Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Slice of Life & OLW (Reflections)

 I typically don't participate in Slice of Life Tuesday, but I always enjoy reading them.  Since the last day of July fell on Tuesday, I decided to combine my OLW end of month (reflection) and slice together.

On my professional side, my blog is turning 2 while I am on vacation.  For so many reasons it is fun to look back over the past two years.  Probably the funniest part for me is to see how my writing and content of my posts have changed.  It's hard to believe at one time I wasn't sure how to set up an iTunes account or I wasn't' sure how to use iPods in my classroom with my literacy block.  I remember when I hoped to have 20 followers and get at least one comment a week.  I still get excited when I get a comment because that is where my learning continues.  To say that I have grown professionally from blogging is an understatement.  I am a totally different teacher because of my conversations with blogging and this year twitter has changed my teaching also.  I am truly thankful for all my learning and all the WONDERful connections that I have made through my virtual PD, and I am excited to continue along my journey. 

On the personal side, our family will be on vacation this week when this posts. I promised my family that I would disconnect from technology.  Our kids are taking their friends so we will be a larger (7 instead of 4) more active group. As for me, I plan on taking many long walks on the beach, read my books, listen to my music, and enjoy being with our children.  Because when vacation is over, our daughter will be driving to SC for her new teaching job, and we will be headed back to Ohio.  As I type this with a few tears rolling down, I am not quite sure I will be able to let her go.  I know she is going to be exactly where she wants to be and most of all I know she has worked for 22 years to achieve this goal.  It doesn't make it much easier as we will hug and cry Saturday, but I am thankful for the week that all of us will have shared on the beach. 

Thanks to Ruth and Stacey for hosting us on Tuesdays -- I'm excited to posting in  Slice of Life Tuesday

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Opening Minds Ch. 7-9

Isn't it fun when you choose to read a new professional book like Opening Minds and as you are reading you realize that some of the suggestions that are made you are all ready doing in your classroom?  I felt this way as I read the last three chapters. There were quotes and ideas that reinforced what I need to focus on for the upcoming school year.

 I was reminded that "Learning is fundamentally social." That is important for me to remember as the year gets crazy and faster paced.  The time clock is ticking and I feel like I just need to keep teaching.  As I have OLW (reflected) on my class this past year, I believe I did not foster the social development as well in past years.  I had to teach lessons in smaller groups which I believe hurt my whole group community, and I do believe it effected my classroom.  I want to be more aware of that when school starts in the fall.  Already I am considering how to set up my room for of a community area -- one that fits everyone on the floor around the smartboard/chart so we can develop and continue to build a community feeling.

Another quote that caught my attention was "the depth of engagement." When I looked up these two words in the dictionary,  I found that depth is defined as complexity or obscurity, as of a subject.  Engagement is defined as a pledge, obligation or agreement. As I think about these terms in relationship to my class, I know that I need to do a better job in the complexity of the questions and pledge to focus on higher level thinking in all subject areas. 

Another quote that was a positive reminder was "making thinking more visible." That automatically created a light bulb moment with me from last year, when I spent the summer reading Making Learning Whole in addition I am reading Making Thinking Visible this summer.  Both of these books really helped me think differently about how to structure learning as a whole in addition to share thinking aloud.  "When children are thinking together, they generate strategies, and the strategies become available for others to use." In my career, typically the students strategies are the ones that make the most sense to other students.  They are able to explain as well as teach their friends coming full circle making learning whole.  Finally in Chapter 9, point #3 hit home:  We have to take seriously the fact that the adult is not the only teacher in the room.  I believe that however,  it is an excellent reminder as I begin to think about plans for next school year.

Thanks to Laura at Our Camp Read-A-Lot for hosting the final week of #cyberPD. Thanks to everyone who took the time to write comments.  I have to admit I felt like a child in a candy store when I opened up my blog and saw that I had 5 comments in one day.  On the flip side of the coin, I learned so much from reading other blog posts, and I would stop and wonder how did I miss that key point?  What a wonderful learning experience!  

Friday, July 20, 2012

Poetry Friday Summer Finds

Not often do I purchase books anymore without visiting my local library. Actually the librarian told me I make the best referrals for new books. I took that as a high compliment. However, I broke my rule for these two new poetry books after reading the recommendations I purchased them instantly.  

 As I researched the Green Mother goose I found this amazing website:  Poetry for Children that helped me with my final decision.  First of all I am shocked that some of my students don't remember basic nursery rhymes. I learned this the hard way when I read Spot the Plot last year and my students didn't know traditional picture books, so I have decided it's my last ditch effort to help my students remember the oldies but goodies. 

