Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Who is Thinking More?

As I drop in on the above conversation and listen closely, I am a little dismayed on how the conversation is focused on the literal and not moving towards a higher level. As you can see in the picture all the "tools" are in place now we need to focus on the conversations. I have to admit I am stuck with moving conversations forward this year. We created an anchor chart for sentences starters to help students lift the level of conversations. I have used modeling in my mini lessons, and I have tried the "fishbowl" with conversations. Several students want to meet my expectations and "check" the teacher boxes.  I wonder if I have structured too much?  Is that possible?  

We are getting ready to begin our first round of book clubs.  We are starting with picture books, and my students are going to be given guidelines but not check off lists.  I have really modified how I introduced clubs this year because I believe this group is too dependent on me.  I am leaving doors more open and scaffolding that is not as rigid.  I am taking my own advice that I have given out so many times.  Allow my students this year to lead the lessons or in this case change the lessons.  My goal is more interdependence and less dependence on me. 

Last Friday, I was at a full day PD on Common Core.  The presenter asked a question that really opened my eyes and made me pause. "Who is thinking harder in your class this year?  You or your students?"  I know my answer and at this point in the year, there needs to be a shift. 

Thursday, October 24, 2013

OLW: October Gratitude

Yesterday was one of those special days.  It started at 8:00 AM, fifty minutes before students typically arrive at school. Bill (librarian), Margaret (kindergarten teacher) and I met with Newbery Club. This year we have 17 students who are all reading at least 2 books for each club meeting. Today the top winners included:  Counting by 7’s, Center of Everything, The Mouse with a Question Mark Tail.  The conversation began with how all of these stories were very confusing and several students struggled when they started these books. After listening, the three of us supported them by explaining that higher-level text can flow back and forth with setting, flashbacks for characters and the importance of tracking their reading. By the end of club, the conversation shifted and students were using stronger examples from the text.  You can’t begin to appreciate a group of boys and girls who love to read and more importantly enjoy having a conversation with their peers and teachers. Off we sent them with their new list for the next two weeks. Of course, I had already had a three of the books on the next list to book talk.

Excited to see so many ideas for exploring vocabulary. Love the illustrations
Later in the day, when I was tired and feeling frustrated, two students asked if they could talk to me.  I asked them to join me at the round table for a conversation and they arrived with a smile. When they sat down, they wanted to tell me how much they love their word notebook.  Both students have never collected vocabulary words, and they just wanted to thank me for having a basket of fun word notebooks to choose from and more importantly for encouraging them to start their own word notebook. By the way, these two special memories were not in my lesson plans for yesterday.

Set up to support Newbery Club and reading Navigating Early

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Pictures Say a 1,000 Words Only if.......

you look back at them and remember the stories behind them. After talking to some friends and discussing the importance of anchor charts in our classrooms. Thanks to my Lit. Group at BE :) They suggested to take photos of the anchor charts.  I am constantly running out of space in my room for anchor charts, but I have students who rely on anchor charts which makes me happy however keeping all of them is not always easy. I set up folders this year on my student computer, so I can pull up pictures of anchors charts if students ask me where one went. Sadly most of them end up in the recycle bin; however, lately I have been giving them away to students who want to play school. I have one student who wants all the math anchor posters so she can use them at home for when she is tutored.  Why haven't I thought of this sooner?  
Sharing a class picture book for a formative assessment on story elements.
top chart: students created as an overview of what they remembered about character traits.
lower chart:  class chart created together using 5th grade standards for char. traits

Connecting read aloud with our writing.  LOVED Escape from Mr. Lemoncellos's Library
Students were more excited when their tweet was RT by Chris Grabenstein

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

WWL4: Teaching Preview Skills with Wonders

One of the important lessons I want to teach my students earlier in the year is the importance of preview with reading both fiction and non-fiction.  My students struggled with transferring their preview skills to non-fiction reading.  Students are hesitant to use their preview skills, and I wanted to make sure through a mini lesson that students understood how to use these skills when reading a Wonder of the Day.  We focused on How Great is the Great Barrier Reef? which connects to our life science unit.  

Our preview lesson included the following five steps:
#1  skim the article for non-fiction text features
#2  search for important vocabulary words (use the list of vocabulary provided)
#3  look for new facts that might be included in text, captions, links
#4  watch the video to get a visual of the wonder in addition listening for new facts

After the students completed this mini-lesson they practiced on a wonder of their choice. We ended the focus lesson with a conversation about the importance of background knowledge (BK) prior to reading a new wonder of the day.  I bet this strategy will help your students become more active learners with reading non-fiction.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Are You Stuck in LP Boxes?

It is so exciting when pieces of the puzzle begin to fit nicely.  This has happened for me this year.  After spending the summer, thinking, learning and reflecting on how to build stronger readers and writers, I have found the missing piece for me.  First of all my schedule totally changed this year, our language arts block is the last two hours of the day.  I never thought I would like that slot of time, but I have really enjoyed it for several reasons.  The most important one is that I have totally linked my reading, writing and word study together.  I am not quite sure why I haven't seen this as a block of two hours.  Perhaps because my lesson plans are set up with 3 isolated blocked plans:  reading, writing, word study.  I felt the pressure the first several weeks to make it to our writing time.  When I shifted my thinking to a large block of language arts time, I didn't feel the urgency as the minutes clicked away. I wonder how many teachers look at these three areas as three separate parts or one whole?  It sure changed my perspective when it was one large chunk of time.  

