Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Research Involves a Journey and Choice

I had the opportunity to attend Dublin Literacy Conference.  I look forward to this conference once school starts in August.   I tweeted this past Saturday it is like Christmas morning in February.  I presented with Mary Lee at A Year of Reading on Celebrating Poetry Friday.  I was so excited to present with her because of her leadership and love for poetry that is why my class celebrates poetry every Friday. 

I have a thousand ideas (honestly that many) percolating in my brain. I was immersed with amazing conversations, compelling presentations that made me want to shift several ideas in my class, and finally the chance to meet authors in person that I have admired. There will be several blogs posts upcoming, but I wanted to start with thinking about research.

As I listened to Ralph Fletcher speak in our opening keynote, I had several light bulb moments that I needed to lift my spirit and begin to jumpstart my thinking about 3rd trimester research writing differently.  The first light bulb was in the way he presented-he modeled for teachers the importance of using mentor text in our classrooms.  He used student letters, work samples, picture books, pictures, research and several personal connections. I sat there and realized those components are the foundation for any strong lesson in a classroom.

Next he discussed how “Good Non Fiction writing draws from all different genres.” As I begin to focus on my students’ research projects. My definition of projects shifted to include choices.  He shared a mentor article written in question/answer format that was a mixture of fiction/nonfiction. Next he suggested having students write NF poetry.  I leapfrogged that idea to have students publish a poetry book about their research topic. Finally through conversations with Mary Lee and Sarah, we discussed the idea of Pair It books:  fiction/non fiction. I am excited about my new toolbox for research choices.

For the afternoon, Louise Borden spoke about her Journey Back to Dublin through pictures.  I listened and soaked in all of her visual presentation but one thread was woven throughout her talk.  The idea that research is a journey for a story, which connected my thoughts from the morning.  As this point, I was bursting with ideas as she shared how she worked for several years on one of her new books: His Name was Raoul Wallenburg.  She traveled to different countries, found several primary sources, interviewed and researched until she finally had her story to share with us.  I loved the connections she made as an author that now I can share with my students.  Ralph Fletcher reminded us that “students are authors in their world” that is the message that I plan on weaving throughout my 3rd trimester research.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Math Buddies are #1

We celebrated our Ohio winters with our first grade math buddies.  To say that the students enjoyed themselves is an understatement.  What student would not enjoy building their own personal snowman from frozen water balloons?  The first graders wrote down their description of the snowman ( 2 square eyes, 1 carrot nose, 3 different size balls) and the fifth graders measured the circumference of snowman while finding the diameter also.  

The students also enjoyed building their own igloos. First graders counted their supplies for this project ahead of time.. Shelly had her students count marshmallows, toothpicks, and gumdrops  The partners took their igloo bags and built their igloo after they were finished fifth graders measure the perimeter and found the area.  It was fun to watch the fifth graders record the numbers as their little buddy counted the materials.

Once again math buddies was a huge success for so many reasons.  Have you found your math buddy class yet? It's not too late.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Have you Considered Wondering Homework?

My fifth graders love homework passes.  They are their "get out of jail" ticket.  If they forget their HW, they can use their HW pass and not get a "date." A date is when I write down their late HW and that is how I keep track of late assignments. The HW pass allows them an extra day to get their HW completed and not get a "date."   

Up until this year, I used to give HW passes for holiday (Halloween, Christmas, Valentines) but not this year.  I shifted my thinking and now my students earn their HW pass during the holidays.  I allow my students the opportunity to choose a wonder at Wonderopolis that must be connected to something that we are learning about in school.  They must leave a STRONG comment and on our first day back from a break or for example our 4 day weekend this week, we begin our day with students sharing their comment on the Smartboard. It is a great way to build community after a long break and most importantly students are learning over break and making connections with what we have been discussing in class. I am excited that they are learning to earn their HW pass and not just being given their HW pass.  I think that is another blog post in the future....

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Weaving Common Core into Persuasive Writing

As I learn more about Common Core and how students are going to have to read across multiple texts as well as think critically about what they are reading. I have decided that I need to start small and take baby steps. At the same time I don't want to throw the baby out with the bath water, so I am building on what I have done in the past that has been successful and integrating some new ideas with Common Core into our persuasive writing unit.

The first thing I do is share several favorite pictures books that are excellent mentor text including Alex and the Lemonade Stand.  Next we looked at a few mentor text wonders at Wonderopolis. Both of these examples set a strong foundation for students building their knowledge about what does persuasive writing look like and sound like.

To get my feet wet and start weaving some Common Core ideas, we looked at several articles from different sources on the Smart Board. The students came up to the board and underlined important facts, statistics, BIG names and quotes that supported the article. We had already discussed the specific criteria that makes a persuasive article strong. Next the students pulled sentences out of an article and wrote it on a sentence strip.  We used these as mentor sentences and labeled them. 

Finally the students read their own article, took notes and then we shared as a class.  As we discussed the writing across several texts, I noticed the conversation got richer because students would refer to the pictures books, wonders or articles as examples.  For example, "I remember in..." or "Don't you remember when we read...."  "Hey isn't it neat how all of the articles include data to support the argument."

I am positive that they have a much stronger base to start their research this week as they choose their "HOT topic."

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Celebrating Digital Literacy

 Today is Digital Learning Day and when I accessed the link to learn more about this celebration, I found this graphic. "Digital Learning Day is a national campaign that celebrates teachers and shines a spotlight on successful instructional practice and effective use of technology in classrooms across the country." As I looked at this graphic and read the words surrounding save the date, I knew that I wanted to post about how I use Wonderopolis in my writing workshop.

So often I ask myself a simple question when I am thinking about writing, "Is this authentic writing?" Occasionally the answer is no unfortunately because the lesson is designed to complete a writing indicator.  However, for the past two years, I have used authentic writing with my students by leaving comments on different wonders at Wonderopolis.  Because of a schedule change (Spanish 2nd trimester), I had to switch from Wonder Wednesday to Thinking Thursday which the students named for us.  I like that title because the students are thinking and extending their wondering at home while they write their wonder comment.  We completed our first round comments several weeks ago, and I was pleased with the specific criteria that the students chose for this year's comments.   
 The students created our class rubric this year with the following criteria:  connections, new vocabulary, new facts, asking questions to extend learning, new facts, predictions for tomorrow's wonder.  

 In addition, every comment that is left on Wonderopolis receives a reply that is authentic to their comment. The students beam when they find their comment and are able to share the respons with our class the following day after Thinking Thursday.

For enrichment, I encourage students to some additional research so that they can extend other comments.  I was so proud of S. as he researched Dan's comments!  Way to extend learning at home.  Have you tried having your students leave wonder comments? As you explore different digital sites today I would encourage to explore Wonderopolis. It is an amazing site that is being used K-12 focusing on non fiction reading along with integrating all reading/writing standards.  One shop stopping for literacy.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Important Dates To Remember

Our Wonderopolis team will be honoring Digital Learning Day 2013 along with joining the Verizon Foundation in the twitter chat #EdTechChat. The chat will be February 6th @ 8:00 PM Eastern Standard Time.  The topic will be about how to use digital tools to promote students growth.

Celebrating reading is always at the top of my list and to celebrate it with the world is even better.  As I begin to read blogs about the celebration, I am already thinking about how to help my students get excited about World Read Aloud Day.

Check out these resources for idea: