Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Once a Teacher Always a Teacher

I was going to take this week off from blogging because I look forward to the time with my family, and I had promised them that my school book bag would be put away in the corner. But the teacher in me never turns off.  I was always going to be a teacher ask my mom. Being an only child, I always had friends in my pretend classroom including my favorite student Karen Valentine from Room 222 for those of you old enough to remember that show. I set up a library in our back bedroom, and my parents would come and check books out.  I actually typed the cards for each book on a typewriter, and my mom let me tape them in the back of my books.  I remember begging for a date stamp so I could stamp the books as they were checked out from MY library.

Visiting Boston Public Library-great place to start our visit!
I arrived home from #NCTE13 with so much excitement and a huge pile of books to share with my students. We all gathered around the table and I told them the stories of each book.  I let them find the autographs and wow did they think I was a superhero with Lunch Lady and Baby Mouse signed to Mrs. Caplin's Class.  When my colleagues asked me about the conference the first word I used was contagious.  Being with 7,000 educators (I heard that was a record) who all loved literacy and wanted to learn more was infectious.  I was lucky enough to be with several colleagues from Dublin and surrounding districts, and then my extended friends through NCFL, Choice Literacy, Dublin Lit Conference and Literacy Connection. I was able to be apart of a wide variety of conversations that ranged from favorite books, BEST practices, integration of technology, extending the walls of the classroom and some great conversations about Common Core that shifted my thinking. I am still reflecting on my notes, and I am positive I will be writing more blogs about how I will connect my experiences in Boston with my learning community in Ohio.  

But let's flashback to my week off from blogging.  Our daughter arrived home finally after a flight delay, cancelled flight, standby and final arrival in Columbus.  She is sleeping peacefully on the couch.  Our son is out cutting wood with my husband so that we can continue to build huge fires as we begin to create our new Thanksgiving memories.  I am always a teacher and my thoughts continue to float back to NCTE13, and I take every small moment when possible to read a blog or catch up with my friends who I now know personally.  As Thanksgiving knocks on the door tomorrow,  I am thankful for my family but also for my extended family in education. Those that help me grow, challenge my thinking, cheering for me when I am unsure (yes I am still thinking about IT) and best of all supporting me through blogging and twitter. 

Sunday, November 17, 2013

OLW: November Gratitude

It seems just like yesterday it was November first, and we were changing the calendar at school.  Our daughter and I just started our turkey day countdown for her visit home to build some more family memories.  Tomorrow our "baby" turns 21, and it seems like in a blink that we have two adult children.  But I guess that is how life blink and you'll miss something. That is why I am so thankful for my OLW this year: gratitude.  I remember when I chose my new OLW word I didn't think there could be a better OLW than reflection which was my 2012 word choice, but I think gratitude takes the prize. 

 I live my life differently this year. I at #23 on my way to #26 Random Acts of Kindness which was my way to cope with Sandy Hook Elementary School.  I have to be honest I think of Sandy Hook often as I walk the halls of my school, or I sit with my students who just felt success for the first time because they completed their first chapter book.  There are so many reasons to be thankful in November. Family is always at the top of my list, a career choice that allows me to touch students lives and help them become life long readers and wordsmiths. Finally I am thankful for opportunities that push me way out of my comfort zone. There have been a few of these already this school year, and I wonder why I don't choose to say no? Afterward I understand why I say yes. When I have said yes I learn lessons that I never could have seen coming around the corner.  Gratitude for hidden lessons.

Compliments of NCTE website
My next corner comes this week as I head to Boston for #NCTE13 conference. I am a newbie and a presenter. I am pretty sure that is not the correct order but here I go again.  I am thrilled to have the chance to discuss the importance of WONDERing and connect elementary-middle-high school.  What an amazing opportunity!  In addition, I am excited to meet my virtual twitter friends who I feel like I already know.  

As November turns the corner toward December, I am once again thankful for the gifts I am given and most importantly all the lessons I learn from each experience.  I am taking a blogging break until after Thanksgiving so I hope your end of November opens doors and allows you the chance to find your own gratitude.  Makes such a difference.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Parts of Speech About the Rules?

Common Core has parts of speech woven into Language Standards grades K-5.  My concern is always the same every year. How do I transfer the knowledge of parts of speech to my students' writing?  Every student can tell me a noun is a person, place or thing. There are singular and plural etc. Basically stating the rules, but the most importantly is the transfer to student writing. I have shifted my focus of parts of speech instruction this year, I did not spend time reviewing “rules” but we jumped into parts of speech through our read aloud:  Big Words for Little People.   First we brainstormed what they already knew about parts of speech. As you can see from the picture, the students knew several important characteristics. As I read the story, I asked the students to record new words or exciting words. Finally the students created advertisements for their word using the brainstorm list which you can see around the anchor poster.  

Lastly the transfer came to their own writing, the students collected 5 words from the word wall and wrote them in their writer's notebook.  I asked them to use those five words in their first graded writing assignment of the year. Making the connections between word study, reading and writing.  Several students used all five words; however, some of the students needed to change their list of five by referring back to the word wall.  What an important lesson to remember as a writer. It's so much better than focusing on just the rules after all it's about the writing. 
Sharing writer's notebook favorite spot in front of Xander our gecko.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

WW5: Wondering, Previewing and Comprehending

After my students are familiar with wonderopolis and understand all the different aspects of the website, we are now ready to begin focusing on different reading strategies. After doing some quick informal assessments, I knew we needed to start with comprehension strategies. Several of my students are choosing not to look back into the text to find the answers. They "think" they remember after reading the article/story.  We focused on Wonder #619 Who Came to the Boston Tea Party? which connects to our social studies unit. I printed off the article for each student, and we started with a conversation about reading digital text vs. paper text.  This was important because my students need to be familiar with reading text on line in addition, I need to teach them that you can go back onto the screen to locate text to find answers or evidence for questions. 

Our new strategy this year for comprehension is a modified one from last year which was RACE: restate, answer cite and explain.  This year we are using RRCe  (Reread, Restate, Cite - explain if needed). The students felt very grownup up as we discussed the new acronym and several felt like they understood it better.  As you can see from the above photo, their HW was to choose a wonder and practice previewing while answering the three questions that each wonder includes.  I was pleased with their progress however,  we still need to practice restating the question.  But the good news is another Wednesday will roll around, and we'll continue to build their nonfiction skills on Wonder Wednesday.

copy of notes the students glued into their wonder journal

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Out of the Mouth of 5th Graders

We just completed our first full month of individual reading goals. As I read their reflections, I just stopped and started copying their thoughts onto my iPad.  These ideas are the #1 reason I continue to teach with workshop and allow students to choose their own reading goals. I am so proud of every student for their growth and perspective. 

I've been expanding my vocabulary with my word notebook, and it’s helped me to understand the book more.

I can read simple text very fluently. 

I am choosing JR books better and previewing now. 

I have improved a lot and even reading more genres. 

Status makes me more organized and has helped me push my reading.  

I am very focused in my book and I did not like reading before 5th grade.  Goals have helped me stay and enjoy in Newbery Club. 

When I got my word notebook, I collected 5 words and I used them in my narrative. I used all 5 words in one day in my writing. Instead of playing video games at home I am reading my book. (love this one)

I've started to read other genres, which I have not tried, and now I am reading nonfiction. 

I have read so much more than in 4th grade.  

I have kept up with hard, high reading levels in Newbery Club.

I have already achieved more goals this year than 4th grade. (it's only Nov. 1)

I now know because of my word notebook that vocabulary, reading, and writing are all connected.  PRICELESS!