Here is the summary:  Mother Goose has gone green in this recycled book of 30 familiar Mother Goose rhymes. Jack Pratt addresses healthy eating in this new green version where he eats junk food fat and outgrows his pants. This Little Piggy saves water, bikes, uses alternative energy and squealed “Re-re-recycle!” all the way home; Mother Hubbard shops with cloth grocery bags. This eco-friendly picture book introduces recycling, organic gardening, free-range chickens, alternative energy, and protecting the environment to children through the use of nursery rhymes. The illustrations further the eco-friendly theme by creating collages from ticket stubs, newspapers, and other reused items. The book is printed with soy-based ink on paper made from mixed sources including recycled wood and fibers.

The other book I purchased is Edgar Allan Poe's Pie by J. Patrick Lewis.  This is a list of classic poems written in puzzle form. I have been searching for math openers and this will be perfect, I am so excited to share this on Friday with my math class.  Thanks Karen for suggesting it in your blog post: It's Monday, What are You Reading?   I researched it and found a great review on Kirkus Reviews.  

It is almost too easy to purchase books, but I am trying to stay true to my rule.  But I just couldn't after reading this review:  Fourteen famous poets and some of their more prominent works are the basis for Lewis’ parodies, which are all in good fun and retain the structure, rhyme and rhythm of the originals. Each poem presents children with at least one math problem to solve, and many of them require several steps to get to the final answer. The level of difficulty varies as much as the poems themselves. Teachers will appreciate the wide array of mathematics required to solve the puzzles. In addition to the four basic operations, the challenges test knowledge of fractions, percentages, decimals, area, perimeter and money.

 Poetry Friday round up is at A Teaching Life.  Thanks Tara for hosting, and I hope you enjoy your conference today. Can't wait to learn more from you!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Opening Minds Ch. 4-6

As I continue my virtual learning journey with Peter Johnston's book:  Opening Minds. I read through the next three chapters and again noticed the same pattern for me.  It is not what we say as teachers it is how we say it.  I am continuing to highlight and circle the page (my personal text connections) if there is a phrase that I want to add to my index card so that next school year I can begin to alter my choice of words.  I need help with the key phrases, so I will put the card on my clip board until the phrases become my own.

As I previewed the table of contents when I started the book, I automatically wanted to read Chapter 5: Any Other Ways to Think about That?  Inquiry, Dialogue, Uncertainty and Difference. Those four focus words caught my attention, but I waited until I finally got to chapter 5.

Inquiry:  Automatically in my mind I think of Wonderopolis and building wonder in my classroom.  Inquiry is the basis of questioning and learning. Johnston connects "Uncertainty is the foundation of inquiry and research." I envision this statement like a chain locked fence and all three together build a higher level foundation in my classroom.  I also was reinforced as he discussed the importance of teachers allowing students to see them be uncertain, to ask questions, to admit that they might not know the answer.  I am all about that in my class already! Another powerful tool he suggests is sticky notes, to allow students the chance to wonder.  Leaving a picture book open to an illustration and have students leave their thinking on the note and then come back later to continue reading the book.  I loved how that gives every student a voice in my classroom.  Finally I think I have my first bulletin board heading:  What does a conversation sound like if there is confusion?  Reinforcing the idea that confusion builds learning and inquiry.

Dialogue "A classroom is one in which there are lots of open questions and extended exchanges among the students." This opening sentence made me stop to pause and reflect.  The key for me goes back to my opening paragraph and key phrases that allow for open questions.  With the extended discussions, students are able to comprehend more difficult texts (ie: van den Branden)  which connects with Common Core.  The students would be focused on meaning and taking responsibility for their own learning through extended dialogue conversations.  For those students who are not connecting, I am thinking about using the sticky notes differently this year so all students have a voice in conversations.   For example, post an opening day question allow students to reflect, post and then begin the conversations later in the day.  Finally another bulletin board idea might be:  What are the tools for growing minds?  Something else for me to reflect on as I read the next three chapters.

This week's #CyberPD is hosted by Jill Fisch at My Primary Passion.  Thank you for hosting this week. I am very excited to read the other blog posts and continue my learning.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Math, Technology & Wonderopolis "A Great Trio"

After meeting with my friend Mary Lee and discussing how she organized her math block, I was very excited to continue thinking about how to integrate technology with problem solving.  On a side note, our conversations about literacy including guided reading groups really helped me to focus and think differently. Thanks Mary Lee! 

Here is how the process started.

1. Wonderopolis is celebrating Camp What-A-Wonder this month, and this week's focus is Creepy Crawly bugs. I have been thinking about how to weave bugs into my blog posts not the easiest thing to do.  But I have now accomplished that goal.

2. I have attended a few district technology PD classes this summer, and I continue to hear about Xtranormal.  It is a free site (if you keep your videos simple) that allows you to create your own videos.  You choose the characters, setting, voices, hand motions, facial gestures and background music.  I decided this was time to take the plunge into creating a video.

