Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2014 OLW: Choice

Thanks Ali for the picture
For the past two years I have participated in One Little Word, my choice in 2012 (reflection) and 2013 (gratitude) have become an integral part of who I am.  When I chose these words they were purposeful and really focused my thoughts for the year. On my drive home, I would reflect on my word and choose a moment when my OLW was an important part of my day.  These two words became embedded into every detail of my life.

I have been thinking about my OLW for 2014 and I have to admit it did not come to me as easily.  I read Ali's blog and watched the amazing video about the importance of choosing OLW. Choosing a word that is meaningful along with the anticipation of what the word could mean is the key for me. 

I was struggling with choosing my word. I wonder which word would stretch me both professionally and personally.  Choosing a word that would get "me out of my box" which I do enjoy most of the time but am realizing that I need to break out of in 2014.  Choosing to continue to grow as a writer with a renewed passion for word study and as important choosing to write along with my students during our school day.

I turned 50 this past September, and I am not sure if it comes with the new decade or if it is just a gift that I have become much more aware of the choices I make. I am thankful for the opportunities when I have a choice.  I have learned the littlest choice can make a huge impact on my life.  My 2014 journey begins tomorrow with my 
OLW: choice. 

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Continuing Word Work in 2014


 I found myself opening notes on my iPhone constantly the past week as I tried to take a little break. I would jot down a thought or a new idea as I watched holiday movies.  How many times have I watched Elf and never thought about a writer's notebook until this year? Watching Walter struggle for ideas for the next BIG book and finally his partners pulled out their notebook full of ideas. The conversation continued about the importance of word choice in describing broccoli as the main character in their next BIG story. I was thinking that would be a perfect clip to share in our writing circle the first full week.

I have been thinking about how to continue to build enthusiasm for word work. Most of my students have started word notebooks first trimester, and I want their thinking about words to continue to grow. But I need them to transfer the word word collecting into word work writing. I rearranged my word work area before holiday break. My goal is to continue to make word work an integral part of our classroom but more interactive. I am going to use the dry erase board for students to collect but more importantly add words to it from their JR books.  Collecting words, copying sentences from their books and encouraging an interactive place for word work.

My other focus will continue to be "playing with words."  Yesterday, I went to my favorite bookstore, Fundamentals, and purchased 3 new word games. I automatically started thinking it would be fun the first week back to play a new word game during the first 10 minutes of word study.  My students haven't been playing the word games (pictured above) very much, and i think we will spend some time exploring the old and new games. Just perhaps they might become popular during indoor recess in the upcoming months.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

4 Meetings = 4 Memorable Moments

Today was one of those days when I step away from teaching in a few years that I will look back on fondly and remember why I became a teacher. My day started at 8:00 with our Newbery Club that Bill and I host for students who love reading. Seventeen fifth graders showed up 45 minutes early to discuss their favorite books and share their top picks for winning the Newbery,  Top picks have included:  Counting on 7''s, Navigating Early ,Rump, and Boy on the PorchIf you have ever considered starting a reading club focusing on students who love reading and want to read several books a month in order to have rich conversations I would encourage you to begin your own Newbery Club.

At 8:45 I had a MFE (multi-factored evaluation) in which a dedicated team of teachers and the student's parents met to go over testing for their child.  The big take away for me is taking time to listen and remember that every parent always wants what is best for their child.  We were able to work as team for this child and design a plan that will positively effect this child's learning.  

During my lunch, I had an 11:30 meeting with a grandfather and parent of a student in my class.  We have been working together on an amazing learning opportunity for myself as well as my students.  The conversations were rich and reminding myself again to listen to their feedback was not only fulfilling but also gratifying because of their recognition of how I am implementing technology into our classroom.  

At 12:00 I met with eight mothers to organize my favorite event of the year. Honestly this afternoon was the #1 event I look forward to since the first day of school.  Each year along with my teammates we organize: Fifth Grade Gives Back!  We have each class rotate every 30 minutes through four stations.  My station includes making 100 brown bag breakfasts (pancake mix, cereal, fruit cup, granola bar, and drink) students decorate brown bags as wrapping paper for our local food pantry.  The next station was practicing holiday carols and then after school 34 students along with their parents went to our local nursing home to sing after school. Thanks Sarah for making this happen every year! Next the students made holiday cards and crafts that will be taken to Children's Hospital to help encourage the sick children during the holidays. Finally the last stop was bagging toiletries which we collected for a fews week.  These toiletry bags will also be delivered to our local food pantry.  Finally at 2:30, all the meals were packed and were taken down to the stage to be delivered tomorrow morning.  

Today was the BEST day for so many reasons but for me there were several opportunities for me to stop and remember to listen. Always an important reminder as the holidays get busy. I also have huge feelings of (OLW) gratitude for another chance to teach my students about the importance of being grateful. To top it off we just got the mail, and I got a Christmas card from a friend that touched my heart with her kind words!  Life is grand and I am thankful!!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

WWL7: Wondering Over Vacation

We begin our holiday vacation on Thursday, and this week I will remind my students that there will be another opportunity to earn a homework pass if they visit Wonderopolis over the holidays and leave a comment.  Several students chose to do this over Thanksgiving, and I was pleased with their comments. I even learned some new interesting fun facts about my students.

Luke learned about What is Medicine Made From? at the same time I learned he wants to be a writer some day.  I wonder why he never told me this at school?

