Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Slice of Life: Creating Memories

I was struck as I listened to the radio interview of Columbus Blue Jackets coach when he was asked , "Why this team made it to the playoffs?" He commented, “It's all about the chemistry. I believe it because this team likes each other. They get along and choose to be together on and off the ice. We have players who are 20 years old to 32, and they enjoy hanging out.  Their families and children choose to be together all the time.”

As I reflect on our last three months and think about the conversations that helped our family continue to heal. I realize several of the conversations were about Ostrander baseball. The eight glorious years when a group of boys played baseball from the age of 6 to 14. Their dads helped coach, and the moms helped with the concession stand, preparing meals and keeping uniforms clean.  The siblings traipsed to every game and cheered for their brothers. We even went to Walt Disney World over Christmas.  We didn’t win a game, but those memories 10 years later are what made a difference when our family faced tough times.

There is confusion about Common Core, PARCC, state testing and education in general. I am holding on to the fact in 10 years when my fifth graders will be graduated from college or pursing their career that they will remember “WONDERing” great books; immerse vocabulary, and the power of writing their ideas in a notebook.  I don’t think we really know what the conversations will be, but I do know for the past three months I am sure thankful for our Ostrander days and the importance of family and community.  

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Late to the Dance, but I Made It

Compliments  of Google

Several of my friends started several years ago with digital reading logs and reflections. I have listened as they explained how important it is to be able to talk about books 24/7.  Allowing students to share their reading lives and logs is powerful. I knew it but hadn't figured it out. I am first to admit that it wasn't high on my priority list. But yes I have finally made it to the dance. I am listening to "Celebrate" and singing right along while busting out my moves which aren't very pretty.  I jumped in with Google, and I have mentioned lately how much Google is shifting my thinking and conversations in our classroom.  Just read the following from tonight's status talk.  Join the dance you'll be so happy.

Ready to start her reader's notebook, asking for help.
He added a link to help me visualize all on his own.
Powerful figurative language and connecting to Snicker of Magic.

Monday, April 21, 2014

How Do You Become Famous?

Each morning before the students arrive, I always read the Wonder of the Day at Wonderopolis.  Today's wonder is posting the question:  How do you become famous?

As I read the wonder, I was so thankful for the slant of the article. I was pleased the wonder included so many different ways children can be famous. Today in our viral world so often children hear about movie stars and athletes, and not enough about students who have made the correct choice, teachers who stay after school or arrive early, authors who write back to their fans. I believe that being famous can be determined in a wide variety of ways including:

  • helping a friend when 24 colored pencils fall out of their desk.
  • choosing to ask someone to play in kickball even though they were not very nice at lunch
  • taking a minute to help an ELL friend find a book in the library
  • sharing a kind word after the child just struck out in baseball
  • choosing to write with a friend because he said, "I just can't do this."
  • helping a teacher sort papers when they could be outside on a sunny day
All of these are reasons that make students famous. My #OLW choice has been a huge conversation in our class since I returned in March. Making sure I take every chance I can in helping my students realize they are famous.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

If Not for Franki....Happy Birthday!

Let's start at the beginning, in 1985 at Bowling Green State University.  Franki Agresta and I were in several of the same classes. I remember how much Franki loved reading. Fast forward to 1995, and I was hired in Dublin, Ohio.  It didn't take long for me hear about Franki Sibberson and all of her amazing accomplishments. Our paths started crossing, and every time we would talk she would always ask about my classroom. Have you ever talked to someone and every single time no matter what you always learn something new.  IF NOT FOR FRANKI, I would not have had the courage:

  • to open up my reading instruction and implement workshop model (Beyond Leveled Books changed my thinking about the power of choice in the classroom)
  • to incorporate word study through out the entire day (I remember printing every Choice Literacy article and creating a binder only with Franki articles. It was my go to bible for resources)
  • to purchase more books than I will ever admit or my husband will surely ever want to know about (I remember taking pictures of her classroom tubs when she did a summer workshop and going home and spending way too much money. My philosophy was if Franki had the books then I had to have the books)
  • to start a blog: There are not enough words for me to type on how many times Franki encouraged me to start a blog. (The part of Franki I love the most are her encouraging words and her sense of fun when she finally convinced me to push "publish") On a side note, I would be remiss not to Mary Lee for encouraging me equally. Finally I just had to say yes. Thanks to both of you, my world has changed because of blogging. 
  • Choice Literacy:  I was petrified probably for minimum of three years and once again Franki has a sense of gentle nudging that always kept me thinking....could I write for CL? Finally after several years, I got the courage to call Brenda and ask her about writing. The rest is history but without Franki and Mary Lee,  I would not be on this wonderful journey of authoring articles. Keep pushing me on those other dreams. WE all need a Franki is our lives.
Finally, I just want to spend the day with Franki just a fly on the wall. Watching and continuing to learn along with her.  Happy 50th Birthday Franki, thank you for giving me the best presents of all - your friendship, positive attitude and encouraging words. 

