Friday, August 30, 2013

August OLW: Gratitude

August is coming to an end as I reflect (which was my 2012 OLW) I realize that my Choice Literacy writing retreat has once again helped me learn more about myself than I even realized. Having the experience of trying something "out of my box" has helped me grow as an educator.  I think differently about writing now.  I learned the importance of a community of writers.  A group of people who support each other and  are willing to say not only compliments but also criticisms that help you strengthen a skill.  These experiences have allowed me to think differently about this group of fifth graders.  I understand again what it feels like to be scared when you're not quite sure of an answer and several people are waiting for your response.  When you can't find your verbal voice, but you are willing to write your response down in a notebook first to bring security to your words.  To literally not know the answer or know the "lead" you have been thinking about for what seems like hours.  Until I was allowed the chance to have these experiences, I had forgotten what it was like to be nervous or not have the courage to speak up.  I feel gratitude for Brenda for inviting me to the retreat along with our writing group that has now formed and meets on a monthly basis.  Gratitude from one writer to the next writer.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Shifting my Definition of Digital Literacy

What qualifies an assignment as a digital writing piece? One of the best quotes I heard this summer:  “Anything completed on a computer that could have been done with paper and pencil is not digital literacy.” I realized I was stuck with my definition. This summer through twitter chats, Allwrite conference, reading and discussing professional books,  I redefined digital literacy for myself. Although it will be a working definition because I will be learning right along with my students. 

Digital writing is not just typing on the computer and not just googling it to locate the answer. Most writing needs to be within a community similar to my learning this summer.  A group of writers interested in composing along with conversations that will help them grow not only as writers but also as a class community.  

We are going to begin this process with our weekly newsletters.  Each Monday, I am going to give the students a large sticky note and ask them to be a recorder all week.  Keeping a list of their favorite lessons, books, moments etc. On Friday, we are going to share our lists and form writing clubs: reading, writing, word study, math, science and Room 228.  Each club will compose a part of our weekly newsletter. Last week, we started small with creating our Top 10. Another shift is the newsletter will be posted on our class website which anyone can access although certain sections will be password protected.  Moving from paper newsletters to posting it will break down the walls by expanding the audience. The students can share the newsletter not only with their own family but grandparents etc. who might live out of Ohio or even not in the United States. At some point, I might open the comment section on our newsletters which is something I am considering. Any thoughts?

As I introduced this last week, the students were very excited about their job as a recorder and then a composer. I have several goals woven into this process. One the students will see their work published weekly which is a huge shift from last year. Next their work will be published to a larger audience which changes the perspective of their writing. Finally as a class of writers, they will grow as they watch the newsletters evolve throughout the school year building a digital portfolio of our school year.  Now I am wondering what I can do with all these newsletters at the end of the year?


Friday, August 23, 2013

Building Community

Today will be our third day of school. This year once again the first day of school was different.  I totally over planned so much that I will continue Wednesday plans today.   Each new group of fifth graders (remembering really they are still fourth graders) take on their own personality even on day one.  I almost view that as a mystery that I will need to unpack as the days move forward. 

The only thing that was similar to last year was that we built bridges with marshmallows and toothpicks.  I divided the students into 4 groups and asked them to build a bridge that would support books.  We used Clementine books which was interesting because one student told me that was her favorite book in 4th grade so I learned a little more about her reading life. 

After 20 minutes, I asked the students to discuss their strategies that they used for building their bridge.  Some the responses included:

-We had to stop and listen to each other.
-I had to slow down because the toothpicks were getting too sticky.
-We needed to cooperate.
-We took a bunch of strategies and put them all together.
-We needed to know the end result and work backwards.

After this conversation and charting their thoughts,  we talked about how these ideas will be our class rules "motto" this year. I asked them to remember the feeling of accomplishment as well as the hard work it took to build the bridge. We then  placed the books on the bridges.  The goal was one book-all four bridges held 2-4 books.  It's going to be a great year!! 

Saturday, August 17, 2013

ARC: Birthday Bunny revised to Battle Bunny

I am so excited to be sharing my new ARC by Jon Scieska and Mac Barnett.  Illustrations by Matthew Myers. When I walked into Fundamentals the day before school started, I felt like I was given a welcome back to school present as I was handed: Birthday Bunny retitled Battle Bunny.  I was very confused by the cover but once I opened and looked inside, I was shocked by the creativity. I instantly fell in love with this thoughtful detailed story.  

As I read the first story: Birthday Bunny it is an excellent story with a twist that hooked me.  But when I read the revisions of the story entitled:  Battle Bunny I was even more hooked. As much for the story, but even more for the opportunities to use this as a mentor text for real world revision.  Scieska and Barnett are brilliant writers and the chance to see their thinking is a rare opportunity. There are mini lessons woven throughout the story.  Even with the changes including revisions to the illustrations I was amazed at the story. 

I had never considered the idea of purchasing old books at garage sales allowing students to try these revision strategies.  Can you imagine allowing students the chance to rewrite a story? Revision strategies could include changing vocabulary, building stronger details along with changing the plot structure. Actually the revision strategies are endless!!! Check out the ages…..due to be released October 22.


Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Slice of Life: Summer Doesn't Mean Stop

The Tuesday Slice of Life Writing Community is hosted by Stacey and Ruth at 

School starts Thursday and as I protect my last two days of summer for checking a few more things off my to do list, I realize that summer does not have to stop. Yes by the dates on the calendar but not the parts that have enhanced my life and helped me grow professionally.  

I have had several learning experiences this summer that have allowed me to have conversations that will carry over into my classroom. Conversations beyond the three types of required writing. Now my focus will be on smaller pieces of writing and continuing to collect stronger mentor texts.  Thinking not about the parts of a persuasive piece but how to allow my students a wider audience for their pieces. I have created a class website in addition to a class twitter account (@228bes) which will "break down the walls." Other conversations involved time both in and out of school. In class, I must allow that additional time for deep conversations although the LP book says shift gears to science. 

Summer is about BIG ideas and time to think. So why can't BIG thinking continue into the new school year? During our Choice Literacy writing retreat, we discussed habits. A huge part of habits include how we use our time. One of our mentor text that we were given is The Productive Writer by Sage Cohen, I wrote these two quotes down as my "cues" as the school year starts.

 "I can also tell you your relationship with time is far more subjective that you might imagine." 

"Once you become conscious that your relationship with time is not something that happens to you but a dynamic orchestrated by you through dozens of large and small choices you make every day." 

Ever since we became empty nesters, my morning routine has been stagnant with no thought required. I now will read my new "cues" which will help me set my new routine. In addition my "rewards" will encourage me not to give up on my routine. My husband says I have opened my box and allowed new opportunities to be methodically planned. He is absolutely correct in order to change old patterns, I have to create new ones. 

As I start my 26th year of teaching, I have realized more than ever education is changing, I need to continue my summer conversations so that the energy of summer flows into the new school year. My summer colleagues is a community that I want to continue and connect with throughout the school year.  Just because summer is over, it doesn't mean to stop thinking BIG. It just means the transition of new routines and integrating them into the new school year. 

Remembering to locate those special writing places in our lives.
My morning view.