Monday, April 30, 2012

OLW: April Reflection

Most of the time I think about wondering through my students' eyes, but for the month of April I am going to reflect on how wondering has changed me as a teacher. 

#1  I have grown professionally outside of school because of my connections with NCFLI have a larger audience because of my blog and my virtual twitter PD including virtual chats. Because of my extension beyond my school, I have widened my learning and my professional contacts.  I now "talk" frequently to Tracy and Tara about new ideas. Tracy left this in the comment section of a  blog post
Here is a the photo with no talking and write your wonders, give a fact and write more wonders...then share! Great lesson on how our own experiences draw different wonder and curiosity and how that changes the level of your wondering. Appreciate the "known to new" learning! Tara and I always seem to be on the same page although she is in New Jersey we posted about state testing on the same day, and she is handling it must better than I did. "I walked into our classroom today, and gazed upon those rows with loathing.  Gone were our friendly pods of five desks, spaced at odd angles so that everyone could move around the room easily.  Gone was that friendly feel of a room where people often work together to learn, where discussion and collaboration is encouraged.  Gone was that familiar, reassuring  feeling of being able to see each face as I stood in front of the room." These comments and many more have changed my lessons, my thinking and most of all encouraged me to reach out and extend my learning.  This summer I am excited to be planning some PD on my dock with many of my blogging and twitter friends.  

#2 Many of my blogs posts have been about the integration of Wonderopolis within my classroom almost everyday but especially on Wonder Wednesday. This was a huge shift for me because I now weave non fiction into all aspects everyday. NF is no longer just a unit in isolation. With the articles that I have been reading about Common Core I believe this is the shift towards more Non Fiction.  Finally the integration of technology through our iPods and iPad have been an integral part this year especially with this class.  As the years roll on as Bob Seger sings, I have noticed students need/want technology.  That could possibly be another blog post in the future (I am still wrapping my thinking around that idea)  When they use the iPad to read about the wonder or watch the video/links and then click to the word document to take their notes or answer the 3 questions they are actively engaged in their learning vs. one computer and a spiral notebook. This shift happened for me as well as the realization two years ago that we need need to prepare our students for the 21 Century especially in our classrooms.  Taking time to reflect has been a powerful tool for me in 2012. 

Here are some other OLW reflection posts for the month: 

Melissa @ Technology: figuring out how the pieces fit
Tracy @ Thinking Stems 

Tara @ A Teaching Life

Barbara @ One Little Word 

Monday, April 23, 2012

Ode to Testing!

there are so many things i should be doing right now i should be looking at diagnostics and choosing the next story to go over with my class i should be looking at last week's pretest for inequalities that i am not going to have time to teach prior to the test i should be looking at my physical science 3rd/4th grade indicators to see which ones need to be reviewed for tomorrow but no i am typing a blog because right now i am disappointed that i have fallen into the testing mode in my classroom.

As I read the above message I realize that the next four days and one day next week aren't going to make a difference for my students success on their three state tests. I have to trust the groundwork that I have laid so carefully throughout the year. BIG ideas including read carefully, read for understanding, identify the important vocabulary, underline the key information and take time to reread and check your answers. I think tomorrow I will read aloud Courage helping my students and myself to stay strong. We can discuss the importance of having courage when you're nervous and not quite sure what the correct answer might be.  Yes I think that will help all of us.  


Friday, April 20, 2012

Collaboration and Higher Level Research

As I wrote about in an earlier post: choice is the key when allowing students to pick their own research topics.  The next big piece in our research is collaboration through our class wiki. This year we are using the wiki for three purposes.
a.  students explain why they chose their topic
b.  a place holder for their links that they will use when they compose their own wonder
c.  a place where students cam comment to each other and help each other with links they might find for their friend

Here are some snap shots of some amazing learning that have already occurred from our class wiki.