3.  For my math piece of the puzzle, I have decided to create a Xtranormal video for each chapter of our math series.  We will start the year with numeration, and I know that recording large numbers and decimals can be difficult for 5th graders.  I will have the students watch the video and then try to write the numbers in their math journal. It will be interesting to see who will be able to write them down correctly. 

4.  Finally I created my first video (please be kind to the producer) with a hint of summer memories, a conversation about bugs and some math woven into it. Enjoy!

Summer Bugs
by: MC201213

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Pieces of the Puzzle

I don't count the days of summer, but I am beginning to think I need to start putting some of the pieces of my puzzle together. I always feel like the first piece of the puzzle starts with my classroom especially after being in the same room for 15 years. I need a change something that stands out for the students.  This year I was struggling but through blogs (Franki @ A Year of Reading) and some pictures once again I have a new set up. My first priority is community space and next some nooks for students.  I created a large open area with the smart board and teaching chart along with 2 table (round and rectangle) and a reading corner.  Moving to puzzle piece 2: math. I will be teaching 80 mins of math daily.  I have been searching for a morning math warm up and have found some links to help me.  Here is one I found through #5thchat Mrs. White's Teaching Resources. When the students come in, I want them to be actively involved thinking about math so I am considering some math games, websites and focus # work This is one piece I need to continue to focus on and build some more strategies. Puzzle #3: increasing the wonder! For the past 2 years I have used Wonderopolis in every subject typically as a hook for a new subject, a follow up article for HW, and end the year with students choosing their own wonder research project. But this year, I want to build wonder- have students think about the why?  One idea I am floating around is changing the focus of the summer pictures my students bring into share. I am going to ask them about what they wondered over their vacation?  I think this might be challenging but if they have a picture of Niagara Falls from vacation, perhaps they wondered about how much water flows or how the falls developed? If they visited a beach, perhaps they wondered about sharks, jellyfish or sand castles? I will model this with my pictures from our summer vacation.  I just get excited by starting the year off with wonder/inquiry/questions.  Finally the last piece of the puzzle #4: stretching NF writing. I have been reading Jeff Anderson book 10 Things Every Writer Needs to Know and Kelly Gallagher's book Write Like This. I want to go beyond our weekly Scholastic New articles although very good for conversations, but I need to have my students think deeper.  I am working on using my #cyber PD to help me with forming higher level questions.  I have learned the value of the word "yet." I also am working on the idea of choosing relevant articles from local newspaper and having students write from those (point of view, main idea/details, 5 Ws, opinions of article etc.) 

As you can see my puzzle is all over the floor right now or I should say floating in my brain, I am working on having all the pieces fit together nicely. Any suggestions I would love to have some comments to help my thinking. 

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Opening Minds Ch. 1-3

I am so excited to be actively involved this year in #cyberPD. Last year I read all the blog posts and also followed the conversation on twitter but did not blog.  The book:  Opening Minds by Peter Johnston was chosen by Cathy, Laura and Jill for this summer's virtual conversations.

Chapter 1: Choosing Words, Choosing Worlds as I read this title I automatically connected back to Johnston first book:  Choice Words.  His opening statement, "as teachers we choose our words....the worlds we construct offer communities and constraints."  I began to wonder about the constraints in my classroom. Where did we have problems? Could I help to change those constraints next fall in my classroom?  Also his quote, "Teaching is planned opportunism." made me stop and reflect. The best lesson plans in the world can alter drastically with the conversations in class.  I plan on going down path A and one student takes path B yet another conversation is meandering along path C.  He ends the paragraph with the idea of intentional talk--uumm that is not anywhere in my lesson plans.  Now I am thinking it should be. 

Chapter 2:  Learning Worlds: People, Performing and Learning.  In this chapter, Johnston defines fixed performance (characteristics are permanent) and dynamic theory (ability grows based on the situation).  These two traits are defined well in this chapter, and I had to reread it to understand how these thought patterns in students really do effect the way the think, speak and behave.  There are 3 major points of influence that helped me understand these points.  #1 What we choose to say  #2 the way we frame the activities #3 how we teach students about how their brain works. Providing more of a dynamic classroom would be my goal in the fall, and I know that I would have to start first with my words and responses to my students. 

Chapter 3: Changing Learning Narratives. His opening quote grabbed me, "Turning attention to change rather than stability makes a difference in all kinds of learning." I love stability and thrive on it in my classroom but after 23 years I am focusing on moving towards change. His next idea, "Deciding which things in life are essentially fixed (can't be changed) and which things can be changed is constant tension." AMEN! With all of the changes coming in Common Core, student behaviors, state assessments, diagnostics I really need to focus on my own changes-those changes that directly impact my students' learning in my classroom.  After all even if it's a tiny bit - it is a change.