Friday, April 11, 2014

Slice of Life: Connected Readers

I'm celebrating on a Friday night. I'm happy on a Friday night not because it's Friday although I am thankful for this weekend.  If you're reading this I hope you're a teacher because you might just think I am a little crazy. For those of you who know me, I can hear a few snickers.  I'm celebrating because I have been reading my students' Google JR reflections for the past few hours. Although I stopped to make my fish sticks and brought them over to the computer so I could keep reading, I stopped to get more Hellmann's Tarter Sauce because it's the best. And I kept on reading, I couldn't stop.

I introduced digital reading logs this week. My students are going to track their reading along with setting their goals for the week and we have started reading reflections.  This was a crazy but fun week.  Only one afternoon was normal and so something had to go. I wasn't going to lose the chance to set up 24/7 reading connections with my students. The power in 24/7 talk is huge. I was feeling horrible that I had not conferences with every student about their book this week, but now I have. At the time of this post, three students already commented back to me, and they have a new plan for reading this weekend. I would not suggest all 24 on the same day, but I am thrilled to know that all my students are connected and ready to read this weekend.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Pondering Process vs. Product

Last week I had three meetings about literacy.  All three meetings were optional, and I chose to attend them because the focus was on how to use technology within workshop. I am always interested in how other teachers are choosing to use technology especially in the elementary grades.  All three meetings had a consistent theme: 

Value the process of learning as much as the product. 

This really gave me reason for pause.  I value all my fifth graders gathering together for our mini lesson. Although mini and gathering have shifted the last several weeks in my class, mini is not the word I would have used to describe the opening of our workshops.  Three weeks prior to state testing, I have to admit the mini have become maxi. As far as gathering, always it seems after Spring Break, I have several students that ask if they can bring their chairs and sit on the outside edges of the circle.  I don’t mind, I guess, well maybe I do?  It just seems to me that there is not the same feeling of collaboration with 1/2 on the floor and 1/2 on stools. To be honest they have hard time writing on their lap and the "drops" happen quite frequently.  But I am getting over that because there are too many fish to fry right now.

Back to the process, if I am honest the process is what I care most about.  The whole class conversations, the turn and talk, and light bulb moments that happens in workshop. Those are the power moments when I think silently – yes we made it to the top of the mountain today!   My shift includes switching to Google for small groups of collaboration.  This week two of my groups will to collaborating through Google docs. 

  • The first group will be studying individual Seymour Simon books and creating one or two digital pages within a class book. Their focus will be on searching for cause/effect relationships. 
  • The second group will be reading a story from Cynthia Rylant's book: Every Living Thing and answering questions through a form that I created. In addition sharing their thoughts about the story with members in their group. 
In these incidents, I am excited about the product as well as the process. I am happy that the small groups of 4-6 students will be able to collaborate and share their thinking. I know I will continue to ponder this dilemma (question) through out summer.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Celebrate Saturday

Today I had the opportunity to attend Central Ohio's Literacy Connection and listen to Ruth Ayres talk about celebrating readers and writers. When the alarm went off this morning for the exact time that I get up through Monday-Friday, I popped out of bed with a quicker step. I was excited to see Ruth today because for several weeks her 40 Stories  posts have really touched me.  Her strength and convictions are inspiring to me both as a mother and teacher. I will be reflecting on all of these take away moments for several days if not weeks probably though the summer.
  • Does it make a difference?  It only takes one person to help someone not feel invisible.
  • Take the time to tap your visual story.
  • This is what we've been discussing in workshop. Where do you see it in your writing?
  • Sharing books outside of school like a doctors office. Widening the audience.
  • Teaching 1 or 2 points is better than focusing on several points.
  • Teach the craft and the process.
  • Celebration = reflect + response + rejoice
For more celebrations head over to Ruth's blog: Discover, Play Build. Thanks Ruth for continuing to remind all of us to find the celebration in every life moment.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Nonfiction Digital Research Projects: Part 3

This is the last of a three part series.  Part 1 was about my shift in thinking about nonfiction and part 2 was about the instructional practices.  

I heard about Thinglink several times in twitter chats especially #5thchat. I was intrigued by the opportunity to combine facts, photos and videos. I sat up a teacher account for free, and I received individual emails and passwords. It is very teacher friendly. I wanted to continue our writer's workshop but integrate technology. The power of connecting their writer's notebook and their final digital presentation was important because my goal continues to focus on the best tool for the project. I have never assigned research topics, but I am totally guilty for spending way too much time on one research project.  From start to finish, we completed our first round of research in two weeks.  The students really enjoyed this project, and I want to share some of their reflections. There was a huge shift in their thinking about technology and how they have redefined research. 

Here are a few example enjoy!