Saturday, March 31, 2012

OLW March Reflections

"March came in like a lion and out like a lamb." I found myself wondering about this phrase several times during the month.  I googled it and found this from the Naturalist's Almanac: No one seems to know much about the origins of this particular proverb. It’s just one of the many old sayings that come from our oral past. Before anyone could write, it was transmitted from generation to generation by repetition. All that’s known for sure is that its first appearance in English literature was in 1624, by which time it was familiar enough to English audiences to appear as a bit of banter in a popular play.

The reason I thought of this quote is because I have been struggling for the past few months with changing literacy instruction in my classroom.  I have felt like a lion and a lamb at some point since Christmas. On the lion side, I had to change my reading instruction model to focus more on guided reading (GR) groups. In 5th grade, I have used many strategies of GR but not truly ran GR groups in the past. But now I was told I had to run these groups.  I have learned and worked really hard to make GR work within my classroom but the lion of it is that I have lost other parts of my reading instruction primarily my read aloud and sense of whole class community in February and March.  This really saddened me and as I was reflecting on the month of March, so I committed to coming back to our read aloud and what I believe is the key to success in a strong reading program.

The lamb in me is committing to bring back our whole class community read aloud during our literacy block. Yesterday, I explained to our class that we are going to read How to Steal a Dog by Barbara O'Connor for the enjoyment of an amazing story. I told my class that we're not doing any worksheets, vocabulary work or comprehension checks. You could have heard a pin drop and on the other hand you should have heard them cheering in MT.  My goal is to rebuild our community and most importantly have discussions about life choices.  Isn't education about learning and preparing for the future and not just passing three state tests in May? My March came in like a lion but our April will be like a lamb.

Check out these other bloggers participating in OLW:
Barbara: at Wondering Through 2012
Tracy at Thinking Stems

Thursday, March 29, 2012

WORK in Progress!

Sorry friends just realized my video didn't post in today's blog.  I am trying to figure it out-got to love technology -not so much today.  

Who's Going to Remember?

As we walked around San Diego near the pier, you can't help but notice the humungous Naval ships in port as well as those sailing in the harbor.  I have never had the chance to get that close to these amazing vessels that reminded me of a compact mini city on an ocean.  As we walked along, we stopped at this exhibit and I read this overview about hundred of thousands of sailors who put their personal lives on hold during WWII and how it is the only ship in which there were not any losses of life during its voyages. 

Then as we looked ahead we saw ships and this statue at the end of the pier, so we proceeded over to it to find out what it represented.  At this point, I have to admit I just sat on a bench and began thinking about the courage the sailors must have had to go into this war.  I have never been asked to have that much courage I admire those that do.

Finally we found an amazing exhibit in salute of Bob Hope-which brings my blog post title to life " Who Will Remember?"  As we listened to Bob's voice talk to the troops and looked at the massive ship in the background, I was in awe of the experience. I am old enough to remember Bob Hope's tours to support the troops, but I wonder who will teach the future generations about the sacrifice of WWII?  This part of the trip reminded me of the importance of taking the time to visit the historic sites while on vacation or attending a conference. 

I am going to share these pictures and video with my class to discuss the importance of this historic event along with Wonder #239  What is the Medal of Honor?  I think this will make the connection for my young 11-12 year old students.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

OLW: Reflection in San Diego

There are so many learning curves when you visit a new city. This trip to San Diego has been so much fun the past two days, and I will blog later about my wide learning curves most of them with our transportation. I am excited to be presenting tomorrow with Bill Prosser @ Literate Lives. Between the two of us, all students at BES are immersed every four days with wonderopolis. We miss our third colleague, Kitsy a kindergarten teacher, she was unable to join us on our adventure. The three of us are very thankful for our iPads from the grant that we received last summer from NCFL. Especially since I am composing this blog post on it :)

At last years conference, I met so many people who shared their insight about literacy in their classroom, and I incorporated many ideas back into my own classroom. We discussed the importance of 21 Century skills and the importance of the 3 C's: creativity, collaboration and communication. I look forward to spreading the wonder. Here are my key points in my presentation.

1. Education is changing so as educators we need to change (not always easy for veteran teachers)
2. Literacy looks different connecting with the digital world.
3. It is more important than ever to connect the school day with students' home life
4. Extending the school day through wonderopolis has changed my instruction in my classroom.

