Saturday, June 28, 2014

Celebrating with Joy

It is 3:47 on Saturday afternoon. I have been thinking about this post for several days almost a week.  When I know that I'm going to be writing about celebrations, I think differently about my days.  When I know that my One Little Word is choice I think differently about my days.  Both of these pieces fit nicely together for me. I was going to post about my learning at All Write, but I realized I already posted with several-- possibly over a hundred tweets.  When I came home, I had to disconnect from social media and thinking about teaching. I was on Allwrite overload which was a fantastic thing, but I needed a few days to come down from the learning.

I just returned from my Choice Literacy writing retreat and the life lessons along with the gift of time to write was almost surreal for me.  A gift wrapped up in belly laughing conversations, rich talk about our biggest best question and then tie it with a bow for hours of writing time. A priceless celebration, thank you Brenda.

Finally I learned something about myself, and I have to give credit to Ruth for encouraging us at her keynote to make sure we tell our story.  In addition to my husband who has been gently nudging me this summer to realize that my fun time is mostly school related.  When I finished with my nightly responsibilities of being a teacher during the school year, I would spend the rest of the evening reading teacher blogs or checking in on twitter.  I would read another professional book or choose to blog about my day.  I have to admit most of my summer has had the similar schedule.

I am celebrating today that I found joy in my morning routine not checking twitter, Facebook or blogs.  Starting my day with eating some amazing granola that I brought home from the INN at Cedar Falls, weeding the gardens, visiting the farmer's market, going to the library to pick up five new books, fixing lunch and eating with my husband on the back deck.  Took a 20 minute nap (which my CL friends will enjoy knowing because our editor told us too) and read my new book:  brown girl dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson.

I made the choice to choose joy, and it was the best decision of the day.  Off to start dinner on the grill and keep reading. Thanks to Ruth Ayres for her weekly link-up, Celebrate this Week. You can link up  HERE

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Slice of Life: OWL - Choice

I am excited to join Two Writing Teachers for Tuesday Slice of Life writing community. I love the summer when I have time to slow down and read the different slices.  The power of comments mean so much to me, and I try and to pay it forward during summer.

Today’s Slice of Life is about my OLW – choice!  I have been explaining my choices to my family a lot lately.  Several times not complaining just inquiring “Mom why are you reading that book?”  “Which twitter chat are you doing now?”  “When does you summer vacation start?”  "Tell me again when are you leaving?"

My choices are centered on what I enjoy in the summer.  Long early morning walks, gardening, slow paced breakfast, and almost always time to check on newly posted blog posts. I explain numerous times that I enjoy reading professional books and taking notes.  It is fun to read blog posts and learn along with colleagues from around the country. This is the time when my Goodreads becomes my best friend, and I totally love reading  books to be ready to book talk in the fall.   

My summer professional life kicks into high gear starting this week and will continue for the next several. I am super excited about my choices for my upcoming professional development.
  • Google training and sharing about my 5th grade classroom with Dublin Colleagues  this week check out #dubchat
  •  #Allwrite14 starts tomorrow evening and goes through Friday (watch twitter for my learning along with several super smart colleagues)
  •  Choice Literacy Writing Retreat is the following week: a highlight with rich conversations about how to grow as a writer and the best part –time to write.
  • nERDcamp MI:  second week of July which is my first nERDcamp, and I am going with MS friends thanks to Gretchen for including me.
As you can see, I am going to be super busy by choice and continue my professional learning.  After that we have a short family vacation planned, so my blogging will be pretty sporadic for the next three to four weeks. I am extremely grateful for an amazing family that supports me and my OLW.

Monday, June 16, 2014

The Comprehension Experience: Chapter 2

Chapter 2:  The Power of Story Supporting Students’ Reading of Narrative Texts

“Students increase their capacity for comprehension more readily when they are focused on the story, not on learning or practicing a so-called reading skill or comprehension strategy.” 

·      FOCUS question for students: When you are finished reading, consider whether or not the new information changes your thinking? and What interesting words or phrases helped you with understanding the story?
·      PLANNING: includes careful orchestrated experiences
·      PREDICTIONS: generate curiosity, curiosity generates motivation. It is important to notice how students change their initial prediction as they obtain new information from the text.
·      More IMPORTANT than skill building are regular experiences with complex text, each with its own challenges and opportunities.

Again this chapter helped me to think about my presentation of narrative text. Like the first chapter, I am borrowing several ideas about asking deeper questions and allowing my students time to learn deeper.  I appreciate the reinforcement of curiosity because I believe that choice along with curiosity encourages students to be active learners. Finally, the opening quote is one that I agree with but occasionally get caught up with because of "needing" grades.  I need to remember this as the year begins.

