Saturday, November 26, 2011

Digital Writing Comes to Life

How can you say no to digital storytelling?  When you get your first ever pink sparkly dress with red high heals and most important I looked like a valentine.  As I read this digital story, I was amazed at the writing, not only the creative aspects of her story which was titled Nothing Ever Happens in Room 228 but most important the use of strong vocabulary, use of figurative language, use of dialogue, and  how her presentation of text and pictures supported her story.  Finally read her own personal reflection on her story, she definitely spiced up her story and connected with developing a stronger character using her reading strategies. And to top it off, "I realized how important revision is and lifting from my writer's notebook to get the same storyline." Perhaps I might have to go out and purchase a pink sparkly dress to celebrate.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Marvelous News!

 I have received a $500 mini-grant from the National Center for Family Literacy and Better World Books.  I am one of only 20 winners nationwide to receive the award, which will promote creative ideas for using Wonderopolis with families. was created by NCFL in 2010 to provide free, family friendly content that is practical, easy to use and designed to engage children's natural curiosity. It was one of only five family websites that Time Magazine named the 50 best websites in 2011.  I will be using the funding to continue to build wonder in my classroom but also begin to work in smaller groups with students who need additional help with their reading. In addition, I will continue to build professional development within my building and share about the wide variety of ways to use Wonderopolis with non fiction reading.
Wonderopolis is a free resource for families and schools, so hundreds of educators across the country already are using it to generate excitement for learning in schools, libraries and homes across the country. But this mini-grant will help my students magnify and reach towards the 21st century online learning tool. Other communities will learn from my journey including the world of blogging and twitter on how they can maximize the use of Wonderopolis.  I am very thankful and excited as I continue my journey with NCFL and Better World Books.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Published Authors of Story Kit!

Every trimester we celebrate authors in our class!  It is one of our favorite days in our classroom.  The students work so hard on the writing process and finally they share their stories with their parents along with their friends.  We celebrated last week and once again it was wonderful to see the students excitement and the parents were so impressed with their hard work.  It never fails every year at least one parent says, "Thank you for doing this other wise I might not have seen their finished story."  This year the celebration was really important because the students published only digitally. This year Mr. Mark helped me to link all the stories on our class web page. I did not print their stories because the stories live two places on their iPods and most exciting on our class web page. This is so powerful for so many reasons. First every students can ready every story.  I can use these stories later as mentor text for great leads, dialogue, strong vocabulary etc. Finally next year, I have 24 stories ready to share as student models.  This is so exciting because the students audience increased to the world web-which means anyone including grandparents in Florida, India and Spain can read their grandchild's story.  This is amazing to me and to be honest it is really special because now the students can read their story on the phone as their grandparents look at the story all the way across the world. Digital Literacy is amazing.

Sharing their story with both digital tools!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Follow Your Heart!

Sometime in teaching you just have to follow your heart!  I read James Preller blog all the time for many reasons.  First of all I was able to meet him a few years ago when he visited our school for an author visit.  I was lucky enough to have a few minutes to discuss the idea about starting my blog and he gave me a few words of wisdom that I never will forget.  Next I love the connection he has with his readers and how he constantly writes about his books but more important to me about his readers.  I really like fan mail Wednesday and have shared many of those posts with students in my class during reading workshop.  Finally the part that touches me most are when he shares about his own family.  We both have a passion for baseball and so many of our experiences have been very similar. This week he posted about his daughter, Maggie, Post-It Note Binder.  As a fifth grade teacher and mom it touched my heart so the next day I shared the post with my class.  We talked about how our writer's notebooks should be personal and how it is a place to hold our thinking and treasures.  I asked my students to choose their favorite quote off of Maggie's binder and write about it but then share the quote with the family.  I even suggested to have a family member write about what the quote means to them-all I have to say is WOW!  I read these posts in awe and most important I can't imagine the conversations that happened at home when my students were sharing their quote.

