Saturday, March 23, 2013

OLW: March Gratitude

Compliments to Google images however I can't wait to take my own photos.
The month of March flew by I blinked at it's over almost over. I am going to be taking a week break from blogging, tweeting and disconnect from technology.  Our Spring break is this upcoming week, and I am super excited and thankful (OLW) for the opportunity to be going to the Grand Canyon. It's been on my bucket list forever, and our children didn't seem to be very interested in seeing it.  My husband and I enjoy Las Vegas (I personally LOVE Las Vegas) so we're tag teaming the two together for a fun week of vacation. 

Probably one of the highlights of March for me was Cynthia Lord visiting our school.  I am so impressed with the authors that I have the chance to meet. Always I learn something new about my writing. My students always walk away with this "awe" look in their eyes especially when my student, Ashley, had a chance to talk to Cynthia.  I am totally plagiarizing this next OLW from Bill's blog at Literate Lives.  He caught the moment with a flash of the camera.  Thanks Bill!!  By the way, I got very teary eyed.

Finally my OLW has to do with the small conversations in life. Those with friends and family that totally understand me. You know when you're just shaking your head and wondering why and then someone asks if you're ok? And better yet takes time to listen as you talk to them.  Truly listen.  Or when you're questioning the system and you read a Slice of Life that totally makes sense and you could have written it.  There have been a few big bumps in March, but I paused when I totally wanted to panic/cry and realized how blessed I am to be at this particular point in my life especially as I have a week off to relax, read and explore the Grand Canyon.  See you in April.



Friday, March 22, 2013

Poetry Friday with some Revision

If I continue to go amazing conferences, someday I will become a poet possibly? My first poem was written with Ralph Fletcher's help at AllWrite.  Kate Messner helped me write my second original poem.  At least, I am working with the BEST teachers in the world. I posted about my reflection time from Kate's session on Real Revision.  Kate is masterful with modeling for us how to use revision. She asked us to go through a 6 step process using Poetry.  

#1 write for 3 min. about a favorite place if you have a picture use it 

Beautiful lake, wooden crooked floored dock, cool water,hot shimmering 
sun,hang out on the dock in the middle of the lake, difficult to reach, 
olden red rowboat, straggling fishing poles, dried bread crumbs from 
the morning fishing. Smell of blueberry pie lofting downward

#2 She modeled a Sometime Poem - here is my attempt.

Sometimes I want to go back to the cabin in the woods
Smelling the pine trees and quietness of the air
Standing on the porch looking out at the lake
Glimmering with the sun sparkling on the water
As I begin my journey down the path,
I leave the smell of a blueberry pie cooking in the oven

Walking slowly down the hill slipping on acorns 
Meandering through the path of wild flowers painted yellow and pink
Noticing the painted sailboats off in the distance
wondering when will I ever be able to sail one by myself? 
Sometimes I want to go back to the cabin in the woods 

#3 Revise with adding one of the 5 senses
#4 Revise with asking what would your poem say to you?
#5 Revise and act out a verb - watch the actions record in writer's notebook
#6 Cut out 20 words of the Sometime Poem

This was a quick easy process that I enjoyed and modeled for my own students.  Several of my students are now using the steps in their own writing. As both Ralph and Kate said, "to be a writer you must write."  Find some time this weekend to enjoy writing.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

WONDERing all Rolled into One Lesson

 There have been several occasions when I have overhead this conversation at school.  "I am out of time I don't know how I am going to fit it all in?" Typically with exasperation as well as a sense of panic as the state tests are rolling around for this school year.  My quick response "Have you looked at Wonderopolis?"  Wondering can be a game changer in your classroom. This past week in our classroom, I wove all these skills into one
Wonder: #701  Who's at the Top of the Food Chain?

 Reading Focus Skills:
-Students wrote predictions and confirmed their predictions.
-Answering the 3 focus questions, and I differentiated by having some students write higher level questions (evaluative)
-Searched for evidence in the text to support their answers
-Sequence of events within the article
-main idea and supporting details
-cause/effect review lesson

Writing Focus Skiils:
-students wrote a summary of the article including topic, detail and closing senteneces
-I reviewed parts of speech with a small group who needed help with pronoun agreements
-some students extended a concept by doing a word web
-some students wrote a poem using the vocabulary about Food Chains

Word Study Skills:
-using the vocabulary list we review syllable boxes and "every box has a vowel rule"
-parts of speech and how to change nouns from singular to plural
-looking in the text, they practiced context clues and if they did not know the meaning they used their iPods for definitions
-some students wrote their own sentences using the new vocabulary

