words the coaches used to encourage the players.  I am huge proponent especially after my summer virtual learning with Opening Minds about how our word choice impacts our students.  Here are some analogies football vs. classroom.  Really we are not too far apart.

Here is a video to help you understand "juice."

Monday, August 20, 2012

Traffic in Room 228

For those of you who know me well, I have a secret I have always wanted to stop time and move to a big city like Boston or New York for 2--3 months. Actually that is on my bucket list.  Every time I go to the city even when we went to San Diego, I am amazed at the way the transportation systems are organized and move people around usually with little or no problems. I think about this analogy as I set up my classroom for the new school year. 

Back of reading nook, notice the WONDER jar ?
Throughout the summer I was thinking about the "stops" in my room.  I want a reading nook that is comfortable and a little off the beaten path so students can read quietly and search for their next favorite book.  I have always wanted a special place for writing, and I finally found my coffee table. I know that I am more excited than the students will be but hopefully my enthusiasm will rub off on them. Next stop is a place for collaboration, so I have organized my room to include two tables this year: round and rectangle.  I am going to encourage my students to use their tech tools there along with working together for projects or just enjoy sharing a poem on Poetry Friday.  Our final stop will be our class meeting area where our community will join together everyday for learning, conversations, and sharing.

Along the trip, my students will have pit stops which are places to drop by and pick up some important items.  In the word study area, there are games (Boggle, Scrabble, Bannagrams, Pears in Pairs), soft foam letters, word jars, blank cut out squares to make their own mystery word, and dry erase boards w/ markers. 

Another quick stop will be the math area which includes dice, games (24, Zip Around, Bingo), unifix cubes, place value tub, and fun riddles for math. In addition, different sizes of graph paper and laminated cards that have the 4 operational vocabulary words for solving story problems.

My new coffee table can't wait to see it in use

As I travel around the room a week before the students arrive, I am excited about the journey we are about to take and most importantly once the students arrive they will have their opportunities to talk about the room and discuss any bottleneck areas. Hopefully there will not be too many.  Have a great start to your school year and don't forget to check your traffic patterns.  I want to thank Franki @ A Year of Reading for always posting pictures of her classroom and all other bloggers that do the same thing. For me the visual images are key in changing my classroom. 

Friday, August 17, 2012

Poetry Friday: Don't Forget These Titles

I have pulled my first 5 Poetry Books to share with my class when we I introduce Poetry Friday next week.  I am so excited to look through them and reread my all time favorite poems.  I will sticky note one in each book, so I can hook my students. My favorite poem title is under each book.  I will then send them out in groups of 5 to share the book and tab their own. We will end our first Poetry Friday with sharing their favorite choices.  Have a great start to your 2012-2013 Poetry Friday celebrations. And remember Poetry Friday is delicious!

The Drinking Fountain

Wonder Through the Pages


I Met a Dragon Face to Face

Calling All Readers
Thanks to Mary Lee for hosting this week's poetry Friday with a snickerdoodle roundup @ A Year of Reading

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Connecting Wonder to Vacations

Ever since we took our Wonder trip to Kentucky last December I think about vacations differently. I would totally have changed some of the family trips that we took.  I would not have changed the places we visited, but I would have taken more time to experience the learning on vacations.  For example, going to the Louisville Slugger with our son who plays college baseball was so much fun observing him as he read all about his baseball heroes and learning about history of the game of baseball.  Below is a picture inside the locked bat vault where protocols for each bat ever made is stored  We got to hold Hank Aaron, Derek Jeter and many other all star bats.

Fast forward to our vacation that we just came back from in the Outer Bank, NC.  I had always heard that this area is known as the "Graveyard for ships." I never knew why so we took a side trip to visit lighthouses to see if we could find the answers.  We visited Cape Hatteras and Bodie Island Lighthouses.  When we arrived, we visited the Caretaker's House which was full of information that answered all of our questions.  I also learned some interesting facts to share with my class about word study (U-Boats) and how important it is to use the natural resources for survival.  It was a great day and another reminder to always wonder in everything we do no matter what age we are!

Friday, August 10, 2012

10 for 10 "WONDERful " Picture Books

Often I have conversations about Wonderopolis and the #1 question is how do you integrate Wonderopolis in your class?  I always reply with the same 3 answers. First know the specific indicators that you are instructing. Second use the Wonderopolis search button and find a connecting wonder. Finally after reading the wonder extend it with an amazing picture book.  For my 10 for 10 I am going to connect 10 wonders to 10 picture books.  

Wonder #22 How Can Spare Change Make a Difference? I used this wonder as a mentor text this past school year for our persuasive writing and our theme unit "empathy." We connected to how fifth graders and can make a difference similar to Alex and the Amazing Lemonade Stand.  Two students had lemonade stands and brought in money to donate to our sister school. 