Love the analogy that the parent connected for the child!

I love the way this parent shared their own favorite quote.

This parent connected the quote to a saying in Chinese celebrating their culture.


Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Wonderopolis is WONDERful Science HW

Thanks to Google Images
We just started our life science unit, and I wanted the students to learn about food chains and most important some key vocabulary.  Every Wednesday, we do WONDER homework and last week's homework was fantastic.  The students continued to focus on writing STRONG comments and had a choice to leave a comment or complete the Still Wondering activity. 19 out of 23 students left a comment, and the comments were excellent but more important the transfer into our class the next few days was HUGE!!!

I value wonderopolis for many reasons but one of the most important parts is the integration of school and home.  I am focused on extending the school day allowing my students to integrate 21 Century skills with my science curriculum. Also the connection between the parents and the students and their discussions at home are so important to my students as learners.  In addition to have instant feedback is such a positive experience for the students as well as me.

In addition I am excited for the different learners in my classroom.  I have had the opportunity to learn about my students.  I am so pleased with Harshitha's comments because she is working on learning English. Her family just moved to the United States 5 months, and she is helping her parents also with learning English through Wonderopolis.  How exciting :)

Next is a comment that reinforces the connection with the wonder and a conversation with her mom about horses.  Connecting learning with a student's life is a so important!

Next the connection with our Word Study (WS) and integrating new vocabulary into all writing..

Finally, the highest level of learning the transfer of learning to someone else or better yet to another life experience.  Read this comment and see how the learning transferred.

If you haven't used Wonderopolis for HW I would encourage you to try it-it is WONDERful!!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

100 Decisions a Day

It must be that time of the school year-finally falling into a routine and I write this with a smile on my face.  I know my students as readers, writers, word smiths,  mathematicians, scientists and historians.  So now I have to make a 100 decisions a day that are not written in my lesson plans and most of them I have about 2-4 seconds to decide.  This is our life as teachers and as the years move on notice I am not typing and I get older :) I am finding these decisions to be more difficult and harder to make.  Life was simpler in the classroom 10 years ago, maybe even 5 years ago.  I had more control of my classroom and how I was going to teach the curriculum, but not now which brings me to the 100 decisions a day.

Today was one of those days where I made a 101 decisions in one day.  Let me tell you about a few of them.  Let's start with the routine of my day.

In math, we are working on prime, composite, factor trees and prime factorization.  I knew these are all new concepts for my students so I did 4 simple warm up problems on the board and had my class try them.  We call this "entrance cards."  Decision #1:  3 students got all four correct. Decision #2 5 students only missed 2 so they need 1/2 of instruction. Decision #3 9 students missed three or four of them.  The point:  I needed 3 teachers for the best teaching and it was only me so I made the decision to group the 14 students together-teach them and send the 3 off for enrichment.  Old days: teach all of them the same thing New day: differentiate and make more decisions-better teaching yes-harder decisions yes.

In Writing Workshop, we were working on our iPod digital stories and every student needed help typically with a technology question but also learning how to edit their story.  The hard part for me in these decisions included:  When do I stop the whole group to learn a new technology skill that not everyone is ready for? Do I teach a few students and make them an expert but then how will they get their story done if they become the "teachers?"  How do I help the struggling students who are still composing their story in their writer's notebook?  You know the situation 23 writers in 23 different places and at least 30 decisions in 30 minutes.

Finally in life science, I am lucky enough to open our wall and team teach with Sarah, who is an amazing teacher.  I was leading the lesson today and Sarah was working with a small group modifying the whole group lesson.  During this time, we have "pull outs" including reading services, English Second Language services, and resource room services which brings me back to my next 28 decisions-what do you teach when you know these 8 students are going to miss class time?  This is a life long dilemma for me because I know they need those pull out services, but I know they need the life science content also.  If anyone has any suggestions, hints or ideas please leave me a comment.