As I get ready to read the next three chapters, I have many ideas to ponder.  Thank to Cathy at Reflect and Refine: Building a Learning Community for hosting this weeks cypberPD.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Pathways to Common Core

Pathways to Common Core has been on many of the summer PD reading lists, and I had already ordered it so I was pleased to see it getting so much attention on twitter also. Last school year, I spent time reading the CCSS (Common Core State Standards). I have been printing different articles and saving them for this summer to study in more detail.  So my summer PD begins…As I read Chapter 1: An Introduction to CCSS it really helped me understand the background as well as some great strategies about starting to unpack the standards.

*CCSS represent the most sweeping reform in K-12 curriculum in the history of American education.  "Teachers are free to provide students with whatever tools and knowledge…that is most helpful for meeting the goals of the standards."  I felt better after reading this because I can continue the best practices in my classroom and align them to CCSS. I don't have to change everything I just will have to choose which practices support the new CC.

*"There is a shift in our country. There is an urgent call for learning to shift because twenty-five years ago 95% of jobs required low skills. Today low skill jobs are only 10%. With this major shift, we need to provide all students with a thinking curriculum with workshops, book clubs, research, debates, and think tanks."  Again I agree with these practices, and I am already incorporating many of them. 

*Emphasis on higher-level comprehension with students analyzing text and different levels noting similarities and differences including different points of view. "Students need to move away from simply reading for information, toward reading for much more of an analytical stance." This concept was important for me to read because I don't typically go deep enough in this area, and I will need to focus more on strengthening higher-level comprehension. (on a side note this connects wonderfully with #cyberPD ).

*Finally I was very excited to see how much reading and writing are intertwined throughout the CCSS. "It is suggested that students become fluent, fast, structured and proficient writers. Supporting the writing across the curriculum may be one of the most potent ways to help all teachers in a school." This was huge for me because I will continue to link writing in all areas but if you only teach science then CCSS must be integrated into your lesson planning. I would hope that Common Core could pull ALL teachers together for strong conversations about weaving CCSS into all curriculum areas.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Connecting Continents

Building wonder in my classroom has been a HUGE part the past two years.  Ever since I have been using Wonderopolis almost on a daily basis in my classroom.  I believe strongly that our students learn from our modeling, so I often use phrases like:  "I am curious..." 
"Did you ever wonder why?"  or this year I liked using the word ponder.  My students looked at me a little strangely at first, but quickly caught on after a few times.  

As I have posted many times on my blog, I truly believe the comment section is so important to extend the students learning globally and this summer wonder has spread across the continents.  Imagine my surprise when I got the email below.  

Harshitha is in India visiting her grandparents for the summer, I suggested that we could stay in contact through email and the comment section of Wonderopolis.  I was ecstatic when I got this email and then of course I found her comment on #619.  

I was so excited to see how she connected the wonder to our social studies unit on slavery and also made some personal connections.  Wondering across the continents is a first in my 23 years of teaching-thanks Harshitha!!

Join Camp What-A-Wonder

This is an oxymoron as I go to write this post. We don’t have any Internet connections at our home and not suppose to have any for possibly a week from the storms that passed through last Friday. Isn't it funny or sad on how dependent I have become on internet for most of my professional development? We are definitely grateful that we do have electricity because some friends don’t have any. I am posting this at McDonalds, and very thankful for wireless. The connection would be that this is my first post about Camp What-A Wonder at Wonderopolis, and I am posting about how great it is being outdoors and being disconnected from the world-who would have known?

When our family discusses vacations, our children still reminisce about our family camping trips. (On a side note, when we got married our wedding gift from my parents was a tent, and we still camp in it today) Several years ago, we headed out West driving for a two-week adventure. Many of our memories focus not on visiting Mount Rushmore, white water rafting or Yellowstone Park, but on our evenings spent around the campfire.  With our children being older, this was before texting, so we had their full attention except when Marcus would sneak out his Game Boy occasionally. 

Building campfires, making dinner as a family, cleaning & scrubbing potatoes, carrots and onions for hamburger pockets was a treat! In addition, we had fun cooking and dining on a picnic table with our beautiful red plaid table cloth, plastic cutlery and enjoying family conversations. After dinner, we hauled water from the pump and heated it for washing dinner.  Finally, with dinner completed typically a 2-hour ordeal, we would stoke up the and begin to relax for the evening. One of my favorite parts having family conversations around the fire. Of course smores would come later in the night or even hot iron pies with cherry being our favorite! 

*What are some of your favorite campfire memories?
*Did you ever go camping and tell spooky stories around the campfire?