Science Focus Skills:
-Food chains/webs was our topic for the week, so we used this article in class along with our text book.
-students drew and wrote about the food chains from the article
-students labeled their food chain with correct vocabulary
-students watched the video (which they LOVED) and drew the food chain

Math Focus Skills:
-students could draw the Energy Pyramid and discuss the flow of energy that starts with 100% and decreases as the amount of energy is used
-students could write story problems using the vocabulary for math class

So if you're looking for ways to save time and want to  weave several core lessons into one chunk of your schedule I would suggest using Wonderopolis.  It is extremely easy to use with the search button in the top right hand corner. You type the topic you're looking for, and I promise the rest of the lesson will fall in to place.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Cynthia Lord RULES Bailey

I could not get to computer fast enough to type my post about Cynthia Lord's visit the past two days at Bailey. I was so excited when Bill at Literate Lives announced to the author committee that she was going to be visiting our school.  Let me go back two years to start my story.

Two years ago our Newbery Club read Touched Blue and our whole group of 5th graders along with their parents fell in love with this story.  One of my students in my class that year touched my heart in so many ways similar to Aaron in the book, Touch Blue.  As my student and her parent read the book at home together, my student's parent also was extremely touched by the book and emailed Cynthia Lord. She expressed how so many of the parts of the story overlapped with their own forward two years and Cynthia Lord visited our school. 

She shared about the history of her reading life. I am proud to say I could raise my hand on 8/9 books.
Fifth graders were able to spend yesterday morning listening to Cynthia discuss her life as an author.  I LOVE how she started discussing how everyone can  be an author as long as they incorporate 4 things into their life.
     1.  Read - when you do read ask yourself: What did the author do to make me love this book? She rereads the last line of every chapter of a favorite book to answer this question.
     2.  Write - The only way to be a better writer is to practice. She gave a great analogy to the students about riding a bike or practicing for a sports team
    3.  Learn - knowledge in school, learn about the tools that writer's use. I liked when she said you don't have to perfect with the tools because there is an editor to help.
    4.  Dream - wonder, imagine, and write down your "seeds" of a good story

What a great message for elementary students to hear from a Newbery author.  She then continued to share how she researches her books.  She shared how she rode the ferry to her job as a teacher on a small island and wrote about all the different sensory descriptions in her writer's notebook. Those snippets helped her as she wrote Touch Blue.  My favorite line was, "I look for surprises that couldn't be imagined and then I know that is the gold in the story."  

She shared how important revision is even after 8 drafts.
She also shared with the students about how she has to "just get through" her first draft and typically the middle part is difficult for her.  Finally she shared a marvelous writing technique that she uses called WOW.  It was the buzz of 5th grade as we walked up the stairs back to our classrooms.

W =  Want - What does the character want in the story?
O = Obstacles - What obstacles are in the character's way in the story?
W = Win - Did the character win?  Sometimes yes and sometimes no. 

Finally a full circle moment for me, last night we had dinner at my student's home as her mom prepared a delicious dinner for Cynthia and the author committee.  It was one of the HIGHLIGHTS of my teaching career as I sat on the coach talking to my student who is now in 7th grade discussing her life and how much she has grown academically, socially and her maturity shined through like the sun. Then I walked into the kitchen and had time to talk Cynthia one on one about life.  Finally as night ended, I hugged both parents and thanked them for "one of those nights." That night will go down in my memory box forever!!

Finally check out Cynthia Lord's blog post about today's special events in our classroom.
Time to meet Xander-


Saturday, March 9, 2013

Wonder Always Amazes Me

Our class just finished Wonder last week and the conversations along with their personal thoughts that they shared with me through their reader's notebook will be the highlight of my year.  As the book ended and we began our conversations, I had a nagging feeling....  I wanted to know what everyone was thinking about the book. Without hesitation and definitely not wanting to kill the book with a worksheet, I decided to offer a choice of 3 projects.

#1 The students could choose to design a Wonder poster
#2 The students could choose to have a conversation with their parents about the book and then write about it.  The second piece was that  the parents must right about the conversation also.
#3 The students could answer questions about the book and connect their answers to their life.

The class divided almost into perfect thirds which excited me because I tossed the "conversation" idea out just to see if anyone would take it.  As a class, we developed our themes for the book and discussed how the book was organized from that criteria I allowed them to use that information anyway they chose too.

WOW to say I was super impressed was an understatement. Several times I was moved because I learned so much about my students that I never would have learned in a verbal conversation.  If you have not read Wonder to your class, I highly suggest it.

