Friday, November 30, 2012

November: OLW (reflection)

 I didn't have to think long about my OLW (reflection).  November is  a month for thankfulness and reflection which is a  perfect time for my end of the month post.  

You might wonder why I chose to share a picture of clean dishes because at the time I washed the dishes I could not have been happier.  It was the Wednesday before Thanksgiving.  Our daughter was home for the first time from her new job in South Carolina, and our son was home from college.  The four of us spent the evening preparing for the next days feast.  Every year, we try to duplicate my husband's family recipe which is homemade Italian stuffing.  It consists of 2 1/2 loaves of day old bread, 2 lb. of Parmesan Romano, 18 eggs, parsley, and of course finally chopped garlic. and onions.  This year our son had the privilege of grating the bread and cheese.  This in not most loved job of the evening, but not once did he complain. Ok maybe once or twice but it wouldn't be Thanksgiving without the sharing of the grating. 

Stuffing ready for the 18 eggs
I am thankful for the conversations in our kitchen.  How Tom shares the history of the stuffing being made when he was growing up. How his mother made it alone for 40 people, and we only make it for 15 people.  How when we were dating, I used to ask her how she made it and one  Christmas she gave me the recipe in her handwriting which is a treasure now that she is longer with us. 

I share my families tradition of making stuffing including chopped apples, celery and onion.   How I learned from my mom, and I remember many times making stuffing with my cousin, Janet, who lived with us for several summers. Being an only child, those were the BEST of summers!   Janet is no longer with us but every Thanksgiving I know that she is with me as I chop all the apples. 

I am thankful for two wonderful children who want to spend time with their mom and dad and listen to our stories.  I am thankful for the memories of family members who are no longer with us, but with the smells of the kitchen I feel like they are right there with us. 

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Thinking as a Scientist

We (Sarah and I)  just started our first  science unit:  "Thinking as a Scientist."   I love this first unit because we push the students to think beyond the scientific method.  We ask them to think above and beyond experiments.  We will give the students a list of supplies for an experiment and ask them what experiment can they do with these materials. They will make paper airplanes which they love, but then they must think of an experiment that supports flying an airplane.
We ask several "why" and "how do you know that" questions.  As we prepared for this unit, I searched Wonderopolis and found these wonders to include in our first unit. 

#779 Why Do Some People Chase Storms?  We will discuss scientific tools along with review of weather formations from fourth grade.

#213 What Does a Barometer Measure?  We will connect this with the wonder above and discuss the importance of accurate measurements. 

#458 What's So Special About Your Fingerprints?  This is a fun wonder to continue discussing the tools a scientist uses in addition to talk about the importance of observation.

In addition, we will show the students several videos from Dragonfly TV which is another free site that has excellent videos of scientists in their real jobs.  Milk Carton Boat Race is one that we will use to discuss the Design Process for the first time this year.  Another part of this site that I like is on the right hand side, Science Surprise, which gives several videos to choose from for your units.  Our science journey has just started.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Skyping with Kate Messner

Our class creating the original size of the American Flag.
I remember reading Capture the Flag in July and knowing immediately it would be our first read aloud of the school year.  I told my 5th grade colleagues about the fascinating story, and after I described all the twists and the turns all 3 of them decided to read it also.  In August on twitter, I realized that Kate Messner will skype with classes. and we were totally on board.  She offers a free 15 minutes to any school for a one time skype, but all four teachers decided we would pay for her longer skype visit and again we hit a home run.

The students discussed which of these visuals represented the setting.
When we were finished reading the story, we focused on the setting and character development.  Each student chose their favorite character and scene and developed their own comic strip.  As the students were working on their comic strip, they recorded questions that they had for Kate Messner. It was exciting to see them think as an author and even more exciting to know that they were going to be ask their questions to Kate.

Finally the day arrived and there was a buzz in fifth grade a few days before. You could hear them talking about it at lunch and during their writing time.  It really brought our fifth grade classes together as a community of authors and readers. As you can see below on the left was a slide show that Kate sent to us to support her talk and on the right is Kate talking to our students.

There were so many ideas I LOVED as she talked to the students.  I felt like I was at a workshop for teachers on how to actively engage your students as writers.  Some key focus points included:
*always have a writer's notebook with you because there is a story everywhere
*graphic organizers are a great way to organize your writing
*whenever possible, try to research your writing and take the time to ask questions
*write about what you know
*revision is not about editing (LOVE this message)
*as a writer ask yourself:  What if?

