Sunday, September 29, 2013

OLW: September Gratitude

As September comes to a close tomorrow, I am thankful for so many small moments that when placed all together in my life made September a special month.  As I celebrated my 50th birthday and as the years move on, I am always thankful for the my birthday. I have always believed it is the one day of the year that is a time to be thankful for the gifts that I have received.  

Celebrating with my family is always at the top of my birthday list and this year I was pretty sure that we were not going to be able to all be together.  With Anna in SC, I just didn't think she was going to be able to come home until her fall break. All of a sudden, she called and figured out with a little help from my cousin that she would be able to fly home for the weekend. As a mom, I knew that everyone in our family needed time to be together. It might have been for less than 48 hours, but I  now have treasured memories that will always be with me. Time to talk and laugh, time to solve life problems and time to be together early on Saturday morning. There is never a better present in my opinion.  Next, I have extreme gratitude for my support team. Those friends at my school, my CL writing community, my NCFL family that lifts me up and is a consummate cheerleader along with a voice of reason when our education world gets a little crazy.  We all need different levels of support, and this month all the pieces fell together. OLW continues to help me pause each month and lift out those moments of gratitude.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

WWL3: Differentiating Wonderopolis

Wonder Wednesday Lesson 3:  Differentiating Wonderopolis

 I allow my students learning to guide most of my wonder lessons every Wednesday.  All teachers know that aching feeling when you know certain students need to review that skill, most students know the skill, and some students knew the skill before you started teaching the concept.  From last week’s lesson, I knew I had a group of nine students who struggled with writing sentences with the focused wonder vocabulary.  The rest of the class needed to push on, so I used my stickers to differentiate.  Magic occurred because I didn’t have to say aloud, “You will review last week’s lesson.” Or “You’re going to push ahead and work on facts/opinions.”  As a whole group, I modeled strong vocabulary sentences along with reviewing facts/opinions. I passed out their stickers placing them in their wonder book. Students starting working in their wonder book, and I was able to drop in and review focus skills. The power of stickers is WONDERful!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

WWL2: Facts and Vocabulary

WWL2:  focus on new facts and vocabulary

She chose some of her favorite wonders while searching the site.
 As I passed out the students Wonder books last week, they asked me why they were blank? I thought that was odd; however after our conversation I totally understood why they asked.  Several students said they always had set teacher directions on most "projects" and they wanted to meet my criteria.  Interesting perspective. I thought back to a conversation this summer about what age do students learn to play the game of school?  I told them my only direction was to decorate the cover and have fun.  Make sure your name was on it too.

Example of vocabulary words used in context.
Next I pulled up the Wonder of the Day for Wednesday so I could model their homework. We read the wonder about technology in schools and wrote 5 facts on chart paper. We then looked at the vocabulary and chose some words and students used the words in sentences.  They were ready for their first wonder HW.  I passed out the stickers and guided them in setting up their wonder book.   We wrote the assignment on the plan-book and everyone was off to choose their wonder  at Wonderopolis on their iPod.   

Facts and sentences.  Check out the sticker for organization more on that next week.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

OLW: Reflection on Fall Assessments

Starting with PS:  After teaching for 25 years, I have realized we must jump through the hoops of assessments, and yes I was one that has fought most of them along the way.  But the energy I spent on complaining I turned around this year and used it to gather key information about my students.  It feels better to accept the assessment and learn how to use the information to build stronger teaching practices based on students fall data. Thanks to Gretchen Taylor @Learning with Joy for helping me shift my thinking about required assessments through our summer conversations. 

Our district uses the DRA for our reading assessment. On a side note, the DRA is not one that I had  a problem giving, but this year I focused on how to use the information better that I gathered. We also gave the MAP Reading test for the first time this year. I need to learn more about this assessment through PD this year.  There are 3 parts in the DRA, which include:  Reading Engagement, Fluency, and Comprehension. 

A) READING ENGAGMENT:  I will meet with 5 different groups of students to help them write their own reading goals based on their survey.  Students need help with finding time to read, changing genres, keeping track of their reading, understanding vocabulary, and finally writing about their JR reading.  The authenticity of students choosing their goals as well as letting the students know that I am part of their team in helping them grow as readers is an important message that I want to send to all my students early in the school year.

B) FLUENCY:  This is an area of the DRA that I enjoy because I am able to read with each student. We discuss previewing a book as well as having them read the first few pages as I do a running record.  Often it is the first time I hear students read aloud.  Typically students who do not like reading aloud often do not volunteer the first few weeks of school.  I now will have a small group of students who will be doing fluency checks with me.  Monday we will meet and discuss a text, students will practice with a Wed. check in and finally a Friday comparison to Monday’s data. 

C)  COMPREHENSION: This is an area on the DRA that is clear-cut for small groups.  It is broken into 5-7 different skills, and I used the check off list to know which students are instructional, independent etc. in these areas.  I already know that I have 4-6 students reading above grade level and will need to be challenged early in the school year with choice of text as well as lifting their lessons to a higher level of thinking at the inferential and evaluative level. 

As I reflect on the information I have gained from this one piece of evidence, I realize that I now know my students better as readers and I even learned about their writing. (Several students have forgotten the rules of capitalization and checking spelling which is the text). The most exciting time can now start in our classroom this week.  Time to begin sharing wonderful mentor texts, building anchor charts that support our learning community, allowing students time to read and read some more.  Bring on workshop I am ready!! How do you gather information on your students as readers the first several weeks of school? Leave me a comment-were you in the similar boat as I was? 

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Wonder Wednesday: Lesson 1-Updates

We started Wonder Wednesday last week with a conversation about what do you already know about the site Wonderopolis?  I am very lucky because by the time my students are in fifth grade they know the site very well.  Our librarian, Bill Prooser @Literate Lives uses the site everyday in the library with 1-5 grade.  I posed my question: Tell me about Wonderopolis and typical responses include:  there is a video,  an article to read, 3 questions to answers, additional links, photos and vocabulary.  I asked them if they know any of the new features?  One student knew that now the Wonder of Day could be read aloud to them because they looked at it over the summer.  I pulled up the site on my Smartboard, and I shared with the students the new features (at least to them).

B.  Vocabulary (Wonder Words):  is now differentiated into three groups.  The words can be clicked on for definitions and students can use context clues to help them with the definition.  There is also a Wonder Word Challenge.

C..  Test your Knowledge:  After each wonder there is a 3-5 question multiple choice quiz that the students can take which teachers/parents could use as a quick comprehension check.

D.  Wonder Gallery:  Students can add their own pictures/photos to support the wonder.  This is a great place for students to extend their learning by comparing/contrasting the pictures.  It is also fun to introduce the wonder with one of these pictures and then pull up the Wonder of the Day.

Finally this school year, I will be blogging about our weekly celebration of Wonder Wednesday.  Several teachers have asked how I integrate wondering into our day and my quick response is "that it is easy." One friend replied back "for you" so I will take you on my journey this year as I share our Wonder Wednesday adventures and learning with Room 228.