Daniel learned about his favorite sport basketball and continued to wonder when he shared his favorite part in the What is a Slam Dunk Contest

Aarush learns about perspective as he considers himself as an artist.  He enjoys his art classes and learned some new ideas from Do You Have Perspective

Have you considered offering some WONDER homework for your holiday break. I am so excited when I check wonder comments and see my students' name-MC.  Enjoy your holiday vacation. I know I am excited to have our children home for an extended time so I will be in and out of the blogging world for the next few weeks.  

Saturday, December 14, 2013

December OLW: Remembering Sandy Hook

We all have moments that we will remember forever. I have been blessed most of my memorable memories are blessings that I am thankful for.  But when you have been teaching for 25 years there are those moments when you freeze, cry, and place one step in front of the other. Because you have 24 students waiting for you in Room 228.

As I heard about Sandy Hook during my plan time, I froze in my steps as I watched TV. I cried as I walked down the hall to my classroom and tried to pull myself together. We were told not to say anything to our students. When I entered our classroom, we gathered everyone on the floor and we read together. That evening as I drove home from school, I called our daughter who is teaching in South Carolina and our son who was away at college. I just had to hear their voices. My last call was to my mom to tell her I was alright and I loved her too.  

I got home and I froze. What could I do? How could I help?  I posted January 1, 2013 that I was going to do 26 Random Acts of Kindness this year.  I carried an index card in my wallet all year and wrote the date when I performed my 26 acts.  All year I was thinking, praying for those families and trying to do my small random acts throughout this year.
Rest of my dates are on the back
What I was reminded continuously about my OLW:  gratitude is that I am blessed.  Our family is blessed.  Throughout the entire year, I walked through my school and saw children laughing, reading, talking and learning.  I listened to conversations that were exhilarating and heart wrenching, but I knew I at least got to hear them.  I had easy parent meetings, and I extremely difficult parent meetings but I was lucky to have the chance to talk and listen. Several times I heard myself saying to my students, "Let's remember how fortunate we are at BES." "Let's take the time to say thank you and remember to hug your parents." in the back of my mind knowing that not every parent would have a hug that night.  There is no way I will ever begin to understand, but I am thankful I chose to do #26Acts. I know I am stronger and have more gratitude as 2013 comes to a close.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Looking into Book Clubs

We just completed our first round of book clubs.  I adjusted book clubs this year based on conversations, twitter chats #5thchat and several excellent books that I read to help me think differently including:

Notebook Connections: Strategies for the Reader's Notebook 
By: Aimee Buckner
Join the Club! Bringing Book Clubs into Middle School Classrooms 
By: Katie Doherty Czerwinski

Earlier posts I discussed how I was going to organize book clubs and I was going to differentiate using stickers. I already used stickers on Wonder Wednesday with success. I divided my students into four different groups and gave each group a different picture book. Each day the students were given a focus skill and then each club could choose if they had homework or felt like they met the goals set for the day.  All the groups grew with their social skills including taking turns leading, helping all students succeed and how to manage their time. 
All groups started with a xerox book cover and I asked them to read through the book
writing their ideas on sticky notes.
Students were asked to make minimum of three strong predictions and use
the text to support their thinking.
Students were asked to analyze the text to complete the main character chart
Our acronym is BEST:  How does the character behave? What does the character
say? What are the character's thoughts?  How do all three effect the character's
motivation in the story.
Students focused on the plot and which events in sequential order helped
them to understand the story at the same time applying new
vocabulary that they learned.
Finally the students were asked to summarize recognizing that there
might be more than one maid idea with evidence from the story.
We will start our science book clubs in January with the same foundation but switching to nonfiction and different members in their clubs.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Saturday Thoughts

Let down?  Inspiration? Questions? Answers? Random thoughts floating?  Are they random or are they purposeful and not organized?  I have had several opportunities over the past few weeks to have insightful amazing conversations with authors, publishers, creators, and super smart friends.  I love these conversations because they challenge me to think deeply about best practices in my classroom.  However I struggle with these conversations because I start to think about my own classroom and implementation of my new learning. 

As December crept in and I realized that I had only three weeks left in the year, I did not panic oh wait I did but not for very long.  I wanted to implement every idea from all of those rich conversations all at once.  Luckily for me as well as my students, something hit the pause button on my thinking as well as my lesson plans. Lesson plans for me need to change (which is another blog post about how I no longer can live inside the boxes). But for right now I am trying to wrap my thinking around all of the conversations.  Conversations that truly changed my thoughts about my practices in my class.  Sessions at #NCTE13 that touched me enough to shift my science plans on Monday when I returned.  

My teaching partner asked me about my new learning, and I told her I think about my brain as a file cabinet.  I have all these files with information which started from reflecting on last school year, my summer learning, professional books that I have read, conversations, and most importantly who are my learners this year in Room 228.  I believe the most important part of any new learning for me as well as my students is having a place to connect the new information.  As I process it and realize where I can begin to make small shifts, I feel good about my instruction but for me the end result that is crucial is how do those shifts enhance the learning in my classroom?  I am curious how do you process a new shift in your thinking?

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

WWL6: Connecting WONDERS to Learning

Our first trimester ended the week of Thanksgiving.  I wanted to slow down and have the students stop and reflect on their learning using Wonderopolis.  Several students had commented that they enjoyed the wonders and more importantly choosing their own wonder for their Wednesday HW.  Once again the power in choice is huge when using this site.  I typed the above sentence prompts and asked my class to pause and reflect. How had wondering encouraged them to be stronger readers?  What did they learn about their lives as readers when reading non-fiction?  I will let the pictures below tell you the rest of the story.

Check out the connections with vocabulary.
Excited Ian is already thinking about his next Wonder.

So excited with connections with new learning and vocabulary