Thank you Kate Messner for a wonderful conversation that encouraged both our students as well as the teachers.  PS.  Our students are sitting on pins and needles waiting for the next book:  Hide and Seek!!!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

ALL Students will be Readers & Writers

As I entered my classroom last Friday, my goals were the same as they had been since the first day of school.  I want all my students to be readers and writers.  As I prepared for my student who had just arrived from Japan the previous Saturday, my thinking was all over the place and my stomach had a few butterflies in it.  I haven't felt that way in a very long time possibly not since my first year of teaching.  

H. entered the room, and I knew that she did not speak and did not understand any English.  I greeted her with a smile and our day started.  I was fortunate to have ELL support the first day, so together we started with math.  Focusing on the calendar & days of the week. Using a Japanese/English dictionary, I had made a xerox copy of the days of the week for this activity.  H. had success with: Today is, Tomorrow will be, Yesterday was.  Next we moved onto some basic calculations and quickly moved to 4 digit by 4 digit addition & subtraction problems. Numbers are the universal language in our classroom :)

Drawing pictures is a universal language. NF article in left corner.
I read a kindergarten picture book to her about school, and I showed her an alphabet chart. Honestly I believe that was the first time she saw 26 letters with a confused look on her face I just smiled even bigger. We started with matching the letters on the ABC chart with letters in the book. Thank goodness for highlighter tape and highlighters. Thanks goes to our wonderful preschool and kindergarten teachers who are letting me borrow so many materials.  Thanks also for who ever invented magnetic letters.  I am positive my thanks list will continue to grow as we grow on our journey.

When I was working with the rest of the class (which will need to be future blog posts once I figure out how to juggle my schedule) I gave her Non-Fiction animal book to look through. When I came back, she showed me the article "Rat Steals Leopard's Food"  I quickly xeroxed it, and she started highlighting all the "As" our letter of the day which I did not see coming, but wow did it make sense at that point in the day. Some of the best lesson plans come from the student, so we spent the rest of the day completing her page of her own book that she is going to write and illustrate:  Learning A-Z which brings me back to my goal: ALL students will be readers and writers. 

Sharing NF and searching for "A"

Amazing talent for being an author and illustrator!


Thursday, November 8, 2012

Wonder Wednesday Begins in Pictues

Here I go again thinking in pictures, I learn best through pictures. On blogs, I search for pictures to help me understand how to transfer a new idea to my classroom. Yesterday, we officially started Wonder Wednesday.  Officially means: every Wednesday I will teach a mini lesson from a wonder and students will be working in their new wonder notebook.  So the visual tour begins....

Anchor Chart: focus skills: parts of a wonder (pink sticky note),  background knowledge (BK), answering 3 focus questions and choosing 2-3 new vocabulary words. When we came back together, I had the students write their new learning on the chart.  They love to record on the chart paper.

time to read the wonder and search for answers and vocabulary using context clues (wonder notebook on clipboard)
Our first class comment including many students new learning. Notice the connections to our read aloud Capture the Flag.

instant feedback-priceless!

Monday, November 5, 2012

Must Read: The Joy of Planning

Often in teaching I learn about different resources and my Dingo account is over bookmarked with many sites that I learn about from twitter.  In addition, I have a wide variety of professional books that I often refer too but typically during the summer when I have the time to process the ideas.  

One teacher resource that I have used consistently is Wonderopolis, and I have grown over the past two years on how I incorporate wonders into my classroom.  This year I have had the opportunity to be part of Wonder Year 2012.  I have told every teacher/parent/friend that I know about how amazing Wonderopolis is and how easy the site it to navigate. One of my colleagues and friends, Franki Sibberson has released The Joy of Planning: Designing Minilesson Cycles in Grades 3-6. 

Her focus on minilessons and explaining how she thinks through her different units is insightful.  I sticky noted, highlighted and wrote all over my copy.  I appreciate how hard she works on her thinking prior to instruction. She also lists a wide variety of resources for teachers to support lesson planning.  I was extremely excited to read about how she uses Wonderopolis in her classroom.

A. Lesson:  There are many ways to record thinking while you read
Franki discusses the importance of modeling our thinking as she shares a wonder of the day on her interactive whiteboard. She circles key vocabulary, records her questions, and annotates where she is confused as a reader. Then she passes out another wonder and has her students record their own thinking. For follow up, together they create a class anchor chart about ways to record thinking.

B.  Lesson:  Identifying Unknown Vocabulary
Franki uses Wonderopolis in the follow up part of this mini lesson. "By discussing an online piece, students can see those strategies for identifying unknown words"

Wonderopolis has a tab for every wonder that lists the focus vocabulary in addition the students can find the words in the wonder and use different strategies including context clues.

I read Franki's book in one sitting and then again as I marked it up and made it my own.  It is an excellent book if you are looking for a book that "takes you into her process of designing short sequence lessons."  I highly recommend this book it sure helped me to organize my planning.