Friday, June 13, 2014

The Comprehension Experience

 At the end of the school year, I started hearing about The Comprehension Experience. Several coaches had been given it as one of their summer PD books to read. I didn't know much about the book except I like the title. I want to think deeper about how to instruct my students to think beyond what they already know.  This was my mantra the last trimester of school.  I tackled the issue, but my tool box is shallow and needs reinforced.  Enter The Comprehension Experience Chapter 1:

·      READING is active, meaning-seeking process, equates reading with thinking and points out that meaning cues helps readers recognize and process words.
·      READERS must give more attention to certain words and less attention to others.
·      TEXT provides information; the readers, interacting with the text, generate meaning.
·     STUDENTS use background knowledge + vocabulary + purpose
·      PREDICT with narrative text and HYPOTHESIE with fictional text
·      COLLABORATIVE construction of understanding
·      EXPECTATIONS are critical
·      LEARNERS’ purpose and expectation are critical elements of comprehension which are influenced by intentions and mind-sets

Chapter 1 is about the history of comprehension. I am pretty sure I would have skipped this chapter in the past as recent as a few years ago; however I am now intrigued about how and why students learn.  In 26 years of teaching, I have observed huge changes in the way my students learn. The idea of being entertained, some having the lack of desire to push through hard learning, and finally very busy lives. 

 This first chapter made me realize that I am a part of the problem.  I tend to give too much away at the beginning of my mini lesson. I ask for background knowledge and even if it isn't relevant to the lesson, we discuss it.  The key points above are so important for me as I begin teaching deeper about ways to reinforce my comprehension toolbox.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Summer Road Map for Common Core

I love gardening and this little purple flower reminds me of all the learning I look forward to this summer.
One goal for this summer is to wrap my understanding around Grade 5 Standards. I have worked with them for the past three years through my involvement in Language Arts Council. I worked with K-1 and 2-3 implementation but now it is my turn to dig deep into Grade 5. 

I saved several articles and this past Sunday it was cold and rainy so a perfect time to start digesting the big ideas.  The three articles I focused on included:
    "Closing in on" by Nancy Boyles (Educational Leadership Dec. 2012)
    "What Students Can Do When the Reading Gets Rough" by Sunday Cummins
My goal was to define what Close Reading means for me in my classroom.  I took notes on several key points and developed questions that I now will focus on:
·      Careful systematic analysis of text (What are my students’ systems that they bring to fifth grade and how will I continue to enhance the system?)
·      Students must self-monitor their own reading (What do they do when they understand and don’t understand?)
·      Helping my students to uncover the layers of meaning in the text that requires several readings of it.
·      How will I teach my students to sustain their thinking for excerpts and continue to think critically in longer text?
·      Continue to teach my students to ask questions as they read but close reading occurs with the transfer of their new knowledge to the next text.

This last bullet point was a light bulb moment for me.  Connecting texts not on what is similar, but what was the new learning that the students can take to the next text. My take away from this final point is that it is not about text-to-text connections, but text-to-text learning.  I finally have a handle on how to scaffold my summer thinking.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Celebrate: Changing the Last Day of School

It's early Saturday morning, and I wanted to post a few small celebrations from the week. Thanks to Ruth Ayres for her weekly link-up, Celebrate This Week. Check out all the blogs that are linked up HERE.

Monday was our last day of school.  Our principal asked all the classes to not show a movie the last day of school and gave us plenty of time to consider a new option. She encouraged us to choose an activity that would support community and conversations.  I have to admit I always showed Akeelah and the Bee the last day of school and loved that activity because it has so many great lessons that we always discussed, but I had to change my plans.  

We would end the year the way we started the year.  With our famous Room 228 quote: "We are ____ ." Students could choose to fill in the blank with the following: historians, scientists, readers, writers, word smiths, and mathematicians. After brainstorming and filling up our entire dry erase board with favorite activities students broke into smaller groups to work on their anchor posters which I will use next year for the first few weeks of school as a preview. 

Creating "We are scientists" 

Finally this celebration which will be placed in my special memory box of my favorite moments of teaching.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Summer Learning - Teacher Nerdy Style

I admit I'm one of those teachers who get ecstatic to begin my summer learning. At last count, I have 38 articles printed from the school year that I read quickly but wanted more time to process them over the summer. My to be read pile is not a stack -- it is an inviting mountain calling my name. I have four books on reserve at the library, but first I made myself stop. Breathe. Walk outside around our pond. Weed our six gardens. Ok long enough time to jump into summer learning.  Off to the library to pick up my first two books:  Hope is a Ferris Wheel by Robin Herrera and Upside Down in the Middle ofNowhere by Julie T. Lamana. 

During the school year, I was lucky enough to join a group of third grade teachers for a monthly PD as they discussed their first year in Common Core.  Conversations were powerful and a special thanks to Kelly, Franki, and Lynsey for including me.

We were able to skype with @KristinZiemke and I had four light bulb moments that I am already thinking about for my classroom next year.

A) "It's not the technology - it is the thinking" I could have stopped right there.  This is a constant reminder for me, and I need to be more purposeful with integration throughout the school day.

B)  "Take a screenshot and email it to me" so many times I have wanted to share pieces of student work, and our airport weren’t working, or we were on laptops. So simple but never considered it and now that we are using Google it is simple to drop a picture into a document.

C) "Tech team Mondays" is an organizational tool that she uses to help organize her class.  The students work with same partner for a set time frame and know who to go to for help prior to asking the teacher. Easy and solves problems for me.

D)  "Interactive anchor charts" once a mini lesson is over take some video of students practicing, create a QR code and paste it on the chart. Brilliant!!

Summer learning is the BEST!  Already I am shifting practices and thinking about how to incorporate Common Core as I implement it next year for the first time.  I’ve only been out for two days, and I haven’t even been to Google Training, Allwrite14, Choice Literacy Retreat or Nerd Camp. It’s going to be a productive and fun summer.