Check back next week, and I will share about my wonderful NCFL experiences.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Slice of Life From the Cockpit

Our world is changing. not a lightbulb moment but once again as I sit on the airplane I notice such a wider variety of tech tools from my previous flying experiences. I have been lucky to have flown since I was young. I remember I was only allowed to bring one book, my crayons and coloring book and of course my teddy bear. Fast forward 20 years, we have our own children and they brought their game boy, Magic fluorescent marker games and playing cards. Fast forward another 10 years and today I am typing my blog on my iPad and listening to my music. Next to me, my friend is reading Steve Job"s book on his iPad. In front of me, someone is working on a presentation that looks really confusing. The seat right next to me has probably a two year old who is watching a movie on his parents iPad but one thing that is the same are those cute little sippy cups. I guess those haven't changed in the past 40 years. As I close my iPad I notice the time has already changed--what ever happened to setting the Timex watch back. Guess that has changed also. Our world is changing.

PS. I am posting this after I wrote it in pages in Phoenix Airport.
PSS. I have tried to add the Slice graphic and can't figure it out. Still have lots of learning to do.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Slice of Life & OLW = Reflection

My last few days before Spring break were not what I expected, and I have to admit that the unexpected surprises made me stop to reflect. Have you ever watched the show Blues Clues? I always loved the part where they sang, "We just got a letter, we just got a letter, we just got a letter, I wonder where it's from?" Starting after Spring break, we will be singing, when my students get their mail. I always have my students write a business letter to request information for their report. I met with my students for writing conferences, and I did a wide variety of mini lessons that were a great review of skills. To be honest most of the review skills, I would have anticipated my students already knew them. I am thankful that I took the time for those conferences. I just mailed their letters this morning, and I was excited to see the wide range of addresses that the letters were mailed too. In addition, I got to teach a “life lesson” that if you mail a letter to London, England it costs a little bit more for postage.  Another fun surprise was on Poetry Friday when Harshitha told me that she wrote a poem with her younger sister at home.  I told her how excited I was that she was working on poetry at home and more importantly working with her sister. But then she asked me if she could go get her first grade sister because they wanted to read it together for our class.  After walking downstairs to get her sister, they shared a special poem: "The Ride on the Bus." 
What a special memory! 

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Choice is Key for Expository Writing

We just started our expository writing unit.  When I said that out loud to the students, most of them turned and looked at each other like I said something in a foreign language. Next I put this wordle up that I created with their research topics and I told them these were their expository topics.-lightbulb moment.  The students chose their topics.  Last year, I followed the same procedure for research-CHOICE, CHOICE and more CHOICE.  The students chose their topic, their 3 research questions, and how they were going to organize their notes.  This was really important this year because I have six students who are still struggling with lifting the important details from non fiction articles, and I really need to teach them how to take guided notes.  I am excited to say not only those six students chose #3 but nine other students did too. All 15 like the structure of the notes.
Finally, Mr. Mark and I helped the students set up their WIKI page which this year the students will be having a virtual conversation about each others subject in addition they will be able to keep  all their links and pictures on their page which will help them when they create their Baileyopolis page.  We're on the right track with 3 weeks ahead of intense research and then the fun starts with creating their own WONDER page.
This is the model for our class WIKI.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Slice of Life-Putting One Foot Forward

Some days are harder than others. I’m not writing anything that is a big news flash.  But today seemed harder than most. As I got ready this morning, I pondered if it was because it is Monday, because it is raining and dreary or because of the time change?  None of those reasons really seemed to make sense to me, so I left for my day at school.  Ever have one of those days when everything you planned so intently or created and worked so hard on over the weekend just didn’t seem to click with your students.  I was so excited to start the CWSC and the only thing I remember is when one of the students asked, “What do I get if I win?” At that moment, my teacher hat came off and my mother hat was put on---my own family understands what that means.  I politely looked at the student and asked do you remember last Friday when we were discussing immigration? Do you remember how we discussed how difficult it must be to come to a new country and how hard it must be for a family to leave their culture and family roots behind just for a chance at a better life?  Then I commented most of the time the prize is not at important as the learning.  Learning more about words and learning that life can be challenging and often we need to just put one foot in front of the other and keep on walking.  

