Saturday, July 30, 2011

To Jump or Not Jump That is the Question

First of all I have to say this has been a wonderful summer for me as far as my learning curve as opposed to my last summer learning curve. I have had opportunities that I never would have had if I wasn't willing to jump into the world of twitter. I have had many conversations with colleagues that I have met through twitter, skype and those that I am lucky enough to teach with in my district so special thanks to Mary Lee, Cathy, Karen, Susan, and Deb.  All of you have helped me so much in my thinking!

As far as jumping goes,  The big choice is do I switch from "old fashion" huge spiral note book for conference notes to Evernote on my lap top or hopefully soon my new iPad?  This is a HUGE decision for me because my old system works but that's is old.  

*If I want to keep a copy of the students work I have to walk down and copy it on the xerox instead of (take a picture with the camera on the computer or my iPhone and then drop it in the child's note instantly)  
*if I want to do a voice recording for fluency I have to go to the library and get the tape recorder instead of (just push record on the computer and automatically it is in the note
*if I want to keep track of reading, writing, math and word study I have many pieces of paper which makes a very thick binder instead of (just opening a new note and start typing
*if I want to work on progress reports I have to bring home my 15 lb. binder instead of (just bringing home my lap top)  Really it doesn't weigh that much but it feels like it.  
*if I don't want to bring home my lap top instead (I can access evernote from my home computer or my i Phone) and bring home nothing.  Crazy I know.

So you would think my decision would be easy look at all the positives but it is scary to start a new anecdotal system but once again this experience is teaching me how my students must feel when I ask them to do something that they are not quiet comfortable with in class.  I am lucky I have a choice so I guess I will make the jump and just hope that I have my life raft (my friends) will be there if I need help.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Stretching Wonderopolis into the Summer

Alright I am going to have to brag just a little, there are four students from my class this year who have continued to read/post/think about Wonderopolis through the summer.  Isn't that what we hope for as teachers that the students continues to learn during the summer connecting their school experiences?  I continue to follow Wonderopolis every day and read the WONDER of the day.  I always look at the comments and see if any of my students have posted.  Here are just a few...........

I love how she connects her learning back to 4th grade, connects to her real life and then ends with a prediction.

Again a connection with our science class then a comment to Grace who is in my class-they have their own conversation.

Wonderopolis asked students to draw a dinosaur using the Greek and Latin meanings.

Another very special and I believe one of the strongest attributes of Wondeopolis is that every time there is a comment posted by a reader there is a PERSONAL comment back to him/her.  This truly hooked my students to know someone is really reading their comment and personally responding was HUGE!!  Also notice the time of this comment, Abby was on before she even got to school - how cool is that?  Hurry over and check out Wonderopolis-you will be glad you did!!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Making Learning Whole by David Perkins

The term full circle happened to me professionally when we had our book club meeting at my house last Tuesday.  The circle started with me reading about the book on a blog, and I bought it.  I then followed the #Allwrite tweets for two days and saw the book was mentioned.  I tweeted to my friends who were there let's do a book club on my dock.   Mary Lee and and Cathy at Reflect & Refine took me up on my offer and finally we met. Mary Lee was first to post at Year of Reading and she captured our book club so well that I "stole" her post about Making Learning Whole .  I enjoyed how David Perkins connected the game of baseball with helping students learn to play the whole game.  I echo all of her thinking especially the connections that I have made through twitter this summer. The past two days I was lucky to have lunch with my friends from school, and they don't follow twitter. I offered some advice and start with being a quiet observer for awhile and then all of a sudden your learning community will hit a grand slam!  In addition, I've decided to build my own baseball field of learning so here are my key bases:

Home Plate:  Teach today what learners will need to understand and act on tomorrow because tomorrow is a moving target.  pg. 220

First Base:  Making work visible- takes steps along the way and the final results need to be shared in order to make the game worth playing.  p.180

Second Base:  Aptitude is not the same things as attitude. pg. 70

Third Base:  Part of the art is throwing out what is not so important yet, while leaving the general spirit and shape of the game intact. p.38

Thanks Mary Lee and Cathy  I absolutely agree with your comments as well on Mary Lee's post -you two hit it out of park for me!!

