Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Help I have a serious problem!

I am a hoarder of information! I love learning and collecting information. My primary passion is word work and if I could be a full time wordsmith I think I might be in heaven. I am constantly hearing phrases and I want to remember them. I see phrases and I want to lift them.  I read phrases and I want to highlight them.  My problem is I have ideas in way too many places.  I have tried so many ideas: binders, notebooks, my phone, my iPad, Evernote, sticky notes and combination of all of these or just a few together.  I have a compulsion with paper copies. I LOVE being able to reread articles, write on them and highlight. I like to know that I JUST have them to reread them.  Choice Literacy is like a piece of heaven every Saturday morning -what an amazing wealth of information.  I have my favorites bookmarked on that site and I still feel the need to print. 

Then add twitter to my list......oh my that is like pushing me over the edge.  I must have 100 tweets that I have forwarded to myself and I am pretty sure I have not looked back at them again.  I "favorite" 1000 tweets and totally am overwhelmed with that list too.

Saturday I attended Dublin Literacy Conference and was immersed with two of my favorite things:  hugs and information.  I saw several friends who wanted to give me a hug, check on Marcus and let me know they were praying for our family.  As far as information, I was on overload.  I actually had my phone, iPad and WNB out on my lap.  Why do I confuse myself?  I came home ready to reread my notes and then life got in the way and finally tonight I had that chance to lift some ideas.  I am seriously getting to the point that I can't remember everything, so I start my new thinking for nonfiction and research. Visualize me with 4 professional books,  two 3 ring notebooks, my writer's notebook, my iPad open to notes, and my laptop to favorite bookmark websites.  Believe me I am not drowning, just basking in amazing resources that I am thrilled to have at my fingertips.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Changing Up Nonfiction

List seven nonfiction attributes? 
Look through this article and label the characteristics.
Cut out five attributes and explain what you learn from each trait. Design a poster.

I always have used our 5th grade Weekly Reader magazines as a focus as well as using Wonderopolis for articles to support content areas.  I have started to purchase a wider variety of nonfiction books for our class library.  I am excited about new series: Scientists in the Field series and I just found Smart Kids series.  The layout is amazing and focus on key vocabulary is perfect for several lessons.  My new favorite series. Check it out!  Below are some of our favorite books.  Thanks Franki and Mary Lee for several of these titles.  

When I get stuck in my teaching practices, I turn to twitter, blogs and professional books. I just finished reading Aimee Buckner’s book:  Nonfiction Notebooks: Strategies for Informational Writing.  As I read her book, I highlighted several key ideas and then went back to reread to pull out some key quotes.

            “If we don’t change our approach to writing, we’ll get the same kind of report we’ve always  gotten from our students.”  AMEN! And I am guilty…..

            “We can use the same approach…but the focus needs to be on relevant information.”

            “They need to research what they don’t know yet” AMEN and I am guilty again….

“…need to move students away from random fact collecting to systematic informational gathering” Do I need say it again?

Building on Aimee's  idea:  background + new information = higher learning. The first strategy that I am going to borrow from her book is:  TAKE A TOUR.  She begins with a strong lead “Museums are fascinating.”  I have a group of students this year who really benefit with a visual both with introducing a new topic and extending a topic.  I am going to twist her idea and make it my own. 

1)     I am going to ask my class to draw a picture in their writer’s notebook of something they believe they are an expert on and then write around the picture with short bullet points.
2)    Next each student will put 4 sticky notes on the side of their desk next to their open writer’s notebook.  The students are going to walk around the room and write questions on the sticky notes, so each student will have further areas of research.
3)    Then each student will use our class nonfiction resources or check out a book from the library to search for further answers to gain new knowledge of their topic.
4)    Finally I will have them verify their answers with a second source probably Internet sources and have them present their findings to the class.

I am excited about this new introduction to nonfiction instead of my typical three questions. How are you expanding your nonfiction lessons?  Leave me a comment.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Word Work is a Continuous Circle

Virtual PD is one of my favorite parts of twitter.  Being able to extend my learning community continues to help me grow as a professional. As teachers, we all have our favorite areas to explore.  I am constantly on the hunt for vocabulary or word work ideas for my classroom.  As I read Kelly Gallagher’s string of tweets from the latest NAEP report on vocabulary, I was intrigued with his big thinking from the article. One consistent belief that I have had is the importance of vocabulary development not in isolation.  

I am always energized when I am able to find tweets, blogs or articles that support my thinking about the integration of word work throughout the school day. I continue to encourage my students to be wordsmiths by collecting and thinking about vocabulary.  I rarely give my students a list of focus vocabulary words.  Each time I introduce a new focus skill, my students know that they will need to gather key vocabulary.  All of my students collect vocabulary as we begin a unit and then as a class we discuss the words. The students choose 1-3 words and write them on post it notes.  We then gather the words into groups and begin to look for repetition.  After a conversation about the words, we discuss and choose our unit words.  Finally we have a focused list for our new unit. When students have ownership of their words, this connection helps them to understand the importance of vocabulary. Often students know exactly where they found the word and can use the context to help them with new meaning or as a reference if they forget.  Being a wordsmith throughout the day is an important role.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

120 minutes Feels Different than Two Hours

Students reading articles for our persuasive writing unit.

One of the best principals that I ever had always said January through March is crunch time.  He use to call it that because it was the time before spring break. Now with state testing, I still see this time frame as crunch time.  My focus is always on how to build a stronger and more consistent literacy workshop block of time.  My first shift is thinking differently about my literacy block NOT three isolated blocks (reading, writing, word study) but as a two-hour block of time with mandatory components. I know I have fallen into the trenches of seeing two hours in thirds not as one large block of time.  I really need to shift my thinking about time, and I plan on implementing three mandatory components.

1)  The first 15 minutes are spent finishing our current read aloud:  How to Steal A Dog, which is one of my all time favorite teams. Thank you Barbara O’Connor for this beautiful story and connecting with our class through our twitter account @bes228

2)  Word study:  I firmly believe building strong instruction around vocabulary is crucial to be a strong reader and writer.  I am going to continue to focus on integration of word work throughout reading and writing workshop.  There is more power to the punch when the lesson is based on a need that I observe during writing.  Yesterday, I worked with a few students about forming past tense verbs and the rules of af add "ed."  Relevant and real time is my new motto.

    3) Thinking as a Reader/Writer weaving these areas into more of a fluid time in workshop. With time always being an issue, I have been thinking about how to link reading with writing more than I have been in the past.  We are currently working on our persuasive writing, and the students are reading several articles that I have collected. For example: Should Cereals Contain Toys?  Should Students Be Paid for Their Grades?  After we discuss the article, we then locate the persuasive strategies and the students write their ideas into their writer's notebook for their PW.

I am excited to make these changes especially with thinking about my time in my Language Arts block differently. Instead of thinking of my two-hour block of time in thirds, I am thinking it as a whole 120 minutes with the continued focus on stronger reading, writing and word study integration.