Our hallway display is very popular with other students are reading the book.

LOVED the last line of his reflection!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

What Are You Writing These Days?

“So…what are you writing these days?” Kate Messner’s opening slide after she introduced herself.  She paused and asked us to think about this question.  There was a long silence in the audience and her words hung over me like a dark cloud for the rest of her presentation. Not because I am not a writer but do I “find” time to write, or do I “create” time to write?

She shared the importance of writing communities including support on twitter, her summer virtual writing camp called Teachers Write! And how we can support each other through our blogs and leaving comments.  I loved when she said, “Revision should not be a surprise.” Because for so many students when they turn in their final piece of writing that they have worked hard on they think they are done/published.  The idea that revision is not a surprise is something that I need to reinforce throughout the school year within reading, writing, word study, or even math. The message being that as students of writing, we are never done. There are always revisions that can be made to make a piece of writing stronger.

I learned several ideas that I will take back to my classroom. in addition I will process several ideas over the summer. However, the part of her presentation that I will take back to my class quickly will be about how to do mini revision lessons that can make a huge difference.

#1 Write for three minutes describing a place that you love. (if they have a picture that would be great)
#2 She then modeled a Sometimes Poem for us and asked us to take our ideas above and write a Sometime Poem (more on that in Poetry Friday)
#3 Add a sense of SMELL to your poem (this can change to other 5 senses)
#4 If your poem, could talk back to you right now, what would it say?
#5 Role Play! Have a student act out a tired body language like angry and take notes in WNB about what you see add details to your poem
#6 Cut at least 20 words from your poem

Kate asked us to go through this writing process and it was a insightful experience for me because I stumbled at some points and felt success at other writings. I learned the importance of her workshop-and yes, we are all writers.


Friday, March 1, 2013

February OLW: Gratitude

February in Ohio is one of my least favorite months.  I remember driving our children down to the bus stop (we do have a really long driveway) I would say we just have to make it through February. If you ask them, I am sure they would say I said it everyday in the month of February.

As I reflect on my OLW: gratitude. I am thankful for several different opportunities to have professional conversations with colleagues.  These conversations happen in my school through twitter and on blogs. There were a couple of times when my chin was dragging on the ground this month, and a friend's kind words lifted my spirits and put a smile on my face.  Amazing how the virtual PD world is such a strong part of my PLC.

I attended the Dublin Lit Conference last Saturday as I walked around looking at several hundred teachers giving up their time on Saturday to pursue more knowledge about literacy I was in AWE of my profession. Gratitude for having the opportunities to listen to authors, present with Mary Lee, and explore some books. 

Time to enjoy visiting our daughter was another point of my gratitude. I took two personal days, and we drove to SC to visit Anna. It was our first trip back since moving her down in August. We arrived Friday and visited her in her own classroom.  Full circle moment doesn't even begin to express the feelings of walking into her very first classroom.  Together, the three of us explored Charleston, learned about the rich history, found Starbucks, and several amazing restaurants.  Super proud of you Anna!

Finally I completed 3 RAK (Random Acts of Kindness) this month working toward my goal of 26 in remembrance of Sandy Hook Elementary.  I typically don't list my specific RAK, but I thought passing on this idea from Choice Literacy was important. Here is an excerpt from their weekly newsletter:

Earlier this month Crestline Elementary School in Vancouver, Washington was destroyed by a fire. Crestline was the home of Choice Literacy contributors Beth Lawson and Melanie Quinn, and we spent many happy hours over the past three years filming teachers and children at work in this wonderful school. Thankfully no one was harmed in the flames, the school will be rebuilt by late 2014, and the local community has rallied in incredible ways to support those who called Crestline home. But for now the teachers and students have been moved to temporary classroom sites throughout the district, and they have lost everything -- every piece of writing in student journals and portfolios, and every single book out of their classroom libraries. Can you imagine losing all your children's books overnight, and starting over again with your students midyear in an empty classroom in an unfamiliar building? Many of these books were purchased over years with teachers' personal funds. The staff has collaborated on a wishlist of books at Amazon to rebuild their classroom libraries. Please consider purchasing a book at this link to help these teachers and children. It would mean the world to them. Any notes of support sent with your purchases would also be much appreciated.  I found yesterday (thanks mom) that my link was not working.  CL is checking on it for me and I will post the link again when we find it. 

Tracy @ Thinking Stems posted her OLW:  creating. Check it out great thinking on graphic organizers.