In tribute to the game I love here is a small clip-enjoy!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Thinking about Word Work

Our district has made some changes to our K-8 Word Study program and I have been doing a few professional development meetings on incorporating Word Study.  During the PD,  I was asked about how to integrate vocabulary into the school day.  I think you have to start with your own life first and integrate vocabulary into your summer this will make the transition into the classroom more natural.  The first place to start is noticing interesting words-words that sound fun to read, new words for meaning, or words to help with your own writing.   For example, I am reading Making Learning Whole so as I read, I circle words for those reasons.

I collected words for me to use in my blog because they just don't come to me.  For example: variation, repertoire, endeavor, vigorous, empathy, diverse, ponder, emerge.  I know all of these words, but they don't flow when I am writing.  Now I have a list of them to use right next to my computer.  Just like I would ask my students to do in their writing in my classroom.  In the beginning of the school year, I will share my book and all my writing inside of it, my list of words as well as pull up a few of my blogs to show the students where I used my new vocabulary. This is an authentic mentor text that I believe will be powerful in my classroom.

Another way is to be on the look out for fun places for words, I am constantly looking for fun ways words are used.  For example while in NYC, there was a book stand on the street.  How cool is that? I even collected menus, cut out cartoons and constantly look through magazines.  Greeting cards are my #1 favorite thing to collect to boost word study in my classroom.

On a side note, I obviously always talk about my love of words and books with my own two children. This summer our daughter who is in Germany as a camp counselor at the Air Force base sent me the picture below to show me a bookstore for children.  I was so excited-thanks Anna :)

Friday, July 15, 2011

Have You Ever Considered Poetry Friday?

I have to tell you there have been many times in my teaching career that I have been surprised but most of my surprises come from Poetry Friday.  No matter what and I mean no matter what I commit to at least 30 minutes every Friday for students to share poetry.  I start in the beginning of the year just singing poems along with my class and then sharing some fun poems that I tab to allow my students learn about our different poetry books in our classroom. We just enjoy poetry.  Once we have established that Poetry can be fun-which is sometimes hard to prove to 5th graders.  We then begin to have mini focus lessons on Poetry Friday.

*What is Poetry?
*Sounds of  Poetry
*Forms of Poetry

When I first started Poetry Friday, I was really unsure about how to make the shift in my teaching.  I heard of an amazing book by Georgia Heard:  Awakening the Heart: Exploring Poetry in Elementary and Middle School.  The ideas for the classroom really changed my teaching especially the heart mapping activity (p. 108).  I typically do that the first three weeks of school, and I leave my heart map up as a model for the class for quite a while. We have had some great conversations from my heart map.  We use these heart maps all year not only in Poetry Friday but also writing workshop. If you haven't read this book I would suggest you move it to your To Be Read favorite chapter is Making a Poetry Environment.  Poetry Friday round up is at A Year of Reading-thanks Mary Lee.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

What Would Be in your Wonder Jar?

While in NYC, I had many opportunities to discuss how I use Wonderopolis in my classroom which is fun for me to share the excitement along with the learning applications.  But what was really exciting for me were the center pieces for the table, they were WONDER jars.  Oh my gosh, all the adults had so much fun playing with all the items inside the jars.  It was fun for me to connect the items to past wonders and remember what I had learned about them.  So I started thinking, how can I use WONDER jars in my classroom this year?  I have decided that I am going to start the year with this wonder jar.  Allowing my new class to just explore, wonder, think about all the items.  Perhaps they might even have some questions and will begin to explore Wonderopolis on their own even before I introduce it to my new class.  Other ideas include building our own class WONDER jar with items that they wonder about.  My goal will continue to be the same as last year to weave in non fiction throughout the year not just an isolated unit.  I am considering on Wednesday integrating Wonderful Word Wednesday with WONDERopolis it seems likes the two would fit nicely. So much to think about it in the summer-start collecting your jars for your students or at least one large one I think that is where I will begin.