These virtual conversations really pushed the students to excel in their research.  They were excited to share links and help each other push their writing.  One student shared their 4th grade weather book with a friend. Connections with family trips as well as science class were amazing.  Then the conversations boiled over into our classroom the next morning. 
I would suggest considering research projects to extend beyond the classroom walls.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Enrichment is NOT about Worksheets

I have been struggling with a new focus on using diagnostics to guide my instruction.  For the first time in my teaching career, I was required to give reading and math diagnostics (both fall and spring). This blog post is not going to include my thoughts on these diagnostics however; I might consider writing one after I get my OAA scores back this summer.

Where I have struggled the most is with students “who already know the material.” These students need enriched – they need to be pushed to the next level.  Not necessarily to the 6th grade indicators but deeper into 5th grade indicators  I struggle because with all the differentiation that is required I find myself giving my students a worksheet and calling that enrichment.  OK I typed it:  the cat is out of the bag.

Fast forward to April reading, I had 11 students who showed they had mastered their non-fiction reading skills, and I was bound and determined not to give them a worksheet and call that reading instruction.  I spent a weekend reading blogs and going back to Choice Literacy searching for an idea. Finally I decided on having the students create their own game boards. I know that the best teaching comes when you have to teach someone else.  I hit gold with this idea. 
The planets are 3 dimensional: clay and different size planets made out of clay.
I divided the students into groups of 3-4 students.  They chose their own groups-more ownership. I assigned them a rubric that I found on line and adjusted it to our topic:  Earth and Space science.  I gave all the groups the same book and explained the project. Their timeline was one week to read the text, create the game board including directions, game cards, and pawns. We spent an entire afternoon playing Earth and Space games.  It was the BEST afternoon of the month.  The students laughed as they played “Eating Space” after Hungry Hippo. See the video below. They learned several new facts because the rest of the class had to use the text to locate the answers they did not know. That was exciting to hear, "Look on page 13 and skim for the answer." Many of the students made connections to the unit we just completed. It was a great review for our unit test. Finally I have 5 game boards to use for a review and hopefully I can beg to keep one of them for next year’s class as a mentor game board. Now that the "cats out of the bag" I am thankful because I believe enrichment is NOT about worksheets.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Thinking in Wonder

In the middle of beach.
Ever since I joined the NCFL team, I think in wonder.  I am pleased to say that I do notice life differently. My family might say that I notice some unique elements, and I occasionally agree with them. But at least I am wondering and noticing. This happened to me on our trip to San Diego, I started to observe the trees.  I live in OH and to be totally honest our trees are nothing to blog about except for the first 2-3 weeks of Spring which is where we are right now.  OH trees are beautiful with all the blossoms.  The other time our trees are beautiful are at the end of fall when the leaves are changing, and they paint a beautiful sunset just looking at the wide variety of colors. Getting back to sunny, beautiful San Diego where the weather is typically 75 degrees with no bugs and no humidity.  Yes I would live there if I could move our  22 acres of heaven that we have here in OH.  As I said in the opening I noticed the trees, and I started taking pictures even though Tom and Bill kept saying, "Why?"  Here are my pictures of some of the unique trees.  My hope would be that you might start to think in wonder after reading this post.

When I was younger, I would have climbed all the way to the top!

Have you ever seen this many roots above ground? They stretched on forever!
Perfect lollypop tree!
Just wondering what is the purpose of the big knot at the top of this palm tree? I think this would be a perfect wonder at Wonderopolis

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Where's Brutus?

In this busy time of year, my favorite principal called this the "home stretch" until state testing in May.  With teaching fifth grade, I have to admit we don't do many cut/paste activities any more.  I used to do more of those types of activities but in the age of pressure for state testing I am sad to say I have let go of those activities. But there is one activity I did not get rid of... Where's Brutus? For those of you who might not know who Brutus is? He is THE OHIO State's mascot.

I introduce prepositions every year with reading the picture book, Where's Spot? The students look at me like I have gone crazy, and they don't have a clue why I am choosing this book to read aloud after lunch. As we discuss the sentence structure, they notice the use of prepositions to hide Spot. It is a great mentor text for my students to then write their own page of our class book, Where's Brutus. They not only write their sentence but most of the fun comes from being their own illustrator and creator for our fun flip book.  Here are some examples from this year's book.

Can you guess which rock Brutus is hiding under?