Wonder #23 How Long is the Longest Bridge? Last year on our first day, I had the students build bridges with marshmallows and toothpicks to support a book. This was exciting on so many levels here is the blog entry.  In the afternoon, I read The Man Who Walked Between Two Towers which was an amazing connection and also great conversation about the importance of community on 9-11. 

Wonder #138 What Was the Underground Railroad? I used this wonder as we discussed the last effects of slavery.  It was interesting to listen to their background knowledge, but they needed more information so I read Henry's Freedom Box.  This is a touching and inspirational story about a young man who misses his family so much he decided to ship himself to the North.  

Wonder #106 What Does it Mean to Stand up for Something?  This was one of the most popular wonders in our classroom because it allowed the students to stop and think about their own lives. I also read If a Bus Could Talk and we spent several days discussing point of view, empathy, the impact of change and one of the most important lessons that value of the spoken word.

Wonder #567 What's So Great about Green? I used this wonder in science for our recycling unit and it's was a huge hook for the class.  We read Energy Island to connect which was an informational book about how a community pulled together and used every resource to save it. 

Wonder #11 What Causes a Shooting Star?  I had the student predict prior to this wonder to begin their thinking about space.  They knew many facts and when I asked them about craters they were not as familiar with them.  Perfect for reading Meteor!
and gaining new information and the chance to share that I got to hold a piece of the meteor when Patricia Polacco came to our school was extremely special for me. 

Wonder #45 What is a Totem Pole? This was one wonder that my class had very little background knowledge and when they knew was not authentic to the Native Americans. I needed to build their background knowledge so I read When the Shadbush Blooms. This is one of my favorite picture books because the pictures tell the story.  On the left side is story from the point of view from the Native Americans and on the right side is the same land today.  I highly recommend this book for visual literacy as well as comparing and contrasting. 

Wonder #428 Who Was St. Nick? is perfect to discuss around the holidays as we discuss all of the different celebrations and cultural traditions. I typically do this wonder on Friday to celebrate poetry and then share Snow Sounds which is subtitled an Onomatopoetic Story. It is full of beutiful language and the illustrations are amazing with simple monocromatic colors except for the big yellow light on the snow trucks.

Wonder #611 You Can't Judge a Book By It's Cover is a wonder I will be using this school year as we begin to discuss our lives as readers.  I will pair with my one of my first week read alouds:  Miss. Malarkey Leaves No Reader Behind.  This is a perfect first book because the moral is that the teacher will not give up on finding their students a just right book even if it takes forever :)

Wonder #338 Have You Ever Had a Frog in Your Throat?  First of all this video is perfect just show it to your class and have a conversation about it.  It is a perfect introduction to idioms and other figurative language, so once again I use these wonders on Poetry Friday.  I share Take Me Out of the Bathtub in the beginning of the year to energize poetry and allow students a totally different aspect-singing. Cool 5th graders still like to sing so it's great fun!!

Thank you to Cathy, at Reflect & Refine: Building a Learning Community,  and Mandy, Enjoy and Embrace Learning for sponsoring this 10 for 10 Picture book celebration.


Monday, August 6, 2012

Good Bye Quilts

As we arrived home from vacation, I needed to change our calendars to August.  Whenever I do this, I know I have about two weeks left before school starts, so my thinking is directed towards those weeks and how crucial it is to begin to build community with a new group of fifth graders.

For those of us who have been teaching for awhile (probably 10 years or more) we all have our favorite units that we just can't seem to get rid of in our classrooms. My unit was about quilting. It seemed appropriate for the beginning of the school year: building community, discussing how indicate designs create a beautiful piece of art, and how we are all unique in our own way.  In addition, I had several pictures books that I collected and read aloud, several puzzles that students could put together.  Also I had ALL of the students sew their own 9 piece quilt which for many of them was a brand new activity.  After several years of starting the year with my quilt unit and with the changes in education, I had to stop and really think about the educational benefits of this unit.  Mostly I thought about the time element that this unit consumed the first few weeks of school. How many indicators was I really teaching?  Was there a better way to weave community into the start of the school year?  Had times changed enough that quilting was a thing of the past? Sometimes we do need to throw the baby out with the bath water even if it is a difficult thing to do. 

After much deliberation, I decided that it was time to change the opening of the school year, so last year we started totally different. We built bridges and I encouraged students to begin to wonder instantly on the first day of school. The integration of 21st Century skills drove my thinking, and we started with nonfiction reading at Wonderopolis. Instantly the students were able to choose their topic, and I learned something new about every student within the first few days of school.  This year one of our first anchor charts will be entitled:  What does Room 228 WONDER about?