Do you see a kaleidoscope, seeds to plant, magnifying class, bugs, bird caller, WONDER notebook?

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Bird in a Box is Awesome

I just finished my favorite book of the summer, Bird in a Box, by Andrea Davis Pinkney.  I could not put it down and when I had to put it down all I kept doing was thinking about Hibernia, Willie, and Otis.  Three children growing up in upstate New York during the Great Depression during the time when Joe Louis was fighting which is in integral part of the story with different fights being announced from their old radios.  The development of these characters is amazing, and I love the way the book is organized by the character's names.  So many times I wanted to skip ahead because I wanted to know what happened to Ottis after the horrible incident that changed his life forever or I wanted to reach out and hug Willie when I had I had tears in my eyes after his life changing experience or I wanted to go sit outside the church where Hibernia would sing so beautifully just wishing her mother could hear her.  Their three lives eventually intertwine in the most unique setting which is the Mercy Home for Negro Orphans. I was entranced throughout the book, and I am very hopeful this book is recognized for a Newberry award in the fall.  I know I am putting it at the top of my list for our BES Newberry Club in the fall. Bill from Literate Lives and I both loved the book.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

3 Addends Equal Success

I found this picture on a blog and I LOVED it.  I LOVE words and I LOVE scrabble and I LOVE the thinking of this scrabble board.  Error + Motive + Strive = Success.   If you break these three words apart and think about technology it is an excellent problem to try and solve.  Errors are going to happen and some of my best learning came this year from errors that I made.  Not all errors were my fault but every one tested my patience and made me or Mr. Mark stop and problem solve.  Motive is so important.  As I spoke in NYC, I discussed the importance of motivation to want to learn, to search for new learning and reflect on the instruction.  All three areas are crucial in education.  Strive I always remember my dad telling me to strive for success. Every project and app that I introduced this year my goal was to have the students be Successful.  Of course not everything was successful however that was a chance to learn more and problem solve.  When you are thinking about technology or incorporating  21 Century Skills into your classroom remember this math problem no matter how you add all three parts together I think you will be excited about the outcome.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Looking for an Opening

One of my favorite parts of summer is having the time to take longer walks in the morning.  As I walk, I listen to my iPod and today a Montgomery Gentry song "Something to be Proud Of" came on that I have probably heard this song a 100 times, but today I heard these lines differently:

There's a story that my daddy tells religiously
Like clockwork every time he sees an opening
In a conversation about the way things used to be
Well I'd just roll my eyes and make a bee-line for the door
But I'd always wind up starry-eyed, cross-legged on the floor
Hanging on to every word
Man, the things I heard

And I started reflecting on my classroom as I was walking,  do I take advantage when I see an opening for a conversation or a quick mini lesson to clear up confusion?  Or am I so set on my lesson plans to get through them that I just keep on teaching.  I personally think I am better with the openings in the fall and even probably until Spring Break but once I get back and the TEST gets into my thinking I loose the openings.  There is nothing better than after a conference and you hear a student tell their peer about a strategy that helped them or a new book title that I just shared. 

On the other side, I wonder how many times when I am teaching do my students roll their eyes and wish they could make a bee line towards the door.  I am currently reading Making Learning Whole by David Perkins and I am entranced with the thinking.  He relates education to baseball connecting backyard ball ( the junior version) to the whole game (9 innings).  I am only 5 chapters into the book but WOW the idea of pushing students towards the three overreaching themes:  enlightenment, empowerment and responsibility are concepts that I am really focused on right now.  As the summer continues, I am going to reflect and think about how I can have my students hang on my every word in the classroom.