Look at the amazing art work in the bakery-wow!

Here is Brutus hiding in the dressing room at Hollister.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Having Fun in Science-oh my!

Lions, tigers and bears - oh my! Having fun in science - oh my!  Enjoying science with the state test (OAA) three weeks away-not possible.  Well luckily for our classes, we have not abandoned all the fun in order to prepare for the state tests.  

 As you can see from the photo, we build craters all Thursday afternoon.  The word ALL is important because we did science for two hours.  We started with reading the amazing true story by Patricia Polacco called Meteor!  I shared with the class when Patricia Polacco came for an author visit to our school several years ago.  She brought a piece of the meteor that landed in her grandparent's yard.  Our whole school got to touch it and that was a special memory for me as I read the book to our classes.

 After building the anticipation, we got out the blue tubs, white flour, cocoa powder, measuring tapes and the 3 meteorites which were a marble, wooden ball and a tennis ball.  We reviewed the scientific procedure, set up their lab notebooks, and discussed the importance of variables. Then the students created their own craters dropping the "meteors" from 150 cm. They had so much fun. First of all what fifth grader wouldn't enjoy dropping stuff into a pan full of flour? The scientific part was fun to observe also.  They learned about the importance of measuring the diameter of the crater and also how cool it was to observe the rays that "shot" out which was the white flour on top of the chocolate cocoa.  They repeated the experiment three times, so they had to clean the lunar surface with their index card.  What a fun way to spend Thursday afternoon.  I checked at Wonderopolis and found the following wonders, and I encouraged our classes to check them out during their three day weekend.  

Wonder #422 Is the Sky Falling?
Wonder #268  How Will Future Astronauts Travel to Outer Space?
Wonder #11  What Causes a Shooting Star?


Wednesday, April 4, 2012

NCFL Conference Connections

I was very honored to be asked again to present at NCFL's National Conference in San Diego.  Along with my colleague Bill, at Literate Lives, we presented about how we are using Wonderopolis is our classrooms.

My connections were not only made through our presentation but also through the wide variety of people that I have been able to meet through the conferences.  First of all if you ever have the chance to present at a conference, and you're scared to death and want to say NO ---say YES!  I can't even begin to write about all of the amazing people that I have met the past two years at NCFL.  After attending my first NCFL conference, I was asked to participate in Wonder Year 2012 and I talk to these five ambassadors almost daily through twitter.  Meet Our Wonder Year Adventure 2012 Team:

This year's conference was the same for me. Bill and I presented with three other innovative educators that we had not met prior to the conference. Have you ever had one of those experience when you meet someone, and you feel like you've know them forever?  This happened to me when I met our three co-presenters.  Ashley Cripps, a 5th grade teacher who teaches in a single gender classroom, all boys, and spreading wonder and inquiry everyday! Including allowing her boys to ask "gross" questions and then investigating.  A teacher after my own heart, and I already have borrowed and used two of her wonder rubrics in my class.  Annie Thomas is a public school librarian who is spreading the wonder every Wednesday at her library within her growing community. She chooses a weekly wonder for example (Why Do Pigs Love Mud?) and starts the share time with reading a picture book aloud, then she shares the wonder and finally they end with doing a craft project. For this particular wonder, she shared adorable pictures of 2-3 years old making mud and then drawing pictures of pigs. Finally Julia Dweck is a gifted specialist severing students K-5.  She has incorporated the ideas of imagination and creativity into her program through wonderopolis.  She read and discussed the book, Theodore Boone Kid Lawyer, to her fifth grade enrichment students. After reading the book and discussing all aspects of the law system, she had her students recreate the Case of the Three Little Pigs and encouraged her students to see different viewpoints along with using this idea as a project based learning experience.  Her video was amazing and their higher level thinking was the best creative thinking I have ever observed in fifth grade students.

Anyone who knows me understands how petrified I was two years ago when I said, "yes" to presenting at NCFL. Two years later I can tell you it was best YES decision I have ever given professionally.  I have found a new community of educators that support me as well as support my educational beliefs.  Thank you NCFL for allowing me to a part of your team!