The second shift is thanks to my friend, Bill Prosser @ Literate Lives. He taught me several years ago sometimes it is just fun to read a book for the great story!!  While the wall is open, Sarah and I share the same read aloud  Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library which we will finish tomorrow.  Everyday our students are listening to our read aloud, having fun solving the puzzles, discussing how the characters are going to escape, and enjoying an excellent book.  Enthusiasm for reading is the goal and we are achieving it.

Finally the last shift is with my thinking. I am helping my students "think as a reader but also think as a writer." When you connect those ideas, the flow of the lessons are amazing.  All of a sudden our mini lesson on the influence of setting in RW is carried into our writer's notebook for our narratives. All three together in sync create an amazing two hours of literacy learning in room 228.

On a side note, as I reflect on the start of my year, I often find myself wondering:  Why does it take so long to figure something out that makes my teaching stronger?  Finally I have realized that all my summer learning is like a file cabinet that is full of ideas, but until I meet my students and learn about their needs I cant access those files.  The answer is not in the why but in the when.  When I know my new students as a class of readers/writers, I finally can pull that file out that makes all the difference for me as well as them. It sure is a great feeling when the pieces of the puzzle all fit together nicely.  (I have no idea why I have so many font changes-oh well letting go trying to

fix them :)

Friday, October 4, 2013

Word Work

Searching for the definitions.
We’re a month into school, routine has been established and after all of the required fall testing, I can finally breathe. It’s that time of year, the air is crisp and I want to begin challenging my students. Pushing them to begin learning at a higher level, setting expectations so they know that this year there will be challenges, but we’re all a team and everyone will win.

If you read my blog often you know that I love words!  I tell my students that I am a wordsmith at heart and constantly thinking about vocabulary.  As our first mini unit ended with word observations, I realized I have a wide span of word learners.  According to our district spelling assessment, skills ranges from short vowel sounds, blends, long vowel patterns, and multi-syllabic words. I automatically had to adjust my thinking as well as my lesson plans. I want to continue whole group focus lessons, but I needed to find time for small group instruction. I know a common problem for all teachers.

I struggle with assigning buddy partners (high/low) groups. I prefer to have my students work with a wide variety of partners. Occasionally I assign partners but more based on relationships and not leveled learning.  One of the ways that I have already had success after whole group learning is using stickers to differentiate the skills. Students are able to work on the focus skills at their own levels.  Students who need additional help after I work with them I place their sticker in their word study spiral.  Another light bulb moment happened, I now have my students who complete their work early record their answers on our WS anchor chart.  Why did it take me 25 years to realize that there is power in having the students complete the anchor chart for our wall? 

Creating our anchor chart

Happy 3rd Birthday

It's been three years since Wonder #1 Why are Flamingos Pink? piqued my interest. Their theme for the birthday celebration is "Look How Far We've Come." For me, that has been an amazing journey. I have been lucky enough to have been with Wonderopolis since the beginning and have had conversations from San Diego to Ohio and in November I will be heading to Boston for NCTE.  Being a wonder lead not only has influenced my teaching but also has raised my sense of inquiry as an adult. I decided to take a look back at some of my favorite wonders by asking my students to be guest bloggers and write about their favorite part. Without further introduction-welcome guest authors!!

#100  What is a milestone?  

Dear Wonderopolis,  We really enjoyed this wonder. It clearly written about what is a milestone. It's really cool imagining what super cool milestones are coming ahead of us like our graduating from high school or getting a car! Congratulations on reaching your milestone and passing of 1,050 wonders of the day. What's your next milestone your hoping to reach? Sincerely, A,R,E
#152  How Does a Species Become Endangered?

We liked the this wonder, but we wish the video had words. The actual writing was very factual and Wonderoplis did a good job.  We did not know that over 40% of animals are endangered!  Congrats to Wonderoplis for an amazing three years of wonders.  M, E, D

#766 When Will Pigs Fly?

We thought this wonder was very interesting.  Our most favorite part of this wonder is the very funny video.  We learned that if someone says  "When Pigs Fly" it just means it isn't possible or not going to happen whatever that might be.  We also learned phrases similar to this one such as " When cows fly " which is used in many countries.  In France and Spain, phrases such as "When frogs grow hair" or "When hens grow teeth" are also used. So, over all this is a great wonder to enjoy but remember if anyone says " When Pigs Fly", assume that it is not going to happen.  MN, KB, EP, BS

#216 Are Horses Predators or Prey?

Dear Wonderopolis, We read about horses and if they are predators or prey. We learned that they are mostly prey. They are mainly eaten by bears, mountain lions, and wolves. We liked how the article explained what animals were called by what they eat (omnivores, herbivores, carnivores etc). This connected to our science unit we are studying. This wonder was very exciting :)!  Sincerely,  MP, LS, LM, AC

#162 What is Pi?

Have you been wondering what Pi is?  Pi is a ratio of a circle circumference to its diameter. The exact number is 3.14159 and so on.  It is a never ending number. Some mathematicians have a theory that it is actually going to end.  In the last 100 recently found digits there has only been a single 1. They think that the 1 will disappear and over time the rest of the digits will disappear.  A special event in honor of Pi is March14 or also known as Pi day.  B,A,I,L

#821 What is a Metaphor?

We learned metaphor is something you can compares with like or as. The word metaphor comes from a Greek word meaning "to transfer". There is also a special/different metaphor called a simile. Metaphor's can be different in describing words.What we liked about the wonder is it explained very well what a metaphor is and we didn't really understand what a metaphor is. THANKS Wonderopolis!!  J,J,E,C