Sunday, March 11, 2012

OLW: Reflections on Blogs

Over the weekend I read the BEST blog Thinking Stems,  March Madness...
Word Study...Think Quick.  I was so excited because Tracy integrated March Madness (basketball brackets) and word study.  Two of my favorite things woven into one grand idea.  I was like a dog with a bone starting Saturday redesigning my lesson plans for this week.  I created a keynote to set up my students in choosing their words and created a new schedule tag for our board.  See the picture above-: CWSC = Caplin Word Study Challenge.  Do you want to join along? Here are some snapshots from my keynote.....

Now for the OLW reflection part of the post --- I have been so inspired by what I read on twitter and my friend's blogs.  It is amazing to me that Tracy and I have never met yet I feel like I know her.  We have conversations through our blogs and comment sections.  It is amazing that through blogging and twitter that my professional community continues to help me grow and inspires me as a teacher. Thank you Tracy for this great idea and allowing me to borrow the idea and make it my own.  I know my students will love having fun with words the next two weeks and enjoying the Caplin Word Study Challenge.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Our Class in Pictures

Every year, our PTO asks each class to do a project for our Spring fundraising event.  Most years, my class have created a "project" like a bowl with finger prints on it, collected items for a theme basket etc. But not this year, one of my wonderful room parents (Did I mention lately how THANKFUL I am for room parents?) asked my students to bring in 5-10 pictures that describe them and their fifth grade year.  I was a little weary I have to admit because I envisioned  Xbox, many sports activities, pictures of food etc.  But once again, my class shocked me.  Just look at the picture above and most importantly to me look at all of the connections they have made with their learning this year. 

*importance of recycling (our Life Science unit)
*importance of fun (playing card for indoor recess-Kemps)
*importance of giving back (Box Tops) and Jump Rope for Heart
*importance of Wondering @wonderopolis
*importance of being a girl (nail polish is a must!)
*importance of having fun with friends
*our school mascot (Bailey Bulldogs)

Finally look at the next zoom in shot - more amazing connections.

*importance of X-tra Math (a free website to practice basic facts)
*importance of our Newberry Club (Thanks Bill @ Literate Lives for doing this with me)
*importance of Wonderopolis (again for enriching our literacy block)
*importance of giving back (Jiff peanut butter for our Homeless Project)
*importance of reading (blue book in the corner is one of the student's favorite books)

The fingerprints at the top are all around the edges - what a great memory!

Our class celebrating their accomplishments!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Slice of LIfe - First Post Ever

Many of my friends are posting their Slice of Life this month, and I have been reading their posts and wondering if I could write my own post? I have had encouragement through twitter, and I know I am not ready to post everyday, but I have learned some important lessons already by reading the wide variety of the Slice of LIfe blogs. If I want to be a teacher of writing I need to work on my own writing. I have to admit I have never seen myself as a writer except on my blog and that has helped me grow as a writer. I love words, so writing I would think would be natural for me, but it isn't.  All of these thoughts transfer to my classroom where I teach writing. I can relate when my students struggle with their ideas and feel like their writing is blocked. Because I have writer's block often when I write my blog posts, and I am thankful for the chance to go back to my posts numerous times before posting.  As I reflect on even writing this slice, I realize that reading a wide variety of blogs about literacy and technology are my mentor texts. So I want to thank all of you who are currently writing your own Slice of Life. Your posts have touched me not only in my thinking about teaching, being a parent, a friend but also about how important it is to take the time to write.  

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Word Play is Crucial to Understanding

I believe that students must play with words. I believe 5th graders still need to play with words.  Play in our word study class looks like this on any given day or time.

*searching for words in magazines, newspapers and to go menus and bringing in those words to share with the class
*searching for words in their JR (just right) book and tabbing them
*building word jars
*sorting words (picture to the left)
*transfer the focus words to their writer's notebook
*writing STRONG comments @wonderopolis 
*sharing words with the class from newspaper articles (especially OSU
      sports articles)
*noticing words in the poems we share on Poetry Friday
*writing poetry with their new words
*word observations
*sentence observations
*connecting Wonder Wednesday with dinner conversations
*building word walls with my students
Connecting word study with science and social studies. 

The best part of playing with words is when the students make the transfer to their writing and the words become their own!